Victory for the U.S. Constitution in OK

It’s official; CAIR is without a doubt a major player in the civil rights landscape of America with this historic victory in court today.

As our forerunners at the NAACP, National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union continue to do, we have taken a stance against discrimination and won within the parameters of the United States Constitution.

For disgruntled youth in our community, this is proof that the system works.


BREAKING CAIR NEWS: Judge Bars Certification of Okla. Anti-Islam Amendment

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/29/2010) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today applauded a strongly-worded ruling by a federal judge in Oklahoma granting an injunction that bars certification of an anti-Islam state ballot measure (SQ 755) passed in the November 2 election.


SEE: Judge Rules in Favor of Muslim Man on State Question 755


If it had been certified, SQ 755 would have amended that state’s constitution to forbid judges from considering Islamic principles or international law when deciding a case.


Today’s ruling by Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ordered a preliminary injunction to block the certification of the amendment by the Oklahoma State Board of Elections until a final determination is made based on the merits of a lawsuit against SQ 755 filed by Muneer Awad, executive director of CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter (CAIR-OK).


In her ruling in support of Awad’s legal arguments, Judge Miles-LaGrange wrote:


“This order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our (U.S.) Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights. Throughout the course of our country’s history, the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights. . .


“Having carefully reviewed the briefs on this issue, and having heard the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing, the Court finds plaintiff has made a strong showing of a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claim asserting a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.


“As set forth above, plaintiff has shown that the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law (plaintiff’s faith) and, thus, is not facially neutral.


“Additionally, as set forth above, the Court finds that plaintiff has shown that there is a reasonable probability that the amendment would prevent plaintiff’s will from being fully probated by a state court in Oklahoma because it incorporates by reference specific elements of the Islamic prophetic traditions.


“Further, plaintiff has presented evidence that there is a reasonable probability that Muslims, including plaintiff, will be unable to bring actions in Oklahoma state courts for violations of the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act and for violations of their rights under the United States Constitution if those violations are based upon their religion.


“Finally, the Court finds that defendants have presented no evidence which would show that the amendment is justified by any compelling interest or is narrowly tailored.”


SEE: Judge Miles-LaGrange’s Ruling


“We applaud today’s ruling and welcome the opportunity it offers to demonstrate that Oklahoma’s Muslim community simply seeks to enjoy the civil and religious rights guaranteed to all Americans by our Constitution,” said Awad.


SEE: Intolerance and the Law in Oklahoma (NY Times)


Awad’s lawsuit, based on his own faith-based will, says SQ 755 violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause that bars government bodies from making laws “respecting the establishment of religion.”


SEE: Full Text of Awad’s Lawsuit

Oklahoma Surprise: Islam as an Election Issue (NYT)


“Today marks another day in American history in which our courts have defended the Constitution against those who would deny its protections to a minority community,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad (no relation to Muneer Awad). “We agree with Judge Miles-LaGrange and the U.S. Supreme Court that ‘fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote.'”


Awad added that he hopes the ongoing legal process will expose the campaign of misinformation about Islam targeting Oklahoma voters that was used to promote SQ 755.


CAIR Video: SQ 755 Sponsor Explains Purpose of Amendment on MSNBC


He said CAIR plans an education campaign in Oklahoma to offer state residents accurate and balanced information about Islamic beliefs and practices and about the American Muslim community.


CAIR Q&A on Oklahoma Anti-Islam Ballot Measure


Hate messages have been received by Muslim institutions in Oklahoma following the passage of SQ 755.


Video: Rachel Maddow Details Hate Messages Received by Okla. Muslims


CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.


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CONTACT: CAIR-OK Executive Director Muneer Awad, 405-248-5853, E-Mail:; CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, or 202-488-8787, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171,E-Mail:

‘Death of an Imam’ showing & panel

A documentary made by two Michigan State University faculty and a doctoral student that examines the controversial shooting of a Detroit-area Muslim leader will premiere Dec. 1 in Dearborn.

The film, “The Death of an Imam,” will be presented at 7 p.m. in 1600 Social Sciences Building on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The film was made by Geri Alumit Zeldes, an MSU School of Journalism faculty member; Salah Hassan from MSU’s Department of English; and Brian J. Bowe, an MSU media and information studies doctoral student and visiting assistant professor at Grand Valley State University.

The filmmakers will introduce the 17-minute documentary.  After the screening, a panel featuring, among others, Dawud Walid from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Niraj Warikoo, a Detroit Free Press reporter, both of whom appeared in the film, will provide updates on coverage and be available for questions.

The film examines the news reporting associated with the Oct. 28, 2009, shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was killed by FBI agents at a Dearborn warehouse.

The film explores the issues at the core of the incident: The allegations of a terrorism conspiracy, the use of FBI informants and Muslims in the mainstream media.

The documentary is part of MSU’s project titled “Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education.” More information is available at

The premiere is being presented by these organizations at UM-Dearborn: Arab American Studies, African American Studies, American Studies and Ethics, and Communication Studies.

The project was funded by the Social Science Research Council.

Thoughts before departing KSA

As I’m scheduled to depart the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tomorrow, I have a few random thoughts to share.

For one, I’ve talked to a number of leading religious leaders in the Arab world, who discussed the need for Muslims to increase dialogue and interfaith understanding with Christians.  These people include the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the Chief Judge of Al-Madinah, Saudi Arabia, a Mufti from the United Arab Emirates and the Mufti of Tarablus, Lebanon.

I also came into contact with a leading Mufti in Iraq, who wrote a book about extremism in Iraq and the proofs that they use to kill other Muslims.  Killing fellow Muslims who they believe are not true Muslims is the greater goal of Al-Qaeda, not killing people of other religions firstly by the way.  He related gruesome stories such as extremists cutting off persons’ heads then playing soccer with them!

Unfortunately, I heard another scholar (non-Iraqi), who I will not name, state that any person who curses the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) such as Abu Bakr, Umar or his wife A’isha have committed a most evil act and are not Muslims.  Though this scholar does not advocate murdering people who curse the companions, such statements open up the doors for those with extreme thoughts to kill Shi’i Muslims as if they are defending Islam!

I also saw several dignitaries of Muslim countries including a Princess from Morocco, the President of Guinea, the President of Senegal, the President of Dagestan (Russian subject) and the President of Sudan.  The President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, has a warrant for his arrest from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegations of genocide against Muslims in Darfur.  Al-Bashir was looked upon, however, like a movie star walking in Makkah and Al-Madinah (I saw him in two different cities).  If you’re wondering why he was walking around so freely is because the Arab League and the African Union have both stated that they are not going to detain Al-Bashir and turn him over to the ICC.  By the way, the United States of America, China, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel are NOT members of the ICC.

I had the chance in Jeddah and Makkah to have conversations with several men from countries including Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Almost all of the converstations shared two components.  They found it hard to believe that my roots are in America and that my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are not from the Muslim world.  And all of them who mentioned President Obama had a smile on their face saying “Obama” in varying accents.  This is a marked difference in comparison to when I was at Hajj six years ago when I met some hostility for being an American and/or heard negative comments about former President George W. Bush.  Of course, I heard, to my chigrin, comments (all from Jordanians), who believe that President Obama is really a Muslim.

While sitting in the Sacred Mosque in Makkah for prayer, I sat next to an Afghan man, who appeared to be in his early 60’s that told me he was a “Mujahid” that fought against the Soviet Union.  When I asked him about how were things where he lived, he told me that things were well in Herat (his dwelling place) and that he has no problem with the Americans.

In Jeddah, I had the chance to visit a couple of shopping malls, one which looks like any large mall in America.  There was Foot Locker, lingerie stores, a food court with McDonalds, KFC, Cinnabon, Baskin-Robbins, etc.  And of course, there were teens roaming the malls in small groups, girls trying to look cute with too much make-up on and guys trying to look cool, some with hip-hop apparel on.  The scene brought me back to reality in a sense that despite my traveling in this part of the world a number of times, I had to reflect on how my perception of Saudis has been framed by American media depictions.

At the end of the day, people are simply people.  This is one of the blessings of the Hajj experience is reconnecting with the common aspirations of man.

My meeting with the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia while on Hajj

Two days ago, I had an opportunity to have a private forty-five minute meeting with Shaykh Abdul-Azeez bin Abdillah Aali Shaykh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, in Mina, Saudi Arabia.

Shaykh Abdul-Azeez stated that it is the “duty” of American Muslims to be engaged in their communities including voting, and that the best way to decrease misconceptions about Islam is to engage one’s neighbors.

Obviously, many Muslim leaders including myself have said this for years and the majority of mainstream American Muslims know this.  This is noteworthy to me, however, that it was coming from the chief religious authority in Saudi Arabia, who is a Salafi.

Some of the other religious scholars and leaders that I’ve also spoken with have displayed a level of flexibility that I (and many others) don’t normally associate with Saudi Arabia.  I was also surprised to see in Jeddah, where I’m at right now, that women are not being forced to wear headscarves.  Many women, including Arabs, are walking the streets uncovered. 

I’m not endorsing Muslim women being uncovered, but I’m highlighting a new flexibility that is slowly being instituted into this ultra-conservative society.

Back to my meeting with the Grand Mufti, I was also given a book written by him called “Al-Irhaab” (Terrrorism) written in Arabic.  The book discusses the roots of terrorism and refutes the idealogy of Al-Qaeda.  I also was given another book written by another author in Arabic discussing interfaith relations with a picture of Saudi King Abdullah and Pope Benedict on the front cover.

*Additional comment added at 8 AM Makkah time.

The Grand Mufti also advised American Muslims  in regards to those who make mockery and attack Prophet Muhammad and/or burn the Qur’an. Shaykh Abdul-Azeez stated that American Muslims should not react out of anger or emotions and simply tell those who insult Prophet Muhammad that they are in fact also insulting Moses and Jesus, for Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were brothers in the family of prophets and taught the same core message.  He also said that we should also voice displeasure in the best manner when any people insult or make mockery of any of the prophets of G-d (Moses, David, Jesus, etc.)

As I’ve stated before many times, American Muslims have overwhelmingly acted soberly and with civility with those who attack Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an.  What I’ve also stated before, however, is that it makes no sense how some in the Muslim world get angry when the character of Prophet Muhammad is attacked yet voice no concern when Jesus Christ is made mockery of.

Saudis say 20% more pilgrims this year than last

I just completed Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) earlier today and will be heading for Hajj (greater pilgrimage) tomorrow.

A Saudi official stated to me that there is a 20% increase of pilgrims this year from last.  Just imagine in a city like Detroit if 2.5 million people converged on it speaking hundreds of different languages.  It would be complete pandamonium but not here.

Despite what I think regarding some of the laws here and customs such as women not being able to drive and women being required to wear headscarves except in Jeddah, the Saudis are very hospitable.  No rip off scams, no muggings by the locals, etc.

The greater sign is that the blessing of Islam is that it can bring together all of these people, who don’t know each other to cooperate in peace and harmony to perform their rituals in rememberance of G-d.

I’ve met a number of nice people and had brief conversations from Saudi and Emirati (UAE) officials to British and Senegalese pilgrims.  I had a brief conversation on my 4 fourth round during Sai’y with two gents from Sheffield, UK.

Despite the enormous problems they’re having at home, I’ve seen a number of Somali pilgrims.  I smiled when I saw a large delegation of Bosnian pilgrims, who were all elderly persons making Sai’y. 

The Iranian delegation is the largest that I’ve seen here so far. I hope that they stop with all of the pushing, especially the women! (Side comment for any of you who are under the false impression that Iranian and Muslim women in general are docile and weak.)

I’ll be blogging more about my experiences in the coming days, G-d willing.