Tuesday, December 29, 2009

American Muslims Must Balance Caution with Hope

By Nihad Awad

As American Muslims hope for better civil liberties protections, increased inclusion in society and improved relations with the Islamic world in the next decade, that hope must be balanced with the reality that Muslims and Islam are often viewed with suspicion in the post-9/11 era.

American Muslims should continue to demonstrate to their fellow citizens that Islam is a vital and productive part of our nation’s social and religious fabric.

This can be accomplished by taking our dinner table conversations about healthcare, education and the economy into the public sphere. Our faith preaches charitable giving. That value can become manifest by joining with like-minded partners to end hunger in America and around the world.

Our community should partner with the new administration to help project the best of our nation’s universal values of freedom and justice to the world. This includes continuing to speak out forcefully against those who falsely claim religious justification for un-Islamic acts.

Our youth should focus on entering the public service sector, whether working on Capitol Hill, in the media or running free clinics.

Islamophobia must be confronted. An anti-Muslim fear industry has flourished in America in recent years. All Americans must repudiate these hate-mongers with the same determination that won America’s women the right to vote, challenged McCarthyism and ended racial segregation.

The rights enjoyed in our nation are part of what creates long lines of hopeful immigrants around our embassies worldwide. Some post-9/11 laws have eroded these rights. Muslims must not be shy or hesitant about protecting civil liberties.

These actions, which are designed to promote common values and prevent conflicts, are certain to help move American Muslims from being a suspect community to one that is celebrated for its positive contributions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nihad Awad's letter to President Obama on Islamophobia

December 23, 2009

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

SUBJECT: Call to Address the Issue of Growing Anti-Islam Hate in America

Dear Mr. President:

As the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is concerned about the alarming level of anti-Islam hate in our nation.

We respectfully urge you to address this important issue and to call on American religious and political leaders to speak out in support of tolerance and mutual understanding.

In making that request, I note recent incidents in Florida in which a cross with the message “Christian nation, Christian community” was planted at the site of a planned mosque and an anti-Islam Christmas display was set up by a local church.

Other recent incidents included:

* anti-Islam brochures distributed in the parking lot of a Washington state Islamic school
* hate-filled fliers posted in a Minnesota Somali community
* an attack on a Sikh youth in Texas who was mistaken for a Muslim
* the painting of “Go Home Sand N**ger” on an Idaho Muslim’s truck
* the harassment of a Muslim bank customer in Illinois because of her Islamic head scarf
* an attack on another Illinois Muslim after the Fort Hood shootings
* a call by far-right members of the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate Muslim interns on Capitol Hill as “spies”
* the ethnic intimidation of an Ohio Muslim who found a noose and a toy camel on his door
* a Colorado sheriff who called the U.S. Marines “Travel agents to Allah"
* the failure of Virginia’s governor-elect to repudiate
* anti-Islam statements by one of his top supporters
* a defaced Quran that was left at a Michigan mosque
* a spate of vandalism incidents at mosques nationwide anti-Islam remarks by Christian evangelist Franklin Graham
* the use of anti-Islam rhetoric in the platform of a Minnesota congressional candidate

A recent poll also showed that two-thirds of Protestant pastors consider Islam “dangerous.”

You yourself have been targeted by anti-Muslim hate, despite the fact that you are Christian. A Colorado car dealer recently put up a billboard depicting you as a turban-wearing militant.

We acknowledge recent remarks to a Muslim and Arab-American gathering in Michigan by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in which he said the U.S. Department of Justice will return to its "traditional" role of ensuring civil rights.

We also acknowledge the fact that you signed a spending measure that will give the Justice Department’s civil rights division 102 new staff members, many of whom will be assigned to hate-crimes investigations.

Thank you for your kind attention to this important issue.


Nihad Awad
CAIR National Executive Director