Area Muslims tout successes

April 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Area Muslims tout successes

Banquet highlights advocacy, evolution of community in state

  • By Ursula Watson
  • The Detroit News


The struggles and triumphs of Muslim-Americans were examined Sunday at an annual banquet for a civil rights and advocacy group.

And to highlight this year’s theme — “Upholding Our Constitution: Defending Our Faith” — at the 13th annual banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan, the group touted recent successes or advocacy.

CAIR helped gain zoning approval for the American Muslim Diversity Association to build the first mosque in Sterling Heights, and filed a lawsuit against the FBI and Customs and Border Protection for what the group calls invasive religious questioning at the United States-Canadian border.

Keynote speaker at the banquet at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn was lecturer and educator Imam Suhaib Webb of Boston’s Muslim American Society.

Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR-MI, said the nonprofit organization looks for speakers who represent CAIR’s mission of diversity and inclusion among Muslim-Americans and America in general.

“Imam Webb is an authentic Islamic scholar who is fluent in American culture as well as the classic Islamic tradition, which is very unique,” Walid said.

A native of Oklahoma, Webb, 40, earned a bachelor’s in education from the University of Central Oklahoma and went on to a career in the music industry. Raised a Christian who attended church three times a week, he converted to Islam and studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, a world center for Islamic learning.

Webb, who is touted as contemporary American Muslim Imam, moved effortlessly from speaking Arabic to English in his speech. “You can’t divorce the effect of religion on society,” Webb said.

Nayyer Siddiqi, an attorney, said she enjoyed Webb’s speech.

“He spoke to the new generation and showed the evolution of the Muslim community in Michigan,” she said.





Arab Americans Grapple With Which Presidential Candidate to Support in 2012

As approval for President Barack Obama wanes, disenfranchised Arab American voters are keeping open minds for who to support come Election Day.

  • By Jessica Carreras

When Dearborn resident Amal Berry-Brown left the National Leadership Conference for Arab Americans in October, she said she walked away sad.

Because while the annual conference–held in 2011 in Dearborn–is always about creating a unified political and social voice for the community, it’s hard to find unity without a clear political leader.

In 2008, that person was then presidential candidate Barack Obama. But heading into 2012’s election season, the choices are much murkier.

“The Arab American community is a bit disenfranchised,” Berry-Brown, a Comerica vice president and community leader, told Dearborn Patch last October. “We had a great deal of hope in President Obama, and some of that really hasn’t come to fruition. So in 2012, it will be interesting to see the overall stance the community takes in who they’ll be supporting, and what can be done.”

Berry-Brown’s attitude mirrors the greater Arab American and Muslim American communities in Michigan and nationally. With a president who has not lived up to expectations in terms of civil liberties, foreign policy and immigration law, and Republican candidates who nearly all have voiced anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric, Arab Americans are wondering: Who should we vote for? Or should we vote at all?

Fighting Apathy

For Arab American and Muslim organizations that focus on civic engagement, the first and biggest goal is to get their constituents to the polls.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations combats voter apathy with Get Out the Vote campaigns at local mosques, reminding Muslim Michiganders of the great responsibility they have to cast their ballot–even if the candidate is not aligned with all of the issues that matter to them.

“We’re encouraging people that the election is still important; voting is still important,” explained Executive Director Dawud Walid. “I tell them, ‘Don’t take your vote for granted. Many people are dying to get the right to vote.’”

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, confirmed that the problem is nationwide.

“I think (apathy) is national,” he said. “Approval rates are low … and you’ve got a depressed environment in the country.”

And with the passion seen in 2008 gone for many voters, the approach of civic engagement organizations will change drastically for 2012 as well.

“There will be an effort to mobilize people, but it will be different than 2008,” Zogby said.

Obama Losing Support

Much of the apathy seen in Arab American voters stems from a feeling that no one candidate, or political party, represents them well.

While many of the nation’s estimated 3.5 million Arab American’s supported George W. Bush in 2000, a poll of community members conducted by Zogby International in 2008 found that 46 percent backed Obama in that year’s election, while 32 percent pledged support for Republican John McCain.

Some post-election estimates from the same year claimed that 90 percent Muslim voters supported Obama.

Osama Siblani, treasurer of the Arab American Political Action Committee, publisher of the Dearborn-based Arab American News and founder of both, said it could be chalked up to the fact that many Arab Americans and Muslims are split on key issues.

“In general, Arab Americans are conservatives,” he said. “Politically they may be liberal, but on civil issues like abortion, taxes and stuff, they’re more conservative. But (the GOP) alienates the community when they talk about Islamaphobia.”

This go around, Siblani and others believe that Obama won’t do as well, although much of that depends on which Republican candidate comes out on top and how they campaign.

“We have issues with the Republican Party, but I don’t think the Democrats should take us for granted,” Siblani said. “This community is a very unique community. Politically they’re liberal, but it doesn’t take much to move them to the right.”

Zogby, however, said he thinks Obama will still be supported nationally among Arab American voters–especially because the disappointment among voters has not gone unnoticed by the Democratic Party.

“I think that the Democrats will do very well in 2012, and they’ll win back a lot of support,” Zogby said. “But I don’t think that the numbers will be where they were in 2008–meaning that the percentage (of support) will be the same, but the turnout will be less.”

As for Republicans, Zogby said a lot will depend on what the final candidate says and does during his campaign. So far, it hasn’t been good.

“The candidates have made rather shocking statements about the Middle East and about Islam,” he said. “These candidates scare the hell out of people.”

Walid agreed, and said that it seems in 2012, Islamaphobia has grown.

“There’s more anti-Muslim sentiment this election from the GOP, both locally and nationally,” he said.

With one exception, that is.

Ron Paul a Standout?

Ron Paul’s stance on foreign policy, support of streamlining immigration processes and staunch beliefs on the roles of government have won over many Arab American voters.

“Paul has been the only major Republican candidate to resist the type of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant demonization, fear-mongering and pandering to ultra-conservative voters in his party that has become pervasive in the post-9/11 climate,” the Arab American news wrote in their Feb. 24 endorsement of the candidate.

He’s also the only GOP candidate to actively court Arab American voters: his Feb. 27 stop at Dearborn’s Ford Community and Performing Arts Center is co-sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn‘s Arab Student Union.

But, Zogby pointed out, Paul is generally considered to be out of the question as the 2012 GOP candidate.

“I think people look (at Ron Paul) the way people looked at (Independent candidate Ralph) Nader in 2004 and they say, ‘at least on some issues, he’s saying things I want to hear,’” Zogby explained. “But come November, it’ll be who’s on the ballot and what’s the choice.

“I understand the Ron Paul sentiment, but that will fade.”

Still, Siblani said support for Paul is more about making Arab American voices heard.

“The reason we’re trying to support Ron Paul in this primary is for us to have someone to speak at the platform at the Republican National Convention,” Siblani said. “If he gets 15-20 percent of the delegates, then he can be a force at the convention and he can bring up the issues that most Americans are concerned about.”

Which, Siblani said, could be the light bulb moment for the GOP in realizing they can and should court Arab American voters.

And although CAIR and the Arab American Institute do not endorse, groups like AAPAC do–and they have significant clout in the community.

“We’re willing to sit down and talk to any candidate,” Siblani said. “After that, the issue becomes deciding who is closer to the issues that we care about. And then after we discuss it amongst ourselves, we go to our community and try to get them on the same line with us, so we walk in united.”


The Daily Show Clowns Joe Kaufman & FL GOP Anti-Muslim Bigots

Last night, The Daily Show clowned anti-Muslim bigots for blocking a CAIR-FL representative from gaining membership in the Florida GOP.

The primary bigot clowned was Americans Against Hate representative Joe Kaufman, who unsuccessfully attempted to get an award rescinded, which was given to me by the Mayor of Lansing.

Click here to watch.

Local woman, rights group question hijab removal procedure of Dearborn Police

Local woman, rights group question hijab removal procedure of Dearborn Police

By Nick Meyer
Friday, 07.08.2011, 02:46pm

DEARBORN – A local Muslim woman along with a Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan spokesman have questioned the protocol of the city’s police department after the woman was forced to remove her headscarf in the presence of male officers during a “facial recognition” procedure.
Rachel Chinavare

Rachel Chinavare said she was made to sit in a waiting area in the station without her hijab and then was forced to walk into a room containing five male officers to retrieve it from a locker after her request to have it brought to her in a separate room was refused. Chinavare said she felt embarrassed and was denied her religious need for privacy and modesty in the presence of men.

Chinavare, age 18, had been charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from a dispute with her mother’s boyfriend, who she said was intoxicated at the time in the family’s backyard hot tub. She said they were engaged in loud and lewd behavior while the pair’s bathing suits were seen laying outside of the hot tub. Chinavare had been studying with a friend before she heard noises coming from outside and went with him to investigate the situation.
Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad said that officers followed standard procedure during the night regarding the facial identification process and in responding to the call and allegation of assault by the boyfriend as well.
“The arresting officer exercised great sensitivity to the young lady, explaining the entire process and allowing her the opportunity to obtain the required bond,” he said. “She was investigated at the station and released in less than one hour.  Booking procedures were followed as a photograph must be taken. This was explained to her in full and she appeared to be cooperative.”
He also noted that she has the right to a fair trial if one is needed.
Haddad added that he is actively trying to hire more women at the station to better represent the community but noted that only men were working at the station that night, as Chinavare also recounted.
Chinavare was also not allowed to continue wearing her hijab while waiting because it is perceived by the department guidelines as a potential hazard for despondent people who have been arrested and may wish to hang themselves. Haddad said that belts, shoelaces and other items are also emoved and put in lockers because of the policy.
But Chinavare said she was cooperative after her initial disbelief over being asked to remove the hijab and could not have been perceived as a threat to harm herself.
Dawud Walid of CAIR-MI said he was surprised to hear about Dearborn’s policies in treating Muslim women wearing a hijab and respecting their religious need for privacy among male officers.
“Headscarves are allowed for Muslim women in state correctional facilities as long as they are not high risk, and taking pictures while having a hijab on is good enough for the Michigan driver’s license and  for the federal government to get a passport, so why can’t it be good enough for the city of Dearborn?”
Walid said that he would like to speak with the department about possibly instituting similar protocols to the Canton Police Department, which has begun using a policy that allows Muslim women to wear headscarves during the booking process which includes taking a picture.
“That’s a model I would hope Dearborn Police would take up,” he said.
Regarding the rule of taking away headscarves, belts, shoelaces and other items, Haddad said it was the “best practice and policy for everyone’s protection.”