California imam apologizes for sermon seen as inciting to Jews, condemns anti-Semitism

A Northern California imam, Ammar Shahin’s sermon about Jews in disputed Jerusalem set off controversy and fear of violence apologized at a Friday news conference, saying his words were hurtful and “unacceptable.”

“To the Jewish community, here in Davis and beyond, I say this: I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused. The last thing I would do is intentionally hurt anyone, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise. It is not in my heart, nor does my religion allow it,” Shahin stated.

Worried about protests and even potential violence, Davis interfaith leaders, including Shahin, spent several days discussing how to publicly address the controversy, said Rabbi Seth Castleman, president of the regional board of rabbis.

Right after the sermon hit the Internet, the mosque put out two statements about it, accusing The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) of pulling a short clip out of context.

“In the context of the full sermon, it becomes clear that the theme of the sermon was against oppression, and not against Jews or any religion,” the mosque statement said. “If MEMRI and company sincerely followed Imam Ammar Shahin’s work and did not just cut and paste what suits their cause, they would have come across the countless lectures and sermons he has given regarding treating all people, especially non-Muslims, with kindness and giving them their full rights, supporting them when they are oppressed.”

Shahin spoke at a interfaith conference with other Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders in Davis, a university community outside Sacramento. The mayor and a county supervisor also spoke there about the videotaped sermon, which was watched many thousands of times in the past few days since it was posted by Shahin’s mosque, the Islamic Center of Davis (ICD).

On Wednesday, Shahin told The Washington Post that he wasn’t speaking of Jews in general but “specifically about this group shutting down the mosque — these soldiers, or settlers, or fighters, or oppressors.” He said he had focused on the situation at al-Aqsa because so many U.S. Muslims aren’t aware of it. He said he regularly speaks out against the Islamic State and extremism by Muslims and has made statements against Muslim extremist attacks in Europe, South Asia and elsewhere.

A Young Latino Arab American Throws His Hat in Congressional Ring

A young, American-born man of Latino and Arab heritage decided to throw his hat in the political ring after working as a community activist and in the Obama administration.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, 28, announced his candidacy Thursday in the hopes of unseating a long-term Republican representative in California’s District 50 in 2018.

Campa-Najjar, whose mother is Mexican American and whose father is Palestinian American, says he spent a lot of time speaking to Hispanic voters in his district to get them to the polls. Arab Americans have faced stereotyping and discrimination after the 9/11 attacks. But Campa-Najjar believes he can use his experience in Gaza and California to bridge divides and listen to voters’ anxieties about terrorism.

 

‘We tried to do everything right. Doesn’t that matter?’

Hamid Kargaran was pacing in his San Francisco living room Sunday, not watching the news, trying to stay positive, waiting for his wife to call from Iran. She was due to leave for the airport within the hour, hoping that this time she wouldn’t be prevented from boarding a plane back home.

“I never thought when I moved here and made this country my home that this would happen,” he said. “I employ people, I pay taxes. We love this country. But I feel like the hard work has been meaningless. We’re second-class citizens.”

Now he was waiting, and he knew there would be no relief until his wife actually walked into the sun in San Francisco. In three hours, she would find out whether Lufthansa agents in Tehran would let her onto a plane. In Germany, she would learn whether officials there would let her transit to California. At home, she still had to pass through U.S. passport control.

“I don’t know,” Kargaran said. “We’ve tried to do everything right. Doesn’t that matter?”

Nation of Islam opposes California vaccine mandate bill

A split among African American leaders on the issue of government-required vaccination has roiled the Capitol as lawmakers consider whether to eliminate most exemptions to state immunization laws.
A leader of the Nation of Islam has warned African American lawmakers of political repercussions if they support a bill that would require many more children to be vaccinated. A coalition of other black organizations on Monday countered that message with support for the measure.  And this month, a Nation of Islam leader denounced inoculation requirements, comparing such a mandate to the infamous Tuskegee syp

Nation of Islam Minister Tony Muhammad, shown in 2005, likened California's proposed vaccination mandate to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which federal researchers, starting in the 1930s, withheld treatment from African American men. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)
Nation of Islam Minister Tony Muhammad, shown in 2005, likened California’s proposed vaccination mandate to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which federal researchers, starting in the 1930s, withheld treatment from African American men. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

hilis experiments.

CAIR Releases Results of Muslim Voter Survey in 6 States

intent-to-vote(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/23/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today released the results of a survey indicating that 69 percent of registered Muslim voters will go to the polls on November 4 and that more than half will vote for Democratic Party candidates.

Domestic issues like the economy and health care continue to top the Muslim voters’ list of priority concerns in this election. Growing Islamophobia in American ranked as the third most important issue for Muslim voters.

*CAIR’s poll of more than 1500 registered Muslim voters in California, New York, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Virginia* was conducted using an independent automated call survey provider and asked three questions:

1. “Do you plan to vote in the November 4th midterm election?”
2. “Which political party do you support in the upcoming election?”
3. “What is the most important issue to you in this upcoming election?”

California Muslims Send 16,000+ Letters to Senators on Gaza

(ANAHEIM, CA 8/15/2014) — The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today announced figures of the letter-writing campaign that calls on California State senators to advocate for an end to the killing in Gaza.

Staff and volunteers of the Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization began the circulation of the letters on Tuesday July 22 during the Islamic month of Ramadan when Muslims held special prayers and other activities at mosques nationwide. More than 16,700 letters across the state of California have been signed to date. 

The letters, which were hand-delivered to both Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein’s offices, read in part:

The U.S. government must not remain silent about Israel’s unjust and disproportionate use of force against Palestinians in Gaza. The ‘right of a nation to defend itself’ does not extend to unrestrained aerial bombardments of civilian populations and must be condemned immediately.”

“The response to our Gaza letter-writing campaign has been very enthusiastic,” said CAIR-CA Chair, Safaa Ibrahim. “California residents are deeply concerned about the toll Israel’s latest military campaign has taken on innocent civilians. They want to be sure elected officials hear their constituents’ voices.”

Breaking the Ramadan fast in the company of Jews

July 10, 2014

(RNS) Muslim tradition calls for breaking the Ramadan fast in the evening with a date and a sip of water, and increasingly these days, the company of Jews.

Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and a chance to forge interfaith friendships.

This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.

In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.

“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”

At Muslim-Jewish iftars, particular attention is paid to food. In Los Angeles, the meal will be both halal and kosher, in keeping with both Muslim and Jewish dietary laws, which often overlap. Neither faith community eats pork, for example. Out of respect for Muslim tradition, no alcohol will be served.

Some of these interfaith Iftars will be hosted in mosques or other Muslims institutions — on Sunday (July 13), for example, at the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies in Cary, N.C. Others will take place in synagogues.

California man charged with aiding terror group

March 26, 2014

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury in Sacramento has indicted a California man on a single charge of attempting to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Nicholas Teausant had previously been held on a criminal complaint since his arrest last week near the Canadian border.

The one-paragraph indictment handed down Wednesday alleges that Teausant, an American citizen, attempted to join al-Qaida in Iraq. The indictment says the group changed its name last year to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Teausant agreed last week to be returned to Sacramento to face the charge.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/california-man-charged-with-aiding-terror-group/2014/03/26/f894e3be-b53f-11e3-bab2-b9602293021d_story.html

Local religious leaders unite for change in immigration law

April 4, 2014

 

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Southern California hold vigil calling for a revamp in federal immigration laws.

Several of Southern California’s most prominent religious leaders held a vigil for immigration reform in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, underscoring a growing interfaith effort to change the nation’s laws.

Immigrants who are in the United States illegally “need mercy and they need justice,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez, welcoming an array of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to the gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“Times have changed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “Some have framed the issue as a monolithic issue of a particular denomination. But that is a myth. The immigration issue transcends all creeds, all colors, all languages.

“It does not matter whether my particular people are suffering,” he said. “But we look at it as our people are suffering. And we stand with those suffering people.”

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-interfaith-immigration-20140405,0,4994674.story#ixzz2yE27uDp5

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-immigrant-vigil-la-20140404,0,4480623.story#axzz2yE3oOxsF

Fraternity Life, Islamic Style

February 9, 2014

 

SHORTLY BEFORE SUNUP, a dozen or so students at the University of California, San Diego, stumbled dutifully out of bed. They ironed their collared shirts, knotted their ties and piled into their cars. Their destination was the Islamic Center of San Diego, where they were to be initiated into the country’s first Muslim fraternity, Alpha Lambda Mu, named for three letters that start several chapters of the Quran: Alif Laam Meem.

Alpha Lambda Mu was founded just a year ago by Ali Mahmoud, a junior biology and sociology major at the University of Texas, Dallas, as a national fraternity for Muslim college students. Mr. Mahmoud, who is seeking university recognition and a house for his chapter, hosted the first formal rush this fall: 40 students showed up, and half were offered bids. A total of 24 members now make up the Texas chapter.

The directive is for spiritual students to have more fun, and convivial ones to incorporate more spirituality in their lives. Mr. Mahmoud’s guidebook stipulates that chapters organize events every semester. Some are to be purely social, others to teach life skills, encourage volunteer work and enrich members with Islamic culture.

Sometimes referred to as the post-9/11 generation, Muslim-American college students say they have long struggled with the prejudices and suspicions that have come with the West’s unsettled relationship with the Arab world. This has led them to explore more thoroughly their dual identity, and to strive to show the world who they are and how they want to be perceived, said Lori Peek, the author of “Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11.” “The formation of a fraternity represents a really thoughtful reflection on their part,” Dr. Peek said. “It moves these students out of the private sphere and into a more public space where they are effectively spanning two cultures.”

Two reports by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies indicate that an evolution has indeed occurred. In 2009, 40 percent of Muslim Americans ages 18 to 29 said they were thriving, the lowest percentage in that age group. By 2011, 10 years after the terrorist attacks, that number had risen to 65 percent.

Only 1.4 percent of American college freshmen are Muslim, according to a Higher Education Research Institute survey in 2012, up from 0.9 percent in 2005. But with growing interest in Islam, more campuses are providing prayer spaces and cultural centers. In 1999, Georgetown became the first university to hire a full-time imam. In recent years, Yale, Princeton and Northwestern have brought in Muslim chaplains.

The Muslim Student Association, founded in 1963, is the voice of this movement and now has more than 200 affiliated chapters in the United States. It has pushed for greater awareness about Islamic culture and helps members procure scholarships and internships. The group has generated controversy as well. The chapter at the University of California, Irvine, was suspended for the 2010 fall semester after members protested a campus speech by the ambassador to Israel. And in 2012 the organization made headlines, and elicited sympathy, amid reports that the New York City Police Department had surreptitiously monitored chapters at Yale, Columbia and other East Coast campuses.

 

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/education/edlife/greek-life-islamic-style.html?_r=0