Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypes

November 12, 2013

 

For decades, Arab actors have been successful in Hollywood. Among the most successful are Omar Sharif, Tony Shalhoub, and F. Murray Abraham; the latter won an Academy Award for his role in Mozart. However Muslims, openly proclaiming their religion, are a minority in the U.S. population and an even smaller minority in the U.S. entertainment industry. Those who are breaking in are trying to use their talent to discredit negative stereotypes. Several showcased their work at a recent gathering of predominantly American Muslims in Los Angeles.

Dean Obeidallah is not just an American comedian.

“My ethnicity and my faith make me a little different than many other comedians,” said Obeidallah.

He is a Muslim with Palestinian roots, and says his identity has not created barriers for him. However, he also says that stereotypes of what he represents do exist in the U.S.

Obeidallah uses comedy to talk about misconceptions and about what it means to be Muslim. He has co-directed a comedy documentary on this theme called, The Muslims Are Coming! Obeidallah said he has received positive reviews from both Muslims and non-Muslims, but sometimes non-Muslims don’t know how to respond to his jokes.

American Muslim poet Amir Sulaiman points out that some Muslims feel uncomfortable listening to him perform.

“Some people they feel nervous. Some things I say are not politically correct. They’re not fashioned and perfected in a political kind of way. Some people will say we don’t want you to say this; we don’t want you to say that as a Muslim person. When you are an artist or a public figure, many times you automatically become a spokesperson for millions of people. All these people have different points of view and different way that they want to be portrayed, but every artist can’t be responsible for everyone,” said Sulaiman.

 

Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/content/muslim-artists-perform-break-stereotypes/1789097.html

Why So Many U.S. Latinos Are Becoming Muslims

October 10, 2013

 

Most Latinos know the country is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month right now. What far fewer Latinos know is that next week marks Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s most sacred holidays.

And yet the two observances are more related now than most Latinos realize.

Just as the U.S. Latino population is on the rise — Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority — so is the number of Latino Muslims. And it’s not just a result of Arab Latin Americans emigrating to the United States.

According to organizations like WhyIslam.org, Latinos are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. About six percent of U.S. Muslims are now Latino — and as many as a fifth of new converts to Islam nationwide are Latino.

The American Muslim Association of North America, based in North Miami, says heavily Hispanic South Florida in particular is home to a rising number of Latino Muslims.

If it’s a surprise that many Latinos are moving from a predominantly Roman Catholic culture to an originally Arab faith, perhaps it shouldn’t be. For one thing, like African-Americans in the 1960s, Latinos are discovering their own historical and cultural ties to Islam and the Arab world. And that starts with what most defines Latinos: Spanish.

“Our language is nurtured by more than 4,000 words that come from Arabic,” says Wilfredo Ruiz, a Puerto Rican-born Muslim who converted a decade ago and is a lawyer for the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “Every word in Spanish that starts with ‘al,’ for example, like alcalde, alcantarilla, almohada.”

“What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz. “It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”

Ruiz points out that both Latinos and Arabs highly value the extended family and traditions like offering hospitality to strangers. In religious terms, Latinos like Gonzalez say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does. They also feel more structure than they see in the evangelical churches so many Latinos join today.

“The connection I have with God now is better than before,” says Gonzalez.

 

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/cair-in-the-news/12193-why-so-many-latinos-are-becoming-muslims.html

WLRN.org: http://wlrn.org/post/why-so-many-latinos-are-becoming-muslims

For Muslims, Day of Celebration Amid Controversy

The ceremony, held along a blocked-off portion of Madison Avenue, marked the start of the American Muslim Day Parade on Sunday, an annual event, first held in 1985, that brings together Muslims of many ethnicities and nationalities who worship in the New York region.

The parade is intended as a celebration of diversity and pride in the Muslim community, but this year it had a difficult context: national controversies over a planned Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, the threatened desecration of Korans by anti-Muslim ministers, and recent incidences of what the authorities called hate crimes against Muslims, including a New York Citycabdriver who was slashed.

Some marchers had feared protesters on Sunday, but only the occasional Christian missionary appeared. Still, the turnout was far smaller than at the city’s better-known ethnic parades, and a few organizers speculated that safety concerns kept many Muslims away. “Some people are too scared to show up,” said Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, a sponsoring group.

Muslim group says Coffee County meeting was ‘hijacked’

The background:  Last month, Coffee County, Tennessee commissioner Barry West posted a photo on Facebook of a man squinting down the barrel of a gun, with a caption reading, “How to wink at a Muslim.”  The Muslim community in Tennessee and across the nation was outraged, and many were frightened by the implications of the photo and caption, especially coming from an elected official. The photo below is a capture of the Facebook page by the Mail Online.  There is no way to see this as anything but threatening.

The American Muslim Advisory Council decided to host a meeting to allow local Muslims to share with their neighbors about who the Muslim community is, and to talk about American Muslims and public discourse, and they invited a representative of the DOJ and the FBI to attend and talk about what’s considered free speech and what’s illegal hate speech, and where the line is where speech can be prosecuted.    The situation in Tennessee was that there was a lot of tension between the Muslim community and their neighbors.  There had been a series of anti-Muslim incidents, and an elected official had posted something that the Muslim community believed to have crossed the line between protected speech and hate speech.  This is exactly the sort of situation that the DOJ’s community outreach program is designed to address.  Bill Killian, U.S., Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee was to speak about the Constitution, the first and fourteenth amendments, and to clarify what constitutes hate speech, and what are the existing legal consequences.

Middle Tennessee got socked by outside instigators who “hijacked” a public meeting last week, turning what was meant to be a step toward harmony into something more akin to a KKK rally, according to a member of the Muslim panel that sponsored the event.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and representatives of the American Muslim Advisory Council faced a barrage of hostile comments Tuesday in Manchester, Tenn. Dorothy Zwayyed, East Tennessee coordinator for AMAC, said they were mostly out-of-towners who derailed an assembly of fellowship and learning.

Coffee County lies in mostly white Middle Tennessee where local communities have seen a significant influx of immigrants in recent years. The foreign-born population around Nashville jumped 83.1 percent, from 58,539 to 107,184. That growth represents the fourth-largest percentage increase in the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Muslim group’s TN forum with feds disrupted by heckling

MANCHESTER — Hundreds of people turned out at the Manchester Convention Center Tuesday evening for an event billed as a discussion of public discourse in a diverse society, with a particular focus on the Muslim religion.

People were turned away at the door because the facility was too full. Some grew angry and started hurling terms such as “communist,” “socialist” and “Muslim” at law enforcement officials.

The indoor event, sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council, was countered by a large group of protesters, both outside and inside the facility. Some who made it in before admission was cut off continuously interrupted the speakers.

The interruptions were so intense at times that attendee Elaine Smith, 55, of Bedford County, said she was afraid of other audience members.

During the keynote speech given by Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee, audience members continually interrupted, making it difficult to understand what was said. Killian brought a PowerPoint presentation that covered the First and 14th amendments and what constitutes a hate crime, among other things. He read the First Amendment verbatim, between interruptions.

Moore said the FBI was continually working to build relationships with worshippers of Islam and other faiths because “they are essential” to keeping the country safe.

ICNA statement at joint US Muslim org press conference

WASHINGTON D.C. (April 19, 2013) – The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) issued a statement during a joint press conference today with other national Muslim organizations at The National Press Club in the capital.

“The death of innocent lives is heartbreaking and we offer our condolences to the families of the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings. And, we pray for the speedy and full recovery of the injured. Our thanks go to the law enforcement officers for working around the clock in identifying and going after the terrorists. ICNA stands with the rest of the American Muslim community in condemning such heinous crimes.

We want to make it very clear to our fellow Americans that such acts of terrorism have no place in Islam. These acts are not just against Americans but against all mankind. Islam, our faith, condemns those who murder innocent people and God Almighty declares the killing of even a single innocent person as murdering the entire humanity.

ICNA calls upon the American Muslim community to engage in social justice and service work being offered by ICNA Relief and other Muslim relief organizations.

We also thank the media for not jumping to any conclusions and showing responsibility in reporting of the situation in Boston.

We pray for peace and harmony, and may such moments of trials bring our hearts closer to one another.

The Islamic Circle of North America is a leading American Muslim organization dedicated to the betterment of society through the application of Islamic values. Since 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts.

FBI searching for Mosque vandals in possible hate crime

OKLAHOMA CITY – The FBI said it is hoping surveillance video will help lead them to a pair of vandals who targeted an Oklahoma City mosque last weekend.

 

The American Muslim Association on the 3200 block of N.W. 48th St. was damaged when the suspects spray painted racial slurs and other graffiti on the walls.

 

FBI agents tell us they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

Authorities admit the surveillance video is not the best quality but they’re hoping someone will recognize the suspects.

The video appears to show two males involved in the crime.

Top Democrat Slams GOP’s Islamophobia After Boston Bombing

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) smacked down Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) attempt to link Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Islamic extremists based in the American Muslim community with no evidence, an allegation that emerged as part of a theme among House Republicans on Sunday morning.

The exchange between Feinstein and King took place on Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace asked whether he agreed with the idea that “political correctness be damned, we have to do more effective surveillance inside the Muslim community.” King tried to link “Muslim communities” to the attack, a claim which Feinstein demolished:

KING:  Listen, the threat is coming from within the Muslim community in these cases. In New York. that’s why Commissioner Kelly has 1,000 police officers out in the community. Unfortunately, he gets smeared by the New York Times and the Associated Press, but the fact is we’ve stopped 16 plots in New York because we know that al-Qaeda is shifting its tactics…If you know a certain threat is coming from a certain community, that’s where you have to look.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, your reaction to this?

FEINSTEIN: That’s exactly where they will look. I don’t think all of this is very helpful. I think the important thing is to get the facts. Let the investigation proceed. The FBI has very good interrogators. They know what they are doing. I believe that they will put a case together that will be very strong. With respect to whether we are doing enough in the Muslim community, I think we should take a look at that, but I don’t think we need to go and develop some real disdain and hatred on television about it.

CLEAR Project Issues Report on Impact of NYPD Surveillance on American Muslims

mapping muslimsMarch 11, 2013 – American Muslim civil liberties groups released a new report today, Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims, documenting the devastating impacts of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) extensive surveillance program that targeted American Muslims throughout the Northeast and spread outrage throughout the nation.

Since 2002, the NYPD embarked on a covert domestic surveillance program that monitored American Muslims throughout the Northeast, from spying on neighborhood cafes and places of worship to infiltrating student whitewater-rafting trips – a program that continued despite the NYPD’s own acknowledgment that, over the course of six years, these efforts had not generated a single lead. The report is an unprecedented collection of voices from affected community members reflecting how the NYPD spying and infiltration creates a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion that encroaches upon every aspect of their religious, political, and community lives.

The report was prepared by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, and its partner organizations the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at Main Street Legal Services, Inc. of the CUNY School of Law, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). American Muslim community members delivered the report to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen today at 1 Police Plaza.

Mapping-Muslims.pdf

U.S. Muslim Group Offers ‘Best Wishes’ to Resigning Pope, Seeks Positive Relations with New Pontiff

In a statement reacting to Pope Benedict’s decision to step down at the end of this month, Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:

“We offer the American Muslim community’s best wishes to Pope Benedict XVI as he leaves his position as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

“In recent years — and despite some passing controversies — relations between Muslims and Catholics have strengthened, particularly on issues related to social justice and family values.

“We look forward to continued and growing positive interfaith relations under the new pontiff as Muslims in the United States and worldwide join with people of all faiths and cultures who seek to make a better world.”