Calif. Arab sparks debate over ethnic mascots

December 2, 2013

 

LOS ANGELES — On game days in Thermal, where date farms and desert surroundings evoke the Middle East and nearby communities have names like Mecca and Oasis, fans cheer a high school team known as the Arabs. A belly dancer jiggles on center court. And a black-haired, mustached mascot wearing a head scarf rallies the crowd.

At least that’s the way it was done for decades in the community 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles until Arab-Americans recently objected to a hook-nosed, snarling image used to represent Coachella Valley High School.

The school has agreed to give the mascot a makeover, but not to drop the nickname.

“We’re still going to stick with the Arab,” said school board president Lowell Kemper after scores of residents defended the tradition dating back generations. “It’s just a matter of whether we have a change in the caricature of the mascot.”

But the Arab debate spurs the same set of questions: Is it possible to craft a mascot in the image of an ethnic group that doesn’t offend, or are schools better off scrapping the idea altogether?

The debate comes as the more familiar Indian controversy has gained increased heat.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee complained last month that the Coachella Valley mascot perpetuates negative stereotypes of Arabs and Arab-Americans after one of its members raised questions about the image.

The move prompted a community-wide debate and the school district formed a committee to redesign the mascot in a more flattering light.

Coachella Valley isn’t alone in invoking images of Arabs or Muslims. In the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra, the high school football team, known as the Moors, features a caricature of a scowling, dark-skinned man with two swords on its Facebook page.

Yasmin Nouh, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in greater Los Angeles, said her group was going to speak with the school.

At Coachella Valley, the Arab’s image has evolved. He was once depicted riding on horseback while carrying a spear, later changed to the surly caricature plastered on the school gym’s wall.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/calif-arab-sparks-debate-over-ethnic-mascots/2013/12/02/266539d0-5b89-11e3-801f-1f90bf692c9b_story.html

Muslims Come Together for the Festival of Sacrifice

October 14, 2013

Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Kabir, Kurban Bajram and dozens of other names depending on where you are in the world for this one occasion, called the Feast of Sacrifice, observed by all Muslims in the world. It celebrates the faith of the Prophet Abraham, which was so strong as to make him obey the order of Allah to sacrifice his son Ishmael.

Muslims will celebrate Festival for the end of Ramadan in Trieste tomorrow at 9 am. Civil and religious authorities will attend as well as anyone who wants to attend the event. “Following tradition” says the president of the Islamic Center of Via Pascoli, Saleh Igbaria “we will start with prayer, which will be followed by a sermon, given by the Imam Aziz El Barikhi. Then refreshments will be served and all are invited.” Because, in addition to being open to the community in Trieste, the party is a condition expressly laid down by the Qur’an, in which you use this time to strengthen family ties, friendships and make new ones. Traditionally, this event is celebrated by sacrificing an animal, like a sheep or a goat. This stems from a time when power was precarious and meat was a luxury, a condition that unfortunately is still true in many parts of the world, but certainly not in Italy. We have no need to celebrate in this way. We have no religious slaughter “And the president points out: ‘the halal meat, that is slaughtered according to Islamic ritual, is now easily available in supermarkets in Trieste. What’s more, according to the dictates of our religion, we can also eat meat slaughtered by all the so-called “people of the Book” which includes Christians and Jews.

 

Il Piccolo: http://ilpiccolo.gelocal.it/cronaca/2013/10/14/news/musulmani-riuniti-per-la-festa-del-sacrificio-1.7925920

Muslims challenging no-fly list win partial court victory

Federal court says Muslim Americans “have a constitutionally protected liberty interest” in being able to travel, lets no-fly list challenge advance.

Thirteen Muslim Americans challenging the U.S. government’s secretive “no-fly” list won a partial victory in federal court when a judge found they “have a constitutionally protected liberty interest” in traveling internationally by air.

But U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has yet to decide whether the government violated their constitutional rights to due process under a policy that excludes individuals from commercial air travel if they are suspected of having ties to terrorism.

In her ruling late on Wednesday in Portland, the judge also asked both the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice for more information before deciding key parts of the case.

The 13 plaintiffs, all U.S. citizens who deny any links to terrorism, say they were placed on the government’s no-fly list without notice or any realistic avenue of appeal.

The Justice Department has also argued that barring one’s access to air travel is not an undue burden or a violation of a constitutionally protected right.

Brown disagreed, disputing the government’s “contention that international air travel is a mere convenience, in light of the realities of our modern world.”

But the judge said she was not ready to decide on a proper remedy in the case, suggesting the answer hinged on whether the plaintiffs had an adequate avenue of appeal.

“The court is not yet able to resolve on the current record whether the judicial-review process is a sufficient, post-deprivation process under the … Constitution,” she wrote.

“For the first time, a federal court has recognized that when the government bans Americans from flying and smears them as suspected terrorists, it deprives them of constitutionally protected liberties, and they must have a fair process to clear their names,” ACLU attorney Nusrat Choudhury said in a statement.

Interfaith movement struggles to adapt to changing religious landscape

The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington is known as one of the country’s early multi-faith groups, and its executive director’s nickname is the “dean of American interfaith.” Yet as it approaches its 35th anniversary in November, the group is fighting for survival, down to two full-time staff members and facing more than $100,000 in debt.

 

The conference, which has a major fundraiser planned this fall and aims to restructure the organization and sharpen its mission, is hardly alone. Some of the oldest and best-known names in interfaith, including the National Council of Churches and the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World Religions, have slashed staff as their revenue shriveled.

Since the Interfaith Conference was founded in 1978, religious minorities have grown significantly in size and stature, and Americans now interact more easily with people of other faiths in their schools, offices, neighborhoods and even immediate families. Younger interfaith types today are more interested in activism and often focus on particular policy issues. For example, some of the newer, small groups in Washington are Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice and Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims.

When these new, more activist groups are taken into account, the interfaith movement as a whole appears to be thriving. The Rev. Bud Heckman, who has been a leader of several key interfaith groups, said his research shows there are twice as many interfaith groups nationally as there were a decade ago. A recent Hartford Institute survey showed congregations are twice as likely to engage in interfaith worship today as they were 10 years ago.

 

Interfaith Conference leaders say they believe there is still a need for the group’s unique strength — it connects local leaders from 11 different faiths, including Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims.

Reza Aslan, researching while Muslim

It’s about time.

A real conversation about religion has begun in this country. In fact, it has gone viral. Up until now, public religion has too-often been about name-calling, confessionals, politics and cartoon versions of “the other.”

Thanks to a shockingly insensitive interview with religious scholar Reza Aslan, the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and a man who just happens to be Muslim, the Internet has lit up like a Christmas tree. Lauren Green of Fox News began her questioning with this: “You are a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Once wasn’t enough. She kept asking the clearly dumbfounded Aslan the same question as he tried to explain that he is a scholar of religion. Given her insistence, one might have wondered why an African American Christian woman would be interviewing a white Persian male Muslim.

Aslan is not upset about the interview. In fact, he has reason to be pleased. It has given his book wide media exposure.

“I am so glad people are having this conversation,” Aslan says. “I was surprised how it captured the zeitgeist. This is a topic usually discussed by academics in stuffy libraries.”

What’s so outrageous about the book? He calls Jesus a zealot, for one thing. But as he explains, “in Jesus’s world, ‘zealot’ referred to those Jews who adhered to a widely biblical doctrine called zeal.” They were against Roman authorities and their collaborators, wealthy temple priests and aristocratic Jews. The fact that Jesus was a revolutionary — a rabble-rouser — is not exactly news in the world of theology. He wasn’t running around passing out Easter eggs.

What’s interesting here is the backlash from what he calls “the anti-Muslim fringe, the rabid Islamophobes, who have been attacking me for a decade and calling me vile and racist names.” He wasn’t surprised by what happened on Fox News and has no hard feelings toward Green. “I have nothing but compassion for her. I understand where she is coming from. I used to be like her. I used to be a fundamentalist evangelical Christian. It’s a fear in the world of being confronted with questioning the most basic tenets of your faith.”

Turkish PvdA Members of Rotterdam District Council Resign

July 3 2013

 

The management board of the Rotterdam district council Feijenoord has resigned, following a report on the activities of Labour Party (PvdA) members of Turkish descent.

 

Turkish members of the district Labour Party leadership have allegedly participated in nepotism favoring Turkish residents and organizations, according to the Bureau for the Integrity of Netherlands Municipalities (BING). BING also names Seyit Yeyden, chairman of the Feijenoord executive, and two unnamed council members, as guilty of conflict of interest. The board announced its resignation in a letter to the district council.

Anonymous Hacks English Defence League, Publishes Member Information

29 May 2013

 

Anonymous, the shadowy global network of computer hackers, has carried out a cyber attack on the English Defence League (EDL) and released member information including names, addresses, and phone numbers. A YouTube video created by the group claimed that the attack was in response to a number of far-right groups, including the EDL, seizing on the Woolwich attack to further their campaigns of “hate, bigotry, and misinformation.”

 

The video, posted by member IWill Object and entitled “A Message from Anonymous UK to the English Defence League,” warns of future cyber attacks and threatens the EDL with “the systematic and comprehensive decimation of your cult.”

 

The personal details of EDL members and donors were published online on Tuesday. At least one EDL member has since received threats via calls by “anti-fascists and Muslims” to his mobile phone number since the information was released. The EDL has been particularly vocal in its condemnation of the Woolwich attack, condemnation which it has directed principally towards the Muslim community. The group organized a number of rallies last week, including a high-profile march to Downing Street on Monday which attracted more than 1,000 protestors.

 

Where do we put Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

Worcester is some 40 miles from Boston, but it was no means unaffected by the Marathon bombing.  Worcester shares a close connection with Boston as many in the Worcester area work in Boston and we all know the city well.  The Boston Marathon bombing was not simply a local tragedy; it was a crime committed against our families, our neighbors, our friends.

 

National media reports have recently focused on protests outside the Worcester funeral home where Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body waits for burial. But local news reporting has been far more nuanced, surveying the range of ways we as a community are working through our own feelings about the bombing and its perpetrators, all the while trying to find hope within and through our vulnerability and anger.

 

But the issue remains.  What do we do with Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

 

“I do understand no one wants to associate their names with such evil events.”

 

So said Ruslan Tsarni, who came here to Worcester to perform the burial rites for his nephew.  Death has always raised the specter of contagion—it’s one reason why we have cemeteries.  But the question regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev moves us beyond this.  Intellectually, we have tried to find a place for him and his actions, speculating in alternatively careful and uneven ways about the roles he played in life: son, brother, husband, father, Chechen, Muslim, boxer, terrorist.  Now the uncomfortable question confronts us immediately:  Where do we put him?

 

On the other hand a Worcester community activist plans to start a campaign to raise money to send the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev (TAM’-ehr-luhn tsahr-NEYE’-ehv) to Russia for burial.

 

Cambridge, where the Tsarnaev family lived, says it does not want the body.

William Breault tells The Telegram & Gazette he will announce the fund on Monday outside the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors.

Dutch Man Fined for Selling Horsemeat as `Halal Beef`

2 May 2013

A Dutch businessman under investigation in a Europe-wide probe into a horse-for-beef food scandal has been given a suspended sentence and fined 50,000 euros by a district court in Den Bosch for selling horsemeat as Islamic halal-slaughtered beef in France.

Jan Fasen, 63, bought horsemeat in Brazil and Mexico which was sold on paper as halal-slaughtered beef to French suppliers. Specific names of suppliers were not provided in the court brief. A broader investigation against Fasen and his company is still underway.

U.S. dominates list of world’s ’500 Most Influential Muslims’

There are more Muslims from America than any other country on this year’s “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims,” compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a respected think tank in Jordan, including two in the top 50.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a California-born convert who founded Zaytuna College, an Islamic college in Berkeley, Calif., and is a leading Islamic authority in America, ranked No. 42, two places ahead of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at George Washington University known for his work in Islamic philosophy.

America’s roughly 2.6 million Muslims are a tiny fraction of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, but they took 41 spots on the 500 list. Countries with the next highest number of names were Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, with 25 Muslims each, followed by Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, with 24.

“Compared to the global Muslim population, the representation of U.S. Muslims in this list is disproportionate, but yet representative in the way they shape global discourse,” said Duke University Islamic studies professor Ebrahim Moosa.