Since Sept. 11, we've heard a lot about "Muslim extremists" and "moderate Muslims." But who defines these terms? Seeking the American Muslim mainstream, whose charts should we use?
For insight, I turned to Dr. Omaran Abdeen, 31, a nephrologist and San Diego representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This, I'm told, was a mistake.
The Media Research Center, a self-described "conservative media watchdog organization," calls the council a "radical group."
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a think tank based in Philadelphia, says that Abdeen's group is "noisy and vicious."
Abdeen's response: "Certain commentators, certain pundits, have consistently portrayed Muslims in a certain light -- especially American Muslims. They almost always make our loyalty and our patriotism suspect. I find this suspect, that they never find anything good to say about the group."
As you've doubtless guessed, Abdeen is not a California native. But he speaks unaccented English despite his exotic birthplace -- Chattanooga.
I had no trouble understanding him. I had a tough time, though, seeing him as radical, noisy or vicious…
Neighbors" is Wednesday at Breeze Hill Elementary School, 1111 Melrose Way, Vista. Last week, while moderating the first session, I met a panel of bona fide, honest-to-Allah members of the faith…
UCSD Medical School and has lived in San Diego ever since. While he knows the area, he was surprised by the post-terrorism, anti-Muslim backlash. And by the backlash to the backlash.
"In the first week after Sept. 11, the Islamic Center received 30 to 40 bouquets and 50 to 60 cards of support and sympathy, all from non-Muslims. There were even offers to do the shopping for Muslim women who are afraid to leave home."
In other words, many San Diegans redefined the term "Muslim neighbor." Muslim? OK. Neighbor? First and foremost.
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Secretary of State Colin L. Powell hosted a Ramadan "Iftar" dinner this evening for representatives of the American Muslim community. Dinner attendees included several Muslim fire department and police personnel who took part in the relief efforts following the recent terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.
(Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours. An Iftar is the meal that comes after the sunset prayer. Dinner attendees first broke their fast with traditional dates and water before offering their prayer.)
Powell told the gathering that there still remains "much ignorance and confusion" about Islam. He encouraged American Muslims to reach out and educate others about their faith. Secretary Powell also noted that, as a member of a minority community, he had to deal with the same kind of profiling that many Muslims and Arab-Americans have experienced since September 11. SEE: http://www.state.gov/secretary/
"Secretary Powell is to be congratulated for his efforts to reach out to American Muslims. Muslims have unique perspectives on many important policy issues that need to be considered as the war on terrorism goes forward," said Council on American Islamic-Relations (CAIR) Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, who attended tonight's dinner. Hooper presented Powell with Ramadan greeting cards made by local Muslim students. The cards wished him a happy Ramadan and asked that America help feed the hungry in this country and in Afghanistan.
"American Muslims can play a valuable role in the fight against terror by serving as a bridge of understanding to the Islamic world. Events like these offer a good opportunity to let policy-makers get to know Muslim leaders on a personal level," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
Fasting (along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. (To download CAIR's "Ramadan Media Kit," go to http://www.cair-net.org/ramadan2001. The kit includes "Ramadan Facts," "Ramadan Q&A" and "Q&A About Islam and American Muslims.")
Racial profiling has finally hit home for me. One of my closest friends from college, Usmaan Ahmad, a graduate of Washington University and a student at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, was escorted off of an American Airlines plane because of his appearance (Nov. 24 news article).
It enrages and saddens me that our country, a nation founded on the bedrock of civil liberties and freedoms, is now succumbing to the greatest form of terrorism, which is ignorance. How are we to combat terrorism at its root if we perform acts of terror on our peaceful citizens?
What did Usmaan do aside from being Muslim? Did he not pass through the security checkpoint? Were his bags not conforming to FAA standards?
Usmaan attends the best diplomacy school that our nation has to offer. For years, he has been directly involved in human rights struggles in East Timor, Tibet and Kashmir -- regions that we in our charmed lives fail to consider.
"Safety concerns" were the rationale for throwing him off the flight. Even though he may have been embarrassed by this, as his friend and brother, I promise you that he will continue to struggle for the betterment of humankind and that the flight attendant who threw him off will, one day, be ashamed of her blatantly racist, ignorant and un-American gestures.
Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar
Midwest Communications Director
Council on American-Islamic Relations