CAIR-MI: Civil Rights Groups to Call for Inquiry Into Feds Labeling Dearborn as Suspected Terrorist Community

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 8/7/2014) — On Friday, August 8, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) and other civil rights organizations will hold a press conference to call for a congressional inquiry into how a federal law enforcement database labeled Dearborn, Mich., as the second highest population of “known or suspected terrorists.”

Representatives from ACLU-MI, Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI) and the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) will also be in attendance.

Recently-leaked government documents indicated that Dearborn, a city with less than 100,000 residents is considered to have the second highest concentration of suspected terrorists in America, after New York City, which has a population of more than 8 million people. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country.

Given that there has not been a Dearborn resident who has ever committed an act of terrorism in the homeland, nor any significant pattern of residents being involved in international terrorism, we have serious concerns that federal law enforcement views Dearborn as a suspect community primarily based on its Arab and Muslim demographics,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

Walid also noted that given 94 percent of domestic terrorism attacks in recent decades have been committed by persons other than the Islamic faith, which calls into question how the federal government is using its resources in protecting the nation from actual terrorism threats.

Secret Papers Describe Size of Terror Lists Kept by U.S.

August 6, 2014

WASHINGTON — About 20,800 United States citizens and permanent residents are included in a federal government database of people suspected of having links to terrorism, of whom about 5,000 have been placed on one or more watch lists, newly disclosed documents show.

The documents are briefing materials about accomplishments in 2013 by the Directorate of Terrorist Identities, a component of the National Counterterrorism Center, an interagency clearinghouse of information about people known to be or suspected of being terrorists.

The documents were classified Secret and were published Tuesday by The Intercept, an online magazine. The disclosure provided new details about the numbers of people within the broad database and on terrorist watch lists derived from it — a system that has grown rapidly over the last four years, according to government officials.

Over all, the number of people listed in the center’s database of terrorism suspects surpassed one million in June 2013, the documents said. Of those, approximately 680,000 were on the watch lists, which can keep people off planes or from entering the country and subject them to extra scrutiny at airports, traffic stops or border crossings.

Among other things, the documents showed that the main terrorism suspects database contains records on 8,211 people who are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda that intelligence officials have said is the most dangerous component of the group at present.

A map associated with the files ranked the top five cities where Americans who have been deemed “known or suspected terrorists” are concentrated. Four are large cities: New York, Houston, San Diego and Chicago. But the second-highest was Dearborn, Mich., a city of fewer than 100,000 people that has a large Arab and Muslim population.

Much of the document relates to efforts to fill in missing data. After the April 2013 attack at the Boston Marathon, the National Counterterrorism Center set out to fill gaps involving biometric markers like fingerprints of the Americans on various watch lists, adding facial images for 370 people and fingerprints for 163. It obtained the information from driver’s license images and from the Department of Homeland Security, it said.

The center also used “clandestinely collected travel data” provided by the C.I.A. to fill in gaps about international travel of people in the database, it said.

Terry Jones, Quran-Burning Pastor, Plans ‘Dearborn Freedom Rally’ In Front Of Mosque

June 3, 2014

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor known for burning Qurans, is planning a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, outside one of America’s largest mosques. The event is schedule to take place on Flag Day, June 14, outside of the Islamic Center of America (ICA).

Jones, author of Islam Is of the Devil, explained on his website, Stand Up America Now, that “the purpose of the event is to rally against Islamic Sharia Law which threatens freedom of speech in the United States.” It’s being billed as the Dearborn Freedom Rally and it will be hosted by the American Patriotic Bikers.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. called his cause “un-American,” but noted that Jones has the right to free speech, according to the Detroit Free Press. Dearborn has a large Muslim population, and about 40% of the town is of Arab descent.

This isn’t the first time that Jone has planned Islamophobic events in Dearborn. In 2012, the city asked Jones and his Stand Up America Now co-founder, Wayne Sapp, to sign an indemnity agreement before speaking. A federal court later ruled that Jones’ freedom of speech had been violated, which led the city to change its special events ordinance.

Muslim parent upset over school flyer promoting church’s Easter egg hunt

April 4, 2014

 

Some Muslim parents are concerned about public schools in Dearborn handing out flyers to all students advertising an Easter egg hunt, saying it violates the principle of church and state separation.

A flyer headlined “Eggstravaganza!” was given to students this week at three elementary schools in the Dearborn Public Schools district, which has a substantial number of Muslim students. The flyer described an April 12 event at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church in Dearborn featuring an egg hunt, relay race, and egg toss. It asked students to RSVP “to secure your free spot” and included images of eggs and a bunny.

“It really bothered my two kids,” said parent Majed Moughni, who is Muslim and has two children, ages 7 and 9, in Dearborn elementary schools. “My son was like, ‘Dad, I really don’t feel comfortable getting these flyers, telling me to go to church. I thought churches are not supposed to mix with schools.’ ”

Moughni said he’s concerned about “using school teachers paid by public funds … to pass out these flyers that are being distributed by a church. I think that’s a serious violation of separation of church and state.”

David Mustonen, spokesman for Dearborn Public Schools, did not respond Thursday to several requests by the Free Press for comment.

The pastor of Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church defended the flyer, saying it was approved for distribution by Dearborn Public Schools and is not promoting a religious event.

“It’s designed to be an opportunity to invite the community to come for a day of activity,” said Pastor Neeta Nichols of Cherry Hill. “There is not a religious component to this event.”

And in recent years, other Muslim parents have complained about what they say are attempts to convert their children. The Conquerors, a Grandville-based group of Christian athletes who display feats of strength to spread the message of Jesus, have performed in Dearborn schools, drawing some concern. In 2009, there was controversy over an assistant wrestling coach who some parents said was trying to convert Muslim wrestlers, which the coach denied.

Moughni said he greatly respects Christianity, but believes that schools should not promote events related to religious holidays. He said he would oppose flyers that promoted events at mosques as well.

Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/article/20140404/NEWS05/304040016/Muslim-parents-upset-over-flier-promoting-Easter-egg-hunt-at-church

McDonald’s drops halal food from U.S. menu

DETROIT — There have been only two McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. that have offered halal food. Both were in east Dearborn, Mich., which has a sizable population of Arab-American Muslims.

But after a contentious lawsuit that accused the restaurant chain of selling non-halal items advertised as halal, McDonald’s has yanked its Halal Chicken McNuggets and Halal McChicken sandwiches off the menu. The move brings to an end a unique product that made the two McDonald’s restaurants popular with Muslims.

“Those items have been discontinued as a result of our continued efforts to focus on our national core menu,” a spokesman for McDonald’s said Friday.

At one of the two restaurants, the Ford Road location, a sign in Arabic and English on its drive-through menu informs customers that halal items are no longer available. The decision to discontinue the products after a 12-year run drew a mixed reaction in Dearborn: Some were disappointed, while others said it was a good move because McDonald’s had problems before with selling halal food.

The removal of the halal items, which was done last month, comes after a lawsuit filed in 2011 alleging that the fast-food restaurant was selling non-halal chicken it claimed was halal. Halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher, requiring that meat be prepared according to Islamic guidelines, such as reciting a prayer while the animal is cut. In some cases, employees at the Ford Road location were mistakenly giving non-halal products to customers who asked for halal ones.

SIDEBAR: Muslims embracing unbelief often face a lonely journey

NEW YORK — There was a time in his life when Ibrahim Abdallah thought he was the only Muslim-turned-atheist in the world. Then, at a party, he met a fellow Egyptian and former Muslim, and while the other guests danced, they sat and talked.

And talked and talked.

“I was so happy, and so shocked,” Abdallah, 33, said. “We both felt,’I am not the only one.’ It was huge.”  Now, several years later, Abdallah is on a mission to create the kind of safe space for questioning Islam and all matters of faith that he wishes he could have had.

Last May, he founded “Muslim-ish,” a support group for questioning and former Muslims that meets under the auspices of Manhattan’s Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization. The group has about 50 members, both cradle Muslims and converts, and meets twice a month in a secret location.

It’s support they very much need, Abdallah said, because Muslims who abandon their faith face challenges not faced by those who leave other religions. Divorce and disowning are common, as is the threat of physical violence. Some more conservative Muslims believe Islam sanctions the killing of apostates (those who abandon the faith) and blasphemers (those who belittle Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or other Muslims).

Muslim-ish is growing beyond its New York birthplace. A new group was recently established in Dearborn, Mich. — home to the largest population of Muslims in the U.S. — and other groups are forming in Chicago and Washington, D.C. An online version now meets via Google+ and is drawing people from Alabama, Florida and overseas.

McDonald’s settles case alleging sandwich sold at Mich. store wasn’t halal as advertised

DEARBORN, Mich. — McDonald’s and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay $700,000 to members of the Muslim community to settle allegations a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.McDonald’s and Finley’s Management Co. agreed Friday to the tentative settlement, with that money to be shared by Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.Ahmed’s attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, told The Associated Press on Monday that he’s “thrilled” with the preliminary deal that’s expected to be finalized March 1. McDonald’s and Finley’s Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests.The lawsuit alleged that Ahmed bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald’s but found it wasn’t halal — meaning it didn’t meet Islamic requirements for preparing
food. Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God’s name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.Dakhlallah said he was approached by Ahmed, and they conducted an investigation. A letter sent to McDonald’s Corp. and Finley’s Management by Dakhlallah’s firm said Ahmed had “confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory” that the restaurant had sold non-halal food “on many occasions.”After they received no response to the letter, Dakhlallah said, they filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court in November 2011 as part of a class action.

Police Remove Muslim Women From Pam Geller’s ‘Human Rights Conference’

Yesterday in Dearborn, Michigan, noted anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer hosted a conference promising to advocate for “human rights” in one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Geller, writing on her blog on Sunday, warned, “We will meet fierce resistance by Islamic supremacists who will do anything, say anything to impose the sharia and whitewash the oppression, subjugation and slaughter of women under Islamic law.”

But surprisingly, Muslim women found themselves denied entry to the conference and, after patiently waiting in the corridor after being told to wait, were removed from the Hyatt Hotel by the Dearborn Police Department and Hyatt security.

Several of the young women commented that they shared a similar appearance with Jessica Mokdad, the young women who Geller and Spencer claim was murdered in an “honor killing” (a conclusion not shared by Mokdad’s family or Michigan prosecutors).

Terry Jones, Quran-Burning Pastor, Sues Dearborn, Mich. For Violating His Right To Free Speech

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who has publicly condemned Islam, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Dearborn, Mich., claiming the city is violating his constitutional right to free speech.

Jones gained notoriety for his anti-Islam platform when he burned a Quran last year at his church in Gainesville, Fla., inciting protests and deadly riots in Afghanistan orn’s Islamic Center of America, the country’s largest mosque.

According to the /Detroit Free Press/, the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor and Jones sued Dearborn in advance of the event. The suit alleges Dearborn is asking Jones to sign a legal document  that would require him to “forfeit all legal rights from anything that might happen at the rally.”

Lifting Veil on Love and Islam

In a new anthology of essays about flirting, dating and sex published on Tuesday under the title “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.”

The two editors, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, sought to create a book that dispelled the stereotype of Muslim women as mute and oppressed. They gathered 24 portraits of private lives that expose a group in some cases kept literally veiled, yet that also illustrate that American Muslim women grapple with universal issues.

“Inshallah,” the Arabic word for “God willing,” was included in the title because “it captures the idea that everybody is searching for love,” Ms. Maznavi said.

The anthology joins half a dozen books in the last two years that have been written by American Muslim women about their lives.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, American Muslims have agonized about lying low versus stepping forward to convince other Americans that they are not a fifth column. Controversy erupts around even innocuous television shows like “All-American Muslim,” which presented five families in Dearborn, Mich., as inherently normal.