Ali coming home as ‘citizen’ of world for Louisville funeral

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Muhammad Ali’s younger brother wept, swayed to hymns and hugged anyone he could reach. He raised his hands to the sky, eyes closed, surrounded by congregants at the church where their father once worshipped.
Rahaman Ali took center stage at the two-hour, high-energy service at King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, sitting in a front-row pew with his wife, Caroline. The church is not far from the little pink house in Louisville’s west end where the Ali brothers grew up.
Ali’s body was returned to his grieving hometown for the final time. An airplane carrying the boxing great’s body landed Sunday afternoon.
At his father’s church, the congregation stood in tribute, prayed for the former three-time heavyweight champion and his family and even dug into their pockets, filling a collection plate for Rahaman and his wife as a show of support.

School Board Member Resigns Over Anti-Muslim Facebook Posts

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — A New Jersey school board member resigned Friday after backlash over posts she made on Facebook disparaging Muslims.

Gladys Gryskiewicz resigned from the Elmwood Park school board, citing concerns about the safety of her family, The Record reported .

Gryskiewicz posted on Facebook earlier this year that Muslims should stay “in your desserts (sic) and follow your religion in your own countries.”

Little-known law stops some Muslims from obtaining US citizenship

Mohammad Al-Falahi had just gotten home from work and was about to take a shower when two detectives showed up at his door.

At least one of them was on the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI in Las Vegas.

Al-Falahi claimed one of the detectives wanted him to inform on another man who lived in the same apartment complex. Both men were from Iraq.

This happened in early 2014, about a week after Al-Falahi had his first U.S. citizenship interview, which lasted about 90 minutes, three times longer than most.

The now 30-year-old aviation student from Las Vegas was confounded by the sudden mysterious activity surrounding him.

And that was just the beginning.

His citizenship case was delayed and he couldn’t get answers as to why. Al-Falahi hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit in federal court. He and his attorney say he was asked by immigration officials to drop the lawsuit in return for another interview.

After he did so, his second interview lasted about two hours, but still nothing happened.

Al-Falahi was notified in mid-January his U.S. citizenship had been denied after his attorney, M. Edwin Prudhomme, appealed an intent to deny notice in November.

“They were harassing me for two years with no reason just because my name is Mohammad and I’m from Iraq and I’m Muslim,” said Al-Falahi, who claims the treatment is a result of his refusal to be an informant. “Is it a crime that I’m from Iraq and my name is Mohammad?”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was able to confirm that one of the two detectives who visited Al-Falahi is on the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force, but he declined to comment.

Al-Falahi’s case is not unusual in the Las Vegas area, where other Muslims have similar experiences but never learn why they were treated differently.

Many believe they’re caught up in a little-known program called Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program, or CARRP. It was established in 2008 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to “ensure that immigration benefits or services are not granted to individuals who pose a threat to national security and or public safety, or who seek to defraud” the immigration system, according to Immigration Services officials.

A total of 41,805 CARRP cases nationwide have been opened since the program’s implementation, according to records obtained by the newspaper through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The top five countries of birth for individuals affected by CARRP since 2008 are Pakistan, Iraq, India, Iran and Yemen, according to the records.

UNUSUAL TREATMENT

A typical process to become a U.S. citizen takes 90 to 100 days, said Prudhomme, who has been handling immigration cases for more than 50 years. It’s also rare for interviews to last more than 30 minutes, or for multiple interviews.

“I think only once in the 50-plus years have I had more than one interview,” Prudhomme said.

But Prudhomme said he has been seeing a string of delays in cases involving Muslims, with several exceeding 18 months. He said he didn’t understand why until learned about the Immigration Services program.

CARRP’s methods of identifying “national security concerns” are flawed and sometimes based on religion, national origin and profiling by association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a 2013 report based on Immigration Services documents it obtained through a series of Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Predictably, the … program not only catches far too many harmless applications in its net, but it has overwhelmingly affected applicants who are Muslims or perceived to be Muslim,” the report says.

Citizenship applications are flagged as threats without informing the individuals, whose applications are delayed and sometimes denied, the organization found.

Little else is known about the program, said Tod Story, executive director of the Nevada ACLU.

“This is one of those programs that has been kept in secret,” he said in January.

The ACLU considers the program a civil rights violation, and says the program shifts authority mostly reserved for Immigration Services to federal law enforcement, in particular the FBI.

“The FBI is not required to tell them they are on the list,” he said. “They basically don’t hear anything from the Immigration Services. They don’t know why their application is in limbo, and nobody has to tell them why.”

Maria Elena Upson, an Immigration Services regional spokeswoman, said her agency is unable to discuss individual cases, and she wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny if local cases had been flagged under the program.

A request to interview Jeanne M. Kent, Immigration Services director in Las Vegas, was denied.

Al Gallmann, director of the agency’s Western District, did not respond to requests for comment.

The FBI did respond, but said only that it “does not originally confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.”

GROUNDS FOR DENIAL

Al-Falahi, at least, was able to find out why his application was denied: Immigration Services officials said records show he gave false testimony about membership in the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq before the 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and his explanation of why he fled his country conflicted with his refugee interview.

During his citizenship interviews, Al-Falahi was asked if he was a member or sympathizer of the Baath Party or any other organization in Iraq.

A transcript of the interview shows he answered, “No, but I have an addition. If you went to (go to) school in Iraq, you must sign for Baath. It’s like a mandatory thing to sign for it.”

He wrote the same thing in a 2008 refugee application he filed in Beirut, and explained that he left because of the war and he needed to provide for his family. Records related to that application say Al-Falahi “states that during his intermediate studies it was required that he join the Baath Party in order to continue his studies.” And although he “registered, he never attended any meetings nor did he make any payments towards the Baath Party.”

That was about 15 years ago, he said, when he was still under his parents’ guardianship in Baghdad.

But Immigration Services said Al-Falahi failed to disclose “previously claimed ties to the Baath Party” during his first citizenship interview. “Failure to disclose your Baath Party membership and provide credible explanation for such was considered false testimony” the denial letter reads.

Story said officials are using Al-Falahi’s owns words to punish him since he disclosed the information, but should instead focus on finding evidence such as donations or records that indicate his client was ever active in the Baath Party.

“I think it’s illustrated as to why the program is problematic,” he said. “That’s why the program has to be reformed; whether it’s reformed by (Immigration Services) or Congress intercedes or the executive branch, somebody needs to do something.”

HE’S NOT ALONE

Nasser Karouni, 45, a Lebanese Muslim who lives in Las Vegas, didn’t know why his citizenship process was different than most people’s until he found out about CARRP.

“That pretty much cleared up many questions,” he said.

He applied in 2011 and passed his citizenship test in 2012, but then went through a three-year nightmare that included a 2012 FBI polygraph interrogation, extra security checks, questioning at airports and no answers. A few weeks after the test, he received a summons to meet the FBI the following day. After an hour of questioning, he agreed to the agent’s request that he sit for a polygraph examination.

“I am clear, I sit down, no problem for me,” he said in broken English.

The Review-Journal obtained a partial transcript of the interview, which is normally considered confidential, that was declassified in 2014. The transcript shows that agents sought information about Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group operating in Lebanon, and Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic political party with an armed wing, and Islamic Jihad.

“No, God forbid,” he responded.

His case languished for two more years, but on Aug. 8, 2014, he became a U.S. citizen.

But his son, Haidar Karouni, 20, is now seeing the same stalling action. He applied to become a U.S. citizen almost a year ago and was fingerprinted in spring 2015, but his case has stalled since.

Under CARRP, applicants are to be labeled a security concern based on national origin or if they have traveled through or resided in areas of “known terrorist activity,” according to the ACLU report.

But for the Karouni family, that means automatic designation even for routine travel such as a family visit to Lebanon last summer or Nasser Karouni’s 2011 pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is required at least once in the life of all able Muslims.

Applicants also make the security list based on their profession, if they wire money to families in their home countries, if their names appear on an FBI file related to a national security investigation even if they were not the subject of the investigation, or if they have voluntarily given interviews to the FBI, according to the ACLU report.

The Karouni family has lived in Las Vegas since 2006. In April 2009, Nasser Karouni opened Afandi Market and Restaurant on West Charleston Boulevard with his friend Ghazwan Salem, an Iraqi Christian. Karouni’s family had a butcher shop in Lebanon. He met Salem while working at another butcher shop in Las Vegas before the pair decided to open their business.

Salem, who became a U.S. citizen in 1999, said he didn’t experience any issues during the process, has been there for the Karounis through their struggles.

“The story that we lived with his (Karouni’s) situation, we are reliving it with his son,” Salem said. “With his situation we didn’t know what was going on.”

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said she’s aware there is a lack of public access to CARRP data for national security reasons.

Federal officials have said the agency doesn’t track reasons for the delay or denial of an application associated with CARRP; monitor the program on a state-by-state basis; or track religious affiliation of people under review.

“That’s why my office looks at everyone on a case-by-case basis,” Titus said. “We are available to review instances where constituents think they were not given full consideration for legal residency status by (Immigration Services) or other federal agencies.”

Story, the Nevada ACLU official, questioned whether immigration officials can know if CARRP is working if key information isn’t tracked.

“If they can demonstrate that it has worked, it needs to be brought to light,” he said.

Prudhomme said he’s preparing to take Al-Falahi’s case to federal court. His office met with Nevada ACLU officials last week to discuss the case.

The ACLU of Southern California says it might file a class-action suit of which Al-Falahi would be a plaintiff this year.

Portrait of Suspect in Boston Is Disputed

Rahimah Rahim, a nurse, had tears in her eyes as she clasped the hand of her eldest son, Ibrahim, formerly a local imam. Behind them stood Usaamah Rahim’s wife, her face shrouded in a black veil.
It was the family’s first public appearance since Mr. Rahim, 26, was killed Tuesday by an F.B.I. agent and a police officer after the authorities said he threatened them with a large knife. A lawyer for the family, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., said that they knew nothing of his alleged affinity for Islamic extremists, nor of the reported threat to behead police officers.
A Boston imam and the aunt of the 26-year-old Roslindale man killed by police and the FBI on Tuesday say he was not a terrorist and blamed his “murder” on the media, an investigation gone awry and the strained relationship between cops and black men.
 “Usaamah was tuned in a lot with online Islam,” said Yahya Abdullah Rivero, who attended mosque with Mr. Rahim in Miami. “He kept an ear to everything that was mentioned about Islam online. I know he used to listen to some extreme imams online.”
 Robert S. Sullivan Jr., the lawyer for Usaamah Rahim’s family, on Thursday in the CVS parking lot in Boston where Mr. Rahim was killed on Tuesday. Credit Sean Proctor for The New York Times
Robert S. Sullivan Jr., the lawyer for Usaamah Rahim’s family, on Thursday in the CVS parking lot in Boston where Mr. Rahim was killed on Tuesday. Credit Sean Proctor for The New York Times

Three British schoolgirls flee to Syria to be “Jihadi Brides”

Three British schoolgirls from London disappeared from their homes in February and were en route to Syria when police were alerted. From left: Kadiza Sultana (16), Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (both 15).
Three British schoolgirls from London disappeared from their homes in February and were en route to Syria when police were alerted. From left: Kadiza Sultana (16), Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (both 15). (Photo: BBC)

The police hunt for three British ‘jihadi brides’ who ran away from home to join Islamic State fighters has intensified in a bid to stop them crossing the Turkish border into Syria. The three students from Bethnal Green Academy in east London, were at the centre of an increasingly desperate international hunt to find them before they managed to enter territory controlled by fighters from IS, also known as Isil. The family of one of the girls urged Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16 and Amira Abase, 15, to come back home, warning on Saturday that their lives would be in danger in Syria.

The police hunt for three British ‘jihadi brides’ who ran away from home to join Islamic State fighters has intensified in a bid to stop them crossing the Turkish border into Syria. The three students from Bethnal Green Academy in east London, were at the centre of an increasingly desperate international hunt to find them before they managed to enter territory controlled by fighters from IS, also known as Isil. The family of one of the girls urged Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16 and Amira Abase, 15, to come back home, warning on Saturday that their lives would be in danger in Syria.

MPs have now called for an inquiry into the effectiveness of border controls in stopping British youngsters travelling to the region with the intention of joining IS. Counter-terror experts estimate that as many as 50 young Muslim women and girls have made the journey from Britain to Syria and it emerged on Friday that Shamima, Kadiza and their friend were close to a 15-year-old girls from their school who travelled to Syria last December.

It remains unclear how the girls became radicalised enough to take the step of travelling to Turkey with the intention of joining what they regard as their “brothers and sisters” in IS. However on February 15 – two days before boarding their flight – Shamima used the social media site twitter to get in touch with 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood, a privately educated woman from Glasgow who joined IS and married one of its fighters.

Last night Yasmin Qureshi, a Labour member of the home affairs committee said more needed to be done urgently to dissuade young Muslims from “the illusion” that they are helping their religion by joining Isil.

Dutch participants in jihad: few Turks, mostly Moroccans

The Dutch newspaper Het Parool has stated that among Dutch Jihad participants just a small percentage are Dutch citizens with a Turkish cultural background. But it also suggested that “all the ingredients for radicalization among the Turkish-Dutch community are present.” Terrorism expert Edwin Bakker estimates that approximately 15 to 20 have a Turkish-Dutch cultural background out of a total of 200 to 250 Jihad participants. Around 80 percent has a Moroccan cultural background, Bakker states.

Het Parool further suggested that while the Turkish-Dutch community struggles with high percentages of unemployment and social-economic arrears there is also an observable increase in interest for Islam. An additional factor is the frontline of the Syrian war that borders on Turkey were Turkish-Dutch citizens have relations and speak the language.

According the Het Parool experts explain the low contribution of Dutch Turks by alluding to the strong social control in the Turkish community. Bakker states “I know of one case of a Turkish-Dutch boy that nearly crossed the border with Syria when he stopped his journey under pressure of his family. Otherwise they would come and get him. This is a typical type of pressure we can observe in the Turkish community.”

Ex-honor student gets 5 years in terrorism case

April 17, 2014

 

An immigrant teen who had earned a scholarship to an elite U.S. college but helped solicit support for Jihadists he met online was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.

Mohammad Hassan Khalid had earned a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University after just a few years in the United States, where his family was building a new life after leaving Pakistan.

As his parents and siblings worked to achieve the American dream, he retreated to his bedroom in the family’s cramped apartment near Baltimore, and joined radical Islamist chat rooms by the time he was 15. He was soon conversing with Coleen LaRose, a troubled Pennsylvania woman who called herself “Jihad Jane,” and other extremists.

“The upheavals of my life were distorted into a force of hate so strong that it wrapped me in its claws,” Khalid, now 21, told U.S. Judge Petrese B. Tucker. He said he had trouble speaking without being misunderstood.

Defense lawyers argued that Khalid was isolated and vulnerable because he was young, an immigrant and had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder diagnosed since his arrest.

Federal prosecutors say Khalid used his “brilliance and eloquence,” along with his computer and video skills, to help them translate documents and try to recruit westerners. That got the attention of the FBI, which visited Khalid repeatedly.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/ex-honors-students-terror-sentencing-scheduled/2014/04/17/14cd9ab8-c5f7-11e3-b708-471bae3cb10c_story.html

33 year old lives in a basement, neglected because he is a non-Muslim

March 28, 2014

 

“I live in a basement because I am not a good Muslim,” Miadi is 33 years old and since November has lived in a basement.

Miadi travelled to Italy in search of fortune, but for Miadi, a 33 year old Algerian, fate turned its back on him shortly after his arrival. Suffice it to say that the young man has been forced to live in a small cellar, near the outskirts of Milan. To be precise, since last November, when the young man was literally kicked out of an apartment in the Aurora area where he lived with some friends, the basis of the argument was purely religious.

Miadi, in fact, is not a Muslim and does not follow the Islamic faith, a major issue for the people with whom he lived for a short time. “One day they caught me eating ham and I was forced to pack up” says the 33-year old. “For a few days I slept on the side of a road, then I met a friend who gave me a hand. I found this cellar where at least I can rest. Definitely better than being under a bridge in the cold.”

But even in a basement hygienic conditions are not exactly the best. In the small space Miadi has placed a mattress and some blankets. “I manage as I can,” says the Algerian. To complicate the situation the young man also does not have a job and has no family in the area to garner support. “I worked for a short time in the market. But with the little money I made I could barely eat.”

 

Torino Today: http://www.torinotoday.it/cronaca/miadi-casa-cantina-islam-barriera-milano.html

 

Targeted Islamic outreach to Hispanics achieving results

February 28, 2014

 

PEARLAND, Texas (RNS) Carlos Lopez works in the United States to earn money and send it back home to his family in Mexico. But he sends back something else, too: pamphlets and personal testimonies about his new faith.

On Dec. 22, 2013, Lopez took the “shahada” — the profession of the Islamic faith — and joined the ranks of what the American Muslim Council estimates is a 200,000 strong Hispanic Muslim community across the U.S.

Unlike previous generations of Hispanic Muslims who were attracted to the faith by their own spiritual explorations, Lopez and many others like him are converting as a result of targeted Islamic outreach efforts.

This new form of Islamic “da’wah,” or outreach, aims to translate being Muslim into the Spanish cultural and linguistic vernacular.

“To reach Hispanics, we have to be practical,” said Imam Daniel Abdullah Hernandez who teaches an Islam in Spanish course in Pearland, Texas, where Lopez converted. “Islam is practical, it’s social, it’s very easy to translate it into Hispanic culture, and it’s even easier to communicate it in the Spanish language.”

According to the Pew Research Center, just 4 percent of Muslim Americans are of Hispanic ancestry, though one of 10 native-born U.S. Muslims are Hispanic. “The American Mosque 2011″ report said the number of Latino converts has been steadily increasing since 2000, more so than any other racial or ethnic group.

As they convert, many face ostracism from their families who are predominantly Christian, often Catholic, and feel the converts are abandoning their Hispanic identity. Likewise, many Hispanic Muslims do not find a ready welcome in masjids that are largely made up of Middle Eastern, North African, South East Asian and African-American Muslims.

Islam In Spanish is not the first organization to focus its efforts on reaching Hispanics. Another group, the Latino American Dawah Organization, existed before it and paved the way.

Shafiq Alvarado helped found LADO, which offers help and support to new Hispanic Muslims. Born into a Catholic family and of Dominican ancestry, Alvarado converted when he was 25 through the efforts of Allianza Islamica (Islamic Alliance) in New York City.

“People who become Muslims inevitably become ambassadors for Islam,” said Alvarado. “Hispanic Muslims are not sitting on the sidelines; they learn Arabic, the Quran, Islamic jurisprudence, and many other things to take that knowledge and give it back to their communities, their families,” he said.

 

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/02/28/targeted-islamic-outreach-hispanics-achieving-results

Islam in Spanish.com: http://islaminspanish.org/

LADO: http://www.latinodawah.org/

Relaxed photographs of ‘suicide bomber Briton’ emerge

February 14, 2014

 

Pictures of a man suspected to be Britain’s first suicide bomber in Syria have emerged showing him looking relaxed and smiling with local children. The images were sent by Abdul Waheed Majeed, 41, from Syria to his family in the Langley Green area of Crawley, West Sussex. In one picture, he is seen wearing pink Minnie Mouse-style ears while he cuddles a child. In another, he is pictured kneeling surrounded by children as they give the peace sign.

Married father-of-three Majeed is suspected of driving a lorry into a jail in Aleppo and detonating a bomb last week. Officials have not confirmed the identity of the bomber amid reports that a UK jihadi, who used the name Abu Suleiman al-Britani, carried out the bombing.

Counter-terrorism officers have searched Majeed’s home in Martyrs Avenue, which is also the ex-home of schoolgirl Sarah Payne’s killer Roy Whiting, according to neighbours. Majeed, known as Waheed, left Britain six months ago, telling his family he was going on a humanitarian mission to Syria. Majeed’s uncle, Mohammad Jamil, 65, said Majeed – who is a father of two boys and a girl aged 18, 16 and 12 – had never shown any sign of extremism.

But this week extremist preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed told the London Evening Standard that Majeed was ”a very dear brother”. He claimed Majeed had been an active student and valued member of the banned extremist Al-Muhajiroun organisation between 1996 and 2004 and had wanted to further the ”Muslim cause”. Bakri said Majeed would organise his sermons in Crawley and record the lectures and distribute them.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10638651/Relaxed-photographs-of-suicide-bomber-Briton-emerge.html