Muslims welcome President's remarks on Islamophobia
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, tonight reacted positively to remarks by President Bush that repudiated rhetorical attacks on Islam by evangelical leaders.
In a meeting today with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the president said: "Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others." He also said: "By far, the vast majority of American citizens respect the Islamic people and the Muslim faith…Ours is a country based upon tolerance...And we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values."
Earlier in the day, CAIR issued a call for the president and other elected officials to condemn anti-Islamic rhetoric in America. That request, one of several addressed to the president in the recent past, came following attacks this week on Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Muslims by televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Pat Robertson.
SEE: "Bush Again Urged to Repudiate Anti-Muslim Hate"
Media reports quoted White House officials who said the president's remarks were prompted by recent attacks on Islam, particularly those of Pat Robertson, who said on Monday that Muslims are "worse than the Nazis." "He (Bush) wanted (to make) a clear statement," a senior White House official told Reuters.
"It is encouraging to hear President Bush address the issue of Islamophobic rhetoric in our society. We hope the president's rejection of anti-Muslim hate speech will be followed by similar statements from other elected officials and from mainstream religious leaders," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.
Hooper said Robertson's and Swaggart's smears were just the latest in a series of Islamophobic remarks by right-wing and evangelical commentators. Jerry Falwell recently called the Prophet Mohammed "a terrorist," while Franklin Graham claimed Islam is an "evil and wicked religion."
Bush again urged to repudiate anti-Muslim hate
A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today again called on President Bush and other elected officials to repudiate anti-Islamic rhetoric, just as American Muslims repudiate anti-Christian or anti-Semitic hate speech.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made that request following two more in a series of attacks on Islam and Muslims by right-wing and evangelical commentators. (CAIR recently issued a statement opposing anti-Semitism that read in part: "Just as we ask others to condemn anti-Muslim rhetoric…we must challenge those who would fan the flames of anti-Semitism.")
In a November 10 broadcast, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart referred to the Prophet Muhammad as a "sex deviant" and "pervert." He also called for the expulsion of all foreign Muslim university students in the United States and for profiling of airline passengers "with a diaper on their head and a fan-belt around their waist." Of American Muslims, Swaggart said: "We ought to tell every other Moslem (sic) living in this nation that if you say one word, you're gone."
SEE: rtsp://www.freedomstream.net/jsm/jsm_111002.rm (Forward your media player to minute 39)
CAIR also called on the president to repudiate similar comments made this week by televangelist Pat Robertson describing Muslims as being "worse than the Nazis." (AFP, Reuters) Robertson has in the past called the Prophet Muhammad "an absolute wild-eyed fanatic," a "robber" and a "brigand." He also called Islam "a monumental scam" and claimed the Quran, Islam's revealed text, "is strictly a theft of Jewish theology." (A charity created by Robertson, recently received a $500,000 grant under the president's faith-based initiative.)
In October, evangelical leader Jerry Falwell referred to the Prophet Muhammad as a "terrorist" on the CBS news program "60 Minutes." At least 10 people died in India during Hindu-Muslim clashes triggered by Falwell's comments. Franklin Graham, another evangelical leader, has called Islam an "evil and wicked religion."
These and other attacks on Islam come as the State Department is engaged in a worldwide ad campaign to portray Americans as being free of anti-Muslims bias.
"It is time for the president to step up to the plate on the issue of Islamophobia in America. Merely repeating the mantra that Islam is a 'religion of peace' does little to stem the rising tide of anti-Muslim hate or to mitigate the negative impact that hate has on Muslim families," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
He said the president's silence on this issue serves to divide America along religious lines, harms our nation's image worldwide and hinders the international effort to combat terrorism by alienating allies in the Muslim world.
Muslims pleased by arrests, caution against speculation
A national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today congratulated law enforcement officials for the arrest of two suspects in the series of sniper attacks in the Washington, DC, area, and at the same time cautioned against speculation and stereotyping based on the name of one suspect.
"Along with all Americans, Muslims hope today's arrests will bring an end to this tragic episode. The swift apprehension of the suspects can only be attributed to effective law enforcement by a number of local, state and national agencies. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in these senseless attacks," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"We are concerned that because a suspect in this case has the last name of 'Muhammad,' American Muslims will now face scapegoating and bias. Police reports indicate the suspects acted alone, based on their own motivations. There is no indication that this case is related to Islam or Muslims. We therefore ask journalists and media commentators to avoid speculation based on stereotyping or prejudice. The American Muslim community should not be held accountable for the alleged criminal actions of what appear to be troubled and deranged individuals," said Awad.
He urged American Muslims to go about their normal routines, but with added caution.
Last week, CAIR asked members of the American Muslim community to help the survivors of the sniper attacks and the families of those killed by donating to a fund set up for that purpose.
Hawaii Mosque targeted by hate literature
The FBI is investigating hate literature distributed at an Islamic center in Hawaii warning that Muslims in that state will be watched by "patriotic residents." Officials with the Muslim Association of Hawaii in Honolulu report that hundreds of small leaflets, headlined "ATTENTION RAG HEADS," were thrown into the fenced yard of the mosque sometime after 8 a.m. today.
The incident prompted a national Islamic civil rights group to call for increased police protection in the area of the mosque.
The leaflets distributed at the center read in part: "During the war on terrorism, the vigilant, patriotic residents of Hawaii will be keeping an eye on our Muslim 'friends'…[vulgar references deleted.]…every curry fundraiser will be checked to ensure that funds are not being funneled to support terrorist groups. Anyone found in violation will be strapped with explosives and shipped to Iraq. MAY GOD (NOT ALAH) BLESS AMERICA!! (The word "Allah" was misspelled in the original leaflet.)
"We believe the small minority of bigots in our society are being encouraged to take such actions by the anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from right-wing and evangelical leaders. Purveyors of hate believe they can act with impunity because of the silence of elected officials on the issue of Islamophobia," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group. He called on local law enforcement authorities to step up security in the vicinity of the Honolulu mosque and asked local religious and political leaders to support the Muslim community.
As evidence of the rise in anti-Islamic hate speech, Awad cited attacks on Islam and the Prophet Muhammad by Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. A coalition of Muslim groups recently asked President Bush to repudiate those attacks. The president has not yet responded to that appeal.
In just the last two months, there was a shooting attack on an Ohio mosque, vandalism at Islamic centers in Virginia and Idaho, and the revelation of a detailed plan to attack some 50 Florida mosques and schools. Other American mosques and Islamic institutions have received threatening messages.
CAIR is seeking to counter anti-Muslim hate in American society with its Library Project, a campaign to encourage Muslim individuals and groups to sponsor 18-item "library packages" of accurate and objective books, videos and audio cassettes about Islam and Muslims for distribution to as many as 16,000 public libraries nationwide. (SEE: www.libraryproject.org) There are an estimated 3,000 Muslims in Hawaii and some seven million in the United States.