Md. faith groups to protest anti-Muslim Metro bus ads

June 9, 2014

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) – Members of Montgomery County faith groups plan to protest anti-Islamic Metro bus ads Monday in Rockville.
The Montgomery County Faith Community Working Group (FCWG) – which includes members of the local Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian faith communities – issued a statement saying they are “deeply saddened by the placement of anti-Muslim ads on buses owned and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).”

The ads include photos of Adolf Hitler meeting with an anti-Jewish Islamic leader during World War II, and call for an end to American aid to Islamic countries.

The ads, placed by a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, started appearing in May on 20 Metro buses in the D.C. Metro area.

The group previously ran ads on Metro buses in 2012 which were similar in nature, equating Muslims to “savages” and calling for support to Israel.

Metro originally declined to run the ads, so the American Freedom Defense Initiative sued for the right to place the ads. A federal judge ruled that Metro must run the ads, citing freedom of speech.

Monday’s protest will begin at 10:30 a.m. near the Rockville Metro station, at 1 Church Street near the intersection of Route 355.

Group aims to limit Muslim development of former Catholic school in rural Howard County, Maryland

WESTMINSTER, Md. — A citizens group aims to limit new construction at a former Catholic school complex in rural Howard County that an Islamic community is considering buying.

The Carroll County Times reports that residents of the Cooksville area met Thursday night with a representative from the Dar-us-Salaam community of College Park. The Islamic group is considering moving its mosque and school to the former Woodmont Academy, which closed two years ago.

The citizens group says it will fight a proposed zoning change that would expand the property’s development options to include “institutional and cultural facilities.”

The group’s lawyer says his clients aren’t anti-Muslim. He says they just want to preserve the area’s rural character.

The Islamic community says it hopes to overcome any opposition through its actions.

Montgomery’s decisions on school holidays

MUSLIM LEADERS in Montgomery County stress that, in petitioning school officials to set aside an Islamic holy day as an official day off, they are not advocating for any of the currently recognized holidays to lose their designations. The unwillingness to broach that possibility is understandable, given the sensibilities and traditions attached to these holidays. But the issues of fairness and equity raised in the county’s debate over when schools should close require renewed scrutiny of a calendar that may no longer be relevant given changing demographics.

The Montgomery County Board of Education decided Tuesday not to add Eid al-Adha to the lineup of days off in the 2013-14 school year. “All we’re asking for is equality under the law,” said Mudusar Raza, president of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations as he ticked off the litany of Christian and Jewish holidays on which schools close.

It’s hard not to be sympathetic to the struggle of Muslim students and their parents in balancing school and religious obligations; students who miss school for religious holidays are excused, but many say they feel they can’t miss class for fear of falling behind. Yet it’s also hard not to see the problems that would result if Montgomery were to further balkanize its calendar to accommodate even more religious holidays.

Montgomery officials say they close schools not to recognize a particular faith (that would be unconstitutional) but for valid secular reasons. The Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are days off because officials say there would be high rates of absenteeism for both students and teachers. Good Friday and Easter Monday are days off because of an anachronism in Maryland law that gives local officials no choice in the matter.

Sentencing set for man after guilty plea in bomb plot

BALTIMORE — A Maryland man who said he wanted to wage jihad against the United States faces sentencing for plotting to bomb a military recruiting center.

Prosecutors are recommending a 25-year prison term for Antonio Martinez, who is to be sentenced Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Martinez pleaded guilty in January. Prosecutors say he armed a fake bomb in a vehicle he parked in front of a Catonsville recruiting center in December 2010. They say he then went to a vantage point and used what he thought was a detonator when an undercover agent told him soldiers were in the building.

The 22-year-old acknowledged in the plea agreement that he was motivated by what he felt was a war by the United States against Islam.

NY Times Book Review: The Not-So-Invisible Empire

Imagine a political movement created in a moment of terrible anxiety, its origins shrouded in a peculiar combination of manipulation and grass-roots mobilization, its ranks dominated by Christian conservatives and self-proclaimed patriots, its agenda driven by its members’ fervent embrace of nationalism, nativism and moral regeneration, with more than a whiff of racism wafting through it.

The Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, they called it. And for a few years it burned across the nation, a fearsome thing to ­behold.  In “One Hundred Percent American,” Thomas R. Pegram, a professor of history at Loyola University Maryland, traces the Invisible Empire’s meteoric rise and equally precipitous fall. The ’20s Klan was born, he explains — or more precisely was reborn — on Thanksgiving evening 1915, when 16 Southerners trooped up Stone Mountain, in Georgia, for a bit of ritual bunkum inspired by D. W. Griffith’s incendiary film “The Birth of a Nation.”

At the end of the book, though, Baker steps back from her texts. Suddenly her analysis becomes more pointed. Yes, the Klan had a very short life. But it has to be understood, she contends, as of a piece with other moments of fevered religious nationalism, from the anti-Catholic riots of the antebellum era to modern anti-­Islam bigots. Indeed, earlier this year, Herman Cain declared that he wouldn’t be comfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet. It’s tempting to see those moments as Pegram does the Klan: desperate, even pitiful attempts to stop the inevitable broadening of American society. But Baker seems closer to the mark when she says that there’s a dark strain of bigotry and exclusion running through the national experience. Sometimes it seems to weaken. And sometimes it spreads, as anyone who reads today’s papers knows, fed by our fears and our hatreds.

CAIR Asks FBI to Probe Paintball Attack on Maryland Mosque

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the FBI and local law enforcement to investigate a paintball attack on a mosque in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Officials at the Islamic Center of Maryland (ICM) said that up to 70 paintballs were shot at the facility on a recent early Saturday morning. “We urge both the FBI and local police to investigate a possible bias motive for this incident,” said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

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Muslim Democrats make political impact despite negative attacks

Faced with a choice of presidential hopefuls that many Muslims fear are not very sympathetic to their issues, American Muslims are stepping up their activism in hopes to influence the next administration. The efforts stem from the difficulties felt by many Arab and Muslim Americans who have found themselves on the defensive facing unprecedented skepticism and suspicion after September 11th. “The number of people who have become more active and visible o n the national political front has increased dramatically because people have suddenly sensed that they have to be more active in order to … defend themselves as Americans, defend themselves as Arabs and Muslims,” said Shibley Telhami, a Middle East scholar at the University of Maryland and fellow at the Brookings Institution. Many Muslim Democrats are also feeling anger over the casting of Barack Obama as Muslim, painting his association to the religion in a wholly negative light. “So What? He is not a Muslim and he says that. But I am a Muslim and if I was running for office would it be right to hold that against me?” says Inayat Lalani, a Muslim doctor in Texas. Nonetheless, many Muslims see this election as a chance to make their voices and votes count and be heard in what will undoubtedly be a historic election.

Maryland court rejects Islamic divorce

After the wife of a Pakistani man filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Irfan Aleem responded to the move in writing in 2003 – and not just in the courtroom. Aleem went to the Pakistani Embassy in the nation’s capital, where he asserted that he was divorcing his wife, Farah Aleem. Irfan performed talaq – an exercise of Islamic religious and Pakistani secular law that allows husbands to divorce their wives by declaring I divorce thee three times. However, this month, Maryland’s highest court has stated that talaq can’t be used in the state. The state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 21-page opinion declaring that talaq is contrary to Maryland’s provision giving women and men equal rights. In Islamic tradition, talaq can only be invoked by the husband, unless he grants the same right to his wife. Irfan Aleem, who worked for the World Bank and is worth an estimated $2 million, may have to give Farah Aleem half of this under Maryland law. Farah has stated that over the years, the lack of financial support from her husband has been a hardship for her and her daughter, currently a college student.

Lawyer Calls Maryland Town’s Decision to Bar Muslim Group From Gatherings ‘Discriminatory’

A decision barring an American Muslim group from holding large national gatherings in a rural Maryland town has been called discriminatory, a lawyer specializing in religious rights argued. A zoning appeals board in the town of Walkersville voted unanimously to deny the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community permission to use area farmland for religious purposes. The board’s decision is irrational and discriminatory said Roman Storzer, attorney for the group. This conflict has been defined from day one by a desire to keep a Muslim group out of the area said Walkersville Mayor Ralph Whitmore. The Ahmadis had hoped to establish a small mosque on the site for regular use by about 20 nearby families, and hoped to also build two gymnasiums for use during conventions and recreation.

Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving with halal turkeys

WASHINGTON – Mohammad Malik, owner of Bismillah Halal Meat in Langley Park, doesn’t have Thanksgiving off. He will spend the day in his store, cooking the food his Muslim customers want for the holiday – lamb and goat roasts and pound after pound of rice. But recently, more people have come in requesting something different: turkey. “I guess more and more people getting into that tradition,” said Mr. Malik, 34, of Gaithersburg. “Just as an American, they are celebrating Thanksgiving. I guess more people, Muslim people, are going, ‘Why not have a turkey?”‘ Although there is still no nationwide distributor of turkeys that are “halal,” or slaughtered according to Islamic law, halal food stores in Maryland and around the country report increasing demand for the birds as more Muslims immigrate to the United States and assimilate into the mainstream. In 2000, Maryland had an estimated 52,867 Muslims, the eighth-highest population of any state, according to the Glenmary Research Center, a leading religion research group. Most of the state’s Muslim population is concentrated in Baltimore and suburban Washington. Like the Pilgrims who first stepped onto Plymouth Rock centuries ago, Mohammad Sizar, owner of Sizar’s Food Market in Columbia, is an immigrant who fled persecution for a new world. Now a citizen, he left Iran during the revolution more than 20 years ago, but was constantly drawn back to his homeland because he had a good job there. “I had to choose, American or Iran,” he said. “When I decide I want to be an American, I read about Thanksgiving and I say, ‘OK, why not?”‘ Some Muslim immigrants refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving at first, thinking it is a Christian holiday that does not apply to them, Mr. Sizar said. But as they become more informed about American culture, they understand the tradition. “Thanksgiving is a nice holiday and it has very good message, you know,” said Mr. Sizar, 46. “It is a time to bring everybody together and it is not something that belongs to the religion.” Last year, Mr. Sizar took 35 orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, but this year he had 50 orders a week before the holiday. He’ll probably order 75 from his distributor, American Halal Meat in Springfield, Va., and still run out, he said. Although it was too early to tell a week before Thanksgiving, Mr. Malik estimated he would take more turkey orders this year as well. Years ago, one of Mr. Sizar’s Muslim friends who did not celebrate the holiday asked him why he did. “I said there was nothing wrong,” Mr. Sizar said. “I am Muslim but I am American, you know?”