CAIR: ISLAMIC CHARITY'S TERROR TRIAL STARTS SOON
Nearly six years after it shut down the nation's largest Islamic charity for alleged ties to terrorism, the U.S. government begins the high-stakes prosecution this week of five top officials of the Holy Land Foundation, accused of funneling money to Palestinian militants.
In a 2001 Rose Garden appearance shortly after Sept. 11, President Bush said the charity was among those that "do business with terror."
Holy Land officials denied claims that the charity sent funds to Hamas, and tried unsuccessfully to force the U.S. to prove it in court. Ironically, the criminal case gives the charity officials - all but one of whom are U.S. citizens - their first chance to dispute specific allegations that they supported the terrorist group.
But the trial, with opening arguments scheduled for Tuesday, also turns a political spotlight on the Justice Department, which has had spotty success winning convictions when charging Americans with providing material support to terrorists. This case, shrouded in secrecy and heavily dependent on testimony from foreign agents, comes loaded with unique legal challenges.
The government's case has drawn special attention from inside and outside the U.S. Muslim community for an indictment that also lists about 300 individuals and groups as unindicted co-conspirators - among them long-established and U.S.-based organizations engaged in traditional lobbying efforts.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations, one of the groups listed as an unindicted co-conspirator, accused prosecutors of using smears and "McCarthyite tactics." He called it an "attempt to marginalize and disenfranchise mainstream Muslim groups."
In response to a similar listing of the 44-year-old Islamic Society of North America, based in Indiana, President Ingrid Mattson issued a statement saying: "ISNA is not now, and never has been, involved in any covert or illegal activity, and has never supported any terrorist organizations."
REPORT CARD ON PREJUDICE IN AMERICA
Most Americans believe their fellow citizens hold strong biases against minorities, according to a landmark poll by Zogby International commissioned by GSN. The survey of 10,387 American adults, one of the most comprehensive ever conducted on prejudice, according to Zogby, explores attitudes about race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, physical appearance, and politics. The poll's margin of error is +/- 1 percentage point.
The "Report Card on American Prejudice" is part of a wide-ranging effort by GSN to spur a national dialogue on intolerance and bigotry. The survey's release provides a powerful follow-up to the July 17th premiere of the groundbreaking new television series, "Without Prejudice?" which airs Tuesdays at 9 pm (EST) on GSN -- the network for games.
On Race: While 67% of respondents claimed to have no preference themselves between a white, black or Arab clerk in a convenience store, 71% said, "most Americans" would seek out the white clerk. Just 1% said Americans' first choice would be to approach a black clerk, while less than 0.5% said the same for an Arab clerk. And yet, ironically, 55% of respondents said race relations have improved over the past 10 years. Other results on race (where respondents picked from among several races):
* 73% said in the event of a shooting, most Americans would expect African Americans to be involved
* 55% said in the event of a drug bust, most Americans would expect African Americans to be involved
* 53% said in the event of identity theft; most Americans would expect whites to be involved
* 70% said in the event of insurance fraud, most Americans would expect whites to be involved
On Religion: By a wide margin, respondents believe Americans think Muslims are the most likely to engage in terrorism (83%). Moreover, 42% believe Americans would be most concerned about their child dating a Muslim; followed by an atheist (17%), and a Mormon (14%). In addition:
* 37% believe Americans think Catholics are most likely to be involved in sexual abuse -- far more than any other religious group
* The poll turned up relatively few instances of Americans believing their neighbors have negative views toward Jews
FL: COMMUNITY MUST CONFRONT HATE CRIME AGAINST MUSLIM FAMILY
On July 6, a Sarasota family's home was vandalized with obscenities and destroyed by arson while they were away (Herald-Tribune July 14, "Action sought on hate crime"). Apparently, the family of Hasib Sejfovic was targeted because they are Muslim. The family is from former Yugoslavia, where Bosnians and other Muslims faced genocide in the last decade because of their identity. They are political refugees sponsored by a local church.
The open attack on decency and civil society must be swiftly and publicly addressed.
Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel said, "The opposite of love is not hate; it's indifference." In the face of the religious slurs and destruction of a family's home, our community has two choices. One is to do nothing and let hate go unchallenged. The other option is to combat heinous offenses with acts of goodness.
In the face of hatred, inaction is interpreted as acceptance -- by the perpetrators, the community and the victims. Caring people in the community cannot simply shake their heads to themselves. They must act to support victims of hate crimes, speak up against intolerance and demonstrate acts of caring, or else hate takes root in the community and grows stronger. As one neighbor said, "I speak Spanish, and what if the people who burned their house decide they don't like Spanish-speaking people? This is horrible, and none of us should stand for it."
It is not only civil rights organizations that advocate for publicly dealing with hate. Consider this excerpt from a bulletin by the U.S. Department of Justice: "When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations. Of all crimes, hate crimes are most likely to create or exacerbate tensions, which can trigger larger community-wide racial conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. Hate crimes put cities and towns at risk of serious social and economic consequences."