Supreme Court rejects taxpayer challenge to AIG bailout AIG bailout

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by a taxpayer who claimed the government’s 2008 bailout of the insurer American International Group Inc violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

Without comment, the court let stand a June 1 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that Kevin Murray lacked standing to challenge the $182.3 billion bailout, including its use of taxpayer funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”).

The bailout left the government with a controlling stake in New York-based AIG, which it has since reduced.

Murray, a Michigan resident and Marine veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said the bailout violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause because AIG has units that market and sell financing products compliant with Sharia, Islamic law based on teachings of the Koran.

He contended that the sale of such products was a basis for a “global jihadist war against the West and the United States,” and sent a message that non-adherents to Islam were outsiders.

But the 6th Circuit said nothing in the law authorizing TARP suggested that Congress knew or intended that TARP funds might support the sale of the Sharia-compliant products.

IX Islamic Congress of Catalonia

1/12/2012

The Islamic Union of Spanish Islamic Communities of Spain and the Islamic Union of Catalonian Communities will organize the IX Islamic Congress of Catalonia. During the days 14,15 and 16 of December 2012, will participate in the event distinct figures to deal with the theme of the congress: The religion: volunteer work and social action.

Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress

The newly elected, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.

Catholics have seen the biggest gains among the 530 seats in the new Congress that have been decided as of Nov. 16. So far, Catholics have picked up five seats, for a total of 161, raising their share to just over 30%.1 The biggest decline is among Jews, who have been elected to 32 seats (6%), seven fewer than in the 112th Congress, where Jews held 39 seats (7%).2 Mormons continue to hold 15 seats (about 3%), the same as in the previous Congress.

Protestants also appear likely to continue to occupy about the same proportion of seats (56%) as in the 112th Congress (57%). In addition, the Protestant share of each political party in the new Congress is about the same as in the 112th; roughly seven-in-ten Republicans are Protestants, compared with fewer than half of Democrats. However, the members elected for the first time in 2012 are less Protestant than the group first elected in 2010; 48% are Protestant, compared with 59% of those elected for the first time in 2010.

Protestants, Catholics and Jews each make up a greater percentage of the members of Congress than of all U.S. adults. The same is true for some sub-groups of Protestants, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians. By contrast, Pentecostals are a much smaller percentage of Congress than of the general public. Due in part to electoral gains in recent years, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus now are represented in Congress in closer proportion to their numbers in the U.S. adult population. But some small religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are not represented at all in Congress.

Perhaps the greatest disparity, however, is between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who do not identify with any particular religion. About one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – a group sometimes collectively called the “nones.” But only one member of the new Congress, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is religiously unaffiliated, according to information gathered by CQ Roll Call. Sinema is the first member of Congress to publicly describe her religion as “none,” though 10 other members of the 113th Congress (about 2%) do not specify a religious affiliation, up from six members (about 1%) of the previous Congress.3 This is about the same as the percentage of U.S. adults in Pew Research Center surveys who say that they don’t know, or refuse to specify, their faith (about 2%).

Lawmakers divided on post-9/11 program that collected info on Americans, not terrorists

WASHINGTON — Stinging criticism from Congress about a counterterrorism effort that improperly collected information about innocent Americans is turning up the heat on the Obama administration to justify the program’s continued existence and putting lawmakers who championed it on the defensive.

The administration strongly disagrees with the report’s findings, and leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee are distancing themselves from the report. The review criticized the multibillion-dollar network of “fusion centers” as ineffective in fighting terrorism and risky to civil liberties.

The intelligence reports reviewed by the subcommittee were produced by officials in the Homeland Security Department’s Intelligence and Analysis division, which was created after the Sept. 11 attacks with the hope of connecting the dots to prevent the next terrorist strike. This division has never lived up to what Congress initially hoped for.

Though fusion centers receive money from the federal government, they are operated independently. A federal law co-sponsored by Lieberman and Collins authorized that centers cover criminal or terrorist activity.

Five years later, Senate investigators found, terrorism is often a secondary focus.

The report is as much an indictment of Congress as it is the Homeland Security Department.

One of the report’s recommendations is that the department needs to do a better job of tracking how its money is spent; that’s a recommendation with which both Collins and Lieberman agree.

Despite that, Congress is unlikely to pull the plug because the program means politically important money for state and local governments, and Homeland Security officials are adamant that the money is well spent.

Conversations: Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, discusses the current crisis in Libya and Muslims in America

As the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison(D-Minn.) is often a go-to person for Muslim Americans, Muslim leaders overseas and others focused on the intersection of Islam and government. He has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Democracy Partnership, which works with lawmakers in emerging democracies. Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein asked Ellison about some of the Islam-related stories in the news.

Q: How has the post-Sept. 11 decade changed these views?

A: The people I talk to are as concerned about anti-Muslim hate as much as ever before. One thing they commonly complain about is, if you make a slur against blacks you’ll be in trouble. But if you say some crazy stuff about Muslims no one cares. I think it’s actually gotten worse. I think in 2001 we were in a better place than we are now. Then, there were people who didn’t like Muslims, but now there is an industry to pump out negativity. You have [Republican congresswoman] Michele Bachmann [of Minnesota] going around saying the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the government. You can count on something like this every two months.

●Serves on the House Financial Services Committee; House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee.

●Co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the 112th Congress; is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

●Before Congress: practiced law and was a community activist; also served two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.

● Hometown: Detroit.

● Earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990.

●Is the father of four children.

Launch of new Canadian group, Muslims Facing Tomorrow

The National Post – September 11, 2012

 

A Muslim Canadian activist has founded a new group that will promote moderate Islam, saying there are too few progressive Muslim voices countering extremism in Canada. Raheel Raza, the Pakistan-born author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad: A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out, was once a member of the progressive Muslim Canadian Congress, but this month is formally launching Muslims Facing Tomorrow. Ms. Raza notes that, “The moderate Muslim voice is very few in number and we felt that the more organizations out there doing this kind of work, the better. We have a very similar mandate to the MCC [Muslim Canadian Congress], and our goal is the same, but we at Muslims Facing Tomorrow plan to go about it in a different way.”

Raza added, “We want to provide an alternative for Muslim youth. It’s not just a question of slamming the extremists; it’s also about providing a different voice. We want to hold workshops and conferences — one thing that’s never been done, as far as I know, is a conference of moderate Muslims in Canada.

Ramadan in Murfreesboro

Id al-Fitr — the end of Ramadan’s monthlong fasting and sacrifice — has turned out to be an especially joyous holiday for the Islamic American community of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Hundreds of worshipers were finally able to occupy their new suburban mosque this month, prevailing in their constitutional right after a two-year assault of bigotry, persistent court challenges, arson and a bomb threat at the construction site.

The community’s religion became a heated issue when residents at a public hearing angrily maintained that Islam was not a religion and that the mosque was an outpost in a plot to undermine the Constitution with Shariah law. The ugly fervor quickly spread to the political arena, where an openly anti-Islamic candidate enjoyed hefty donations from a conservative Nashville businessman in a run for Congress.

To its credit, the Rutherford County government upheld the rights of the Muslim congregation and approved the new mosque. But a local judge stopped work on the mosque in May, bending to opponents in ordering local planning officials to reopen hearings because of the controversy stirred by opponents. Judge Todd Campbell of Federal District Court in Nashville put an end to this nonsense last month, ordering occupancy after federal officials filed a religious discrimination suit. With patience and dignity, the Islamic Americans of Murfreesboro learned the hard way the endless American lesson that constitutional rights don’t come guaranteed.

Op-Ed: Michele Bachmann’s baseless attack on Huma Abedin

TO CONSPIRACY theorists like Rep. ¬Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the Obama administration’s approach to the Arab world is the product not of considered diplomacy but of wicked “influence operations,” traceable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its agents. Exhibit A among those agents with murky “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ms. Bachmann warns darkly, is Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ms. Bachmann’s smear of Ms. Abedin, a 37-year-old Muslim American born and educated in this country, was contained in a letter last month to the State Department’s inspector general’s office. It would be simple to ignore the baseless and paranoid assertions of Ms. Bachmann were she not a member of Congress and an also-ran in the recent race for the Republican presidential nomination. Her status doesn’t confer respectability on her views — Americans are inured to all manner of nonsense from Congress — but it does call for a response, if only to restore a dose of rationality to the public discourse.
Today, though, for arguably the first time in her congressional career, the Minnesota GOP congresswoman is finding herself publicly on the outs with some in her own party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), among others, have publicly criticized Bachmann for her suggestion that State Department officials, including longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, might be part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government. (Though notably, Newt Gingrich defended her this morning.)

Ahmadi Muslim leader pushes plight in Congress

WASHINGTON — The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is persecuted around the world, but it has plenty of friends on Capitol Hill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined more than 20 House colleagues and at least one senator Wednesday (June 27) at a reception to mark the first visit of the Ahmadiyya’s spiritual leader, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, to Congress.

The Ahmadiyya have faced severe repression, Pelosi said, “but you refused to turn to bitterness or vengeance.”

“The message we carry is ‘if you are being hurt, do not respond with hurt,’” said Ahsanullah Zafar, president of the Ahmadiyya community in the U.S.

Katrina Lantos Swett, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, asked the audience to stand up for the Ahmadiyya.

“The message of the Ahmadiyya community is a positive call for world harmony and liberty,” Swett said. “We who believe in peace and freedom dare not be silent.”

Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade Since 9/11

Muslim-American Terrorism Down in 2011

 

Twenty Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2011, down from 26

the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 193, or just under 20 per year (see Figure

1). This number is not negligible – small numbers of Muslim-Americans continue to

radicalize each year and plot violence.  However, the rate of radicalization is far less

than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11. In early 2003, for example, Robert Mueller,

director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told Congress that “FBI investigations have

revealed militant Islamics [sic] in the US. We strongly suspect that several hundred of these

extremists are linked to al-Qaeda.”1 Fortunately, we have not seen violence on this

scale.  The scale of homegrown Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 does not appear to have

corroborated the warnings issued by government officials early in the year. In March 2011, Mueller testified to Congress that this threat had become even more complex and difficult to combat, as “we are seeing an increase in the sources of terrorism, a wider array of terrorist targets, and an evolution in terrorist tactics and means of communication.”2 Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, echoed Mueller’s concern in her 2011 “State

of America’s Homeland Security Address”: “the terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly in the last ten years –and continues to evolve – so that, in some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since those attacks.”3 Congressman Peter King, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives, held four earings

in 2011 to alert Americans to the “the extent of Muslim-American radicalization by al-Qaeda

in their communities today and how terrible it is, the impact it has on families, how extensive

it is, and also that the main victims of this are Muslim-Americans themselves.”4