Muslims question whether girl’s killing in Virginia was road rage, not hate crime

Islamic leaders are questioning Virginia detectives’ insistence that the beating death of a teenage Muslim girl appears to have been a case of road rage, saying the attack looks all too much like a hate crime.

Nabra Hassanen, 17, was bludgeoned with a baseball bat early Sunday by a motorist who drove up to about 15 Muslim teenagers as they walked or bicycled along a road, Fairfax County police said. A Hassanen family spokesman said all the girls in the group were wearing Muslim headscarves and robes.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there is a strong possibility the crime wouldn’t have happened if the teenagers weren’t Muslim.  CAIR called on Muslim communities to increase security during the holy month of Ramadan in light of the young woman’s murder and a string of other attacks in America and in Britain.

Road Rage Cited in Killing of Muslim Girl in Virginia

The Fairfax County Police Department are blaming “road rage” as the mostly likely reason, instead of a hate crime, in the killing of a Muslim teenager in Virginia whose body was found in a pond later.

Nabra Hassanen, 17, was killed on Sunday after she and a group of nearly 15 friends encountered a driver, Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, about 3:40 a.m., the police said in a statement.  The group of teenagers had been at a late-night event at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, Va., and were headed back to the mosque after a trip to a fast-food restaurant.

Mr. Torres was arrested at 5:15 a.m. on Sunday and charged with the murder after the Ms. Hassanen’s body was found.

The commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County, Raymond F. Morrogh,  who is prosecuting the case, said Mr. Torres was arraigned on Monday and was jailed without bond.  Hate crime charges could still be filed as the investigation progresses, he said earlier on Monday, adding, “I wouldn’t rule it out until I see all of the evidence.”

The news of the young girl’s murder emerged against the backdrop of the British attack of a mosque in London.

2 charged with lying to help friend linked to Islamic State

Two northern Virginia men have been indicted after authorities charged them with lying to the FBI to protect a friend under investigation for his support of the Islamic State group.  According to an FBI affidavit, the two were questioned about their friend Haris Qamar last year. The affidavit alleges the two knew Qamar had tried to join the Islamic State in 2014, but denied it to protect him.

The federal grand jury in Alexandria indicted 28-year-old Michael Queen of Woodbridge and 32-year-old Soufian Amri of Falls Church Tuesday on charges including obstruction of justice and making false statements involving international terrorism.

 

Virginia’s Eloquent Lawsuit Brilliantly Connects the Muslim Ban to Segregation

On Friday, a federal judge allowed Virginia to intervene in ongoing litigation over Donald Trump’s Muslim ban in order to protect Virginians who might be detained, deported, or denied re-entry under the executive order.  The state’s complaint eloquently explains why the ban infringes upon immigrants’ due process and equal protection rights while violating The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. However, the most striking section arrives at the end when the state invokes Justice John Marshall Harlan’s famous dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson:

This is a monumental case involving a monumental abuse of Executive Power. So it is worth remembering another monumental case, Plessy v. Ferguson, that enshrined in American law—for more than a half century—the approval of government-mandated racial segregation. The majority in Plessy reasoned that government-mandated segregation “does not discriminate against either race, but prescribes a rule applicable alike to white and colored citizens.” We admire the first Justice Harlan for putting the lie to that claim: “Every one knows” what was being justified, he said. The same is true here.

CAIR Releases Results of Muslim Voter Survey in 6 States

intent-to-vote(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/23/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today released the results of a survey indicating that 69 percent of registered Muslim voters will go to the polls on November 4 and that more than half will vote for Democratic Party candidates.

Domestic issues like the economy and health care continue to top the Muslim voters’ list of priority concerns in this election. Growing Islamophobia in American ranked as the third most important issue for Muslim voters.

*CAIR’s poll of more than 1500 registered Muslim voters in California, New York, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Virginia* was conducted using an independent automated call survey provider and asked three questions:

1. “Do you plan to vote in the November 4th midterm election?”
2. “Which political party do you support in the upcoming election?”
3. “What is the most important issue to you in this upcoming election?”

Va. GOP official resigns after controversial Facebook post

August 7, 2014

A Virginia GOP official who posted a message on his Facebook page that questioned whether Muslim Americans have made positive contributions to U.S. society has resigned.

Bob FitzSimmonds, treasurer of the state Republican Party, distributed his resignation letter to party officials Wednesday night.

“It seems that no matter how careful I might be, I will periodically give occasion for others to portray the party in a bad light, so long as I am a party official. After discussion with several party leaders it seems clear that I will either need to stop posting on social media or step down from my party office,” he wrote in a one-page letter to members of the party’s State Central Committee.

FitzSimmonds was unapologetic for his comments. In the letter, he said his resignation will not take effect until his position has been filled, which he said will probably happen after a state GOP meeting Aug. 16.

Last week, FitzSimmonds posted a comment about a message from President Obama marking the end of Ramadan. Obama praised Muslims for helping to build “the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy.”

5 years later, Fla.-Va. terrorism case in limbo

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — For five years, a federal judge upset with the prosecution of a Florida professor once accused of being a leading terrorist has simply refused to rule on his case. It’s left the government unable to deport him, unable to prosecute him, and flummoxed on how to move forward.

In April 2009, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema told lawyers she would rule “soon” on whether to dismiss criminal contempt charges filed in Virginia against former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, a longtime prominent Palestinian activist, who refused to testify in a separate terror-related investigation.

The ruling hasn’t come, and nothing has happened in the case. The delay is unusual for Alexandria’s federal courthouse, known in legal circles as the Rocket Docket for its swift disposition of cases. Legal experts say they can’t think of a similar case elsewhere that has languished for so long.

On the surface at least, Al-Arian — who has declined to invoke his speedy trial rights — benefits from his silence and the standoff. If the Virginia case were dropped, Al-Arian, 56, born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugees before coming to the U.S. in 1975, would be deported under the terms of a Florida plea.

Al-Arian’s critics said he was a leader of one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the world — the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — and that he used his position as a computer science professor as a base to quietly raise money for attacks. His supporters saw a man who was trapped by anti-Muslim hysteria, unfairly snared in a vague, amorphous web of guilt-by-association when his real goal was to help his native people in the Palestinian territories.

In 2003, federal prosecutors in Florida filed an indictment alleging Al-Arian was a leader of the terrorist group and complicit in the murder of innocent civilians. A jury acquitted him on numerous counts, and was hung on others. A mistrial was declared.

Pete White, a former prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia who is now a defense attorney, said it is rare for a criminal case to sit this long under these circumstances, especially in the Rocket Docket. There are no official statistics that document the rarity of a criminal case sitting in limbo for such a long time, but White and others said they could not think of a similar case, especially one that grew out of a terror-related investigation.

White said the only option prosecutors have to propel the case forward would be to file something called a writ of mandamus against Brinkema — basically asking another judge to order her to take action.

Anti-Muslim speakers still popular in law enforcement training

March 12, 2014

 

(RNS) Law enforcement officers in Virginia will no longer receive credit for a counterterrorism course taught by a former FBI agent and anti-Muslim activist after the academy where the course was taught canceled its accreditation the day it was scheduled to begin.

 

Source: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/03/12/anti-muslim-speakers-still-popular-law-enforcement-training/

In Virginia House of Delegates, a push for inclusive prayers

February 28, 2014

 

RICHMOND — Every day they’re in session, as they have for hundreds of years, the members of Virginia’s House of Delegates stand together and pray.

At least most of them do.

Nearly every legislature in the country begins sessions with a prayer, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as does Congress. It’s a tradition that dates back to the British Parliament. The Supreme Court ruled 30 years ago that legislative prayers were constitutional, as they were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country” as well as “a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people.” But a Jew and an atheist in Greece, N.Y., have challenged the prayers that began their town council meetings as violating the court’s requirement that prayers not favor one religion. The justices are reviewing an appeals court ruling that agreed with the women that eight years of almost exclusively Christian prayers violated constitutional protections.

“I’d like to be able to take part in the prayer,” said Del. Marcus B. Simon, a freshman Democrat from Fairfax County and one of the few Jewish lawmakers in the House who has made a point of standing in the back of the chamber when prayers are read. “I wish it was one I felt like I could take part.”

In part to reflect the seismic demographic shifts in recent decades that have helped JewishMuslimBuddhistHindu and Sikh communities take root in the commonwealth, prayers in the House are supposed to be “ecumenical” — not tied to a specific faith. Too often for some, they’re not.

“We start with a prayer to feel energized and rejuvenated,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), who is Jewish. “Why not be inclusive?”

This isn’t the only instance in which the legislature’s allegiance to Christian traditions — many of which are still championed by conservative lawmakers — have clashed with the changing sensibilities of the state’s population centers.

On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vowed to veto a bill that would allow students to pray and make religious remarks in public schools. The measure was hailed by some in the legislature, including Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun), who said that lawmakers should “give to our students the same religious freedom and same religious rights that we have granted ourselves.”

Prayers in the House have become contentious before. In 2010, delegates were urged toboycott a prayer from an imam because two of the Sept. 11 hijackers briefly worshiped at his Falls Church mosque — and because a former imam at the mosque is suspected by U.S. authorities of having aided al-Qaeda in terrorist activities. About a dozen delegates were not in the chamber for that day’s prayer.

That same year, then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) reversed a policy banning state police chaplains from referring to Jesus in public prayers.

Although the concerned delegates in Virginia appreciated Nardo’s response, prayers invoking specific Christian beliefs continue in the legislature. But signs of change are apparent.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/in-virginia-house-of-delegates-a-push-for-inclusive-prayers/2014/02/20/25c1eb6a-9971-11e3-b88d-f36c07223d88_story.html?wprss=rss_story-courts_law-NW3&_monetaClick=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

Virginia man’s challenge to no-fly list clears hurdle

January 23, 2014

 

A federal judge on Wednesday allowed a Virginia man’s challenge to his placement on the no-fly list to go forward, three years after he was stranded in Kuwait.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga issued a 32-page written ruling rejecting arguments of government lawyers who wanted the case dismissed. Trenga said that Gulet Mohamed suffers significant harm from his apparent placement on the list and the Constitution gives him the right to challenge his no-fly status.

Trenga acknowledged that Mohamed’s travel rights must be balanced against the government’s duty to protect its citizens from terrorism, but wrote that “the No Fly List implicates some of our basic freedoms and liberties as well as the question of whether we will embrace those basic freedoms when it is most difficult.”

The Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email late Wednesday.
The government has refused to say why it would have placed Mohamed on the no-fly list; in fact, the government won’t even confirm that Mohamed, or anyone else, is on the list at all. The government says only that people are placed on the list when it has “reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist.”

Mohamed, an Alexandria resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, was 19 when he was detained by Kuwaiti authorities in 2011. Mohamed says he was beaten and interrogated at the behest of the U.S. and denied the right to fly home.
U.S. authorities allowed Mohamed to fly home after he filed a federal lawsuit, but Mohamed says he remains on the list without justification.

Mohamed’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, who is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the ruling “a stinging rebuke to the government’s use of the no-fly list.”
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/va-mans-challenge-to-no-fly-list-clears-hurdle/2014/01/23/7e063730-8432-11e3-a273-6ffd9cf9f4ba_story.html