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Executive Editor:  Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Chronology of Islam in America (2009)
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

January 2009

AirTran apologizes for removing Muslim passengers
Jan 2: AirTran Airways apologized today to nine Muslims kicked off a New Year's Day flight to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security. One of the passengers said the confusion started at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, D.C., when he talked about the safest place to sit on an airplane. Eight of the nine passengers, including three children, are U.S.-born citizens who were headed to a religious retreat in Florida. Passengers reported that the Muslim passengers were having suspicious conversations, which resulted in an evacuation of all 104 passengers on the AirTrain flight. Kashif Irfan, 34 (an anesthesiologist) said his younger brother Atif, 29 (a lawyer ) and his brother's wife were discussing the safest place to sit on the plane, when they were overheard by two young girls who reported them to a flight attendant as engaging in suspicious behavior. Kashif Irfan told The Washington Post he thought the group, all but one of them US-born citizens, were profiled because of their appearance. He said five of the six adults in the group are of South Asian descent, and all six are traditionally Muslim in appearance, with the men wearing beards and the women in headscarves. The airline and FBI called the incident a misunderstanding, but AirTran refused to rebook the passengers, who had to pay for seats on another carrier secured with help from the FBI. Hours ago, AirTran Airways issued an apology to the passengers and says it refunded their air fare and planned to reimburse them for replacement tickets they bought on another airline. (Media Reports)

Shots Fired at Florida Mosque, Pennsylvania Mosque Vandalized
Jan 2: Two mosques in Pennsylvania and Florida have been targeted by vandals. In Pennsylvania, red paint was splashed across the steps leading to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh while shots were fired at a Miami mosque and Islamic school. The South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported today that shots were fired at a Miami mosque and Islamic school. According to a news release, bullet holes were found on a wall of the Masjid An-Noor Islamic School of Miami.  An Oakland mosque was the target of a vandal when someone splashed red paint across the front steps leading to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh hours before the traditional Muslim day of worship. The paint, splattered across the front steps and railings, greeted an estimated 1,000 worshippers today as they turned out for prayer. Imam Abdusemi said the mosque property had been vandalized once before in its 15-year history. (Media Reports)

Payout for Arabic shirt passenger
Jan 6: An air passenger forced to cover his T-shirt because it displayed Arabic script has been awarded a payout of $240,000 his lawyers say. Two Transportation Security Authority officials and JetBlue Airways will be forced to make the payout. Raed Jarrar, a US resident, had accused them of illegally discriminating against him based on his ethnicity and the Arabic writing on his T-shirt. The payout is the largest of its kind since the 9/11 terror attacks. Back in 2006, Mr Jarrar was waiting to board a flight at New York's JFK airport wearing a T-shirt that read "We Will Not Be Silent" in English and Arabic. His lawyers say he was ordered to remove the item of clothing by staff who said other passengers felt uncomfortable with the Arabic slogan. He eventually agreed to cover the shirt and boarded the plane, but says he was made to sit at the back of the plane. The Transport Security Authority and JetBlue airlines agreed to settle the case, paying out a total of $240,000 in compensation. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented Mr Jarrar, argues this case is not an isolated one. Last week, a Muslim family was ordered off a domestic US flight operated by AirTran airlines after passengers claimed they were making suspicious remarks about security. The family members were later cleared by the FBI, but were not permitted to fly with the airline to continue their journey. (BBC)

Howard Dean thanks Muslims
Jan 15: Abdul Malik Mujahid, a member of the Credentials Committee of Democratic National Committee, has revealed that Governor Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic Party, has sent us a thank you letter for all the extra-ordinary work Muslim Democrats have done to elect Barack Obama. The letter in part said: So many members of the Muslim American community have suffered since September 11, 2001 because of the actions of a very few who were not even American citizens, have led to suspicions cast upon the entire community. This is unfair. General Colin Powell in his interview on Meet the Press the week before said it best. The proper response to statements from the far right to inaccurate claims that President Obama is a Muslim is, “So what if he were?”After what I hope will be eight years of President Obama's Presidency, “So What?” will be the answer to a lot more questions about ethnicity. America is a where a great many people from all over the world, have come to improve their lot in life and build a better and more free life for their children. Muslim Americans are no exception. You have worked hard, succeeded, and made America proud. You have served in our Armies, and died for your country. And you have helped elect a president who will make the next “So What?” easier to say for all of us. (Muslim Damocrats)

Muslim Leaders Release ‘Peace Doves’ to Mark Inauguration, MLK Day
Jan19: American Muslim leaders today marked both the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by releasing “peace doves” at a mosque in the nation’s capital, Washington DC. The release of 44 white doves, one for each president, symbolized the American Muslim community’s desire for a more peaceful world and the key role played by presidents in achieving peace based on justice and freedom. Speakers at the event included Imam Yusuf Saleem of Masjid Muhammad, the site of the dove release; Rahim Jenkins, Masjid Muhammad’s board chair; Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, Laila Mohammed, daughter of the late Imam W. Deen Mohammed; Hodari Abdul-Ali, chair of the Social Justice Task Force of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA); and Muhammad Salim Akhtar, national director of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT). (AMT)

Canadian Muslims detained at border for 7 hours
Jan 19: A group of young black (Muslim) Canadians on their way to see Barack Obama sworn into office say they were detained for seven hours at the U.S. border today because of religious and racial stereotyping as their passports were checked and rechecked. They eventually made it to Washington to see the inauguration of the 44th president. All of them – who all held Canadian passports – were then fingerprinted, photographed and questioned by U.S. customs officers. Tyrone Edwards, organizer of the tour, was born in Canada, but all the others were either born in Somalia or Saudi Arabia. At one point a U.S. officer showed two girls on the bus some pictures and asked them if they recognized three Somali men. They told the officer they weren't from Somalia, but Trinidad. Edwards, believes the only reason the two girls were questioned was because they were wearing hijabs. (Toronto Star)

Obama's speech delights US Muslims
Jan 21: As the world watched raptly Barack Hussein Obama giving his historic inauguration speech, America Muslims were both especially pleased with and surprised by his inclusive words. "His speech was inclusive when he spoke about the American fabric," Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told Standing on the steps of the Capitol after taking the oath as America's 44th president on Tuesday, January 20, Obama said America is "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers." To many American Muslims, the mentioning of their faith in the inauguration speech was a surprise. Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to between six to seven million Muslims. According to Muslim organizations, some 90 percent of Muslim voters cast their ballot for Obama in the November presidential election. Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, was also surprised by Obama's words, given that he had kept his distance from Muslims prior to his inauguration. He believes such words signal Obama's recognition that Muslims are an important part of the American fabric. "I am very upbeat, but at the same time, realistic," he told IOL. (Islamonline)

Open letter to Obama calls for even-handed Middle East policy
Jan 21: American Muslim and other advocacy groups across the nation, today called on President Barack Obama to adopt an even-handed policy that ensures sustainable peace in the Middle East. The groups’ open letter was published in the New York Times inauguration edition. The coalition, which included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jews Against the Occupation, LA Jews For Peace, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Pax Christi Metro New York, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and United for Peace and Justice, provided recommendations to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. The open letter to President Obama read in part: "With your historic inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, we share our sincerest congratulations and hope that you will uphold your commitment to change. As American citizens we are deeply concerned that our nation’s one-sided approach to the Middle East crisis compromises America’s ability to act as a fair negotiator. Our foreign policy has upheld the interests of Israel, but has failed to do the same for the Palestinian people. Israel - the fourth largest military power in the world - has devastated a population of 1.5 million people, one without an army, navy, or air force. As the attacks in Gaza demonstrated, the outgoing administration chose to defend Israeli aggression even though the violence resulted in the disproportionate deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians, including 300 children, as compared to 13 Israelis. Indeed, the loss of all of these lives cannot be justified.” (CAIR)

Rashad Hussain named deputy associate counsel to President Obama
Jan 28: President Obama has named Rashad Hussain, an American Muslim of Indian origin, as Deputy Associate Counsel to the President. Rashad Hussain, 30, is a lawyer born in US in 1979. His parents migrated to US from India and live in Plano, Texas and now they are naturalized citizens. Mr. Hussain recently served as a Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to that, he was a Law Clerk to Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hussain served as a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he reviewed legislation such as the USA Patriot Act. The White House counsel serves as the president's personal lawyer, providing legal advice on policy decisions, legislation and potential conflicts of interest. Greg Craig was appointed counsel on Nov. 19; the president has now named three deputy counsels, a special counsel and 14 associate counsels to assist Craig. (Media reports)

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