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."
State department PR head meets with U.S. Muslims
The newly appointed head of the administration's effort to present a positive image of America in the
Islamic world met today with several representatives of the American Muslim community. Charlotte Beers, under secretary of state for public diplomacy, called for the meeting to open a dialogue with Muslims on issues related to how America is perceived in other countries, particularly those with Muslim majority populations.
Muslim participants introduced topics such as American foreign policies that do not serve our nation's long-term international interests, the ability and willingness of American Muslims to serve as a bridge of
understanding to the Islamic world and the value of presenting the American Muslim community as an example of the successful application of religious diversity.
"We appreciate Ms. Beers' efforts to reach out to the Muslim community and we offer our assistance in helping her present an accurate portrayal of the positive role Muslims play in this society," said Council on American Islamic-Relations (CAIR) Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, who attended today's meeting.
Hooper also told Beers that recent defamatory statements about Islam from conservative commentators undermine President Bush's repeated statements that the current campaign against terrorism is not a war on Islam. He cited evangelist Franklin Graham's claim that Islam is an "evil and wicked religion."
Groups represented at the meeting included CAIR, North American Council for Muslim Women and Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
Frank Graham claims Islam is "a Very Evil and Wicked Religion"
A prominent American Muslim advocacy group today requested a meeting with Christian evangelist Franklin Graham to discuss his recently-revealed remarks that attacked Islam as an "evil and wicked religion."
In a report aired Friday on "NBC Nightly News," Graham stood by remarks he made about Islam last month at the dedication of a chapel in North Carolina. At that event, Graham said: "We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion." In the NBC report, Graham said, "I don't believe this [Islam] is this wonderful, peaceful religion."
On Sunday, Graham issued a statement in which he said: "It is not my calling to analyze Islam or any other religions, though I recognize that all religions have differences. In the past, I have expressed my concerns
about the teachings of Islam regarding the treatment of women and the killing of non-Muslims or infidels." Graham said he would have no further comments on the issue.
In a letter sent today to Graham, Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote: "We have found that negative impressions of Islam are most often based on a lack of accurate and objective information. As God states in the Quran, Islam's revealed text: 'O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another). Indeed the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most righteous.' (49:13)
"The Quran also states: '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)
"I would therefore respectfully request a meeting during which recognized Muslim scholars may offer you information about Islam, particularly Islam's stance on the rights of women and minorities, that is free of bias and distortions. At this time of national and international crisis, it is imperative that we come together as people of faith to promote inter-religious understanding and mutual respect."
Franklin Graham is the son of Billy Graham, an internationally-known minister who has counseled a number of world leaders. The younger Graham offered the benediction at President Bush's swearing-in ceremony. On September 14, at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service in Washington's National Cathedral, his father said: "We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be."
CT forum rejects AJC attempt to exclude muslim speaker
In the second such incident in two weeks, a Jewish group's call to have a Muslim speaker excluded from a public forum designed to promote intercultural understanding has been rejected by event organizers.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) had asked that Ghazi Khankan, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation's New York chapter, be denied the right to speak today at a panel discussion, titled "Understanding Islam - after 9/11," sponsored by the Connecticut Humanities Council and the World Affairs Forum. Other panelists include Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and author James Reston, Jr. (The forum will be held at 4 p.m. on the University of Connecticut's Broad Street Campus.)
Last week, the Florida Commission on Human Relations rejected a similar demand by that state's chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to exclude a Muslim representative from a panel discussion at an annual civil rights conference.
In response to the AJC demand, World Affairs Forum Executive Director Eileen Heaphy was quoted as saying, "He [Khankan] comes highly recommended and we look forward to hearing from him."
"AJC e-mail messages circulated to religious and community leaders, and obtained by CAIR, make false and defamatory accusations against our organization," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. In one e-mail from the AJC's Ellen Israelson wrote, "Regarding Ghazi Khankan - I have an entire file on Ghazi…Ghazi has always been vocally anti-Israel." (See note below concerning similar activities by the ADL.)
"As we have recently documented, this is just one part of a nationwide, politically-motivated smear campaign by the AJC, the ADL and other Islamophobic groups designed to marginalize and disenfranchise the Muslim community in America. We thank the event organizers for rejecting these exclusionary tactics," said Ahmad.
"Muslims, like every emerging ethnic or religious minority in our nation, have to struggle to take their proper place in the American social and political arena. But no other group ever had to contend, as we do, with
another minority actively seeking to block its progress. We believe the current ratcheting-up of this malicious campaign is prompted by alarm at the growing influence American Muslims are having on this country's political process," said Ahmad.
To support its assertion that there is on ongoing smear campaign against Muslim groups, CAIR cited a recent Los Angeles Times article that laid direct responsibility for the campaign at the feet of specific
organizations. Times reporter Solomon Moore 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)
Today's Washington Post carries an article that says "Jewish groups and some conservatives have been lobbying the president to stop courting certain Muslim leaders."
The Post article quoted the leader of one of these groups as saying: "There is no such thing as peaceful Islam…Islamics cannot fit into an America in which the first loyalty is to the American Constitution. They should be encouraged to leave. They are a fifth column in this country."
In the May 28, 2001, issue of The Jerusalem Report, AJC Executive Director David A. Harris wrote: "We dare not underestimate the Arab and Muslim lobbies [in America] or delude ourselves as to their ultimate objectives. The stakes are too high. The call for action by American Jewry…is clear."
The Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes, one of the foremost proponents of the current anti-Muslim campaign, goes so far as to recommend "vigilant application of social and political pressure to ensure that Islam is not
accorded special status of any kind in this country." (Commentary, November 2001) (The "special status" Pipes refers to includes ordinary religious accommodations for Muslims in the workplace and "inclusion of Muslims in affirmative-action plans.") In that same article, Pipes wrote: "The Muslim population in this country is not like any other group…they harbor designs for this country that warrant urgent and serious attention."
In a recent Salon.com interview, Pipes was questioned about his recommendation that "officials need to scrutinize the speech, associations, and activities of potential visitors or immigrants for any signs of
Islamist allegiances and keep out anyone they suspect of such ties."
Pipes told Salon.com: "Look, I like this country as it is and I don't want it to turn into something quite different…If you want to see an Islamist country, then you will have the opposite view from mine…The danger is within…" He has also compared American Muslim voter registration drives to those of the Communist Party USA.
NOTE: In 1999, the ADL agreed to pay $25,000 to a community relations fund and said it would not spy on other organizations as part of a settlement with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other groups. The settlement resolved a class-action lawsuit filed in 1993 that accused the ADL of spying on Arab-American, pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid groups and individuals. (Associated Press, 9/28/1999