March 1, 2014
JERSEY CITY (WABC) — Authorities are trying to find out what caused a fire Friday morning at an Islamic center in Jersey City.
The blaze caused extensive water and fire damage at the Al Tawheed Islamic Center.
“All the rooms inside, everything and the roof, too, its big damage,” said Mohamed Osman, a mosque member.
It was around 5:30 a.m. Friday when flames and smoke were shooting through the roof of the mosque on Westside Avenue as several people were showing up for morning prayer.
Bilal Arshad never made it inside.
“All that smoke came in my face; I went away from the door. It was just, way too much to handle,” Arshad said.
By late morning, members of the mosque’s executive board made other arrangements for their midday prayer service.
It was held at the armory in Jersey City.
Investigators are now trying to figure out just how the fire began.
“My investigators have not given me any indication that they’re comfortable where it started yet, but we will, wherever it started, we will find out,” said Jim Shea, Jersey City Public Safety Director.
No one was injured in the blaze, which reached three-alarms. The structure was destroyed.
Firefighters were working in extreme cold conditions which caused water to freeze.
February 4, 2014
Teen says she has been bullied in school
HAINES CITY, Fla. —A Florida girl said she has been verbally and physically assaulted because she wears a hijab, or head scarf, to school.
Zahrah Habibulla, 14, said she didn’t have problems at school with other children until she started wearing her hijab on Dec. 14. The Polk County teen said she wears the hijab for religious reasons.
“I’ve been bullied in school,” she said. “I had verbal assaults, physical assaults.”
Each time the teen was attacked, she told her mother, who then called the principal of Ridge Community High School.
Zahrah’s parents told WESH 2 News in an exclusive interview that they want something done before their daughter is hurt.
“It breaks my heart. I don’t want to see that,” said Zameena Habibulla. “I’m hoping for a safer school for her. Every day she goes to school I’ve got fear.”
The Polk County School District released the following statement Monday:
“Since learning of these concerns, school officials have taken a proactive role in addressing any issues to ensure the safety and welfare of the student. The School Board remains committed to providing an educational environment that is safe, secure and free from harassment or bullying.”
A member of the American Muslim Youth Leadership Council has also met with the school’s principal to urge action from school officials.
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.
JEFFERSON CITY • In what has become a regular ritual here, a state Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would prevent Sharia Law from taking over Missouri.
The Senate General Laws committee also discussed a measure that would outlaw any federal attempts to regulate firearms in Missouri.
The committee hasn’t acted on either measure, and both appear unlikely to have much chance at becoming law. But they both touch on some of the hottest ideological issues in the nation right now.
“They should call that the Tea Party Committee,” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, a committee member, scoffed as she left the hearing.
Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, who acknowledged that Missouri isn’t in any immediate danger of being overtaken by foreign legal theories. But he said he wants to make sure the state “keeps things the way they are.”
The bill doesn’t specifically mention the Islamist Sharia religious law. But more than 20 states have considered similar measures in the past few years, generally tied to the ongoing debate over alleged Islamist influences in the U.S.
There’s no current mechanism under which a foreign law could apply in Missouri.
The second bill would make it illegal for any government official to attempt to enforce any federal firearms regulation in Missouri.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers are considering banning judges in the state from basing any rulings on foreign laws, including Islamic Sharia law.
A Senate panel on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the bill, which has broad support in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The bill would specifically make void and unenforceable any court, arbitration or administrative agency decision that doesn’t grant the parties affected by the ruling “the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.”
“This is a way to protect American citizens … where somebody may try to use any kind of foreign law or religious law to affect the outcome of a trial,” said Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, who sponsored the bill. Shortey described it as “American Law for American Courts.”
“This bill is entirely unnecessary and creates significant uncertainty for Oklahomans married abroad as well as those Oklahomans who have adopted a child from another country or are seeking to do so,” Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said in a statement. “These Oklahoma families don’t deserve to have this type of doubt cast over them.
“It also creates an atmosphere of uncertainty for foreign businesses seeking to do business with Oklahoma businesses.”
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) – A rally for Muslims in Joplin, Missouri, drew hundreds of people on Saturday night, nearly three weeks after a local mosque was destroyed by a fire which members of the Islamic community suspect was a hate crime, the organizer of the event said.
The gathering at a city park was promoted on a Facebook page as a way to show “that love is stronger than fear or hatred.” Organizers saw the rally in part as a giving-back to the local Muslim community because their mosque was a relief center for victims of the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, which took 161 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 buildings.
The fire that destroyed the Joplin mosque happened the morning after a white supremacist shot dead six worshipers at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, then killed himself after he was wounded by police. Police and Sikh temple members speculated that he might have mistakenly thought Sikhs were Muslims.
About $406,000 has been raised to rebuild the Joplin mosque. The donations have far exceeded the goal of $250,000, said Kimberly Kester, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Joplin.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A former Kansas City woman who converted to Islam in 2005 said she was harassed for years at AT&T, and that the abuse boiled over in 2008 when her boss snatched her head scarf and exposed her hair.
A Jackson County jury on Thursday awarded Susann Bashir $5 million in punitive damages in her discrimination lawsuit, along with $120,000 in lost wages and other actual damages.
The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/JKWbqR ) reported Saturday the award appears to be the largest jury verdict for a workplace discrimination case in Missouri history.
Bashir said in court documents that her work environment became hostile immediately after she converted, with her co-workers making harassing comments about her religion and referring to her hijab as “that thing on her head.”
“I was shocked. I thought, ‘What is going on?’” she told the newspaper. “Nobody ever cared what I wore before. Nobody ever cared what religion I was before.”
Bashir worked at AT&T’s office in Kansas City for 10 years as a fiber optics network builder before being fired from her $70,000-a-year job. She claimed she endured religious discrimination nearly every day of the final three years she worked there, including being asked if she was going to blow up the building and being called a “towelhead” and a terrorist.
AT&T said Friday it disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The man wanted in the bombing of a Florida mosque who was shot and killed when he pulled a gun on agents trying to arrest him in Oklahoma hated Muslims and had become increasingly erratic, according to FBI documents.
The FBI says Sandlin Matthews Smith of St. Johns County, Fla., was shot Wednesday in a field at Glass Mountain State Park near Orienta in northwest Oklahoma. FBI Agent Clayton Simmonds out of the Oklahoma City office says agents opened fire when Smith, 46, pulled out an AK-47 assault rifle as agents approached him.
Smith was facing several federal charges, including damage to religious property and possession of a destructive device, in connection with the May 10, 2010, bombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. No one was hurt in that explosion, but authorities found remnants of a crude pipe bomb at the scene, and shrapnel from the blast was found a hundred yards away.
OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge on Monday said she would rule by the end of the month on a lawsuit challenging an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.
U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-Le Grange extended a restraining order blocking enforcement of the new law until Nov. 29 during a hearing in the case.
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A landmark meeting between Catholic officials and Muslim scholars that aims to spur dialogue between Christianity and Islam is planned to take place in Rome this spring, a senior Vatican official said. The top Vatican official in charge of relations with Islam, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, said he expected an advanced group of three Muslim representatives in February or March to lay the groundwork for the meeting. “In a certain sense, (the meeting) can be defined as historic,” Tauran told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, in an edition published earlier this week.