Imam of major Michigan mosque threatens to resign over ethnic controversy and claims of financial mismanagement

Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, the leader of one of Michigan’s biggest mosques and one of the most popular in the Detroit metro area threatened to resign on Friday. During Friday services at the Islamic Center of America, Al-Qazwini cited ongoing differences with the mosque’s board of directors. He stated that he is the victim of anti-Iraqi racism by the majority-Lebanese board of directors. The majority of the mosque’s members are of Lebanese descent.

Over a two month period last Fall, between October and December, anonymous letters were distributed to members in the mosque parking lot accusing Al-Qazwini of funneling mosque funds to his father’s company in Iraq and of having extra-marital relationships through the Shi’a concept of mut’a or “temporary marriage.” In part, the letters read: “Qazwini is the main obstacle which prevent the payment of all the debt… (he) takes the … contributions and revenues” and gives them to his father, a Shi’a religious leader in Iraq. The letters also criticized Al-Qazwini’s support of the board’s chair who, the author of the missives claimed, was not an observant or good Muslim.

One member of the mosque who supports Al-Qazwini said, “They want to turn the Islamic Center of America into the Islamic Center of Lebanon.”

The Islamic Center of America has long been heralded as one of the most “American” of mosques. Al-Qazwini has done much to establish good interfaith relationships with local church leaders and national politicians.

Michigan Jews, Muslims volunteering on Christmas

December 23, 2013

 

DETROIT (AP) – The Detroit area’s Jewish community is once again working with Muslims this week to do some good deeds while their Christian neighbors celebrate Christmas.

About 1,000 Jewish volunteers from several congregations are expected to join local Muslims Wednesday for Mitzvah Day, the largest single day of volunteering by the local Jewish community. The Michigan Muslim Community Council is coordinating volunteers from its communities.

The volunteers will be helping social service agencies at about 40 sites throughout the day. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit has sponsored Mitzvah Day for more than 20 years. Muslims have been part of the effort for the past five years.
Mitzvah means “commandment” in Hebrew and is generally translated as a good deed.

 

AP: http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/12/michigan_jews_muslims_voluntee.html

Civil rights advocacy group says banks closed more accounts of Muslims

November 21, 2013

 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations–Michigan is asking federal officials to investigate more complaints that JPMorgan Chase is allegedly closing bank accounts of Muslim customers in Metro Detroit.

“It seems like it’s solidifying our idea more that there’s a disturbing pattern going on,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-MI. “These aren’t just isolated incidents.”

Spurred by about a dozen complaints in the past two months, the advocacy group has contacted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates banks, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. CAIR-MI also received new complaints Thursday, Walid said.

One of the latest involved the checking and savings accounts for Annisa Patimurani, a Wayne State University graduate student.

The Indonesia native, who is married to an American and started attending WSU this year, said she applied and was approved without issue. But after weeks of local purchases for books and other necessities, her debit card suddenly stopped working last month, she said.

When Patimurani of Detroit visited her local Chase bank for answers, an employee told her the accounts had been closed. The explanation on file said the bank would not open one for people with ties to foreign officials, she said.

She later received a letter from Chase saying the bank is “no longer opening personal banking accounts for current or former non-U.S officials, their immediate family or their close associates.”

Patimurani was puzzled. When applying in person, wearing a hijab, she disclosed that her parents are retired Indonesian government officials, but was told this would not be an issue in securing accounts. “I just don’t understand why they need to discriminate against us,” Patimurani said.

A Chase representative said privacy reasons prevent the company from discussing details of its customer relationships. But “on occasion, Chase determines it can no longer maintain a customer’s account but those decisions are not based on the customer’s religion, ethnicity or any other similar basis.”

 
Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131121/METRO08/311210142#ixzz2laPVdRVY

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.

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.

A century on, Arabs in US struggle to separate myth from truth, tell their family stories

I am a third-generation Arab-American, and I am on a journey to learn more about the journey of my “jiddo,” the Arabic word for grandfather. I am sorting through family stories, passed down, that have a way of changing in the retelling. Folk tales are compelling, but I am trying to anchor my story to facts before the channels to history close entirely, in hopes they might offer insight about how I got here.

 

My quest mirrors those of so many Arab-Americans. They’re looking back and trying to unearth their stories, separating myth from truth and — just as important — hoping to show their neighbors that, in the story of America, they are not a “them” but an “us.”

 

Maybe the Titanic tale is true. It’s remotely possible, since Hussien Karoub came to the United States in the same year, 1912. My family hasn’t confirmed that through records, but by anecdotes like a radio interview from the early 1960s, when he said he came to Detroit in 1915 to make cars after spending three years making hats in Danbury, Conn.

 

For many Arabs, a version of the story is true. U.S.-bound Middle Easterners were on the Titanic and other ships traversing the Atlantic. In lower Manhattan, an already thriving Syrian community awaited and would be instrumental in identifying and memorializing the dead and helping survivors meet the new world.

 

‘The Public Square’ Anti-Islamic speech by pastor Terry Jones … by singing the Beatles.

Since Op-Docs, our forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude across many subjects, started in November 2011, 46 short films and videos have been published on nytimes.com. Today we begin a new Op-Docs feature: Scenes. It will be a platform for very short work — snippets of street life, brief observations and interviews, clips from experimental and artistic nonfiction videos — that follow less traditional documentary narrative conventions. This first Scenes video presents a classic New York moment, recorded last year. — The Editors

We spent much of last year making a documentary, “The Education of Mohammad Hussein,” inside a conservative Islamic school near Detroit. Overall we encountered a fearful community, mistrusting of outsiders. Muslims of all ages expressed a deep sense of being unwanted and spied-on by those who were quick to suspect them of wrongdoing.

During production, Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who publicly set fire to the Koran in a mock trial (and who recently received a death threat in Egypt for his links to the infamous video “Innocence of Muslims”) came to town to hold an anti-Muslim rally. The event provoked a small riot, arrests and heightened tension in the area.

We followed Mr. Jones to New York for the events surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11. One day at the World Trade Center site, men and women in the crowd held signs that shouted “Stand back: I’m on jihad watch” and “We will not submit to sharia law in the USA.” Whenever the term “Muslim-American” was mentioned, boos erupted from the crowd. The hate was overwhelming.

On Sept. 10, we followed Mr. Jones to Times Square. All kinds of bystanders listened, silently at first, while he ranted against the Muslim faith.

Then, incredibly, the crowd responded not with taunts, jeers or indifference… but with the Beatles. The sunnier side of the term “mob mentality” spontaneously emerged, and we were once again overwhelmed by that well-worn cliché that sometimes fits just right: “Only in New York.”

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are New York-based documentary filmmakers. Their forthcoming film “The Education of Mohammad Hussein,” which is on the short list for the Academy Award for short-subject documentary, is to be broadcast on HBO in 2013. Their previous Op-Doc was “Dismantling Detroit.”

 

Plan For Suburban Detroit Mosque Draws Resistance

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (AP) — On a prime piece of real estate in suburban Detroit stands a large, vacant elementary school with no vestiges of life — save for a tiny sign that identifies the building as the “future home” of the Islamic Cultural Association.

But the proposal to establish a new mosque and community center has thrust this quiet site into the center of a battle between a prosperous Muslim community and a Christian legal advocacy group that wants to derail the project as part of its goal to confront the “threat of Islam” in the United States.

The effort is “targeting innocent Americans because of their faith and willingness to engage in the community and to contribute,” said the Islamic association’s attorney, Shareef Akeel. “They’re targeting a people simply because of their faith.”

The Islamic association bought the school in upscale West Bloomfield Township last year. Then some residents made a legal bid to have the $1.1 million purchase thrown out over allegations that the deal was somehow corrupt and hidden from the public.

A judge dismissed the residents’ case, saying the plaintiffs had no standing to file a complaint. But they are appealing that decision, and the law center in June called for a grand jury to investigate.

Outside court, the center’s allegations go beyond the purchase of the building. It accuses Islamic organizations in the United States of taking advantage of the American legal system to wage a “stealth jihad” that aims to transform the U.S. into an Islamic nation. The center also alleges that the Islamic association has ties to terrorism because of its links to other Muslim groups.

The confrontation in West Bloomfield and similar clashes have made Detroit “an active front in a kind of culture war,” said Andrew Shryock, a University of Michigan anthropologist, author and expert on the city’s Islamic presence.

Creator of new Muslim ‘Green Lantern’ super hero, brings some of his past to the comic page

DETROIT — When DC Comics decided to blow up its fabled universe and create a brave, diverse future, Geoff Johns drew from the past for a new character: his own background as an Arab-American.

The company’s chief creative officer and writer of the relaunched “Green Lantern” series dreamed up Simon Baz, DC’s most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States.

“I thought a lot about it — I thought back to what was familiar to me,” Johns, 39, told The Associated Press by phone last week from Los Angeles, where he now lives. “This is such a personal story.”

Baz is not the first Arab or Muslim character to grace — or menace, as has historically been the case — the comic world. Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. He is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne.

Detroit-area Muslims sue US, say agents repeatedly quiz them about their faith at border

DETROIT — Some Detroit-area Muslims have been held at gunpoint, handcuffed and repeatedly harassed about their religion when returning to the U.S. from Canada, according to a lawsuit that seeks to bar government agents from asking questions about religion.

The Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said border agents and the FBI are violating the First Amendment and a 1993 federal law that guarantees freedom to practice religion.

“Since the tragedy of 9/11, we have seen a steady erosion of civil liberties of Muslim-Americans,” CAIR director Dawud Walid said Friday, a day after a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Detroit.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the allegations but said profiling based on race or religion is strictly prohibited. The lawsuit also names the FBI director and two agents. The FBI declined to comment.