Walid: Attacking Islam isn’t the solution


12:07 a.m. EST January 14, 2015

Nolan Finley’s Jan. 11 column, “Coddling of Islam fueled Paris attack,” has three problematic propositions that are inflammatory, not corrective.

The two al-Qaida affiliated French extremists who attacked Charlie Hebdo over a disdainful portrayal of the prophet Muhammad do not even constitute .00001 percent of France’s Muslim population, which exceeds 5 million. Likewise, the extremists who attempted to assassinate a Danish cartoonist in 2006 over a similar caricature constitute a ridiculously low percentage of Danish Muslims.

The millions of European Muslims who reacted with peaceful disdain to these cartoons continue to be ignored. Surely, Finley would never make the leap to paint Christianity as having a problem with intolerance despite the fact that domestic terrorism and hate crimes have always taken place in America by white males motivated by perverse political agendas cloaked in Christianity.

Also Islam is not treated like other religions by France, as Finley falsely opined. In 2009, Maurice Sinet faced charges of “inciting racial hatred” and was fired from Charlie Hebdo for a cartoon that he drew which was insulting to Jewish people. To question the statistics or facts surrounding the Holocaust in France is done under the threat of criminal prosecution in France as well. As much as I am against anti-Semitic cartoons and Holocaust denial, I am also against hypocrisy. There should be a universal standard of civility and sensitivity applied to all, instead of the French model, in which it is socially repugnant and even illegal to mock certain people while it is acceptable to defame Islam and draw racist cartoons about Africans and Arabs.

Furthermore, the majority of victims of extremists since our misguided foray into Iraq have been Muslims. These victims also include Muslim journalists. The murders in France were tragic indeed, but the subtle implication or erasure in Finley’s commentary is that the lives of Westerners hold more value than others. For instance, in recent days a reported 2,000 persons, mainly Muslims, were killed in Northern Nigeria. This was Nigeria’s 9/11, yet I have not seen calls for solidarity with Nigeria and its Muslim victims.

Muslims in France are not compelled to assimilate to the dominant culture’s views, as American Muslims are not obligated by law to assimilate into the social construct of American whiteness. Muslims, however, must obey the laws of the lands which we reside in. Obeying laws means that we also have the right to peacefully protest against Islamophobia and racism, which we have and will continue to do.

To say that increasing insults toward French Muslims, who are a marginalized group and subjected to double standards, is the proper response to the Paris attack was simply irresponsible.

Dawud Walid, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan

Metro area Muslims fear backlash over massacre


Written by Derek Draplin, The Detroit News 11:23 p.m. EST January 8, 2015

Metro Detroit Muslim leaders condemned Thursday the terrorist attack on a French satirical publication that killed 12 people in Paris and worried about possible retribution against Muslims here and in other countries.

“The event is disgusting. We send our condolences to our friends and those who lost loved ones,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan’s branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We are concerned about backlash against Muslims in the west.”

The attack, which is suspected to have been committed by two brothers with ties to a Yemeni terrorist network, occurred Wednesday at the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The publication had been threatened for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, yet continued to publish its satire.

Metro Detroit mosques aren’t taking any new security measures but remain on alert against possible threats, said Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, co-chairman of the Imams Council with the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon, Muslims are “always vigilant, more vigilant than ever before,” Elturk said.

He speculated that the lower socioeconomic status of the attackers in France “made them more vulnerable to Muslim extremists.”

The Imams Council said it “deplored” the killings in a statement Thursday. “We ask all people of conscience to not paint the entire Muslim people with the same brush,” the statement said.

Imad Hamad, executive director of the American Human Rights Committee in Dearborn, which promotes human rights advocated in a 1948 United Nations declaration, said the attack “violates basic human decency.”

“It violates the fundamental principles of Islam and should not be attributed to Islam or Muslims under any circumstances,” Hamad said.

Saeed A. Khan, a lecturer in Near East Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, said most Muslims in America are deeply disturbed by the Paris attack, yet remain vigilant for any blowback against the community.

“It’s events like this that have the ability and potential for backlash,” Khan said.

“This kind of brutality and violence is categorically condemned by Muslims all around,” he said, and doesn’t exist “in any (Islamic) religious scripture — either in the Quran or tradition of the prophet.”

Others in the community were concerned that the attacks would overshadow recent contributions Muslims have made to Detroit, including a $100,000 donation given Wednesday by two Muslim groups to the Detroit Water Fund that helps city residents make overdue payments on their water bills.

“Our community is engaged every day with free health clinics and other programs,” said Victor Ghalib Begg, a senior adviser to the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

“We’re doing all these good things every day, then a crazy guy did what he did in the name of religion,” Begg said.

The attacks have stirred discussion of the relationship between free speech and the Muslim community. Khan said most Muslims embrace free expression and their faith without resorting to violence.

“Muslims are very sensitive of depictions of the prophet. This is countered by the sacrality of freedom of expression,” Khan said. “It seems as though that’s where the debate is going now regarding this event.”

Walid also cautioned people not to merely reduce the issue to free speech.

“The publisher should not have been murdered, it’s a crime against humanity … but I don’t think he’s some kind of martyr for free speech,” he said. “I would caution people not to simplify this just as a free speech issue.”

There Was a Terror Attack in America This Week, So Why Wasn’t It in the News?


A bomb exploded at the Colorado Springs, Colo., office of the NAACP, but it took a social media backlash for the news to go wide.

January 09, 2015

Britni Danielle is a regular contributor to TakePart. She writes on a variety of subjects for Clutch, Ebony, Jet, and others.

The news has brimmed with details of the terror attacks in France that began when gunmen opened fire in the Paris offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, leaving a dozen people dead. Another, lesser-known terrorist attack took place this week on American soil, and chances are you haven’t heard much about it.

An improvised explosive device—police jargon for a bomb—was detonated outside the chapter of the NAACP in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday. No one was hurt, but that’s only because a gas can that was placed next to the bomb failed to ignite. The blast scorched the building, which reopened Thursday.

While the Colorado attack wasn’t deadly, its vile intent makes the incident a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s, when terrorism against the NAACP and other civil rights activists was common. While many mainstream print outlets covered the attack on the day it happened, without deaths and attackers on the loose, as they were in France, it wasn’t a prominent point of coverage on television outlets.

“If it had not been for Twitter I wouldn’t have known about it,” says Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. After news of the bombing spread across Twitter and Facebook, many people began to wonder why the situation hadn’t garnered more than a few cursory mentions on newscasts.

How behind the curve were mainstream broadcast news outlets? A search of the news database Nexis.com by PBS NewsHour found that the CNN first reported the story on Wednesday morning, nearly 24 hours after the bombing. ABC’s Good Morning Americaincluded the blast in its morning roundup that same day. MSNBC mentioned the explosion twice on Wednesday night. As for Fox News Channel, it failed to mention it at all, according toPBS NewsHour.

Frustrated by the lack of coverage, users shared information and collective outrage on social media, making #NAACPbombing the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter.

Actor Rashida Jones implored her followers to hold the media accountable. “PLEASE everybody, mainly national news outlets, CARE MORE ABOUT THIS,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s barely getting coverage.”

Tonight Show bandleader Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson echoed the irritation of many users. “Wait…there was an #NAACPBombing for real? Man…thank god for social media cause i woulda never known otherwise,” he shared on Twitter.

Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, also weighed in on the lack of coverage. “I am deeply troubled by the bombing in Colorado. It reminds me of another period,” he wrote. “These stories cannot be swept under the rug #NAACPBombing.”

Broadcasters have since picked up the story, but Walid believes the uptick wouldn’t have happened at all without pressure from Twitter.

“Social media has allowed marginalized communities to not only have a voice but find out information that has been traditionally ignored,” says Walid, who contrasted the dearth of coverage of the Colorado incident with the nonstop coverage of the massacre in Paris.

“Not to belittle what took place in Paris at all because we’re concerned about all human life,” he says. “However, given the history of bombing of black institutions, including the NAACP, and the mass protests about the importance of black lives, it’s disconcerting that virtually no attention has been given to the terrorist attack against the NAACP.”

Traditional news decision making has long been driven by the adage “If it bleeds, it leads,” meaning the loss of human life is the most important story to tell on any given day. By that logic, the massacre in Paris deserves more coverage because 12 people were killed and several more were injured, but Walid believes something else is at play.

(Nearly) 40 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Yemen the same day as Paris, yet that didn’t get media attention,” he says. “The obvious difference was the victims [in Paris] were attacked in Europe, and the chief person targeted by the extremists was Caucasian.”

Walid’s assertion may also help explain why American news outlets have also been silent on arecent attack by Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls last April. According to reports, Boko Haram has leveled at least 10 towns in northeast Nigeria in the past five days, leaving scores dead and 2,000 people unaccounted for.

“This is one of the worst attacks I’ve seen because so many people are unaccounted for and feared dead,” Ahmed Zanna, a senator for Borno state, where the attacks occurred, told NBC News.

Walid says the media is silent because the lives of people of color aren’t seen to be as valuable as the lives of white Americans.

“In the American psyche there’s always been racial hierarchy in terms of importance assigned to certain lives over others. That’s the inescapable and undeniable reality of how our media covers things,” he says.

Walid’s not alone in that thinking.

“In America its not terrorism if black people are the targets and white people are the suspects. Therefore its not newsworthy. #NAACPBombing,” tweeted Zellie Imani on Wednesday.

But the media’s bias isn’t happening in a vacuum. The outpouring of support for the citizens of Paris by the U.S. government also indicates systemic bias, according to Walid.

“President Obama was quick to make a statement about Paris, but he wasn’t speedy to condemn the domestic terrorism attack in Colorado, and he’s black,” says Walid. “So that just shows you how institutionalized the importance that white life is given over black or brown life in America.”

Agents from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are looking for a person of interest in the NAACP bombing. Meanwhile, the staff at the organization’s Colorado Springs office are getting back to work. “We are law-abiding citizens,” Henry Allen, the chapter’s president, told The New York Times. “We are not a radical, out-of-control group. We just want everybody to be treated equally.” If only that equal treatment could happen in the media too.