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Canadian newspaper publishes apology for anti-Muslim article
A Canadian newspaper apologized publicly today for a weekend article titled "Islam Allows for No Other Faith" that claimed the religion of Islam is "false" and that the growth of Islam is an "ominous threat to our western way of life."
The commentary by J. Craig also claimed that Islam is merely the "deification of seventh-century Arabian culture." Craig also wrote that Allah is really an "Arabian moon god." (Arabic-speaking Christians also use the word "Allah" when referring to God.")
The Winnipeg Free Press in Winnipeg, Manitoba, published its apology after receiving "hundreds" of complaints from Muslims in Canada, the United States and around the world. Those complaints followed the distribution of a CAIR Action Alert. In his apology, headlined "Offence to Islam Not Taken Lightly," Free Press editor Nicholas Hirst admitted that the commentary "was condemnatory and, had I been Muslim, I should have found it offensive."
Hirst wrote: "In retrospect, the standards of debate to which we would hold ourselves were breached on Saturday. Like others, we learn from our mistakes. The views expressed are not the views of this newspaper...The letter, however, crossed the normal bounds of acceptable debate within this newspaper. I am responsible for what appears in this newspaper and I offer my apology for the offence caused." The newspaper also published a number of letters critical of the inaccurate information presented in Saturday's article.
Shahina Siddiqui of the Manitoba Islamic Association wrote: "You cannot imagine the pain and suffering you have caused our people and especially our children who were born in this country and who naively believe that Canada is a country where their faith is respected and protected and that they are free to practise their religion." A Texas Muslim said, "I really don't mind people criticizing and not agreeing with my faith, Islam. But they should do that in a respectful and accurate manner."
"This type of inaccurate and offensive article goes beyond the limits of public debate into hate-speech that could harm the safety and well-being of the Muslim community in Canada," said Dr. Sheema Khan chair of CAIR's Canadian office (CAIR-CAN). "CAIR thanks all those who contacted the newspaper to express their outrage. Every letter had an impact," said Khan.
New movie drops
Alhamdulillah, CAIR today announced the end of a two-year campaign to have Paramount Pictures drop "Muslim" villains in the new film "The Sum of All Fears" currently beginning production in Montreal, Canada.
Director Phil Alden Robinson told CAIR that unlike the Tom Clancy novel on which the movie is based, "The Sum of All Fears" will not have Muslims as the villains. (According to the book, terrorists detonate a nuclear device at the Super Bowl in Denver. The bomb comes from an unexploded Israeli nuclear device found on the Golan Heights.)
In his letter to CAIR, Robinson wrote: "I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination."
For the past two years, CAIR has been in contact with Paramount Pictures and Mace Neufeld, the film's original director, to discuss Muslim characters in the book and their possible use in the screenplay.
"Given the existing prejudice against and stereotyping of Islam and Muslims, we believe this film could have had a negative impact on the lives of ordinary American Muslims, particularly children. We are pleased that Mr. Robinson took the initiative to help eliminate religious and ethnic bias from his film. This move should set a precedent for other movie producers," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
Ahmad added that each year, CAIR issues an annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights outlining hundreds of incidents involving anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment and even physical violence. He said that many of these incidents result from the negative images of Islam and Muslims put forward in the entertainment industry.
"The Sum of All Fears" is not the first film that had the potential to stereotype Muslims and Arabs. In recent years, films such as "Rules of Engagement," "True Lies" and "Executive Decision" portrayed Muslims and Arabs as irrational terrorists who only wish to kill innocent Americans.
In 1998, CAIR led the Muslim community in a sustained campaign to educate the public about what it said were negative stereotypes in the 20th Century Fox film "The Siege." That film was set in Brooklyn, N.Y., and involved a series of terrorist bombings by "Muslims" that prompted the American military to declare martial law and carry out a mass arrest of American Muslims and Arab-Americans. The scenario was similar to the detention of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
CAIR has acted as a consultant on other films such as DreamWorks SKG's "Prince of Egypt."
Muslims win accommodation in public schools
Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah). CAIR has announced that public schools in Georgia, Virginia and Texas will grant religious accommodation to Muslim students and teachers. These accommodations are now available to you and your children.
GEORGIA - TEACHERS ALLOWED TIME FOR JUMAHIn Atlanta, Ga., the public school district has agreed to allow a teacher to attend Jumah prayers after initially refusing that request. In response to a complaint by CAIR, the district's legal representative said: "...it is always our intent to comply with the law and we will do so in this instance."
VIRGINIA - STUDENTS ALLOWED TO WEAR HIJABThe principal of Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge, Va., has apologized after threatening to send a Muslim student to detention each day she wore hijab to school. In a letter to the student, Gar-Field's principal wrote: "Please accept my apology for any misunderstanding or discomfort which you have experienced."
VIRGINIA - STUDENTS EXCUSED FROM MUSIC CLASSIn another Virginia incident, officials at Samuel Tucker Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., will excuse a Muslim student from music class on religious grounds. After CAIR provided the school with a copy of the Virginia Board of Education regulations dealing with the issue, officials allowed the girl to visit the library during music class.
TEXAS - MUSLIM ATHLETES ALLOWED MODEST DRESSA Muslim student at Cedar Park High School in Cedar Park, Texas, is being allowed to join the track team after the coach initially told her she would be barred unless she wore shorts. Following discussions with CAIR, the school's principal agreed to let the student wear a loose tracksuit.
"The resolution of these incidents marks a pattern of increasing respect for religious beliefs and practices in the public arena," said CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator S. Eric Shakir.
Muslim leader barred from capitol hill meeting on Sudan
An American Muslim leader of Sudanese heritage has been denied the right to attend a meeting today on Capitol Hill designed to "galvanize U.S. policy on persecution in Sudan." (The Washington Times, 2/8/2001) A representative of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) told Imam Mohamed Magid of Herndon, Va., that his request to join the meeting in the congressman's office had been denied.
Imam Magid is a respected and active member of the Sudanese-American community. He is also president of the American Sudanese League and spiritual leader of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Herndon. In addition, Imam Magid is a resident of Wolf's district.
CAIR yesterday sent a formal request to Wolf asking that Imam Magid be allowed to attend today's meeting. In his letter to Wolf, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote:
"American Muslims have grown increasingly concerned that the issue of Sudan is being used by those with anti-Islamic political or religious agendas to stereotype Islam and Muslims worldwide. Having a Muslim representative at your meeting would go a long way toward dispelling that troubling impression. It would also help American Muslims to participate more effectively in the effort to end human rights abuses by all sides in the Sudanese civil war."
"Wolf's decision seems to confirm our suspicions that the sponsors of the Sudan sanctions campaign are not interested in hearing from anyone whose views might differ from their own. We can only hope that foreign policy will be formulated based on American interests, not on those of special-interest groups," said Awad after learning of Wolf's action.
According to the Washington Times, those meeting today include "Christian groups, human rights organizations and the Congressional Black Caucus." Two likely participants (the list of attendees has not been released) include officials of the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) and Christian Solidarity International (CSI), the two most prominent groups lobbying for sanctions on Sudan.
Muslims have been suspicious of the political and religious agendas of both groups, saying they are often associated with the extremist wing of the pro-Israel lobby or with those who are trying to convert residents of Southern Sudan to their version of Christianity.
According to an investigative report by a Muslim Internet news service (iViews.com), AASG founder Charles Jacobs has led or been associated with at least four hard-line pro-Israel groups. One of AASG's co-founders was an official of the rebel South Sudan Independence Army (SSIA). The State Department says the SSIA massacred more than 100 residents of the southern Sudanese town of Akot in 1994. (Human Rights Report)
AASG also publishes communiqués of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the largest rebel group fighting the Sudanese government. A December 6, 1999, editorial by The New York Times said this of the SPLA: "Though its members claim to be 'Christians' resisting Islamization, they have behaved like an occupying army, killing, raping and pillaging."
Christian Solidarity International promotes the controversial practice of "slave redemption," in which captives taken during the course of inter-tribal fighting are redeemed for cash. Critics say this practice is open to fraud and only serves to provide funds used to buy weapons that help prolong the 17-year-long civil war.
The conflict in Sudan is often mischaracterized as a struggle between the "Arab Muslim" North and the "black African" South. In fact, all Sudanese are "Africans" and almost all, whether Christian, Muslim or animist, would be considered "black" in this country. There are Christians fighting on the government side and Muslims fighting on the side of the rebels.
Muslim workers in MN, IN, and OH religious rights
Several Midwestern companies will now accommodate the religious practices of Muslim employees following intervention by CAIR.
Some fifty female Muslim employees at the Bloomington, Minn., facility of in-flight catering giant LSG Sky Chefs challenged a uniform policy that would have forced them to wear pants and sports shirts. The women said the uniform violated Islamic standards of modesty.
Representatives of CAIR's Minnesota office (CAIR-MN) contacted LSG Sky Chefs' corporate office to request religious accommodation for the workers. Company officials agreed to CAIR-MN's request for a modified uniform. The revised uniform policy gives Muslim women the option to wear their own ankle-length non-flowing skirts under long-sleeve lab coats.
"The company was not opposed to making an accommodation to satisfy [Muslim] religious requirements as long as such accommodations fall within the applicable health and safety regulations," said Priscilla Loges, LSG Sky Chefs' Corporate Manager for Diversity.
Damon Drake, spokesman for CAIR-MN, said, "LSG Sky Chefs responded to our requests with an open mind and moved quickly to agree to a simple policy change that makes sense for everyone."
Arlington, Texas-based LSG Sky Chefs, Inc. is the world's largest in-flight catering firm with combined annual revenues of over $3 billion.
Muslim security officers at the Indianapolis, Ind., facility of Securatex, a suburban Chicago-based private security and detective agency, will now be permitted to wear what they believe are religiously-mandated beards following intervention by CAIR's Washington, D.C., office.
CAIR contacted Securatex after two Muslim employees were told to shave their beards in order to keep their jobs. Securatex's director of human resources agreed to allow Muslim employees to keep their beards if they provided a letter stating they were worn for religious reasons.
More than fifty Muslim employees at Columbus-area Value City Department Stores will now be allowed to take time off to perform their obligatory Islamic prayers. The workers, most of whom are refugees from Somalia, were asking to take few minute prayer break.
Representatives of the CAIR's Ohio office (CAIR-Ohio) contacted Value City corporate office to request religious accommodation for the workers. Company officials agreed to CAIR-Ohio's request. In addition, company officials are working on providing quiet areas for prayers and designating restrooms for ritual washing before the prayer.
CAIR publishes a booklet, titled "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," designed to prevent these types of incidents from occurring.
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