Politics and Prejudice: Countering Islamophobia in the 2016 Presidential Race

If the last two elections are any indication, candidates in the 2016 presidential race may be tempted to engage in Muslim-bashing – playing off national security anxieties and fostering racial and religious animus – to win the vote. But anti-Muslim bigotry comes at a high cost to American Muslims, to America’s international stature, and increasingly, to the political careers of those who fuel it.
It was not long ago that American Muslim children watched leaders “accuse” President Obama of being a Muslim, as if there is something inherently wrong with the world’s second largest religion or its 1.5 billion adherents.
Since then, a number of U.S. elected officials continue to contribute to the prevailing climate of intolerance and discrimination confronting American Muslims.

Law aims to boost halal, kosher food for poor

DETROIT — For the first time, the federal government is required to purchase and provide food banks emergency supplies of kosher or halal products, serving a population whose survival could otherwise be at odds with strictures of faith.

The void was first revealed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the East Coast in the fall of 2012 and led to food shortages for those most in need.

A Jewish philanthropic organization in New York alerted lawmakers to the rising numbers of people coming to its food banks and often finding shelves devoid of kosher offerings. That led to legislation aimed at boosting emergency supplies for food prepared in accordance with Jewish and Muslim dietary rules, and, after some unsuccessful attempts at passage, the measure was tucked into the sweeping federal farm bill signed into law in February.

Federal agriculture officials now must implement the novel law, which requires them to buy food prepared in accordance with the faiths’ dietary rules but isn’t more expensive than regularly produced food. Then, it must be tracked through the distribution chain and properly labeled to ensure it gets to food bank operators and meets the needs of their clients.

The U.S. Agriculture Department’s challenges include gauging the demand and finding vendors that can supply the appropriate amount of food to keep it cost-neutral.

Demand for kosher food is high in the New York metropolitan area, and both the New York and Detroit areas are major centers of halal consumption.

The USDA currently buys some kosher and halal foods but not in an organized, regulated fashion. It’s hard to know how soon the full effort can launch or how successful it will be, but a test run that predates the Farm Bill’s passage is underway.

A Mosque in the Darsena neighborhood? Local Official Says Yes

January 8, 2014

 

GENOA, The Mayor of Genoa, Marco Doria said “yes” to the construction of the Mosque in the neighborhood of Darsena in Genoa.

The mayor explained in a letter to the president of European Muslims.

The letter came after the League of European Muslims had expressed its readiness to buy a building in Darsena, to make it a great European center of Islamic culture and a space dedicated to prayer.

The Mayor’s commitment is crucial because the Islamic Development Bank could begin financing the project with the cost of 12 million Euros.

The letter explained that the mayor and the “municipal authorities have no objection to the fact that this important initiative will be brought to the attention of the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia.”

 

Liguria Notizia: http://www.ligurianotizie.it/costruzione-moschea-darsena-doria-dice-si/2014/01/11/112997/

Proposed medical office would accommodate Muslim-American patients

May 7, 2013

By Ashley Rueff,

 

Orland Park could become home to what’s described as a “first-of-its-kind” outpatient surgical center with a mission of accommodating the religious and cultural beliefs of Muslim patients.

Dr. Naser Rustom has applied for state approval to open an ambulatory surgical treatment center at 10 Orland Square Drive, the site of the former Plunkett Furniture store, according to a state permit application for the project. The medical office, Preferred SurgiCenter LLC, would welcome patients of all faiths and beliefs, but it would employ staff who are familiar with and facilities designed to accommodate the needs of patients who follow Islamic Divine Law.

“We’re going to service every race, every nationality. We’re not going to discriminate against anyone,” said Manager Robyn Fina. “However, in the Orland Park and the southwestern suburbs, there is a huge concentration of Arab-Americans. I think there is a lack of facilities for them to receive the care that they need while taking into consideration their special religious and ethnic background.”

In its permit application, the project is described as a facility “that appeals to the general population as a whole; but, to the trained eye, the ASTC will also be the first-ever surgery center that is designed and operated in a manner that is fully compliant with the Shari ‘a Law.”

The proposed 11,000-square-foot space would offer pain management, gastroenterology and general surgery, according to the project application. The total cost is estimated at about $5.5 million with an anticipated completion date of July 2014, but that will depend on approval from the state.

According to its application documents, the facility would be staffed with employees who understand Muslim-Americans’ needs when approaching health care. The facility would include a prayer room and additional washing facilities to more easily accommodate the prayer schedule and rituals followed by some patients.

As much as possible, she said the facility will also accommodate patients who would prefer to be seen by staff of their own gender and will attempt to offer increased privacy.

Fina said such a facility is expected to improve health behaviors of Muslim-Americans who may have had negative experiences when attempting to follow their religious beliefs while seeking health care in the past.

“There are individuals who feel uncomfortable going into facilities because the staff don’t recognize their special needs,” Fina said. “What we are attempting to do is to address as many of those needs as we can within the confines of state and national laws and health care.”

Imam Nazir Chahin of the Prayer Center of Orland Park said he is unfamiliar with the details of the proposed medical office, but he thinks the concept would be welcomed by the Muslim community of the southwest suburbs.

 

Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-05-07/news/ct-tl-0509-proposed-muslim-accomodating-medical-ce-20130508_1_health-care-patients-application

Bradford synagogue saved by city’s Muslims

December 20, 2013

 

It was around this time last year that the trustees of Bradford’s final remaining synagogue faced a tough choice. The roof of the Grade II-listed Moorish building was leaking; there was serious damage to the eastern wall, where the ark held the Torah scrolls; and there was no way the modest subscriptions paid annually by the temple’s 45 members could cover the cost.

Rudi Leavor, the synagogue’s 87-year-old chairman, reluctantly proposed the nuclear option: to sell the beautiful 132-year-old building, forcing the congregation to go 10 miles to Leeds to worship. It was a terrible proposition, coming just after the city’s only Orthodox synagogue had shut its doors in November 2012, unable to regularly gather 10 men for the Minyan, the quorum of 10 Jewish male adults required for certain religious obligations.

But rather than close, Bradford Reform Synagogue’s future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city’s Jews by 129,041 to 299.

A fundraising effort – led by the secretary of a nearby mosque, together with the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate – has secured the long-term future of the synagogue and forged a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism. All things being well, by Christmas the first tranche of £103,000 of lottery money will have reached the synagogue’s bank account after some of Bradford’s most influential Muslims helped Leavor and other Jews to mount a bid.

At the start of December, Karim and other Muslims attended a Hanukah service at the synagogue. Yet until a year ago, Karim didn’t even realise the synagogue existed. “The Jewish community kept themselves to themselves,” he said. Since the last race riots in the city in 2001, there has been no sign to mark the building. “We didn’t want to be the cause of potential trouble, so we took the plaque down over 10 years ago,” said Leavor.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/bradford-synagogue-saved-muslims-jews

School children as young as 8 told they would be labelled ‘racist’ for missing school trip

November 22, 2013

 

Parents have criticised a school after children as young as eight were told they would be punished for racism if they did not attend a religious workshop about Islam. Angry mums and dads were sent a letter by Littleton Green Community School, in Huntingdon, Staffordshire, warning their children would be considered racist if they did not go on the school trip.

The visit to Staffordshire University – for Year 4 and Year 6 pupils – had been arranged as part of the children’s “cultural education” on November 27. Headteacher Lynn Small wrote to parents and said if kids did not attend a “racial discrimination note” would be made on the pupil’s records and would remain there for their school careers. On top of that, they were also ordered to pay £5 towards the cost of the trip.

Parents have criticised the school’s “ludicrous” threats and accused the school of trying to blackmail them. Stacy Waldron, 26, who has an eight-year-old daughter at the school, said: “I feel my child will be racist if I don’t allow her to go. “This is my choice, not hers, and she shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Mum-of-four Tracy Ward added: “I was shocked by the letter. To be told my kids have got to attend this workshop is disgusting. “Everyone should have a choice but that’s my opinion and I don’t want a stain on my kids’ record as a result. “They are not old enough to be called racist.”

Her sister Donna, whose daughter also attends the school, said: “It’s not our religion. We should have a right to stop our children going.”

Around 100 pupils across four years were expected to take part in the course – which would have involved them being shown Islamic artefacts. But after parents contacted the school they were then forced to make an embarrassing U-turn and withdraw the threat after council chiefs intervened.

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson slammed the original move – labelling it “bonkers”. He said: “The idea of attaching a ‘racial discrimination note’ to children’s education records saying it will remain on their file for the duration for their school career seems unfair, particularly when it is no the child’s decision whether or not he or she attends.

Defending the decision Mrs Small said that exposing the pupils to other faiths was part of the school’s statutory duty. She said: “We are a mainly Christian school, but we have to cover at least one other religion as part of the national curriculum. This visit is part of that. “They would not be taking part in any religious practices. We have had similar workshops on a variety of religions in the past – including one on Islam with no problems at all and the children have absolutely loved it. “We have pupils and teachers at the school who belong to the Islam faith and it is right for the children to understand and appreciate their faith as well as their own.”

A spokesperson for Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a school matter and the council was only contacted once the letter had been sent.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10468353/School-children-as-young-as-8-told-they-would-be-labelled-racist-for-missing-school-trip.html

Veils in court: judges to be given guidance, says lord chief justice

November 5, 2013

 

The most senior judge in England and Wales has disclosed plans to launch a consultation on whether veils can be worn in court as he warned the issue had become highly divisive.

At his first press conference since taking up his judicial post last month, the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, also suggested that in future criminal defendants might be able to take part in preliminary hearings from home via Skype or FaceTime video systems on their computers.

The former justice secretary, Ken Clarke, at the weekend stirred the controversy over the niqab by declaring that a fair trial could not take place if a defendant is “in a kind of bag”. In September, a judge ruled a Muslim woman would be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but said she must remove it while giving evidence.

Thomas said: “The best way for dealing with this matter is to make a practice direction … The basic principle will be that it must be for the judge in any case to make his own or her own decision but we will give clear guidance.

Asked if he envisaged defendants appearing from home, he said: “I can see it happening for pre-trial hearings – whether one could go any further would depend – but certainly pre-trial hearing stage is one place we have to make changes.” We have to look at solutions that are innovative and will bring down the cost of litigation because we can’t afford to go on as we once did.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/05/veils-court-judges-skype-lord-chief-justice

Police See Bias Motive for New Hampshire Mosque Vandalism

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/17/13) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said today that law enforcement authorities in New Hampshire are investigating a bias motive for extensive vandalism of the construction site for the Islamic Society of Greater Manchester.

CAIR said the vandalism, which cost more than $30,000 to repair and included a number of smashed windows and attempted arson, occurred in July but was not determined to be bias-motivated until recently. The perpetrators were caught on video surveillance cameras.

The mosque site was targeted with a similar act of vandalism in April.  Muslim community leaders and local police told CAIR that the juvenile perpetrators bragged of the vandalism online and left comments on anti-Muslim hate sites. Officials say New Hampshire does not have a hate crime statute but that a judge can hand down an enhanced sentence if the alleged vandals are convicted.

Widows Abroad Entitled to Dutch Pension

22 August 2013

 

An Amsterdam court has decided that widows abroad, who hold a Dutch surviving  relative pension, may not have their benefits removed. The decision concluded a case brought to court by eleven Moroccan and Turkish widows whose benefits as surviving widows were curtailed considerably because they moved abroad.

 

On 1 January 2013 a residence principle came into effect which demands that such payments be adjusted to the cost of living in countries outside the Netherlands. In countries such as Turkey and Morocco, where the cost of living is lower, the government reduced payments to the surviving relatives by as much as 40%. According to the court case this week, the government reduction contradicts several international agreements, and no alteration to payments should be made based on domicile of the beneficiary.

Mass. bar examiners to review religious wear rules

Test taker who had authorization interrupted due to her hijab

Iman Abdulrazzak, an observant Muslim, realized at the last minute that she needed special permission to wear her headscarf while taking the Massachusetts bar exam. She scrambled to fax her request for an exemption to the ban on hats and other headwear. She called the board’s office in Boston repeatedly to make sure it got through.

 

No one said anything about her headscarf when she arrived at Western New England University School of Law in Springfield to take the high-stakes test to become a lawyer Aug. 1. But halfway through the morning session, a proctor placed a note on her desk: “Head wear may not be worn during the examination without prior written approval. . . . Please remove your head wear and place it under your desk for the afternoon session.”

 

The problem was cleared up during the lunch break, when a proctor supervisor called the Board of Bar Examiners in Boston and confirmed that the office had approved Abdulrazzak’s request for a religious exemption. But Abdulrazzak said that the distraction and distress cost her about 10 minutes in the morning session and that she was not able to fully answer all of the essay questions.

 

Marilyn Wellington, executive director of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, called the mix-up “very unfortunate” and said the board takes responsibility for the mistake.

 

She said the board may consider revising its rule requiring prior authorization for religious headwear. The rule was established to prevent people from concealing notes or other information that could be used to cheat on the exam, she said, not to inhibit religious practice.

 

Normally, the Board of Bar Examiners notifies proctor supervisors of any test-takers who have obtained authorization to wear religious headgear during the exam.

 

Abdulrazzak said the proctor supervisor in her case seemed unable to find a notation of the authorization in her official binder. But she said the supervisor “was really nice.”

 

Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington, said that as the nation becomes more diverse, requests for religious accommodation are becoming more common in schools, workplaces, and other arenas.

 

At least one other similar instance happened during the administration of the Massachusetts bar exam two years ago. Hania Masud, 28, a New York lawyer who took the bar in Boston in 2011, said she had not realized she needed a special exception to the no-hats rule in order to wear her hijab during the exam.