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CAIR's vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.

CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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Posted by on in American Muslims

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. It brought fun, food and family, without the stress of having to buy presents or decorate. As I've grown (a little bit) older, I've also greatly come to appreciate the opportunity to reflect on, and share, those things I am grateful for.

When life is so busy, it is easy to miss the things our family, friends and neighbors do for us. We may nod or say a quick thanks, but we also may be in such a rush that we don't even consider their contributions at all. Also, having grown up in the U.S., it is easy for me to forget all the amazing opportunities our country and society has provided me. And of course, it is impossible to fully reflect on all the blessings God provides us with.

From my discussions and work in the community, I know that almost all American Muslims feel a similar deep gratitude towards our community, country and Creator. Unfortunately, our appreciation may be missed or drowned out by Islamophobia and media distortions. But no one can correct this except us. Also, as American Muslims, we have a duty to publicly demonstrate the true spirit of Islam, which includes humility and thankfulness.

This is why myself, and others at CAIR, plan to use time to privately and publicly demonstrate our gratitude for all God has provided us. This will help communicate to our neighbors the things American Muslims truly hold dear, including our friends and family, our constitutional freedoms, and the work of our partners, allies and supporters. Of course this is not a new idea, but something we do need to be constantly reminded of. Others, such as Nadia Roumani of the Muslim Giving Project and Umar Hakim of the ILM Foundation, have already identified the need and encouraged American Muslims to share their gratitude. We are very happy to join in the campaign and add our voice to theirs.

Social media is one way we can publicly share these messages of appreciation, and this week we will be sharing messages on social media cites using the hashtag #MuslimsThank. In addition to sending messages directly to those we can thank (such as supporters and allies) we can also use the platform to identify the freedoms and ideals we benefit from. This will be a great way to show our American neighbors that we have more in common than they may think.

But before we get to the many others necessary to thank, I and others at CAIR first need to thank our supporters and the entire American Muslim community. It is an absolute blessing to be able to work to protect and empower our community; those of us able to work professionally towards these goals are incredibly fortunate. Of course we wouldn't be able to do this without your financial and other support or without the many community members who are our inspiration. May God reward you with goodness.

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Posted by on in Human Rights Violations

Burma's ongoing persecution of its Muslim minority may not be dominating the world's attention like other conflicts, but it should be. If the world was to look closer, it would find an ongoing genocide that only international pressure and intervention can stop.

Review recent history: Burma/Myanmar recently emerged from under the boot of a ruthless and erratic military junta. However, as representative government is taking hold, vicious ethnic and religious hatred is resurfacing. Burma is about 90% Buddhist, but the western state of Arakan has a significant population of Muslims known as Rohingya.

Although they have lived in Burma for centuries, the Rohingya have never been accepted as Burmese citizens by the former military government or by the current "democratic" one. Various media reports describe them as "stateless" or "refugees." They are despised by the majority, who often revile them as murderers, rapists and terrorists. They are prohibited from owning land or even from marrying without government permission. Most Burmese politicians are unwilling to defend this beleaguered minority. Even the nearly-sainted Aung San Suu Kyi finds it difficult to admit that the Rohingya are actually citizens of Burma.

Deprived of legal protection, Rohingya villages have been attacked by mobs that are often backed by the police. These mobs have pillaged Muslim villages, forcing the survivors to flee to squalid refugee camps along the Bangladeshi border. Human Rights Watch has called this a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

But the persecution of this vulnerable minority population has not stopped there. Last week news hit of a new Arakan policy, which was approved by the central government, that makes it illegal for Muslim families to have more than two children. Buddhists living in the same area are exempt from this restriction. The penalties for violating the policy are fines and jail time. Muslim women have reportedly resorted to unsafe, illegal abortions to avoid punishment.

Any time birth restrictions are imposed on a minority group you know something has gone very, very wrong. From the biblical King Herod's massacre of Bethlehem's innocents to the Australian campaign of stealing Aboriginal babies, history is littered with shameful examples of attempts to destroy a people by taking away their children. But it's shocking to realize that it is still happening in 2013, especially in a country that is being widely feted as a democratic success story.

Article II Section D of the UN Treaty to Prevent Genocide clearly identifies limiting births of a targeted people as a genocidal act. Stopping this ongoing catastrophe in Burma won't be easy, but the first step is to describe it accurately. We must call Burma's actions what they are: genocide.

Saqib Ali is government relations director for the Maryland chapter of CAIR.

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Posted by on in Freedom of Religion

It's generally true that most lawmakers are lawyers, or at least are familiar with the law. It appears, however, that that may not be the case in North Carolina, where at least 11 Republicans sponsored a clearly unconstitutional bill that would allow North Carolina to declare Christianity its state religion by arguing that the First Amendment doesn't apply to states.

One of the basics of constitutional law is that the Fourteenth Amendment (the one extending citizenship to former slaves) makes it clear that states are required to follow the U.S. Constitution, at least the provisions of the Bill of Rights.

The relevant section is called the Equal Protection Clause, and it reads:

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The purpose at the time was primarily to overturn Jim Crow laws, such as the barring of blacks from juries in West Virginia. But it has since been used much more broadly, to protect the infringement of citizen's fundamental rights as contained in the Bill or Rights.

Of course, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and religion. There is no more fundamental right in American tradition than the freedom to worship (it was numbered first for a reason). The First Amendment states, in its entirety:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Key in it is the Establishment Clause, which prevents the government from establishing a state religion.

Again, the Fourteenth Amendment means that states, and their divisions, need to respect all fundamental liberties of their citizens. But this point is apparently lost on some in North Carolina where the resolution with 11 Republican sponsors reads:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The reason for this clearly unconstitutional proposal is to establish Christianity as the official religion of North Carolina and ensure that all prayers offered at the beginning of meetings can be Christian ones. The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit charging the Rowan County Board of Commissioners with breaching the Establishment Clause by having 97% Christian prayers at their meetings, and some in the state capitol are trying to run around this.

Hopefully those with a basic understanding of the US Constitution kill the resolution in committee, where it currently is, but if not it certainly can't be upheld by any federal court. A better proposal might be to require some basic civics classes for the Republican cosponsors. I'm sure CAIR or the ACLU would be happy to oblige.

Todd Gallinger is the director of chapter development at CAIR's national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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Posted by on in Islamophobia

Earlier this week a controversy erupted in the Tennessee State Capitol. Apparently, multiple state law makers were concerned about the possible nefarious uses of a new floor level sink in a men's restroom. They were worried that it might be used by American Muslims as a place to wash their feet before praying.

To assure those lawmakers that Tennessee was not, in fact, making any allowance for American Muslims, Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley sent the following in an email to lawmakers: "I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men's restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use. It is, in layman's terms, a mop sink."

Yes, a mop sink.

Stephen Colbert continued the urgent mop sink investigation in a segment of his show Wednesday night, saying: "Think about it: A mop is nothing but a beard on a stick."

But with that major issue quelled, another example of "Creeping Sharia" emerged. In an op-ed in Tuesday's Washington Times (the far smaller and more conservative competitor to the Washington Post), noted Islamophobe Frank Gaffney expressed his concerns with Obama's new for Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.

Since 2009 Perez has been Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United Sates Department of Justice. Before that he was appointed by Maryland's Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley to as Secretary of Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Not surprisingly, Perez's prior accomplishments and experience don't matter to Gaffney. What matters to him is Perez's literal embrace of an American Muslim leader. You see, in 2011, Perez hugged the imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Imam Mohamed Magid.

Never mind that Imam Magid served on the Department of Justice's Countering Violent Extremism Working Group or that he's the president of a respected Muslim organization; he's a Muslim and no one in government should hug him.

The two examples should be humorous, and they are. But they do show the amount of mistrust that many in power have of Muslims, to the extent that they are truthfully afraid of a mop sink. Those lawmakers in Tennessee probably felt that way because of the misinformation they've been fed from active Islamophobes like Frank Gaffney. These are people who make a living (some of them a very nice living) by feeding fear and attacking Muslims. They spread a vision of the world where a hug is an affront to American ideals and a sink is threatening.

It's up to Americans of all faiths to unite behind an inclusive vision of our future together. We need to come together to speak out against such bigotry, and to laugh when it gets to this level of absurdity.

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