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
Interviews of 5,000 visa holders are concern to Muslim group
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today expressed concern that plans by the Justice Department to interview some 5,000 young men who entered this country legally on non-immigrant visas since January of 2000, could create the impression of racial and religious profiling.
In a speech today in Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the interviews were necessary to "expand our knowledge of terrorist networks operating within the United States." Officials said the interviews would be conducted with men from specific countries, but did not name them.
"American Muslims condemn terrorism in all its forms and hope to see the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks brought to justice. Unfortunately, this type of sweeping investigation carries with it the potential to create the impression that interviewees are being singled out because of their race, ethnicity or religion. We ask that all elements of due process and respect for civil liberties be adhered to as local and national authorities carry out these interviews," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad added that he hopes the Justice Department will publish guidelines for these interviews, including the right of those being interviewed to have legal representation.
There are an estimated seven million Muslims in American and some 1.2 billion worldwide. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country.