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Scam Alert: Callers Misrepresenting Themselves as Government Employees

Image for News Release - Scam Alert: Callers Misrepresenting Themselves  as Government Employees

Individuals falsely claiming to be officers from the DHS, FBI, IRS and/or USCIS are calling our community members

(Feb 06, 2014 - San Francisco Bay Area, CA) 

Dear Community Members,

CAIR-SFBA has received several complaints in the last few months from community members who have received calls from individuals falsely claiming to be from the DHS, FBI, and IRS. The community members correctly contacted CAIR to assert their rights, but learned upon consultation with the CAIR staff that these calls were in fact scams. These individuals making the calls impersonate officers, sometimes leave messages, claim there is an investigation pending and threaten prosecution and/or arrest. 

There was a recent news report from theMercury News about Fremont community members falling victim to this IRS scam. These individuals falsely claim to be from the IRS and ask for money otherwise they will revoke the community member’s visa and/or passport or arrest the community member . The CAIR-LA office has also received complaints about individuals falsely claiming to be from the USCIS asking community members for personal information. These individuals then falsely identify “issues” in the community member’s immigration records and ask for payment to correct these records. The Council for Global Immigration reported that “[t]he people making the phone calls ... have threatened adverse actions such as deportation.”

Ultimately, these individuals are harassing community members to try and extract sensitive information about their identity and/or coerce community members to give them money. Please understand this is a scam. If you receive a phone call from someone who claims to be an officer from one of these agencies, please:


1. Say: “I have nothing to say to you at this time. My lawyer will contact you.” Do ask them for their contact information and try to make note of the name of the alleged officer, as well as which agency they claim to be with and their phone number.
2. Report it to CAIR-SFBA by calling 408.986.9874 or via email to info@sfba.cair.com. CAIR-SFBA is also reporting these calls to their respective agencies. However, if you receive an IRS scam call, here is how you can report it yourself: IRS scam
3. If the caller leaves a message, do not return the call or leave a message in return
4. Do not give the caller any sensitive information about your identity like your social security number, date of birth, passport number, alien number, maiden name, etc., and do not send any money

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact CAIR-SFBA’s civil rights department. 

Sincerely,


Fatima Iqbal                                 Rachel Roberts
Staff Attorney                               Civil Rights Coordinator

End of Article

CONTACT


,
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T 408.986.9874

Now Available Online: CAIR-SFBA Releases School Bullying Report

Image for News Release - Now Available Online: CAIR-SFBA Releases School Bullying Report

Almost half of Muslim students report being targeted by bias-based bullying

(Dec 19, 2013 - SANTA CLARA, CA) 

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today released a first-of-its-kind report documenting bias-based bullying of American Muslim students in that state’s schools.

The new report, “Growing in Faith: California Muslim Youth Experiences with Bullying, Harassment and Religious Accommodation in Schools,” reveals that nearly half of Muslim students say they have been subjected to some form of bias-based bullying. The findings are based on a statewide survey of almost 500 Muslim students, ages 11 to 18. They were asked questions about their relationships with peers and teachers, as well as their comfort levels participating in discussions about Islam and Muslims.
 
The report found that approximately one in five young women reported being bullied because they wore an Islamic headscarf (hijab) to school. Additionally, one in
five youth reported they were unsure of participating in classroom discussions in which Islam or Muslims are discussed and were unsure of whether teachers respected their religion. More than one-third of bullying victims surveyed indicated that reporting harassment incidents to school administrators was not helpful.

To obtain the full report, visit: Growing in Faith

“Being called ‘terrorist’ or ‘Bin laden’ is still a reality for many American Muslim students,” said CAIR-LA Civil Rights Manager Fatima Dadabhoy. “Throughout the course of this study, we were alarmed to find that many Muslim students didn’t even deem this as a form of bullying. Through this report, we hope to show that a decision to dismiss mistreatment as a natural consequence of being Muslim in America, or simply part of growing up, is unacceptable and normalizes a toxic school environment.”

Rachel Roberts, civil rights coordinator for CAIR’s Northern California offices, and Pearl Abdo, Santa Clara County parent, speaking to reporters about school bullying and teacher harassment.
“Too often we find that parents and teachers don’t know how to adequately address bias-based bullying of American Muslim students,” said Rachel Roberts, civil rights coordinator for CAIR’s Northern California offices. “We hope this report will shed light on the resources available to parents, teachers, and students in order to effectively and proactively address school bullying.”

The report also shares anecdotes from CAIR-CA’s case files to highlight the problems reported to the civil rights organization’s offices and includes information about recent changes to the law because of high-profile cases of extreme school bullying.

Additionally, the report provides information for parents about how to request religious accommodation for their child and a list of resources that parents can use to learn more about the issues children face at school.

CAIR also offers a booklet, called “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students.

CAIR-CA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CAIR-CA Testifies at State Assembly Civil Rights Hearing

Image for News Release - CAIR-CA Testifies at State Assembly Civil Rights Hearing

A representative of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) testified at a state assembly hearing entitled "Diversity in California: A Conversation About Us." The hearing was held last Thursday by the Assembly Select Committee on Human Rights, Diversity and Race Relations.

(Oct 21, 2013 - Santa Clara, CA) 

Panels drawn from civil rights groups, university researchers and local government provided testimony in order to help lawmakers identify policy remedies for preserving security without compromising civil liberties at the local and national level.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush testified alongside representatives from several prominent groups, including Brian Nelson, special assistant attorney general to the California Department of Justice, Robin S. Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, Simran Kaur of the Sikh Coalition, and others.

Ayloush testified on the increasing normalization of civil rights abuses targeting Americans - and in particular - American Muslims. Ayloush highlighted findings from CAIR’s recent report, “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States,” which comprehensively examines groups promoting anti-Muslim sentiment in our society and the negative impact those groups have locally and nationally. This includes a rise in mosque opposition cases, the passage of anti-Islam bills in six states, a rise in employment discrimination against Muslims and the creation of America’s secret no-fly list, which disproportionately affects American citizens from Muslim-majority countries.

“It is essential for our state lawmakers to understand that Islamophobia is not only a threat against American Muslims, but it’s a threat to our American values,” said Ayloush. “Through changing and improving policies, we can bring our nation closer to achieving liberty and justice for all individuals.”

Ayloush provided lawmakers with recommendations on how to combat the Islamophobia industry and its efforts to undermine the values in our U.S. constitution.

Obtain the full report here: Legislating Fear

The committee chair, Assembly Member Isadore Hall (D-Compton), Compton Mayor Aja Brown and committee members including Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Sr., Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), Jimmy Gomez (D-Northeast Los Angeles), Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella), Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), and others were present at the hearing.

CAIR-CA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. 

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CONTACT

Sameena Usman
Government Relations Consultant, CAIR-SFBA
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T 408.986.9874

Asian Pacific leaders commended in Milpitas

Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, hosted the Third Annual Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Leadership Awards Ceremony on Friday in Milpitas City Hall's Council Chambers.

(Sep 26, 2013 - Milpitas, CA) 

“The 25th Assembly District is one of the most diverse in the state of California,” Wieckowski said.Ê “We have benefited from the rich culture and traditions of the API community.ÊIt’s appropriate to highlight those individuals who have volunteered an extraordinary amount of time back to their communities to help make this area such a vibrant and wonderful place to live.”

The honorees included:

-Deepka Lalwani, Milpitas, founder of Indian Business and Professional Women. Her award was presented by Meri Maben, district director of the Office of Congressman Honda.

-Phong La, Fremont, president and general counsel of PTR Manufacturing Inc. Her award was presented by Wieckowski.

-Zahra Billoo, Santa Clara, executive director of the council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Her award was presented by Milpitas City Councilman Armando Gomez.

-Anna Muh, Fremont, internship director for Citizens for Better Community. Muh’s award was presented by Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison.

-Filipino-American National Historical Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter. The award was presented by Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.

Milpitas Councilman Gomez provided welcoming remarks, followed by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Wieckowski.

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Abercrombie settles discrimination lawsuits over head scarves

Image for News Release - Abercrombie settles discrimination lawsuits over head scarves

On Monday we heard form one of the two California women who settled their lawsuits with clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch. They claim they were fired for wearing head scarves on the job.

(Sep 23, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

As part of the settlement, Abercrombie agreed to change its policy governing an employee’s appearance. The company will also pay the women a combined $71,000 and attorney fees.

Hani Khan, who said she was fired from the Hollister store in San Mateo in 2010 because she wore a hijab, said she’s happy with the settlement.

“It wasn’t about the money, it was about the policy and I was fired because of the ‘look policy’ and now that they’ve had to change that, I’m really happy. If it could happen to me in the Bay Area it could happen to anyone. I’m not anyone different. So, I felt it was right for me to stand up and say something about it,” said Khan.
Abercrombie’s new policy will establish an appeals process for workers denied religious accommodations.

End of Article

CAIR & LAS-ELC Announce Settlement in Abercrombie & Fitch Hijab Lawsuits

Clothing Retailer's Revised 'Look Policy' Will Accommodate Hijabs Following Religious Discrimination Ruling

(Sep 23, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

Earlier this morning, the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the settlement of a three and a half year lawsuit against teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

The settlement follows a recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers that the company had violated Federal and state civil rights laws by refusing to allow Hani Khan, of Foster City, to wear her religious headscarf at work, and rejecting its undue hardship and “free speech” defenses. Abercrombie has agreed to make numerous substantive policy and practice changes - including a modification to the ‘Look Policy’ specifically acknowledging A&F’s legal obligations to allow exceptions—to settle the lawsuit which was otherwise scheduled to go to trial at the end of the month.

SEE: CAIR-SFBA, LAS-ELC Win Judgment Against Abercrombie & Fitch in Hijab Case

“It has been a long three years, but the resolution we obtained made every step worth it,” said Hani Khan, who spoke at this morning’s press conference. “I am hopeful that my struggle and this victory will ensure that what happened to me at Abercrombie never happens to any other employees there. All Americans have the right to religious accommodation in the workplace, and we must challenge discrimination when it happens.”

SEE: Stipulated Judgment and Decree

“We knew from the moment Ms. Khan came to us that her rights had been violated, and that her case would be an important one to pursue,” said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director at CAIR-SFBA and one of Khan’s attorneys. “We applaud her courage in asserting her rights and remaining steadfast through several years of litigation. Nobody should ever have to choose between their job and their religion, and this victory is one step further in that direction.”

“Unfortunately, discrimination of this kind continues at an alarming rate throughout the country, and few workers have the courage to stand up for their rights,” said Marsha Chien, Skadden Fellow at LAS-ELC and one of Khan’s attorneys. “It is our hope that the brave actions of those like Ms. Khan will help ensure that no employee is made to believe she or he doesn’t fit a company’s idea of an ‘all-American lifestyle.’”

The company settled the case along with another lawsuit brought by the EEOC on behalf of an Abercrombie & Fitch applicant, Halla Banafa, who was not hired because of her headscarf. In Banafa’s case, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila dismissed several of Abercrombie’s defenses in April of this year.

The EEOC, Abercrombie, and Khan agreed to consolidate the settlement of the two California lawsuits into one Stipulated Judgment and Decree. Under the decree, Abercrombie will:

-create an appeals process for denials of religious accommodation requests;
-revise the ‘Look Policy’ to expressly acknowledge that A&F is legally mandated to allow exceptions in certain circumstances;
-inform applicants during interviews that accommodations to the ‘Look Policy’may be available;
-provide employees with information about how to make religious accommodation requests; incorporate information regarding requests for headscarf accommodations into all manager training sessions;
-institute, at a minimum, quarterly reviews of all religious accommodation requests and decisions;
-post notices of the settlement and notifications of employees’ right to request ‘Look Policy’ accommodations; and
-provide biannual reports to the EEOC and Khan for three years regarding implementation of these policy changes.


About CAIR-SFBA: The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the nation’s oldest chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. Celebrating its 19th anniversary in 2013, each year CAIR provides legal advice, assistance, and representation to thousands of American Muslims alleging religious discrimination and harassment.

About LAS-ELC: The Legal Aid Society of San Francisco-Employment Law Center, founded in 1916, is a non-profit public interest law firm committed to protecting the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income and disadvantaged workers and their families. LAS-ELC has for decades litigated on issues of racial equality; gender equity, immigration and national origin discrimination, and disability rights. Aside from its impact litigation, the LAS-ELC conducts public education and legislative advocacy, provides technical assistance to other advocacy groups, and undertakes direct legal representation in specific cases.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

Sara Feldman
Communications Manager, LAS-ELC
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T 415.593.0071

CAIR, LAS-ELC & EEOC to Announce Settlement in Abercrombie & Fitch Hijab Lawsuits

Embattled Retailer to Make Changes to 'Look Policy' After Religious Discrimination Ruling

(Sep 20, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, September 20, 2013)—On Monday, September 23rd, the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will hold a news conference in San Francisco to announce a settlement resolving a 2011 lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch for firing a Muslim employee who refused to remove her religious headscarf, or hijab, and a 2010 lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch for refusing to hire a Muslim applicant because she similarly wore a religious headscarf.

WHAT: News conference announcing settlement of two religious discrimination lawsuits against Abercrombie & Fitch, and resulting company policy changes

WHEN: Monday, September 23rd, 10 A.M. PST

WHERE: LAS-ELC’s Office, 180 Montgomery Street, Suite 600, San Francisco

WHO: Hani Khan, a San Mateo, Calif., Muslim woman who was terminated from her work at a Hollister Co. location in 2010, and attorneys from CAIR-SFBA, LAS-ELC, EEOC

CONTACT: Zahra Billoo, CAIR-SFBA, 626.252.0885, E-mail: zbilloo@cair.com
Sara Feldman, LAS-ELC, 415.593.0071, E-mail: sfeldman@las-elc.org
Marcia Mitchell, EEOC, 415. 625.5651, E-mail: marcia.mitchell@eeoc.gov

Khan worked for Hollister Co., a brand of Abercrombie & Fitch, from October 2009 to February 2010 while wearing a hijab. She was terminated from her position as a stockroom employee after refusing to remove her headscarf. At the time, she was told that her headscarf, though worn because of a religious belief, was not in compliance with the company’s “Look Policy”.

CAIR-SFBA and LAS-ELC joined the EEOC’s lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch on Khan’s behalf. Trial was scheduled to begin on September 30. However, after over three years of litigation, the company agreed to settle the case along with another lawsuit brought by the EEOC on behalf of an Abercrombie & Fitch applicant, Halla Banafa, who was not hired because of her headscarf. Abercrombie’s agreement to change their ‘Look Policy’ follows a recent ruling by District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers finding the company liable in Khan’s case for religious discrimination under federal and state law and an earlier ruling by District Court Judge Edward Davila dismissing several of Abercrombie’s defenses in Banafa’s case.

About CAIR-SFBA: The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the nation’s oldest chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. Celebrating its 19th anniversary in 2013, each year CAIR provides legal advice, assistance, and representation to thousands of American Muslims alleging religious discrimination and harassment.

About LAS-ELC: The Legal Aid Society of San Francisco-Employment Law Center, founded in 1916, is a non-profit public interest law firm committed to protecting the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income and disadvantaged workers and their families. LAS-ELC has for decades litigated on issues of racial equality; gender equity, immigration and national origin discrimination, and disability rights. Aside from its impact litigation, the LAS-ELC conducts public education and legislative advocacy, provides technical assistance to other advocacy groups, and undertakes direct legal representation in specific cases.

About EEOC: The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law and has the authority to file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

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A & F Wrong to Fire Hijab-Wearing Employee

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center have announced a legal victory in a lawsuit against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch over the firing of a Muslim worker who refused to remove her religiously-mandated hijab (headscarf) as a condition for keeping her job.

CAIR reports that U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled Abercrombie & Fitch violated federal and state civil rights laws against workplace discrimination when it fired Hani Khan in 2010 for refusing to remove her hijab. The lawsuit, which was filed by CAIR-SFBA, LAS-ELC and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sought to vindicate Khan’s rights against religious discrimination in the workplace.

End of Article

Abercrombie and Fitch ‘wrongly fired’ Muslim over headscarf

Image for News Release - Abercrombie and Fitch ‘wrongly fired’ Muslim over headscarf

US clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch wrongly fired a Muslim worker for wearing a headscarf, a judge has ruled.

Federal Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled the firm violated anti-discrimination laws when it sacked Hani Khan from a Hollister brand shop.

Ms Khan was initially allowed to wear a scarf in Hollister colours at the San Mateo, California shop but was told remove it and fired when she refused.

The retailer had argued deviation from its “look policy” would affect sales.

But Judge Rogers of the Northern District of California said Abercrombie and Fitch had not proven it faced undue hardship to accommodate employees who wear headscarves for religious reasons.

The lawsuit, brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, now goes to a trial on 30 September where a jury will determine damages.
No ‘undue hardship’

Ms Khan had initially been hired at Hollister, a store under Abercrombie and Fitch’s corporate umbrella, with the understanding she would be able to wear her headscarf to work, according to court records.

But four months into her employment, a district manager suspended her with pay after Ms Khan refused to take off the covering. She was later fired.

Her lawyers argued that there had been no complaints about Ms Khan’s performance at work.

“I was shocked and surprised when I was asked to remove my hijab [headscarf] and then fired for refusing to comply,” Ms Khan said in a statement.

In her ruling, Judge Rogers said Abercrombie and Fitch’s lawyers had only offered “unsubstantiated opinion testimony of its own employees to support its claim of undue hardship” and had undercut its own argument by offering to rehire Ms Khan with her headscarf.

Ms Khan was supported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

A spokeswoman said the organisation hoped the lawsuit would push the company to change its policies and clarify religious accommodations.

“At the heart of this case is the belief that no-one should ever have to choose between their religion and work,” said Zahra Billoo of CAIR’s San Francisco office.

End of Article

CAIR-SFBA, LAS-ELC Win Judgment Against Abercrombie & Fitch in Hijab Case

Look-conscious retailer found liable for religious discrimination in firing of Muslim worker

(Sep 09, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) today announced a legal victory in a lawsuit against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch over the firing of a Muslim worker who refused to remove her religiously-mandated hijab (headscarf) as a condition for keeping her job.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Abercrombie & Fitch violated federal and state civil rights laws against workplace discrimination when it fired Hani Khan in 2010 for refusing to remove her hijab. The lawsuit, which was filed by CAIR-SFBA, LAS-ELC and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sought to vindicate Khan’s rights against religious discrimination in the workplace.

In her 25-page decision, Judge Gonzalez Rogers resoundingly rejected Abercrombie’s “undue burden” defense. The decision stated in part:

“Abercrombie only offers unsubstantiated opinion testimony of its own employees to support its claim of undue hardship. Abercrombie failed to proffer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales in the Hillsdale store; customer complaints or confusion; or brand damage linked to Khan’s wearing of a hijab.”

SEE: Court Order Granting Summary Judgment

“I was shocked and surprised when I was asked to remove my hijab and then fired for refusing to comply,” said Khan. “It is not the kind of thing that anybody expects to happen, especially when you are working hard and doing a good job. It was important for me to challenge what happened because it was a violation of my rights, but also because I want to help make sure it never happens to anybody again. That is what this case is about for me.”
 
“This decision confirms that the way businesses hold themselves out to the public, and the image they wish to project, must be balanced with their employees’ rights to be free from workplace discrimination – in this case, on the basis of Ms. Khan’s religion, Islam,” said Christopher Ho, senior staff attorney at the LAS-ELC and Director of the National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program.

“At the heart of this case is the belief that no one should ever have to choose between their religion and work”, said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of CAIR-SFBA. “All Americans have a right to reasonable religious accommodation in the workplace, and for Muslim women this includes the right to wear a hijab to work.”

Although Judge Gonzalez Rogers found Abercrombie liable for violating Khan’s civil rights, trial is scheduled to begin September 30 to decide the extent of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief that Abercrombie must provide as a result of its discriminatory actions.

BACKGROUND

SEE: Abercrombie Struggling To Prove Fired Woman’s Hijab Hurt Sales

Khan was fired from her job at a Hollister Co. store (operated by Abercrombie & Fitch) at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, Calif., after she had worked there successfully and without any customer complaint for four months. When she was initially hired, Khan was told her hijab would not be in conflict with the company’s so-called “Look Policy” as long as she wore it in company colors, which she did. Nonetheless, in February 2010, Abercrombie managers demanded that Khan remove her hijab while working. When she said her religious beliefs prevented her from complying with the demand, and requested a religious accommodation, Khan was suspended and terminated shortly thereafter.

In June 2011, CAIR-SFBA and LAS-ELC filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco against Abercrombie & Fitch, charging it with having unlawfully discriminated against Khan because of her religious beliefs as a Muslim. Khan’s complaint alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  Abercrombie responded that accommodating Ms. Khan would be an “undue burden” because it would hurt its “brand image.”

Prior to the scheduled jury trial, Khan and the EEOC asked Judge Gonzalez Rogers to render a decision on the undisputed facts that had been developed in the litigation.

This court is the second in the Northern District of California to find that Abercrombie cannot demonstrate that it is an undue hardship to accommodate employees who wear hijabs.  Earlier this year, Abercrombie similarly failed to justify its refusal to hire a woman who applied to work at an Abercrombie Kids store in Milpitas.

Abercrombie Can’t Shed Headscarf Discrimination Suit

About CAIR-SFBA: The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the nation’s oldest chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. Celebrating its 19th anniversary in 2013, each year CAIR provides legal advice, assistance, and representation to thousands of American Muslims alleging religious discrimination and harassment.

About LAS-ELC: The Legal Aid Society of San Francisco-Employment Law Center, founded in 1916, is a non-profit public interest law firm committed to protecting the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income and disadvantaged workers and their families. LAS-ELC has for decades litigated on issues of racial equality; gender equity, immigration and national origin discrimination, and disability rights. Aside from its impact litigation, the LAS-ELC conducts public education and legislative advocacy, provides technical assistance to other advocacy groups, and undertakes direct legal representation in specific cases.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

Ibrahim Hooper
Communications Director, CAIR National
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 202.744.7726

Christopher Ho
Senior Staff Attorney, LAS-ELC
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 415.864.8848

Marsha Chien
Staff Attorney, LAS-ELC
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 415.864.8848

In Victory for Student Free Speech, Department of Education Dismisses Complaints

Decisions on three California campuses defeat attempts to silence campus activism around Palestine

(Aug 28, 2013 - Berkeley, CA) 

Civil rights organizations this week welcomed news that the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has closed three investigations against three University of California schools, at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Irvine, which falsely alleged that Palestinian rights activism created an anti-Semitic climate. The complaints underlying the investigation claimed that student protests and academic programing in support of Palestinian rights and critical of Israel “created a hostile environment for Jewish students.”

“The organized legal bullying campaigns have failed,” said attorney Nasrina Bargzie, of Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC), who alongside attorneys from Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) advocated for the students whose activism was scrutinized in the investigations.

“OCR’s decision in these cases confirms the obvious - that political activity advocating for Palestinian human rights does not violate the civil rights of Jewish students who find such criticism offensive, and that, to the contrary, colleges and universities have an obligation to create an environment that supports freedom of expression.” said Bargzie.

In its letter to UC Berkeley, OCR officials stated that student demonstrations in support of Palestinian rights “constituted expression on matters of public concern directed to the university community. In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience. In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment.”

“We speak out on campus about matters of fundamental human rights. Students at institutions that are all about learning deserve to be part of robust discussion about one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time,” said Taliah Mirmalek, a student at UC Berkeley and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The Berkeley complaint was filed in July 2012 by two attorneys who had previously filed an unsuccessful federal lawsuit on similar grounds. The Berkeley investigation was the latest of the three to be open; the Santa Cruz investigation was opened in March 2011, and the Irvine investigation in 2007.

A number of legal and advocacy groups, including Advancing Justice - ALC, CAIR, CCR, NLG, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, the Arab American Institute, and American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California have worked to challenge the misuse of civil rights law to intimidate students and dissuade them from advocating for Palestinian rights on campus.

“Students have faced a pervasive stigma that at times negatively impacted our ability to fundraise and hold events on campus, and even intimidated some of our peers into silence,” said Rebecca Pierce, a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz and member of the Committee for Justice in Palestine. “However, we feel vindicated that the DOE has rejected this attack on our freedom of expression, and we will continue to advocate in accordance with our values regarding human rights and social justice.”

“The First Amendment unequivocally protects the activities that were targeted in these complaints - holding demonstrations, distributing flyers, street theatre - criticizing the governmental policy of the State of Israel and supporting Palestinian human rights. It is long past time that students engaging in First Amendment activities are able to do so without fear,” said Liz Jackson, Cooperating Counsel with CCR, who also worked with the targeted students.  “While there continue to be threats of Title VI complaints against other universities, we are confident that OCR recognizes these claims as attempts to silence certain speech on Israel/Palestine, and do not present viable claims of discrimination against Jewish students,” said Jackson. 

QUICK LINKS:
DOE Letter, Dismissing Complaint, to UC Berkeley
Statement from UC Berkeley, Regarding the Dismissal of the DOE Complaint
DOE Letter, Dismissing Complaint, to UC Santa Cruz
Statement from UC Santa Cruz, Regarding the Dismissal of the DOE Complaint
Civil Rights Groups Say DOE Investigations are Politicized, Chill Student Speech
Letter from Civil Rights Organizations to DOE Headquarters

End of Article

CONTACT

Nasrina Bargzie
Staff Attorney, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 925.330.1163

Liz Jackson
Cooperating Counsel, Center for Constitutional Rights
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 617.947.4593

Rebecca Pierce
Recent Graduate, UC Santa Cruz
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 650.906.2278

Taliah Mirmalek
Student, UC Berkeley
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 925.247.8103

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

CAIR’s Northern California Offices Publish 2013 Civil Rights Report

Image for News Release - CAIR’s Northern California Offices Publish 2013 Civil Rights Report

The San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) published their 2013 Civil Rights Report this week.

(Jul 26, 2013 - Santa Clara, CA) 

The report, titled: Standing Up For Our Rights Preserving Our Freedom: The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in Northern California 2013, analyzes and summarizes the complaints received by the offices’ civil rights departments in 2012.

The incidents reported totaled 445 over the course of the year and included, among other issues: complaints of employment discrimination; requests for legal representation for voluntary interviews by FBI and other law enforcement agencies; and reports of hate crimes.

“This report will help community members better understand the work of the CAIR civil rights department,” said Rachel Roberts, CAIR’s Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator. “It is our hope that the report will also assist community members in learning to recognize discrimination if they or somebody they know are ever targeted.”

CAIR encourages all community members to know and understand their civil rights.

Electronic copies of the 2013 civil rights report are available for download online.
SEE: CAIR Northern California 2013 Civil Rights Report

CAIR-SFBA and CAIR-SV are offices of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Rachel Roberts
Civil Rights Coordinator, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

CAIR-SFBA is Hiring

CAIR has two immediate part-time job openings for its office in Santa Clara. Join one of the most dynamic teams defending civil rights on behalf of the American Muslim community and strengthening the image of Islam and American Muslims in the media.

(Jul 25, 2013 - Santa Clara, CA) 

COMMUNICATIONS & OUTREACH COORDINATOR

JOB DESCRIPTION: Establish broad grassroots presence across the Bay Area by coordinating CAIR-SFBA”s outreach efforts, deepen relationships with supporters by managing communications, and increase American Muslim engagement with mainstream and independent media outlets. Coordinator will play a key role in increasing the visibility of CAIR-SFBA’s services to the Bay Area’s American Muslim community.

Attendance at some weekend events and late evenings will be required.

JOB TASKS:
·      Coordinate CAIR outreach efforts at Bay Area masajids, ensuring consistent presence at various locations year-round
·      Manage and plan for additional outreach opportunities, with an eye towards increasing awareness of CAIR’s services
·      Develop, plan, and distribute marketing materials for CAIR. These would include, but not be limited to, fliers, reports, brochures ,fact sheets, analyses, and other written materials about the issues     CAIR is working on
·      Manage CAIR-SFBA’s online presence, including newsletter, website, and social media activities
·      Coordinate media activities, including but not limited to press releases, press conferences, trainings, and monitoring

QUALIFICATIONS:
▪      Bachelor’s degree
▪      Work experience with a non-profit organization or in a related field
▪      Excellent oral and written communication skills
▪      Proven mastery of Microsoft Office applications including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook
▪      Talented in using various internet and social media sites for promotional and networking purposes. Expertise in graphic and publishing programs a plus
▪      Strong initiative and the ability to learn in a self-directed manner
▪      Able to manage multiple projects concurrently
▪      Able to drive throughout the Bay Area for events and outreach
▪      Ability to operate at a highly productive level in a fast-paced environment and meet deadlines
▪      Positive attitude and is an energetic, creative, organized executer, with good decision making abilities
▪      Strong problem-solving and troubleshooting skills
▪      Familiarity with the Bay Area’s Muslim community, and Muslim culture generally
▪      Strong commitment to civil rights and CAIR’s mission

BENEFITS:
▪      Pay is hourly and based on education, skills and experience

PROGRAMS & SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR

JOB DESCRIPTION: Develop and manage programs, events, interns, and volunteers. The ideal candidate will play a central role in organizing and managing the annual Banquet, continuing and developing new programs, events, workshops, forums, sensitivity trainings, and civic engagement and educational campaigns. Candidate should be flexible with changing job requirements as projects and programs evolve.

Attendance at some weekend events and late evenings will be required.

JOB TASKS:
·      Collaborate on and implement statewide programs including the Muslim Youth Leadership Program and Muslim Day at the Capitol
·      Assist the Operations Coordinator in planning the CAIR-SFBA Annual Banquet
·      Manage Bridging Communities Program, immigrant rights efforts, and various additional special projects as they arise
·      Plan and execute know your rights workshops, legal clinics, and other CAIR-SFBA events at local masajid and community centers
·      Recruit, train, and manage CAIR-SFBA’s pool of interns and volunteers, with an eye towards building sustainable relationships and providing opportunities for engagement

QUALIFICATIONS:
▪      Bachelor’s degree
▪      Work experience with a non-profit organization or in a related field
▪      Work experience in planning events and/or programs
▪      Excellent oral and written communication skills
▪      Proven mastery of Microsoft Office applications including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook
▪      Experience using various internet and social media sites for promotional purposes
▪      Strong initiative and the ability to learn in a self-directed manner
▪      Ability to manage multiple projects concurrently
▪      Able to drive throughout the Bay Area for events and outreach
▪      Ability to operate at a highly productive level in a fast-paced environment and meet deadlines
▪      Positive attitude and is an energetic, creative, organized executer, with good decision making abilities
▪      Strong problem-solving and troubleshooting skills
▪      Familiarity with the Bay Area’s Muslim community, and Muslim culture generally
▪      Strong commitment to civil rights and CAIR’s mission

BENEFITS:
▪      Pay is hourly and based on education, skills and experience


TO APPLY:
Applications will be accepted until positions are filled. All those interested and eligible to work in the U.S. (citizens or proper work visa holders) are encouraged to apply with a cover letter, and a comprehensive resume stating education, work history, and references to:

CAIR San Francisco Bay Area
3000 Scott Blvd., Ste. 101
Santa Clara, CA 95054
FAX: 408.986.9875
E-MAIL: info@sfba.cair.com

(When applying via email, please be sure to write the position title in the subject of the email.)

Applications will be accepted until positions are filled.

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE

End of Article

CAIR-CA Congratulates First Muslim on UC Student Regent Post

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) congratulates Sadia Saifuddin on her appointment as the new University of California (UC) student regent for 2014-2015. Sadia was confirmed in a nearly unanimous vote by the UC Board of Regents, during their meeting earlier today.

(Jul 17, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

Saifuddin is the first observant Muslim to hold the position on the board, which sets policies for the 10-campus system.

SEE: First-ever Muslim student regent confirmed by UC board

A UC Berkeley senior majoring in social welfare, Saifuddin participated in CAIR-CA’s flagship Muslim Youth Leadership Program (MYLP) in 2008. The program, which celebrated its ninth anniversary this summer, is an annual political immersion and leadership building retreat in Sacramento that equips high school students with an understanding of the legislative process, as well as training in the areas of civic engagement and media advocacy. Since its inception in 2004, MYLP has helped empower over 350 youth with the skills necessary to grow into community leaders.

For the next year, Saifuddin will serve as the Regent-Designate, able to participate in all Regents discussions but unable to vote until her one-year term as a fully empowered Student Regent begins in July 2014. One of her main priorities is stabilizing tuition in the UC system, which has seen a steady increase over the past decade and remains a growing concern among students.

“I know what it is like to work three jobs, be a full-time student, and still be a student leader and serve my community,” she said in her acceptance speech before the Board of Regents. “When I look into my six-year-old brother’s eyes, I want to ensure that he has the same opportunities and privileges that I did when he enters college. “

“Sadia is a remarkable young leader”, said CAIR-Sacramento Valley Executive Director and MYLP founder Basim Elkarra.  ”On behalf of CAIR-CA, we commend Sadia for her social justice activism on campus and pray for her success in her new role.”

End of Article

CONTACT

Basim Elkarra
Executive Director, CAIR Sacramento Valley
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 916.441.6269

CAIR Joining Lawsuit Over NSA Phone Spying

Suit says warrantless surveillance program has 'chilling effect' on First Amendment right of association

(Jul 16, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, announced it is joining other advocacy groups in a lawsuit against the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless surveillance program that collects, stores, searches, and analyzes the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.

SEE: NSA Collects Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers (Guardian)

The suit is being filed Tuesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in Federal District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of 18 organizations from across the political spectrum based on the First Amendment right of association. The right of association is a well-established doctrine that prevents the government from “interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibit the petition for a governmental redress of grievances.”

The suit outlines how the wholesale collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans, and thereby the collection of their associations, is massively overbroad and has a “chilling effect” on basic constitutional rights.

SEE: First Unitarian v. NSA

“Massive warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens has a profoundly negative impact on the constitutionally-protected right of association utilized by all those who seek to engage in public advocacy,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter (CAIR-SFBA). “The American Muslim community has complained of such wholesale surveillance for more than a decade - with FBI visits, mosque surveillance and agent provocateurs at the forefront of those complaints. CAIR welcomes the opportunity to challenge NSA spying alongside a group of organizations with diverse viewpoints. Warrantless spying by the NSA and other federal agencies impacts all Americans.”

The plaintiffs in the case are all associations that utilize telephones in exercising the First Amendment right to bring people together to work to change policy or laws. The plaintiffs include:

• First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
• Bill of Rights Defense Committee
• California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees
• Council on American-Islamic Relations National, California, and Ohio
• Franklin Armory
• Free Press
• Free Software Foundation
• Greenpeace, Inc.
• Human Rights Watch
• Media Alliance
• National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Chapter
• Open Technology Institute
• People for the American Way
• Public Knowledge
• Students for a Sensible Drug Policy
• TechFreedom
• The Calguns Foundation
• Unitarian Universalist Service Commission

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874 OR 626.252.0885

Basim Elkarra
Executive Director, CAIR-Sacramento Valley
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 916.441.6269

Yasmin Nouh
Communications Coordinator, CAIR-LA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 714.776.1847

Would You Hand Over Your Phone Records for Greater Security?

The Obama Administration has admitted to tracking Americans’ phone records for the past seven years to bolster national security, it says.

President Barack Obama spoke in San Jose Friday to address concerns over recent revelations about national security programs, which included the FBI’s and NSA’s collection of millions of phone records and an internet surveillance program.

Obama, who was in the Bay Area for fundraisers on Thursday benefiting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, came to the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose Friday and responded to media reports earlier this week about two programs being carried out by his administration.

The reports revealed that federal officials were collecting large amounts of phone records and also collecting data from Internet companies like Google and Facebook as part of their anti-terrorism efforts.

“The top priority of the president of the United States is the national security of the United States and protecting the homeland, and we have to make sure we have the tools we need to confront the threat posed by terrorists,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday in defending the collection of phone records, reported the Washington Post.

That program is a “critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats,” Earnest added.

Obama said the programs have been “authorized by broad bipartisan majorities” in Congress, which has “been consistently informed on exactly what we’re doing.”

He emphasized that the intelligence community is only looking at phone numbers and durations of calls, not who was talking nor the contents of the calls.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls, that’s not what this program is about,” Obama said.

As for the program involving the Internet companies code named “PRISM,” according to NPR, the president said it does not apply to U.S. citizens or people living in the U.S. and said that the actions of intelligence officials are overseen by federal judges.

He acknowledged that there are critics of the programs and their encroachments on privacy, which includes emails, instant messages and photos.

“I welcome this debate, I think it’s healthy for our democracy,” Obama said.

“We can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

“Again, in this instance, not only is Congress fully apprised of it, what is also true is the FISA court has to authorize it,” he said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C., released a statement today criticizing Obama and calling on Americans “who value constitutional protections of privacy and the prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure to contact their elected representatives to ask that they end the all-encompassing monitoring of telephone communications and the Internet.”

Continue Reading: Half Moon Bay Patch

End of Article

Stabbing of Muslim woman in Antioch shopping center stirs up fears for community

The stabbing of a 50-year-old Muslim woman wearing a head scarf has reignited simmering fears within eastern Contra Costa's Islamic community, where a mosque was destroyed by arson six years ago.

(Jun 06, 2013 - Antioch, CA) 

While authorities say the stabbing was not motivated by hate, it has become the topic of sermons, sparked a community meeting this week with Antioch police Chief Allan Cantando, and renewed a call for safety among Muslims, particularly women.
“The community there is very nervous,” said Rachel Roberts of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The 50-year-old victim, who teaches Sunday school and does other social services, had dropped her children off at school and was buying groceries at Save Mart on Contra Loma Boulevard in Antioch on May 30 at about 8 a.m. when the attack occurred, according to police and Mohammad Chaudhry, founding president of Antioch’s Islamic Center of the East Bay. The woman was stabbed multiple times but is expected to recover.

Officers quickly apprehended Jeffrey Crimson, 35, who was initially captured and held by witnesses, police said. Prosecutors have charged Crimson with attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon and great bodily injury enhancements.

Police believe the woman was randomly targeted, and nothing in the police reports suggests the stabbing was a hate crime, said Contra Costa prosecutor Mark Eichman.

Still, as word of the attack spread through the community, many began to worry that the woman was stabbed because she was wearing a headscarf. Another theory was that the attack may have been retaliation for the brutal daytime killing in London in which two men reported to be motivated by radical Islam stabbed a man to death using butcher knives.

In response, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent out a safety guide and the community has requested Antioch police patrol Islamic centers during Ramadan, a monthlong observance of fasting that begins July 8 and includes nighttime prayers.

A meeting with Chief Cantando on Wednesday seems to have eased some of the tension, said Abdul Rahman, chairman of the board of trustee for Antioch’s Islamic Center of the East Bay.

Continue Reading: Inside Bay Area

End of Article

Thank You Supervisor Avalos

Update on Attacks on AMP Muni Ads

(Jun 05, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Asian Law Caucus, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the San Francisco Bay Area office of CAIR thank San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos for his courageous position in defense of free speech. Last week the Supervisor wrote to the San Francisco Municipal Authority, disagreeing with a previous letter sent by his colleagues which sought to equate ads placed by AMP on Munis buses with hate speech.  Supervisor Avalos clearly distinguished AMP’s core political speech from hate speech, and encouraged SFMTA to leave open Muni buses as a forum for all speech.  Read the full letter here.

We also however note that yet another set of ads on Muni buses from Pamela Geller and her group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, began to run on June 10th. Like her previous ad purchases, these ads are Islamophobic and deeply racist. Geller continues to target the San Francisco Bay Area because we are a strong community that stands together and against her. We are heartened that San Francisco’s leadership has spoken in support of the Arab and Muslim communities and continues to stand with us against Geller’s hate.  These conversations must continue, with our leaders, congregations, and community members. If you or your organization would be interested in facilitating a conversation about civil rights, free speech or Islamophobia, please contact us by calling 408.986.9874 or via E-mail at info@sfba.cair.com.

End of Article

CAIR-SFBA Offers Safety Recommendations After Assault on Muslim Woman

CAIR-SFBA has received a disturbing report from Antioch, Calif., about an attack on a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf and South Asian attire. The woman was walking in a public area during daylight hours when an assailant reportedly suffering from mental delusions punched her and stabbed her multiple times.

(May 31, 2013 - Antioch, CA) 

SEE: Woman Injured in Stabbing Near Antioch Store, Suspect Arrested

Fortunately, the police have apprehended the suspect and are currently investigating the incident. CAIR-SFBA’s civil rights coordinator is in touch with the woman’s family and local community leaders who report that she is in stable condition.

While it is still unclear whether this incident was motivated by hate, CAIR-SFBA would like to take this opportunity to remind the community of our safety recommendations, so that all Muslim individuals and communities can protect themselves both at worship and in the course of carrying out daily activities.

For individuals
-If you experience an incident of street harassment that makes you feel unsafe, get to safety, contact police to make a report and call CAIR. The more incidents like these we know about, the better we can advocate for the community with law enforcement
-If your home, car or other property is vandalized, contact police immediately and contact CAIR so we can document the incident
-Get to know your neighbors so you can reach out to them in the event of an emergency

For mosques and community centers
-If you are a mosque leader, build good relationships with your neighbors. Invite them to visit your center
-If your mosque receives a threat or vandalism, request additional police patrols in the vicinity of your mosque, especially during times of darkness and during prayers. Contact the community relations officer of your local police force, and ask him to tour your center and to make safety suggestions
-If you receive a suspicious package, do not touch it, report it to the police
-Install proper flood-lighting around the perimeter of the mosque
-Make sure your mosque has secure solid doors
-Trim shrubs and vines, and lower fences to reduce areas of concealment
-Participate in neighborhood watch programs
-Document descriptions of suspicious people or vehicles
-Consider installing security cameras

These and other safety recommendations are contained in CAIR’s recently-published “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.” Community leaders may request a free copy of the publication by visiting: www.cair.com.

SEE: CAIR Distributes New Mosque Safety Guidelines

CAIR-CA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Rachel Roberts
Civil Rights Coordinator, CAIR's Northern California Offices
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874 OR 916.441.6269

Boxer’s Israeli visa bill stirs backlash

Image for News Release - Boxer’s Israeli visa bill stirs backlash

Sen. Barbara Boxer's bill would exempt Israeli visitors from visa restrictions.

(May 13, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

The United States allows inhabitants of 37 countries to enter the United States without a visa, as long as they extend the same privilege to U.S. citizens. Sen. Barbara Boxer is proposing to add Israel to that list - but without requiring equal treatment for Americans traveling to Israel.

Instead, the legislation the California Democrat has introduced would exempt Israeli visitors from visa requirements as long as the U.S. government certifies that Israel “has made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the state of Israel,” to admit Americans without a visa.

What that means, according to critics of the Israeli government, is that Israel can continue to exclude Americans who are either Arab or Muslim, or who belong to groups that oppose Israeli policies. Requiring a visa for visitors allows the government to bar them from entering, or to limit their activities or the length of their stay.

The legislation “would codify into American law discrimination against American citizens,” said Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that opposes Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Read More: The San Francisco Chronicle

End of Article

CAIR Condemns Brutal Attack on Elderly California Sikh

The Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned a brutal attack on an elderly Sikh man in that state.

(May 07, 2013 - SACRAMENTO, CA) 

CAIR-SV said 82-year old Plara Singh was beaten with an iron bar after he left a Sikh temple in Fresno, Calif., Sunday morning. He remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Sikh Coalition: 82-Year-Old Man Severely Beaten with Iron Bar

“We stand with the Sikh community in rejecting the religious and ethnic hatred that leads to such brutal and cowardly attacks,” said CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra.

[NOTE: Sikh men who wear beards and turbans as part of their faith are often targeted by bigots who mistake them for Muslims.]

Elkarra said CAIR has in the past spoken out against bias-motivated attacks on American Sikhs.
 
Last year, CAIR said that American Muslims “stand with their Sikh brothers and sisters” following a deadly shooting attack targeting a house of worship of that faith in Wisconsin.

In 2011, CAIR offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals who gunned down two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove, Calif.

SEE: Muslim Civil Rights Group Offers Reward for Info on Gunman in Deadly Shooting

CAIR: Muslim Organization Offers Reward
 
In 2010, CAIR called for an FBI investigation of an attack on a Sikh cab driver in West Sacramento, Calif. The driver said his passengers made anti-Muslim remarks during the attack. Two men were later arrested on charges of felony assault and commission of a hate crime.

Yesterday, CAIR urged state and federal law enforcement authorities to bring hate crime charges against two suspects who allegedly verbally and physically assaulted a Muslim student in Boston, Mass.

CAIR recently asked prosecutors in Virginia to bring felony charges based on that state’s hate crime law for an alleged assault on a Muslim U.S. Army reservist and Iraq veteran reportedly attacked by a passenger who compared him to those who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings and threatened to kill him.

Video: Taxi Driver Claims He Was Attacked Because He is Muslim (CAIR)

Several other bias-motivated incidents targeting Muslims may have been linked to the Boston bombings.

In Malden, Mass., a mother of Middle Eastern heritage wearing an Islamic headscarf, or hijab, was assaulted by a white male shouting anti-Muslim slurs. In New York, a Bangladeshi man was beaten hours after the Boston Marathon bombing by attackers who called him “a f**king Arab.” The victim was punched in the head and body, resulting in a dislocated shoulder.

CAIR: Hate Crimes in MA, NY Follow Boston Bombings

CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter also called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate a second incident of vandalism targeting a mosque in that state to determine whether it is backlash from the Boston Marathon bombings.

SEE: CAIR Asks FBI to Probe Okla. Mosque Vandalism as Part of Boston ‘Backlash’

CAIR is investigating other reports it has received recently of threats to American mosques and Muslim schools.

Muslim individuals and Islamic institutions, as well as houses of worship of other faiths, are being urged to review advice on security procedures contained in CAIR’s “Muslim Community Safety Kit.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Basim Elkarra
Executive Director, CAIR-Sacramento Valley
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 916.441.6269

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Bay Area Muslim Women Featured in Oakland Public Library Film Screening

Is the hijab, the head covering worn by Muslim women in public, really “just a piece of cloth?” Or does it have greater meaning?

(May 07, 2013 - Oakland, CA) 

Does that meaning vary from place to place for Muslims or even from individual to individual? Is it an act of bravery these days to profess one’s Islamic affiliation so publicly? And does it matter?

A free film screening of “Just a Piece of Cloth,” a 34-minute documentary “about Bay Area Muslim women who either wear or choose not to wear the hijab,” takes a good look at just these questions and others. It will show at the 81st Avenue Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 1021 81st Ave., from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11.

The producer and director of the film, linguistics professor Dr. Rosemary Henze, will be on hand at the screening. Muslim women are especially encouraged to attend and join the discussion; everyone is welcome.

Says the production team, “In post-9/11 America, the choice of Muslim women to wear or not wear hijab has become a focal point for debate and education about the many ways to be Muslim in America. “Just a Piece of Cloth” unravels stereotypes that the mainstream media perpetuate about Muslim women, with intimate profiles of four women who challenge us to understand the stories behind hijab and to see the shared human dilemmas that lie just beneath the surface. Through their own words and deeply personal experiences, we come to see that wearing hijab in the multicultural U.S. has very different meanings than it does in Muslim countries.”

Continue Reading: Oakland Local

End of Article

California Muslims Made 2nd Annual ‘Muslim Day at the Capitol’ a Success

Image for News Release - California Muslims Made 2nd Annual ‘Muslim Day at the Capitol’ a Success

On Tuesday, April 30, over 150 members of the California Muslim community participated in the second annual 'Muslim Day at the Capitol.'

(May 03, 2013 - SACRAMENTO, CA) 

During the event, Muslims from across the state held about 110 meetings with their legislators in Sacramento and engaged them on three critical issues in efforts to promote equality and diversity within the state.

These issues were: the Trust Act (AB 4), a bill that seeks to keep immigration enforcementat the federal level and strengthen trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities; the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (AB 241), a bill that aims to protect domestic workers, strengthen stability in the industry and improve the quality of care for Californians by creating uniform and clear industry-wide standards; and a push for free speech legislation that approaches campus issues in a manner that remains faithful to the First Amendment, addresses the sensitivities and concerns of different groups and proceeds with a diversity of viewpoints represented at the table. 

“It is incumbent on our state’s Muslim community to play an active role in shaping both California’s and our nation’s political landscapes by mobilizing grassroots participation and advocating for issues that positively impact our local communities,” said CAIR-Sacramento Valley Executive Director Basim Elkarra
 
CAIR-CA Statewide Policy and Government Relations Coordinator Adel Syed added that “Public policy changes will not happen overnight. It is the result of relationship building, and a concerted and consistent dialogue with our elected officials, which is something we aim to do by introducing community members to state lawmakers.” 

CAIR-CA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Basim Elkarra
Executive Director, CAIR-Sacramento Valley
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 916.441.6269

Fremont student wins state spelling bee

Niles Elementary School fifth-grader Sahir Qureshi won the 2013 California State Elementary Spelling Bee on Saturday.

(Apr 25, 2013 - Fremont, CA) 

Qureshi and fellow Fremont student Anish Punaroor, a sixth-grader from Parkmont Elementary, represented Alameda County at the State Spelling Bee held in Stockton. Qureshi spelled every word correctly in the competition, which featured 60 top spellers from throughout California.

After 13 grueling rounds, Qureshi correctly spelled, “prosciutto” to take home the top prize.

Qureshi credits his spelling prowess to being an avid reader and all-around good student. He loves science and geography, is a Boy Scout, swims competitively, plays the piano, has a band called “Game Over” and is forming a robotics team.

In his spare time, he loves studying the dictionary with his mom. Qureshi was accompanied to the spelling bee by one of his parents, his grandmother, his brother and one of his teachers, Mrs. Johnson.

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Americans Will Remain United in Face of Boston Terror Developments

Image for News Release - Americans Will Remain United in Face of Boston Terror Developments

Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today joined other leaders from the national and Washington-area Muslim community at a news conference in Washington, D.C., to state that Americans will remain united in the face of developments in the Boston Marathon bombings that include the naming of suspects who are reportedly Muslim.

(Apr 19, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

SEE: U.S. Muslim Leaders Condemn Boston Terror Attack

In his statement at the National Press Club news conference, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“Americans are united today in condemning terrorism and in the conviction that those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Boston must face justice. This cowardly attack achieved nothing more than the murders of an eight-year-old-boy and two women.  As God tells us in the Quran, if you murder one person, it is as if you murdered all of humanity.

“While we are outraged at the terrorists, we have been inspired by the unity of Americans of all backgrounds. We are a resilient people. Now that we know the identity of the perpetrators, this unity is ever more important.

“We will show the terrorists that their plan to sow division and distrust has failed. People of goodwill are not afraid. America will stay united. We will not turn on each other in the acts of false vengeance we have witnessed after other tragedies in the past.

American Muslims thank law enforcement for their diligent efforts to protect all our nation’s citizens. We send our sincere condolences to the loved ones of the MIT police officer killed this morning and our prayers are with the law enforcement official who was wounded.”

Community Safety

Having received reports of sporadic attacks that range from verbal harassment to violence against Muslims in the past couple of days, we are obliged to ask our Mosques and community members to stay alert - particularly during Friday prayer. The majority of our fellow Americans have united as one, refusing to let terror divide us, but unfortunately there are those who will exploit the situation to extend the individual culpability of the bombers to collective guilt against their entire faith community.

Muslim individuals and institutions are being asked to review advice on security procedures in CAIR’s “Community Security and Safety Tips.” Please also be sure to report any incidents in the San Francisco Bay Area to CAIR by calling 408.986.9874.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

Community Groups Disturbed by Islamophobic MUNI Ads

The South Asian Bar Association of Northern California has joined community organizations and city officials in condemning what appear to be Islamophobic ads appearing on San Francisco MUNI buses.

(Apr 12, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

The ads were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group. This is the second wave of AFDI attack ads on MUNI buses since last summer. In August 2012, along with 75 advocacy groups and 25 leaders, SABA-NC called for the removal of the hateful ads.

In a press release, SABA-NC stated it was “heartened” by the swift condemnation of the ads by San Francisco city officials.

The organization also applauded MUNI for donating $5,000 in ad revenue—the amount the AFDI paid for the ads—to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to study discrimination against Arab and Muslim communities in the city.

SABA-NC co-president Shaamini Babu remarked: “The ads convey the message that it’s acceptable to stereotype, discriminate, and hate which is disturbing on so many levels. Regardless of which group AFDI is targeting, that type of message cannot be tolerated in our communities.”

On March 12, the Asian Law Caucus, the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area and members of the American Muslim community joined San Francisco city leaders to condemn Islamophobia and the newest round of anti-Muslim hate ads placed on the buses.

“Our city officials have truly shown leadership in standing up to bigotry,” CAIR-SFBA executive director Zahra Billoo stated in a press release. “Today, we are sending a strong message to the world about what it means for a society to commit to inclusiveness and equality.”

Full Article: IndiaWest.com

 

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Life as a Muslim as a college student

Moath Othman, a sophomore material science and engineering major and vice president of the Muslim Students Association, shocked one of his SJSU professors by telling him that he was a Muslim.

“I was like ‘Yeah, I’m a Middle Eastern Muslim from Palestine,’ and he was like, ‘Oh, you’re Muslim. Hm, you’re so nice!’” Othman said. “You can’t really take that as a compliment because it’s kind of saying ‘I didn’t know Muslims were nice.’”

Othman said the general perception of Muslims, particularly since the Sept. 11 attacks, is very negative and judgmental because people assume that these are the kind of people “who are blowing up our buildings” and are “a threat to this nation.”

According to Othman, there are about 10 million other Muslims in America, a number that would probably surprise the people who hold that presumptuous view of members of the Islamic faith.

Continue Reading: Spartan Daily

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Responding to Islamophobic Bus Ads with Education and Community Building

From the Civil Rights Desk

In August of 2012, CAIR-SFBA learned that Pamela Geller, labeled an anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, planned to place advertisements on San Francisco’s municipal transit (Muni) buses. The ads intended to insult and distort Islam and cast all American Muslims in a suspicious light. After vocal condemnations from city leaders, she placed a second set of advertisements in the Fall. These ads accused the city of submitting to sharia law.

#MyJihad SF In December, the #MyJihad advertising campaign, sponsored by CAIR-Chicago, placed advertisements on Muni buses which gave the public a fuller understanding of the unfairly maligned term ‘jihad.’ Geller responded in March with a set of advertisements even more offensive than the first, intended to portray extremists as authentic spokespeople for Islam and Muslims.  Just this week, she launched a follow up to her March ads. These new ads selectively pick the anti-LGBT statements of a few Muslim leaders overseas in an attempt to drive a wedge between communities here in San Francisco.

We Cannot Call for the Ads to be Taken Down
City officials were compelled to place these offensive advertisements after a federal court decision in New York which determined that Geller has the right, under the First Amendment, to publicize her views even if they are demeaning to community members of a certain race, ethnicity or religion. Geller and her group, which calls itself the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), went on to win the right to place their advertisements on buses in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. When the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in Snyder v. Phelps that a fanatical Christian group had the right to picket the funerals of fallen American soldiers, it became highly unlikely that any case which attempted to suppress speech, even racist speech, would succeed. As attorneys, we understood that it would be nearly impossible for the city to win if Geller decided to sue here in San Francisco. Furthermore, the city probably would wind up paying her attorney fees and the ads would go up nonetheless on a court injunction within weeks. However, simply because Geller has the legal right to place the ads did not mean we were willing to do nothing.

We Can Fight Back
CAIR-SFBA, along with our partners from the Asian Law Caucus, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine and others, wrote to city officials in San Francisco last fall calling on the city implement its policy of issuing disclaimers on all bus advertisements. We further insisted that city officials roundly condemn the advertisements and devote the proceeds from the advertisements to a community forum and an impact study, which would give community members the opportunity to articulate the effects of Islamophobia on their lives. 75 organizations and 35 community leaders signed on to our letter. We co-hosted a community forum in San Francisco where officials heard from Arab Muslim youth and bus drivers, among others, about the insult they felt because of the ads. 

SF Anti-Islamophobia Press Conference When Geller launched her most recent anti-Muslim tirade, CAIR-SFBA and our partners worked with District Attorney George Gascon to host a press conference at which city officials spoke to officially condemn the ads. Representatives from allied communities stood with us on the steps of city hall for this occasion. Supervisor David Chiu, the President of the Board of Supervisors, introduced and passed a resolution which officially states that Geller’s message of hate is unwelcome in San Francisco. These efforts will hopefully lead to other cities around the country taking similar steps to commit to diversity and inclusion and to denounce the hate-filled and divisive Islamophobia of Geller and her cohorts.

Moving Forward
CAIR-SFBA has worked tirelessly to use Geller’s attempt to marginalize Muslims in San Francisco as an opportunity to strengthen ties between the Muslim community and elected officials. The issue of the advertisements has served as an opportunity to educate, and has resulted, ultimately, in more empathy for, and interest in, the experience of the Muslim community.This, ironically, is the very thing Geller is trying to prevent with her negative messages.

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SF Supervisors Unanimously Pass Resolution Condemning Islamophobic Bus Ads

On Tuesday, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the content of Islamophobic advertisements placed on San Francisco buses.

(Mar 21, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

Board President David Chiu sponsored the resolution, introduced at last Tuesday’s meeting. The resolution is the first of its kind in the nation, sending a clear message that San Francisco’s elected leaders stand against hate and Islamophobia.

The group underwriting the ads, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), has sued several U.S. cities for the First Amendment right to place the ads. The group’s founder, Pamela Geller, has been designated an anti-Muslim hate extremist by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In August of 2012, San Franciscans were outraged over AFDI advertisements on MUNI that referred to Arabs and Muslims as “savages.” These are the group’s third such ads in San Francisco in the last nine months.

During the same month in which this first round of advertisements circulated on MUNI buses, Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities experienced 10 high profile incidents of hate violence across the country including arson, vandalisms, and attacks targeting individuals.

The new advertisements are even more offensive than those placed before because they assert that all Muslims are defined by extremism and violence. The ads also baselessly target Arab and Muslim San Franciscans who make invaluable contributions to the city’s life and culture.

Board President David Chiu said: “As a former civil rights attorney, I’m proud to stand with our Arab and Muslim American families to send a united message that San Francisco embraces diversity and tolerance, not hate and bigotry.”

“San Francisco leaders have responded to these hateful advertisements: our city respects free speech, but stands with our Arab and Muslim communities in condemning Islamophobia and racist speech,” said Nasrina Bargzie, Staff Attorney at Asian Law Caucus.

“Our city officials have truly shown leadership in standing up to bigotry,” said Zahra Billoo, CAIR-SFBA Executive Director. “Today, we are sending a strong message to the world about what it means for a society to commit to inclusiveness and equality.”

In response, and at the request of 75 organizations and 35 leaders who spoke out following the first round of ads in August, the resolution calls for the proceeds from the offensive advertisements to fund a city-wide study on the impact of discrimination on Arab and Muslim communities. 

CAIR-SFBA is an office of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

The Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Law Caucus is a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. 

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CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Nasrina Bargzie
Staff Attorney, Asian Law Caucus
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 415.848.7733

CAIR-SFBA Joins Rally in Support of SF Resolution Against NDAA

This afternoon, the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations will join civil rights organizations and city leaders at a rally and press conference in anticipation of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introducing a resolution refusing city participation in enforcement of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The resolution will be introduced at the Board of Supervisors meeting later this afternoon by President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu, and co-sponsored by Supervisors Jane Kim, David Campos, Eric Mar, and John Avalos.

(Feb 12, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

WHAT: A community rally against the NDAA followed by a press conference, featuring civil rights leaders and elected officials

WHEN: Tuesday, February 12; rally against NDAA at 12:15PM, press conference at 12:30PM

WHERE: Polk Street Steps, San Francisco City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., San Francisco)                           

WHO: Speakers at the press conference will include Karen Korematsu, the daughter of Fred Korematsu and the co-founder of the Korematsu Institute, along with Rachel Roberts of CAIR-SFBA, Joe Nicholson of the 99% Coalition, and Supervisor David Chiu. BORDC’s NLG Legal Fellow Nadia Kayyali will introduce the speakers

Today, San Francisco will join a growing national movement, as the 18th city to pass a resolution opposing the NDAA of 2012, sections of which allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens and non-citizens accused of but not charged with terrorism-related crimes.

The date of introduction of this resolution against NDAA was chosen to honor 2/19, the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. This legislation authorized the U.S. military to remove Japanese-Americans from areas on the West Coast considered to be “military areas.”  Over 120,000 Japanese-Americans, as well as some Italian and German-Americans, were forcibly moved to concentration camps.

“Today marks an important victory for civil rights in America. Our local leaders know how important due process protections are to keeping us safe and free in an era of fear and prejudice,” said Rachel Roberts, CAIR-SFBA civil rights coordinator.

CAIR-SFBA is an office of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Rachel Roberts
Civil Rights Coordinator, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Documents: Alleged San Jose Bomber Suffers From Mental Illness

Image for News Release - Documents: Alleged San Jose Bomber Suffers From Mental Illness

Court documents obtained by NBC Bay Area on Friday reveal the troubled past of the San Jose man charged with targeting an Oakland bank because he was waging a jihad on America: the one-time window washer suffered from bipolar disease and substance abuse, along with being paranoid that people were out to get him.

(Feb 08, 2013 - San Jose, CA) 

Court documents obtained by NBC Bay Area on Friday reveal the troubled past of the San Jose man charged with targeting an Oakland bank because he was waging a jihad on America: the one-time window washer suffered from bipolar disease and substance abuse, along with being paranoid that people were out to get him.

The FBI arrested Matthew Aaron Llaneza, 28, on Friday after they said he tried to bomb a Bank of America in Oakland, not knowing that the bomb was fake and he had been the target of an undercover operation for months. His federal public defender declined comment.

However, one civil rights expert, Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Santa Clara, said that this smells of entrapment and is especially upsetting because the defendant has mental health issues.

“Did the FBI take a [mentally ill] aspirational terrorist, make him an operational terrorist and then thwart their own plot?” Billoo asked. “CAIR has been saying this for years now: It’s the FBI’s job to stop operational terrorists. It’s not the FBI’s job to enable aspirational ones.”

Continue Reading: NBC Bay Area

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San Jose celebrates its first Arab American councilman

San Jose marked another milestone in the growing diversity of the Bay Area's largest city with a swearing-in ceremony Sunday for newly elected Councilman Johnny Khamis, the city's first elected official of Arab descent.

(Jan 07, 2013 - San Jose, CA) 

Khamis, a 44-year-old financial adviser, won the November election to represent San Jose’s District 10 in Almaden and Blossom valleys. His official swearing-in was Dec. 31, but he celebrated on Sunday before a crowd of some 200 well-wishers including his wife and two sons, Mayor Chuck Reed, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and council members Pete Constant, Pierluigi Oliverio, Rose Herrera and Kansen Chu.

“I’m deeply humbled,” Khamis told the crowd at the ceremony in City Hall’s distinctive glass rotunda after a Boy Scout troop presented the U.S. flag for the Pledge of Allegiance and a local high school freshman sang the national anthem.

Khamis thanked his wife and campaign volunteers and, introducing his new staff, urged residents to stay involved in city affairs and to phone him with thoughts and ideas.

“My door is always open,” Khamis said. “I want to make sure to get your ideas.”

Continue reading, here: Mercury News

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‘My Jihad’ Islamic education campaign kicks off on Muni buses

Image for News Release - ‘My Jihad’ Islamic education campaign kicks off on Muni buses

An educational campaign led by the Council on American-Islamic Relations has put up dozens of advertisements on San Francisco Municipal Railway buses this week to reclaim connotations of the word "jihad," according to campaign organizers.

(Jan 04, 2013 - San Jose, CA) 

The 35 “My Jihad” bus ads were up by the start of the new year to promote a more inclusive meaning of jihad as believed and practiced by a majority of Muslims, CAIR officials from the organization’s San Francisco Bay Area office said.

There are alternate interpretations of “jihad” that are associated with violence and uprisings, spurring the campaign to reclaim the meaning of the word, which means “the struggle” and is the central tenet of Islam.

The public ads show a diverse assortment of people sharing their struggles—from difficulties finding time to work out to exercising more tolerance.

A social media component allows people to tweet or use Facebook to share their modern interpretation of “jihad” and their struggles to get to a better place.

The education initiative kicked off in Chicago in December before starting in San Francisco.

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#MyJihad Launches in San Francisco

Image for News Release - #MyJihad Launches in San Francisco

There is a public education campaign making some waves titled "#MyJihad." Their homepage proclaims their mission as “Taking back Islam from Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists alike.” It includes a pretty robust social media buzz on Twitter and Facebook, a series of speaking events around the country, and a national print ad campaign.

(Jan 03, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

The bus ads began in Chicago on December 11th, and this week the MyJihad ads went up on 35 king-size Muni buses in San Francisco. Splashed across buses and trains are colorful photos of sunnah smiling Muslim faces proclaiming, “My Jihad is Freedom & Peace for Syria. What’s yours?” or “My Jihad is Making New Friends. What’s yours?” or “My Jihad is Eating More Broccoli. What’s yours?” And so on.

MyJihad was started by CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, but it’s really a grass roots effort that can be taken up by anyone by using the #MyJihad hashtag.

“We are excited that the #MyJihad campaign has come to San Francisco. It presents a much needed opportunity to engage in dialogue around the true meaning of jihad, and the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in recent years,” said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of CAIR.

In addition, bloggers across the interwebs are contributing their verse to this chorus of reclaiming.

The effort of the campaign is to reclaim the word jihad from the maw of the corrupters and restore it’s rightful meaning, which is simply to struggle in the way of God — meaning to strive for justice, compassion, self improvement and when it’s called for, self-defense.

I know a thing or two about reclaiming words from before I accepted Islam. In my Pagan days I participated in active campaigns to reclaim terms like “witch,” “heathen” and “crone” from their negative connotations after generations of scary bedtime stories. After centuries of forced conversion to Christianity, the chain of narration of the Pagan traditions have been shattered and nearly lost, but still these communities struggle to reconstruct the pieces. Ten years ago, that probably would have been my answer. But conversion to Islam has presented unique linguistic challenge that I have never had in any other field.

In most discourses, language is fluid. During the early days of the Occupy Movement the term “occupiers” caught on, but many of us preferred “occupants.” The difference is subtle, but important. “Liberal” once described a philosophy of small government and laissez-faire capitalism. When the term was adopted by those espousing social justice and wealth redistribution, some attempted to reclaim the original meaning by calling themselves “classical liberals.”

Now that the political left has abandoned “liberal” in favor of “progressive,” soon “liberal” will be available for someone else to claim. When “capitalism” isn’t polling well, capitalists use “free market.” When “socialism” has a bad reputation, socialists use “fair share.” If “anarchist” is too scary, anarchists use “voluntaryist.”

Movements regularly change their rhetoric to suit the values and prejudices of their time. A change in language can even induce an entire paradigm shift. Imagine the change in thinking required for the common nomenclature to shift from “savages” to “Indians” to “indigenous people.” Language is a fertile cornucopia of connotation, accusation, smears, fears and propaganda. But, Islam resists this.

Language mutates. But, if Muslims find Islam’s vocabulary challenging, we can’t simply abandon it as other discourses may – because our vocabulary is codified in primary sources still available in their original language. If the baggage no longer suits them, Christians can abandon “trinity” if they wish, because Greek and Latin were not the language of the prophets. But “jihad” will always and forever be part of the Islamic discourse.

We cannot change the words, so reclaiming their original meaning is our only option when people misuse them. As a result the Islamic discourse is characteristically averse to slogans. “Islam means Peace” makes a nice bumper sticker, but in reality one could write a book analyzing why Islam means peace and another book analyzing why it doesn’t. Islam’s vocabulary is complex by necessity, perhaps even by design.

My jihad, as both a convert to and advocate of Islam, as both a writer and a speaker, is language itself. To first derive a correct, complete and nuanced understanding of a complex vocabulary and constellation of concepts in a language foreign to me, and then to find accurate and innovative ways to translate and articulate those concepts respecting the constant mutation of religious and political discourse in the English language.

It is a struggle to find language that is both old and new again. It is my jihad.

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‘MyJihad’ Ads Go Up on Buses in San Francisco

Image for News Release - ‘MyJihad’ Ads Go Up on Buses in San Francisco

National educational initiative designed to 'reclaim Jihad from Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists'

(Jan 03, 2013 - San Francisco, CA) 

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) announced today that the “MyJihad” educational campaign” has officially launched in San Francisco with 35 king-size bus advertisements now circulating via the Muni Bus system. 

The official website includes detailed information about the campaign.
View the ‘My Jihad’ website here: myjihad.org

On December 11th, the first bus ad campaign appeared on 25 Chicago buses.
View the Chicago ads here: MyJihad Ads on Chicago Buses Live Shots

The San Francisco bus ads started circulating on the city’s Muni bus system last week with full roll out of the 25 buses completed before New Year’s eve. The campaign was timed for maximum holiday exposure.
View the San Francisco ads here: MyJihad Ads on San Francisco Buses Live Shots

MyJihad is an independent national public education campaign, started by Chicago activist and CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, that seeks to share the proper meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims. Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means struggling uphill in order to get to a better place. MyJihad is currently pending 501(c)3 status. Private donations are managed by CAIR-Chicago as the sponsoring organization.

Volunteers working on the campaign include activists and students, but the crux of the volunteers have been a group of working moms who are disturbed by the prospects of their children growing up in an environment of gross misinformation about Islam that sometimes spills into outright hatred such as with the recent anti-Islam ads sponsored by Pamela Geller.

The campaign includes putting up public ads on buses and trains, as well as a social media component on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter where users are asked to tweet what their Jihad (struggle) is using the #MyJihad hashtag. Thousands of users have already tweeted and thousands more have liked the Facebook page. 

MyJihad has generated a national and global media buzz from the US networks to a dedicated full hour coverage on the BBC to Lithuania, China, and the island of Aruba.

“We are excited that the #MyJihad campaign has come to San Francisco. It presents a much needed opportunity to engage in dialogue around the true meaning of jihad, and the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in recent years,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director, Zahra Billoo.

“The campaign has been met with tremendous support from across the board and, as expected, with resistance from the two extremes whose message of hate and divisiveness we are challenging,” said Sadaf Syed, award-winning photojournalist who took the campaign’s photos and San Francisco native based in Chicago. “MyJihad represents the average muslim voice; as an American Muslim photojournalist, I am raised not to curse the media, but to become a medium for myself. That is my Jihad.”

View Sadaf Syed in action with the ad models in the “making of” video.

Both the Chicago and San Francisco bus ads are paid for by CAIR-Chicago. 

CAIR-SFBA is an office of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

Ahmed Rehab
Executive Director, CAIR-Chicago
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 202.870.0166

Angie Emara
, MyJihad.org
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 312.231.2021

Sadaf Syed
Photographer,
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Muslim Civil Rights Group Reports Slight Increase in Bay Area Complaints

Last week the Santa Clara-based Council on American-Islamic Relations of the San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) published its annual report on the state of Muslim civil rights in the Bay Area.

(Jan 02, 2013 - Santa Clara, CA) 

“This report will help community members better understand the work of the CAIR-SFBA civil rights department,” said CAIR’s Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator Rachel Roberts in a Nov.12 press release.

The organization reports that in 2011 it received ten percent more civil rights complaints than it did the previous year - something the organization says might simply reflect increased reporting. Of the 246 civil rights complaints the civil rights group analyzed, law enforcement questioning and surveillance topped the list (24%), followed by harassment (21%), and workplace discrimination (18%).

CAIR, now America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, was founded after the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, when many commentators initially and wrongly assumed Muslims were the likely perpetrators of the bombing.

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Civil Rights Groups Submit Letter to UC President

Letter to UC President from CAIR and allied groups advises him of the need to protect pro-Palestinian speech on campus.

(Dec 05, 2012 - Santa Clara, CA) 

Earlier this week, the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) join the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other civil rights groups in submitting a letter to University of California (UC) President Mark Yudof, pressing him to consider the chilling effect of efforts to target Arab, Muslim and other students advocating for Palestinian rights on UC campuses, and to take affirmative steps to protect pro-Palestinian speech on campus.  The letter specifically points to the rash of baseless legal complaints that have increased scrutiny of student activism on Palestine, to a UC-initiated “campus climate” report that labels Palestinian rights advocacy as anti-Semitic and threatening to Jewish students, and to numerous public statements by UC officials that disparage such activism as “bad speech” and compare it to truly anti-Semtic and racist incidents on campus, such as noose-hangings. 

The letter details ways that students have been affected by these negative depictions of their activism, including an increased fear of harm to their professional careers, immigration status, and for their safety; intimidation, threats and vandalism by other groups; and a sense that the University’s mis-characterization of their message reflects its efforts to undermine their free speech rights. 

The civil rights groups are urging the UC President to take affirmative steps to ensure that students who advocate for Palestinian rights are equal members of the university community whose viewpoints are recognized as valuable contributions to an issue of great public concern.  It also urges the President to renounce efforts to taint all student activism on Palestine as anti-Semitic, and to correct the mis-characterizations of these students’ nonviolent and anti-racist advocacy.  CAIR and the other signatories will continue to monitor attempts to intimidate Palestinian rights activists on college campuses, and to advocate on their behalf.

To read the full letter, click: here.

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CAIR-SFBA Publishes 2012 Civil Rights Report

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today published its 2012 Civil Rights Report. The report, titled “The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the San Francisco Bay Area: Safeguarding Our Rights,” analyzes and summarizes the complaints received by the CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Department in 2011.

(Nov 12, 2012 - Santa Clara, CA) 

The incidents reported totaled 283 over the course of the year and included, among other issues: complaints of employment discrimination; requests for legal representation for voluntary interviews by FBI and other law enforcement agencies; and reports of hate crimes. Compared to incident reports from 2010, there was a 10% increase in the number of incidents reported in 2011.

“This report will help community members better understand the work of the CAIR-SFBA civil rights department,” said Rachel Roberts, CAIR’s Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator. “It is our hope that the report will also assist community members in learning to recognize discrimination if they or somebody they know are ever targeted.”

CAIR-SFBA encourages all community members to know and understand their civil rights. 
SEE:  Know Your Rights & Responsibilities as an American Muslim

Electronic Copies of the 2012 Civil Rights report can be downloaded online. Hard copies may be requested by calling 408.986.9874.
SEE: Safeguarding Our Rights

CAIR-SFBA is an office of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Rachel Roberts
Civil Rights Coordinator, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

CAIR Welcomes Voters’ Rejection of Islamophobic Candidates

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed the rejection of Islamophobic candidates by voters nationwide.

(Nov 07, 2012 - WASHINGTON, D.C.) 

In Florida, Rep. Allen West (R), who claims Islam is not a religion but is instead a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology” that is a “very vile and very vicious enemy,” was defeated by a narrow margin.

Also in Florida, State Representative Adam Hasner (R) was defeated in his bid for Congress. Hasner once co-hosted an event featuring Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders that was also sponsored by Anti-Muslim hate group leader Pamela Geller. In 2009, Hasner attempted to block a “Florida Muslim Capitol Day.” In 2007, he sponsored a screening of the anti-Muslim film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” for state legislators.

A third Florida anti-Muslim candidate, Terry Kemple, lost his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board. Kemple’s main issue in the race was seeking to keep Muslim speakers out of local schools.

In Illinois, Rep. Joe Walsh (R) was defeated in his re-election bid. Earlier this year, when a town hall meeting attendee told him that he was “looking for some godly men and women in the Senate, in the Congress, who will stand in the face of the danger of Islam,” Walsh left the door open for suspicion of every Muslim living in Illinois when he responded saying radical Islam is more of a threat “now that it was right after 9/11” and “It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here.”

In Arkansas, Rep. James McLean defeated Republican Charlie Fuqua, a candidate who advocated the deportation of all Muslims in a self-published book.

In Minnesota, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) lost his seat. Cravaack was a key supporter’s of Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) series of anti-Muslim hearings.

“These encouraging results clearly show that mainstream Americans reject anti-Muslim bigotry by candidates for public office and will demonstrate that rejection at the polls,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “This election witnessed an increased political awareness and mobilization effort among American Muslims that dealt a major blow to the Islamophobia machine.”

Awad noted that Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, who recently led a witch hunt against Muslims serving in the government, only retained her House seat by a very narrow margin.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Corey Saylor
Legislative Director, CAIR National
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 202.384.8857

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Muslim Advocacy Group Disappointed by Gov. Brown’s Veto of SB 1081

Imperative Immigrants' Rights Legislation Vetoed

(Oct 01, 2012 - Sacramento, CA) 

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today expressed its disappointment over Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of Assembly Bill 1081, also referred to as the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, would have limited the use of unfair, costly detentions of immigrants in local jails for deportation purposes under the so-called “Secure Communities” program.  AB 1081 would have sent a clear message that California was unwilling to participate in unjust immigration practices and unwilling to permit its local police officers and resources to be usurped by federal immigration authorities.

“CAIR-CA supported the TRUST Act because we believe it is imperative that our state and local government seek out immigration reform policies that work. Communities must have a sense of trust with their local law enforcement agencies, and unfortunately the veto of this piece of legislation takes a step back from furthering that goal,” said CAIR-CA Chairman Masoud Nassimi.

In reaction to the veto, Reshma Shamasunder, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) issued the following statement:

“We must state in no uncertain terms that Governor Brown’s veto of the TRUST Act will cause deep and widespread disappointment among immigrants and their families across the state. We expected him to be a champion for immigrants, but by his failure to take leadership, he has doomed thousands of immigrants including domestic violence survivors, food vendors, and people who for minor offenses are separated from their loved ones and detained unjustly in local jails…”

CIPC (CAIR-CA serves on the organization’s steering committee), the Asian Law Caucus, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the ACLU of California sponsored the bill. AB 1081 was one of two bills Muslim community members advocated for at the first-ever “Muslim Day at the Capitol” in Sacramento earlier this year.  The second bill AB 1964, was signed by Gov. Brown last month.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Basim Elkarra
Executive Director, CAIR-Sacramento
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 916.289.3748

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885

Controversial YouTube Clip Remains Viewable

Image for News Release - Controversial YouTube Clip Remains Viewable

Google restricts video that shows Islam prophet in a negative light in Libya, Egypt.

(Sep 12, 2012 - Santa Clara, CA) 

YouTube has blocked a video attacking Islam’s prophet Muhammad in Egypt and Libya, where angry protests were sparked by outrage at the video and the death of four people. Zahra Billoo of CAIR in Santa Clara doesn’t like the video, but she says it falls under free speech and supports Google’s decision to keep it online. George Kiriyama reports.

Google has issued a rare statement around its decision to allow a controversial video on YouTube that contributed to violent clashes in Northern Africa and the Middle East to continue to be viewable—except in Libya and Egypt.

The video shows clips from “The Innocence of Muslims,” a feature-length, low-budget film that outraged conservative Muslim groups. The film portrays the prophet Mohammed as a philanderer who also condoned of child sex abuse.

Muslims consider any portrayal—let alone an insult—of Mohammed as extremely offensive.

The consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was burned Tuesday during a violent protest against the film, resulting in the death of the U.S. ambassador and Bay Area native Chris Stevens and three other diplomats.

The clips also incited signficant violence in Cairo, as well, with clashes continuing into Thursday.

Google acknowledges that what is culturally controversial in some areas of the world are more tolerated in others:

“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video—which is widely available on the web—is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.

“However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries. Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered in yesterday’s attack in Libya.”

The video, credited to Sam Bacile, uploaded the film on July 2, 2012. It was translated into Arabic and aired on Egyptian television recently.

The attacks and violent protests in the Middle East have garnered stern responses from President Obama, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

End of Article

Gov. Brown Signs AB 1964 into Law

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today announced that Governor Jerry Brown signed the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (AB 1964) this afternoon at a unity rally.

(Sep 08, 2012 - Sacramento, CA) 

AB 1964, which was sponsored by Assembly Member Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) earlier this year, will clarify the responsibilities of California employers with respect to religious accommodation in the workplace.

“This bill is dedicated to all those who have suffered the indignities of ignorance and discrimination in the workplace because of the tenets of their faith,” stated Assemblymember Yamada.  “No longer will it be legal to segregate a worker from public view because their appearance did not fit a corporate image.”

CAIR-CA was among the organizations that helped draft the legislation and worked with community members alongside civil rights and interfaith allies to mobilize support for AB 1964 during the year. This included rallying community members to advocate in support of it at the first-ever Muslim Day at the Capitol (MDAC), where dozens of Muslims came together from across the state held 40 meetings with their legislators in Sacramento.

“As an advocacy organization that works with community members to resolve complaints of workplace discrimination against the state’s Muslims, we believe this law will be a major step forward in assuring faith-observing employees that they’ll be judged on the merits of their skills, rather than on their religious gear,” said CAIR-LA Government Relations Coordinator Adel Syed.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885

Basim Elkarra
Executive Director, CAIR-Sacramento Valley
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 916.289.3748

CAIR Says Assembly Resolution Stifles Discussion on California Campuses

HR 35 Passes the California Assembly

(Aug 29, 2012 - Sacramento, CA) 

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), along with nine community, legal, and student organizations, sent a letter to lawmakers in that state about House Resolution 35, which passed in the California Assembly yesterday, because it stifles robust political debate on university campuses. The letter urges lawmakers to reconsider the issue when they reconvene in January.

CAIR: Calif Lawmakers Denounce Anti-Semitism in Colleges

HR 35 calls upon California college campuses to adopt the recommendations in the Report on Campus Climate for Jewish students, which has been subjected to widespread criticism for its potential threat to students’ civil rights.

SEE: Text of HR 35
HR_35_Letter_to_Lawmakers.pdf

The letter states in part: “Though cloaked as a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, the actual goal of HR 35 is to stifle geopolitical debates in academic and university settings. Nobody should hesitate to condemn anti-Jewish expression no matter the context in which it arises. But this resolution characterizes criticism of Israel generally as “cloaked” anti-Semitism. By HR 35’s logic, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, and George H. W. Bush, and organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are all anti-Semitic because they have at times criticized Israeli policies. This politically motivated definition of anti-Semitism lacks any basis and does a tremendous disservice to the fight against real anti-Semitism. It is no more anti-Semitic to criticize Israel than it is anti-Muslim to criticize Saudi Arabia.”

SEE: Human Rights Advocacy is Not Hate Speech
UC report on Jewish campus climate: Results marginalize, misrepresent students critical of Israel
UC report on anti-Semitism draws ire

CAIR-Sacramento’s Civil Rights Coordinator Rachel Roberts said: “This resolution will do nothing to stop anti-Semitism, but it will stop the discussions college students must be allowed to have to analyze and form opinions on international issues.”

HR 35 was passed in less than one month’s time, while California students were out of session for the summer. “Lawmakers were not given a full picture of the complexities of this issue and voted thinking they were merely condemning anti-Semitism,” said CAIR-LA Government Relations Coordinator Adel Syed. “Since the legislature is so busy, it is easy to miss the enormous constitutional problems with resolutions like HR 35.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Rachel Roberts
Civil Rights Coordinator, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874 OR 916.441.6269

Calif. lawmakers denounce anti-Semitism in colleges

An Assembly resolution urging California colleges and universities to squelch nascent anti-Semitism also encouraged educators to crack down on demonstrations against Israel, angering advocates for Muslim students.

(Aug 28, 2012 - Sacramento, CA) 

With no debate, lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution that encourages university leaders to combat a wide array of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel actions.
“California schools need to recognize that anti-Semitism is still a very real issue on college campuses around the state—it did not disappear with the end of World War II,” said Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, the resolution’s author.

Most of the incidents of anti-Semitism the resolution cited are related to the Israel-Palestine debate. These include instances of protesters comparing Israeli police to Nazis and urging support for Hamas.

The resolution, which is purely symbolic and does not carry policy implications, also condemns the suggestion that Israel is a “racist” state and that Jews “wield excessive power over American foreign policy.”

The resolution characterizes the student campaign to pressure the University of California system to divest from Israel as anti-Semitic, and applauds university leaders’ refusal to consider it.

The Council on American Islamic Relations said the resolution went too far and constituted an attack on students’ right to free expression.

“To be clear, genuine acts of anti-Semitism should be condemned, but this resolution goes far beyond that,” said Rachel Roberts, a spokeswoman for the group. “By characterizing pro-Palestinian speech as anti-Jewish, the Legislature sidelines those Muslim students and progressive Jewish students who often organize together to raise awareness about the Middle East.”

Roberts said the council was disappointed that the resolution was drafted and passed while California colleges were out of session.

Pro-Palestinian protests have become a regular occurrence on many University of California campuses. Students sometimes use sensational tactics including simulating checkpoints and combining swastikas with the Star of David.

In 2010, 10 Muslim students were convicted of misdemeanors for repeatedly interrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine, where students were suspected of painting swastikas in university buildings.

The Assembly’s actions also drew criticism from free speech advocates. Carlos Villarreal, director of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, called the resolution irresponsible and dangerous because it combines legitimate condemnations of acts of intimidation and hate with specific objections to tactics used to support the Palestinian people.

“In doing so, it can be seen as having no other purpose than to demonize all those who criticize the nation-state of Israel or support the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Halderman did not mention Israel when she introduced HR35, which passed on a voice vote with 66 of the Assembly’s 80 members signing on as co-authors.

Some of the lawmakers who signed on as co-authors when the resolution was called on the floor seemed surprised to later learn of the references to Israel. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was one of the few who did not support it.

“Ignorance reigns up here,” he said.

One of the resolution’s co-authors, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said she understood critics’ concerns.

“We absolutely have to have colleges and universities that are free from anti-Semitism,” Lowenthal said. “But we just have to be careful that we don’t accidentally silence legitimate debate as we try to shut down organized hate.”

The California Legislature has no Muslim members, according to the council.

End of Article

Plan for building a mosque in conservative San Martin divides community

Image for News Release - Plan for building a mosque in conservative San Martin divides community

One thousand years ago, the rich and populous city of Cordoba, Spain, could claim to be the medieval capital of intellectual freedom and religious tolerance. The children of Abraham, protected by an enlightened, Moorish caliph, lived peacefully and prospered together there as never before, and some today would add ever since.

(Aug 20, 2012 - San Martin, CA) 

“Jews, Muslims and Christians flourished there during the Dark Ages of Europe,” said Hamdy Abbass, an Egyptian-American insurance agent. “The three religions got together and did a magnificent job in science and everything else.”

So when Abbass’ small community of American Muslims proposed building a new mosque, they chose to name it the Cordoba Center. They hoped to resurrect the old city’s religious harmony for post-9/11 America in San Martin, a tiny, unincorporated town of about 7,000 people south of San Jose.

Instead, an angry debate erupted that lumped religious, environmental and development issues into a confounding ball of fury by high summer. Hundreds of people packed into three public meetings recently, clashing over incongruent concerns about what the mosque might create: terrorism and traffic, the contamination of groundwater and the diminishing of American identity, misinterpretations of the Quran and changes to the region’s master plan for development.

“A lot of the environmental issues are getting conflated with the fear of Islam,” said Jan Bernstein Chargin, a Gilroy resident who approves of the mosque. “It’s left me with a terrible taste in my mouth. This is a diverse community and we’ve got to learn to live with each other.”

Multiple concerns

Georgine Scott-Codiga, president of the Gilroy-Morgan Hill Patriots, a group of 100 or so local conservatives, had different concerns and another point of view. She opposed construction of the mosque, but on environmental and zoning grounds.

“We were called bigots for opposing that project,” she said.

But soon, the debate zeroed in on a singular issue: The Cordoba Center would include a cemetery. That fact prompted worries that contaminants from decaying bodies would seep into the community’s underground water supply.

The discovery of toxins a few years ago had residents already on edge.

The Santa Clara County Planning Commission approved the mosque Aug. 2, pending another groundwater study.

“We looked at this as a land use issue in a fair, respectful way,” chairwoman Mary Ann Ruiz said. The commission’s vote was unanimous. Two groups opposing the mosque have since appealed, which likely will throw the final decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Organized as the South Valley Islamic Center, they have held regular services for years in a converted barn. They first proposed the mosque in 2007, but the real estate bust and ensuing banking crisis derailed the plan. The group jump-started the project two years ago.

With a 5,000-square-foot prayer hall, multipurpose room and a 2-acre cemetery, the Cordoba Center would sit on a grassy stretch of Monterey Road with a gentle slope. Abbass said prayers would be recited in Arabic but that everything else would be conducted in English because its members hail from 20 countries and many ethnic backgrounds. English is their common language.

The future mosque, however, isn’t likely to bring back Cordoba’s golden age of harmony any time soon.

Melting pot?

Measured by its voting record, South County is the most politically and socially conservative part of Santa Clara County, which includes much of liberal Silicon Valley.

“This is a Christian country. This is an American valley,” said Diane Dawson, 73, of Morgan Hill, who wrote two openly incendiary letters to the Morgan Hill Times in 2007. “I’m just suspicious that they’re sneaking in to contaminate our country.”

Although they’ve never met, James Fennell, of Gilroy, agrees with Dawson. They pointed out Quranic verses that make it clear to them that Islam’s goal is to convert every American to the religion—by force if necessary. As Christian conservatives, they believe the United States should be governed by Judeo-Christian values and the Bible.

“Every other religion in a country with an Islamic majority in power is repressed,” Fennell said. “You have to draw the line somewhere. ... There’s already a mosque in San Jose. They should go there.”

To further “conflate” things, the Patriots group invited a controversial critic of Islam, Peter Friedman, to speak at the Gilroy public library last Saturday. Scott-Codiga said the speaker was invited to help them understand their Muslim neighbors.

“I don’t know these people,” she said. “I don’t have anything against them.”

Meanwhile, Abbass said the Muslim community can do better by inviting their critics for interfaith discussions, to share meals and raise money together for the poor. He’s optimistic.

“Most people understand this is a melting pot,” he said. “The last time I checked, San Martin was not Nazi Germany or even Afghanistan.”

End of Article

Our Political Leaders Deserve Some Blame for Sikh Shooting

Image for News Release - Our Political Leaders Deserve Some Blame for Sikh Shooting

“Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America. They represent the worst of humankind. And they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.”

On September 17, 2001, a mere 8 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush said these words in reference to the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in New York. Ironically, 11 years after that fateful day, these very words fit well to describe the brutal actions of a perpetrator who shot and killed six worshippers and critically injured two others at a Sikh temple (or Gurdwara) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in one of the deadliest hate crimes in recent memory.

But the hate attacks did not stop there. Within the next two weeks after the shooting, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, burned down for the second time in month. Hunks of pig flesh were thrown at a home where Muslims were praying in Ontario, California. In Lombard, Illinois, a bottle of acid was thrown at an Islamic school, while in Morton Grove, Illinois, a man shot an air rifle directly at a Muslim education center. 

According to the FBI statistics reported by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, anti-Islamic incidents were the second least reported hate crimes prior to 9/11, but following 9/11, they became the second highest. Hate crimes in the United States increased 21 percent from 8,063 in 2000 to 9,730 in 2001. The most dramatic change was a 1,600 percent spike in the number of hate crimes against Muslims—from 28 incidents in 2000 to 481 incidents in 2001.

The Southern Poverty Law Center highlights FBI statistics showing a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 hate crimes in 2010. This happened at the same time as a controversy over the building of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Center attacks. Today, we could be experiencing another spike in incidents.

These statistics are a cause for concern, but what is even more troubling is the political discourse that fuels the fear of Muslims in the United States. Policies such as the Patriot Act, and more recently the National Defense Authorization Act, have contributed to this environment, as have speeches and stances taken by elected officials and candidates.

“Often these types of discrimination don’t happen in a vacuum,” said Priya Murthy, the political director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a non-profit advocacy group. “They are impacted by political rhetoric and policy. The government plays a huge role in terms of influencing how policies are set and politicians have a mouthpiece that a regular community member may not have, as well as access to media that affects discourse. They have a responsibility to not demonize and target some communities.”

Unfortunately, the demonization of Muslims and South Asians is rampant, and attacks on Muslim communities by elected officials have become commonplace.  Only a month ago, Minnesota congresswoman and former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, along with six other Republican representatives, sent letters to five federal agencies alleging a “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy” within the US government. Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh also recently stated in public that “there is a radical strain of Islam in this country -– it’s not just over there –- trying to kill Americans every week. It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11.”

Interestingly, the two hate crimes in Illinois occurred soon after his speech. The amount of Islamophobic statements by elected officials have become so prevalent that SAALT was compelled to release a report in 2010 called “From Macacas to Turban Toppers: The Rise in Xenophobic and Racist Rhetoric in American Political Discourse.”

The issues go beyond political rhetoric. Airport screenings have infamously become particularly problematic for members of Sikh and Muslim communities to such a degree that the Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights organization for the Sikh community, developed an app called “FlyRights” for those who think they have been targeted. The app asks about a dozen questions, and submits responses as official complaints to the Transportation Security Administration.

Clandestine spying operations have even been set up by the New York City police department to monitor Muslim college students, according to media reports.

Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Bay Area Chapter of the Center for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), reflects on the connection between xenophobic politics and acts of hate.

“These government actions and policies provide a way to justify ignorance,” she said. “Time magazine reported that over 60 percent of Americans have never met a Muslim, so you take these people and instill fear in them, and you hold the real possibility of situations devolving into violence.” 

Priya Murthy of SAALT concurs. “This type of environment creates a place where hate acts can culminate as it did at Oak Creek and as it continues to do in recent hate attacks against mosques throughout the country,” she said. “We may never know exactly what is happening in the perpetrators’ minds but Islamophobic policies and rhetoric sends the message that it is acceptable not just for the government to treat Muslims, Sikhs and Arabs with fear and discrimination, but for the general population to treat them in this way as well.”

Although fear mongering and profiling has become the norm in this country since 9/11, statistics have shown that many of these fears are unfounded and exaggerated. According to FBI statistics from 1985-2005, only 6 percent of terrorist attacks in the US were actually committed by Muslims.

Despite these numbers, suspicion and ignorance against Sikh, Muslim, and Arab communities continue to run high.

“September 11 happened over 10 years ago,” said Manpreet Kalra, founder and writer for kaurista.com and a Northern California Sikh community leader. “It shouldn’t be taking over 10 years for the American population to still not understand the difference between Sikhs and Muslims and to realize that being Muslim does not mean that you are a terrorist.”

Kaur blames elected officials who have fanned the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment.

“As a public official, you are elected to represent your constituents, and when you are selectively choosing what part of your constituency to represent, it’s a red flag, it’s a problem.”

Yet through these challenges, Muslim and Sikhs have been resilient in forming a united front against hate and descrimination, which would have been almost unthinkable 20 years ago.

“After 9/11, we have worked together because an attack against one of us was an attack against all of us,” Zahra Billoo of CAIR said. “And there is hope, because there are people from so many faiths who have stood up against this act.”

Some political leaders, to their credit, have pushed for greater civil protections as well. Legislators like Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) are leading actions to include civil rights statutes within the National Defense Authorization Act, while US senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have pushed an “End Racial Profiling” bill that would prevent racial profiling from being used as a national security measure.

CAIR calls on more Republicans to step up so that the effort against hate crimes can be bipartisan.

“Elected officials need to stand up against Islamophobic policies, not just Democratic officials, but Republican officials,” Billoo said. “Our elected officials need to have the courage to stand up for the right things, for the civil rights of people.”

Priya Murthy of SAALT believes incidents like the Oak Creek shooting strike at the very heart of what it means to be American.

“These kinds of incidents should serve as a wake up call to all Americans that this is not the America we want,” Murthy said. “We can be a better country. Our country is about inclusion, plurality, diversity, and welcoming and supporting one another. We have to keep that going and take a stand against hatred when it occurs so that we can all stand together.”

End of Article

Bay Area Muslims to Mark End of Ramadan with Prayers

Today, August 19th, Bay Area Muslims will celebrate the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan with communal prayers around the region. (Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset.)

(Aug 19, 2012 - SAN FRANCISCO, CA) 

The prayers mark the beginning of the Eid ul-Fitr (EED-al-FITTER), or “feast of fast breaking” holiday, in which Muslims exchange social visits and seek to strengthen bonds of brotherhood in the community. During this holiday, Muslims greet each other by saying “Eid mubarak” (EED-moo-BAR-ak), meaning “blessed Eid,” and “taqabbalallah ta’atakum,” or “may God accept your deeds.” Many communities also hold multicultural bazaars and other family activities following the prayers.

Eid ul-Fitr is the first of the two major Muslim holidays. The second holiday, Eid ul-Adha, comes at the end of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

WHEN: Sunday, August 19 (Date may vary, consult local mosques. Go to: www.islamicfinder.com) Prayers are held early in the morning. Ask local prayer coordinators for exact dates, times and locations.

WHERE: The Eid prayers are held either in local mosques or in public facilities designed to accommodate large gatherings.

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Each year, Muslims come to the prayers in colorful attire representative of different areas of the Islamic world. The prayers themselves are quite visual, with worshipers arranged in neat rows and bowing in prayer in unison. Participants exchange embraces at the conclusion of the prayers.

NOTE: Because this is a religious service, reporters and photographers of both sexes should dress modestly. Some communities may ask female reporters and photographers to put a scarf over their hair while in the actual prayer area. Photographers should arrive early to get into position for the best shots. Photographers are also advised not to step directly in front of worshipers and to seek permission for close-up shots. Shots of shoes removed for prayer, and rear-angle shots of prostrating worshipers are considered inappropriate.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

CAIR-CA Welcomes Steps to Challenge Anti-Muslim Ads

Muni has taken the unprecedented step of condemning one of the paid advertisements on several of its buses.

(Aug 17, 2012 - SAN FRANCISCO, CA) 

It all started with a controversial ad in support of Israel that included some hot-button words like “jihad’ and “savages.” Friday, the transit agency got involved with its own counter-ad.

The dueling ads appear almost side-by-side on 10 Muni buses. The original ad popped up last week reading “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

Friday, Muni came back with its response—a bus card saying its policy prohibits discrimination and it condemns statements that describe any group as savages.

“Obviously we think the ads in place right now are repulsive and they definitely cross the line,” Muni spokesperson Paul Rose said. “So there’s not a lot we can do in light of the First Amendment.”

The group behind the pro-Israel ad calls itself the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Pamela Geller of New York heads the group and she says she’s now planning another Muni bus ad.

“Those ads will be calling out the institutionalized and systemic anti-Semitism of the government of San Francisco,” she said. “They’re clearly picking sides. They should be running disclaimers on every ad, not just mine.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomes Muni’s counter-ad as a step in the right direction.

“A lot of the damage has already been done; we have heard from many community members both at our organization and other organizations across the Bay Area who say they don’t feel comfortable boarding the buses that carry these ads,” CAIR spokesperson Zahra Billoo said.

Geller says the publicity has generated a few thousand dollars for her organization.

“We have seen an increase in fundraising, absolutely, absolutely,” Geller said. “What do you think has paid for my counter ads to the discrimination ads that are running counter to my ads?”

“This is someone who’s thriving on creating fear of millions, if not billions, of Arabs and Muslims across the world,” Billoo said.

Geller says her Muni ad campaign cost about $5,000 and is her First Amendment right. Friday, CAIR sent a letter to Muni asking that the money be used to study the impact of what it calls “hate speech” on Muslim residents of San Francisco.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Groups Cautiously Welcome SFMTA Response to anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic Advertisements

Today, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) cautiously welcomed a statement issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in response to anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic advertisements running on San Francisco buses.

(Aug 15, 2012 - SAN FRANCISCO, CA

The groups have been coordinating community mobilization and response since complaints about the advertisements were first received.

The advertisements, sponsored by a group calling itself The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), led by Pamela Geller, states: “In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man.” It further states, “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” AFDI has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“While the community respects the importance of free expression even for offensive speech, it is clear that these ads were designed specifically to intimidate Muslim, Arab and Palestinian members of the San Francisco community,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

SEE: Who’s Behind the anti-Muslim Ads on MTA and MUNI?
MUNI Bus Ads Calling Israel’s Enemies ˜Savages”

In the statement issued yesterday, the Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA Director of Transportation on Advertisement acknowledged that although the First Amendment prevented them from removing the advertisements from public buses, they have “no value in facilitating constructive dialogue or advancing the cause of peace and justice.” Further, the statement went on to commit to directing all resulting advertising revenue to the SF Human Rights Commission (HRC).

SEE: Statement from Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors and SFMTA Director of Transportation on Advertisement

ALC, AMP, CAIR-SFBA and JVP will be concluding a community assessment this Friday, and plan to work with the HRC to develop requests of SFMTA that will properly reflect the level of community concern as well as solutions for remedying the harmful impact of these advertisements.

AMP Chair Dr. Hatem Bazian stated: “Since the message of these advertisements foments the hostile climate towards Arabs and Muslims, especially during a two week time period that has seen more than eight attacks on mosques and Islamic institutions, it is important that all responses directly address Islamophobia and not merely diversity generally.”

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public and media about issues relating to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage.

The Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization.  Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Law Caucus is a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Jewish Voice for Peace is a national grassroots peace organization dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

Teens arrested for lobbing lemons at Hayward mosque during prayer time

Four teenagers who police say threw lemons at a local mosque and struck at least one person inside have been arrested on suspicion of vandalism that interferes with civil rights.

(Aug 08, 2012 - Hayward, CA) 

It was the fourth time vandals targeted the Hayward mosque during the last eight months, police said.

At about 10 a.m. Friday about 40 congregants had gathered inside the American Muslim Association, at 26320 Gading Road when four male teenagers threw lemons at the building and then ran, said Hayward Police Lt. Roger Keener.

At least one person was hit in the arm.

Officers determined four Hayward males, ages 13 to 16 were responsible for the attack, Keener said.

The teens were arrested on suspicion of defacing property “interfering with the civil rights of those attending the mosque.”

“We’ve had an ongoing issue of local juveniles harassing some of the mosque’s attendees during prayer time,” Keener said.

Gading Road is known as Hayward’s “church row” because it is home to many places of worship, but the mosque was the only one targeted Friday.

This month is Ramadan, the holiest of the Islamic calendar and a time when Muslims fast during the daylight hours from dawn to sunset.

Leaders of the mosque, which caters to a mix of Pakistani and Fijian congregants, were unable to be reached for comment but a Muslim civil rights group said it was disturbed by the attack.

“While we are hopeful this is an isolated incident and not bias-motivated, we are of course concerned in light of all of the recent acts of vandalism and violence targeting Muslim and Sikh houses of worship,” said Zahra Billoo, spokeswoman for the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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Bogus allegations of “anti-Semitism” create real climate of fear for Arab, Muslim students in US

Image for News Release - Bogus allegations of “anti-Semitism” create real climate of fear for Arab, Muslim students in US

An attempt to portray Palestine solidarity campaigning on campus as “anti-Semitism” has failed — once again — at the University of California, Berkeley.

(Aug 08, 2012 - Berkeley, CA) 

Lacking evidence that would support their complaints, a group of Zionist students had to abandon a federal lawsuit and reach a settlement accord in late June.

But this will almost certainly not be the last case of its type. Across California, and elsewhere in the United States, well-financed lobby groups working closely with the Israeli government continue to file various lawsuits against universities, alleging civil rights violations against Jewish students. The real intention, however, is to chill Palestine solidarity activism and censor open discussions about Israeli policy in classrooms.

The UC Berkeley lawsuit termination follows a dismissal in December 2011 of an earlier version of the same lawsuit by a judge who ruled that the students’ claims lacked evidence. But the judge allowed a settlement to proceed which included the ability of the students to amend their initial civil rights law complaint. However, the settlement agreement reiterated the judge’s assertion that there was no basis to the allegations and required that the lawsuit be closed.

Activists and civil rights advocates say that the end to this lawsuit is a relief to student organizers on UC Berkeley’s campus. But it is a cautious relief.

The lawsuit against the UC Regents — the governing body of the University of California — was filed in 2011 by two students associated with Tikvah, a Zionist Jewish organization on campus. It alleges that the university allowed “discrimination” against Jewish students to occur by tolerating the “development of a dangerous anti-Semitic climate on its campuses.”

Continue Reading: Electronic Intifada

End of Article

CAIR-SFBA Welcomes Santa Clara County Approval of Mosque Use Permit

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today welcomed a unanimous vote by the Santa Clara County Planning Commission approving a use permit for the Cordoba Center Project of the South Valley Islamic Center (SVIC) in San Martin.

(Aug 03, 2012 - SANTA CLARA, CA) 

The Planning Commission’s approval, on Thursday, comes after six years of challenges and delays faced by SVIC. A vocal minority opposing the project expressed concerns about traffic, noise and water levels. SVIC’s developers however worked diligently with the Planning Commission staff and the site passed all county-required tests. The Cordoba project has complied with all technical requirements including percolation tests as well as geologic and hydrologic studies, and in many instances has exceeded those standards.

Additional opposition came from individuals who expressed fears of having Muslims in their neighborhoods, and spoke of connections to 9/11 and terrorist training camps. These individuals were most vitriolic during the two nights of community hearings preceding the Planning Commission hearing.

The Commission unanimously approved the project, which will serve a core of 80 families, will consist of a 5,000-square foot Mosque, a 2,800-square foot multi-purpose hall, and a Muslim cemetery.

SEE: Islamic Center Plan Approved, But Not Without Opposition (Video)
Planning Commission Approves Mosque

“Alhamdulillah, by the grace of God, and with the engagement and support of allies both Muslim and interfaith, we have crossed this major milestone,” said Board Member Sohail Akhter. “The Cordoba Center project of the SVIC will serve Muslims in the South Valley, who have been in this community for decades and are looking forward to establishing their own institution. The new center will also host interfaith and social service events, so that we may continue to serve our local community.”

CAIR-SFBA has been monitoring the mosque’s application process, including attending public hearings, facilitating meetings, and providing advocacy support.

“Congratulations to the SVIC on its diligence in meeting the requirements necessary to move forward with this project, said CAIR-SFBA Government Relations Consultant Sameena Usman. “It is commendable that the Commission did not bow to pressure from anti-Muslim activists who hid their Islamophobia behind concerns about the testing that the County had already successfully completed.”

SEE: Boisterous Yelling Dominates Meeting on Mosque

CAIR-SFBA commended the SVIC’s leadership and members for perservering through the application process and working with the county to address any concerns. At the hearing, Planning Commission John Vidovich commended the Muslim community for exhibiting patience with the county’s procedures and apologized for the length of time it had taken to arrive at this milestone.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

Bakri Musa
Board Member, SVIC
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.842.1511

Organizations respond to university’s handling of Israel-Palestine issue

The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild have called on UC leaders to establish a more balanced approach concerning student activism around Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a letter published Tuesday.

(Jul 16, 2012 - Berkeley, CA) 

Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area, and Matthew Ross and Liz Jackson of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, issued a letter to UC President Mark Yudof, Vice President and General Counsel Charles Robinson and the chancellors of the 10 university campuses upon the dismissal of the lawsuit brought against the university by UC Berkeley alumni Jessica Felber and Brian Maissy.

Felber and Maissy recently dismissed this suit against the university, which claimed the UC system failed to calm hostility towards Jewish students shown in demonstrations in March 2010. According to Billoo, many believe that this lawsuit is part of an ongoing effort to marginalize and chill the efforts of Arab and Muslim students who partake in speech related to the Israel-Palestine issue.

“We call for a more balanced approach, fair treatment, and above all respect for the right of university students and faculty to express their political beliefs, including those critical of Israel,” reads the letter.

Billoo and Ross also emphasized that they do not want the university’s actions to stifle student activism. Their letter stresses that comparisons between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel speech is harmful and inaccurate.

“We see it as a threat on our civil liberties, (and) we see it as very dangerous to conflate anti-Semitism and speech that is critical of Israel,” said Mohamed Haimoud, president of the Cal Muslim Student Association.

As part of the agreement to dismiss the lawsuit, the UC system will consider clarifying its policies regarding campus demonstrations.

“We hope that Jewish students will have the same protection as other minority groups on our campus,” said Arielle Gabai, president of the UC Berkeley Jewish Student Union.

Billoo and Ross’ letter focuses on Yudof’s various campus climate initiatives, citing an open letter published by Yudof in September 2011, as evidence of the unfairness of these initiatives. According to Mohamed Haimoud, president of the Muslim Student Association at UC Berkeley, Yudof’s letter and the lawsuit illustrate the UC administration’s pattern of bias against anti-Israel activism.

Yudof stressed the importance for a campus atmosphere conducive to personal and intellectual growth in his letter.

“As I have said on many occasions, I have and will continue to be among the first to speak out against abusive behavior,” said Yudof in his letter.

According to Seth Brysk, Central Pacific regional director of the Anti Defamation League, the organization is pleased to see that the university is recognizing that some UC campuses have become uncomfortable for Jewish students.

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CAIR-CA Hosts 8th Annual Youth Leadership Conference at State Capitol

Program to promote political awareness and activism

(Jul 13, 2012 - Sacramento, CA) 

Beginning yesterday and through the weekend, the California chapter of the Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) is holding the 8th annual Muslim Youth Leadership Program (MYLP) in Sacramento.

WHEN: Thursday, July 12 - Sunday, July 15, 2011
WHERE: State Capitol, Sacramento, California

The conference will feature workshops on community organizing, leadership development, and public speaking. A highlight of the conference will be a “mock legislature” session, during which participants will serve as legislators as they debate public policy issues and prepare bills to be presented on the floor of the State Senate.

“The Muslim Youth Leadership Program provides students with leadership skills and the tools to understand the legislative process,”  said MYLP Chairman Basim Elkarra. “Our goal is for students to return to their communities and work to empower their fellow American Muslims.” 

In the past seven years, over 250 California students have participated in the Muslim youth leadership program and have moved on to become contributing members of society.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Amina Abid
Operations Coordinator, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874

Student Groups and Civil Rights Organizations Applaud Dismissal of Lawsuit Seeking to Chill Student

Settlement Agreement Requires Dismissal of Lawsuit Targeting Arab and Muslim Student Activists

(Jul 13, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

A settlement agreement terminating a federal lawsuit against UC Berkeley is a victory for free speech, say civil rights advocates and student groups Students for Justice in Palestine (Cal SJP), the Muslim Student Association (Cal MSA), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA).

“The lawsuit, Felber v. Regents, was filled with false and inflammatory allegations that the plaintiffs could not substantiate in court,” said Margaret Zho a student representative of Cal SJP. “It was legal bullying as part of a larger coordinated attempt to silence speech critical of Israel.”

Liz Jackson of NLGSF added, “The facts alleged in the lawsuit were ridiculous and laced with anti-Arab and Muslim bigotry. The settlement agreement proves that the lawsuit was meritless. The only outcome is a promise that the University will hold a public meeting to discuss clarification of some policies about the use of toy weapons and the flow of foot traffic in symbolic displays on campus. But the University is not obligated to change any of its speech policies.” 

University students have long held symbolic demonstrations criticizing the Israeli occupation at U.C. Berkeley, including mock checkpoints which aim to bring awareness to how Palestinian civilians are treated at Israeli military checkpoints. These checkpoints are staffed by students of all backgrounds, including Jewish students, who engage in the simulation with fellow actors in full accordance with campus protest regulations. In 2011, two students affiliated with the pro-Israel student group Tikvah filed and amended twice a lawsuit claiming that their civil rights were infringed by the University’s toleration of speech singling out Israel for harsh criticism.

The lawsuit, while filed against the University and not the student groups, was comprised almost entirely of specious and unfounded allegations against Cal SJP and Cal MSA. “The allegations in the Felber lawsuit and the entire strategy behind bringing the lawsuit were carefully calibrated to defame and harass Arab and Muslim student life at Cal,” said Mohamed Haimoud, president of Cal MSA.

An earlier version of the lawsuit was dismissed by the Court in December 2011. In dismissing the case, the Court held that plaintiffs had failed to allege any viable cause of action and that U.C. Berkeley, the birthplace of the free speech movement, might violate the First Amendment if it attempted to curb criticism of Israel.

After the dismissal, the lawsuit was amended, and plaintiffs and the University entered into settlement negotiations resulting in the recently announced settlement agreement.

“The terms of the settlement agreement support our position that the lawsuit was baseless. The agreement reflects a rejection of the two core fallacies in the Felber lawsuit: first, that the allegations themselves were false, and second, that criticism of the humanitarian crisis created by the state of Israel is not anti-Semitism,” stated George Khadifa, an incoming ASUC student senator and a student representative of Cal SJP.

Having failed in court, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the plaintiffs have now filed complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE) asserting the same false allegations. This is a continued attempt to squelch Cal SJP and Cal MSA speech rights, as part of a larger coordinated assault on free speech. Efforts are also underway to pressure the UC Regents to issue policies which unlawfully restrict student speech.

“Cal SJP, Cal MSA and our civil rights partners will work to ensure that these complaints are dismissed and the legacy of U.C. Berkeley as the birthplace of free speech is protected,” stated ASUC Senator Sadia Saifuddin.

SEE: Settlement Agreement, U.C. Berkeley Statement Re Settlement, and the Court’s dismissal of prior version of lawsuit.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 408.986.9874 OR 626.252.0885

Nasrina Bargzie
Staff Attorney, Asian Law Caucus
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 925.330.1163

Liz Jackson
Student Representative , NLGSF
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 617.947.4593

Students and Civil Rights Groups Caution Against Efforts to Silence Student Activism

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, (NLGSF), and the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), this week submitted a letter to University of California (UC) President Mark Yudof on behalf of six elected student body officers and seventeen Arab, Muslim, Palestine and Palestinian rights activist organizations at the UC. The letter calls on President Yudof to exercise caution and adopt a more even-handed approach while considering possible changes in campus free speech rules.

(Jul 12, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

The letter follows a number of reports from task forces recently convened by President Yudof as part of his effort to investigate a perceived negative environment on UC campuses with respect to race relations generally, but more specifically focusing on student speech and discourse on Israel and Palestine issues. This follows the creation earlier in 2010 of the President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion and increasing student activism at UC campuses in support of Palestinian rights.  The letter criticizes President Yudof’s Council for considering the possible adoption of new rules limiting speech critical of Israel at UC.

“While claiming to be motivated by a desire to introduce greater civility in campus discourse on these issues, UC may be on the verge of adopting unlawful policies limiting speech critical of Israel due to political pressures,” said Carlos Villarreal, Executive Director of the NLGSF.  “This is an unacceptable infringement of the students’ Free Speech rights and may plunge the University back into another Free Speech fight similar to the Free Speech Movement which roiled UC and drew national attention back in the 1960s.”

Tom Pessah of Cal Students for Justice in Palestine explained, “Speech critical of Israel targets the policies of a nation state. To call it ‘anti-semitic’ is just as absurd as calling speech critical of Iran ‘anti-Muslim.’ The UC must protect the right of all students to engage in robust debate about state policy and human rights protections in all countries, regardless of the national religion of those countries.”

Meanwhile, students of color - including Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students - have raised serious issues and incidents of racism on campus that are receiving little attention or official recognition

SEE: Letter to President Yudof (pdf file)

Additional Background: This dispute over new rules at UC impacting student speech occurs against the backdrop of a recent lawsuit filed against the University of California, Felber v.  University of California Board of Regents, in which Israel advocacy-engaged Jewish student groups claimed that their civil rights were infringed at UC because UC allegedly tolerated speech signaling out Israel for harsh criticism. The parties in Felber have recently settled the lawsuit, but the terms are unknown.

NLGSF is a chapter of the National Lawyers Guild,  an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

End of Article

CONTACT

Zahra Billoo
Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 626.252.0885

Carlos Villarreal
Executive Director, NLGSF
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T 415.377.6961

The Civil Rights Lessons of Vincent Chin’s Murder

Image for News Release - The Civil Rights Lessons of Vincent Chin’s Murder

Vincent Chin would have been 57 today. But the Michigan man never made it out of his 20s. Instead, 30 years ago this week Chin was brutally murdered when he was bludgeoned with a baseball bat wielded by two white, jobless auto workers who thought Chin, a Chinese-American man, was Japanese. “It’s because of you little [expletive] that we’re out of work,” witnesses said Ronald Ebens yelled at Chin before he and his stepson Michael Nitz trailed Chin and attacked him.

Chin’s Asianness made him a target at a time when it was popular to blame Japanese automakers for the crumbling U.S. auto industry. His death, and the protracted and largely unsuccessful fight to bring his killers to justice galvanized Asian-Americans, spurring the community to organize and act and speak out. On the 30th anniversary of his killing, civil rights advocates are telling his story again with fresh urgency. As racialized hate trains its eye on new targets, communities of color have had to learn and relearn the lessons Chin’s death offered many times over in the decades since.

Here now, civil rights advocates and activists offer up the key lessons they’ve carried with them in the 30 years since Chin was killed.

Sharing our stories and knowing our history is a necessary, political act. The effort to keep the lessons of Chin’s death and the fight for justice from being swallowed up by the unstoppable passage of time is not about any romantic nostalgia—understanding the past is key to making sense of the ongoing fight for justice today, activists say.

“The facts of the story are never going to change. It’s never going to have a happy ending, but it can move people to get indignant. It can move people to action,” said Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, a Michigan-based writer and activist. It’s often said that in the the aftermath of Chin’s murder, the Asian-American community was born. Asian Americans, who tended to identify by ethnicity first, came to unite around a new political identity. Chin became a symbol in the Asian-American civil rights movement, a reminder that the struggle for justice is never quite over. Wang organized the Vincent Chin Postcard Project to collect exactly these sorts of stories. Among Wang’s favorite responses was one which asked: “How long will it be before we forget Trayvon Martin like we forgot Vincent Chin?”

Images and language matters. Dehumanizing language and images make it easier to attack those who are treated as less than fully human. Whatever the community, whoever the target, demagoguery comes with a real human cost. “People who do this are putting our lives at risk,” said Wang. She cited this year’s fearmongering political ads which played on American fears about the economic ascendance of Asian countries. In transparently coded images and words, politicians exploit those fears, but not without with great risk. “People see those ads and even if they don’t fully understand the message of the ad they take away this fear of China, and that makes it dangerous for those of us real Asians who are walking around on the street.”

Immunity from hate is an illusion. “Even within impacted communities, I often hear: ‘Oh, that happened years ago,’ or ‘Oh, we’re going to be good Americans and it won’t happen to us,’ or ‘Oh that sucks for him but that hasn’t happened to me yet.’” said Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Billoo has organized South Asian, Muslim and Arab communities in response to post-9/11 Islamophobia. “The question becomes: how do you deal with the desensitization of hate? It’s frightening to see that history repeats itself, which is why it’s so important to connect the history.”

“When Vincent was killed it was a wake-up call that Asian Americans had to be vigilant about racist attacks, that they had to be vigilant about how animosity toward Asian countries would continue to have an impact on Asian Americans,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Suddenly, Kwoh said, Asian Americans couldn’t afford not to be involved and to organize themselves and others, and to build alliances with people who weren’t Asian.

We are stronger when we speak up for each other within and across racial lines. “A lot of times our mistake in advocacy is not to connect the dots between communities. Would we be in a different place if we were speaking out against hate crimes when they weren’t impacting us directly?” said Billoo. “Where I find inspiration is in looking at the Japanese-American community’s evolution around the [World War II] internment issue, in challenging it and continuing to talk about it and broadening that conversation to say: ‘You did that to us. You cannot do that to other people,’” Billoo said.

Justice is also about the small acts of solidarity and community-building. “I’d love if people could ask themselves: are we challenging hate in our daily lives?” Billoo said. “What does it mean to interrupt someone when they’re saying something that’s inappropriate?”

This weekend Asian Pacific Americans for Progress is organizing a nationwide townhall this Saturday, June 23 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Chin’s death. The event which will be streamed live at 2pm ET at www.apaforprogress.org.

End of Article

Denying cultural recognition does nothing to help Middle East issue

It is no secret that Arab Americans and Muslim Americans face prejudice when asserting their basic civil rights. What happened recently at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting makes this clear.

On June 5, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to pass a proclamation honoring the cultural heritage of the Palestinian people. The night before the scheduled meeting, community members were shocked to see the proclamation pulled from the agenda.

Concern and disappointment was voiced from the proclamation’s sponsors, a coalition including interfaith groups, community organizers, students, professional leaders and other citizens.

They demanded an explanation from board President Nate Miley, who replied that he pulled the proclamation because this issue was “politically charged” and an “international issue.”

The proclamation, however, made no statements about politics or international issues. It would simply have recognized the contributions and cultural heritage of more than 20,000 Alameda County residents of Palestinian origin.

Issuing such a proclamation would have shown the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to mutual understanding and fostering respect for diversity.

What happened instead highlights how prejudice and fear still hold sway even in the Bay Area.

By pulling the proclamation, the board is inadvertently stating that the Palestinian community is too audacious and offensive to be recognized, as one Berkeley graduate pointed out.

Attempts by Arab American and Muslim American groups to engage civically are invariably met with a vitriolic hue and cry from conspiracy theorists and bigots.

These deeply misguided individuals and groups make wild claims that American Muslim civil society organizations wish to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, a canard that eerily and ironically echoes the slanders nativists made against Jews and Catholics only a century ago.

Pamela Geller, whose organization has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote in her blog that Muslim “infiltrators” along with their “goosestepping armies” were working with county officials to use the proclamation to “annihilate Israel.”

Geller told her readers to call the supervisors to oppose it. At the meeting, several individuals who opposed the proclamation spoke. One opponent called the wish of Palestinians in Alameda County to see their cultural heritage recognized “disingenuous.”

Another, Robin Dubner, who is so anti-Palestinian that she once pepper-sprayed members of the group Jewish Voice for Peace, stated that Palestinian identity is only a modern identity, as Palestinian Americans who could trace their lineage in the Holy Land back thousands of years looked on.

Palestinian Americans deserve to be treated with the same respect as other local ethnic groups. Acknowledging Palestinians does not demean any other ethnic origin or religion.

Along the same lines, it does not elevate Israelis or the American Jewish community when Palestinians are prevented from celebrating and promoting their culture.

Just as Keera Azzam, a dismayed local Palestinian-American, asked the supervisors, “What do I say to my community?” ... “What do I say to my family?”

We must ask ourselves what will happen to our community if we continue to characterize a people’s identity as “politically charged” and prejudiced hostility toward it as “controversy?”

The defeat of this proclamation will not solve the problems of the Middle East, it will simply appease those who seek a narrower public discourse, from which Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are silenced.

Rachel Roberts is civil rights coordinator and Sameena Usman is government relations consultant for the Council on American Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area office.

End of Article

California’s Averroes Institute: Islamic Prep School in America

In the U.S., we’re used to seeing religious private schools: Catholic preps, fundamentalist Christian schools. Now, there’s a newcomer: private Islamic schools. In step with America’s growing Muslim population, the schools are growing fast—but not without bumps. Critics call them cocoons raising Muslim outsiders, while the schools’ leaders argue that blending Islamic studies with an American context reflects a deeper integration in the U.S.

(May 30, 2012 - Fremont, CA) 

We visited a tiny Islamic high school—a start-up, really—located in California, where high schools can house thousands of students. It’s called Averroes Institute and is perhaps one of the state’s smallest high schools.

Reem Bilbeisi is the principal of the tiny private Islamic high school in Fremont, just south of San Francisco—and the first of its kind in the area. Like so much in Silicon Valley, it’s a start-up: just nine students total, its inaugural freshman class. It’s even in an office park, an odd—yet affordable—location.

At least 250 Islamic schools like this exist in the U.S. and growth has been quick in recent years. At the university level, the first accredited Muslim college in the U.S. debuted just north of here in Berkeley.

Bilbeisi says her school combines academic and devotional rigor. She also considers it a “safe space.”

“If students aren’t comfortable in their space, then they’re not going to learn,” she said. “If they’re too concerned with people judging them or assuming they’re one way and trying proving that they’re another way, then they’re really not focused on their studies.”

The school is mostly one big, airy room. There are prayer rugs, and the book collection ranges from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” to the Quran and Dave Eggers’ “Zeitoun,” about a Syrian immigrant and Hurricane Katrina.

The students’ origins are also diverse, with parents from Afghanistan, Fiji, India and Pakistan. All of this appealed to Sonya Maharaj. She’s 13, could have attended a top high school, but chose the Averroes Institute.

“I found it really fascinating,” said Maharaj. “For high school, I really wanted an experience that I could learn from—and that I wasn’t just another person, just another person that you see in the hallway. That I meant something to somebody.”

She’s also fine with the dress code, which requires a headscarf. “I feel like what you wear and, like, how you dress doesn’t really have an impact on you as long as you’re still a good person,” Maharaj said. “What you wear doesn’t define you.”

Sonya’s mom, Irum Maharaj, who is from Pakistan, did get pushback from her family. Her sister said that she was putting her daughter “in a bubble.”

“But I haven’t felt that with her,” said Maharaj. She said that she appreciates that students must volunteer within the community and that the school arranges to have speakers come in almost every week.

Principal Bilbeisi gets that students cannot live in a vacuum. Students must volunteer at non-Muslim non-profits and there are exchanges with other schools. Meantime, students are pushed academically and groomed as leaders.

“I do feel like this school has the opportunity to really blaze a trail and show that this is what it means to have an Islamic school,” said Averroes teacher Zaki Hasan.

But Islamic schools can be branded as extreme and isolationist. And on occasion they are met with intolerance. When administrators at an Islamic high school in Texas recently tried to join a private school sports league, they were asked why Muslim students would want to meet Jewish and Christian students if “the Koran tells you not to mix with infidels?”

Such prejudice will continue, says Charles Hirschkind, a scholar of religion at the University of California at Berkeley. “I think many people don’t really know how to think of those schools, whether this is the intrusion of some sort of dangerous sleeper cell of some kind into American society.”

There is one freshman who some critics of this school might fear. His name is Edrees Meskienyar and he was born and raised in America. He has also lived in Egypt and Yemen, and his parents are originally from Afghanistan.

“I’ve been doing religious studies overseas,” said Meskienyar. “It’s my number one priority. I believe we’re here for a reason. God and religion always come first.”

It disturbs Meskienyar when he hears news of the suspicions people have about Muslim students, such as when reports came out about the New York police spying on Muslim student groups. He wishes more Americans would see him as a typical teenager and tries to have a tough skin about it.

“People say stuff like that, but it doesn’t really faze me because I’m not always here,” said Meskienyar. “I’m always outside. I’m always playing basketball. I’m always going to the mall.” After high school, Meskienyar said that he wants to play college basketball.

Plus, at Averroes Institute, unlike what he has done at public schools, Meskienyar does not have to excuse himself to go pray in the bathroom, kneeling and pressing his head to the floor.

Principal Bilbeisi, who attended a large public high school, said she would have cherished this school as a teen. “When I was at home I felt like I was one person and when I was in a school I felt like I was another person,” she said. “I shut off the world and became kind of a loner. I wasn’t able to recognize how to bring the two together and I regret that.”

Bilbeisi added that gay students share a similar struggle as Muslim students “because sometimes it’s not always outward that you’re Muslim, especially if you don’t wear the hijab. So how do you kind of feel strong and feel confident that it’s okay to be that way but still fit in and have friends and still be considered cool?”

But while Bilbeisi is excited to shape what Islamic education can look like in America, the day is far off when her piece of educational turf will not come with a healthy, if not hyper, amount of scrutiny.

Listen to the audio: Averroes Institute

End of Article

SF Mayor Signs Historic Civil Rights Ordinance into Law

Image for News Release - SF Mayor Signs Historic Civil Rights Ordinance into Law

Ordinance Preventing SFPD Involvement in FBI Abuses Signed After Unanimous Passage by Supervisors

(May 09, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

Earlier this morning, Mayor Edwin Lee signed the Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance.  The Ordinance was passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 8. The Mayor was joined by the Ordinance sponsor Supervisor Jane Kim, Board President David Chiu, Supervisor Christina Olague, Police Chief Greg Suhr, and members of the Coalition for a Safe San Francisco.

Mayor Lee spoke in support of the Ordinance, alongside community member Mokhtar Alkhanshali, Executive Director of Asian Law Caucus Hyeon-Ju Rho, and President of Arab Cultural & Community Center Fuad Ateyeh, and in the presence of over fifty community members. 

The Ordinance requires:

    adherence to San Francisco and California standards when the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF),

      that before any new agreements are entered into between the SFPD and the FBI regarding the JTTF work, that those agreements must be subject to public review and comment before the Police Commission, and

        yearly reports to the Police Commission of the SFPD’s work with the FBI JTTF.

        “In the coming months the Coalition will be working with the community, supporting organizations, and various officials to ensure proper implementation of the Ordinance” said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations-San Francisco Bay Area, and a founding member of the Coalition.

        “The Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities have experienced extreme discrimination in the aftermath of September 11,” said Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a community member and founding member of the Coalition.  “This Ordinance is a step toward protecting our community from racial and religious profiling, and requiring transparency and oversight.”

        A community celebration of the Coalition’s work will be held on May 22, 6:30pm at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics (518 Valencia St., San Francisco).   

        SEE: Full Text of Ordinance
        List of Endorsing Organizations 
        Comparison of Local Standards to Federal Standards
        History of SF Intelligence Gathering

        About the Coalition:  The Coalition for a Safe San Francisco is a growing grassroots alliance dedicated to protecting the civil rights and civil liberties challenged by over broad national security policies. For additional information, visit safesf.org.

        About the Council on American-Islamic Relations: CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. For additional information, visit ca.cair.com.

        End of Article

        CONTACT

        Zahra Billoo
        Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
        .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
        T 626.252.0885

        Nasrina Bargzie
        Staff Attorney, Asian Law Caucus
        .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
        T 925.330.1163

        Community Members Rally at Mayor Lee’s Doorstep to Demand Support for Ordinance

        Image for News Release - Community Members Rally at Mayor Lee’s Doorstep to Demand Support for Ordinance

        On Friday, March 30th, hundreds of community members plan to rally in Civic Center Plaza to tell Mayor Ed Lee to support the Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance (file #120046) and to demand that Mayor Lee meet with the Coalition for Safe San Francisco.

        (Mar 28, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

        Over 80 organizational endorsers and hundreds of community members have spoken out in support of the Ordinance as a way to ensure that the SFPD will not overstep San Francisco’s civil rights protections while collaborating with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.  Despite repeated requests to listen to community needs, Mayor Lee has not yet agreed to meet with the Coalition.

        Organizers of the event are expecting several hundred attendees from endorsing organizations and supporting local mosques.  The event will begin with a Rally featuring the Ordinance’s sponsor, Supervisor Jane Kim, and speeches from advocates representing a broad range of community groups and impacted community members, followed by a Unity Sermon and Prayer.  In addition to the overwhelmingly diverse support for the Ordinance, local mosques have gathered to declare they will not permit the recent spying scandals of New York and Orange County to be repeated in San Francisco. Three San Francisco mosques have moved their prayers to Civic Center for the day.

        When:    Friday, March 30th
        What:    Community Rally at 12:30PM & Unity Prayer at 1:15PM
        Where: Civic Center Plaza, 355 McAllister Street, San Francisco
        Who:     Hundreds of Arabs, Muslims, South Asians and allies

        Community members are asking Mayor Ed Lee to meet with them so that he can (1) closely examine the Ordinance, (2) listen to community stories demonstrating the clear need for this Ordinance, and (3) restore local standards, local oversight and local control through legislation so that San Franciscans know that the local police department is subject to them in a manner that is consistent with civil rights laws.

        About the Coalition:  The Coalition for a Safe San Francisco is a growing grassroots alliance dedicated to
        protecting the civil rights and civil liberties challenged by overbroad national security policies.

        About the Council on American-Islamic Relations: CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil  
        liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

        End of Article

        CONTACT

        Zahra Billoo
        Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
        .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
        T 626.252.0885

        CAIR-LA, HSKRR File Suit Claiming Lomita Denied Muslims’ Constitutional and Religious Rights

        The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) and the law firm of Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP (HSKRR) today filed a law suit against the City of Lomita and City Council Members for their "unlawful" denial of the Islamic Center of South Bay's (ICSB) rebuilding application.

        (Mar 21, 2012 - Los Angeles, CA) 

        The complaint, filed in the United States District Court, Central District of Calif., claims that the city’s actions violated the mosque and its congregants’ rights to worship, assembly and expression, under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the U.S. Constitution, and the California Constitution.

        The complaint states: “To date, ICSB has been unable to renovate or unify its facilities into a single house of worship to accommodate the religious needs of the congregation, thereby substantially burdening the religious practice of ICSB’s congregants. Its facilities remain inadequate, resembling a refugee camp rather than a religious institution.”

        The mosque is seeking injunctive relief in the form of permitting its rebuilding to take place, as well as compensatory damages.

        SEE: Complaint

        “The Islamic Center of South Bay serves a diverse Muslim community, including medical doctors, dentists, university professors, attorneys, business owners, county and federal employees and college students,” said mosque spokesperson Dr. Iraj Ershaghi. “We are disappointed that the Lomita City Council Members’ actions violated federal laws that protect our religious rights, and yielded to negative pressure from a small but vocal opposition and denied our application, despite recommendations for its approval from their staff and the Planning Commission.”

        In March 2010, the Lomita City Council considered the mosque’s application to renovate and unify the 8 disjointed buildings into a single prayer space with increased parking and an indoor community hall for dining and meetings. Currently, the mosque’s dining area is outdoors, covered by tarp. Mosque representatives worked with neighbors and city staff from 2008 to 2010 and repeatedly revised their application to mitigate neighbor and city staff concerns.

        However, the City Council denied the mosque’s application, despite its recommended approval by the city’s Planning Commission, Public Safety and Traffic Commission and City planning staff.

        In denying the request, council members indicated concern over parking and traffic despite the City staff’s findings that the renovated facilities would improve parking and traffic flow. Council members also objected to the potential loss of tax revenue of re-zoning the mosque’s commercial lots to residential, despite the properties’ continual use as a religious facility since 1985. The city rezoned the properties in 1989 to commercial retail, precluding the mosque from rebuilding its facilities without a zone change.

        The city’s application denial has forced congregants who pray inside the prayer hall “to squeeze, bend and twist during prostration…because of the unusable space, some women pray in a separate building and listen to sermons through a television set which often malfunctions and excludes women from participating in the communal prayers…” the complaint states.

        The complaint also claims that only about 13 ablution stations contribute to long lines and delays for congregants, and an outdoor eating area prevents families and children from participating in communal meals during cool and hot months.

        Moreover, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a civil rights investigation of the City’s decision to deny the mosque’s permit. That investigation is ongoing.

        SEE: Group Welcomes DOJ Probe

        CAIR-LA has monitored and advocated, since 2009, for the mosque’s religious right to renovate and unify its facilities.

        CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

        HSKRR is a private civil rights law firm based in Pasadena that has been litigating complex employment, class action, and civil rights cases since 1991. For more information about HSKRR, visit www.hskrr.com.

        End of Article

        CONTACT

        Munira Syeda
        Communications Manager, CAIR-LA
        .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
        T 714.776.1847

        Afghan Americans protest military massacre in Fremont rally

        Image for News Release - Afghan Americans protest military massacre in Fremont rally

        For Karima Tokhi, hearing about the massacre of 16 Afghanistan civilians, allegedly at the hands of an American soldier, cut straight to the heart.

        (Mar 17, 2012 - Fremont, CA) 

        “I myself have been through a war where the Russians came to my home and tried to kill us the same way,” said Tokhi, 43, a native of Kandahar and a 30-year San Jose resident. “Now the Americans are doing the same thing the Russians were doing.”

        Tokhi was among the sign-toting, flag-waving crowd of about 300 that gathered Saturday afternoon at the Fremont Amtrak station, located in the Centerville neighborhood known as Little Kabul, for an awareness rally in the wake of last weekend’s massacre.

        “We thought America was the one who was helping us,” said Tokhi, her voice rising and her eyes welling with tears. “Is that their help? I’ve visited (Afghanistan) recently. I’ve seen what they go through. These poor people. They don’t have enough to eat. They don’t have enough drinking water. And they get killed for nothing. What do they want from us?”

        A Facebook page publicizing the event invited “anyone from any race, religion or background,” and there appeared to be some diversity sprinkled in among the mostly Afghan-American crowd. The event even attracted a few U.S. war veterans.

        Kurt Biddell, who was deployed overseas by the Army during the first Persian Gulf War, does not see the purpose of the ongoing U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

        “I don’t feel like the war is doing any good for anybody,” said Biddell, 43, an Albany resident. “U.S. soldiers who are being deployed three, four times, like (the soldier suspected in the killings), it’s taking a human toll on our own people. I understand the circumstances, but I don’t feel like this war is doing any of us any good.”

        The rally opened with a prayer for the massacre victims. Wais Haider, the first of several speakers, declared, “We’re not here to promote a war or denounce a war. We’re here to honor innocent civilians.”

        But Abu Bakr Mojaddidi, another speaker, cited the killings, as well as incidents in which Americans urinated on Afghan corpses and burned the Quran, as unnecessary byproducts of the U.S. occupation.

        “This is not an isolated case of one soldier,” he said. “This is the definition of terrorism.”

        UC Berkeley student Saylai Lalyas exhorted Afghan-Americans to do something they have historically avoided—seek an active voice in U.S. local and national government.

        “Some may say getting involved doesn’t work,” said Lalyas, who was overcome with emotion during her speech. “Some might say the system is broken. We can’t know that until we try. We have never attempted this.”

        Farhad Bajawory, one of the event’s organizers, echoed Lalyas’ sentiments.

        “Our community is just now growing up,” he said. “The kids that came here were first generation. We just started graduating college. We’re entering the professional force. Many of our parents have this mentality of keep their mouths shut, keep silent, we don’t want any trouble with the government. We don’t share those same concerns. We demand justice. We’re American citizens. We were born here. I think we will start to see change.”

        Bajawory was pleased with the turnout but expects to do better in the future.

        “As a first steppingstone, this is great,” he said. “In the future, though, I would expect a much larger number because in all of America, the biggest population of Afghan-Americans is right here in Fremont.”

        End of Article

        Novato exhibit of Muslim art seeks to cultivate understanding, celebrate creativity

        Image for News Release - Novato exhibit of Muslim art seeks to cultivate understanding, celebrate creativity

        ASYA ABDRAHMAN IS an artist and a Muslim, but she's not convinced there needs to be an exhibit dedicated just to Muslim art.

        (Mar 15, 2012 - Novato, CA) 

        “It is an interesting concept but I think that art is pretty universal, whether it’s done from a Muslim person or a Buddhist person,” the Mill Valley resident says.

        Nabeela Raza Sajjad of Fremont would not agree. “Islamic art has a long history and I felt that it wasn’t being represented here,” says Sajjad, who founded the nonprofit Islamic Art Exhibit, a traveling art show, three years ago for the sole purpose of giving Muslim artists greater exposure.

        Both women are among the 35 artists featured in “Muslim Eyes: An Exhibition of Religious and Secular Art by Muslim Artists,” a new juried exhibit at the Marin Community Foundation that runs through May 31. Their differing viewpoints, as well as their differing creative styles, are, in part, why the MCF chose to put on the exhibit.

        “What has been so great about this effort and richness and colorfulness of this display is that it speaks the core to of artistic and creative expression,” says Tom Peters, MCF president. “It can only come from people who are looking forward and outward. They’re reaching into their personal and ethnic and religious base, but they’re headed in the 21st century. It’s really vibrant.”

        There have been numerous exhibits of Muslim art in the Bay Area, but this is the first in Marin, Peters says.

        With some 2.75 million Muslims in the United States and nearly 250,000 in the Bay Area — many who feel singled out — the foundation thought it was a good time to start a dialog that increases compassion and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. Recently, MCF announced it was joining with several other Bay Area foundations to distribute grants to programs seeking to do that.

        “Muslims are having a hard time, and they’re having a remarkably hard time post-9/11 because of the unjustified prejudices and assumptions about who they must be,” Peters says.

        The foundation sought the help of the Muslim community to find Muslim artists from throughout the United States and the United Kingdom to contribute paintings, photographs and sculptures.

        Sajjad says exhibits like “Muslim Eyes” not only educate the general public about Islamic art, but also help Muslims as well.

        “Sometimes growing up, whether they immigrated here or are indigenous, they still don’t know their history,” says Sajjad, who paints Arabic calligraphy in her artwork.

        Abdrahman, who was born in Eritrea, Asmara, creates mixed-media on paper. As she hung her art in the foundation’s Novato space, she was surprised by the wide range of art styles.

        “A lot of times in Islamic art there is this idea that they have to stick to classicism, to the original Islamic art or to avoid certain things because of beliefs. Some Muslims will not have any faces or shapes in their work, or they will only do that geometric style of Islamic art from thousands of years ago,” says Abdrahman, the mother of one with another on the way. “They get stuck in, ‘This is just what Islamic art is.’”

        It’s the history that grabs Shiva Pakdel more than anything. The Novato mother of two grew up in Abadan, Iran, in a family that wasn’t religious. She’s drawn to the Qajar era, from 1794 to 1925, as well as the culture and politics of mid-19th-century Iran, and incorporates those images into her mixed-media art.

        “I consider myself very secular. I don’t want to be identified as a Muslim artist,” says Pakdel, who collects antique Persian stamps. “In general, the only point of view of Islam is negative; you always feel like you have a monkey on your back.”

        That’s why she’s appreciative of exhibits like “Muslim Eyes.”

        Sajjad, who is from Pakistan, is inspired by the reception her traveling art shows have gotten. The number of Muslim artists who want to participate continues to grow; she’s even heard from artists overseas whom she hopes to be able to include one day.

        “We have had very positive feedback wherever we have gone,” she says. “It builds bridges.”

        That’s what Peters hopes “Muslim Eyes” does, too. “It’s a way for all of us to learn a whole lot more, a way of celebrating that this is a culture and a religion that is deep and vibrant,” he says.

        What: “Muslim Eyes: An Exhibition of Religious and Secular Art by Muslim Artists”
        When: Through May 31: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; reception 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 22
        Where: Marin Community Foundation, 5 Hamilton Landing, Suite 200, Novato
        Admission: Free
        Information: 666-2442; www.marincf.org

        End of Article

        2012 CAIR-CA Civil Rights Priorities Survey Results

        Image for News Release - 2012 CAIR-CA Civil Rights Priorities Survey Results

        On behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-California (CAIR-CA), we thank you for taking part in our 2012 CAIR-CA Civil Rights Priorities Survey.

        (Mar 15, 2012 - Santa Clara, CA) 

        More than 500 community members of various ages, backgrounds, and regions participated in the survey. Your feedback will assist us in better understanding the needs of our community and help us determine the best ways to provide critical services to you. 

        The top three civil rights issues of importance to the respondents were:

          Islamophobia and elected officials’ accountability, with 74.3% of the participants responding that the issue was extremely important*

            hate speech and hate incidents at 66.6%, and

              FBI surveillance, questioning, & targeting at 64.9% 
                       
              *Respondents were able to mark multiple issues as “extremely important”

              These findings are supported by CAIR-CA’s case intake and in line with national trends. 

              Other issues in the survey that participants also deemed very important included: racial profiling at 61.9%, mosque building denials and opposition at 59.6%, free speech on campuses at 55.7%, school bullying at 53.2%, employment discrimination at 51.7%, and airport security (border delays, pat-downs, body-scanners and hijab scrutiny) at 50.4%.

              Of the 524 community members who took part in the survey, about 55% were male and 45% were female. Looking at the age breakdown of the respondents, those in the 21-29 age range made up the largest segment of respondents, at 25%. Following that, the next biggest area of respondents fell in the 30-39 age group, 21.4%. The next largest age group represented was 40-49, at 18.9%.   
               
              In terms of ethnic diversity, a majority of the participants either identified themselves as South Asian, 38.8%, or as Middle Eastern, 31.5%. Other ethnicities represented were Caucasian, 9.5%; African American, 2.1%; and Latino, 1.2%.

              Additionally, respondents from across the state of California participated, with those who live in the Greater Los Angeles area representing 41.6%. Bay Area respondents comprised another 26.8%; 20.5% were from the San Diego area, and 11.1% were from the Sacramento Valley and Central California regions. 

              We thank you once again for taking the time to share your opinions with us. Your participation enables us to work toward fulfilling our mission of protecting civil liberties, and strengthening justice and mutual understanding. CAIR-CA is already busy building projects based on your responses!

              For more information on the survey, or to learn about how you can get involved in these projects, feel free to contact our civil rights department at 408.986.9874. 

              End of Article

              CAIR-CA Rep. Says Troops Need to Come Home from Afghanistan

              CAIR-CA Rep. responds to recent murders in Afghanistan.

              (Mar 12, 2012 - Santa Clara, CA) 

              CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

              End of Article

              CONTACT

              Zahra Billoo
              Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 408.986.9874

              Japanese Internment Lessons Forgotten Since 9/11

              Last month, thousands of people came together across the country to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. As an American Muslim, I was raised to love this country that my parents immigrated to in search of better opportunities. At the same time, I was raised to understand the very grave mistakes our nation has made. One of those mistakes, which remains a dark stain on our tradition of upholding civil liberties, is EO 9066. For those of us who weren't alive during World War II, it's impossible to fully understand what it meant to arrest and indefinitely imprison thousands of Japanese-Americans for no other reason than their ethnic background.

              (Mar 01, 2012 - San Jose, CA) 

              But the government decades later ceremoniously apologized, paid reparations and claimed to have learned from its mistakes. Or so I believed, until 9/11.

              It took decades of work by many advocates to move the federal government to apologize and provide redress to the victims of EO 9066. We were reminded that rights are often not given to us; they must be taken. Seized. Things would be different though, next time. The government had learned from its mistakes. Or so I believed, until 9/11.

              First came the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, the special registration program intended primarily for individuals from majority Muslim countries. Imagine the sight of hundreds of men, young and old, Arab, South Asian, African lined up outside of INS buildings across the United States. All of them needed to register their presence with the U.S. government because they came from countries that were deemed suspect. Sound familiar?

              In the more than 10 years since 9/11, we have seen the Patriot Act pass and be renewed countless times. Fear-baiting and anti-Muslim sentiment have become election-year issues. The federal government has assassinated American citizens without due process. We have learned that the FBI, the New York Police Department and various other law enforcement agencies are spending more time chilling First Amendment protected activities than seeking out dangerous criminals.

              Most frightening of all, less than two months ago, President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act. It includes provisions permitting him and his successors to indefinitely detain anybody, including U.S. citizens, who are suspected of connections to terror. That’s it. That’s all it takes: suspicion of connections to terror.

              Continue reading here.

              End of Article

              $3,000 Reward Offered for Tips Resulting in the Arrest of Hate Crime Assailants

              Image for News Release - $3,000 Reward Offered for Tips Resulting in the Arrest of Hate Crime Assailants

              The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA-NC) today offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individuals who attacked a Hindu American man on November 21, 2011 at approximately 9:00 pm in the parking lot of a Lucky's grocery store located at 3270 South White Road in San Jose, California.

              (Feb 27, 2012 - San Jose, CA) 

              The victim, Atul Lall, was backing out of a parking space when three men surrounded his car, opened his door and began to beat him and hit him with a tequila bottle.  The perpetrators called him a terrorist, spit on him and doused him with alcohol.  Lall lost several teeth in the attack, was briefly hospitalized, and has had a number of jaw surgeries.  Earlier this month, San Jose Councilmember Rose Hererra offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

              The San Jose Police Department is continuing to investigate the attack as a hate crime.  Chief Chris Moore asked for the public’s help to identify suspects.  Detectives have described one of the suspects as 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-9, with a medium build at about 200 pounds, wearing eyeglasses, with some facial hair under his chin and short dark hair. 

              “We offer our condolences and support to all victims of hate crimes,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo. “We will offer a joint reward of $2000 with HAF and SABA-NC to anybody who comes forward with information that leads to
              the arrest of the perpetrators.”

              Shaamini Babu, Co-President of SABA-NC, commented “We have been working closely with Mr. Lall and echo his concerns about the need to find and convict the attackers not only for the purpose of punishing them for this crime but also to ensure that those three men do not similarly victimize other innocent community members.”

              “These types of attacks must be condemned by all Americans,” added Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF’s Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights.  “We must send a strong message that such hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in our society.”

              “An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us,” stated Councilmember Rose Herrera. “I am extremely thankful to CAIR-SFBA, HAF and SABA-NC for joining forces with me to offer a growing reward fund - now at $3,000!”

              If you witnessed this incident, please contact Detective Michael Villanueva at the San José Police Department’s Assaults Unit at 408.277.4161.  Persons wishing to remain anonymous can call the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408.947.STOP (7867), or may visit: Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers. Any information could be crucial to solving this crime.

              Anyone interested in assisting the victim with his ongoing medical expenses may donate to the “Atul Lall Fund” at Wells Fargo Bank.

              CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

              HAF is an advocacy group providing a progressive Hindu American voice.  The Foundation interacts with and educates leaders in public policy, academia, media, and the public at large about Hinduism and global issues concerning Hindus, such as religious liberty, the misportrayal of Hinduism, hate speech, hate crimes, and human rights.

              SABA-NC seeks to ensure that South Asian attorneys have an avenue to develop professionally, network among peers, and volunteer within the South Asian community. SABA-NC also seeks to protect the rights of South Asians in the Bay Area and to educate the public on issues facing the South Asian community.

              End of Article

              CONTACT

              Zahra Billoo
              Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

              Samir Kalra
              Director, HAF
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 408.464.8715

              Shaamini Babu
              Co-President , SABA-NC
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 415.321.2406

              Proposed Law Would Restore Local Control Over Intelligence Gathering

              Supervisor Jane Kim introduced legislation before the Board of Supervisors yesterday that would prohibit members of the San Francisco Police Department working with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) from collecting intelligence on San Franciscans unless there is reasonable suspicion that they are involved in significant criminal activity.

              (Jan 25, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

              The goal is to prevent San Francisco police officers from becoming involved in FBI intelligence abuses, including racial profiling and the improper use of informants.

              The ordinance is the result of the work of the Coalition for Safe San Francisco, which has documented extensive community concerns over intelligence gathering and worked with local officials to come up with a series of recommendations. The Coalition worked with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to hold a major hearing in 2010.  The result was a comprehensive report, endorsed by the Board of Supervisors last year.
               
              The power and size of the FBI has expanded greatly since 9/11.  Federal standards on FBI intelligence gathering are weaker than standards adopted by San Francisco in the early 1990s, and weaker than those in the CA Constitution.  For many San Franciscans, longstanding protections for political and religious expression - as well as personal privacy - are a source of pride.

              “The purpose of this legislation is to restore local control, civilian oversight and transparency over the SFPD’s participation in FBI intelligence-gathering,” stated attorney Nasrina Bargzie of the Asian Law Caucus, which is part of the Coalition effort.

              “It’s important that a clear prohibition against policing based on race, ethnicity, national origin or religion applies to all of our officers, all of the time,” added John Crew of the ACLU of Northern California. 

              More than 30 civil rights and community organizations have signed on to support Supervisor Kim’s proposal.  City supervisors are expected to vote on the whether to adopt the ordinance in the spring.

              “I have worked to support the Safe SF Civil Rights Ordinance because it will help combat the culture of fear plaguing my community,” said Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American resident of San Francisco and activist with the Coalition. “Since 9/11, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian communities have endured pervasive discrimination and bias at the hands of law enforcement officials. We want our local police officers to protect and serve us, not to sign secret MOU agreements intimidate and surveil us.”

              “The introduction of this ordinance sends a clear message that the protection of civil liberties is of utmost importance, and that the rights afforded by the California Constitution and local law will not be compromised,” said attorney Zahra Billoo, 

              As things stand currently, there is no effective way to prevent SFPD inspectors assigned to the JTTF from joining FBI agents in collecting intelligence on San Franciscans without any “particular factual predication,” and without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

              The Coalition for a Safe San Francisco is a growing grassroots alliance dedicated to protecting the civil rights and civil liberties challenged by overbroad national security policies. These policies have historically impacted communities of struggle and today are disproportionately targeting South Asian, Arab, and Muslim Americans. Our Coalition seeks to end racial, religious, and ethnic profiling and harassment by local and federal law enforcement agents in the City and County of San Francisco through community organizing, education, and policy and legal advocacy.

              CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

              End of Article

              CONTACT

              Zahra Billoo
              Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 626.252.0885

              SF Supervisors to Consider Restoring Local Control Over Intelligence Gathering

              Supervisor Kim to introduce legislation that would return longstanding local control and civilian oversight omitted in secret agreement between SFPD and FBI

              (Jan 24, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

              At a noon press conference, Supervisor Jane Kim will announce the introduction of legislation requiring that all local law enforcement officers involved in intelligence-gathering be subject to local control, civilian oversight and state restrictions. The proposed law would prohibit members of the SFPD assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) from collecting intelligence on San Franciscans unless there is reasonable suspicion that they are involved in significant criminal activity.

              WHAT: News conference announcing the introduction of legislation that seeks to restore local control over intelligence gathering
              WHEN: Tuesday, January 24, 12:00PM PST
              WHERE: San Francisco City Hall
              WHO: Jane Kim, San Francisco Supervisor;
              John Crew, ACLU of Northern CA (ACLU-NC);
              Coalition for Safe San Francisco Representatives:
              Ashwak Hauter, Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)
              Nadia Kayyali, National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Chapter (NLG-SF)
              Nasrina Bargzie, Asian Law Caucus (ALC)
              Mokhtar Alkhanshali, community spokesperson
              Zahra Billoo, Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA)

              CONTACT: Zahra Billoo, CAIR-SFBA, 626.252.0885; Laura Saponara, ACLU-NC, 510.367.8453; Nasrina Bargzie, ALC, 925.330.1163

              The proposed ordinance mirrors legislation recently enacted in Portland, Oregon.

              BACKGROUND:
              Strong, local policy controls over the SFPD’s intelligence-gathering practices have been in place for more than twenty years. These standards - known as Department General Order 8.10 (DGO 8.10) were first adopted by the civilian Police Commission in 1990 in response to a series of police spying controversies. DGO 8.10 tracks the robust privacy protections guaranteed by the California constitution and subjects SFPD intelligence practices to heightened levels of internal and external oversight.

              For more than a decade, San Francisco officials insisted that the SFPD must adhere to these local standards when working with the FBI’s JTTF. However, in 2011, the Asian Law Caucus and the American Civil Liberties Union learned of a previously-undisclosed 2007 agreement between the FBI and SFPD that - with no public notice or discussion - drastically changed these terms.

              Under the 2007 agreement still in place, the FBI can block the local civilian oversight and supervisory control required by DGO 8.10 and require SFPD officers to follow only the much weaker federal intelligence guidelines.

              A broad coalition of organizations has signed on to support the Supervisor Kim’s proposal. The legislation grows out of concerns over the racial and religious profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities in our region documented last year in a San Francisco Human Rights Commission report. These concerns were heightened with the release of a variety of FBI documents in recent months in Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the ACLU-NC and Asian Law Caucus. Those documents revealed patterns of Islamophobic training being conducted by the FBI, the FBI’s use of community outreach activities as a means to gather intelligence on Bay Area community organizations and racial and ethnic mapping by the FBI of local communities.

              The Coalition for a Safe San Francisco is a growing grassroots alliance dedicated to protecting the civil rights and civil liberties challenged by overbroad national security policies. These policies have historically impacted communities of struggle and today are disproportionately targeting South Asian, Arab, and Muslim Americans. Our Coalition seeks to end racial, religious, and ethnic profiling and harassment by local and federal law enforcement agents in the City and County of San Francisco through community organizing, education, and policy and legal advocacy.

              CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

              End of Article

              CONTACT

              Zahra Billoo
              Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

              SFPD’s work with FBI unit may get more scrutiny

              Image for News Release - SFPD’s work with FBI unit may get more scrutiny

              San Francisco police who work with a federal counterterrorism unit would be subjected to increased civilian scrutiny to help avoid racial, ethnic and religious profiling under legislation proposed Tuesday by Supervisor Jane Kim.

              (Jan 24, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

              At issue are the rules governing San Francisco police officers who participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

              “I just want to make clear that we support counterterrorism efforts here in San Francisco. We know how important this is to stability in this country. But we really just want to respect local privacy laws that our city long has valued,” Kim said.

              Kim said that while her proposal is intended to protect everyone, her chief concerns are with the Arab and South Asian communities that she said have been subject to increased profiling by law enforcement.

              The San Francisco Police Department and the FBI quietly entered into a written agreement in 2007 that laid out the ground rules for Joint Terrorism Task Force operations in the city.

              The agreement for the task force, critics charge, effectively erased long-standing city policy. That policy requires the police chief to authorize intelligence-gathering work by San Francisco officers in which those under surveillance are engaged in First Amendment activities, such as protests, political assemblies and religious services. Authorization is contingent on there being reasonable suspicion that those targeted for surveillance are involved in criminal activity.

              In addition, city policy calls for a designated member of the civilian Police Commission to review the chief’s approvals, and the Office of Citizen Complaints - the city’s police watchdog agency - to audit the results to make sure that state privacy rights and the city’s reasonable-suspicion standard were followed.

              The American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian Law Caucus, the Council on American Islamic Relations and other civil rights groups learned of the agreement last year and raised concerns.

              In response, police brass issued a departmental general order in May that stated, in part, “SFPD officers shall work with the JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) only on investigations of suspected terrorism that have a criminal nexus.”

              Stephanie Douglas, the FBI special agent in charge in the San Francisco division, said in a written statement in September that the “San Francisco Police Department may participate in the JTTF while abiding by their general orders.”

              But ACLU attorney John Crew said Tuesday that’s not good enough. Without the independent safeguards requiring input by the police chief, Police Commission and the watchdog group, he argued, racial, ethnic and religious profiling could go unchecked and impinge on people’s civil liberties.

              Kim’s legislation was modeled after a law adopted last year in Portland, Ore., that requires federal counterterrorism intelligence-gathering efforts there involving city police get pre-approval by the police chief and review by the city’s civilian public safety director.

              The Portland law, Crew said, “shows that it’s possible to participate in federal counterterrorism activities without trampling on civil rights.”

              If adopted, the San Francisco ordinance would urge - but not compel - the police chief to either amend San Francisco’s Joint Terrorism Task Force agreement with the FBI to add the layers of civilian oversight or to terminate the agreement if the change isn’t made. Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos signed on as co-sponsors.

              San Francisco Police Commissioner Jamie Slaughter, a department point person on the matter, suggested the proposed change is unnecessary because the Police Department’s own rules “reflect and safeguard” San Francisco’s commitment to First Amendment protections and unwarranted intrusion of police investigation.

              “SFPD officers are at all times subject to the department’s orders, and the FBI has confirmed in writing that the SFPD may participate in the JTTF while abiding by its general orders,” Slaughter said. “There is no gap when SFPD officers are not subject to department rules.”

              Photo courtesy of Ramsey El-qare.

              End of Article

              CAIR Applauds Supreme Court Ruling on GPS Monitoring

              Court says warrantless monitoring violates Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure

              (Jan 23, 2012 - San Francisco, CA) 

              The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s leading Muslim civil liberties organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court stating that law warrantless GPS monitoring of suspects violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure

              SEE: Warrants Needed for GPS Monitoring, Supreme Court Rules

              To read the entire decision, visit: Supreme Court

              CAIR said the decision, published this morning, held that the installation of a GPS tracking device on a vehicle by law enforcement constitutes a search as defined by the Fourth Amendment and therefore required a warrant. The decision resolves a conflict among lower courts about whether or not law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant.

              In October of last year, CAIR filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the case (United States v. Jones) seeking the court’s support for the requirement that a warrant be obtained before placing a GPS tracking device on any individual’s vehicle.

              To read the entire CAIR brief, visit: Amicus

              “We welcome this decision from the Supreme Court because it shows clearly that the nation’s highest court has recognized that the warrantless use of GPS devices is a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure,” said CAIR Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili, the attorney of record on CAIR’s amicus brief.

              She said CAIR’s interest in the case stems from a lawsuit it is litigating on behalf of Yasir Afifi, a Santa Clara, Calif., resident who discovered a GPS tracking device placed on his vehicle in October 2010. FBI agents went to Afifi’s home two days after the GPS device was discovered to retrieve it and interrogate him. In March 2011, CAIR filed suit on behalf of Afifi against Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller. In September 2011, that case was stayed pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones.

              “This important ruling will serve to protect all Americans from further unchecked assaults on constitutional rights,” said Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter and Afifi’s attorney.

              SEE: Caught Spying on Student FBI Demands GPS Tracker Back

              CAIR has received reports from several American Muslims who have discovered GPS tracking devices on their vehicles. In each of these cases, there has not been a warrant.

              CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

              End of Article

              CONTACT

              Zahra Billoo
              Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
              T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

              HAF and SABA-NC Express Outrage over Hate Crime in San Jose

              The South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA-NC) has joined the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) to condemn the brutal attack of a 32-year old Hindu man in San Jose, California. According to statements from the victim, Atul Lall, he was assaulted while leaving a Lucky shopping center parking lot on the night of November 21, after picking up groceries for the family Thanksgiving dinner. Lall, who has a pre-existing disability, was attacked by a group of three men, who repeatedly punched him, broke his jaw with a tequila bottle, doused him with alcohol, spit on him, and called him a "terrorist."

              “It is shocking and deplorable that this young man was targeted and singled out based on his ethnic/religious background or perceived background in what appears to be a violent hate crime,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF’s California based Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights. “This type of bigotry is not only an affront to the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Middle Eastern communities, but an egregious attack on the values of American society.”   

              Following the attack, Lall called 911 and drove himself to the hospital, where he had surgery to repair his jaw.  San Jose police, however, did not arrive at the hospital until approximately four hours after the incident.  According to an official from the San Jose Police Department, the incident is now being investigated as a hate crime, but no arrests have yet been made in connection with the case.  Lall has expressed frustration with the slow pace and lack of progress in the investigation. 

              “We urge the police to conduct a thorough and expeditious investigation and apprehend those responsible for this deplorable act,” Kalra added. 

              Lall has still not recovered fully from the attack and continues to require medical treatment for his injuries.  He is an industrial designer and a recent graduate of San Jose State University, whose family immigrated to Silicon Valley from the eastern Indian city of Kolkota over 30 years ago.

              “It is extremely disturbing to know that certain individuals actually believe that by threatening and physically harming innocent people they are protecting our country from terrorists,” said Shaamini Babu, Co-President of SABA-NC.  “With hate crimes continuing to occur throughout the country, organizations such as SABA-NC and HAF must monitor such incidents and attempt to ensure that law enforcement holds those individuals accountable for their egregious actions. Anyone aware of a hate crime may report it to SABA-NC by calling 1-888-99NO-HAT(E).” 

              HAF and SABA-NC expressed their sympathy and support directly to the victim and his family and reiterated their hope for a quick resolution to the case.  Anyone with information about the incident should call the San Jose Police Department’s assault unit at 408-277-4161.

              Those interested in assisting the victim with his ongoing medical expenses can make charitable donations to the “Atul Lall Fund” at Wells Fargo Bank, or contact Shaamini Babu at president@southasianbar.org for more information.

              End of Article

              Pennsylvania Anti-Sharia Bill Causes Stir with Interfaith Leaders

              You knew this was coming. The Pennsylvania Legislature is currently considering an “Anti-Sharia Law” law that’d ban state courts from considering any “foreign legal code or system” that isn’t identical with the Constitution. According to an article on the bill at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the potential bill, likely aimed at those who fear Islam creeping onto their front lawn, is having the opposite effect and has decidedly offended, according to the Gazette, “some Jews.”

              As such, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee is organizing a forum of Jewish, Islamic and Catholic scholars tonight who’ll discuss the implications and how this wink and nudge toward the anti-Islamic extremities latched to the under crust of the religious and Tea Right may affect them, too, especially if they ever want to get divorced.


              According to its language, Bill 2029 prohibits “the application of foreign law which would impair constitutional rights.” It’s co-sponsored by more than 40 state House members and though written by anti-Islam activist Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, R-Lebanon, does not mention the word “Sharia.”

              Sharia Law is the moral and religious law of Islam. According to a Salon interview with Abed Awad, a New Jersey-based attorney and an expert on Sharia, the law can be brought up in courts as it pertains to marriage between two Muslim Americans—though doesn’t really cause a blip otherwise. Courts currently only consider aspects of Sharia law in family matters, as they do Christian or Jewish law, when it “does not offend our constitutional protections and public policy.”

              The Pennsylvania law being proposed, therefore, could get in the middle of family matters, like, according to the Gazette article, “the divorce cases of Orthodox Jews and religious matters that end up in civil court,” and not achieve the bill’s end goal of simply scaring Michael Savage listeners.

              Sharia Law has been the subject of many GOP witch hunts over the past few years, including former Presidential candidate Herman Cain claiming during a debate, “There was an instance in Oklahoma where Muslims did try to influence court decisions with Sharia law,” and “instances in New Jersey,” even though this is not true. Newt Gingrich regularly speaks of Islamic Law dominating state courthouses, too, and uses the sinister vocabulary “creeping Sharia” when doing so.

              Such false statements have led some other GOP-dominated states to pass or move to pass anti-Sharia legislation, you know, just in case. In August, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie openly mocked Sharia Law frighteners after appointing Muslim-American judge Sohail Mohammed to the state bench.

              Still, Rep. Swanger has repeated Cain’s claim in defense of her bill. “I have read about some other states where foreign law has been creeping into the courts, especially family courts,” she said. “I’m thinking of the Near East, where women are not highly regarded and don’t have the same rights as men. If those women come here, I want them to have the same rights that we have.”

              In a memo to House members, Swanger also said Sharia is “inherently hostile to our constitutional liberties.”

              On Wednesday, Philadelphia’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations will hold a press conference challenging the bill, alongside other area interfaith leaders.

              End of Article

              CAIR Rep. Discusses Lowe’s Issue on NBC Nightly News

              ACTION REQUESTED

              (Dec 12, 2011 - Detroit, MI) 

              CONTACT Lowe’s at 1-800-445-6937, E-Mail: karen.s.cobb@lowes.com, Robert.A.Niblock@lowes.com, Thomas.J.Lamb@lowes.com, execustservice@lowes.com
              COPY TO: info@cair.com

              End of Article

              Bay Area Rights Groups Ask FBI Director to Address Racial Profiling, Islamophobia

              The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), and the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) have announced that they sent a joint letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller in advance of his visit yesterday to San Francisco asking him to address issues of racial profiling and Islamophobia.

              (Nov 18, 2011 - San Francisco, CA) 

              SEE: Robert S. Mueller III, Director, FBI Director (Changing Threats in a Changing World: Staying Ahead of Terrorists, Spies and Hackers)

              “We have sought answers to these questions from local FBI officials for months now,” said ALC staff attorney Veena Dubal. “It is our hope that Director Mueller’s visit to the Bay Area is an opportunity to raise our collective voices to address the grave concerns we have about the FBI’s practices in the Bay Area.”

              In the joint letter to Mueller, ACLU-NC, ALC and CAIR-SFBA seek answers about:

                The relationship between the local and federal law enforcement through the JTTF

                  The control the FBI seeks to exercise over local agencies through the JTTF Memorandum of Understanding

                    The civil rights standards local law enforcement agents participating in the JTTF abide by

                      The impact of and corrective plan for local officers who participated in the Islamophobic trainings hosted by the FBI

                      FULL LETTER: Questions Regarding FBI JTTF Arrangements with Bay Area Law Enforcement Agencies

                      “Our community members need to be treated like partners, not suspects,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo. “Director Mueller must address the community’s concerns about the promotion of Islamophobia by FBI trainers and about bureau policies that allow religious and ethnic profiling.”

                      “The controls over the intelligence gathering practices of the FBI have been nearly gutted in recent years,” said ACLU-NC Police Practices Consultant John Crew. “ButCalifornia’s strong constitutional right to privacy and local police policies designed to prevent these sorts of abuses remain intact. If the FBI wants to use our local police resources in their Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), they should be willing to publicly demonstrate that our state right to privacy and local standards are not being sacrificed in the process.”

                      CAIR-SFBA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

                      The Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of
                      low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Law
                      Caucus is a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

                      The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) is the largest affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nationwide, nonpartisan organization with more than 550,000 members dedicated to the defense and promotion of the guarantees of individual liberty secured by state and federal Constitutions and civil rights statutes.

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 408.986.9874 OR 626.252.0885

                      FBI Director Questioned About Agency Practices in the Bay Area

                      Civil Rights Organizations Challenge FBI Director to Answer Questions About FBI's Practices in the Bay Area

                      Local groups allege biased training colors FBI dealings with American Muslims

                      Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Bay Area Muslims have been unjustifiably visited by FBI agents over the past two years and some of those agents may have received biased, anti-Islamic training.

                      (Oct 15, 2011 - San Jose, CA) 

                      That’s according to three Bay Area attorneys and nearly 30 civil rights and community groups seeking more accountability from the FBI. And the complaints here about the FBI’s alleged lack of sensitivity toward Muslims are mirroring similar criticisms across the country.

                      The FBI says it does not condone prejudicial attitudes, and that it will review its training material and presenters. But it has acknowledged some agents received unprofessional training regarding Muslims, a revelation that has fueled criticism of FBI tactics in American Muslim communities.

                      News reports have revealed that some FBI training documents have compared the Prophet Muhammad to a “cult leader” and taught that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent.

                      “I can tell you that twice in two years I have watched the FBI myself ask clients, ‘When given the choice between your religion and America, what would you choose?’ ” said longtime San Jose attorney Daniel Mayfield. “I just blew up when I heard that. It’s very personal for me. Not only does it violate the basic First Amendment, but the same question was asked of me as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.”

                      Such criticism is echoing in other cities and states including San Diego, Oklahoma, Ohio and Washington, D.C. In Seattle earlier this month, the Associated Press reported some Muslims at an FBI citizen’s training academy were given a handout comparing Arab/Islamic writing with Nazi propaganda.

                      In the Bay Area, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian Law Caucus, both in San Francisco, and the Council on American Islamic Relations in Santa Clara have fired off two letters since late September to the FBI in San Francisco.
                      The letters express concern about the treatment of Muslim citizens and request answers to questions such as: Are agents being exposed to Islamophobic FBI training? Are local police officers working with the FBI receiving this training, too? And if so, what is being done to remedy that?

                      In regard to the Bay Area letters to her FBI office, Stephanie Douglas, the special agent in charge, responded by letter saying the FBI “values its relationships with all our community partners.”
                      Douglas acknowledged there was one FBI trainer who presented to a class of 37 agents in Virginia six months ago who is “no longer making presentations outside the FBI.”

                      According to a series of Wired.com articles, some of the training materials compare Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, to a “cult leader,” and the religious obligation of giving charity, called zakat, to a “funding mechanism for combat.”

                      “That’s like calling Jesus Christ a cult leader,” ACLU attorney John Crew said.

                      The FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., responded in mid-September with a statement essentially confirming that unprofessional training was given to a small group of agents.

                      “The FBI is committed to protecting Americans’ rights under the U.S. Constitution,” according to the FBI statement. “Strong religious beliefs should never be confused with violent extremism. Views that are contrary should not and will not be taught to FBI employees.”

                      But Crew said that is “just the tip of the iceberg.”

                      In addition, the FBI’s responses, especially from San Francisco, have been “completely inadequate,” said Veena Dubal, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus.

                      In addition, the FBI’s responses, especially from San Francisco, have been “completely inadequate,” said Veena Dubal, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus.

                      Dubal said she has represented about 40 clients—all men, from doctors to grocery store owners—in the past two years who have been asked what she called irrelevant questions about their faith and political beliefs.

                      “This is symbolic of the FBI’s culture,” Dubal said. “I think the whole intelligence community has felt a huge sense of guilt since 9/11 and they feel they cannot let another one happen again. So, their response has been to collect as much information as possible from Muslims, who they see as the perpetrators.”

                      Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR in Santa Clara, said some Muslim men have told her they were tested by the FBI on their Arabic ability and to list their favorite Islamic scholars.

                      In Contra Costa County, she said her clients were told that if they reported to the FBI on the goings-on at their mosque, the agents could help them with their pending immigration status.

                      And in Alameda County, she said her clients were asked about whether they know anyone connected to the Arab Spring.

                      None of these clients, she said, have ever been charged with any terrorist crime.

                      “If this is what the intelligence-gathering looks like,” Billoo said. “Then I don’t think we’re any safer.”

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 408.986.9874

                      CAIR Files Supreme Court Brief in GPS Monitoring Case

                      Muslim civil rights group petitions U.S. Supreme Court to uphold warrant requirement

                      (Oct 03, 2011 - San Francisco, CA) 

                      The nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization today announced the filing of an amicus (friend of the court) brief in United States v. Jones seeking the court’s support for the requirement that law enforcement authorities obtain a warrant before placing a GPS tracking device on any individual’s vehicle.

                      To read the entire CAIR brief, visit: Brief of Amicus Curiae

                      In Jones’ case, police officers attached a GPS tracking device to his car and tracked his movements 24-hours-a-day for four weeks without obtaining a prior search warrant.

                      SEE: US v Jones

                      The brief, filed by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asks the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision that “prolonged warrantless use of a GPS tracking device violates the Fourth Amendment.”

                      CAIR’s interest in the case stems from a lawsuit it is litigating on behalf of Yasir Afifi, a Santa Clara, Calif., resident who discovered a GPS tracking device placed on his vehicle in October 2010. FBI agents went to Afifi’s home two days after the GPS device was discovered to retrieve it and interrogate him.

                      In March 2011, CAIR filed suit on behalf of Afifi against Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller. The suit seeks an injunction against any future attempts by the FBI to attach a tracking device to Afifi’s vehicle and calls for an end to the policy of using tracking devices without a warrant. In September 2011, that case was stayed pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones.

                      SEE: Caught Spying on Student - FBI Demands GPS Tracker Back
                      Judge Delays Case Involving FBI’s GPS Tracking

                      CAIR’s brief alleges that the government’s authority to undertake expansive surveillance during times of heightened national security concerns have led to dragnet targeting of various minority communities for the last century.

                      The brief states in part:

                      “For the reasons set forth in Respondent’s brief, warrantless GPS tracking violates the privacy rights of American Muslims. In addition, unchecked GPS surveillance restricts Muslims’ First Amendment rights of association, speech, and free exercise of religion. The most significant harms have been a chilling effect on American Muslims’ mosque attendance and charitable giving. To mitigate these harms, the Court should hold that prolonged warrantless GPS tracking of a vehicle and warrantless installation of a GPS device on a vehicle both violate the Fourth Amendment.

                      CAIR has heard from several American Muslims over the last year who have discovered GPS tracking devices on their vehicles. In each of these cases, there has not been a warrant.

                      “The impact of warrantless GPS tracking is an inevitable chilling of the First Amendment rights of American Muslims,” CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

                      Billoo said CAIR offices across the nation also continue to receive reports from American Muslims of harassing and intimidating visits from law enforcement personnel.

                      “The ruling the Supreme Court makes in this case will affect not only Muslims, but all Americans,” said CAIR Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili, the attorney of record on the amicus brief.

                      CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 626.252.0885 OR 408.986.9874

                      CAIR Calls for Moratorium on Death Penalty Following Execution of Troy Davis

                      The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty following the controversial execution of Troy Davis last night in Georgia for the murder of an off-duty police officer.

                      (Sep 22, 2011 - Santa Clara, CA) 

                      Because of circumstances surrounding his trial and sentencing, Davis’ execution captured worldwide attention. Seven of the nine key witnesses at Davis’ trial later recanted their testimony. Some jurors say they have changed their minds about Davis’ guilt. A man who was with Davis the night of the murder reportedly confessed that he actually shot the officer.

                      Ordinary citizens and prominent figures—including the Pope and former President Jimmy Carter—called for Davis’ death sentence to be commuted.

                      In a statement issued today, CAIR said:

                      “This disturbing case demonstrates the urgent need for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty nationwide. As in this case, studies have clearly demonstrated that poor and minority defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death than members of the majority society who have adequate access to legal representation. Justice can never be served by the execution of the innocent.”

                      CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 408.986.9874

                      CAIR-CA Asks Americans to Purchase “Patriot Acts”

                      Book Highlights Post-9/11 Backlash

                      (Sep 20, 2011 - San Francisco, CA) 

                      The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today welcomed Voice of Witness’ recent publication titled “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice” and encouraged all Americans to support the effort by purchasing copies of the book. Capturing the voices of 18 men and women from Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the U.S., “Patriot Acts” recounts their experiences of backlash in a post-9/11 environment.

                      Included in the collection are stories of three CAIR-CA clients:

                      * Faheem Muhammad, who along with a group of men was detained in Nevada for praying
                      * Hani Khan, who sued Abercrombie & Fitch after the company fired her for wearing a hijab
                      * Yasir Afifi, who filed suit against the FBI for warrantless surveillance

                      Each narrative provides reflective, personal insight into how each person’s civil rights were violated and how he/she subsequently spoke out by challenging those abuses. Voices of parents, poets, community leaders and activists are represented, each sharing their experience in the decade following 9/11, as the landscape of our country changed dramatically. 

                      Edited by Alia Malek, author of “A Country Called Amreeka”, “Patriot Acts” features a foreword by Karen Korematsu, co-founder of the Fred Korematsu Institute. The book is being published and distributed by Voice of Witness, a project of McSweeney’s, a San Francisco-based literary journal, edited by Dave Eggers. The Voice of Witness series seeks to highlight civil and human rights crises by humanizing the individuals who have been most personally impacted by them.

                      “The publication of ‘Patriot Acts’ is a step forward in documenting the civil rights cases CAIR offices across the country receive on a daily basis,” ‘said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo. “These stories will help readers understand the erosion of civil liberties in the years following 9/11. It is important that readers be moved to act to help protect the rights of all Americans.”

                      Book orders can be placed online and discounted prices are available for nonprofit organizations and educators who are interested in teaching the book.   

                      CAIR-SFBA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 408.986.9874

                      Munira Syeda
                      Communications Manager, CAIR-LA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 714.776.1847

                      Video: CAIR-Sacramento Director Recalls 9/11 and Aftermath

                      Life became infinitely more complicated for CAIR-Sacramento Executive Director Basim Elkarra and his family when terrorists attacked America 10 years ago today.

                      (Sep 11, 2011 - Sacramento, CA) 

                      Elkarra passionately defends his faith.

                      End of Article

                      The Unwritten Codes Muslims Live by After 9/11

                      Image for News Release - The Unwritten Codes Muslims Live by After 9/11

                      For American Muslims, a new tradition has emerged: sipping tea and sharing stories about life after 9/11. Anecdotes about being detained at airports are among the most common. But where once there was bitterness, after 10 years, the tone is more like dark comedy. Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/13dUD)

                      (Sep 10, 2011 - Santa Clara, CA) 

                      There are about 250,000 Muslims in the Bay Area, and in the decade since 9/11, many have found themselves living by a set of new, unwritten codes, said Zahra Billoo, who leads the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

                      We spoke to nearly a dozen Muslim Americans, most of them part of Generation 9/11, and we asked them to share their stories.

                      Plan on Being Questioned or Detained in Airports

                      Kamal Koraitem takes some consolation from the fact that almost every Muslim he knows has been detained while flying. Koraitem is in his 40s and left his native Lebanon to study engineering at the University of Southern California.

                      What’s Koraitem’s worst travel story? His family was detained for hours at New York’s LaGuardia Airport when they were returning from Lebanon in 2003. Koraitem says his kids were denied use of the restroom and his family missed their connecting flight.

                      “Never travel through New York when you’re flying overseas,” says Koraitem with a laugh.

                      If you wear a headscarf, your chances of getting patted down multiply, says Ahmad Ibrahim. The Santa Clara resident and recent University of California, Berkeley, graduate talks about the discomfort of watching his mom, who wears a headscarf, being patted down on multiple occasions.

                      Abdullah Mourad, another young Santa Clara resident, has learned a trick to make the screening process faster: Always wear flip-flops. His father, Tarek Mourad, no longer brings the Quran with him when he travels. Instead, he reads it on his iPhone.

                      Speak as if They Might Be Listening

                      Stanford law student Omar Shakir was chatting with friends when the word “jihad” came up. His roommate was quick to exclaim, “For anyone who is listening, that was a joke!”

                      Shakir said he has heard others Muslims do the same thing, just in case the room is wiretapped.

                      Always remember people can put words in your mouth and take what you say out of context, 22-year-old UC Berkeley graduate Ahmad Ibrahim said.

                      For example, the word “jihad” has multiple meanings. Only one of its definitions is associated with terrorism and al-Qaida: the physical fight. In conversation, Muslims use “jihad” to mean a struggle with something inside of you, such as trying to break a habit, Ibrahim said.

                      Assume Your Correspondence Is Being Monitored

                      “I always speak on the phone as if anything I say could be used against me in a court of law,” Shakir said. Also, write as if the authorities are reading every email.

                      Remember: You Are Not Guilty of the 9/11 Attacks

                      Right after 9/11, many Muslim Americans felt compelled to apologize, as Ibrahim notes in the video at left.

                      Despite the diversity of the Bay Area, some Muslims commonly find themselves being asked to speak on behalf of all aspects of the faith. Susan Sultan, a 20-year-old Muslim from San Leandro, said people ask her, “If your religion is so good and holy, what about 9/11?”

                      “There’s a lot of explaining to do,” she said.

                      Allah Akbar, Bro.’ We live in the Bay Area!

                      Despite this litany of restrictions, most Muslims interviewed seemed to agree with Koraitem’s sentiment: “We’re lucky to be in the bubble of the Bay Area.” Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations can recite a long list of indignities Muslims have faced elsewhere around the country.

                      There were the protesters in Connecticut who yelled, “Jesus hates you” at children entering a mosque. And anti-Muslim activists in Temecula, Calif., said they’d bring their dogs to a mosque as an insult.

                      “That kind of ridiculousness hasn’t happened here” in the Bay Area, Billoo said.

                      Sultan, who attends college in Santa Cruz, relates her experience of the Bay Area bubble: Once, she stopped to pray outside in Santa Cruz. Some people stared, but others stopped to murmur how great it was. And one man shouted out encouragement in the Santa Cruz version of “God is Great.”

                      “Allah akbar, bro!” he said.

                      End of Article

                      Supreme Court to Rule on GPS Surveillance, Addressing ‘Big Brother’ Claims

                      The precedent is novel. More precisely, the precedent is a novel.

                      (Sep 10, 2011 - Washington, D.C.) 

                      In a series of rulings on the use of satellites and cellphones to track criminal suspects, judges around the country have been citing George Orwell’s “1984” to sound an alarm. They say the Fourth Amendment’s promise of protection from government invasion of privacy is in danger of being replaced by the futuristic surveillance state Orwell described.

                      In April, Judge Diane P. Wood of the federal appeals court in Chicago wrote that surveillance using global positioning system devices would “make the system that George Orwell depicted in his famous novel, ‘1984,’ seem clumsy.” In a similar case last year, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the federal appeals court in San Francisco wrote that “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last.”

                      Last month, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn turned down a government request for 113 days of location data from cellphone towers, citing “Orwellian intrusion” and saying the courts must “begin to address whether revolutionary changes in technology require changes to existing Fourth Amendment doctrine.”

                      The Supreme Court is about to do just that. In November, it will hear arguments in United States v. Jones, No. 10-1259, the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade. The justices will address a question that has divided the lower courts: Do the police need a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car and track its movements for weeks at a time?

                      Their answer will bring Fourth Amendment law into the digital age, addressing how its 18th-century prohibition of “unreasonable searches and seizures” applies to a world in which people’s movements are continuously recorded by devices in their cars, pockets and purses, by toll plazas and by transit systems.

                      The Jones case will address not only whether the placement of a space-age tracking device on the outside of a vehicle without a warrant qualifies as a search, but also whether the intensive monitoring it allows is different in kind from conventional surveillance by police officers who stake out suspects and tail their cars.

                      “The Jones case requires the Supreme Court to decide whether modern technology has turned law enforcement into Big Brother, able to monitor and record every move we make outside our homes,” said Susan Freiwald, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.

                      The case is an appeal from a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said last year that the government was simply seeking too much information.

                      “Repeated visits to a church, a gym, a bar or a bookie tell a story not told by any single visit, as does one’s not visiting any of those places in the course of a month,” wrote Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg.

                      He added: “A person who knows all of another’s travel can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.”

                      Federal appeals courts in Chicago and San Francisco, on the other hand, have allowed the police to use GPS tracking devices without a warrant. The police are already allowed to tail cars and observe their movements without warrants, those courts said, and the devices merely allow them to do so more efficiently.

                      Judge Richard A. Posner, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel in the Chicago case, did caution that institutionalized mass surveillance might present a different issue.

                      Some judges say that world is fast approaching.

                      “Technology has progressed to the point where a person who wishes to partake in the social, cultural and political affairs of our society has no realistic choice but to expose to others, if not to the public as a whole, a broad range of conduct and communications that would previously have been deemed unquestionably private,” Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn wrote last year.

                      The case to be heard by the Supreme Court arose from the investigation of the owner of a Washington nightclub, Antoine Jones, who was suspected of being part of a cocaine-selling operation. Apparently out of caution, given the unsettled state of the law, prosecutors obtained a warrant allowing the police to place a tracking device on Mr. Jones’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. The warrant required them to do so within 10 days and within the District of Columbia. The police did not install the device until 11 days later, and they did it in Maryland. Now contending that no warrant was required, the authorities tracked Mr. Jones’s travels for a month and used the evidence they gathered to convict him of conspiring to sell cocaine. He was sentenced to life in prison.

                      The main Supreme Court precedent in the area, United States v. Knotts, is almost 30 years old. It allowed the use of a much more primitive technology, a beeper that sent a signal that grew stronger as the police drew closer and so helped them follow a car over a single 100-mile trip from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

                      The Supreme Court ruled that no warrant was required but warned that “twenty-four hour surveillance of any citizen of the country” using “dragnet-type law enforcement practices” may violate the Fourth Amendment.

                      Much of the argument in the Jones case concerns what that passage meant. Did it indicate discomfort with intense and extended scrutiny of a single suspect’s every move? Or did it apply only to mass surveillance?

                      In the Jones case, the government argued in a brief to the Supreme Court that the Knotts case disapproved of only “widespread searches or seizures that are conducted without individualized suspicion.”

                      The brief added: “Law enforcement has not abused GPS technology. No evidence exists of widespread, suspicionless GPS monitoring.” On the other hand, the brief said, requiring a warrant to attach a GPS device to a suspect’s car “would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate leads and tips on drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes.”

                      A decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the police needed a warrant to use thermal imaging technology to measure heat emanating from a home. The sanctity of the home is at the core of what the Fourth Amendment protects, Justice Antonin Scalia explained, and the technology was not in widespread use.

                      In general, though, Justice Scalia observed, “it would be foolish to contend that the degree of privacy secured to citizens by the Fourth Amendment has been entirely unaffected by the advance of technology.”

                      End of Article

                      Oakland museum cancels Palestinian kids’ war art

                      Image for News Release - Oakland museum cancels Palestinian kids’ war art

                      An Oakland children's museum, citing pressure from the community, canceled a planned exhibit of artwork by Palestinian youth that depicted the Israeli assault during the 2008-09 Gaza conflict.

                      (Sep 10, 2011 - San Francisco, CA) 

                      The Museum of Children’s Art was scheduled to display the art from Sept. 24 to Nov. 13. The exhibit had been in the works for several months, with an opening reception to feature poetry and special art activities for children.

                      The drawings in the exhibit were created by children ranging in age from about 9 to 11 and included bombs dropping, tanks and people getting shot.

                      “They are pictures of what these children experienced. It’s their experience,” said Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which was organizing the exhibition.

                      Museum officials notified Lubin on Thursday that they were pulling the plug on what had become a controversial exhibit that was pulling the children’s museum into the long-standing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

                      It had become a distraction to the main objective of bringing arts education to all children, said museum board member Randolph Bell.

                      “The pressure was ... well, we were getting calls from constituents that were concerned about the situation,” Bell said. “We don’t have any political stake in this thing. It just became apparent that we needed to rethink this.”

                      The complaints came from Jewish groups as well as others in the community, board members said.

                      Museum officials said the exhibit space is in a multiuse area that brings in children as young as 2. While art should “provoke people and generate emotion,” the museum couldn’t handle the divisive issue in that space, said Hilmon Sorey, the board’s chairman.

                      “Our aim, as with all exhibits, is to foster insight and understanding,” Sorey said in a statement. “However, upon further review and engagement with the community, it became clear that this exhibit was not appropriate for an open gallery accessible by all children.”

                      Yet it wouldn’t have been the first time the museum has featured wartime art by children.

                      In 2007, it exhibited paintings made during World War II by American children in the Kaiser shipyard child care center. The art featured images of Hitler, burning airplanes, sinking battleships, empty houses and a sad girl next to a Star of David.

                      In 2004, art by Iraqi children hung on the museum’s walls. The pictures, made shortly after the U.S. invasion, included a picture of a helicopter shooting into a field of flowers.

                      The art by the Palestinian children was similar in content.

                      In one colorful picture, a row of buildings burns as five tanks move through the area. In the foreground, women and children are crying as are trees and the sun. What looks like a small, abandoned teddy bear lies face up in the street.

                      In a simpler image, a frowning girl with a bandage on her forehead faces out from behind prison bars.

                      “Even while the children in Gaza are living under Israeli policies that deprive them of every basic necessity, they managed through art to express their realities and hopes,” said Ziad Abbas, the associate director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, in a statement. “It’s really very sad that there are people in the U.S. silencing them and shredding their dreams.”

                      The alliance said Friday it would seek another venue to display the children’s art.

                      End of Article

                      Jostling continues on SFPD participation in JTTF

                      Image for News Release - Jostling continues on SFPD participation in JTTF

                      The debate over the San Francisco Police Department’s participation in the regional Joint Terrorism Task Force has slogged on for months after the American Civil Liberties Union revealed the agreement governing SFPD’s involvement in the anti-terror program disregarded long-standing LOCAL restrictions on police intelligence gathering and surveillance.

                      (Sep 08, 2011 - San Francisco, CA) 

                      At a joint Human Rights/Police Commission meeting in May, dozens of local Muslims and civil libertarians called on the Police Commission to pull out of the controversial memorandum of understanding between the city and the FBI. The MOU was approved in March 2007 by then-Police Chief Heather Fong without the knowledge of the Police Commission, which is responsible for such policy decisions.

                      The ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus have urged San Francisco to follow the lead of Portland, Oregon, which pulled its police department out of the regional JTTF over concerns about over-broad homeland security investigations. In May, Portland entered into an agreement with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for Oregon to allow local police to participate in the JTTF on an “as-needed” basis.

                      SFPD Commander Michael Biel, who is in charge of the Investigations division, contacted the Portland City Attorney and the FBI’s Portland office to learn more about the state of affairs with Portland’s new joint resolution. At last night’s Police Commission hearing, Biel reported that under the new agreement, Portland Police officers did not have top-secret clearance nor access to regional, national or international intelligence received by the JTTF.

                      Given San Francisco’s status as an international tourist destination and transportation hub,  Biel said SFPD would be hindered by a Portland-style resolution and needed access to top-secret intelligence related to Northern California.

                      “It is imperative that we are members of the JTTF so that we can obtain this information, partake in this exchange and know what’s going on in the region around us,” Biel said.

                      The Investigations division commander also maintained that SFPD’s current oversight structure for its officers assigned to the JTTF is adequate. The two SFPD officers assigned to the JTTF report directly to Lt. Theresa Gracie, who runs the special investigations unit and sits in on the JTTF’s monthly meetings.

                      SFPD also had a different impression of the Oregon FBI’s understanding of their relationship with Portland Police. Biel said that according to Greg Fowler, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Oregon office, the FBI never signed off on the new JTTF agreement with Portland despite an April 28, 2011 press release from the local US Attorney welcoming city police back into the Oregon anti-terror task force after a six year absence.

                      Furthermore, Biel claimed that the head of the San Francisco FBI office, Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas, said she would not interfere with a bureau order issued by Police Chief Greg Suhr that requires SFPD officers to request written approval by superior officers before monitoring people engaged in First Amendment activity. Bureau Order 8.10 also requires SFPD to inform the Police Commission and the Office of Civilian Complaints about any such surveillance.

                      John Crew, an ACLU Police Practices expert advocating the Portland model of participation, told the Commission he and SFPD were receiving contradictory information from the FBI. Crew said SAC Douglas told the ACLU repeatedly that the Bureau would block any reporting public reporting requirements for SFPD officers asked to monitor First Amendment activity, in spite of Police Chief Suhr’s Bureau order.

                      “We’re hearing 2 different stories, which is why we need after all this time to cut to the chase and say, if SF police officers are going to participate, it needs to be fully under our policies,” said Crew. The Board of Supervisors has indicated that if the Police Commission does not clarify San Francisco’s relationship with the JTTF, it will take on the matter.

                      Commissioners Angela Chan and Thomas Mazzucco both vowed to address the department’s relationship with the JTTF soon by proposing a direct general order that would make Chief Suhr’s recent bureau order permanent.

                      “This memorandum of understanding was signed without our review, there are terms in the MOU that seem not to give deference to our bureau order at all times,” said Commissioner Chan.

                      No decision was made at last night’s meeting about when or how the JTTF participation will be addressed.

                      End of Article

                      September 11 Then and Now

                      Image for News Release - September 11 Then and Now

                      This week on Apex Express, we reflect back on 9/11. As the nation remembers the victims in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on board the airplanes, Apex explores the aftermath and how OUR communities have been affected.

                      (Sep 08, 2011 - Berkeley, CA) 

                      We’ll hear a personal documentary by Robynn Takayama on how several Asian Pacific communities responded immediately after 9/11 to address racist scapegoating, hate crimes, and the build up to the War on Terrorism.

                      We also talk with Co-founder of the Sikh Coalition, Amardeep Singh, about the recent Islamaphobia conference and the accompanying website, “Unheard Voices of 9/11.”

                      And finally, we bring you a round table discussion with Valarie Kaur, award-winning filmmaker; Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director with DRUM, Desis Rising Up & Moving; and Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.

                      End of Article

                      Video: Sept. 11 Changes Life for Muslim Americans

                      This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on America and on this anniversary the country is focusing on the victims and heroes of those horrific events. However, what is forgotten frequently is that life for the average Muslim American has changed forever...

                      Despite organized efforts to show the true face of Islam, there is still work to be done.

                      “Our office in the Bay Area, as an example, receives over 200 complaints each year from individuals in the community who are complaining of employment discrimination, school bulling, targeting by law enforcement,” said Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR

                      End of Article

                      Celebrating the End of Ramadan

                      Image for News Release - Celebrating the End of Ramadan

                      An estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Alameda County Fairgrounds to commemorate Eid.

                      It was more than a chance to eat during daylight hours for the first time in a month.

                      It was a chance to celebrate the end of a holy month as well as to gather with members of a common community and reflect on what life has provided.

                      An estimated 3,000 members of the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center gathered Tuesday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton for a festival celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid.

                      “Everybody is in a very celebratory mood,” said Faraz Sattar, an organizer with the Islamic Center.

                      “There is a strong feeling of a community coming together.”

                      The holy month of Ramadan ended Monday. Muslims have not eaten between sunrise and sunset during that time.

                      The Eid marks the end of the religious observance. It is accompanied by prayers as well as a festival with plenty of food.

                      On Tuesday, several thousand Muslims from the San Ramon Valley and Tri-Valley gathered at the fairgrounds for the celebration.

                      The group ranged in age from infants in strollers to grandparents with canes. Some attendees wore colorful, traditional Islamic garb while others were dressed in casual, everyday work clothes.

                      Prayers began at 9:30 a.m. More than 400 men and boys filled a hall in the fairgrounds’ center. The crowd spilled out into an open-air patio. Hundreds of women and girls also prayed in two adjacent halls.

                      A sermon was delivered by Dr. Nazeer Ahmad of Fremont. Afterward, attendees mingled, greeting other Islamic center members.

                      There were also food booths, including Mehran catering and New York Pizza. There were games and “bouncy houses” for the children, too.

                      Sattar said Eid is a joyous occasion because it celebrates the observance of fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam. It is also a chance for members of the center to see each other and celebrate.

                      Amna Suharwardy, a Danville resident who is an architect for a structural engineering firm, attended. Among other things, she was helping watch her friend’s 2-year-old daughter.

                      Suharwardy said the Eid festival is a time for people to reflect on all that they have in life.

                      “It’s a time to be thankful and grateful for what we have,” she said.

                      Maaz Ali of San Ramon and Saif Khan of Danville were there together. The friends said the Eid is a cultural as well as a religious gathering.

                      “Everyone is happy and everyone is hungry,” noted Ali, a guest services representative at Synergy Corporate Housing.

                      “This is a very humble, open celebration,” added Saif, a business major at the University of California, Riverside.

                      Ejaz Marza, a Dublin resident, attended with his wife, two children and a nephew.

                      “Everybody is so happy. This is a community coming together,” he said.

                      Ayesha Sheikhi, a marketing representative who lives in Danville, compared the significance of Eid to Christmas.

                      “It’s the biggest holiday for us,” she said. “It’s the culmination of a very religious, holy month where we have been observing religion to a higher degree.”

                      The celebration comes less than two weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists.

                      Sattar said the anniversary is on the minds of center members. He said the attacks not only killed thousands of people, it also put a stain on Islam.

                      “We are all Americans. Nine-eleven hit us as hard as any part of the community,” he said. “It was violence done by a handful of people who hijacked our religion.”

                      Suharwardy agreed.

                      “It was innocent people who died,” she said. “Your heart always goes out to innocent people.”

                      End of Article

                      Bay Area Muslims to Mark End of Ramadan with Prayers

                      On Tuesday, August 30 (date may vary; consult local mosques), American Muslims will celebrate the endof the month-long fast ofRamadan with communal prayers around the country. (Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset.)

                      (Aug 29, 2011 - Santa Clara, CA) 

                      The prayers mark the beginning of the Eid ul-Fitr (EED-al-FITTER), or “feast of fast breaking” holiday, in which Muslims exchange social visits and seek to strengthen community bonds. During this holiday, Muslims greet each other by saying “Eid mubarak” (EED-moo-BAR-ak), meaning “blessed Eid,” and “taqabbalallah ta’atakum,” or “may God accept your deeds.” Many communities also hold multicultural bazaars and other family activities following the prayers.

                      CAIR-San Antonio:  Eid is a Time for Neighbors to Come Together

                      Eid ul-Fitr is the first of the two major Muslim holidays. The second holiday, Eid ul-Adha, comes at the end of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

                      WHEN: Tuesday, August 30 (date may vary; consult local mosques). Prayers are held early in the morning. Ask local prayer coordinators for exact dates, times and locations.

                      WHERE: The Eid prayers are held either in local mosques or in public facilities designed to accommodate large gatherings.

                      CONTACT: Call local Muslim organizations for details about Eid celebrations. If there are no known contacts in a particular community, go to:  http://www.islamicfinder.com/.

                      PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Each year, Muslims come to the prayers in colorful attire representative of different areas of the Islamic world. The prayers themselves are quite visual, with worshipers arranged in neat rows and bowing in prayer in unison. Participants exchange embraces at the conclusion of the prayers.

                      NOTE: Because this is a religious service, reporters and photographers of both genders should dress modestly. Some communities may ask female reporters and photographers to put a scarf over their hair while in the actual prayer area. Photographers should arrive early to get into position for the best shots. Photographers are also advised not to step directly in front of worshipers and to seek permission for close-up shots. Shots of shoes removed for prayer, and rear-angle shots of prostrating worshipers are considered clichéd and inappropriate.
                       
                      CAIR-SFBA is a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 408.986.9874

                      Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

                      Image for News Release - Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

                      The Center for American Progress issues a 150-page report on the growing Islamophobia of the United States.

                      (Aug 26, 2011 - Washington, D.C.) 

                      On July 22, a man planted a bomb in an Oslo government building that killed eight people. A few hours after the explosion, he shot and killed 68 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labor Party youth camp on Norway’s Utoya Island.

                      By midday, pundits were speculating as to who had perpetrated the greatest massacre in Norwegian history since World War II. Numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, speculated about an Al Qaeda connection and a “jihadist” motivation behind the attacks. But by the next morning it was clear that the attacker was a 32-year-old, white, blond-haired and blue-eyed Norwegian named Anders Breivik. He was not a Muslim, but rather a self-described Christian conservative.

                      According to his attorney, Breivik claimed responsibility for his self-described “gruesome but necessary” actions. On July 26, Breivik told the court that violence was “necessary” to save Europe from Marxism and “Muslimization.” In his 1,500-page manifesto, which meticulously details his attack methods and aims to inspire others to extremist violence, Breivik vows “brutal and breathtaking operations which will result in casualties” to fight the alleged “ongoing Islamic Colonization of Europe.”

                      Breivik’s manifesto contains numerous footnotes and in-text citations to American bloggers and pundits, quoting them as experts on Islam’s “war against the West.” This small group of anti-Muslim organizations and individuals in our nation is obscure to most Americans but wields great influence in shaping the national and international political debate. Their names are heralded within communities that are actively organizing against Islam and targeting Muslims in the United States.

                      Breivik, for example, cited Robert Spencer, one of the anti-Muslim misinformation scholars we profile in this report, and his blog, Jihad Watch, 162 times in his manifesto. Spencer’s website, which “tracks the attempts of radical Islam to subvert Western culture,” boasts another member of this Islamophobia network in America, David Horowitz, on his Freedom Center website. Pamela Geller, Spencer’s frequent collaborator, and her blog, Atlas Shrugs, was mentioned 12 times.

                      Geller and Spencer co-founded the organization Stop Islamization of America, a group whose actions and rhetoric the Anti-Defamation League concluded “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy “American values.” Based on Breivik’s sheer number of citations and references to the writings of these individuals, it is clear that he read and relied on the hateful, anti-Muslim ideology of a number of men and women detailed in this report&a select handful of scholars and activists who work together to create and promote misinformation about Muslims.

                      While these bloggers and pundits were not responsible for Breivik’s deadly attacks, their writings on Islam and multiculturalism appear to have helped create a world view, held by this lone Norwegian gunman, that sees Islam as at war with the West and the West needing to be defended. According to former CIA officer and terrorism consultant Marc Sageman, just as religious extremism “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged,” the writings of these anti-Muslim misinformation experts are “the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.” Sageman adds that their rhetoric “is not cost-free.”

                      These pundits and bloggers, however, are not the only members of the Islamophobia infrastructure. Breivik’s manifesto also cites think tanks, such as the Center for Security Policy, the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism—three other organizations we profile in this report. Together, this core group of deeply intertwined individuals and organizations manufacture and exaggerate threats of “creeping Sharia,” Islamic domination of the West, and purported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran.

                      This network of hate is not a new presence in the United States. Indeed, its ability to organize, coordinate, and disseminate its ideology through grassroots organizations increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Furthermore, its ability to influence politicians’ talking points and wedge issues for the upcoming 2012 elections has mainstreamed what was once considered fringe, extremist rhetoric.

                      And it all starts with the money flowing from a select group of foundations. A small group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam—in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency.

                      Some of these foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups. According to our extensive analysis, here are the top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our country:

                        Donors Capital Fund
                        Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
                        Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
                        Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust
                        Russell Berrie Foundation
                        Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund
                        Fairbrook Foundation

                      Altogether, these seven charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009—funding that supports the scholars and experts that are the subject of our next chapter as well as some of the grassroots groups that are the subject of Chapter 3 of our report.

                      And what does this money fund? Well, here’s one of many cases in point: Last July, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich warned a conservative audience at the American Enterprise Institute that the Islamic practice of Sharia was “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” Gingrich went on to claim that “Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world.”

                      Sharia, or Muslim religious code, includes practices such as charitable giving, prayer, and honoring one’s parents—precepts virtually identical to those of Christianity and Judaism. But Gingrich and other conservatives promote alarmist notions about a nearly 1,500-year-old religion for a variety of sinister political, financial, and ideological motives. In his remarks that day, Gingrich mimicked the language of conservative analyst Andrew McCarthy, who co-wrote a report calling Sharia “the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time.” Such similarities in language are no accident. Look no further than the organization that released McCarthy’s anti-Sharia report: the aforementioned Center for Security Policy, which is a central hub of the anti-Muslim network and an active promoter of anti- Sharia messaging and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

                      In fact, CSP is a key source for right-wing politicians, pundits, and grassroots organizations, providing them with a steady stream of reports mischaracterizing Islam and warnings about the dangers of Islam and American Muslims. Operating under the leadership of Frank Gaffney, the organization is funded by a small number of foundations and donors with a deep understanding of how to influence U.S. politics by promoting highly alarming threats to our national security. CSP is joined by other anti-Muslim organizations in this lucrative business, such as Stop Islamization of America and the Society of Americans for National Existence. Many of the leaders of these organizations are well-schooled in the art of getting attention in the press, particularly Fox News, The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, The Washington Times, and a variety of right-wing websites and radio outlets.

                      Misinformation experts such as Gaffney consult and work with such right-wing grassroots organizations as ACT! for America and the Eagle Forum, as well as religious right groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition and American Family Association, to spread their message. Speaking at their conferences, writing on their websites, and appearing on their radio shows, these experts rail against Islam and cast suspicion on American Muslims. Much of their propaganda gets churned into fundraising appeals by grassroots and religious right groups. The money they raise then enters the political process and helps fund ads supporting politicians who echo alarmist warnings and sponsor anti-Muslim attacks.

                      These efforts recall some of the darkest episodes in American history, in which religious, ethnic, and racial minorities were discriminated against and persecuted. From Catholics, Mormons, Japanese Americans, European immigrants, Jews, and African Americans, the story of America is one of struggle to achieve in practice our founding ideals. Unfortunately, American Muslims and Islam are the latest chapter in a long American struggle against scapegoating based on religion, race, or creed.

                      Due in part to the relentless efforts of this small group of individuals and organizations, Islam is now the most negatively viewed religion in America. Only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam: the lowest favorability rating since 2001, according to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll. According to a 2010 Time magazine poll, 28 percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and nearly one-third of the country thinks followers of Islam should be barred from running for president.

                      The terrorist attacks on 9/11 alone did not drive Americans’ perceptions of Muslims and Islam. President George W. Bush reflected the general opinion of the American public at the time when he went to great lengths to make clear that Islam and Muslims are not the enemy. Speaking to a roundtable of Arab and Muslim American leaders at the Afghanistan embassy in 2002, for example, President Bush said, “All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith—face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It’s a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It’s a faith based upon love, not hate.”

                      Unfortunately, President Bush’s words were soon eclipsed by an organized escalation of hateful statements about Muslims and Islam from the members of the Islamophobia network profiled in this report. This is as sad as it is dangerous. It is enormously important to understand that alienating the Muslim American community not only threatens our fundamental promise of religious freedom, it also hurts our efforts to combat terrorism. Since 9/11, the Muslim American community has helped security and law enforcement officials prevent more than 40 percent of Al Qaeda terrorist plots threatening America. The largest single source of initial information to authorities about the few Muslim American plots has come from the Muslim American community.

                      Around the world, there are people killing people in the name of Islam, with which most Muslims disagree. Indeed, in most cases of radicalized neighbors, family members, or friends, the Muslim American community is as baffled, disturbed, and surprised by their appearance as the general public. Treating Muslim American citizens and neighbors as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, is not only offensive to America’s core values, it is utterly ineffective in combating terrorism and violent extremism.

                      The White House recently released the national strategy for combating violent extremism, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” One of the top focal points of the effort is to “counter al-Qa’ida’s propaganda that the United States is somehow at war with Islam.” Yet orchestrated efforts by the individuals and organizations detailed in this report make it easy for al-Qa’ida to assert that America hates Muslims and that Muslims around the world are persecuted for the simple crime of being Muslims and practicing their religion.

                      Sadly, the current isolation of American Muslims echoes past witch hunts in our history—from the divisive McCarthyite purges of the 1950s to the sometimes violent anti-immigrant campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has compared the fear-mongering of Muslims with anti-Catholic sentiment of the past. In response to the fabricated “Ground Zero mosque” controversy in New York last summer, Mayor Bloomberg said:

                      In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center. ... We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.

                      This report shines a light on the Islamophobia network of so-called experts, academics, institutions, grassroots organizations, media outlets, and donors who manufacture, produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims. Let us learn the proper lesson from the past, and rise above fear-mongering to public awareness, acceptance, and respect for our fellow Americans. In doing so, let us prevent hatred from infecting and endangering our country again.

                      In the pages that follow, we profile the small number of funders, organizations, and individuals who have contributed to the discourse on Islamophobia in this country. We begin with the money trail in Chapter 1—our analysis of the funding streams that support anti-Muslim activities. Chapter 2 identifies the intellectual nexus of the Islamophobia network. Chapter 3 highlights the key grassroots players and organizations that help spread the messages of hate. Chapter 4 aggregates the key media amplifiers of Islamophobia. And Chapter 5 brings attention to the elected officials who frequently support the causes of anti- Muslim organizing.

                      Before we begin, a word about the term “Islamophobia.” We don’t use this term lightly. We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.

                      It is our view that in order to safeguard our national security and uphold America’s core values, we must return to a fact-based civil discourse regarding the challenges we face as a nation and world. This discourse must be frank and honest, but also consistent with American values of religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and respect for pluralism. A first step toward the goal of honest, civil discourse is to expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups who make up the Islamophobia network in America by actively working to divide Americans against one another through misinformation.

                      Download the report here.

                      End of Article

                      Ramadan transforms North Oakland street at night

                      Image for News Release - Ramadan transforms North Oakland street at night

                      The nights of Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting for Muslims, awaken the streets in a small stretch of the city.

                      (Aug 25, 2011 - Oakland, CA) 

                      A dozen school-age boys played soccer on the wide sidewalk, men clustered on steps and under awnings to gab about the day, and dozens of women ambled down the street. This would be unremarkable, except that it was 11 p.m. in North Oakland on a Monday. The nights of Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting for Muslims, awaken the streets in a small stretch of the city - transforming them into a scene common in the Islamic world, but unseen elsewhere in the Bay Area.

                      Jamal Igeh of Oakland stood outside the bustling Oasis Food Market and caught up with his friends, fellow immigrants from Somaliland, a region that considers itself seceded from Somalia.

                      “In the nighttime,” said Igeh, 33, “is life.”

                      The center of this community is a mosque, the Oakland Islamic Center on 31st Street near Telegraph Avenue, which draws some 500 people for Friday prayers. Around it, are a butcher shop, markets and a restaurant - all serving food that’s halal, or Islamically permissible. Many Muslims have also moved to the area.

                      It’s a confluence of factors that’s rare to the Bay Area, said Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in the UC Berkeley departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies.

                      There are mosques that are bigger, but none have such close proximity to residents and Muslim stores, said Bazian, who is conducting a survey of the Bay Area’s Muslim community.
                      Diverse mosque

                      The region’s most influential mosque, the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, is in a business park. Other large mosques, like the Islamic Society of the East Bay in Fremont, are in residential areas.

                      This mostly Arab mosque also has more than a dozen nationalities and ethnic groups, and is more diverse than most. African Americans, arguably the largest ethnic group among American Muslims, also attend - which is not always the case among immigrant mosques.

                      Here in North Oakland, Bazian sees “the emergence of a Muslim enclave ...” For the region, “it’s a very unique development.”

                      That identity takes on a different meaning during Ramadan, a time of year when Muslims believe that God revealed the first verses of the Quran to Muhammad in seventh century Arabia.
                      Desolate area transformed

                      Fasting during the lunar month, which will end Monday or Tuesday, is one of the faith’s five pillars. That means abstaining from food, water or sex during the day - acts that are intended to cultivate discipline and restraint and bring closer consciousness with God.

                      At night, when daily fasts are broken, the streets around the North Oakland mosque come alive, turning what might otherwise be a desolate area after hours into a humming main street. The Oasis market and restaurant is open until 1 a.m. In the last 10 days of Ramadan, some pray nearly all night. The street scene offers a glimpse, some say, of the real change, not the stereotyped hysteria, that Muslims can bring to an area.

                      “It’s a transformation, bringing the Islamic culture into America,” said Sadat Ahmad, 72, an Oakland resident who is African American. “This is the way we roll.”
                      Neighbors complain

                      Of course, not all see the change as so positive.

                      Adam Howell, who lives down the block, said some worshipers have regularly blocked his driveway in their haste to make prayer times. Once, when he called a tow truck, the driver of the offending car arrived after the tow truck did and drove across a neighbor’s lawn to escape.

                      And while it may be nice for the devout to see their children shouting and playing in the street late into the evening, some neighbors aren’t too happy with the late-night noise. “For the rest of us, who don’t pray at the mosque, it’s annoying, actually,” said Howell, who said the hassles have not been as bad as the past. “I’ve tried to be reasonable. Other times I haven’t. I don’t know what else I can do.”

                      Hamoud Al-Bashayyer, a mosque co-founder and board president, said the answer he’s told neighbors is simple: “If someone blocks your driveway, don’t give a warning. Tow them away.”

                      He said it’s impossible to control everyone in any community.

                      “Blocking somebody’s driveway is illegal anywhere in the world, not just the United States,” said Al-Bashayyer, 52, an Oakland resident who emigrated from Jordan 34 years ago.
                      Foot traffic deters crime

                      The community has been at this location for 20 years, and, he said, the community’s growth has made the area safer. The foot traffic of people coming and going five times a day - and more during Ramadan - is the best prevention against crime.

                      Al-Bashayyer and others said the street life in North Oakland reminded them of their childhoods in Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere. In Muslim countries, everything shuts down for the day, while restaurants and shops open up at night. Work schedules adjust to the prayer schedule.

                      But here in the United States, there’s more focus on the fact that fasting and late-night prayer is a personal act with a personal cost.

                      Sadat said that his job as a transit instructor at Muni started at 8:30 a.m.

                      “In their culture, they could sleep in,” he said at around 11:30 p.m. “For us, we have to hit it tomorrow.”

                      End of Article

                      Fremont Toyota sued by EEOC

                      Afghan-Americans report harrassment.

                      (Aug 23, 2011 - Fremont, CA) 

                      The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit today charging Fremont Toyota with singling out Afghan-American employees for harrassment.

                      According to an EEOC press release (lawsuit hasn’t posted online) the company’s general manager singled out four Afghan salesmen during a sales meeting, calling them “terrorists,” and asserting that he was the dealership’s dictator just like the dictator that rules Afghanistan.

                      The complaint also charges that an Afghan manager was fired after he spoke in defense of the salesmen, according to the EEOC.

                      End of Article

                      Growing up Muslim after Sept. 11 test of faith

                      Image for News Release - Growing up Muslim after Sept. 11 test of faith

                      "It was unfair that I was born at a time when all this was happening," he said. "It's hard to explain that you're not the stereotype that's put out."

                      (Aug 23, 2011 - Fullerton, CA) 

                      FULLERTON, Calif.—In many ways, Yousuf Salama is a typical teenager: He lives for football, worries about acne and would rather dash off to see “Captain America” with friends than spend one more minute with his mother.

                      He’s aware, however, that his actions in particular can have greater meaning.

                      Yousuf is a Muslim, one of only two in an all-boys Catholic prep school in Southern California. He has been asked if he’s a terrorist and routinely shrugs off jokes about bombs and jihad.

                      “Sometimes I feel like I take it upon myself to be a better example,” he said on a recent evening after returning for a weeklong football camp.

                      Yousuf is among thousands of children who navigate every day the subtle and complex challenges that come with growing up Muslim in a deeply traumatized post-Sept. 11 America. Some were still in diapers and others in grade school when hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a decade ago, but their childhoods have been deeply touched by the pain and anger of a nation struggling to come to terms with a day that, for them, represents the worst perversion of their faith.

                      For some, like Yousuf in California and others across the country, the bullying, the hard stares and endless defense of their identity has nurtured a deeper faith and a maturity and resilience that surprises even their parents.

                      “I tell them that when they’re out in the world, they represent the best of our community,  they are our faith ambassadors,” said Kari Ansari, who was pregnant with her youngest child on Sept. 11 and lives outside Washington, D.C with her family. “They will have learned to have compassion for people who maybe don’t even deserve that kind of compassion—dealing with bigots and dealing with prejudice—and that’s a great life lesson.”

                      For Ansari’s oldest daughter, Aneesa, that lesson colors her earliest memories.

                      She started attending a private Muslim kindergarten in Denver just days before Sept. 11 and it shut down for two weeks after angry protesters gathered outside. It eventually reopened, but an armed security guard stayed on campus for almost a year.

                      Today, the 15-year-old is deeply invested in her religious identity and exudes a quiet pride at being Muslim. She began wearing a head scarf in public without prompting in the fifth grade and has never removed it despite being cursed at while waiting in line at Ikea, stared at and pressured at school, she said.

                      Aneesa goes to the library during the lunch hour so she can observe the holy month of Ramadan (a month of no food or water from sunrise to sundown) and said she prefers to spend time with other Muslim teens to avoid the pressure to drink and do drugs.

                      Her mother worried that her young daughter would be pitied or discriminated against for wearing the hijab. But for Aneesa, wearing the head covering was a rebuke to those who dwelled on her differences and minimized her faith. Even at 11, she said, she was adamant that it was her choice and her identity.

                      “I have enough strength, I guess, to not be afraid of who I am,” Aneesa said. “It’s this pressure to change, people kind of hint that you don’t have to wear a scarf at school, they ask if your parents make you.

                      “Combatting that makes you a stronger person,” she said.

                      When the family moved from Denver to a new school in the western suburbs of Chicago, her younger brother Sajid suddenly found himself the only Muslim boy in his grade in a tiny school district.

                      For three years, from the fourth to the sixth grade, he was relentlessly bullied by dozens of students who ganged up on him, called him a terrorist and ridiculed him for his faith.

                      In a sixth-grade art class, a group of boys passed him a note showing a drawing of the twin towers, with the words “Look familiar?” written below. On another occasion, he was walking his sister home in the snow when other students ambushed them with icy snowballs. One hit his face, leaving a bloody gash on his cheek.

                      Sajid’s grades plummeted and attempts to get adults to help led to more abuse, so he stopped telling his parents about what was going on.

                      “I just kind of felt like, ‘Why was I born at a time when people didn’t understand?’ I didn’t have any problem with being Muslim or being born that way,” said Sajid, now 13.

                      “Sometimes, I felt it was unfair that I was born at a time when all this was happening,” he said. “It’s hard to explain that you’re not the stereotype that’s put out.”

                      The Ansaris eventually moved to northern Virginia and put their children in a bigger and more diverse school district where Sajid has thrived.

                      Today, Sajid is open with classmates about his faith, explaining that he can’t eat pepperoni because Muslims don’t eat pork and talking with friends about the terrorist characters that represent the enemy on war-themed video games.

                      “When you are a person of faith you look at your life circumstances and every situation that comes up is a trial or challenge to you in your faith,” said Ansari, who works as a freelance marketing consultant. “We believe it’s God’s way of saying, ‘What are you going to do about this? Are you going to succumb to it or rise above it and show what the true story is?”

                      In Southern California’s Orange County, Yousuf Salama, his 18-year-old sister Sarah and his 21-year-old brother Omar have spent years navigating the same types of challenges at their private, Catholic prep schools. Their parents sent them there because of the top-notch education and same-sex environment.

                      One of Yousuf’s friends asked if he was a terrorist after watching a TV program on Islamic extremism.

                      His older brother, unusually tall and lanky for his age, was called “Twin Tower” at a seventh-grade flag football camp and quietly endured an endless loop of jokes: Do you have a bomb in your backpack? When do you leave for jihad?

                      These days, those memories barely raise an eyebrow in the family’s upscale suburban home, where their parents juggle a home business, their children’s sports practices and part-time jobs as well the nightly prayers at the mosque during Ramadan.

                      On a recent night, the children, Omar’s new wife and their grandmother gathered to break the Ramadan fast with heaping plates of lamb and chicken kebobs, sliced grilled eggplant, humus and a thick chocolate cake for dessert.

                      “How have we been living for the past 10 years?” asked Anita Bond-Salama, their mother.

                      “There’s no answer, there’s no magic formula,” she continued. “My husband and I have just dealt with things very matter-of-factly: This is what happened. There’s good and there’s bad in the world. And unfortunately there’s bad people who represent our religion but our religion doesn’t say that.”

                      Omar was 11 when the airplanes were hijacked and of the three siblings, he has the clearest memories of that day and its aftermath. He remembers thinking at the time that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan would change his life, too.

                      Over the years, he learned to restrain himself from physically confronting anyone who made fun of him, but he had his hardest test as a high school senior—six years after Sept. 11—when a teacher asked him to read aloud in class. A fellow student leaned in, he recalled, and whispered: “Does your religion allow you to read?”

                      “I was this close to climbing over my seat and really messing him up,” Omar said.

                      He remembered thinking on that occasion and on many others that he should not react violently.

                      “If I did that ... the whole school would be thinking in the back of their mind, ‘Oh, there goes another Muslim. There goes Omar again, a typical Muslim—violent and angry,’” he said.

                      Omar started high school “football crazy” and every bit the jock. He played for his school’s powerhouse football team, fasting during Ramadan while doing two-a-day workouts.

                      Over time, as the teasing got to him, he distanced himself from school friends and spent more time at the mosque. By his senior year, he had quit football and devoted himself to studying his faith so he could better explain Islam.

                      He attended more prayers, stopped swearing and improved his grades, which had slipped to Cs and Ds.

                      “If I’m being attacked by an individual or even just a curious individual, I have to be able to answer. I can’t just say, ‘I don’t know.’ It made me pick up a book,” he said. “In that sense, it’s changed my life.”

                      End of Article

                      Lawyer/humorist Wajahat Ali tackles serious topic of ‘Islamophobia’

                      Image for News Release - Lawyer/humorist Wajahat Ali tackles serious topic of ‘Islamophobia’

                      Ali, 30, has made a career of writing about ordinary Muslim Americans with humor and candor.

                      (Aug 23, 2011 - Bay Area, CA) 

                      Playwright, lawyer and humorist Wajahat Ali is known to fellow Fremont residents as a man of many projects. As we meet for an interview downtown, a passer-by interrupts to ask Ali, in Urdu, “What are you working on now?” One answer is scripting an HBO pilot, with novelist Dave Eggers, about a Muslim cop in San Francisco. Ali, 30, has made a career of writing about ordinary Muslim Americans with humor and candor. Another project marks Ali’s first big dive into political advocacy, with a report (due out this week) he has co-authored with researchers at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. Ali says it exposes how a small network of anti-Muslim activists transformed a fringe movement into a mainstream cause.

                      Q So your report hasn’t even come out yet, but the anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller has already called you a “stealth jihadist.” Are you offended?

                      A Not at all. Pam Geller attacked me because I pretty much exposed her and her agenda on a radio station in New York, because she and her allies were mentioned more than 200 times in (Norwegian mass shooter) Anders Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto. ... He was ideologically inspired by people like her and her allies.

                      Q What made you get into this political project?

                      A My whole life I’ve been the unintentional token spokesman for all things Muslim and Pakistani. It was not by choice. I call myself the accidental activist. When I was a young kid I was, like, the only open practicing Muslim, and I knew a lot about my Pakistani roots. So inevitably I gave dozens of impromptu lectures about all things Muslim and Pakistani. And (for) a lot of my friends in the Bay Area, I was their only Muslim or Pakistani friend. So they were like, Hey, Waj, what’s up with Pakistan? ... The Center for Progress thought, why not go to a non-D.C. guy and think outside the box. I realized, as a student of American history, the current boogeyman is American Muslims. And I wanted to help turn the tide toward civil discourse, in which we wouldn’t divide Americans based on ethnicity and religion.

                      Q What do you think of the depiction of Muslim Americans on TV?

                      A It’s usually framed through the lens of national security, terrorism, violence and fundamentalism. A recent report says Americans have a negative image of Muslims (for) two reasons: ignorance, in the sense that a lot of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim; ... and they say the media frames their perceptions of Muslims. ... The hope is to move beyond that frame, to show the nuances. We need authentic Muslim American storytellers telling authentic Muslim American narratives.

                      Q On a blog post you mentioned the Ramadan State of Mind. What’s that?

                      A On the blog I try to remove what I call the “ascetic monk lens” from which both Muslim Americans and average Americans view Ramadan—Muslims being this spiritual, superhero monk type who have this insane biological system that allows them to fast without water and drink. We’re like Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV,” right? It’s very inhuman almost, the presentation of Ramadan and Muslims fasting. ... I just try to talk like a normal person, to expose my whiny-ness, the fact that sometimes it sucks being Muslim. Sometimes I’m spiritually elevated, sometimes spiritually defeated. Sometimes I just want to eat food.

                      Q You’ve talked about how kids who grew up in the shadow of 9/11 are helping to push a new narrative. What is that narrative?

                      A The narrative is: “I am both Muslim and American; one cannot coexist without the other. My values from both identities complement one another and intersect. I am living proof that there is no conflict between the West and Islam. Proof that there needs not be an Armageddon or a clash of cultural values.” Just go talk to these people. They fast during Ramadan and listen to Jay-Z’s latest album. They eat their mom’s dal but then they also eat pho. Their best friend is African-American or Vietnamese-American, and they’ll invite them over for Eid. That’s as American as apple pie, or maybe as American as falafel and hummus.

                      End of Article

                      CAIR-SFBA Co-Sponsors “Unheard Voices of 9/11”

                      Image for News Release - CAIR-SFBA Co-Sponsors “Unheard Voices of 9/11”

                      Community members and advocates to gather and testify about the impact of 9/11 on the rights and liberties of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians.

                      (Aug 23, 2011 - Mountain View, CA) 

                      DATE: August 27, 2011
                      TIME: 1pm
                      LOCATION: Mountain View Senior Center
                      266 Escuela Avenue

                      As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, please join the Sikh Coalition for an important community hearing next Saturday.

                      Community members and advocates will gather and testify about their experiences with post-9/11 discrimination, including hate crimes, job discrimination, school bullying, border searches, airport profiling, immigration and naturalization delays, and the like.

                      Learn about the impact of 9/11 on the rights and liberties of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians.

                      Speakers Include:

                        Congressman Michael Honda
                        Assembly Member Paul Fong
                        San Jose Council Member Ash Kalra
                        San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore
                        Commissioner Nitasha Sawhney, California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs
                        Veena Dubal, Staff Attorney, Asian Law Caucus
                        Amardeep Singh, Program Director, Sikh Coalition
                        Zahra Billoo, Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations – SFBA

                      Co-Sponsors:

                        American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
                        Arab Cultural and Community Center
                        Alliance of South Asians Taking Action
                        Asian Law Caucus
                        Council on American Islamic Relations – SFBA
                        Muslim Advocates
                        South Asian Americans Leading Together
                        The Sikh Coalition
                        UNITED SIKHS

                      Endorsers:

                        ACLU of Northern California
                        Asian American Justice Center

                      End of Article

                      Santa Clara mosque showcases new 64-foot tall minaret

                      Image for News Release - Santa Clara mosque showcases new 64-foot tall minaret

                      The Muslim Community Association has added a minaret to their building.

                      (Aug 12, 2011 - Santa Clara, CA) 

                      As is their annual Ramadan tradition, Muslims at the Bay Area’s largest mosque will welcome friends and strangers to an open house Saturday evening. But this year, they’ll be showcasing a new minaret—the architectural equivalent to a Christian cross or Jewish Star of David.

                      The minaret (a word related to the Arabic word for lighthouse) stands 64 feet tall, and can be spotted along U.S. Highway 101 or in the light industrial neighborhood of Scott Boulevard. Made with all American steel, the symbolic touches include Islamic-style stars, a rounded top and lights to be shined at night.

                      “It feels good,” said Mohammed Sarodi, chairman of the board of trustees of the Muslim Community Association. “Before, this mosque just looked like an office building, like HP. Now, this looks like the mosques back home.”

                      About 400 guests are expected to tour the new 9,400-square-foot addition to the MCA in Santa Clara, including school board members from Mountain View and San Jose, council members from Santa Clara, Cupertino and Los Altos, and members of the marketing team from the San Jose Tech Museum.

                      Designed by architect Amin Qazi, the minaret is the highlight of an overall $3 million expansion of the now-92,500-square-foot building painted in the various shades of desert sand. The new entrances, foyer, bookstore and the modern, spalike absolution room for washing feet before prayer, complete the final construction phase of the mosque.

                      Mosque leaders are pleased that now, at least, their traditionally nondescript, one-story complex in a neighborhood of office parks and warehouses will stand out to their brothers and sisters as an easy-to-find landmark for Muslim worship. On a typical Friday, the mosque is visited by up to 4,000 worshipers, coming in three shifts to mark the holy afternoon prayer.

                      Unlike most new church or synagogue decorative construction projects, this minaret, and others across the globe, have been magnets for various shades of controversy.

                      MCA’s minaret, standing gracefully on property that members bought for $3.5 million from Hewlett-Packard in 1993, wasn’t a huge target of attack. But it did make headlines last summer when Thomas Scott, whose office window at Cambridge Management across the street, complained to the city that the addition of the minaret was architectural “piecemeal.”

                      Another person railed against “Islamic domination” and “Muslims taking over America.”

                      But in a letter to this newspaper last year, Scott wrote he did not identify with the people who feared the minaret would house religious leaders loudly calling out “Allahu akbar” from the heights of the structure (they will not, it’s a decorative minaret only) and called some of the naysayers “nutcakes.”

                      Scott did not return a phone call to see what he thinks of the minaret now.

                      About a year ago, a new mosque and minaret for the Anjuman-e-Jamali community in Palo Alto was approved without any controversy.

                      But announcements of the new Silicon Valley minarets came at a time when the nation was recently embroiled in a discussion over whether to build a Muslim community center just blocks from the World Trade Center towers destroyed by Islamist terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. That project, still in limbo, drew major criticism from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Anti-Defamation League, the nation’s most prominent Jewish civil rights group. Two years ago, the Swiss voted to ban the construction of new minarets.

                      But thankfully, Sarodi said, the overall reaction in Santa Clara has been wonderful and warm. Sarodi said MCA is good for Santa Clara, too.

                      “Santa Clara is a lovely place,” Sarodi said. “A lot of Muslims have moved here because of our mosque.”

                      Open houses during Ramadan

                      Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Muslim Community Association, 3003 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara. A complimentary dinner will be served. To save a place, contact openhouse@mcabayarea.org. Guests who wish to view the mosque may come throughout the day.
                      Sunday, 6 p.m. “Iftar” dinner at the home of Samina Sundas in Palo Alto
                      Aug. 19, 7 p.m. “Iftar” dinner at the home of Reshma Inamdar in Fremont
                      Aug. 31, 11 a.m. Eid brunch at the Kamil family home in Santa Clara
                      To RSVP for the free family meals, please contact asghazali786@yahoo.com. Space is limited.

                      End of Article

                      Ramadan Open Houses Begin This Weekend

                      Bay Area residents invited to visit local mosques.

                      (Aug 12, 2011 - San Francisco, CA) 

                      Beginning Saturday, August 13th, seven Bay Area mosques, in collaboration with the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Muslim American Society (MAS) will host local residents at Ramadan Mosque Open Houses.

                      The events will offer opportunities for people of all faiths to experience the Muslim month of fasting.

                      Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset, ending their fasts with a meal after sunset prayers. They also invite friends and family to their homes and mosques to share meals together at this special time of the year. The fast is performed to learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity, while obeying God’s commandments. Fasting (along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the “five pillars” of Islam. The end of Ramadan is marked by communal prayers called “Eid ul-Fitr,” or Feast of the Fast-Breaking.

                      SEE: Bay Area Muslim Community Celebrates Ramadan, Holds Open Houses

                      “From GOP presidential candidates to some of the individuals who train our law enforcement agents, we continue to see Islamophobia rising across the country,” said CAIR-SFBA Outreach Coordinator Amina Abid. “It is our hope that we can address anti-Muslim sentiment by opening doors and creating sincere dialogue.”

                      Upcoming Ramadan Open House Events:

                      August 13th - 6:30PM
                      Muslim Community Association (MCA)
                      3003 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara
                      RSVP: openhouse@mcabayarea.org

                      August 13th - 7:00PM
                      Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC)
                      1433 Madison Street, Oakland
                      RSVP: rohani@iccnc.org

                      August 13th - 5:30PM
                      Islamic Society of the East Bay (ISEB)
                      33330 Peace Terrace, Fremont
                      RSVP: ramadan2011@iseb.org

                      August 21st - 6:30PM
                      Islamic Society of San Francisco (ISSF)
                      20 Jones Street, San Francisco
                      RSVP: issf@att.net

                      August 21st - 7:15PM
                      South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA)
                      325 N. Third Street, San Jose
                      RSVP: adrash15@sbcglobal.net

                      August 27th - 7:00PM
                      West Valley Muslim Association (WVMA)
                      19848 Prospect Avenue, Saratoga
                      RSVP: bod@wvmuslim.org

                      August 28th - 6:45PM
                      Shia Association of the Bay Area (SABA)
                      4415 Fortran Court, San Jose
                      RSVP: saba@saba-igc.org

                      *The speakers and viewpoints in each of the events are reflective of the local mosque organizers, and are not necessarily endorsed by CAIR-SFBA.

                      CAIR-SFBA is a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

                      End of Article

                      CONTACT

                      Zahra Billoo
                      Executive Director, CAIR-SFBA
                      .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
                      T 408.986.9874 OR 626.252.0885

                      Bay Area Muslim Community Celebrates Ramadan, Holds Open Houses

                      Image for News Release - Bay Area Muslim Community Celebrates Ramadan, Holds Open Houses

                      30 Mosques in 30 Nights covers Bay Area locations, which interested parties can visit this Ramadan.

                      (Aug 11, 2011 - Santa Clara, CA) 

                      Muslims in the Bay Area and around the world are observing Ramadan August 1 to 30 this year.

                      A 25-year-old UC Berkeley grad, Zuhair Sadaat, has set out to capture the diversity of the region’s Muslim community with a blog called: 30 Mosques in 30 Nights.

                      Today he highlighted the Islamic Society of Contra Costa County in Concord and spent a paragraph talking about the youth:

                        The first thing I noticed about the masjid was the activity of the younglings. Not only were they at the mosque, but they were vacuuming the carpet in preparation for isha and taraweeh. The masjid has iftar every night and the kids were more than happy to help clean up. I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid willingly vacuum the carpets of MCA or even MCA’s own Masjid An-Noor. In Islamic school, if anything, it was a punishment.

                      The Berkeley Patch has a great post about Sadaat and the blog which he started last year.

                        [He] knew the Bay Area Muslim world was more varied than his parents’ 3,000-member, suburban Santa Clara mosque, where the congregation encompassed doctors, engineers, and other successful professionals…

                      Sadaat (rhymes with Zagat) visited a different mosque each night of the holy month of Ramadan, sizing up everything from shoe shelves and parking to the imam’s ability to inspire when leading the nightly taraweeh prayers.

                      If the blog inspires you and you want more than a virtual tour of your neighborhood mosque, you’re in luck.  CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) is sponsoring open houses at mosques throughout the Bay Area this month.  The events require RSVP’s and kick off this Saturday in Santa Clara, Oakland, and Fremont.

                      Sadaat’s blog isn’t the only intersection of technology and Ramadan this year. The Daily Star in Lebannon has this rundown of technology tools that are helping Muslims around the world during this holy month. Some of the most popular are: Ramadan 2011, Ramadan Pro, Ramadan Calendar, Ramadan Diet Plan, Ramadan Kit, Muslim Guide, Athkar, Qibla, Azan, Islamic Pocket Guide and iPray.

                      Religious apps have existed as long as apps themselves, but this year Ramadan apps also seem to be taking advantage of geo-location, giving users information about prayer and fasting times based on their current cities, as well as an being able to provide an internal compass, which gives the precise direction in which to pray toward Mecca, notes Lebanese American University media professor Imad Aytani.

                      Post your own stories about celebrating Ramadan in the Bay Area here.

                      End of Article

                      CAIR Commends Whole Foods for Standing Up to Anti-Muslim Hate

                      CAIR's Zahra Billoo comments on Whole Foods' Ramadan campaign.

                      CBS 5 covers allegations that Whole Foods caved to right-wing pressure to remove their Ramadan campaign.

                      End of Article