CAIR-MI Rep Participates in Discussion on Sharia and Islamophobia

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 2/29/12) – A representative of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) yesterday participated in a discussion at Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, about the relationship between sharia and religious law to the U.S. Constitution and the anti-sharia legislation, which has spread across America.

Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Washington, D.C. based Heritage Foundation, and CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid discussed the limitations of adhering to all religious laws under the U.S. Constitution though differed on the actually definition and scope of application of sharia, a path towards faithfulness, in Islam.

Walid elaborated that the architect of anti-sharia legislation, which has spread across America is White Supremacist David Yerushalmi, who has worked in conjunction with other anti-Muslim bigots to marginalize American Muslims.

SEE: Meet the White Supremacist Leading the GOP’s Anti-Sharia Crusade (Mother Jones)
http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/david-yerushalmi-sharia-ban-tennessee

Walid also noted that CAIR was the chief plaintiff in successful litigation against an anti-sharia bill in Oklahoma in which the 10th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the bill as discriminatory.

SEE: Federal Court Blocks Oklahoma Ban on Sharia (CNN)
http://articles.cnn.com/2012-01-10/justice/justice_oklahoma-sharia_1_rex-duncan-oklahoma-amendment-sharia-law?_s=PM:JUSTICE

The discussion was co-sponsored by the Cooley Law School Federalist Society and the Cooley Muslim Law Society.

“We welcome such opportunities to discuss opposing viewpoints and to clarify American Muslims’ respect for the U.S. Constitution while affirming the right of all religious groups to be free from targeting by unconstitutional legislation inspired by bigotry,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, 248-842-1418, E-Mail: dwalid@cair.com or CAIR-MI Outreach Coordinator Raheem Hanifa, 248-559-2247, E-Mail: rhanifa@cair.com

Arab Americans Grapple With Which Presidential Candidate to Support in 2012

http://dearborn.patch.com/articles/arab-americans-grapple-with-which-presidential-candidate-to-support-in-2012

As approval for President Barack Obama wanes, disenfranchised Arab American voters are keeping open minds for who to support come Election Day.

  • By Jessica Carreras

When Dearborn resident Amal Berry-Brown left the National Leadership Conference for Arab Americans in October, she said she walked away sad.

Because while the annual conference–held in 2011 in Dearborn–is always about creating a unified political and social voice for the community, it’s hard to find unity without a clear political leader.

In 2008, that person was then presidential candidate Barack Obama. But heading into 2012’s election season, the choices are much murkier.

“The Arab American community is a bit disenfranchised,” Berry-Brown, a Comerica vice president and community leader, told Dearborn Patch last October. “We had a great deal of hope in President Obama, and some of that really hasn’t come to fruition. So in 2012, it will be interesting to see the overall stance the community takes in who they’ll be supporting, and what can be done.”

Berry-Brown’s attitude mirrors the greater Arab American and Muslim American communities in Michigan and nationally. With a president who has not lived up to expectations in terms of civil liberties, foreign policy and immigration law, and Republican candidates who nearly all have voiced anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric, Arab Americans are wondering: Who should we vote for? Or should we vote at all?

Fighting Apathy

For Arab American and Muslim organizations that focus on civic engagement, the first and biggest goal is to get their constituents to the polls.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations combats voter apathy with Get Out the Vote campaigns at local mosques, reminding Muslim Michiganders of the great responsibility they have to cast their ballot–even if the candidate is not aligned with all of the issues that matter to them.

“We’re encouraging people that the election is still important; voting is still important,” explained Executive Director Dawud Walid. “I tell them, ‘Don’t take your vote for granted. Many people are dying to get the right to vote.’”

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, confirmed that the problem is nationwide.

“I think (apathy) is national,” he said. “Approval rates are low … and you’ve got a depressed environment in the country.”

And with the passion seen in 2008 gone for many voters, the approach of civic engagement organizations will change drastically for 2012 as well.

“There will be an effort to mobilize people, but it will be different than 2008,” Zogby said.

Obama Losing Support

Much of the apathy seen in Arab American voters stems from a feeling that no one candidate, or political party, represents them well.

While many of the nation’s estimated 3.5 million Arab American’s supported George W. Bush in 2000, a poll of community members conducted by Zogby International in 2008 found that 46 percent backed Obama in that year’s election, while 32 percent pledged support for Republican John McCain.

Some post-election estimates from the same year claimed that 90 percent Muslim voters supported Obama.

Osama Siblani, treasurer of the Arab American Political Action Committee, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab American News and founder of both, said it could be chalked up to the fact that many Arab Americans and Muslims are split on key issues.

“In general, Arab Americans are conservatives,” he said. “Politically they may be liberal, but on civil issues like abortion, taxes and stuff, they’re more conservative. But (the GOP) alienates the community when they talk about Islamaphobia.”

This go around, Siblani and others believe that Obama won’t do as well, although much of that depends on which Republican candidate comes out on top and how they campaign.

“We have issues with the Republican Party, but I don’t think the Democrats should take us for granted,” Siblani said. “This community is a very unique community. Politically they’re liberal, but it doesn’t take much to move them to the right.”

Zogby, however, said he thinks Obama will still be supported nationally among Arab American voters–especially because the disappointment among voters has not gone unnoticed by the Democratic Party.

“I think that the Democrats will do very well in 2012, and they’ll win back a lot of support,” Zogby said. “But I don’t think that the numbers will be where they were in 2008–meaning that the percentage (of support) will be the same, but the turnout will be less.”

As for Republicans, Zogby said a lot will depend on what the final candidate says and does during his campaign. So far, it hasn’t been good.

“The candidates have made rather shocking statements about the Middle East and about Islam,” he said. “These candidates scare the hell out of people.”

Walid agreed, and said that it seems in 2012, Islamaphobia has grown.

“There’s more anti-Muslim sentiment this election from the GOP, both locally and nationally,” he said.

With one exception, that is.

Ron Paul a Standout?

Ron Paul’s stance on foreign policy, support of streamlining immigration processes and staunch beliefs on the roles of government have won over many Arab American voters.

“Paul has been the only major Republican candidate to resist the type of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant demonization, fear-mongering and pandering to ultra-conservative voters in his party that has become pervasive in the post-9/11 climate,” the Arab American news wrote in their Feb. 24 endorsement of the candidate.

He’s also the only GOP candidate to actively court Arab American voters: his Feb. 27 stop at Dearborn’s Ford Community and Performing Arts Center is co-sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn‘s Arab Student Union.

But, Zogby pointed out, Paul is generally considered to be out of the question as the 2012 GOP candidate.

“I think people look (at Ron Paul) the way people looked at (Independent candidate Ralph) Nader in 2004 and they say, ‘at least on some issues, he’s saying things I want to hear,’” Zogby explained. “But come November, it’ll be who’s on the ballot and what’s the choice.

“I understand the Ron Paul sentiment, but that will fade.”

Still, Siblani said support for Paul is more about making Arab American voices heard.

“The reason we’re trying to support Ron Paul in this primary is for us to have someone to speak at the platform at the Republican National Convention,” Siblani said. “If he gets 15-20 percent of the delegates, then he can be a force at the convention and he can bring up the issues that most Americans are concerned about.”

Which, Siblani said, could be the light bulb moment for the GOP in realizing they can and should court Arab American voters.

And although CAIR and the Arab American Institute do not endorse, groups like AAPAC do–and they have significant clout in the community.

“We’re willing to sit down and talk to any candidate,” Siblani said. “After that, the issue becomes deciding who is closer to the issues that we care about. And then after we discuss it amongst ourselves, we go to our community and try to get them on the same line with us, so we walk in united.”

 

Forum on CBP/US Border Patrol Discrimination Against People of Color

February 24, 2012

By Niraj Warikoo

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Immigrant advocates from across the U.S. are in Detroit for a two-day conference aimed at finding ways to stop what they say is a growing problem of federal agents profiling and harassing minorities near the U.S. border with Canada.

“Latinos and Arab Americans are being stopped for no reason while they’re walking down the street, waiting for a bus, or driving,” said Ryan Bates, director for the Michigan branch of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform. Agents also are increasingly boarding public buses and trains to target Latinos and others, he said.

The Northern Border Conference, which continues today, is looking at the issue of how minority groups are treated near the border. Much of the national attention on border issues deals with the southern border with Mexico, but advocates say they are seeing more targeting of minority groups near the border with Canada.

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, hopes to exchange ideas with other advocates. Last year, his group filed a complaint over profiling of Muslims at the U.S.-Canada border.

“Racial and religious profiling does not make our country any safer,” Walid said.

Southwest Detroit — the heart of metro Detroit’s Mexican-American community — is near the border with Canada, and some Latinos say they have been stopped more often and harassed by immigration agents.

The department has stepped up its enforcement near borders to stop illegal immigration, but some say the crackdown is affecting legal immigrants and even U.S. citizens. Federal agents have increased power within 100 miles of the border with Canada to detain suspects, a power that critics say has been misused.

One concern of advocates is that federal agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol often don’t have the same accountability that local police departments have.

Lidia Reyes, director of Latino Family Services in Detroit, hopes to “find a solution to address” the growing concerns of local Latinos. “There’s been a lot of abuse,” Reyes said. The community wants agents “to follow the protocol.”

Last year, federal agents conducted raids in Detroit outside an elementary school and Catholic church that are heavily Latino, sparking renewed concern about their actions.

Latino social services agencies say they have been targeted by Border Patrol agents.

In addition, Muslims and Arab Americans say they’ve been detained and interrogated at border crossings for no legitimate reason.

An internal review last year by Immigration Customs Enforcement found that its agents were not guilty of the allegations made in Detroit.

A spokesman for the Detroit office of the Department of Homeland Security did not comment Thursday on the conference.

In the past, officials have said their agents do not racially profile. The head of the department, Secretary Janet Napolitano, has told the Free Press that she was concerned about the raid on the Detroit church and would look into that case.

CAIR-MI Sues Township For Blocking Muslim School Zoning

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120222/METRO01/202220448/1361/Muslim-school-sues-Pittsfield-Twp.-over-denial-of-project

FEBRUARY 22, 2012 AT 4:52 PM

Muslim school sues Pittsfield Twp. over denial of project

  • BY ORALANDAR BRAND-WILLIAMS
  • THE DETROIT NEWS

Detroit — A Muslim school filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Pittsfield Township officials for turning down its request to build a new school in the area.

Last year, Pittsfield Township denied the Michigan Islamic Academy’s zoning request to build near the intersection of Golfside and Ellsworth roads.

Officials cited traffic concerns and complaints by local residents that construction of a school in the area would affect their property values.

But local Muslim civil rights officials say the township’s actions of denying the zoning request was nothing more than an excuse to block the school from locating in the area and follows a trend of “Islamaphobia” that many Muslim communities have experienced across the country and in Michigan.

The township is “Using zoning laws to block Islamic schools and centers for no bona fide reason except to block our community from practicing our constitutional rights,” said Dawud Walid, the executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan during a news conference to announce the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Pittsfield Township officials have not commented on the issue.

An official for the Michigan Islamic Academy, currently located in Ann Arbor, said township officials initially were receptive to their plans to build on the property.

Tarek Nahlawi, a board member of the school, said the school conducted and passed two feasibility studies on traffic impact at the location.

Nahlawi said additional lighting and improvements to the school’s grounds were made in an effort to get zoning approval.

“Every time they raised the bar, we actually surpassed them,” said Nahlawi at Wednesday’s news conference.

According to the 32-page complaint accompanying the lawsuit, a Pittsfield Township planning commissioner said during a June 16, 2011 meeting that the construction of the school “would have an effect on property values.”

The school is suing the township on grounds that the township’s actions violate the federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act aimed partly at granting greater protection of religious freedom.

According to the lawsuit, township officials have imposed restrictive and “unlawful” impositions on the academy in an effort to block the school from being built.

Masri said the township had already “made up its mind up” about the school and that township officials have “no compelling government interest” as to why the school should not be built.

The Michigan Islamic Academy is a pre-school through 12th grade school with 360 students. It is on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor.

Walid said if the township’s actions go unchallenged, it would be setting a “dangerous precedent.”

“We would be seeing neo-Jim Crow-ism based on religion.”

The proposed school site is 27 acres. The total costs of the new school are estimated at $450,000, Nahlawi said.

“MIA once had a dream but the township made it a nightmare.”