Queens street renamed for Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a Muslim police cadet who died helping victims at the World Trade Center on 9/11

Hamdani, born to Muslim parents from Pakistan, was initially the subject of leaks suggesting that he was a possible suspect in the attacks

A police cadet who died helping World Trade Center victims on 9/11 was honored Monday at a Queens street renaming — 13 years after being accused of involvement in the attacks.

Residents and elected officials came together to formally rename 204th St. at 35th Ave. “Salman Hamdani Way” after Mohammed Salman Hamdani, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan who lived a block from the Bayside street.

“It’s a joyous and victorious day,” said Talat Hamdani, the mother of the police cadet, who died at the age of 23. “And it’s a turning point in America’s fight against prejudice and bigotry. It symbolizes that OK, American Muslims are also Americans, and we are an integral part of society.”

Hamdani’s name was initially tarred by leaks to the press from anonymous police sources suggesting he was suspected of ties to terrorists, but was eventually given a funeral with full police honors in April 2002, a month after his remains were found in the wreckage at Ground Zero.

Residents and merchants cheered the new street sign on 204th Street at 35th Avenue, one block from the house where the former Bayside High School football player grew up.

“It’s a great idea,” said Gidon Pesso, owner of Pesso’s Italian Ices across the street. “He should definitely be recognized.”

Nominee for California student regent draws rare ire

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California’s governing board confirmed its first Muslim student member Wednesday, despite some Jewish groups’ claims that she marginalized Jewish students and promoted an anti-Israel agenda.

Regents voted unanimously to ratify UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin’s nomination, with one regent, Richard Blum, abstaining from the vote.

UC Berkeley senior Sadia Saifuddin was picked from a field of 30 applicants to serve on the UC Board of Regents during the 2014-15 academic year. As student regent-designate, the 21-year-old Pakistani American would participate in meetings but wouldn’t be able to cast votes during the school year that begins this fall.

Saifuddin’s critics had urged the regents to reject the nomination, pointing to a student government proposal Saifuddin co-sponsored calling for the university to divest from companies with economic ties to the Israeli military or Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The critics said it was evidence she is unqualified to represent all of the UC system’s more than 222,000 students.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a Berkeley-based group that opposes Israeli settlements in the West bank and Gaza, issued a statement Wednesday saying that Saifuddin had been “made the target of yet another intimidation and repression campaign against anyone who dares criticize Israel on campus.”

FBI informant describes 4 years of dangerous undercover work in Florida Taliban case

PLANTATION, Fla. — Standing on a Pakistani mountainside with a suspected Taliban fighter, FBI undercover informant David Mahmood Siddiqui remembers thinking, he could have been sent hurtling off a cliff to his death with just a nudge. In such dangerous situations, Siddiqui said he always tried to hold a Quran tightly in his hands.

“As long as you have a Quran in your hands,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday, “they (the Taliban) will not harm you.”

Siddiqui, a 58-year-old Pakistani-American who became a U.S. citizen in 1977, spent four years helping the FBI build its case against Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan, who was convicted Monday of terrorism support and conspiracy charges. Evidence during his two-month trial showed that Khan, the 77-year-old imam at a Miami mosque, funneled about $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.

Siddiqui wore an FBI wire to record thousands of conversations with Khan. Prosecutors made heavy use of the evidence Siddiqui gathered, playing dozens of those recordings in court.

Wearing the wire to surreptitiously record talks with Khan was dangerous enough. But in September 2010, the FBI sent Siddiqui to Pakistan’s Swat Valley to meet up with some of people who were getting Khan’s money. With Khan’s grandson Alam Zeb as his driver — Zeb is a suspected Taliban fighter also indicted by the U.S. in the Khan case — Siddiqui spent three weeks gathering intelligence.

 

Comedian Aasif Mandvi is compelling in new play about Islam and identity, past and present

NEW YORK — “Disgraced,” which opened on Monday night at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater in a sleek production directed by Kimberly Senior, is a continuously engaging, vitally engaged play about thorny questions of identity and religion in the contemporary world, with an accent on the incendiary topic of how radical Islam and the terrorism it inspires have affected the public discourse. In dialogue that bristles with wit and intelligence, Mr. Akhtar, a novelist and screenwriter, puts contemporary attitudes toward religion under a microscope, revealing how tenuous self-image can be for people born into one way of being who have embraced another.

The lead character, a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer in New York, is played by Aasif Mandvi, the very funny correspondent on Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Here Mandvi shows a dramatic depth and perceptiveness his TV fans likely never have seen before. (But he’s not new to the stage; he’s also the writer of the Obie Award-winning play “Sakina’s Restaurant.”)

Every exchange, however innocent, seems to reflect the uneasy state of Amir’s identity. He and Emily are serving pork tenderloin and chorizo for dinner, along with a fabulous fennel-anchovy salad. He disses Islam while Isaac defends it. Amir: “Islam is a backward way of thinking.” Isaac: “It happens to be one of the world’s great spiritual traditions.”

But then there’s a sudden turn. Talk of 9/11, of Israel and Iran, of terrorism and airport security, all evokes uncomfortable truths. Add a liberal flow of alcohol and a couple of major secrets suddenly revealed, and you’ve got yourself one dangerous dinner party.

In the end, one can debate what the message of the play really is. Is it that we cannot escape our roots, or perhaps simply that we don’t ever really know who we are, deep down, until something forces us to confront it?

Speed-Dating, Muslim Style

The ultimate oxymoron: Islamic matrimony speed dating. It is a twice-yearly conclave started in 2007 by a Pakistani-American financial adviser from Long Island who was tired of being asked by Muslim clients if he knew anyone suitable for their children.

“It’s a combination of East and West,” said the organizer, Jamal Mohsin. He was inspired by an article in Newsweek about Jdate.com, a Jewish online dating service, which also arranges face-to-face events for singles. “Back in Pakistan, everything is arranged. Here, on the other extreme, individuals pick everything and parents, who raised you, aren’t involved. So I’ve created an event with both of these extremes. I’ve kept parents in the loop so they feel involved–at the same time, its speed dating. We’re being American. ” In Pakistan — and in parts of the Pakistani-American community — it is often said that you don’t marry a person, but their family.

This entrepreneurial idea has had its share of criticism, from conservative religious leaders, who pleaded with Mr. Mohsin to use teleconferencing, so men and women would meet via video chat, not in person. One of his friends condemned his events, calling them “an American-style meat-market.”

D.C. Metro terror suspect faces hearing

Federal authorities arrested Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old Pakistani American, this week for an alleged plot to bomb Metrorail stations in Northern Virginia. In court papers, they say Ahmed became a willing participant in the bombing plot. He conducted surveillance and reconnaissance and suggested ways to generate the most casualties, the papers say. FBI agents were tipped off to Ahmed in January, when a source inside the Muslim community said the 34-year-old telecommunications worker was asking around, trying to join a terrorist group and kill Americans overseas, the officials said.

Farooque Ahmed, was a firebrand whose conservative views sometimes clashed with others at the Sterling mosque where he worshiped, leaders there said Friday. Ahmed, 34, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, went only occasionally to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) center to pray, and he rarely lingered or socialized. But he was not shy about making his beliefs known, leaders said. “We strongly believe the [tipster] was a member of this community,” said ADAMS board member Robert Marro. The mosque officials declined to name him. This sting underscores Muslims’ complex relationship with FBI.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, local mosques have taken pains to show how willing they are to cooperate with authorities. They have invited the FBI to dinners, have given agents awards and now hold quarterly meetings with agents to communicate and build relationships. Those same FBI agents are also the ones they often call to report hate crimes, vandalism and other manifestations of Islamaphobia.

Time Square Incident and Timeline

On May 1st, a smoking vehicle parked in NYC’s Times Square raised alarms. Times Square was evacuated and investigations confirmed that the vehicle was set to explode. The law enforcement agencies immediately engaged in tracking back the vehicle and identifying the suspect(s). President Obama reacted and speculations began about potential international links. The investigation led to the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American resident of Connecticut, two days later. The suspect was arrested while boarding a plane leaving JFK for Dubai.
LA Times: Pres. Obama: “We will not be terrorized.”

Canadian arrested in foiled Danish newspaper plot

Tahawar Hussain Rana, a former Pakistani cadet and medical student who received Canadian citizenship and since settled in Chicago, is accused of helping mastermind a terrorist plot that he and alleged conspirators dubbed the Mickey Mouse project, with branches stretching from a Toronto office tower to radical groups in Pakistan. Rana’s co-accused, a Pakistani-American who changed his name to David Headley, told the FBI he wanted to kill two Danish journalists in retaliation for their paper’s publication in 2005 of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The alleged conspiracy ended in a dramatic raid October 18, when more than 100 federal agents, some with assault rifles and body armor, descended on Rana’s slaughterhouse in rural Illinois while helicopters and surveillance planes buzzed overhead. Rana admitted he was aware Mr. Headley was affiliated with Pakistani terrorist groups, the FBI said.

Wal-Mart Sued for Pushing Out IT Consultant who Prayed in Men’s Room

All Mohammed Zakaria Memon wanted to do was pray five times a day while working as an IT consultant for Wal-Mart in their Arkansas-based corporate offices. But this rite of Islam was allegedly unacceptable to Wal-Mart, according to a lawsuit filed by Memon, who lost his job and is now seeking damages from both the retail chain and his former employer, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

According to Memon’s complaint, the 59-year-old Pakistani-American citizen was first told he could only pray in the hallways or outside in the parking lot. So, in order to not lose too much time from his work, he began performing the washing ritual (known in Urdu as Wazu) required before every prayer, inside Wal-Mart’s men’s room.

But some employees complained about the washing, leading Deloitte to tell Memon he couldn’t do it. After he explained the importance of the Wazu, his employer instructed him to only pray at his hotel, which was
too far away to be a practical solution. After that, Memon was told Wal-Mart was restructuring the project and that he and several other Deloitte consultants would no longer work at the retail headquarters. But, according to his lawsuit, only Memon was taken off the job.

In *Minnesota, meanwhile, the local chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations *announced in July that Wal-Mart would rehire Zahra Aljabri, who had been fired for praying during breaks at work.