A new world, a better America


A new world, a better America

By Nick Meyer

DETROIT — Uniting under the motto “Another World is Possble,” an estimated 20,000 people from across the country gathered in downtown Detroit this week for the landmark 2010 U.S. Social Forum (USSF).

The event grew from the blueprint of the World Social Forum which is based in Brazil and came on the heels of the first incarnation of the USSF in Atlanta in 2007.

Thousands of people marched Woodward Avenue as part of the event’s opening festivities on Tuesday, June 22 to Cobo Hall, the epicenter of the various workshops and events organized at the USSF.

Grassroots activists representing causes ranging from the fight for clean air and water to workers’ rights to anti-war demonstrators all made their presence felt during the march.

Various issues relating to Arabs and Muslims were also featured both during the march and over the course of the USSF’s weeklong series of events.

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, a professor of ethnic studies relating to Arab and Muslim issues at the San Francisco State University in California and former University of Michigan-Dearborn director of Arab American Studies, marched while wearing a keffiyeh in support of Palestine along with friends carrying Palestinian flags.

Abdulhadi talked about the importance of solidarity between activists fighting against injustice along several different lines.

“We’re all under the same umbrella of justice and our struggles should not be separate,” she said.

“Being a part of others’ movements is a much better choice than trying to do it all on our own.”

Julio Lopez, a member of the Southwest Workers Union who traveled to the forum from San Antonio, provided an example of activists working together.

Lopez grabbed a bullhorn during the march and began chanting “Viva, Viva, Palestina!” as members of his group and other nearby marchers joined in.

“All of us here are connected to the same struggle, it’s the fight against corporate power that’s been going on for a long time,” he said.

Abdulhadi also emphasized the importance of educating others on a person-to-person basis and highlighting similarities.

“Many people don’t know about the details of things like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, Gaza, the occupation and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the media,” she said.

“We need to do what needs to be done and educate each other about our struggles.”

Organizers also constructed a Palestine tent in the USSF’s tent city area and tables were set up to pass out literature and educate fellow activists about the struggle.

A full slate of workshops at the USSF were also planned through Sunday, June 27, and with so many choices, many forum attendees were forced to make difficult decisions.

On Tuesday, June 23, a workshop entitled “Building Arab and Black Solidarity” was held at the TWW & Associates, Inc. education center in Detroit.

Speakers including Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan (CAIR-MI) staff attorney Lena Masri, organizer Nada Khader, and Nisrin Elamin, a curriculum development specialist for the Global Kids education center in New York City, talked about the importance of building solidarity between African Americans and Arab Americans  in the face of injustice and oppression. They also discussed strategies for better education on the two cultures.

“What I’ve found is that the best way to engage the youth and to get them to see different perspectives is during afterschool programs, since our schools are always about increasing test scores,” Alamin said.

Shaun Pierce, an activist from the south side of Chicago, said that the goal for the two cultures should be to get past the dialogue stage and move into actions that will enable them to organize with each other for common goals.

Linda Najjar of Ann Arbor said she’s worked with numerous young Detroiters and agreed that education was especially important.

“I work with black youths and educate them about Arab issues such as the Palestine conflict and in most cases they didn’t know, but they truly want to help once they find out.”

The issue of increasing safety for Arab American business owners in inner city communities was also brought up, and Dearborn resident and activst Rhana Natour relayed a strategy that local Arab American and Detroit police leaders have touted in the past.

“We need to encourage more community building efforts for small businesses to get to know each other and their customers, that’s the first step,” she said.

The forum was also a golden opportunity for event organizers to educate fellow activists about the challenges facing the Muslim community in metro Detroit and beyond, and the Thaqalayn Muslim Association (TMA) of UM-Dearborn hosted an event entitled “The Media Hijacked my Religion” at Wayne State University’s Student Center on Wednesday, June 23.

CAIR-MI head Dawud Walid was the featured speaker, highlighting important issues such as what he called media bias regarding the FBI killing of Detroit Imam Luqman Abdullah and the preponderance of fear-mongering and “passive propagation” of Islamophobia.

Walid showed local news coverage from WXYZ-TV about the Abdullah event and took issue with the way it was reported on.

He said that Abdullah was never charged with incitement, terrorism, or treason but that media outlets ran with the story that Abdullah wanted to wage a “jihad” against the U.S. Government.

Walid also took issue with the misuse of the word “jihad,” which means “personal struggle,” and the use of the word “ummah” to designate an alleged radical group despite the fact that the word means the entire global community of Muslims.

“This type of misreporting and misuse of Arab terminology is promoting Islamophobia,” Walid said.

He also slammed reports of 10th Precinct police in Detroit being told to be on high alert “because it was in a Muslim neighborhood” according to the WXYZ clip.

Walid also cited FBI statistics from the website loonwatch.com showing that 6% of terrorist attacks committed in the United States were by Muslims and compared the stat with the media coverage various events have received.

“You’d think that it was 94% of Muslims committing attacks with the way they are covered,” he said.

While the workshops served as an excellent way for various activists to get to know each other, a great deal of strategizing was also done on the side through conversation.

Non-profit worker Robbie Samuels of Boston came to Detroit with a plan to help create focused, topically relevant dialogue between USSF attendees.

Samuels passed out stickers that read “Ask Me About…” or “I’m Looking For…” on them for USSF attendees to publicize their issues and areas of expertise.

Samuels believes that organization and cooperation are the keys to making things happen in the fight for social justice in America.

“My goal is to get people engaged and to create welcoming community spaces across issues and across identities based on shared values,” he said.

“We need to get people engaged so we can take action.”

Anti-Islam ad belongs on buses, court is told



An Ann Arbor group announced Monday it has filed a request with a federal court seeking to require a metro Detroit bus agency to run ads aimed at Muslims who want to leave Islam.

The Thomas More Law Center, a conservative legal group, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on Thursday that asks a federal judge to side with a New Hampshire-based group that often criticizes Islam. The Thomas More center had filed a lawsuit against SMART last month on behalf of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Geller of New York and Robert Spencer of New Hampshire. The plaintiffs are critics of Islamic extremism.

A SMART spokeswoman did not give any explanation as to why the bus agency refused to run the ad.

Robert Muise, an attorney with the Thomas More center, said the bus agency is a government entity and so it violated the First Amendment by not allowing the ad to run. He said that similar ads have run on buses in Florida and New York. The ads read: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got Questions? Get Answers!”

Muise noted that SMART had run an ad earlier this year by an atheist group that read: “Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone.” Muise said that decision shows there is a double standard in SMART’s policies. He said that SMART’s own policy says it may “not censor free speech” and is “required to provide equal access to advertising.”

Local Muslim leaders support SMART’s decision.

“They surely have the prerogative to deny carrying anti-Muslim ads in a locality which has one of the largest Muslim populations in North America,” said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


The US Social Forum (USSF), which will be held in Detroit from June 22 – June 25, aims at building mutli-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational and internationalist movements to transform the country.

CAIR-MI encourages you to attend USSF.  For more information, please log-on at http://www.ussf2010.org/.

CAIR-MI will be participating in the following sessions at USSF:


Sponsored by WESPAC Foundation

Wed, 06/23/2010 – 10:00am – 12:00pm

Location: 151 West Fort Street

Detroit, MI, 48226

This active session will discuss problems faced in attempting to build a Black-Arab coalition, Brown-on-Black racism and anti-Arab racism post-9/11.



Sponsored by Thaqalayn Muslim Association (TMA)

Wed, 06/23/2010 – 1:00pm – 3:00pm

Location:  WSU Student Center

5221 Gullen Mall

Detroit, MI, 48202

This workshop will be about the stereotypes and misconceptions of Islam.



Sponsored by CAIR-MI in conjunction with the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice (ICPJ)

Wed, 06/23/2010 – 3:30pm – 5:30pm

Location: Woodward Academy

951 Lafayette Street East

Detroit, MI, 48207

This workshop will focus on tactics and strategies for advancing Muslim civil rights and the need for allies to be in solidarity with Muslims to support religious equality.



Wed, 6/23/2010 – 6:30pm – 9 pm

Location: Cobo Hall

1 Washington Blvd

Detroit, MI 48226

Main session will discuss history of community organizing in Detroit and new methods and alliances regarding community organizing.  Session will also include Latinos Unidos, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM).



Sponsored by Palestine Working Group & Latinos Unidos

Thu, 06/24/2010 – 1:00pm – 5:30pm

Location: Cobo Hall: M2-29

1 Washington Blvd

Detroit, MI 48226

The purpose of this workshop is to discuss how Racial, Religious and Ethnic Profiling effects the civil liberties of different minorities across the United States, and to show how local activism we can ensure fair government, law enforcement and employment practices.



Sponsored by Palestine Cultural Office

Thu, 06/24/2010 – 1:00pm – 5:30pm

Location: Cobo Hall: 02-43

1 Washington Blvd

Detroit, MI 48226

The purpose of this session is to impart mostly unknown information and practical experiential skills regarding Palestinian Rights to participants in reaching out to Faith-Based and Labor communities.



Fri, 6/25/2010 – 8:45am – 9:45am

Location: Grand Circus Park near Comerica Park off of Woodward Avenue in Detroit

The interfaith prayer service will be a prelude to a march and protest in front of Chase Bank regarding its lending practices and its relationship with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.



Sponsored by Left Turn

Fri, 6/25/2010 – 10:00am – 12:00pm

Location: Westin Book Cadillac Hotel WB4

1114 Washington Blvd

Detroit, MI, 48226

In this workshop, participants will learn how to identify Islamophobia, its effects, and what it looks like in the Left. Furthermore, participants will build the skills to tackle Islamophobia in their respective movements, guided by facilitators with diverse organizing experience to draw upon.



Given by CAIR-MI Executive Director Imam Dawud Walid

Fri, 6/25/2010 – 1:15pm – 1:45pm

Location: Sacred Space Canopy (Reserved location) off of West Jefferson in between 8th St and 10th St off of the Detroit River in Downtown Detroit

Topic: “Social Activism Within the Parameters of the Qur’an and Sunnah”