Today’s sermon, given at the Muslim Unity Center in West Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, refutes those who state that it is acceptable to go into mosques and kill innocent Muslims and those who try to rile up new and young American Muslims to commit treason by attacking American troops and civilians.
The following is my appearance on Radio Islam, hosted by Abdul-Malik Mujahid, on 1450 AM in Chicagoland two days ago.
I discussed the rise of the racism/Islamophobia, Tea Party, health care reform and the economic downturn in Detroit.
Cut & paste below to listen:
The year in review: 2010 gave us some surprising wins in interfaith dialogue
By: Ahmed Chaudhry
The past year has been in interesting one for interfaith dialogue and relations. Whether the global community came out better or worse is debatable, but one thing for sure is that it was varied and diverse in its nature.
The majority of interaction between faith groups throughout history seems to be one of conflict: wars, hate crimes, oppression and the like (a point several of the fiercely anti-organized religion readers of AnnArbor.com will be sure to superfluously re-iterate). It might be out of scope to say 2010 was different; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wore on, Qur’ans were burned in America, and numerous religious groups were denied rights to practice freely from the Middle East to China. However, some of these news stories from this past year, while ugly in their appearance, yielded positive gains and unlikely heroes that helped make strides for a more peaceful co-existence amongst faiths.
The summer and fall brought what politicians and news heads cleverly labeled the “ground zero mosque” controversy as well as planned (and in isolated incidences, carried out) Qur’an burnings. In the former, the most ignorant of politicians in conjunction with an increasingly implicit media perpetuated a surge of misinformation that contributed to a (hopefully temporary) rise in Islamaphobia in America. While Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich fought against the “ground zero mosque” which was not planned at ground zero… or a even a mosque, Keith Olberman and American humorist Gladstone amongst others prevented the debate from becoming an entirely one-sided affair. Amidst this entire debacle, which is still causing many Americans on both sides to harbor intense feelings, a veritable Superbowl of interfaith dialogue was initiated.
The latter was also a story which, on the face, seemed yet another of religious conflict as pastor Terry Jones of Florida organized a ‘Burn a Qur’an Day,’ While Jones himself did not carry out a burning, others across the United States actually did, including an incident nearby in Lansing in September. The unlikely heroes that emerged from these events included CAIR director Dawud Walid who made an important distinction between the practice of free speech and a hate crime and Jacob Isom of Amarillo, Texas whose Qur’an stealing stunt went viral on the internet.
It’s no surprise that on the overall spectrum of interfaith interactions, the less pleasant of the bunch tend to make headlines. People seem to have become morbidly fascinated with watching the parts of society that are rapidly deteriorating. Make no mistake, however: 2010 had a good share of advances in interfaith dialogue which should leave people with hope for what’s to come in 2011 and beyond.
The UN General Assembly unanimously proclaimed the first “World Interfaith Harmony Weekbetween all religions, faiths and beliefs” to be observed yearly on the first week of February starting next year. In February this year, an international dialogue between Islam and Eastern religions was held in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India and was attended by leaders and scholars of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. On Nov. 27 of this year , 150 university scholars and delegates from 25 countries gathered at Dhaka University in Bangladesh for the second International Conference on Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue to perpetuate interfaith knowledge and research as well as improve the role of universities in educating youth on interfaith dialogue and working towards peace.
The last is especially significant as it seems it is the world’s youth that made the most positive strides for interfaith understanding in 2010. While much of the world’s older population (though not all of it by any means) was busy muddling their religious convictions in political and judicial affairs, many of the notable advancements, though not making headlines, came from the youth of the world. So is it crazy to think we’re moving in the right direction? Or does that depend on what your opinion of the right direction is?
Ahmed Chaudhry was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and moved to the Michigan in 1994. As a recent graduate of Albion College, where he received a degree in biology and religious studies, he plans to pursue a career in public health.
Obama worse than Bush, Cheney when it comes to terrorism policies
By Doug Thompson
Two of former President George W. Bush‘s top intelligence officials say President Barack Obama is far worse than either Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney when it comes to the so-called “war on terror.”
Speaking on CNN’s Sysyr of he Union, former National Intelligence Director ad retired Vice Admiral Michael McConnell told host Candy Crowley that he admired the Obama White House for being even more aggressive than Bush or Cheney when it came to terrorism issues.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama attacked Bush over what he then called over-aggressive attacks on anti-terrorism issues. Since the election, some critics say he has become worse than Bush when it comes to the “war on terror.”
“He’s no better than Bush,” one long-time Democratic strategist told Capitol Hill Blue. “In many ways he’s worse than even Cheney.”
“You commend them for that?” Crowley asked.
“I do commend them for that,” McConnell replied, the web site Politico reported.
“When one is in office, it’s, as the admiral has suggested, when one is in office, that responsibility weighs pretty heavily. And so we’ve seen a powerful consistency between two administrations trying to deal with this problem,” Hayden said. “Actually, I’ve seen it over two administrations, and I thank god every day for the continuity.”
“Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you come from or what your political views might be, these threats are very real and very serious. And we have to — have to deal with them in a very serious way,” McConnell added.
–-This article includes information from Josh Gerstein at Politico.
Local advocates keep hope alive for Dream Act
By Jessica Barrow
Sunday, 12.26.2010, 09:31pm
Millions of young illegal immigrants had their hopes dashed on Saturday, December 18th, when the Senate failed to give the 60 votes needed to pass legislation for the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was a bi-partisan legislation that would have allowed some illegal and deportable youth the opportunity to obtain permanent residency if they met certain requirements.
That bill’s failure to pass stunned many government officials and community leaders. Not only was the DREAM Act an important part of immigration reform, but it was shown to provide a boost for the economy and increase tax revenues. According to a statement made by President Obama, the act could have helped reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion in 10 years, while helping to increase the number in the armed forces.
“Those who opposed it, I don’t believe they had any justification,” said Imad Hamad, Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI). “They aren’t serving the best interest of the nation. They challenge something that helps so many families to become stable and helps kids to obtain a good education and become productive members of society.”
With the DREAM Act having so many benefits, its failure to pass generated many theories.
Dawud Walid, Director of the Council of American Islamic Relations, believe the bill itself was not the issue.
“We believe that it was politics that drove (not passing the act), not the essence of the act itself, with the political climate being so partisan. The anti immigrant sentiments are what we just saw in terms of the vote.”
The DREAM Act, which was proposed nearly 10 year ago, had both Republican and Democratic supporters, due to its targeting of illegal immigrants who came into the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, are attending college or joining the military. Such youth would be considered “good citizens” and earn their permanent residence in this country.
“There were some on the right who said the act was an amnesty act, and that is simply not true,” Walid said. “In essence, the DREAM Act was giving a chance to people who came here not by choice, or their own volition but by their parents, who have shown to be law abiding and productive citizens, the ability become documented and be legal residents. The provisions were very stringent in terms of indicating those who committed felonies or other crimes. There were no provisions of amnesty for criminals.”
“The Dream Act is one of those good efforts that was hopeful to fix some of the broken immigration system which poses a tremendous challenge to our nation,” said Hamad. “For the past three or four administrations, this has been on the table, the need for immigration reform. The DREAM Act was a partial effort and a step in the right direction. It addressed an issue that is of great concern to immigrants: the status of young children who came to this country.”
The act was supported by many of those young children who now attend college, as well as institutions of higher-learning, and legislators. For those who supported the act, this lack of passage in the Senate is not the end.
“Our movement felt the sting of a temporary legislative setback, but we have not been defeated,” said Ali Noor, Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration for America Campaign, in a press release.”We may not have won this battle, but when it comes to winning the war between mass deportation and earned citizenship, it’s not a matter of if we win, but when.”
Local community leaders also believe that this was just a small setback.
“People who advocated will not give up,” said Hamad. “It’s valid and legitimate. It is a matter that will be faced today, tomorrow and the day after. It’s not going to end here. Tomorrow (the DREAM Act) will be called another name, but will be the same concept. It’s a call for reform.”
Top secret America: Billions used to spy on Americans
By Jessica Barrow
Monday, 12.27.2010, 08:50pm
A large network of military and intelligence agencies working with large corporations. The government spending billions of dollars undermining citizens’ privacy. A major database filled with names of everyday people. Self-described experts on terrorists. Battlefield technologies being used in neighborhoods.
Though it sounds like something out of a futuristic film, it isn’t. These points describe the current post 9/11 homeland security measures, which the government says is intended to protect citizens from terror threats, according to a recent ongoing series of investigative reports by The Washington Post.
The Post released the report on the extensive security measures entitled “Top Secret America.” The investigation was first released in July of 2010, and is a series that is being updated, with its latest installment “Monitoring America” released on December 20.
Dana Priest, one of the lead reporters on “Top Secret America,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for her investigation into the Walter Reed hospital debacle, and a 2006 Pulitzer for her beat reporting on CIA secret prisons.
The investigation goes into what the Washington Post calls the “fourth branch” of government, private intelligence communities that have the goal of defeating “violent extremists” according to the report. The organizations, 263 of which have been created or reorganized in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, receive billions of dollars from the government, and do not adhere to the usual standards of personal privacy, the report said.
Ronald Stockton, professor of Political Science at University of Michigan Dearborn who authored the book “Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit After 9/11, spoke about the system that has taken shape following the attacks and since the institution of the PATRIOT Act.
“After September 11, Americans were so afraid that we threw billions of dollars at the FBI and Homeland Security and other agencies, not really knowing what needed to be done,” he said . “We created a bureaucratic monster that is so large that it cannot possibly analyze and absorb its own data or even read its own reports. The system is so big that even those who lead it cannot understand it.”
Critics of the security measures find flaws, not only in the billions used to fund the operation, but the possibility of profiling innocent individuals.
“The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously,” the latest report said.
This database is updated by “experts” who receive their expert status from themselves, not previous studies in institutions. They train FBI members in the understanding Islam, Muslims, and American Muslims.”
They use specialists to provide training for FBI and analysts who are supposedly specialists on Islam. People who have no PhD , and who have animosity towards Islam,” said Sally Howell, PhD, a professor of history and Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who also contributed to Stockton’s book. “It’s distressing to see these people are empowered in America.”
Local community leaders and scholars are concerned about this intelligence apparatus leading to a McCarthyism practices of conducting “witch hunts” against American Muslims. The report indicates that Michigan has been a target of the intelligence community.
“The current surveillance being conducted by the FBI, Homeland Security and the Defense Department on American citizens and residents invites abuses,” said Dawud Walid. “It is disturbing that the intelligence community equates Michigan as a location for potential terrorists simply because of our large Muslim population.”
Howell agreed with Walid’s assertions about Michigan.
“There were multiple references on Michigan. Michigan being focused on for techniques and staffing because we have a large publicly visible Muslim population in the area. There is no precedent in history where (the government) targets an area because a religious minority is there,” said Howell.
When suspicious activity is reported, often by neighbors or co-workers for reasons that are not always clear, the accused individual is not informed, and the file remains open for five years. This could lead to profiling and abuse.
“We should remember the Law of the Hammer: A little boy given a hammer for his birthday will discover that there are many things that need to be pounded,” said Stockton. “A bureaucratic system this large, with this much money to spend, will inevitably discover threats that do not exist and will do great harm to innocent individuals.”
Today’s khutbah was given at the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren, MI regarding “Exaggeration in Religion.”