Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nihad Awad: Let's help repair Malaysian Churches

“Muslims in America, Malaysia and worldwide must help protect all houses of worship, and thereby show the true spirit of Islam,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “American Muslims, as a symbol of their commitment to interfaith understanding and peaceful coexistence, will take the lead in helping to restore the damaged churches.”

Awad added: “Muslims cannot remain silent in the face of attacks on any houses of worship. Our community needs to take serious and prompt measures to reclaim the moral high ground established by Islamic principles.”

He noted that CAIR has taken action to defend the American Muslim community from similar hate crimes, including acts of vandalism at mosques nationwide.

SEE: CAIR Asks President to Address Rise in Anti-Islam Hate

Awad cited verses from the Quran and Islamic traditions mandating both respect for other faiths and the sanctity of houses of worship.

According to the Quran, Muslims are asked to maintain good relations with people of other faiths and to engage in constructive dialogue. “And dispute not with the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) except with means better (than mere disputation)…but say, 'We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which came down to you.’” (29:46)

Awad said Muslims are proud of the story of the Caliph Umar who received the keys to Jerusalem from the Christian patriarch Sophronius in the 7th century. When the Caliph was asked to pray in a Jerusalem church, he declined saying he did not want to provide a pretext for Muslims to appropriate a Christian holy site.

He noted that the early Muslims sought refuge with the Christian ruler of Abyssinia and that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) drafted a constitution for the city of Medinah in which all groups were granted equal rights and freedom of religion.

In 2006, CAIR asked for similar donations to help repair Palestinian churches damaged following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI perceived as critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.


Demonstrate your desire to reclaim Islamic values and to promote the true spirit of Islam by protecting all houses of worship.

Go to www.cair.com to donate securely to the "CAIR Spirit of Islam Fund." One hundred percent of the donations will be turned over to the Malaysian embassy for use in repairing the churches.

Checks may be made payable to "CAIR" and mailed to:

CAIR Spirit of Islam Fund
453 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, D.C. 20003

(Put "Spirit of Islam Fund" in the memo area of the check.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nihad Awad on C-span reacting to Obama's statement about Muslims

Nihad Awad discusses the issues surrounding the Muslim community and the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253. Awad reacted to a video clip of President Obama's statement about Muslims made on Thursday, January 7, 2010. Mr. Awad talked about racial profiling and better security procedures at airports.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Airport Profiling Hands a Victory to Terrorists

By Nihad Awad

(Nihad Awad is national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim civil rights organization. He may be contacted at: nawad@cair.com.)

Politicians and pundits ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to New York’s Rep. Peter King are calling for racial and religious profiling at our nation’s airports in the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack in Detroit.

A conservative radio host told Fox News "there should be a separate [airport security] line to scrutinize anybody with the name 'Abdul' or 'Ahmed' or 'Mohammad.’”

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said he intends to re-introduce a bill that would allow police to use racial profiling to target “young Muslims of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian background.”

Retired Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney took his call for profiling even further. On Fox News, he said: “If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip searched.”

This would be a dream come true for terrorists.

Many arguments can be made against these renewed calls to institute profiling.

There is the moral and ethical argument that profiling violates an individual’s human rights.

There is the argument that profiling is un-American that it violates the very principles that our nation was founded on and that we all hold dear.

There is the argument that profiling is both ineffective and counterproductive.

In response to calls for profiling following the Christmas Day incident, former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff told an interviewer for National Public Radio: “I'm going to argue that this case illustrates the danger and the foolishness of profiling…I think it's not only problematic from a civil rights' standpoint, but frankly, I think it winds up not being terribly effective.”

Even the Bush administration Justice Department stated in a 2003 advisory report: “Racial profiling in law enforcement is not merely wrong, but also ineffective. Race-based assumptions in law enforcement perpetuate negative racial stereotypes that are harmful to our rich and diverse democracy, and materially impair our efforts to maintain a fair and just society.”

The use of racial and religious profiling can divert precious law enforcement resources from investigations of individuals who have been linked to terrorist activity by specific and credible evidence. It ignores the possibility that someone who does not fit the profile may be engaged in terrorism, or may be an unwitting accomplice to terrorism.

In 1995, after bombing the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh was able to flee while officers operated on the false theory that “Arab terrorists” had committed the attack.

An editorial published by the San Diego Union-Tribune stated in part:

“But aside from the moral objections, as we’ve seen, profiling by characteristic isn’t very efficient. The minute U.S. officials put out the word that they’re not scrutinizing people with blond hair and blue eyes is the minute that al-Qaida starts recruiting people with blond hair and blue eyes. Would looking for Arab-Americans have turned up a passenger that resembled ‘American Taliban’ fighter John Walker Lindh? Would applying extra scrutiny to people with foreign-sounding names have kept would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid off a plane?”

There is also the “creepiness” argument. How would airport security personnel determine who is and who is not Muslim? Do we really want to have each passenger asked about their religious beliefs? And what if the passenger’s last name is “Muhammad,” but they say they are not Muslim? Which line will they be sent to then? What about converts to Islam whose name and skin color do not “give away” their status as Muslims?

We often hear the “Swedish grandmother” argument from those who promote profiling that we should focus security efforts on the real problem, read “Muslims,” rather than on what is essentially a coded term for “white people.”

Then there is the constitutional argument.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to be safe from unreasonable search. In addition, the Fourteenth Amendment requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional for a representative of the government to make decisions based on race.

But of all the arguments against racial and religious profiling at airports, one stands head and shoulders above the others - the argument that profiling hands an underserved victory to the terrorists.

Attacks such as the failed plot to bomb the airliner on Christmas Day cannot possibly have a real impact on our nation in military terms. These attacks are a form of psychological warfare designed to impact public opinion the very definition of terrorism and make us do things we would normally reject, such as profiling.

Profiling sends the message to millions of Muslim travelers that it is their faith, not terrorism, that is the problem. This is precisely the talking point put forward by the religious extremists of Al-Qaeda who say the West is at war with Islam and all Muslims, and that everyone had better choose sides.

Religious profiling is a recruiting and public relations tool for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda. Let’s not do Al-Qaeda’s work for them.

If not profiling, what action can we take to boost airline safety and security?

First look at behavior, not at faith or skin color. Then spend what it takes to obtain more bomb-sniffing dogs, to install more sophisticated bomb-detection equipment and to train security personnel in identifying the behavior of real terror suspects.

Along with boosting training and detection equipment, clean up the inaccurate terror watch lists that have ballooned in the post-9/11 era and work the kinks out of an intelligence system that would let a person get on a plane to America even after his own father had notified security services about his disturbing behavior.

Using profiling may make some people feel safer, but it is a false sense of security that ultimately harms our nation and the principles on which it was founded.