How Well Are American Muslims Fitting In? The Suicide Bombings In London Raise Questions Of Assimilation For The 3 Million Muslims In The US

By Howard LaFranchi Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON – It’s called the “Virginia Jihad” case: Iraqi-American medical researcher Ali al-Yimimi, who preached in northern Virginia mosques and disseminated his radical thinking on the Web, was sentenced to life imprisonment last week. His crime: inciting followers, many of them young American-born Muslims, to a violent defense of Islam and war against the United States and its intervention in Islamic countries. Mr. Timimi’s sentencing in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom came against the backdrop of the London bombings, which British police now say were carried out by young British Muslims – and not foreign terrorists as in the case of the Sept. 11 attacks. They also say that the mastermind may have been a US-educated Egyptian chemist arrested Friday in Cairo. The London blasts not only brought the phenomenon of terrorists blowing themselves up to Western soil, but they raise new concerns of home-grown terrorism – not to mention a sense of dread about consequences among Britain’s predominately peaceful and moderate Muslim population of approximately 1.6 million. In the US, the attacks and events like the Virginia Jihad case are raising anxieties about immigrants and their allegiances in the midst of a rapidly expanding immigrant population. With a new report finding that births to foreign-born women in the US are at their highest level ever – nearly 1 in 4 – some experts are warning that the traditional rapid assimilation of immigrants risks breaking down – with potentially worrisome consequences. “Traditionally you had in the US an immigrant child learning to swim in a sea of native children, but increasingly it is the children of natives lost in a sea of children of immigrants,” says Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. His research of US Census figures shows that in 2002, 23 percent of US births were to immigrant mothers – up from 15 percent in 1990. The figure is closer to 25 percent today, Mr. Camarota adds, and could approach 30 percent by 2010. The vast majority of those children are born to Mexican and other immigrant Spanish-speaking women – a fact that prominent experts like Harvard’s Samuel Huntington, of “clash of civilizations” fame, say presents its own special challenges. Camarota estimates that the US Muslim population is about 3 million, including converts. Other organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, put the overall number much higher, at perhaps 6 million. Based on a 2002 study of US immigrants from the broader Middle East, Camarota estimates around 600,000 children of Muslim immigrants in the US. These facts, set in the context of new twists in Islamic terrorism, are raising questions about how well the children of Muslim immigrants are being assimilated. In California, the issue arose last month in the Central Valley town of Lodi – with a community of some 3,000 Muslims, mostly Pakistani immigrants or their descendants – where federal agents arrested two residents, a father and a son, for allegedly lying about links to terrorist-training camps in Pakistan, and two local imams. The Lodi case roiled the city’s Muslim community, raising worries about the sudden national spotlight, and drawing professions of allegiance and love for America from the local Muslim residents. Such cases appear to be feeding a growing sense of concern among Americans about immigration, and about Muslim immigrants in particular. In a new survey published last week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, Americans joined other Westerners in the perception that Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity, and want to remain distinct from the mainstream culture. “What we’re seeing is a relationship between a perception of separatism among Muslims living in these [North American and European] countries and serious concerns about extremism,” says Carolyn Funk, senior project director for the international survey of Islamic extremism. The survey of 17 countries did find that approval of terrorist acts such as suicide bombings is falling in many Muslim countries, with more Muslims expressing concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremism to their own country. Even Osama bin Laden is losing some of the shine he enjoyed in some countries, such as Morocco and Indonesia, although the survey shows esteem for him actually rising in Jordan and Pakistan. In Western countries with sizable Muslim minorities, the survey shows, concerns about unassimilating populations run parallelel to worries about extremist violence. In the US, where 70 percent said they worried about Islamic extremism in their country, half said they sensed an increasing interest in Islamic identity, and generally saw that as a bad thing. “The US is on the lower end [when compared to European countries],” says Ms. Funk, “but the same trend is there.” Americans seem to be of two minds about immigration, with a new Gallup poll confirming that ambivalence: It finds that a large majority of Americans think immigration is good for the country, while at the same time feeling that current levels of immigration are too high. For experts like CIS’s Camarota and others, those misgivings reflect a concern about the ability – or desire – of some groups to assimilate. At the same time, many Muslim community representatives say assimilation has become more difficult as Islamic extremism has risen to have an impact on the West. And they add that addressing the isolation and fanaticism that can feed homegrown extremism has to be the work of both the Islamic community and the broader society. “The challenges for immigrants, and in particular for Muslims, are more formidable in the post-9/11 era; the assimilation process is a much more difficult mountain to climb,” says Salam al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. Comparing the assimilation process to something of a two-way street, he says there are essential roles for both the minority Muslim community and the majority society “to make sure that Islam and Muslims play a positive role in American pluralism.” He also says that public officials must do more to acknowledge the cooperation they are getting from and relationships they are building with the Muslim community. He notes for example that his organization is working with the Department of Justice and the FBI on an antiterrorism campaign that has resulted in community forums and training in 20 cities. But he says officials have never held the press conference acknowledging the program as promised. “All I can think is that there are political calculations that keep them from doing it,” Mr. Marayati says. If true, that would run counter to what many experts say is a key factor in preventing another attack on US soil: the cooperation and allegiance of American Muslims. Clearly many have played key roles in cases where law enforcement has been able to target activities with potentially violent designs. But some Muslims say more encouragement is needed. “There’s a lack of space for Muslims to contribute to the political and social spheres,” Marayati says, “and you end up with an exclusion of the American Muslim voice.”

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.

Newspaper Cleared Over ‘Kill Muslims’ Letter

PHOENIX: The Arizona state Supreme Court ruled on Friday a Tucson newspaper could not be held liable for publishing a letter that urged people to kill Muslims to retaliate for the death of American soldiers in Iraq. In a 5-0 ruling, Arizona’s highest court found unanimously the Tucson Citizen was protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution and could not be sued for printing the letter in December 2003. The opinion reversed a lower court judge. The court stated the letter to the editor does not fall within one of the well-recognised exceptions to the general rule of First Amendment protection for political speech. It ordered the case be sent back to Pima County Superior Court and dismissed without the chance to be refiled. Michael Chihak, the Citizen’s editor and publisher, said the ruling vindicated the paper’s decision and could have broader ramifications for others. It is obviously a favourable ruling for us, and not just for us, but for the First Amendment, he said. If the ruling had been unfavourable, it may have led people to curb expressions of their thoughts, opinions and feelings rather than adding to the public dialogue. Herb Beigel, a lawyer for the two Tucson men who filed the lawsuit said he was disappointed by the ruling and had not yet decided whether to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court. Beigel condemned the decision as giving the press protection that is far broader than the US Supreme Court has ruled in the past, and said a deeper investigation into the facts of the case was needed before a decision was rendered. The lawsuit, filed by Aly W Elleithee and Wali Yudeen S Abdul Rahim, stemmed from a three-paragraph letter in the Citizen that called for quick retaliation for soldiers’ deaths. Whenever there is an assassination or another atrocity, we should proceed to the closest mosque and execute five of the first Muslims we encounter, the letter said. After all, this is a _Holy War and although such a procedure is not fair or just, it might end the horror.

Muslims March Against Uk Terror Laws

Up to 2000 people from more than 50 Islamic organisations in Britain have demonstrated in London to condemn what they called heavy-handed procedures in the fight against global terrorism. “The basic message is that the Muslim community wants to voice its opposition to what it views as the oppression of the war on terror,” said Imran Wahid of Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of the groups behind the protest march. He said Muslims were angered by so-called control orders imposed by the British authorities on terrorism suspects, and by the US detention of terrorism suspects without trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There were no incidents as the protesters – led by a banner reading United Against the Oppression of War on Terror – made their way to Paddington Green police station in west London, where terrorism suspects are questioned. “It is kind of symbolic because a lot of people are taken there and released without charge a couple of days later,” Wahid said. The march occurred five days before a general election in Britain which Prime Minister Tony Blair hopes will give his Labour Party a third straight term in office.

Us Muslims Sue Gov’t Over Border Detentions

US Muslims sued the US Department of Homeland Security, accusing the US border agents of rights violation and racial profiling. The suit, filed in US District Court on Wednesday, April 20, named Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff among four defendants in what the New York Civil Liberties Union called a case of profiling, according to Reuters on Thursday, April 21. The three men and two women said the agents who detained them as they returned from an Islamic conference in Canada violated their rights, held them, along with dozens of other US Muslims. They added that they were interrogated, photographed and fingerprinted against their will in December 2004. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs, who were later released without charge, were singled out after telling customs officials they had attended a “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” conference in Toronto. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but asks for a declaration that the government action was unlawful, an injunction against further enforcement of such policies and practices and erasing from all federal databases of information obtained from the plaintiffs, Reuters reported. The annual conference draws thousands of Muslims from Canada, the United States and overseas, AFP said. A May 2004 report released by the US Senate Office Of Research concluded that Arab Americans and the Muslim community in the US have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Amnesty International said that racial profiling by US law enforcement agencies had grown over the past years to cover one in nine Americans, mostly targeting Muslims. ‘Most Humiliating’ Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union which is helping represent the plaintiffs, condemned what she described as the “over-zealous and counter-productive ethnic and religious profiling” encouraged by government security policies in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “They are engaging in profiling,” said Lieberman, adding that “the government detained people because they attended a conference that was perfectly legal, exercising their basic rights.” None of the citizens who were detained had done anything unlawful, nor were they charged with any unlawful act,” Lieberman told reporters. “You don’t lose your rights when you’re a Muslim. You don’t lose your rights when you cross a border, and you certainly don’t lose your rights by attending a religious conference,” she added. One of the plaintiffs, Sawsaan Tabbaa, an orthodontist from Buffalo in New York, said the experience at the border crossing “was the most humiliating I have ever gone through.” “It was unbelievable. I am proud of being American but I couldn’t believe my eyes something like this could happen.” Tabbaa said she had refused to be digitally fingerprinted on the grounds that she had done nothing wrong, but was physically forced into compliance. “I started sobbing like a kid,” she said. At the time of the incident, numerous press reports quoted Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman Kristie Clemens as claiming the government had “credible information” that Islamic conferences were being used to promote and fund terrorist activities. On Wednesday, Clemens said she was unable to comment on a specific case that was the subject of a lawsuit, but added that the “priority mission” of the CBP was to “prevent terrorists” and their weapons entering the country. “As we continue to pursue this mission, we will continue to work with all communities to protect the freedoms of all Americans,” she said. Islamic Leaders Vehemently Deny The Charges. Tabbaa’s son, Hassan Shibley, 18, said the border guards had initially insisted they were picked “at random”, but when he entered the processing room he saw that all the occupants were Muslim. “It was like I was walking into my local mosque,” Shibley said. Lieberman, whose organization filed the suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there was nothing about the RIS conference to raise suspicions. “If the government has suspicions about criminal activities they have every right and indeed the obligation to go after those suspicions,” Lieberman said. “This is a case of rounding up the usual suspects in derogation of their rights and in derogation of all of our liberties.” A recent nation-wide poll, conducted by the Cornell University, showed that at least 44 percent of the Americans backs curbing Muslims’ civil rights and monitoring their places of worship.

Blair Plays Down Impact Of Terror Law

LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that Britain would hold only “a handful” of suspects under new anti-terrorism house arrest laws that are unique in Europe and have outraged rights campaigners.But his home secretary said a first target could be four British Muslims freed overnight after returning home from the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Britain announced the new house arrest powers on Wednesday to replace the power to jail foreigners without trial, which the highest court, the Law Lords, ruled violated basic rights. But rights campaigners say the new measures – which would target Britons as well as foreigners – were even more draconian than the laws they would replace. Blair, in a television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, sought to play down the likely impact. “It will not apply to anything other than a handful of people,” he said “I pay great attention to the civil liberties of the country,” he added. “But on the other hand, there is a new form of global terrorism in our country, in every other European country and most countries around the world. They will cause death and destruction on an unlimited scale.” The new measures would still require Britain to declare an emergency and suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, said Ian MacDonald, a lawyer who quit in protest from a panel appointed by the government to protect detainees. “That raises the question of how long is an emergency,” he added. “Why is it that no other country which faces the same threat has done the same thing?” Natalie Garcia, lawyer for two of the 11 foreigners jailed under the old measures, said the new laws were no improvement. “It’s still total loss of liberty, and total loss of liberty without due process is exactly what the Law Lords ruled is wrong,” she said. “It used to be foreigners. It can be absolutely anyone now.” Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who announced the new powers, said the targets could include the four freed Guantanamo men. “The individuals from Guantanamo are British nationals, so there isn’t any power to do anything but what we’ve done (release them),” he told BBC radio. “That’s precisely the reason why I made the announcement yesterday that we need to have a regime to deal with UK nationals as well.” The four were the last of nine Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay after years in US custody without charge. The Guantanamo detainees are widely regarded in Britain as victims of American injustice, causing political harm to Blair for his firm support of US President George W Bush. The decision by police to treat them as suspects on their return also angered Britain’s large Muslim community.

Thousands Turn Out For Islamic Rally In France

LE BOURGET, France, April 11 (AFP) – Twenty-two thousand people attended the annual rally of the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) outside Paris on Sunday, considerably higher than the attendance last year, police said. The rally was taking place in the context of the US-led occupation of Iraq and the French government’s controversial decision to ban the Islamic headscarf and other religious insignia in state schools.

US Opposes Oklahoma Headscarf Ban

The US justice department has filed a complaint on behalf of a Muslim girl who was twice sent home from school for wearing a headscarf. The education authorities said the hijab breached the dress code of the school in Oklahoma. But the justice department says it amounts to religious discrimination. The case of 11-year-old Nashala Hearn follows rows in France and elsewhere about whether the school is a suitable place for religious symbols.

US Muslims Meet Spanish Ambassador To Offer Condolences

WASHINGTON, D.C., CAIR) – A delegation of American Muslim leaders met today with the Spanish ambassador in Washington, D.C., to offer condolences for the more than 200 people killed in last week’s terror attacks on the Madrid train system. The delegation, organized by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), expressed the American Islamic community’s condemnation of the bombings and told Ambassador Javier Ruperez that Muslims grieve for all those who died. Ambassador Ruperez said Spain is going through a “very difficult time,” and compared the attacks to those carried out in the United States on September 11, 2001. He said the people killed in the train bombings were of 11 different nationalities. “An apparent goal of the terrorists is to divide the world along religious and national lines,” said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, who took part in today’s meeting. “The most appropriate response to these vicious attacks is to strengthen and expand relations between people of all faiths and cultural origins.” Meeting participants included the head of the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations (CCMO), representing more than 50 Islamic centers, mosques and Islamic organizations in the greater Washington metro area. “We join with all other American Muslims in both condemning the bombings and offering condolences to Ambassador Ruperez and the families of the victims,” said Muzammil Siddiqi, member of the executive council of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation also sent a letter of condolence to Ambassador Ruperez. CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 26 regional offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.

Why Did Spain Vote For Change?

Spain’s prime minister-elect has insisted that he will pull troops out of Iraq unless the UN takes charge despite criticism from two US officials. Earlier, the most senior Republican in the US Congress, Dennis Hastert, accused the Spanish people of appeasing terrorists. And top US military official Gen Richard Myers, said that this was not a conflict where neutrality was an option. The remarks came after Spain’s Socialist party won a shock victory in Sunday’s elections.