Episcopalians under fire for hosting Muslim convention

PASADENA, Calif. — Leaders of a flagship progressive Episcopal church are defending themselves against charges of sympathy for terrorists in their decision to host the annual Muslim Public Affairs Council convention.

All Saints Church has received dozens of emails accusing it of condoning terrorism for hosting MPAC’s 12th annual convention on Dec. 15, the first held in a Christian church.

Ryan Mauro, national security analyst at RadicalIslam.org, contends that MPAC is “taking advantage of naive Christians,” and that Islamists seek to protect themselves from critics by forming an “interfaith bloc.” He criticized MPAC statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and accused its leaders of being part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to destroy the West from within.

While many Muslims in the public eye have come to expect such condemnation, other religious leaders feel a responsibility to stand up to concerted efforts to demonize Muslims. “This is not just a few random cranky Christians,” the Rev. Susan Russell, a senior associate of All Saints Church, told reporters on Thursday (Dec. 6).

“Just because it’s directed at Muslims now, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be directed to other faith communities at other times,” added Rabbi Sarah Bassin, executive director of NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish dialogue organization.

“This is a teachable moment,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, “to stand against ignorance and bigotry.” The church held a press conference to note this “historic moment” for America’s religious pluralism and interfaith peacemaking.

It’s also a “teachable moment” in terms of shining a light on how the “fear-mongers,” that is, the Islamophobia network in the United States, works to try to disrupt and discredit strong interfaith work among religious groups at the grassroots.

Still, All Saints Rector Edwin J. Bacon Jr. said the emails to All Saints were unexpected

Rising Muslim American leader in D.C. speaks for his generation

Within the span of about a week recently, Haris Tarin spoke at a Washington panel on how the next U.S. president can combat violent Islamic extremism, delivered a guest sermon for Eid in Alexandria, launched an ad campaign on District buses calling for religious tolerance, and hosted an election night party and discussion in Great Falls.

Tarin, the full-time Washington representative of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), seems to be everywhere at once. Yet he also walks a tightrope between American critics who see his group as a diplomatic front for radical Islamists and conservative fellow Muslims who fear it is going too far to accommodate American values, security needs or misperceptions about their faith.

Tarin, 34, describes himself as a “ passionate moderate” who speaks for others of his generation – hundreds of thousands of young Muslim Americans who are trying to find a balance between the enveloping faith of their foreign-born parents and the freewheeling, participatory nature of Western society.

“ We want to ensure that American Muslims are seen as an integral part of the American fabric, that they feel comfortable with both their faith and their American identity,” he said. “ We want to be seen as partners, not suspects.”

Muslims seek change in their Hollywood story

After years of watching Muslims portrayed as terrorists in mainstream TV and movies, an advocacy group hopes to change that image by grooming a crop of aspiring Muslim screenwriters who can bring their stories – and perspective – to Hollywood.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting a series of workshops taught by Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated veterans over the next month, an initiative that builds on the group’s outreach for a more representative picture of Muslim-Americans on the screen.

MPAC dubbed its effort the Hollywood Bureau, while Unity Productions Foundation recently started a similar project called Muslims on Screen and Television. Other nonprofit arts foundations, such as the Levantine Cultural Center and Film Independent, have joined forces by planning networking events for Muslim actors and training and mentoring young filmmakers.

“The idea is to really give Muslims an avenue to tell our stories. It’s as simple as that. There’s a curiosity about Islam and a curiosity about who Muslims are – and a lot of the fear that we’re seeing comes from only hearing one story or these constant negative stories,” said Deana Nassar, MPAC’s Hollywood liaison.

US Muslim groups concerned about mosque seizures

The recent seizure of US mosques by federal authorities is raising concern amongst Muslim advocacy groups about the religious freedom and civil liberties of the majority of law-abiding US Muslims.

The mosques, property of the Iranian Alavi Foundation, were seized by authorities as part of an investigation probing financial ties to Iran’s nuclear program. The mosques themselves have been not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“As a civil rights organization we are concerned that the seizure of American houses of worship could have a chilling effect on the religious freedom of citizens of all faiths and may send a negative message to Muslims worldwide,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement.

The move puts average Muslims at the center of the political dispute between Tehran and Washington, said Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation.

“The American Muslim and faith communities must not allow houses of worship to become pawns in geopolitical struggles,” Imam Bray told CNN. “The tension between the United States and Iran must not be played out in the mosques of America.”

The Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation called the actions an “unprecedented encroachment of religious freedom.” The group said “it is an abiding concern among the American Muslim community that this action is just the beginning of a backlash after last week’s Fort Hood shooting tragedy.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is also seeking more information from the federal government on the property seizure.

Preventing Fort Hood?

It’s reported that the FBI and Army intelligence investigated contacts between the alleged shooter and a militant Islamist cleric who is calling him “a hero.” Why did the FBI and the Army decide not to pursue his contacts the cleric? Did they know that Hasan warned fellow officers that Muslim soldiers could be dangerous because of conflicts about fighting in Muslim countries? Is al Qaeda telling Muslim soldiers to commit violence? Do they face discrimination, especially where Christian fundamentalism is widespread?

This hourlong interview explores these questions with the following guests:

Josh Meyer: Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
Bruce Hoffman: Professor of Security Studies, Georgetown University
Salam Al-Marayati: Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Mona Charen: author and syndicated columnist
Mikey Weinstein: President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation

MPAC recognizes “voices of courage and conscience” in Hollywood, media

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) awarded the Emmy-Award winning television show, “The Simpsons,” with its first MPAC Media Award this past April 25th. Animation director Steven Dean Moore accepted the award on behalf of “The Simpsons” production team, over the episode titled “Mypods and Broomsticks” which features a Muslim-American family new to Springfield. Many stereotypes about Muslims were presented and debunked in the show, which ultimately helped the show’s patriarch, Homer, to realize that Muslim-Americans were very similar to other Americans. “I hoped to humanize them,” Moore told IFN referring to the Muslim characters, adding that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the recognition. During the MPAC awards reception, Amy Goodman, founder and producer of the internationally-syndicated radio show “Democracy Now!” was also applauded. The ceremony, held in Los Angeles, California, was held to applaud and “recognize voices of courage and conscience.”

US and UK Muslims condemn Mumbai killings

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) condemned unequivocally the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. “The brutal murder of Indians and foreign nationals is unacceptable, there is no excuse for such acts, whatever the cause may be,” said a statement from the MCB. “I condemn this heinous act and extend my sympathies and condolences to the bereaved. Many Britons have deep links with the city of Mumbai and India and I join them in this hour of sadness and anxiety,” said Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the MCB. Federation of Indian Muslim Organizations Midlands, UK, also condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The Federation said it “condemned unequivocally the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that has resulted scores of deaths. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured.” They said “no cause or grievance can justify indiscriminate attacks against innocent” and urged the Indian Government to “instigate immediate investigation of all incidents and the perpetrators must be brought to justice swiftly.” The US based Muslim organisation, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) also condemned the Mumbai terror attacks. “Those responsible for these brutal and immoral attacks should be swiftly brought to justice. Islam considers the use of terrorism to be unacceptable for any purpose,” said MPAC statement.

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US Muslim organizations condemn Mumbai attacks

The US-based Muslim organizations Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have both condemned the recent terror attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai. “Those responsible for these brutal and immoral attacks should be swiftly brought to justice. Islam considers the use of terrorism to be unacceptable for any purpose,” said a statement released by MPAC.

CAIR called the attacks “cowardly” and were “senseless and inexcusable acts of violence against innocent civilians.” American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens of all faith in repudiating acts of terror wherever they take place and whomever they target,” said CAIR executive director Nihad Awad.

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Us Muslims Fear The Enemy Within After London Attacks

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Muslim leaders watched with foreboding as their worst nightmare played out in Britain, where home-grown suicide bombers were blamed for London’s worst attacks since World War II. Now they are hoping their community is not next in line to face the chilling scenario of one of its own turning against the country of his birth. “The fact that these young men were British-born Muslims creates a degree of a different kind of anxiety within the community,” said Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a group that presses for American Muslims’ civil rights and for the peaceful integration of Islam into US society. “If this could happen in the UK, it is our worst nightmare that it could happen here.” British police said four young British Muslims possibly operating under a foreign “mastermind” carried out attacks on three Underground trains and one bus in London on July 7 which killed 54 people. Their actions shocked the Muslim community in Britain, as they all appeared well integrated into society, several came from middle-class families and they had shown little history of radicalism. US Muslim leaders acted swiftly after the attacks, issuing condemnations and asking imams in America’s mosques to highlight the horror of terrorism in Friday prayers. Now they are hoping that special characteristics of the Muslim population in the US demographic “melting pot” will head off London-style attacks on the US mainland. America’s Muslims, community leaders say, are typically more integrated, socially and politically, than their counterparts in Britain and other European nations. “What we understand of the European Muslim community and even in the UK, there is a greater degree of Muslims living in enclaves,” Lekovic said. “Muslims (in the United States) are living alongside their Christian and Jewish neighbours.” Some 35 percent to 40 percent of US Muslims are African Americans, 25 percent are South Asians and 15 percent are Arabs, according to MPAC, which notes that most British Muslims live in South Asian enclaves. Even so, some Islamic leaders say, there is no guarantee that a few disgruntled members of the community will not taint the vast majority of peaceful Muslims. “The problem is that one or two criminals can create an impression that an entire community is to be blamed, and so you are always subject to those one or two people,” said Ibrahim Hooper, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “If you know the reality, you can see these handful of people as the aberration that they are — the same way that we didn’t say Catholicism was bad when the IRA was blowing up things in London.” Debate intensified over militancy within the US Muslim community on Wednesday, when an Islamic studies professor was jailed for life, for attempting to recruit for the Taliban. Ali al-Timimi, a teacher in his 40s from the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, was accused of encouraging at least five men to support the militia, and urging them to wage war against the United States. Timimi’s family and friends denied that he was guilty. The exact number of Muslims living in the United States has been a matter of dispute, since the US Census Bureau does not sort people by religion. Estimates have ranged as high as seven million by CAIR, and as low as just over one million within the past five years. The US Muslim community came under scrutiny as never before after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when Islam faced heavy criticism and President George W. Bush launched his global anti-terror campaign. Some American Muslim leaders complained this week that their frequent denunciations of terrorism had not filtered through to the US public. CAIR responded by issuing a public service announcement to local television stations across the country, featuring Muslims speaking directly to the camera. “We will not allow our faith to be hijacked by criminals,” said one of the speakers.