Muslim Funny Fest: Using comedy to combat hate

The fest aims to challenge misperceptions about Muslims and combat hate. It features 15 Muslim comedians — from Dubai native Ali Al Sayed to “America’s Funniest Muslim” Azhar Usman — and there are more than a few familiar names on the marquee.

Co-organizers/comedians Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid are hoping it will be an annual event, and they may take the show on the road. Their successful annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, which features comedians from a range of faiths, enters its 12th year this fall.

 

Muslim residents sue U.S. over citizenship denials

August 1, 2014

Five long-time U.S. residents who are Muslim or from Muslim-majority countries sued the federal government on Thursday, saying the Department of Homeland Security was unfairly denying or delaying requests for citizenship and permanent residency on vague security grounds.

The plaintiffs, all immigrants who are either practicing Muslims or are from predominantly Muslim nations, complain their immigration or naturalization petitions were illegally thwarted after they were flagged for potential national security concerns under a federal program.

They complained that the criteria for flagging applications under the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) were secretive and broader than authorized by the U.S. Congress, essentially creating an immigration blacklist.

The ACLU said the five plaintiffs were among thousands of U.S. residents of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim or South Asian backgrounds who are similarly being blocked from citizenship, asylum, green cards and visas, without explanation.

The plaintiffs include Ahmad and Reem Muhanna, Palestinian Muslims and U.S. legal permanent residents whose 2007 citizenship application was denied in 2012 and is under appeal.

Fellow plaintiff Ahmed Hassan, a Muslim refugee from Somalia, has been seeking legal permanent residency since 2006.

The lawsuit comes a month after a federal judge ruled that the government’s no-fly list banning people accused of links to terrorism from commercial flights was unconstitutional because it left them no way to contest that decision.

Calif. Arab sparks debate over ethnic mascots

December 2, 2013

 

LOS ANGELES — On game days in Thermal, where date farms and desert surroundings evoke the Middle East and nearby communities have names like Mecca and Oasis, fans cheer a high school team known as the Arabs. A belly dancer jiggles on center court. And a black-haired, mustached mascot wearing a head scarf rallies the crowd.

At least that’s the way it was done for decades in the community 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles until Arab-Americans recently objected to a hook-nosed, snarling image used to represent Coachella Valley High School.

The school has agreed to give the mascot a makeover, but not to drop the nickname.

“We’re still going to stick with the Arab,” said school board president Lowell Kemper after scores of residents defended the tradition dating back generations. “It’s just a matter of whether we have a change in the caricature of the mascot.”

But the Arab debate spurs the same set of questions: Is it possible to craft a mascot in the image of an ethnic group that doesn’t offend, or are schools better off scrapping the idea altogether?

The debate comes as the more familiar Indian controversy has gained increased heat.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee complained last month that the Coachella Valley mascot perpetuates negative stereotypes of Arabs and Arab-Americans after one of its members raised questions about the image.

The move prompted a community-wide debate and the school district formed a committee to redesign the mascot in a more flattering light.

Coachella Valley isn’t alone in invoking images of Arabs or Muslims. In the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, the high school football team, known as the Moors, features a caricature of a scowling, dark-skinned man with two swords on its Facebook page.

Yasmin Nouh, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in greater Los Angeles, said her group was going to speak with the school.

At Coachella Valley, the Arab’s image has evolved. He was once depicted riding on horseback while carrying a spear, later changed to the surly caricature plastered on the school gym’s wall.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/calif-arab-sparks-debate-over-ethnic-mascots/2013/12/02/266539d0-5b89-11e3-801f-1f90bf692c9b_story.html

Arab-American Muslims and the Presidential Elections

November 5

Arab-Americans are poised to play a critical role in the US presidential
election on Tuesday. Numbering about 4 million, they’re heavily
concentrated in several battleground states — including Florida,
Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — where every vote will count
in a race that many consider too close to call, writes Vivian Salama.

NYPD: Shredding the Constitution

The massive surveillance program implemented by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in coordination with CIA officials is shredding the Constitution, putting at risk the rights and freedoms of Arab Americans and American Muslims. If left unchecked, their behavior will weaken the foundations of our democracy and seriously compromise our values as an open and inclusive society.

Revelations by the Associated Press have established that the NYPD, working with a few CIA officials, has been monitoring Arab and Muslim-owned businesses, mosques, and “mapping” areas of the city where high concentrations of Muslims and Arab immigrants are known to live. In order to accomplish these objectives, the NYPD has coerced and entrapped Muslims to act as spies.

Barack Obama Now Holds Historic Lead Among Arab American Voters, Shift Toward Democratic Party Continues

WASHINGTON – October 28, 2008 – Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s substantial lead among Arab American voters has almost doubled since September. This was one of the findings of a poll of Arab American voters conducted by Zogby International for the Arab American Institute.
The poll also found that Obama’s lead over McCain only dropped by 1% when independent candidate Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr were included in the survey questions.

Other key findings of the AAI/Zogby International study were:

  • While almost two-thirds of Arab Americans are impacted by the recent economic crisis, it is no surprise that the most important issue for Arab American voters is the economy, followed distantly by Iraq and health care.
  • Approval ratings given to the Bush Administration’s performance continue to fall to 11% from 19% in September.
  • The shift in party identification continues. The Democrat/Republican break in 2000 was 40/38. Now it is 54/27.
  • Obama leads McCain by a three-to-one margin in both the two-way and four-way match-ups. In the four-way horserace, it’s Obama 64/23; in the four-way, it’s Obama 62/22, with Nader at 6 percent. Projections are now for Election Day results with Obama at 68 percent, McCain at 24 percent, and Nader at seven.
  • Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, said that “A combination of factors point not only to a huge Obama victory among Arab American voters-but a dramatic surge in the percentage of Arab Americans identifying as democrats.” Noting that Arab Americans in Michigan represent about 5% of that state’s electorate, while in Virginia and Ohio they comprise almost 2% of the vote, he continued “this can have an impact not only in the presidential election but in down ticket contests as well.”

    In 2000, the overall Arab American vote was 44% Bush, 38% Gore, 13% Nader. In 2004, it was 63% Kerry, 28% Bush with 8% for Nader.

    Zogby press release available here.

    Full report available here.

    Barack Obama Holds Lead Among Arab American Vote

    Democratic US presidential candidate Barack Obama holds a substantial 21-point lead over Republican candidate John McCain among Arab American voters. Obama’s lead is one of the findings of a recent poll taken in the second week of September of Arab American voters, by Zogby International. The poll also found that Obama’s 54% to 33% lead over McCain was related to important issues – from jobs/economy, Iraq/peace/foreign affairs, and health care – in this particular order.

    Zogby poll page available here.

    Muslims big players in American economy

    Arab Americans comprise 6 million to 8 million people in the U.S. and Muslim Americans’ purchasing power is estimated to be $170 billion annually, but businesses often fail to recognize their economic power, recent reports suggest. A J. Walter Thompson survey called “Marketing to Muslims” and a study of Arab Americans in southeast Michigan provide a fuller picture of the economic contributions of Arabs and Muslims. Although often associated with Arabs, Muslims represent dozens of ethnic groups, including whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Understanding the differences between ethnicity and religion is one barrier that often confounds advertisers interested in selling to Muslim populations. “We need to educate ourselves and gain a broader understanding of the Muslim population,” said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting for Thompson and one of the authors of the study. The study, which was conducted earlier this year, interviewed 350 Muslim Americans in 20 states. It found: Muslims make up at least 2 percent of the U.S. population and two-thirds are under the age of 40. About 21 percent of Muslim Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 are registered voters, compared with 15 percent of people in that group across the country. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. Muslims are converts to Islam. 71 percent of Muslims believe advertisers rarely show anyone of their faith or ethnicity in advertising. That compares with 34 percent of the general population that believes the same thing. Around 70 percent of American Muslims over 25 have a college education, compared to 26 percent of the general U.S. population. Nationally, the food, finance and apparel industries appear to be the most influential markets for consumers who follow Islam. According to the Thompson study, the global market for halal – food prepared in accordance with Islamic law – is worth an estimated $580 billion annually. A study released by Wayne State University in Detroit titled “Arab America Economic Contribution Study” examined that population in southeast Michigan, finding that Arab Americans account for 6 percent of the work force and between $5.4 billion and $7.7 billion in earnings there. “In the U.S., the Arab and Muslim communities are small but generally very affluent and highly entrepreneurial,” Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the Dearborn, Mich.-based Arab American Chamber of Commerce, said last week. Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East – about 400,000 in metropolitan Detroit and 500,000 throughout the state.

    FBI Bid To Win Over American Muslims

    The FBI will hold its first nationally televised “town hall meeting” for Muslims and Arab-Americans on Thursday in an effort to improve relations and enlist their help in fighting terrorism, an FBI official said. Paul Moskal, chief division counsel for the FBI in Buffalo, New York, who will lead the meeting and field questions, said the agency and the Arab and Muslim American communities needed to overcome misconceptions about each other and foster closer cooperation. “What we want to do is let the public know that the FBI has changed its mission after September 11, that our number one priority is the detection and prevention of another terrorist act. If someone in the public can help us accomplish that, that’s our purpose,” Moskal told Reuters on Wednesday. The meeting will be broadcast on Bridges TV, an independent, commercial US television network broadcasting lifestyle and culture programmes around the clock for a primarily Muslim American audience. FBI says its priority is to detect and prevent another terror attack The televised meeting is also part of efforts to encourage Muslim and Arab Americans to report instances of post-September 11 backlash, intimidation, racism or harassment so the agency can enforce their civil rights, Moskal said. A third reason for the town hall meeting was that “we need more Arab Americans, we need more Muslim Americans as FBI agents and as FBI employees. So we use it to recruit as well,” he said. Muslim American groups have long accused the Bush administration of neglect in the fight against terrorism, which they say undermines a potentially priceless resource that could be used to root out militants at home. Muslim groups say the government must visibly engage their community to undermine militants’ charges that Muslims are left out of American society, and to ensure that Muslims do not feel alienated and become targets for radical recruiters. Estimates of the number of Muslim Americans vary between three million and seven million. “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies” Moskal said the FBI had been conducting local town hall meetings, at which agents would make contact with citizens and answer questions about their work, in a broad range of ethnic, religious and other communities throughout the United States. But he said Thursday’s session was the first nationally televised event targeting Muslim and Arab Americans. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations which is moderating the television programme, said, “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies.” US officials acknowledge that they must do more to involve Muslim Americans in counter-terrorism efforts. But they say the administration is already actively cooperating with Muslim groups and say they enjoy greater access to the government than ever before.

    Metro Arabs Don’t Feel France’s Alienation, Discrimination Here

    BY NIRAJ WARIKOO, FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER Abed Hammoud had an OK life in France. After graduating with an engineering degree from a top university in Lyon, the Arab immigrant secured a job at a heating and cooling company. But despite his achievements, Hammoud sensed he would never be considered French. At work, he said, he was referred to as “the Lebanese guy.” His Arab friends struggled to find work. And Hammoud saw how hard it was for people like him to enter politics and start businesses. So in 1990, he left France for the United States. In just over a decade, the Dearborn resident earned master’s degrees in law and business, became a Wayne County assistant prosecutor and emerged as an activist recognized nationwide for politically organizing Arab Americans. “It’s easier here,” said Hammoud, a 39-year-old married father of two sons. “People are more open. … In France, you’re never considered French” if you’re of Arab descent. That sense of alienation among France’s large Arab and Muslim populations — among the largest in Europe — may help explain the outbreak of violence this month that resulted in thousands of torched cars and a lingering unease that the country had failed its minority communities. That violence, coupled with last summer’s suicide attacks in London, has raised the question: Can Arabs and Muslims integrate into Western countries? Arab Americans say their success proves that they can. Indeed, across metro Detroit, many have found success in a number of fields — a marked contrast to the high unemployment and unrest that pervades much of Europe’s Arab and Muslim communities. […]