Letters: Replace bigotry and confrontation with dialogue


Events surrounding the recent Arab-American Festival in Dearborn highlight the continued need for community leaders and members to proactively challenge bigotry through dialogue instead of angry confrontation.

From Terry Jones’ cohorts at Dearborn City Hall referring to counterprotestors as “scum” and “gang-bangers” to aggressive Christian evangelists calling Arab-American women “whores,” these people from outside of Michigan brought an atmosphere of hostility and hatred that is counter to everyday life in Dearborn. These critics who outwardly showed animosity toward Islam even expanded their scope to include African Americans, Catholics and immigrants in general.

Equally appalling was the behavior of members of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) outside Dearborn City Hall, who shouted obscenities that could be heard by children in close proximity and their pushing and blocking Terry Jones from simply walking down the sidewalk toward the festival.

Although, as Americans, we are free to criticize other religions and people, we should also use our 1st Amendment rights to cultivate civility in our society, rather than intolerance. Inciting enmity between fellow Americans is disdainful, and meeting such enmity with physical confrontation is equally abhorrent.

I hope that Terry Jones, his cohorts and the members of BAMN understand that their messages of bigotry and provocation are not welcome in our community.

Dawud Walid

Executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations — Michigan (CAIR-MI), Southfield

Local Imam rejects study on American mosques


Local Imam rejects study on American mosques

Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Special to The Oakland Press

A local imam and the executive director of Council of American-Islamic Relations in Southfield has rejected a recent study that says more than 80 percent of mosques in America promote moderate to severe violence.

“The report is a bunch of rubbish” said Dawud Walid of CAIR about the study conducted by Israeli scholar Mordechai Kedar and lawyer David Yerushalmi of the Center for Security Policy.

The study, which was published in the MIddle East Quarterly, was released after compiling data from 100 randomly selected American mosques.

Walid said the report seems prepared by people with an anti-Islam agenda.

Walid accused the author of the report of being a white supremacist, “not just a bigot against Muslims but also against African Americans,” he said.

The report says 85 percent of the imams in the studied mosques recommend Islamic literature  that promotes violence in their prayer sermons.

Walid said that the proof of Muslims promoting violence is not in the study of some author but in the fact that Muslims have been living in America for centuries with a peaceful history.

“There’s never been an American Muslim residing in Detroit that has even committed an act of terrorism that we know of as ever been indicted, much less convicted,” Walid said.

The study, which included eight mosques in Michigan, said the imams in these mosques use references to the Quran that speaks of violence.

Walid said all religious books contain passages of violence if they are taken out of context. He said just like any other holy book, people have to understand the Quranic verses in their true sense.

“The NPR (National Public Radio) did a story over a year ago doing a verse-by-verse analysis of violence in comparison of the Bible with the Quran. And there are more verses in the Bible relating to violence than in the Quran itself,” Walid said, highlighting the importance of understanding the holy books with context.

Walid is an imam himself and gives weekly prayer sermons in different mosques in and around Detroit. He invites everyone to listen to his sermons and decide if he promotes violence.

“There is a mosque in Oakland County known as IAGD, (the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit). Any American can go to this mosque’s website and can listen to the sermons of the imam live every Friday in English. And they can hear exactly what is being said and preached,” Walid said.

Detroit Public Meeting to Resist Profiling, Preemptive Prosecution and Prisoner Abuse


Detroit Public Meeting to Resist Profiling, Preemptive Prosecution and Prisoner Abuse

Date: Sat,July 16, 3:00-6:00pm

Location: The Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center and Bookstore
13535 Livernois Avenue
Detroit, MI 48238

A community hearing to confront repression of human rights and civil liberties by the criminal justice system

The panel presentation will focus on how the ‘War on Terror’ climate and its repressive legal practices in the criminal justice system have affected civil liberties and human rights of Arab, Muslim, African American, South Asian, and all immigrant communities and the broader social justice movement.

Representatives from the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), Project Salam, CAIR-MI, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), and Committee to Stop FBI Repression-MI will be having a panel discussion about their political, social and legal campaigns around these very important issues to address how we can counter and change oppressive policies.

Included in the panels are families who will share personal stories of struggles for justice. The goal of the program is to shed light on the conditions of families and communities suffering under the war on terror, establish alliances across all communities for support, and mobilize our communities to eradicate these oppressive political and legal injunctions.

PANEL I: Prosecutorial Persecution in the Criminal Justice System

Steve Downs, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF)

Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor Pan-African News Wire

Dawud Walid, CAIR-MI

Mel Undebakke, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

PANEL II: Impact of Preemptive Prosecution on Families

Hedaya Jayyousi, Dearborn, MI

Tamer Mehenna, Boston, MA

Tom Burke, Grand Rapids, MI

Co-Sponsors Include: National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), Families United For Justice In America (FUJA), Council on American Islamic Relations-CAIR-MI, Justice For Shifa and Haris Support Committee, Project SALAM, Friends of Human Rights

To participate and co-sponsor the event contact civilfreedoms@gmail.com

Local Contacts: panw@africamail.com or freeshifa@gmail.com or call 517-505-1697

New FBI guidelines further encroach on civil liberties

New FBI guidelines further encroach on civil liberties
• Sun, Jun 19, 2011

By Dawud Walid

News that the FBI is providing new, virtually unchecked leeway to its agents to scrutinize citizens without sound predication opens the door to further abuse of power by the bureau’s agents.

Current standards, instituted in the final days of the Bush administration, of initiating low-level investigations called “threat assessments” are already criticized by civil libertarians as highly problematic. Under the latest guidelines signed by former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the FBI has the authority to initiate assessments on persons of interest without predication that such persons are involved in any criminal or terrorist activities. Agents also may misrepresent themselves to gather information, conduct physical surveillance, task informants with attending meetings and religious gatherings and obtain grand jury subpoenas to gather information from various databases. Such assessments to “proactively” probe the activities of so-called suspicious persons and organizations, however, have limited authorization to be undertaken by agents after making an inquiry at their field offices. Moreover, agents are only allowed to use “surveillance squads” (agents who physically follow persons) once per assessment regarding physical surveillance.

According to a New York Times article titled “F.B.I. agents get leeway to rush privacy bounds,” the FBI will soon expand its agents’ authority to be free from the need to notate their decisions for opening an assessment and be granted repeated use of “surveillance squads” before launching a full-fledged “investigation.” Additionally, agents will have the capacity to summarily snoop into individual’s private affairs — with neither sound predication nor oversight in commencing assessments.

Even prior to the latest expansion of intelligence gathering powers given to agents, Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded in 2007 that the FBI in a two-year time span violated laws and government policies approximately 3,000 times regarding collecting personal data of citizens.

During the 1980s, Congress was informed of FBI domestic intelligence gathering abuses in the name of ascertaining the loyalty of citizens during the Cold War era, thus prompting Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to deem such expenditures of resources “a waste of time” that were not making our nation more secure. Prior to this, Americans of various ethnicities and faiths were investigated and harassed under the FBI’s infamous Counter Intelligence Program, which from 1956-71 gathered data upon thousands of citizens who were not involved in criminal or terrorist activities.

If one of the definitions of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” then it would be insane to think the proposed new guidelines won’t lead to abuses by overzealous agents. If we do not raise our voices to our elected officials, then we should expect our rights to further erode. Our democracy can only sustain itself if, as President Abraham Lincoln articulated, our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Encroaching on the civil liberties of Americans is definitely not for the people, and the FBI’s latest guidelines are not in our best interests.

Dawud Walid is the executive director of the Michigan Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI).