FL Muslims say Double Standard applied in Mosque bomb plot
The Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-FL) today expressed concern about what the civil rights group called a "double standard" in a plea agreement arranged with a woman who allegedly took part in a plot to blow up Islamic institutions in that state.
Kristi Goldstein, 28, was suspected of planning, along with her husband, to blow up Florida Islamic sites in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Authorities say explosives, bomb-making materials, bulletproof vests, ammunition, and a list of 50 mosques and Islamic centers were found in the couple's home in August of last year.
Under the agreement with prosecutors, Goldstein entered a guilty plea today to a single count of possession of illegal firearms, referring to five bombs that were to be used in the attacks. She also agreed to cooperate with authorities in testifying against her husband and others who may have been part of the terrorist cell.
At today's hearing, Goldstein showed no remorse when entering her plea to the reduced charges and was released pending sentencing. She is expected to receive a three-year sentence.
"This was a clear case of terrorism directed at the Muslim community in Florida. Unfortunately, the case was not treated with the seriousness required by the nature of the charges or the potential loss of life that would have resulted had the terrorist plot been carried out," said CAIR-FL Executive Director Altaf Ali. Ali noted that to date, law enforcement authorities have refused to release the list of the Islamic institutions in Florida targeted in the Goldsteins' plot. He added that many in Florida's Islamic community believe the case would have been handled differently had the defendants been Muslims.
"We are pleased with the arrest and conviction of Ms. Goldstein, even though on reduced charges, but we are also concerned that other members of this terrorist cell may be at large and ready to carry out the original plot," said CAIR-FL Communications Director Ahmed Bedier.
Don't link Hajj to terrorism say Muslims
A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today expressed concern that Friday's announcement of a rise in the national terror alert from yellow to orange seemed to link the Muslim religious observance of Hajj to terrorism.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Hajj, or pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, is a once-in-a-lifetime journey of spiritual purification, repentance and renewal, not an excuse for killing innocent people. Hajj is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.
In his news conference announcing the new terror alert, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the decision to increase the threat level was based on intelligence pointing to a possible attack timed to coincide with the hajj.
"The unnecessary linkage of Hajj to terrorism merely serves to promote the growing perception in the Muslim world that the war on terrorism is in reality an attack on Islam. That perception damages our nation's interests and could generate increased suspicion of and discrimination against ordinary Muslims. Hajj has nothing to do with terrorism. To imply otherwise is an insult to the American Muslim community. Attorney General Ashcroft needs to clarify his position on this important issue," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad added that American Muslims support efforts to protect the United States from terrorist attacks, but reject any suggestion that Islam and terrorism are inextricably linked.
He said this is not the first time the administration has linked Islamic religious observances to terrorism. In the past, similar government alerts were issued during the month-long Ramadan fast.
Arizona FBI asked to investigate anti-Muslim threat
The Arizona office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ) today asked that state's office of the FBI to investigate an Internet threat against Muslims.
The threat was received December 28, 2002, in an e-mail message to the Washington, D.C., office of the Islamic civil rights and advocacy group. In that e-mail, the person who provided her full name and may live in Arizona wrote: (A person with the same name as the author of the threat maintains a personal web page on the Internet.)
"You [Muslims] just got off the friggin boat and you already are the most hated immigrants of all time----your ties to home are still thousands of times stronger then any ties you will ever have to REAL Americans! Like I said---you are unwanted SCUM---If you had any honor at all--you'd leave!!!!!!! I still hate all Muslims and will hurt you in some way!" In an earlier message, the same person wrote: "You are a curse on the USA! LEAVE!!! You dont even have enough honor to leave a country that you are destroying!! I HATE ALL Muslims!!"
CAIR-AZ sent the threat to the Phoenix office of the FBI requesting an investigation. To date, and despite several follow-up messages, the group has only received an acknowledgement of its initial report.
"We hope threats against Muslims will be taken as seriously as threats against any other Americans," said CAIR-AZ Executive Director Deedra Abboud.
National Muslim group opens new office in Texas
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced today that it has opened a new office in Houston, Texas. CAIR-Houston joins 15 other offices the Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group has nationwide and in Canada.
The new CAIR-Houston office will assist the local Muslim community in dealing with issues related to political participation, civil rights and interfaith dialogue. Upcoming events planned by the office include a public forum on new INS registration requirements for Muslim visa-holders and a voter registration drive at local mosques. There are existing CAIR offices in Austin and Dallas/Fort-Worth.
(The CAIR-Houston INS forum will take place February 11 at the University of Houston.)
"We will work to address the needs of a growing Muslim population and will promote tolerance and religious diversity in our community," said CAIR-Houston President Tarik Hussein. Hussein said a recent CAIR-Houston fundraising event was sold out.
"The expansion of CAIR nationwide reflects a growing awareness in the American Muslim community that civil liberties and religious freedom can only be maintained through active social and political participation at the local level," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. Ahmad added that CAIR plans to open four more offices around the country over the next few months.
There are several hundred thousand Muslims in Texas, seven million in America and some 1.2 billion worldwide. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country and around the world. For background on the American Muslim community, see The Mosque in America: A National Portrait.