Muslim secret service agent removed from flight
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today demanded an apology from American Airlines for removing a Muslim Secret Service agent from a flight apparently based on religious and ethnic profiling.
The agent (for security reasons, CAIR is not releasing his name) alleges that he was kicked off American Airlines Flight 363 from Baltimore to Dallas on December 25 because the captain had concerns about his identity, even though the agent went through the proper procedures for armed security personnel who are passengers. The agent's identification was subsequently checked several times by American personnel and by local police. He even offered to have the Secret Service confirm his identity.
When the agent asked to go back on the plane to retrieve his jacket, the captain said: "I don't want him back on that plane." A code denying the agent access to other flights was also allegedly entered into American's computer system.
In a letter faxed today to American Chairman Donald J. Carty, CAIR wrote: "We are concerned that American Airlines would arbitrarily deny boarding to a Muslim passenger, particularly someone who has one of our nation's highest security clearances, merely because of his religion or ethnicity. The passengers on Flight 363 would actually have been more secure had Agent ----- been allowed to board."
"All Americans are concerned about improving safety for the traveling public, but religious and ethnic profiling is not the way to make flying more secure," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. Hooper suggested instead that all passengers be subjected to heightened security checks, that new security screening technologies be funded and implemented and that airlines adopt strict baggage matching procedures.
CAIR asked that American Airlines clarify its policy on racial and religious profiling so that a similar incident does not occur in the future. The group's civil rights department has received more than 160 reports of airport profiling of Muslims or those who are perceived to be "Middle Eastern" since the terrorist attacks of September 11.
CAIR: Foiled bombings incited by anti-Muslim "Smear Campaign"
A prominent American Muslim group tonight blamed what it called the "ongoing anti-Islamic smear campaign" by right wing and pro-Israel extremists for creating an atmosphere of Islamophobia that may have incited the Jewish Defense League (JDL) to plot a terrorist bombing at a California mosque and other sites. (SEE: www.jdl.org)
JDL chairman Irv Rubin and another member of that group were arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of plotting to blow up the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and the offices of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Rubin was arrested after the last bomb-making components were allegedly delivered to his co-conspirator's home. Other bomb components were seized at the home. In court documents, authorities quoted one of those involved in the plot as saying that Arabs "need a wake-up call."
"Since the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, a number of extremist conservative and pro-Israel groups and individuals, apparently alarmed at the growing prominence of American Muslims, orchestrated an
ongoing anti-Islamic smear campaign seeking to marginalize the our community and its leadership," said Omar Ahmad, board chairman of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"Words do have an impact, particularly on those who already hold deep-seated hostility toward Islam and Muslims. For the safety of our community, this malicious campaign must stop," said Ahmad.
"We extend thanks to the FBI for preventing a domestic terrorist attack. We call on President Bush to condemn all those who may have been involved in the plot. We request that law enforcement authorities offer added protection for mosques nationwide and investigate the possibility that other JDL terrorist cells may exist. And finally, we ask that commentators not link Judaism or the Bible to terrorism as many have done with Islam and the Quran," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad also offered support for Rep. Issa, an Arab-American lawmaker who has come under vicious attack by some of the same commentators who vilify Muslims.
In three incidents within the last month, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) sought unsuccessfully to have Muslim speakers barred for public events designed to promote intercultural understanding. CAIR has received many reports of similar behind-the-scenes
efforts.* (See note below.)
The smear campaign recently went public when the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Pro-Israel or Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense League and the Middle East Forum think tank have provided news organizations with reams of critical documentation on Muslim leaders
in recent weeks." (Los Angeles Times, 11/3/2001) A Washington Post reporter wrote on November 18 that, "Jewish groups and some conservatives have been lobbying the president to stop courting
certain Muslim leaders."
CAIR also cited several recent articles by the Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes in which he made the bizarre claim that American Muslims seek to impose Islamic law in the United States.
* NOTE: In 1999, the ADL agreed to pay $25,000 to a community relations fund that resolved a class-action lawsuit filed in 1993 accusing the ADL of spying on Arab-American, pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid groups and individuals. (AP, Sept. 28, 1999)
Other Jewish groups protested the ADL leadership's 1990 attendance at the funeral of anti-Arab extremist Meir Kahane, whose group is now listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. (Tikkun, July 1, 1994) Kahane founded the JDL in the 1960s. An off-shoot of Kahane's group continues to raise funds in the United States. (SEE: www.kahane.org) The FBI raided offices associated with that group in January.
Muslims ask Rabbi to clarify remarks about Quran
A prominent national Islamic advocacy group today called on Rabbi Marvin Hier to clarify his accusation that the Quran, Islam's revealed text, holds "extremist" views. Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, made that claim during a discussion of the possibility of peaceful coexistence between Judaism, Christianity and Islam on CNN's Larry King Weekend last Saturday.
"Rabbi Hier's inaccurate and offensive claim that the Quran, the very bedrock of the Islamic faith, contains 'extremist' views is seemingly incompatible with his leading role in an institution that purports to promote tolerance and interfaith understanding. He should clarify these remarks to avoid tainting his museum's reputation with anti-Muslim bigotry," said Council on American-Relations (CAIR) Communications Director
Rabbi Hier told Larry King:
RABBI HIER: "There are direct references in the Quran to violence. I'll read one from the Quran: 'O you who believe, take not the Jews and Christians for friends. He among you who taketh them for friends is one of them.' And that's a quote from the Quran."
LARRY KING: "It doesn't say kill them."
RABBI HIER: "No, but it infers, of course, that there is a difference. And there are other quotes, as well. So if someone asks me straight: Are there any extremist views in the Quran? I would say yes."
A Muslim guest on the program, Dr. Maysam Al-Faruqi of Georgetown University, corrected Hier's mistranslation of the Quranic text. She said:
"The verse that the Rabbi actually quoted is not at all what he says. It is: 'Do not take Christians and Jews as auwliya,' which does mean friends, it means as overlords. In other words, people who will dictate to you your behavior. In fact, the verse that deals with friendship is that one that says: 'As for such as those who do not fight you on account of your faith and neither drive you forth from your homeland, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and equity, he only forbids you to turn in friendship to those who fight you because of your faith.'"
In its letter faxed to Rabbi Hier requesting the clarification and proposing a meeting with Muslim representatives, CAIR quoted the Quranic verse: "Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance." (16:125)
This controversy comes on the heels of a similar incident in which Christian evangelist Franklin Graham was widely criticized for claiming Islam is an "evil and wicked religion."
Freeze on group's assets questioned by U.S. Muslims
National American Muslim organizations today asked President Bush to reconsider his decision to freeze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), one of the nation's largest Muslim charities.
The charity had been targeted by pro-Israel organizations and individuals for several years because of what they said was the group's support for Palestinian militants. HLF officials have consistently denied those charges and no one has made public any concrete evidence to support today's action. The only specific accusation made against HLF has been that among the thousands of Palestinians who received its relief aid were the children of suicide bombers.
In a joint statement issued today, the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslim Council (AMC), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Muslim Student Association of USA and Canada, said:
"American Muslims support President Bush's effort to cut off funding for terrorism and we call for a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict. These goals will not be achieved by taking food out of the mouths
of Palestinian orphans or by succumbing to politically-motivated smear campaigns by those who would perpetuate Israel's brutal occupation.
"No relief group anywhere in the world should be asked to question hungry orphans about their parent's religious beliefs, political affiliations or legal status. Those questions are not asked of recipients of public
assistance whose parents are imprisoned or executed in the United States, and they should not be a litmus test for relief in Palestine.
"Charity is a duty for people of all faiths. In fact, it is one of the five 'pillars' of Islam. Islamic charities in this country help American Muslims fulfill their religious obligation to help orphans and the needy. The frozen assets therefore belonged not to HLF, but to the entire Muslim community. This action is particularly disturbing, coming as it does during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims make many of their annual charitable donations.
"We ask that President Bush reconsider what we believe is an unjust and counterproductive move that can only damage America's credibility with Muslims in this country and around the world and could create the impression that there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack
HLF'S STATEMENT ON THE FREEZING OF THEIR ASSETS
Below is a statement from the Holy Land Foundation released early Tuesday after the Bush Administration froze the organization's assets.
"The Holy Land Foundation denies allegations that it provides any financial support to terrorist groups or individuals.
The foundation is a humanitarian organization that has worked to serve the needy both at home and abroad since 1989.
We feel the Holy Land Foundation has been unfairly targeted in the nationwide smear campaign to undermine Muslims and the institutions that serve them.
The decision by the U.S. government to seize the charitable donations of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan is an affront to millions of Muslim Americans who entrust charities like ours to assist in fulfilling
their religious obligations.
We are confident that the Holy Land Foundation will eventually be cleared of these allegations."