Muslim Americans lead in social entrepreneurship

“Social entrepreneurship” has become a buzzword in the international development community and in activist culture in the United States and beyond.

It is a matter of pride for me, a Muslim American blogger, to highlight two models of social entrepreneurship – solving a social problem through innovative solutions – that have received national attention in the U.S. and are the brainchildren of Muslim Americans. Their innovation has created new spaces for community engagement that can help expand ideas of what it means to be a community activist.

Meet two social entrepreneurial models that connect non-Muslim and Muslim Americans, and others: Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. and the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago. They are not ventures geared toward interfaith understanding. Instead, they are focused on community building – but in doing so they have created spaces where people of different faiths and backgrounds can interact.

As American leaders encourage other countries’ budding entrepreneurs to take ownership of problems within their communities, it is important to highlight what is already happening in the United States.

Local leaders in other American cities, such as Denver and New York, have approached these Muslim Americans and asked them to expand their operations and open a Busboys and Poets or IMAN there. If they do so, they will be sharing more than just the spirit of American activism, but also a dynamic, inclusive Muslim approach to activism.

Man Is Accused of Jihadist Plot to Bomb a Bar in Chicago

An 18-year-old suburban Chicago man, who the authorities say was enamored with Osama bin Laden and intent on killing Americans, has been arrested after attempting to detonate what he thought was a car bomb outside a Chicago bar, officials said Saturday. There was never any danger that the suspect, Adel Daoud, would actually detonate a bomb. The plot, which ended with Mr. Daoud’s arrest on Friday, was proposed by undercover F.B.I. agents posing as extremists, according to a statement released by the United States attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois.

Mr. Daoud, a United States citizen who lives in Hillside, Ill., on the outskirts of Chicago, has been under surveillance for months, and in multiple conversations with agents expressed a desire to kill on a mass scale as revenge for what he believed was the persecution of Muslims by the United States, according to court papers.

Adel Daoud first came to the attention of the authorities in October 2011, when he sent out e-mails “relating to violent jihad and the killing of Americans,” according to an affidavit in support of the complaint. At one point he sent out several e-mails with a PowerPoint presentation titled “The Osama bin Laden I Know,” in which he defended Bin Laden’s tactics.

“Osama wasn’t crazy for wanting to destroy America,” he wrote. “This superpower killed millions of people.”

Mr. Daoud remained in custody after being charged in United States District Court on Saturday with one count of an attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempting to damage and destroy a building by means of an explosive.

Lawyers for the defendants in such cases have typically accused the government of entrapment, arguing that their clients would never have acted without being coerced by undercover agents.

Fewest Numbers of Americans Concerned about Terrorism since 9/11

Findings from the 2012 Chicago Council Survey of American Public Opinion

September 10, 2012 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fewer Americans are concerned about international terrorism as a “critical” threat to the United States than at any point since September 11, 2001, according to the 2012 Chicago Council Survey released today. While a majority is still worried, the intensity of concern about terrorism has steadily declined. At the same time, most Americans do not credit the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan with reducing the threat.

The survey report, Foreign Policy in the New Millennium, from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, will be discussed by a panel of experts hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and NPR as part of The National Conversation series. For more information, download the reportwatch a live webcast of the event starting at 12:30 p.m. EST, and follow @ChicagoCouncil and @TheWilsonCenter for live updates.

While Americans consider the Middle East as the greatest source of future threats, they are gradually shifting their foreign policy focus towards Asia and a rising China, viewed as important more for their economic dynamism than as a potential threat. For the first time since the Council first asked the question in 1994, a majority of Americans (52%) see Asia as more important to the United States than Europe (47%).

The 2012 Chicago Council Survey finds that the views of “Millennials”—those between the ages of 18 and 29—are shifting in a more pronounced way than those of older Americans. They see the world as less threatening, and show less concern than other age groups about international terrorism (see figure), Islamic fundamentalism, and the development of China as a world power. Millennials also favor a less activist approach to foreign policy, with a slight majority (52%) saying the United States should “stay out” of world affairs, compared to just 35 percent among older age groups.

When looking at partisan differences, the 2012 Chicago Council Survey finds that political polarization on many aspects of U.S. foreign policy is overstated. Opinions in “red” and “blue” districts overall are similar. While the parties often differ in degree, there is generally consensus among the majorities. Independents, however, distance themselves from both Republicans and Democrats. They are less likely than both to support an active U.S. role in global affairs and less likely to view U.S. leadership as “very” desirable.

Other key findings of the 2012 Chicago Council Survey include:

•         Just over half (54%) support an attack by U.S. ground troops against terrorist training camps and facilities, down from 82 percent in 2002.

•         Majorities oppose the UN authorizing a strike on Iran (51% opposed), oppose a unilateral U.S. strike on Iran (70% opposed), and do not want to get involved in a potential Iran-Israel war (59% opposed).

•         To deal with the crisis in Syria, majorities of Americans support diplomatic and economic sanctions (63%) as well as a no-fly zone in Syria (58%).

More than 1,800 Americans were surveyed for the 2012 Chicago Council Survey.  The 2012 Chicago Council Survey was made possible by generous support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Korea Foundation, and the United States-Japan Foundation.

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922, is a prominent, independent and nonpartisan organization committed to influencing the discourse on global issues through contributions to opinion and policy formation, leadership dialogue, and public learning.  The Chicago Council has been conducting nationwide public opinion surveys on American views on foreign policy since 1974.  These surveys provide insights into the current and long-term foreign policy attitudes of the American public on a wide range of global topics.

Bottle Filled with Acid Thrown at Full Time Islamic School in Illinois

An Islamic school in west suburban Lombard is at least the second Muslim institution to report an attack this past weekend.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago says the College Preparatory School of America, an Islamic school at 331 W. Madison St. in Lombard, was subjected to vandalism on Sunday night.

The council says someone hurled a 7-Up bottle filled with acid and other unspecified materials at the school during the nighttime Ramadan prayers.

During the prayer session, worshipers heard a loud bang and went to find an empty bottle thrown on the window of the school. No one was injured.

Walsh: Muslims “trying to kill Americans”

Exclusive: U.S. Rep Joe Walsh tells a town hall meeting that radical Islam has infiltrated the Chicago suburbs

U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh went on another anti-Islam tirade Wednesday, calling for an end to “political correctness” in dealing with the “radical strain of Islam” he described as an imminent danger to America.

“It’s a real threat,” Walsh said at a town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village, Ill.  “And it’s a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11.”

“It’s here,” he continued, referring to “radical Islam” in the suburbs of Chicago. “It’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here.”

The remarks — captured on tape — came in response to an Egyptian-American audience member who said Muslims are taking over America and charged the freshman congressman to take a more aggressive stance against the religion.

The Tea Party Republican, who serves on the Homeland Security Committee, has been known for his incendiary remarks since winning his House seat in 2010. He set off a media firestorm last month when he appeared to question the heroism of his opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war vet who lost both her legs in combat.

Man arrested after allegedly firing BB gun at mosque

Police say they’ve arrested a man who lives near a mosque in Morton Grove, Illinois, for firing a pellet rifle at the mosque Friday night while 500 people prayed inside.

In a statement sent out Sunday, police said 51-year-old David Conrad of Morton Grove, who lives near the Muslim Education Center, faces felony charges.

The statement released by Morton Grove Police Cmdr. Paul Yaras said Conrad faces three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one count of criminal damage to property. It also said a high-velocity air rifle outfitted with a scope was seized.

Off-duty Chicago police officers, who had been hired to provide additional security at the mosque during Ramadan activities, called Morton Grove police after they saw an object whiz by and hit the building just above the head of one of the officers, Hussain said.

Though the damage to the building was minor, there were about 500 people inside the mosque for prayers at the time of the shooting, Hussain said, adding that many kids from the congregation were outside of the building during the service.   No one was injured.

CAIR: Shots Fired at Illinois Mosque

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) said today that two air rifle shots were fired last night at the outer wall of the Muslim Education Center (MEC) mosque in Morton Grove, Ill.

The shots were heard by worshipers who were outside the mosque and were powerful enough to damage the building’s brick wall. (The Muslim Community Center (MCC), of which the MEC is a suburban branch, is the oldest Muslim center in Illinois.)

A neighbor, who has a history of opposition to the mosque, allegedly fired the shots. Morton Grove police, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office are all investigating the incident.

“This is obviously an alarming situation that all parties are taking very seriously. The weapon allegedly used in this incident is powerful enough to kill, and the projectiles reportedly came within inches of the head of the security guard on duty,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.

Rehab toured the mosque site today with Muslim community leaders, the local police commander and the assistant state attorney. He said mosque leaders and community members are cooperating with the investigation and that a variety of charges are being considered.

“We have full trust in the professionals handling this investigation. They are doing everything in their power to keep communities safe and ensure that justice is served,” said Rehab.

Earlier this week, CAIR’s national headquarters issued a community safety advisory for American mosques following other incidents targeting Muslim houses of worship in Missouri and Rhode Island and after the deadly shooting attack Sunday on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Chicagoan accused of plotting to be suicide bomber for al-Qaida, al-Shabab to plead guilty

CHICAGO — A 29-year-old Chicago man accused of plotting a suicide bombing overseas and claiming he was inspired by a radical Muslim cleric has agreed to change his plea to guilty, bringing to an end one of the last terrorism trials pending in the city’s federal court.

A lawyer for Shaker Masri — whose plea deal was announced Thursday at a status hearing — told reporters that the agreement hammered out with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was favorable to his client, though he declined to elaborate

Masri, who was born in Alabama and lived abroad before returning to the U.S. at age 18, was arrested in 2010 after the FBI exposed his alleged plot to attend a Somalia training camp to become a suicide bomber for terrorist groups al-Qaida and al-Shabab.

Attorneys left open the possibility that the plea deal could still unravel, but Durkin told U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman he was confident enough to have the Sept. 12 trial date cancelled. Coleman set July 20 as the day for Masri to change his plea.

None of the government attorneys spoke to reporters after the hearing.

Poll: Most Americans do not identify Obama as Christian

Republicans from time to time have accused President Obama of playing identity politics. Here’s the problem: The electorate remains confused about his identity.

The problem is most famously manifested in persistent conspiracy theories, driven by conspiracy-loving “birthers,” about Obama’s birthplace and citizenship. But voters remain muddled about his religion as well, as a new Gallup poll confirms.

The poll released Friday shows that just 34% of Americans can identify Obama as a Christian or, more specifically, as a Protestant. Eleven percent remain convinced that he is Muslim, and 44% say they don’t know.

That is striking, because few presidents have spoken and written as much about their faith as Obama. His Christianity, in fact, ignited the biggest controversy of his 2008 campaign when incendiary videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s longtime pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, went viral on the internet. Obama eventually severed ties with Wright, and since then has attended a variety of Christian churches. He uses Christian language and imagery often in speeches

The Gallup findings were remarkably consistent with those of a Pew Research Center poll in August 2010, in which 34% of those surveyed said Obama was Christian, 18% said Muslim and 43% said they didn’t know.

It is also notable that the matter is even an issue. Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Columbia University and the author of “God in the White House: How Faith Shapes the Presidency — from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush,” has noted that there was a time in American politics when the electorate didn’t pay any attention to the president’s religion and didn’t particularly care.

How many Americans, he has asked, knew the religious denomination of Lyndon Johnson? (He was a member of the Disciples of Christ.)

The Gallup poll was based on telephone interviews conducted June 7-10 with a random sample of 1,004 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

An Independent Monitor for the Police Is Proposed

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency have inspectors general who function as independent monitors. So do the police departments of major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as the nation’s capital. Even most New York City agencies, like the Education Department and the Housing Authority, have similar monitors.

But not the New York Police Department.

About two dozen members of the City Council planned to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would create an office of the inspector general to monitor the police and “conduct independent reviews of the department’s policies, practices, programs and operations.”

The council members said that there has never been a more opportune time to increase oversight over so powerful an agency, especially in light of the department’s stop-and-frisk policy, surveillance of Muslim groups, questions over allegedly manipulated arrest data and other recent controversies involving the police.

“This kind of independent oversight can act as an early-warning system for a very large agency,” said Richard M. Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission, which has worked closely with council members on the legislation.