Islamic group drops cemetery plan in Massachusetts town

WORCESTER, Mass. — An Islamic group no longer plans to build a Muslim cemetery in a small Massachusetts town following a contentious fight for approval.

The Islamic Society of Greater Worcester announced Thursday it’s dropping its plan for a cemetery in the town of Dudley. The group says it wants to build in Worcester instead.

On Wednesday, federal officials announced they had closed an investigation into whether Dudley violated the civil rights of the group when the town rejected the cemetery proposal. The town later agreed to allow the group to build a cemetery.

Campaign Launches to Get More Muslims Active in Politics

BOSTON — A nationwide campaign to get more Muslim Americans involved in local politics is being launched by a Massachusetts nonprofit.

Jetpac Inc. is focused on training Muslim Americans how to leverage social media, data analysis and other critical political tools to build winning campaigns for city council, school committee and other down ballot races.

The goal is to build stronger, more sophisticated grassroots political organizations with an eye toward the 2018 elections, according to Shaun Kennedy, Jetpac Inc.’s executive director.

“The community as a whole is about 50 years behind in terms of organizing,” said Kennedy, who is not Muslim. “The younger generation is trying to step up. The older generation just tried to fly under the radar. They didn’t want to be part of the political conversation. Unfortunately they are now, whether they like it or not.”

“Any Muslim candidate doesn’t need to draw attention to the fact that they’re Muslim. Someone else is going to do that for them,” he said. “At the end of the day, they are running as Americans. They’re not Muslim American candidates but American candidates who just so happen to be Muslim.”

Two men in Boston charged with planning to aid Islamic State

Two men who were part of an alleged plot to kill a police officer in Massachusetts have been charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State, federal prosecutors in Boston announced Friday.
Prosecutors said that David Wright, 25, of Everett, Mass., and Nicholas Rovinski, 24, of Warwick, R.I., along with Rahim, had also discussed beheading Pamela Geller, the organizer of a Muhammad cartoon drawing contest in Texas in early May.

This undated self-portrait shows Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, who was shot to death after he tried to attack FBI agents and Boston police officers on June 2. (via AP)
This undated self-portrait shows Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, who was shot to death after he tried to attack FBI agents and Boston police officers on June 2. (via AP)

CAIR Condemns Vandalism of Mass. Synagogue with Pro-Palestinian Graffiti

July 15, 2014

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, today condemn vandalism of a Massachusetts synagogue with pro-Palestinian graffiti.

Police are investigating graffiti, which included “Free Palestine” and “God Bless Gaza,” spray-painted on the Montefiore Orthodox Synagogue in Lowell, Mass.

In a statement, CAIR said:

“Whatever views one holds on the current round of violence in the Middle East, attacks on houses of worship must be condemned and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

U.S. to seek death penalty in Boston bombing case

January 30, 2014

 

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old man whom prosecutors have accused of bombing the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others.
“The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a short statement. The announcement ended months of speculation over the issue. Although Holder has said that he is personally opposed to the death penalty, the bombing was among the worst terrorist attacks in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

The decision sets the stage for the biggest federal capital murder case since Timothy McVeigh went on trial for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police in April, constructed and set off homemade bombs near the finish line of the marathon, according to investigators. Tsarnaev faces multiple counts in the April 15 bombing and is also accused of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in the days after the attack.

The case is in its early stages, and prosecutors could yet use the threat of death to strike a plea bargain with the young man and avoid a lengthy trial with bombing victims taking the stand to recount the attack. Since 1964, the federal government has executed only three people, including McVeigh. The Tsarnaev brothers came to the United States in 2002 from the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Authorities have said Tamerlan Tsarnaev came under the influence of radical Islam and probably recruited his brother to help him with the bombing, a possible line of defense if the case goes to trial.

After the bombing, investigators said a friend linked the older brother to a gruesome triple homicide in Waltham, Mass. Ibragim Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter, said the older brother was connected to the killings in which three men had their throats slashed. During a May interview in Florida, authorities said that Todashev attacked an FBI agent. The FBI agent shot and killed the Chechen American. The senior FBI official said the agent who killed Todashev was acting in self-defense and described it as a “clean shoot.” But the FBI has not made public the results of an internal review into the shooting or a larger review that examined the attack.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-to-seek-death-penalty-in-boston-bombing-case/2014/01/30/c15465d8-8785-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html

Mass. bar examiners to review religious wear rules

Test taker who had authorization interrupted due to her hijab

Iman Abdulrazzak, an observant Muslim, realized at the last minute that she needed special permission to wear her headscarf while taking the Massachusetts bar exam. She scrambled to fax her request for an exemption to the ban on hats and other headwear. She called the board’s office in Boston repeatedly to make sure it got through.

 

No one said anything about her headscarf when she arrived at Western New England University School of Law in Springfield to take the high-stakes test to become a lawyer Aug. 1. But halfway through the morning session, a proctor placed a note on her desk: “Head wear may not be worn during the examination without prior written approval. . . . Please remove your head wear and place it under your desk for the afternoon session.”

 

The problem was cleared up during the lunch break, when a proctor supervisor called the Board of Bar Examiners in Boston and confirmed that the office had approved Abdulrazzak’s request for a religious exemption. But Abdulrazzak said that the distraction and distress cost her about 10 minutes in the morning session and that she was not able to fully answer all of the essay questions.

 

Marilyn Wellington, executive director of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, called the mix-up “very unfortunate” and said the board takes responsibility for the mistake.

 

She said the board may consider revising its rule requiring prior authorization for religious headwear. The rule was established to prevent people from concealing notes or other information that could be used to cheat on the exam, she said, not to inhibit religious practice.

 

Normally, the Board of Bar Examiners notifies proctor supervisors of any test-takers who have obtained authorization to wear religious headgear during the exam.

 

Abdulrazzak said the proctor supervisor in her case seemed unable to find a notation of the authorization in her official binder. But she said the supervisor “was really nice.”

 

Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington, said that as the nation becomes more diverse, requests for religious accommodation are becoming more common in schools, workplaces, and other arenas.

 

At least one other similar instance happened during the administration of the Massachusetts bar exam two years ago. Hania Masud, 28, a New York lawyer who took the bar in Boston in 2011, said she had not realized she needed a special exception to the no-hats rule in order to wear her hijab during the exam.

Muslim woman asked to remove headscarf during bar exam in Springfield

On Wednesday and Thursday, law school graduates aspiring to practice in the Commonwealth gathered in Boston and Springfield to take the 16-hour bar exam, broken into several parts. During the morning portion of the test Thursday, recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School Iman Abdulrazzak was handed a note from an exam proctor asking her to remove her headscarf.

 

The note, written in capitalized block letters read, “Headwear may not be worn during the examination without prior written approval. We have no record of you being given prior written approval. Please remove your headwear and place it under your seat for the afternoon session.”

While “headwear including hats, scarves, caps, hoods, bandanas, visors, costume headgear or sunglasses” are prohibited from the examination room, religious headwear is permitted. “Headwear that has been granted prior approval by the Board of Bar Examiners for religious or medical reasons only,” according to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners’ security policy.

Such religious headwear includes Jewish yarmulkes, Muslim hijabs and Sikh dastars.

Though it is clear that prior approval is needed for headwear, Abdulrazzak said her request to wear the hijab was approved Monday. Additionally, it is unclear why the proctor gave her the note during the exam instead of waiting until the lunch break.

During the break for lunch, Abdulrazzak called the Bar office to request she be allowed to take the exam in the afternoon with her hijab on.

Executive Director of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners Marilyn Wellington told law news website Above The Law the issue was resolved quickly.

Boston Bombing Suspect Indicted on 30 Counts

BOSTON — A federal grand jury here issued a 30-count indictment on Thursday against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, charging him with using a weapon of mass destruction that killed 3 people and injured more than 260.

 

The grand jury also charged him in the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, from whom he and his brother, Tamerlan, tried to steal a firearm, the authorities said, before they led police officers on a wild night of terror and a shootout that shut down the city of Boston and its suburbs for a day.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, faces life in prison or the death penalty on 17 of the federal charges and is scheduled to be arraigned on July 10. His brother was killed by injuries sustained in the shootout with police and when Dzhokhar accidentally drove over him, the indictment said.

In addition to the federal indictment, Mr. Tsarnaev was indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on more than a dozen criminal charges, including murder in the shooting death of Sean Collier, the M.I.T. police officer. The county indictment covers a carjacking, chase and shootout that occurred in the Boston suburbs beginning the night of April 18; the federal indictment, which runs 74 pages, covers events that led up to the bombings on April 15 as well as the bombings and the subsequent chase and shootout.

 

District Attorney Marian T. Ryan of Middlesex County said at an afternoon news conference that no date had been set for Mr. Tsarnaev to appear in court on the county charges and that any trial would not run concurrently with a federal trial.

 

Carmen J. Ortiz, the United States attorney who outlined the charges for the news media, said she had met with relatives of the victims and with those who were wounded.

Hate Group Leader Cited By Terrorist to Headline Catholic Homeschool Conference

During the last weekend in July, The Kolbe Academy, a Catholic homeschool program located in Napa, California will host a conference in Sacramento where educators and home school instructors will gather to discuss how they can “engage the culture in a year of faith.”

Ordinarily, such a program would come and go unnoticed. But this year, featured amongst a lineup of distinguished speakers, is Robert Spencer, a controversial anti-Muslim blogger who civil rights organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League label a “hate group leader.” This places him in close proximity to KKK leaders, the Black Panther Party, and neo-Nazi groups.

His scheduled appearance casts a negative light on what should be a positive event. It also raises questions about why a man whose writing was cited thirteen dozen times by the Norway terrorist Anders Breivik, who slaughtered 77 youth campers in Oslo in 2010, was ever invited to speak about youth education in the first place.

Spencer, a Catholic deacon from New Hampshire and director of the blacklist blog Jihad Watch, is set to appear as part of a speaking lineup that includes prominent clergy and educators from all across the United States. Once the director of Kolbe Academy, where he also served as a history and classics teacher, his publications include “Classical Education in the Contemporary World” and “How to Introduce Your Child to Classical Music in 52 Easy Lessons.”

If any religious group in the United States understands the harmful effects of prejudice, it is Catholics. Throughout the 1900s, they were on the receiving end of the same stereotypes and associations that Spencer aims at Muslims today.

The Santa Rosa Diocese, which governs the Kolbe Academy, should follow the actions of the Worcester Diocese in Massachusetts, which rescinded Spencer’s invitation to speak at a men’s conference in Massachusetts in March. The Sacramento Diocese, which governs St. Stephen The First Martyr Parish, the parish where the event will be held, should do the same.

 

Mass. pair sues New York Post over Marathon bombing portrayal

A Massachusetts teenager and his 24-year-old friend filed a defamation lawsuit against the New York Post Wednesday in Boston, accusing the tabloid of falsely portraying them as suspects in the deadly Marathon bombings by plastering their photograph on the front page under the headline, “Bag Men.”

The lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court said the photographs and articles published three days after the bombings made it appear that FBI agents were pursuing Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi, avid runners watching the Marathon. That evening, authorities released photographs of the suspected bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

In the complaint, lawyers for Barhoum, a 16-year-old Revere High School student, and Zaimi, a part-time college student from Malden who also works full time, accused the New York Post of libel, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. They are seeking damages, including unspecified monetary compensation.

“The front page would lead a reasonable reader to believe that plaintiffs had bombs in their bags, that they were involved in causing the Boston Marathon bombing,” according to the court complaint. The lawsuit asserts the newspaper subjected the friends to “scorn, hatred, ridicule, or contempt in the minds of a considerable and respectable segment of the community.”