CAIR-MI Rep Participates on Panel Discussion on Racialization of Muslims in Media at Islam in America Conference



CAIR-MI Rep Participates on Panel Discussion on Racialization of Muslims in Media at Islam in America Conference
(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 9/26/2011) ­- A representative of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) recently participated on a panel discussion about racialized depictions of Muslims in American media at the Conference on Islam in America at DePaul University in Chicago, Ill.

CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid gave opening remarks and moderated a panel discussion titled, “Media: The Face of Islam in America: Racialization and Space in the Media,” which focused on Muslims being framed as being exotic or foreign to the American experience or as being hyper-apologetic relating to events involving Muslims outside of America.

Other panelists included Atiya Husain (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill), Zareena Grewal (Yale University), Mike Ghouse (Foundation for Pluralism) and Angela Maly (University of Colorado).

The two day conference, which was attended by academics, religious leaders, activists and journalists from across the country was also viewed by some 30,000 professors and students at universities in America and abroad.

“We welcome such opportunities to engage academics and journalists in discussing the diversity within Muslims and Islamic thought to help dispel stereotypes in media,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

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-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, 248-842-1418, E-Mail:

AUDIO: Interfaith movement discussion

Yesterday’s panel discussion titled “Building Bridges, Not Walls: A Conversation on the Interfaith Movement in America Today” was held at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation convention in Washington, DC.

Moderator: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Panelists: Rabbi David Saperstein, Dr. John Esposito, Farhana Khera and Dawud Walid.

Click to listen.

Sardar: Anti-Sharia bill could harm Michigan’s economy

Sardar: Anti-Sharia bill could harm Michigan’s economy

Take time to learn more about Islamic faith before reacting

10:54 PM, Sep. 17, 2011

Although the proponents of House Bill. 4769 claim that it is not against Islam or Muslims, it is a copycat version of other Anti-Sharia bills in the works in approximately 25 states.

The bill is sponsored in Michigan by Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville. This is the same Rep. Agema who recently earned the dubious distinction of being listed as a featured speaker alongside controversial Pastor Terry Jones. Although Rep. Agema never made it to Pastor Jones’ sparsely attended speech at the Capitol, the fact that he is not denying reports that he personally requested to share the stage with the infamous Jones speaks volumes.

HB 4769 is postured to mislead people to believe that opponents of this measure are seeking to sneak in foreign law to replace U.S. law. This is a false pretense exploited by a few lawmakers for ulterior motives, namely expand their voter base.

Such a bill passed in Oklahoma with 70 percent of the vote as the wary population bought into the fear propaganda. The bill, however, was deemed unconstitutional and blocked immediately by the courts.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a global environment, and our judicial system would be severely hampered if prevented from considering foreign laws. The bill violates the supremacy clause and the First Amendment rights of Muslim, Jewish and other Americans, and is inconsistent with decades of jurisprudence.

Michigan now has to decide on its priorities. Should we be working to create more jobs and attract talent to our state, or get embroiled in civil liberty legal battles at tax payer expense?

This bill is bad for business and will only attract the likes of Pastor Terry Jones to our state.

Rather than buy into what the propaganda machine tells us about Sharia and how scary it is, it would be prudent to take the time to develop a nuanced understanding of Sharia, to learn more about what it is and what it is not and how exactly it will be used in the courts.

To be sure, Sharia is not a monolithic set of doctrines, and much of it is open to be contextually interpreted to meet the needs of Muslims wherever they may be.

It is based on Sharia interpretation, for example, that Muslim Americans join the armed forces to protect our country, even if it means fighting against an enemy nation that is predominantly Muslim.

At no time does Sharia seek to supersede the Constitution. The law of the land is supreme and the vast majority of Muslims proudly abide by it. The courts use Sharia as extrinsic evidence to help clarify or dispel ambiguity in a contract or to understand the context in which a case is being deliberated.

The courts would not recognize any judgments based on a foreign or religious law if they do not conform to our due process and/or if they violate our public policy.

The jurisprudence in the United States is very clear on this and does not require any additional law to safeguard it.

Black, Arab Relations in Detroit since 9/11


In Detroit, which boasts a heavy concentration of both groups, the decade since Sept. 11, 2001 has been a time for healing and understanding.


Dawud Walid, an African-American who heads Michigan’s Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR), says his most frequent contact with Middle Eastern-Americans is at mosques.

By Eddie B. Allen Jr., News in Black Correspondent

Story Created: Sep 16, 2011 at 8:49 AM PDT

Story Updated: Sep 16, 2011 at 8:49 AM PDT

While New Yorkers began the week looking back on a day that paralyzed their city and shocked the nation 10 years ago on Sept. 11, one Midwestern community was also reflecting.

Metropolitan Detroit, home to nearly half a million people of Middle Eastern descent and about twice as many Blacks, is unique to the nation in its high concentration of the two ethnic groups. Reports of anti-Muslim sentiment and racial profiling toward Middle Easterners have grown since the 9/11 attacks, which were immediately linked to so-called radical Islamic beliefs.

But in Michigan, Black leaders, and their counterparts of Middle Eastern descent, say there have been positive bonds forged between their cultures.

“Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and black Americans and African Americans are in the same boat,” says Imad Hamad, national advisor and regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in metro Detroit. “Naturally, we are in the same boat; this is the makeup and the nature of the challenges that face both our African American brothers and sisters and us.

“I recall that, after the national tragedy of Sept. 11, our brothers and sisters in the NAACP used to cheer us up by making the joke: ‘Welcome to the hot seat.’ Ten years later, we still feel it. We still deal with it. We still have a long way before we switch the seat, and we don’t wish it on anyone, but God knows who’s next.”

While Hamad says the ADC and other faith-based and community groups in both cultures have made stronger ties in the past 10 years, tension between blacks and Middle Easterners in Detroit pre-dates Sept. 11. In 1999, a major protest targeted the gas station where a black customer was beaten to death by staff from Yemen after an argument. On the flip side, initiatives like the ADC’s upcoming, annual “Judge’s Night,” which has saluted black court administrators like Damon Keith, and the Martin Luther King Scholarship for high school students have promoted good will between the races.

“It goes without saying that we, as a civil rights organization, see Martin Luther King as a hero and that we follow his example,” adds Hamad.

Despite striking historical similarities, such as Detroit as a mid-20th century destination for Blacks seeking work during the Great Migration and Middle Eastern immigrants alike, Dawud Walid says there is still a disconnect on the personal level. A Black Detroiter, Walid says that as executive director of Michigan’s Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR), his most frequent contact with Middle Eastern-Americans is at mosques.

“I believe that there are better relations between some of the Arab-American leaders with some of the African-American leaders, post-9-11, however, I don’t think much has changed on the ground between blacks and Arabs as a whole,” adds Walid.

Still, Walid says much of the polarity has to do with economic, rather than social issues — such as the safety and education factors that cause families to flee the city into suburbs: Less financially able black residents tend to stay put.

On the positive side, CAIR’s civil rights complaints have seldom resulted from Detroiters of color.

“It’s an overall increase that Muslim Americans have faced since 9-11, but the vast majority (of offenders) are White Americans, not Black,” says Walid.

Both Walid and Hamad caution that ignorance and the fight to eliminate it must be part of the dialogue between Blacks, Middle Easterners and all Americans – especially concerning confusion about the religion most linked to Sept. 11.

“Every Muslim is not an Arab and every Arab is not a Muslim,” says Hamad.

Walid adds that a large segment of Detroit’s Middle Eastern descendants are Chaldean Christians.

“First, we have to keep in mind that discrimination and racism, bigotry, all of these ill symptoms of our social fabric in mankind, are universal,” says Hamad, “and they are not American-made products. It’s part of every society, including the United States of America. I truly believe that, as long as mankind exists, discrimination will exist.

“It’s our common duty, our common responsibility to fight against it. A discrimination against one is a discrimination against all, a respect for one is a respect for all. It’s our common humanity that counts as experience.”

AUDIO: Amplifying Our Voices

From September 10, 2011 at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn, Michigan as part of the U.S. Rising: Emerging Voices in Post-9/11 America Conference.

Participants of the panel with this audio were:

Amplifying Our Voices: Rising Above the Challenges of Post 9/11 Bigotry Moderator: Jack Lessenberry, Wayne State University Professor of Journalism

Maha Freij, ACCESS

Deepa Iyer, South Asian Americans Leading Together

Salam Marayarti, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Dawud Walid, CAIR-Michigan

Click here to listen.

Muslims discuss impact of 9-11 on their community

Posted: Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

By Tom Perkins Freelance Journalist

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had a lasting impact on most Americans, but perhaps more so for Muslims and Arab Americans who suddenly found themselves the objects of suspicion and, in some cases, outright hatred.

Tarek Nahlawi, an area businessman who is on the board of directors of the Michigan Islamic Academy, said he felt there was suspicion of the Muslim community immediately following the attacks. People looked at Muslims differently and questioned aspects of their personal lives, religion and culture, he said.

Some people were immediately prejudiced against all Muslims, Nahlawi said, but the majority of people with whom he interacted on a personal level were friendly and supportive.


091111_Tarek_Nahlawi.jpgTarek Nahlawi, an area businessman who is on the board of directors of the Michigan Islamic Academy, said the Muslim community as a whole came under suspicion after the 9/11 attacks but most people were supportive and friendly. Nahlawi is pictured in August at a Pittsfield Township Planning Commission meeting at which zoning for a new Islamic school was rejected.

Tom Perkins | For

“There was certainly a small percentage who would look at us and question us, but there were more who said ‘You have nothing to do with it, it’s a bunch of lunatics,’” he said. “I felt good, in a way, that most Americans were distinguishing between what’s right and what’s wrong.” 

Basma Raddat lived in Boston during the attacks. She said there was no Muslim community in the area and all her friends were Christians, atheists or of another faith.

She said she saw two sides of the community following the attacks. One group believed anyone who was a Muslim was involved in or at least part guilty for the attack, and a second was able to distinguish between average Muslims and the work of extremists, she said.

“I don’t blame them in either case because what happened was horrible for everyone — it was horrible for me,” she said.

Raddat said strangers have made negative comments to her on several occasions, but generally she feels life has improved for Muslims on a personal level. She said she actively educated people around her on Islam to help them understand that it is peaceful religion.

“I did my part to explain to people around me that the people in the attacks were extremists, and we Muslims in general don’t agree with them,” she said. “They don’t belong to us, we don’t belong to them. Islam is based on love and peace … and we were raised on being peaceful and helpful. If you can forgive, that is the better choice or instead of killing.”

Dawud Walid, director of the Center for Arabic and Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, agreed with Nahlawi and Raddat that one of the positives to come out of the situation is Americans’ better overall understanding of Islam and the Muslim community.

“As the initial fear eroded the year after 9/11, Muslims have taken it upon ourselves to be more active in explaining our faiths,” he said.

But on a political level, things are getting much worse since the 2008 elections, Walid said. There have been well-funded campaigns to block mosques and Islamic schools from being built, including the Park 51 Mosque in Manhattan and others across the country, he said, and a general negative discourse in the media and at the political level that didn’t exist several years ago.

He said that change corresponded with the election of President Barack Obama and Democratic control of the legislative branches.

“We’ve seen a marked increase of anti-Muslim vitriol that wasn’t as pronounced when President Bush was in office, and I think there are some individuals and some politicians who have taken this as political strategy because the GOP doesn’t control the White House and many of the state legislatures,” he said. “No one was talking about Sharia taking over or supplanting the constitution in 2004; that has happened within the past year.”

Nahlawi agreed that the situation is bleaker at the political level, and said one place it is felt most is at the airport, where he is regularly searched because he is Muslim. Even his 3-year-old daughter was subjected to a search, which he questioned whether was necessary. Despite being subjected to searches, he said officials are always respectful and have let him go on his way.

Dr. M. Hisham Sabki is a Syrian born Christian-Arab who moved to the United States in 1957 and retired from teaching political science at Eastern Michigan University last year. He said he received support from his colleagues after 9-11 and didn’t experience any kind of change in his life.

He said the level of change a Muslim or Arab experienced likely depends on their individual situations.

“I think it’s inevitable that there would be some kind resentment or a backlash,” he said. “But there are also plenty of people who know better and aren’t going blame the entire Muslim community just because of what some Muslims who came, ironically, from Saudi Arabia, did.”