Chronology of Islam in America (2005)
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Imam of Orange County, LA, mosque deported
Jan. 3: Immigration officials in Los Angeles confirmed the departure to Qatar of Wagdy Mohamed Ghoneim, an imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County whose fight to remain in the U.S. was championed by many Muslims in Southern California. Ghoneim had given up his two-month immigration fight, citing poor health, and chose to leave the country voluntarily to win release from detention. He was arrested Nov. 4 at his Anaheim home on suspicion of overstaying his visa.
Illinois Muslim worker files bias suit
Jan 4: The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today announced that Syed Abbas, a Muslim worker of Pakistani origin, in Illinois has filed a religious and national origin discrimination lawsuit against AFI Industries. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Eastern Division), alleges that other employees of AFI Industries called the Muslim plaintiff "Terrorist #1," "Al-Qaida" and Osama bin Laden's "cousin." A supervisor allegedly told the plaintiff that the FBI and CIA were looking for him, that his home would be broken into and that he would be shot. On March 3, 2003, the worker was terminated. On May 28, 2003, the Muslim employee filed a charge of religion and national origin discrimination with the EEOC. The lawsuit announced today seeks reinstatement of the Muslim employee, back wages, as well as other compensatory and punitive damages.
New law allows deportation of naturalized US citizens
Jan 4: A new intelligence law, and now a court ruling, further strengthens the US government's power to strip a person of his citizenship even if he committed the crime after naturalization. The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals today allowed the government to strip a Haitian-American restaurant owner of his citizenship even though he was indicted, arrested and convicted after naturalization. Also today, federal agents in Atlanta arrested a prominent Ethiopian human rights abuse suspect, Kelbessa Negewo, 54, and put him in deportation proceedings, for the first time using legal powers granted under a newly-signed intelligence reform law. Immigration lawyers say that the two developments can have far-reaching consequences for thousands of immigrants from Muslim countries who already complain that they have become terror suspects since the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks believed to have been carried out by Muslim men.
Oberto sausage sued for religious discrimination
Jan 5: A federal agency has filed a lawsuit against Oberto Sausage Co. of Seattle accusing it of religious discrimination. The suit, brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleges that Oberto failed to accommodate the religious needs of six employees, as required by federal law, and then illegally fired them.
CAIR establishes hotline for fingerprinted hajj returnees
Jan 11: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has established a 24-hour hotline for Muslims who may face fingerprinting or detention upon their return from the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. The CAIR set up the hotline following reports that dozens of American Muslims were fingerprinted after attending an Islamic conference in Canada.
Missionary group backs off plan for tsunami Muslim children to Christian home
Jan 12: The Virginia-based missionary group WorldHelp has dropped its plans to place 300 Muslim "tsunami orphans" in a Christian children's home, the group's president, the Rev. Vernon Brewer, told news agencies. In statements given to Reuters and Agence France-Presse, Brewer said WorldHelp had raised $70,000 to place 50 of the children in a Christian orphanage but had halted its efforts when it learned that the Indonesian government would not allow it.
CAIR proposes world Islamophobia report
Jan 13: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the State Department to issue a report on Islamophobia across the world, as American Muslims have complained of more anti-Islam TV rants. The proposal was made when the CAIR and other Muslim and Arab-American groups met with top State Department officials to discuss a number of issues related to American foreign policy.The proposal includes such measures as producing a report on the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia, conferences in this country and in the Muslim world to discuss both Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism and domestic and international “goodwill ambassadors” who can speak about both topics.
Tenn. Muslim student allowed to wear hijab
Jan 15: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today announced that a Muslim student at East Ridge High School in Chattanooga, Tenn., will now be allowed to wear her Islamic head scarf, or hijab, in school. The student had previously been told she could not wear her religiously-mandated head scarf because it was against the school dress code. The school's decision to allow the head scarf came after intervention by CAIR's Civil Rights Department.
Fox cuts out Anti-Muslim scenes from “24 drama”
Jan 16: The Fox television network decided to remove some stereotypical aspects about American Muslims from its action drama “24” thanks to immediate action from community leaders. Following a meeting with representatives from CAIR, the largest US Muslim civil liberties advocacy group in the country, Fox officials promised that the popular series will be balanced in its portrayal of Muslims. Premiered on January 10, the drama portrays a Muslim family as a terrorist “sleeper cell,” who are plotting attacks inside the US.
Sacramento, CA Muslims honor Martin Luther King
Jan 17: The Sacramento office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations co-sponsored the recent Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in that city attended by some 1200 guests, including state, county and city officials and community leaders. Local Muslim religious, community and youth leaders also helped organize the event.
FBI monitors Islamic group (Tablighi Jamaat) for terror ties
Jan 18: The FBI and the Pentagon are keeping a close eye on an Islamic missionary group with thousands of U.S. members. In a secret intelligence document obtained by NBC News, terrorism analysts say members of the evangelical movement are ideal recruits for terrorist organizations inside the United States.
Reno man sentenced to probation for Islamic threats
Jan 18: A Reno, Nevada insurance broker accused of sending threatening e-mail to the Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has been sentenced to one year probation. Dale T. Ehrgott of Reno was indicted by a federal grand jury last year on charges of threatening members of the CAIR in retaliation for terrorist attacks on Americans.
U.S. court dismisses Saudi Arabia from 9/11 suits
Jan 18: Saudi Arabia, its defense minister and its ambassador to Britain won a ruling in a New York court dismissing them as defendants in massive litigation growing out of the September 11th attacks on America. U.S. District Judge Richard Casey ruled in a lengthy written order that Saudi Arabia, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan Prince Turki al-Faisal, the country's ambassador to Britain, all have immunity from the litigation. The judge also dismissed a number of other parties as defendants including Arab Bank, Al Rajhi Bank, and Saudi American Bank. The rulings stemmed from eight cases that were consolidated before the Manhattan federal judge, who is considering pre-trial matters. The complaints alleged that more than 200 defendants helped support and fund Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.
Muslim leaders worry TV show could lead to violence
Jan 19: Someone spray-painted foul language on a northland house aimed at the Muslim owner in Kansas City, Missouri. "It was just spray paint, but next time it could be something worse," said Mahnaz Shabbir, President of the Heartland Muslim Council. "There shouldn't be any reason for anyone to take out a hateful crime, even if it's just kids." On the Fox drama "24", a Muslim mother poisoned her son's non-Muslim girlfriend because she posed a threat to the terror cell's plans. Shabbir says episodes like that perpetuate the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists.
School form stirs controversy
Jan 19: An application form to join a parochial schools group that was sent to Texas Islamic schools has created misunderstanding and anger between local Muslims and Christians. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools , which is 90 percent Christian, sent 10 questions to the Dar-ul-Arqam school in Houston after the group applied to join the association. The Islamic Society of Greater Houston (search), which runs Dar-ul-Arqam schools at three locations, wanted students to be able to compete with other parochial schools in extracurricular events. One question that upset Dar-ul-Arqam administrators focused on perceived intolerance: "The Koran clearly tells you not to mix with (and even eliminate) the infidels. Christians and Jews fall into this category. Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is basically in total disagreement with your religious beliefs?" Iesa Galloway, Houston Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (search) said the questionnaire was "rooted in deep-seeded ignorance of the religion of Islam and the Muslim people…"
Muslim charity suspends activity over government actions
Jan 20: KinderUSA, the Dallas,Texas-based Muslim charity suspends its activity because of government actions. In an open letter to members of the community the charity said: Despite all of our efforts, in recent weeks we have discovered that the federal government has targeted KinderUSA for investigation. This has taken the form of unwarranted and obtrusive surveillance by the FBI, wiretapping, attempts to bribe and subvert our employees (which has caused them to resign in fear), spreading of malicious disinformation about the organization, and the possible invasion of our office space. KinderUSA was formed in early 2002.
President Bush mentions Quran in inaugural address
Jan 20: "In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character -- on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people."
Evangelist's Tsunami efforts stir us Muslim group
Jan 20: - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), accused evangelist Jerry Falwell of using money donated for tsunami relief to convert people in South Asia to Christianity and called on the Bush administration to denounce his actions. In an e-mailed weekly newsletter called "Falwell Confidential," which was obtained by the CAIR, the evangelist said: "Hundreds of thousands are in dire need of medical attention and personal counseling. And in this heavily Muslim part of the world, millions have never even heard of Jesus Christ." The newsletter, which is distributed by Jerry Falwell Ministries, said donations would be used to distribute food and Gospel tracts in the region. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said missionaries acting as relief groups could hurt rather than help these vulnerable societies. "It would make work for legitimate institutions more difficult. It also harms America's image, which is already pretty tarnished in the rest of the world…"
Church distributes anti-Muslim tracts on downtown green
Jan 21: Members of the city mosque in Waterbury, Connecticut, were troubled recently to discover that members of a small Christian church were on the downtown Green distributing tracts ridiculing Islam, Repulibcan American reported today. The tract in question is titled "Allah Had No Son," a publication from California-based Chick Publications. Majeed Sharif, president of the United Muslim Mosque said he was particularly disturbed by allegations in the pamphlet that Muslims believe the Bible is "corrupt." "One thing you will never find is a Muslim who would print something like this about Jesus and Moses," Sharif said. "The prophets who are mentioned in Koran are mentioned as great and noble people and great prophets."
U.S. claims Arar suit a risk to national security
Jan 22: The United States government is attempting to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar, claiming the litigation would jeopardize national security, the Canadian Star reports. Invoking the rarely used "state secrets privilege," U.S. Department of Justice lawyers filed a motion with the New York eastern district court this week, stating that the release of any information concerning the U.S.'s involvement in Arar's deportation to Syria could jeopardize "intelligence, foreign policy and national security interests of the United States." Lawyers with New York's Centre for Constitutional Rights, who filed the lawsuit on Arar's behalf a year ago, said the government is abusing claims of national security in order to avoid a review of its policies and handling of terrorism suspects. Arar was detained by immigration officials at New York's JFK airport on Sept. 26, 2002, and subsequently held as a terrorism suspect in a Brooklyn jail, where he says he repeatedly asked to be sent back to Canada. On Oct. 8 he was flown on a private jet to Syria, via Jordan. Arar says he was tortured and held without charges for a year before returning to Canada.
US Muslims' sacrifice rights defended
Jan 24: US lawyers and government officials have defended the right of American Muslims to offer sacrifices during Eidul Azha, thus peacefully ending a potential dispute that could have further strained America's relations with the Islamic community. Officials in North Carolina, where Muslims slaughtered 100 lambs at a farm this weekend, refused to stop the sacrifices despite objections from some local groups. Agriculture Department spokesman Brian Long said the department, which monitored the slaughtering with video cameras, had no concern with "why the animals are being slaughtered" but it believes that the farmers who lease their farm for this purpose must be licensed to run a slaughterhouse.
Curiosity spawned by 9-11 leads some Latinos to convert to Islam
Jan 25: Thousands of Latinos across the country - both U.S.-born and immigrants - have been converting to Islam since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks sparked massive U.S. societal interest in the religion and its billion followers worldwide, according to the Express News. A 2001 study by the Council on American-Islamic Relations estimated 6 percent of 20,000 annual converts to Islam are Latinos. Studies variously list 25,000 to 75,000 Latino Muslims in the United States; most concur there are roughly 40,000.
N.Y. station stirs furor with song mocking tsunami victims
Jan 25: WQHT-FM, known as HOT 97, radio station in New York apologized for repeatedly airing a joke song that ridiculed victims of the recent tsunami in South Asia and used racial slurs. The radio station ran the segment on its "Miss Jones in the Morning" show. The piece used racial slurs to describe people swept away in the disaster and made jokes about child slavery and people watching their mothers die. "You can hear God laughing, 'Swim, you bitches, swim,' " was one line in the song. The piece drew wide criticism from New York's City Hall to the capitol in Albany, with many lawmakers calling on the Federal Communications Commission to fine HOT 97. "At a time when virtually the entire world has come together to help in the tsunami tragedy relief, employees of HOT 97 have come up with this song," said New York State Assembly member Jimmy Meng, a Democrat from Queens. "We are disgusted and demand immediate action by the FCC." The piece was also denounced by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which said it had received calls from offended Muslims.
Islamic scholars face visa issues
Jan 25: Scholars traveling to University of California, Los Angeles from the Islamic world have faced few problems since Sept. 11, 2001. But others within the Islamic studies community maintain that obtaining visas for Islamic scholars has become more difficult in recent years according to Daily Bruin. Amy Newhall, executive director of the Middle East Studies Association, a national organization, said three scholars invited to the association's annual conference who were not able to obtain visas.
HOT 97 suspends crew over tsunami 'parody'
Jan 26: The host of a New York morning radio show and the rest of her on-air crew were suspended indefinitely today for airing a tasteless song parody that mocked victims of the catastrophic south Asia tsunami. The song included references to "screaming chinks" and orphaned children "sold into child slavery." The chorus began, "So now you're screwed, it's a tsunami, you'd better run ... go find your mommy." The station was subsequently flooded with thousands of angry phone calls demanding the firing of morning show host Tarsha Jones, known on air as Miss Jones.
Baltimore Muslims continue lobbying schools for holidays off
Jan 26: The Baltimore County Muslim Council wants Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr, the two most important holidays for Muslims, designated as holidays on the school calendar, just as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are. Bash Pharoan, the council president, said that the current school calendar sends a message that only Christian and Jewish holidays are acceptable. "If you give a holiday to an ethic group, you must give that right to all other groups," Pharoan told the board.
Arab-Americans concerned over banks' closures of selected business accounts
Jan 27: Some Arab-American-owned groceries and other businesses that do a lot of cash business are being told by their banks to take their business elsewhere, Associated Press reports. Banks in Western New York and across the nation say they are reacting to tighter federal enforcement of laws aimed at tracking large cash transactions. But the business owners feel that the banks are discriminating against them solely because of their Middle Eastern names and ancestry during a time of heightened fear of terrorism."I've never been arrested. I've never done anything wrong, and they make me feel like I've done something wrong," said Abdulsalam Shuaibee, one of three co-owners of the Golden Farm Market on Kensington Avenue in Buffalo. The store's accounts at M&T Bank were closed in November with just 10 days' notice.
Colorado University agrees to pay fired professor $1.54 million
Jan 27: The University of Colorado has paid a psychiatrist $1.54 million to settle his claim that he was wrongly fired. The settlement with Dr. Gordon Neligh includes a $300,000 he won from a federal jury after filing a civil suit, along with back pay, missed future pay and other components. Neligh filed the lawsuit after the CU Health Sciences Center in Denver declined to renew his annual contract in 1998. He claimed it was retaliation because he stood up for his administrative assistant, a Muslim woman, when she was harassed by her peers.
Suit filed over scarf-pulling incident in class
Jan 28: In Gretna, Louisiana, a suburban New Orleans school system and a former high school teacher have been sued by a Muslim teenager who contends that the board and teacher failed to adequately resolve her claims that the teacher used religious slurs against her and yanked off her religiously mandated head scarf last year. Maryam Motar, who filed the suit in state district court, is seeking unspecified damages from Wes Mix and the Jefferson Parish School Board. She complains about the handling of a November hearing to resolve her complaints. Superintendent Diane Roussel recommended Mix's termination in July, but the board overruled that decision after a closed-door hearing. It opted to suspend Mix without pay for several weeks and require him to attend sensitivity training before returning to another school in the fall. He was also required to apologize to Motar.
Muslim asks FBI to explain remark on jihadists
Jan 31: Shahriar Ahmed, president of the Bilal Mosque Association in Beaverton, Oregon, has asked Robert Jordan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, to explain his recent remarks about the presence of jihad-trained fighters in the state. In his remarks, Jordan said: "We have people here in Oregon that have trained in jihadist camps in bad areas. In the bad neighborhoods of the world." He added that the FBI knows "they've trained overseas, taken oaths to kill Americans and engage in jihad," but the challenge is "to prove those things." Jordan, through his spokeswoman, has refused to explain his remarks.