Michigan Case Adds U.S. Dimension to Debate on Genital Mutilation

NYT Op ED:

The arrest of 3 doctors in Michigan for performing female genital mutilation prompted Tasneem Raja, 34, a journalist, to write about being cut in New Jersey. She said she had received “an outpouring of emails from people saying thank you.”

“This Michigan case made me think I want to speak out,” said Nazia Mirza, 34, who was cut at age 6 in her hometown, Houston. “To me it’s very much like a rape survivor. If you don’t say anything, then how are you going to expose it and bring awareness?”

But Ms. Raja said the case was exposing a spectrum of feelings. Even among Bohra women who oppose cutting, she said, views range from “women who say this has greatly impacted their sex life and their ability to enjoy sex, to people like me who walked away with lifelong emotional trauma, to people who say, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.’”

Ann Arbor police: Woman forced to remove hijab after man threatens to set her on fire

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A woman was forced to remove her hijab after a man threatened to set her on fire with a lighter near the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor police said the incident happened in the 600 block of East William near S. State Street between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday.

Police said the man approached the victim and demanded she remove her hijab or he would set her on fire. The woman complied and was able to leave the area.

The University of Michigan is warning students to watch their surroundings. It issued a campus safety alert. The threat leaves most students, regardless of religious faith, disturbed.

Michigan mosque takes in homeless Unitarian Church

(RNS) The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Lansing is getting a new church this spring — but not quite soon enough.

Hearing of construction lags and its neighbor’s need for a temporary home, a mosque in East Lansing offered up its worship space — for free.

“No charge whatsoever,” said the Rev. Kathryn Bert. “It’s been a lovely story to live. It has been a beautiful relationship.”

Lawsuit claims Muslims including a 4-year-old are unfairly on terrorist watch list

A lawsuit filed last week claims that thousands of Muslim Americans, among them a 4-year old, have been unfairly put on a federal watch list designed to screen potential terrorists.

The class-action complaint criticizes the Terrorist Screening Database, a list of about 1.5 million people overseen by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. It’s one of several lawsuits that have been filed in recent years challenging the list, saying that it’s unconstitutional in how it’s compiled and used.

The lawsuit was filed by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic two Michigan lawyers and an attorney in Washington against the FBI center and other federal agencies. More than half the 18 plaintiffs listed in the complaint live in southeastern Michigan.

“Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon … thousands,” says the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is where the list is compiled. “Through extra-judicial and secret means, the federal government is ensnaring individuals. … The secret federal watch list is the product of bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”

In addition to being unable to fly in some cases, Muslims are being jailed, interrogated and threatened by federal agents, the lawsuit alleges. In other cases, FBI agents pressure people on the list to become informants if they want to get off the list, the complaint says. Another problem is the lack of redress, with many Muslims unable to get off the list and unsure how they got on it, plaintiffs said.

The Terrorist Screening Center was established in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Since then, the “watch list has swelled,” with more than 1.5 million nominations to the watch list submitted by federal agencies since 2009, 99 percent of which have been approved, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said such a list is too broad, targeting Muslims because of their faith, and ends up being ineffective in protecting the U.S.

“The federal watch list diminishes, rather than enhances, our national security because the number of innocent Americans on the list is becoming so voluminous that the purpose of having a list is significantly undermined as all are being treated as the same,” says the complaint.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, Dave Joly, said it couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and can’t comment on who’s on the list. On its website, the FBI defended the list, saying it doesn’t target people solely because of their religion or ethnicity.

“Generally, individuals are included in the Terrorist Screening Database when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist,” says the Terrorist Screening Center. “Individuals must not be watch-listed based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or First Amendment-protected activities such as free speech, the exercise or religion, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”

Plaintiffs said they often see a “SSSS” designation on their boarding passes, which signifies to the airlines and federal officials they are suspected terrorists. The designation is shared with state and local agencies, making it difficult for the plaintiffs in other areas of life, such as interactions with local police, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says many are either placed on what’s called a Selectee List, which subjects them to extra scrutiny, or the more stringent No-Fly List, which prevents the traveler from flying.

One of the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old boy from California, listed in the lawsuit as “Baby Doe.”

“He was 7 months old when his boarding pass was first stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation, indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist,'” said the lawsuit. “While passing through airport security, he was subjected to extensive searches, pat-downs and chemical testing.”

“Every item in his mother’s baby bag was searched, including every one of his diapers.”

Another plaintiff, Anas Elhady, 22, of Dearborn, Mich., said he “is routinely referred to secondary inspection, handcuffed and detained by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) at land border crossings when he attempts to re-enter the United States from Canada.”

“CBP officers routinely subject him to a prolonged detention and questioning for approximately four to twelve hours each time. Moreover, he is routinely asked questions about his religious beliefs and practices, what sect of Islam he belongs to, what mosque he prays in, among other things.”

Elhady said he filed a request with the agency to get off the list, but the problems persisted.

In 2015, as he was trying to cross back into Detroit over the Ambassador Bridge after a vacation in Canada, he was thrown into a “small, freezing cold holding cell with bright lights” without his jacket and shoes, said the lawsuit.

“After several hours, Mr. Elhady knocked on the door repeatedly and begged for someone to help him. His pleas for help were ignored. Afterward, his body began shaking uncontrollably and he fell unconscious.”

Elhady said he was then taken to a hospital. Later, on Dec. 2, an FBI agent contacted “Elhady and informed him that his phone was being tapped and that all his calls were being listened to by the FBI,” reads the complaint.

“Elhady’s boarding pass continues to be stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation when (he) travels by air, indicating that he has been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist.'”

Akeel, the Troy attorney helped file the lawsuit, said: “Americans young and old are being placed on the list without proper accountability. There is a swelling group of second-class American citizens being formed here at an alarming rate.”

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.

CAIR-MI: Civil Rights Groups to Call for Inquiry Into Feds Labeling Dearborn as Suspected Terrorist Community

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 8/7/2014) — On Friday, August 8, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) and other civil rights organizations will hold a press conference to call for a congressional inquiry into how a federal law enforcement database labeled Dearborn, Mich., as the second highest population of “known or suspected terrorists.”

Representatives from ACLU-MI, Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI) and the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) will also be in attendance.

Recently-leaked government documents indicated that Dearborn, a city with less than 100,000 residents is considered to have the second highest concentration of suspected terrorists in America, after New York City, which has a population of more than 8 million people. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country.

Given that there has not been a Dearborn resident who has ever committed an act of terrorism in the homeland, nor any significant pattern of residents being involved in international terrorism, we have serious concerns that federal law enforcement views Dearborn as a suspect community primarily based on its Arab and Muslim demographics,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

Walid also noted that given 94 percent of domestic terrorism attacks in recent decades have been committed by persons other than the Islamic faith, which calls into question how the federal government is using its resources in protecting the nation from actual terrorism threats.

Terry Jones, Quran-Burning Pastor, Plans ‘Dearborn Freedom Rally’ In Front Of Mosque

June 3, 2014

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor known for burning Qurans, is planning a rally in Dearborn, Michigan, outside one of America’s largest mosques. The event is schedule to take place on Flag Day, June 14, outside of the Islamic Center of America (ICA).

Jones, author of Islam Is of the Devil, explained on his website, Stand Up America Now, that “the purpose of the event is to rally against Islamic Sharia Law which threatens freedom of speech in the United States.” It’s being billed as the Dearborn Freedom Rally and it will be hosted by the American Patriotic Bikers.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. called his cause “un-American,” but noted that Jones has the right to free speech, according to the Detroit Free Press. Dearborn has a large Muslim population, and about 40% of the town is of Arab descent.

This isn’t the first time that Jone has planned Islamophobic events in Dearborn. In 2012, the city asked Jones and his Stand Up America Now co-founder, Wayne Sapp, to sign an indemnity agreement before speaking. A federal court later ruled that Jones’ freedom of speech had been violated, which led the city to change its special events ordinance.

RNC chairman calls for official to step down over anti-Muslim, anti-gay posts

January 24, 2014

 

A Michigan member of the Republican National Committee rejected calls to resign Friday after making anti-gay and anti-Muslim remarks.

Dave Agema said he’s made mistakes but pledged to continue to “honor the trust and fulfill the responsibilities to those in the Michigan Republican Party that elected me.” On Jan. 17, Agema published a Facebook post saying, “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?” Earlier in the week, he linked to an article about a anti-propaganda law in Russia, saying “Read their law. Common sense in Russia.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) made oblique references to Agema’s comments in a Martin Luther King Jr. speech he gave last week, calling for “civility and respect.” The Michigan Catholic Conference also released a statement Friday calling for civility: “In all things political, in present times, there must be a renewed focus on charity.”

He issued a statement hours after RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Michigan Party Chairman Bobby Schostak called for his resignation.

“For the good of the party, we believe Dave Agema should resign,” Preibus and Schostak said in a joint statement. Last March, Agema posted an article on Facebook with an unsubstantiated claim that gays account for half the murders in large cities. In December, he told Berrien County Republicans that his experience as an American Airlines pilot made him familiar with efforts by gays to get health insurance coverage because of the ravages of AIDS. He also came under fire from the Council on American-Islamic Relations for a Facebook posting this month questioning Muslims’ commitment to charity.
Washington Post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/01/24/dave-agema-faces-additional-pressure-from-gop-party-leaders-to-step-down/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/michigan-gop-official-rejects-calls-to-resign/2014/01/24/316c3340-855c-11e3-a273-6ffd9cf9f4ba_story.html

CAIR Applauds RNC Chair’s Call for Resignation of Anti-Muslim Official

January 24, 2014

 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a call by the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) for the resignation of a Michigan GOP official who made anti-Muslim and other bigoted remarks. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak called on Dave Agemato step down as that state’s representative to the RNC.

“We applaud the RNC’s forceful rejection of Dave Agema’s bigotry,” said Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia. “This response to community concerns sends the message that the GOP will not tolerate stereotyping of minority groups.” In 2012, A coalition of 11 major American Muslim organizations called on the Republican Party to reach out to Muslim voters by rejecting anti-Islam bias and discriminatory legislation.
Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12343-cair-applauds-rnc-chairs-call-for-resignation-of-anti-muslim-official.html
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/01/24/dave-agema-faces-additional-pressure-from-gop-party-leaders-to-step-down/

Michigan Republican Dave Agema under fire again for questioning contributions of American Muslims

January 14, 2014

 

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema is under fire this week for another controversial Facebook post — this one questioning the contribution of Muslims in American society.

Agema, in a Facebook communication dated January 9, shared with his followers an old internet attack piece comparing Catholics to Muslims.

“Even if you’re not Catholic you may find this eye opening,” Agema wrote.

He then copy-and-pasted an anonymous blog post that has circulated on the web and through email for years. It highlights charity work of the Catholic church before posting a series of questions about Muslim heritage.

“Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?” it asked.
While Agema’s post generated upwards of 40 “likes” on Facebook, it also prompted a series of critical responses on the social media network.

Republican political consultant Joe Munem replied to Agema in a Facebook post of his own, highlighting the contributions of his father, Mustafa Munem, who heads the math department at Macomb Community College.

“My muslim father, an internationally published author, 52 year math professor, business owner and gentleman farmer has done far more to contribute positively to the American way of life than you ever will,” Munem wrote.

As a state representative, the Grandville Republican introduced a bill seeking to ban the implementation of foreign laws, such as Islamic Sharia. Critics said the legislation unnecessary and could fuel anti-Muslim paranoia. It did not pass.

Agema made headlines in recent months for a series of inflammatory andinaccurate statements he made about the gay community on Facebook, conservative radio and a Berrien County GOP holiday party. While many prominent Republicans rebuked his statements, they stopped short of calling for his resignation.

MLIVE.com: http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/01/michigan_republican_dave_agema.html