Friday, October 27, 2006

Video: Awad on C-Span Discussing Muslim Voter Poll

You can see the video here.

The segment begins around 36:26 on the feed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Parvez Ahmed and Nihad Awad: Reject the political Muslim-bashing smears

as published October 19, 2006

Parvez Ahmed and Nihad Awad: Reject the political Muslim-bashing smears

There has been much sound and fury in certain circles about the American Muslim community's support for Keith Ellison and his campaign to represent Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District.

A handful of right-wing bloggers, agenda-driven commentators and political operatives have used scurrilous smear tactics in an attempt to derail his campaign and to marginalize American Muslim voters. These smears and distortions send an un-American message of intolerance and bigotry.

We are proud of our personal donations to Ellison's campaign. He has proven himself to be an effective legislator and his commitment to social justice is worthy of admiration. We believe his election will send a powerful message to the world about America's commitment to religious inclusion and tolerance.

No one should be vilified merely for exercising their rights as an American citizen. Yet attacks on Ellison fit a disturbing pattern of Muslim-bashing that has been seen nationwide this campaign season.

In New York, Rep. Peter King tarred the vast majority of mosques in his state and nationwide as being run by "radicals." In California, a Muslim candidate for the Anaheim City Council is labeled "anti-American" by his Republican opponents. In Wisconsin, a candidate for Congress questioned about his call for profiling of Muslims suggested looking for anyone who is "wearing a turban and his name is Muhammad."

We understand the fear some Americans have of all things Muslim and Islamic. We hear these fears when visiting temples, synagogues and churches. We see the fear in people's eyes when we board an aircraft.

The current wave of terror committed in the name of Islam by a tiny minority of misguided individuals makes it all too easy to attack Islam and stereotype Muslims. Yet a look beyond the violent headlines reveals a more complex situation.

When churches in the Occupied Territories were vandalized, apparently in reaction to comments on Islam by Pope Benedict, major Muslim organizations condemned the violence and reached out for dialogue. Our organization also raised money to repair the damaged churches.

At the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), we are proud of our record of promoting interfaith understanding. We are also proud of our commitment to peace and our repeated condemnations of terrorism in all its forms, whether carried out by individuals, groups or states.

A CAIR statement released on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 said: "As American Muslims.... we will not allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaida to be the voice of Muslims or the representation of Islam to the rest of the world."

Other CAIR antiterror initiatives include our "Not in the Name of Islam" online petition, signed by hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and the Islamic religious ruling (fatwa) repudiating religious extremism and violence (see

When President Bush visited a Washington, D.C., mosque immediately after the 9/11 attacks, he met with a CAIR official. Over the years, CAIR representatives have been in numerous discussions about our nation's affairs with Condoleezza Rice, Al Gore, Karen Hughes, Bill Clinton, and any number of other top government officials. CAIR officials have also been invited by the FBI to participate in its press conferences.

In a desperate bid to boost sagging poll numbers, an Ellison opponent sent campaign materials to voters smearing him as being linked to terrorism, all because he accepted donations from Muslims like us.

This type of guilt by association has been tried in the past. Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans rejected such tactics when the "other" of the day included Catholics, Irish immigrants, Jews or Asians.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

We are clearly living at a time of challenge and controversy. In a campaign as important as this one, and in a time as trying as ours, it is perfectly acceptable to challenge the ideas and policy positions of any candidate. But smears, distortions and unfounded guilt by association are un-American and should be firmly rejected by people of conscience.

In endorsing Ellison, the American Jewish World wrote: "Voters could make an emphatic statement-- one that would gain national and international attention -- by casting their ballots for Keith Ellison."

The election of an African-American Muslim supported by Muslims, Christians and Jews will be among the finest displays of American democracy -- one that will reverberate across the globe.

Parvez Ahmed is board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties group. Nihad Awad is CAIR's national executive director.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Opinion: Islam and the West: The way forward

By Nihad Awad

(Note: This article was originally published September 23, 2003. To see it in its original context click here.)

The quest for world peace is a shared responsibility. No one can deny the fact that official relations between Western countries and the Muslim world have reached a heightened pitch.

It is not a "clash of civilizations" but reluctance on the part of the majority - on both sides - to be involved in honest discourse.

The result of this reluctance leaves the outcome of the relationship to the whims of a few; principally, those who desire to promote a "clash of civilizations".

'White elephant'

It is in the best interests of Western countries to recognize that there are unresolved problems in the Muslim world. Both East and West must actively participate in the resolution of these issues.

The major obstacles to this resolution include the lack of freedoms and independence in the Muslim world and the inability of Western powers to acknowledge and reform certain unjust foreign policies.

These obstacles manifest themselves most vividly in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which have become the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone tries to ignore.

Failures on both sides have allowed fringe elements in the East to manipulate and exploit the forgotten elephant.

After the tragic attacks of 9/11, the world's remaining superpower moved into action in an attempt to deal with the elephant's shadow, but not the elephant itself.

Reform in Islam

When we now cast our critical eye eastward, there are those in the Muslim world who have not come far enough in condemning some of their brethren who illegitimately use their faith to attack innocents.

Courage is needed in the Muslim world to stand up and declare that acts of political violence are completely antithetical to the teachings of Islam.

Such a stance is not a "reform" in Islam; it actually comes directly from the heart of the Koran.

The idea of mutual respect towards humanity is not a product of modern-day liberalism - it is a clear text from the Koran itself.

The Koran tells us that: "O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other and not that you may despise each other." (49:13)

In sum, both the Western powers and the Muslim world have the obligation of addressing their own shortcomings.

America, my country, clearly sets the international agenda and must compel those within its sphere of influence to consistently adhere to basic human rights principles.

A brighter future?

As Americans, we must urge our country to act in our own self-interest and not succumb to the influence of special interest groups who negatively influence an otherwise even-handed approach to policymaking.

For the sake of humanity, we cannot surrender our destiny to those leaders and individuals who see only darkness ahead - those who see heroism only in the use of force; not in the power of reconciliation.

Only when we venture on the path towards cooperation and responsibility will we be able to offer ourselves and our posterity a brighter future.

On the Issues

On Islam
"To more than a billion Muslims worldwide, Islam is a religion that teaches tolerance, freedom and compassion. Those who understand Islam and know Muslims as friends and colleagues realize that Islam is one of the three Abrahamic faiths and that Muslims are contributing members of societies around the world.”

On Interfaith Respect
“Like the Caliph Umar who refused to pray in a Jerusalem church because his followers might then be tempted to turn it into a mosque, Muslims have a religious duty to respect and protect all houses of worship.”

“It is time for the majority of Muslims, Christians and Jews to stand up and say they will not let the fringe of any faith group dictate how they view and interact with each other.”

On Praying for Others
“We call on all people of faith to pray for …the health and safety of all those worldwide who are suffering as the result of natural or man-made disasters.”

On Dealing with Detractors and Hatred
Citing Prophet Muhammad’s example: “When he was attacked personally and abused by people who ridiculed him, when he became powerful he forgave these people. He counseled his companions not to punish and not to torture.”

On Al-Qaeda
”In light of the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we feel the need to once again condemn and repudiate Al-Qaeda and its myopic worldview…For the last five years, Al-Qaeda has offered nothing but a future filled with endless violence and division.”

"…we will not allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to be the voice of Muslims or the representation of Islam to the rest of the world.”

"Al-Qaeda's worldview is a complete distortion of Islam because Islamic teachings clearly state that the killing of one innocent life is the moral equivalent of the killing of all humanity.

"As Muslims, we will continue to condemn Al-Qaeda and ensure that the rest of the world learns the true message of Islam and its teachings of peace, justice and compassion for all."

On Terrorism
"Notwithstanding the fact that there are legitimate political grievances in the Muslim world today, Islam has never, and will never, justify the killing of innocent civilians in order to achieve political or religious goals.

"My position and CAIR's position is extremely clear - we condemn suicide bombings."

On Building Bridges
"CAIR and other national American Muslim groups stand ready to help build bridges of understanding between America and the Islamic world."

On the 2006 Lebanon Conflict
"How many more innocent lives must be lost before America acts to reign in Israel's brutal campaign of state terror in Lebanon. Our nation's uncritical and unjustified support for Israeli attacks on civilians in Lebanon and Gaza is beyond all moral bounds and is out of sync with American public opinion."

On the Holocaust
“I think we have to honor the memory those who were killed and persecuted regardless of the victim and regardless of the vicitimizer. I think the Holocaust is a lesson for all of us to learn and we cannot mock it, we cannot deny it.”

On Sectarian Violence
“The atrocious attack on the Askariya shrine [in Iraq] is an obvious attempt to incite sectarian violence. The Iraqi people, and Muslims worldwide, must not fall into the trap set by those who seek division and mutual hatred.”

On FBI-Muslim Community Relations
“[A meeting with FBI Deputy Director John Pistole] offered an opportunity to improve lines of communication and to increase mutual cooperation on issues related to national security and the prevention of hate crimes,”

On Public Service
“We have to serve the public. Allah (swt) described the Prophet (s) as a public servant to mankind: ‘We have not sent you except as a mercy to mankind.’ It is a strategic obligation on Muslims in the West to prove that they are a mercy and blessing to Australia, to America, to Europe because you are there and you have to touch people’s hearts through your service. We say in the West ‘if you would like to be a leader, you have to be a servant’ because leadership is service. We cannot just ask people to be sympathizers and understanding of Islam if we ourselves do not live Islam and touch people’s hearts as a neighbour, as a classmate, as a co-worker, as friends around us.”

Image: Awad with then-Governor Bush

Media Appearances

CNN (Video): Is Congressman Peter King Exploiting Anti-Muslim Bias

PBS News Hour (Video): Muslim Catholic Debate on Pope Benedict’s Regensberg Comments

C-Span Washington Journal (Video): Danish Cartoons

CNN Transcript (Text): Profiling

Event Transcript (Text): The Israel Lobby and the US Response to the War in Lebanon

Democracy Now (Text, Video, Audio): Muslim Leaders in Iraq Call for Release of Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Jill Carroll as Deadline Set by Captors Expires

Fox News, O’Reilly Factor (Text): CAIR Outraged Over President’s Use of Term ‘Islamic Fascists’

Image: Awad and Vice President Gore

Biography of Nihad Awad

Nihad Awad is executive director and co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest non-profit Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

Since CAIR’s founding in 1994, Awad has worked to empower American Muslims, fight discrimination and foster positive interfaith relations in America.

After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Awad aided in the relief effort, meeting with then-Governor Keating and presenting him a sizable donation for the victims’ fund on behalf of the American Muslim community. Awad also spoke out against the false accusations being leveled at Arabs and Muslims after that tragic incident.

In 1997, Awad served on Vice President Al Gore’s Civil Rights Advisory Panel to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.

A few days after September 11, 2001, Awad was one of a select group American Muslim leaders invited by the White House to join President Bush in a press conference condemning the attacks and acts anti-Muslim intolerance that followed.

In 2004, National Journal listed Awad among “people whose ideas will help shape the debates over 10 important issues of the day.”

Awad is a member of US Institute of Peace (USIP) Advisory Committee on US-Muslim world Relations. Awad is the US Representative of the Vatican affiliated International Committee on Muslim-Christian (Catholic) Dialog.

Awad has testified before both houses of Congress. He has met with officials at the highest levels of our government. Awad has spoken at prestigious educational institutions including Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins Universities.

Awad is routinely interviewed by national and international media such as CNN, BBC World Service, PBS, C-SPAN, National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Voice of America and Al-Jazeerah.

Awad is a regular participant in the U.S. Department of State’s “International Visitors Program,” which brings foreign dignitaries, journalists and academics to learn about the United States.

Awad has conducted hundreds of seminars across the country, training Muslim communities in communications techniques. He has been a leader in helping Muslims assert their civil rights and their rights in the workplace.

Under Awad’s leadership, CAIR has conducted diversity training on Islam and Muslims for the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, US Armed Forces, several local and state law enforcement agencies, Fortune 500 companies and many other US corporations, including Nike and DKNY.

CAIR regularly meets with law enforcement officials at the national, state and local levels. After the August 2006 arrest of men accused of planning bomb attacks on US bound airliners the FBI invited CAIR along with other Muslim organizations to participate in a joint press conference. In 2003, CAIR officials spoke at a joint press conference with the FBI in Miami urging the community to assist law enforcement in their search for a man on the most wanted list.