Muslim Divorces Without Shariah Can Get Tricky

New Jersey lawyer Abed Awad has been involved with more than 100 cases that involved some component of Shariah, or Islamic law, and knows firsthand how complicated things can get.

In one of those cases, a woman claimed she was married to a man according to Islamic law in her native West Africa. The man asserted there was no valid marriage, leaving a judge to decide whether the two were ever legally married in the first place.

If the judge rules they were married, there will be a divorce and she will receive alimony and a share of marital assets. If the judge rules that there is no marriage, then the woman will be left with nothing from her relationship.

To make a ruling, the judge will need to consider what Shariah, as understood in one corner of western Africa, says about what constitutes a legal marriage. He will likely have to consult Islamic law experts and apply what he learns to his decision.

But what if American judges were prohibited from considering Shariah and other foreign laws, as many state and national politicians want to see happen?

“How can I bring in testimony of Shariah generally, or Shariah as the law of a foreign country, when it comes to marriage? The judge won’t be able to adjudicate the case,” Awad explained.

“He can’t say yes or no because now it becomes, is he going to apply New York law or New Jersey law on the validity of a marriage that did not take place here but that took place in a foreign country?”

Counselors and activists estimate that roughly one in three Muslim marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Many Muslim Americans who divorce want their marriages dissolved in accordance with Islamic law. That means having dowries and other provisions of marriage contracts enforced, as well as obtaining an Islamic divorce certificate, which imams in the U.S. issue only after a civil divorce has been finalized.

“We recognize the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts,” said Suhaib Webb, imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. “We won’t issue a divorce unless they bring a certificate from downtown.”

NJ attorney general tells Muslim leaders that NYPD unit has stopped surveillance in NJ

NEWARK, N.J. — The state attorney general assured a group of Muslim leaders Wednesday that a New York City police unit that conducted surveillance of Muslim businesses, religious leaders and student groups was no longer operating in New Jersey.

Jeffrey Chiesa made the remarks during the first meeting of an outreach committee he formed to repair relations between law enforcement and Muslims in the wake of the revelations about the New York Police Department’s surveillance tactics.

Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that state Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Edward Dickson said during the closed door meeting that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit was no longer working in New Jersey. Loriquet added that Chiesa felt the meeting was productive and that the attorney general “wanted to make sure that all the people of New Jersey’s rights are protected and respected.”

Chiesa told the group Wednesday that he stood by his findings — announced in May following a three-month review — that the NYPD had not violated any New Jersey laws in conducting the surveillance.

Christie reiterates limited criticism of NYPD surveillance at Ramadan dinner with Muslims

NEWARK, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie has reassured Muslim leaders he remains troubled by the way the New York Police Department conducted surveillance of Muslim communities in New Jersey — even though his administration has said it was legal — but again stopped short of criticizing the spying itself.

 

The governor has said little publicly about his administration’s findings in late May that the NYPD did not violate state laws in its multistate surveillance, which included infiltrating student groups, videotaping mosque-goers or collecting license plates when they prayed. The findings angered Muslim leaders.

But at a Ramadan dinner he hosted in late July at the governor’s residence in Princeton, he did repeat his limited criticism of the operations, focusing on the lack of communication with law enforcement agencies in New Jersey, according to a cellphone video of his remarks posted online by an attendee.

 

“As much as the folks in New York may think they know us, they don’t,” the governor said. “Nor would they hesitate for a moment in raising the same objections I’m raising if the shoe were on the other foot. If we were to be going into New York all the time, invading their space, and not advising the almighty NYPD, you can imagine the ruckus we would hear from Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly and Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg and the gang on the other side of the Hudson River.”

Several Ramadan dinner attendees said they were disappointed Christie framed the NYPD actions as a violation of state sovereignty, instead of civil rights.

Confused 911 caller blows lid on NYPD spying operation in NJ: ‘There’s pictures of terrorists’

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — It’s an audiotape the New York Police Department hoped you would never hear.
A building superintendent at an apartment complex just off the Rutgers University campus called the New Brunswick Police 911 line in June 2009. He said his staff had been conducting a routine inspection and came across something suspicious.
The caller, Salil Sheth, had stumbled upon one of the NYPD’s biggest secrets: a safe house, a place where undercover officers working well outside the department’s jurisdiction could lie low and coordinate surveillance. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the NYPD, with training and guidance from the CIA, has monitored the activities of Muslims in New York and far beyond. Detectives infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and kept tabs on Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers.
The call sent New Brunswick police and the FBI rushing to the apartment complex. Officers and agents were surprised at what they found. None had been told that the NYPD was in town.
At the NYPD, the bungled operation was an embarrassment. It made the department look amateurish and forced it to ask the FBI to return the department’s materials.
The emails highlight the sometimes convoluted arguments the NYPD has used to justify its out-of-state activities, which have been criticized by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and some members of Congress. The NYPD has infiltrated and photographed Muslim businesses and mosques in New Jersey, monitored the Internet postings of Muslim college students across the Northeast and traveled as far away as New Orleans to infiltrate and build files on liberal advocacy groups.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the police department’s right to go anywhere in the country in search of terrorists without telling local police. And New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa has said he’s seen no evidence that the NYPD’s efforts violated his state’s laws.
Muslim groups, however, have sued to shut down the NYPD programs. Civil rights lawyers have asked a federal judge to decide whether the spying violates federal rules that were set up to prevent a repeat of NYPD abuses of the 1950s, when police Red Squads spied on student groups and activists in search of communists.

Former U.S. solider sues NYPD over Muslim surveillance

At 26, Syed Farhaj Hassan was a devout Muslim, and a man who took a lot of pride in being one of the relatively few Muslim Americans to join the military and then go to war in Iraq.

Hassan signed on recently to be the lead plaintiff in the first lawsuit to challenge any portion of the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims — a systematic program that has gone on both in New York and across state borders.

“I was upset that this was happening to a community, simply based on their faith,” Hassan said.

“The same thing can happen to Jewish Americans; the same thing can happen to Shinto Americans; the same thing can happen to Buddhist Americans,” he went on, leaning across a table and slicing the air with his hands to emphasize his point. “In this case, it happened to Muslim Americans.”

Hassan, now 35, claims that if his name or license-plate number, for example, were to be discovered by the Army on an NYPD surveillance dossier, “it would only be detrimental to my future in government and to my military career, in my opinion.”

When he joined the military, he noted, officials did a background check on him. “I know I wasn’t on a list of people being watched over” at the time, he said. A simple speeding ticket can be a “derog” in the Army, he added, and “derogs” can affect a soldier’s clearance or the standing he or she has worked to achieve.

Hassan claims in the civil rights suit that the NYPD has spied on four mosques he’s attended in New Jersey over the years — scaring him away from attending one of those mosques, in particular.

The suit also contends the NYPD deploys plainclothes officers called “rakers,” who monitor daily life in heavily Muslim neighborhoods. And, the suit says, the NYPD also uses undercover informants inside of mosques called “mosque crawlers,” who keep tabs on sermons and conversations.

In May New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced he had determined the NYPD’s actions in New Jersey did not violate any state civil or criminal laws. And a Quinnipiac University poll released in April found New Jersey voters said, by a margin of 70 percent to 21 percent, that the NYPD is “doing what is necessary to combat terrorism” in the Garden State.

New Jersey Muslims file federal suit to stop New York Police Department from spying on them

WASHINGTON — One of the Obama administration’s go-to civil rights groups in its efforts to build relationships with American Muslims is suing the New York Police Department over its surveillance programs, some of which were paid for with federal money.

Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in New Jersey to force the NYPD to end its surveillance and other intelligence-gathering practices targeting Muslims in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The lawsuit alleged that the NYPD’s activities were unconstitutional because they focused on people’s religion, national origin and race.

It is the first lawsuit to directly challenge the NYPD’s surveillance programs that targeted entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling the daily life of where people ate, prayed and got their hair cut. The surveillance was the subject of series of stories by The Associated Press that revealed the NYPD intelligence division infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds.

The Muslims suing the NYPD are represented by Muslim Advocates, a California-based civil rights group that meets regularly with members of the Obama administration.

New Jersey finds NYC police surveillance of Muslims broke no state laws, can’t be blocked

NEWARK, N.J. — Islamic leaders say they are shocked that a review by New Jersey’s state attorney general into the New York Police Department’s secret surveillance operation targeting Muslim businesses and mosques in New Jersey found the NYPD did nothing wrong.

Muslim leaders in New Jersey say they are angry but uncertain what their next step will be after the state’s attorney general found that New York City police did not violate any laws in its surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in New Jersey.

Chiesa had been asked by Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed him, to look into operations in New Jersey that were part of a widespread NYPD program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities both inside New York and beyond. Undercover officers and informants eavesdropped in Muslim cafes and monitored sermons, even when there was no evidence of a crime. They infiltrated Muslim student groups, videotaped mosque-goers or collected their license plate numbers as they prayed.

NJ mosque uses NYPD surveillance to emphasize in an ad campaign that it has nothing to hide

NEWARK, N.J. — The leader of a New Jersey mosque that was listed in a secret NYPD surveillance report is using the incident to try and recruit new members and promote a more positive view of Muslims.

Imam Mustafa El-Amin of Masjid Ibrahim in Newark ran an advertisement Thursday in The Star-Ledger newspaper urging people to read the Quran, denouncing terrorism and emphasizing that his mosque has an “open door” policy.

Under a bold-letter headline that reads: “NYPD Surveillance of Muslim Community,” the ad says there’s no need for the NYPD or any other agency to conduct secret surveillance of the mosque, because: “We have nothing to hide. Our doors are open.”

El-Amin says he came up with the idea after reflecting on a phrase in the Quran — “With every difficulty, there is relief” — and realizing that finding a positive, teachable moment out of a negative experience is a concept deeply rooted in Islam.

“We’ve heard a lot about the negative effects, but once you get this level of exposure, one of the best things about it is, if you’re positive, than the positive will win out,” he said.

Attendance at El-Amin’s largely African-American mosque, housed in a converted storefront along a gritty commercial strip in Newark, has not waned in light of the NYPD revelations, he said. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to run the ad for a variety of reasons: to attract new people to the mosque — potential Muslim converts, law enforcement officials or people of any faith wanting to learn more about Islam — to emphasize the mosque’s long-running stance against terrorism, and to set non-Muslims at ease, especially those who were once friendly to the mosque but are now wary of visiting Muslim businesses or mosques that were listed in the NYPD report.

House Democrats decry Bloomberg’s ‘underhanded’ response to concerns over NYPD Muslim spying

WASHINGTON — Ten House Democrats, including a member of the party’s leadership and lawmakers who oversee intelligence and homeland security matters, have criticized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his “underhanded and unprofessional” response to criticism of the New York Police Department’s spying programs.

The Associated Press has reported for months that the NYPD systematically spied on Muslims neighborhoods, using informants and undercover officers to serve as “listening posts” in mosques and businesses in New York and New Jersey. Police documented the details of sermons, even when they were innocuous and peaceful, and infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses. NYPD officers catalogued where Muslims ate, eat and prayed — with no mention of criminal activity — and targeted Mosques using techniques typically reserved for criminal investigations.

The lawmakers asked Bloomberg to explain what exactly he knew about the NYPD’s intelligence operations and to explain how federal money was used.

NY Rep. King blasts NJ governor over counterterrorism effort; Gov. to King: ‘Keep quiet’

NEW YORK — New York Congressman Peter King says New Jersey’s governor should show more gratitude toward the New York City Police Department for its counterterrorism work.

King told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that Gov. Chris Christie is letting emotions get in the way of preventing attacks.

Christie has criticized the NYPD for doing surveillance of Muslim communities in New Jersey without notifying local police or the FBI.

“I think, in this case, Governor Christie was letting his personal feelings get in the way of protecting us against terrorism,” King told Fox host Don Imus. “He should be welcoming New York City and anyone else who wants to come in or out of his state, work with them and cooperate with them because terrorists go back and forth across city and state lines all the time.”