From Man Who Insulted Muhammad, No Regret

LOS ANGELES — Fuming for two months in a jail cell here, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has had plenty of time to reconsider the wisdom of making “Innocence of Muslims,” his crude YouTube movie trailer depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a bloodthirsty, philandering thug.

Does Mr. Nakoula now regret the footage? After all, it fueled deadly protests across the Islamic world and led the unlikely filmmaker to his own arrest for violating his supervised release on a fraud conviction.

Not at all. In his first public comments since his incarceration soon after the video gained international attention in September, Mr. Nakoula told The New York Times that he would go to great lengths to convey what he called “the actual truth” about Muhammad. “I thought, before I wrote this script,” he said, “that I should burn myself in a public square to let the American people and the people of the world know this message that I believe in.”

In explaining his reasons for the film, Mr. Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian born in Egypt, cited the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Tex., as a prime example of the violence committed “under the sign of Allah.” His anger seemed so intense over the years that even from a federal prison in 2010, he followed the protests against the building of an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York as he continued to work on his movie script.

New poll finds Americans evenly divided in views of Muslims

Americans are almost evenly divided in how they view Muslims, according to a survey released Thursday (Aug. 23) by the Arab American Institute in Washington.

But the online survey, which also gauged views on Mormons, Jews, Catholics, evangelicals, Buddhists and Hindus also found a striking generational gap and significant differences between political groups.

“The American Divide: How We View Arabs And Muslims,” found that 41 percent of Americans had unfavorable views of Muslims, compared to 40 percent who held favorable views.

That’s an improvement from 2010, when another Arab American Institute survey found that 55 percent of Americans viewed Muslims unfavorably, compared to 35 percent with favorable views. The latest poll surveyed 1,052 people between August 15-16.

Professor Jack Levin, co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, attributed the spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in 2010 to protests against a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. “That effect has been fading over time,” Levin said.

The report, which had a margin of error of 3.1 percent, also found that 42 percent of Americans thought Muslims could do a good job in government, while 32 percent said they could not because their loyalty was suspect.

Nearly six in 10 Americans said they don’t know a Muslim compared to three in 10 who said they did, while the rest were unsure. People who knew Muslims were more likely to have favorable views of them.

Fire destroys Missouri mosque in second blaze at the Islamic center in 5 weeks; no injuries

The shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., is the day’s worst example of hateful violence — but it is not, sadly, the only one. Early Monday morning, someone set fire to the Islamic Society of Joplin during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. The mosque couldn’t be saved, so now there are 50 Muslim families in Joplin, Mo. — the same town devastated by a tornado last May — without a place to worship.

 

A mosque in southwest Missouri burned to the ground early Monday in the second fire to hit the Islamic center in little more than a month, and investigators spent the day combing through the wreckage searching for evidence of arson.

 

No injuries were reported, but the Islamic Society of Joplin’s building was a total loss after the blaze, first reported at about 3:30 a.m., the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said. As of late Monday, nobody had been arrested in connection with the fire.

 

While investigators did their work, a small group of Muslims gathered for an evening prayer on the lawn of the destroyed building.

 

“This is what we stand for,” said Dr. Ahmed Asadullah, a member of the Islamic Society of Joplin. “Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech.”

 

It was the second time this summer investigators had been called to the Islamic center, located in a former church on the outskirts of Joplin. A fire reported around the same time on July 4 has been determined to be arson, but no charges have been filed. The FBI has released a video of a suspect caught on surveillance video and offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in that fire.

 

Michael Kaste, special agent in charge of the Kansas City office of the FBI, said the investigation into Monday’s fire was in the preliminary stages, and that about 30 people had been assigned to the investigation.

 

“Any act of violence to a house of worship is taken very seriously by law enforcement, and threatens the very core of the safety and security of our communities,” Kaste said. A Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization meanwhile called for more police protection at mosques and other houses of worship following the Joplin fire and a deadly attack at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The Council on American-Islamic Relations also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever started the mosque fire.

Tennessee Muslims feel blessed this Ramadan after federal court rules in their favor

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is always a joyful time for believers, but a Tennessee congregation was feeling especially blessed this year as they worshipped Friday.
Opponents spent two years trying to halt construction of a new mosque for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, but a federal judge ruled this week the congregation has a right to worship there as soon as the building is ready.
“Ramadan this year reaches us at a very special time for us as a community,” Imam Ossama Bahloul told the congregation at Friday prayers. “We have received the good news about the federal court not standing on our side, but standing on the side of the Constitution
Although there has been an Islamic center in Murfreesboro for 30 years, the new building brought vehement opposition, including a lawsuit, a large rally and even vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.
Opponents of the mosque, who used the issue to raise wider arguments against the faith of Islam, have not commented to The Associated Press on the federal ruling.
Joe Brandon Jr., an attorney for mosque opponents, told Murfreesboro newspaper The Daily News Journal that he is exploring options for legal action.

Right at home: U.S. mosques are often more Middle America than Middle East

Tucked into the corner of a series of industrial parks in West Valley City, the Khadeeja Islamic Center’s golden dome and minaret might strike some passersby as out of place, even foreign to this American suburb where the dominant architectural features are grey box stores and white church steeples.

To be sure, the Islamic Center exterior looks arabesque. Completed in 2002, the mosque “was built to face Mecca” in Saudi Arabia, the center of the Islamic world, explains Muhammed Shoayb Mehtar, the imam who leads the thriving Islamic Center of Greater Salt Lake whose main gathering place is the Khadeeja mosque in West Valley City.

Yet what goes on inside the mosque is just as much Middle America as it is Middle East. The several hundred Muslims who gather here each Friday — the Muslim holy day — come together to worship, pray and socialize with their fellow believers, not unlike churchgoers and other believers across the country.

The Khadeeja Islamic Center also serves as an important gateway into American culture for this very international community, whose regular attendees hail from 30 to 35 different countries. Hundreds of African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, as well as blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims entered the mosque’s front door, removed their shoes and performed the “wudu”— the ceremonial washing of hands, arms and face. They then sat on the mosque’s carpeted floor, “because we believe in equality in Islam,” explained Tariq Nossier, a former president of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake who now greets visitors at the mosque’s entrance. In dress as varied as their ethnic make-up — seersucker suits and ties, long white cloaks, even a Chicago Bulls basketball jersey and jeans — the community faced the mihrab, the niche at the center of the mosque’s eastern wall indicating the direction of Mecca.

The Islamic Community of Calahorra opens its new Mosque

23 June 2012

The opening day of the new Mosque of Calahorra with capacity for 400 believers was chaired by the President of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, Riay Tatary, accompanied by the delegate to the region of La Rioja, Tarik Azouau Tajja. Azouau expressed that “more than a Mosque, we can speak of an Islamic center, because besides being a place of worship, it also seeks to educate children about the Islamic faith and behavior, and also will also participate in the guidance of the community members”.

CAIR-MN Asks DOJ to Probe Bias in Rejection of Islamic Center

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the rejection of a proposed Islamic center in St. Anthony, Minn.

Last night, the St. Anthony City Council voted 4-1 to deny a conditional use permit for the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center, despite a recommendation by the St. Anthony Planning Commission to approve the project. The project had been on hold since a March moratorium by the council.

At yesterday’s council meeting, the proposed Islamic center faced opposition from an intolerant speakers who — Islamic center proponents assert — clearly exposed the real reason for the approval delay and rejection.

Several residents made anti-Muslim comments at the city council hearing, including: “There is no other religion in the world that condones violence. Islam is evil,” and, “Where did you come from? [Go] change your own country.”

In a response to the city council’s rejection of the Islamic center, CAIR-MN sent a letter to the DOJ seeking a federal investigation.

CAIR-MN is asking federal authorities to determine whether the denial of land usage for the Islamic center constitutes a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

RLUIPA protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations. RLUIPA and the Minnesota Constitution ban zoning restrictions that impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person or institution unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest for imposing zoning restrictions and that the restriction is the least restrictive way for the government to further that interest.

“We ask the DOJ to use the full measure of its authority to launch a thorough investigation into the recent denial of the proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center,” wrote CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya in her letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

Saroya said CAIR-MN is also asking DOJ officials to meet with St. Anthony Muslim leaders.

Yesterday, CAIR’s Michigan chapter called on the FBI to investigate a possible bias motive for a fire and hate graffiti targeting a building associated with a Dearborn mosque.

St. Anthony City Council rejects Islamic center plan

St. Anthony City Council members on Tuesday rejected plans to locate an Islamic center in the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters off Old Hwy. 8.

The proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center had been on hold for months after some residents objected to the center and city leaders studied whether city zoning would support the facility.

About 150 people attended Tuesday’s council meeting, where Muslim proponents asked the council to approve the nearly 15,000-square-foot center, which would be used for worship and assembly by the congregation of about 200.

“I’m a proud American. This is home. The center will serve the needs of our community,” Sadik Warfa said.

“I know this issue is very emotional for some people. We are a melting pot. We are all Americans.”

Close to a dozen St. Anthony residents asked the council to deny the proposal, which they argued would reduce tax revenues, an argument Mayor Jerry Faust denied. Others contended the center would attract increased traffic in the neighborhood and create problems for those living nearby.

Some who spoke against the center made disparaging comments about the Muslim faith, although Faust tried to discourage such remarks.

“Islam is evil. There’s no other religion in the world that endorses violence,” said John Murlowski, before Faust cut him off.

Supporters of the center expressed disappointment following the 4-1 decision.

Claims against Islam blocked so far in lawsuit over proposed mosque in Tennessee

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Plaintiffs in a civil trial trying to block a proposed mosque in Tennessee on procedural grounds were largely blocked Wednesday in trying to raise claims that Islam is not a real religion and that its followers are violent.

The proposed mosque is one of a few Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York’s ground zero.

The plaintiffs want to void a May 2010 meeting of the Rutherford County Planning Commission in which it approved the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s site plan. They claim the public was not adequately notified ahead of time.

Because the Islamic Center itself is not named as a defendant, mosque members have not been able to defend themselves against the accusations in court.

Number of mosques nearly doubles in decade

NEW YORK — The number of American mosques has increased dramatically in the last decade despite post 9/11 protests aimed at Muslim houses of worship, according to a new study. The new Islamic centers serve Muslims who moved into the suburbs and newer immigrants from Africa, Iraq and elsewhere.

Researchers conducting the national count found a total of 2,106 Islamic centers, compared to 1,209 in 2000 and 962 in 1994. About one-quarter of the centers were built between 2000-2011, as the community faced intense scrutiny by government officials and a suspicious public. In 2010, protest against an Islamic center near ground zero erupted into a national debate over Islam, extremism and religious freedom. Anti-mosque demonstrations spread to Tennessee, California and other states.

The report released Wednesday, “The American Mosque 2011,” is a tally based on mailing lists, websites and interviews with community leaders, and a survey and interviews with 524 mosque leaders. The research is of special interest given the limited scholarship so far on Muslim houses of worship, which include a wide range of religious traditions, nationalities and languages.