The Crescent Report

December 15, 2010

MAS Freedom Condemns U.S. Government’s Decision to Resume Deportations to Haiti amid Soaring Cholera Outbreak and Deteriorating Humanitarian Conditions

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 3:35 pm

Introduction

The situation at Haiti continues to deteriorate and now it looks as if US Immigration is piling on. Check the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote for the day: “Wish nothing for you Brother that you wouldn’t wish for yourself.”

 

MAS Freedom Condemns U.S. Government’s Decision to Resume Deportations to Haiti amid Soaring Cholera Outbreak and Deteriorating Humanitarian Conditions

 

Deportations for Criminal Convictions Could Violate Obligations under Convention against Torture

 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced on December 9 that it has lifted the ban on deportations to Haiti for persons with criminal convictions. Deportations to Haiti have been stayed since shortly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake devastated the country. ICE announced it has also ended the policy of releasing detainees with orders of removal after 90 days, which could result in their indefinite, unreasonable and arbitrary detention. Last week, 89 Haitian nationals were arrested and detained with the intent to deport them.

MAS-Freedom joins the Center for Constitutional Rights plea to stop these removals and supports its appeals to the Department of Homeland Security.  Khalilah Sabra, the director of the MAS-Freedom Immigration Justice Clinic director, stated that “An influx of up to 30,000 homeless and jobless people — the number of Haitians facing deportation from the United States- will only add to the destabilization of Haiti as the country still struggles to recover from the catastrophic earthquake of January, 2010. It seems as if the word “humanitarian” is u8sed in a way that does not take into account the real needs of the Haitian people, including considerations about immigration status.

“To call for deportation and then claim to be assisting the Haitians is inhumane. This decision by ICE to resume the deportation of Haitian refugees is unconscionable As ICE is well aware, conditions in Haiti may even be worse now than they were in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. “As that agency is well aware, the situation in Haiti has not improved and may be even worse now than when the deportations were halted in the weeks after the devastating earthquake.”

The people of Haiti are now in the grip of a worsening cholera outbreak that has spread to the very prisons where those deported may be detained. The practice in Haiti, even before the earthquake, has been to detain many deportees from the United States in holding centers that lack adequate sanitation, security, and medical facilities.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Haiti recently reported that the cholera epidemic is spreading through Haiti’s crowded prisons, and numerous prisoners have already died. Groups working on the ground in Haiti have also reported that untreated water is being given to prisoners, which could further hasten the spread of cholera.  

Under United States law and the international Convention Against Torture, to which the U.S. is a signatory, the U.S. is not permitted to remove anyone from U.S. jurisdiction when it can be shown that it is “more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if removed to the proposed country of removal.”  U.S. courts have previously held that removing people who are HIV-positive to Haiti, where they would be detained in deplorable conditions and unable to obtain necessary medication could, in some circumstances, be a violation under U.S. laws implementing CAT.

Ironically, on the same day ICE announced this new policy, December 9, 2010, the U.S. State department issued a travel warning recommending against any non-essential travel to Haiti due to “continued high crime, the cholera outbreak, frequent disturbances in Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities, and limited police protection and access to medical care.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and Alternative Chance, all call on ICE to halt roundups and detentions of Haitian nationals in the U.S. and to continue the stay on deportations.  Also, the Center for Constitutional Rights specifically calls on ICE to release more information about this new policy and, to explain what assessment was conducted of the circumstances in Haiti prior to the change in policy.

MAS Freedom urges you to contact Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, (write to her at Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington D.C. 20528 or call (866) 347-2423) and call upon her to stay, on humanitarian grounds ‘all’ deportations to Haiti.  For more information, please contact MAS Freedom at info@masfreedom.org or 1-888-627-8471.

December 6, 2010

FBI informants and spies infiltrate mosque, Government crosses the line in California

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 12:12 pm

The American Muslim community is actively engaged in fighting terrorism and violence, regardless of the perpetrator. This being the case, why in the hell is our government sending to our mosques paid criminal agent provocateurs to incite violence and unlawful conduct?

Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day:

Terrorist in the Masjid Captured

Who is this crazy violent-talking Muslim guy?

Up in the masjid trying to corner you and I?

Why, it’s brother agent provocateur.

Wearing his kufi and camera and much more.

He’s a masjid spy.

Bought and paid for by the FBI.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

 

Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:47 AM

IRVINE, CALIF. – Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys.

“This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle,” he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. “It’s November 13th, 4:30 a.m. And we’re hot.”

The undercover FBI informant – a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh – then drove off for 5 a.m. prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.

But the FBI’s approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device.

In the Irvine case, Monteilh’s mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.

He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat.

Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his “handlers” trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.

Officials declined to comment on specific details of Monteilh’s tale but confirm that he was a paid FBI informant. Court records and interviews corroborate not only that Monteilh worked for the FBI – he says he made $177,000, tax-free, in 15 months – but that he provided vital information on a number of cases.

Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.

Citing Monteilh’s actions and what they call a pattern of FBI surveillance, many leading national Muslim organizations have virtually suspended contact with the bureau.

“The community feels betrayed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella group of more than 75 mosques.

“They got a guy, a bona fide criminal, and obviously trained him and sent him to infiltrate mosques,” Syed said. “And when things went sour, they ditched him and he got mad. It’s like a soap opera, for God’s sake.”

FBI and Justice Department officials say that the Monteilh case is not representative of their relations with the Muslim community and that they continue to work closely with Muslims in investigating violence and other hate crimes against them. Officials also credit U.S. Muslims with reporting critical information in a variety of counterterrorism cases.

The bureau “relies on the support, cooperation and trust of the communities it serves and protects,” FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said, adding that agents conduct investigations “under well-defined investigative guidelines and the law, and in close coordination with the Department of Justice.”

Officials said they have gone to great lengths to maintain good relationships with Muslims, including meetings hosted by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Last week, FBI officials met to discuss law enforcement and other issues with predominantly Muslim Somali community members in San Diego and Minneapolis.

Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, declined to comment on Monteilh, citing Monteilh’s lawsuit. He said that in certain circumstances, if there is evidence of a crime, FBI agents may “conduct an activity that might somehow involve surveillance in and about a mosque.”

But he said the agency does not target people based on religion or ethnicity.

“I know there’s a lot of suspicion that that’s the focus, that we’re looking at the mosques, monitoring who is coming and going. That’s just not the case,” he said.

The ‘chameleon’

Monteilh’s career as an informant began in 2003. Like many other informants, he was familiar with the inside of a prison cell. He had just finished a sentence for forging bank notes when local police officers he met at a gym asked him to infiltrate drug gangs and white supremacist groups for a federal-state task force.

“It was very exciting,” Monteilh said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I had the ability to be a chameleon.”

Monteilh, who stands over 6 feet tall and weighs 260 pounds, had worked as a prison chaplain before he was incarcerated. Married with three children, the Los Angeles native said that after he became an informant, an FBI agent on the task force sought him out. Law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about informants, said Monteilh was promoted from drug and bank robbery cases because his information was reliable and had led to convictions.

In early 2006, Monteilh said, he met with his FBI handler at a Starbucks.

“She asked if I wanted to infiltrate mosques,” he said. At a follow-up session at a doughnut shop, he said, his new handler told him that “Islam is a threat to our national security.”

Law enforcement sources said that the FBI trained Monteilh and that he aided an existing investigation. Monteilh, however, said he was ordered to randomly surveil and spy on Muslims to ferret out potential terrorists. Agents, he said, provided his cover: Farouk al-Aziz, a French Syrian in search of his Islamic roots. His code name was “Oracle.”

Monteilh said he was instructed to infiltrate mosques throughout Orange and two neighboring counties in Southern California, where the Muslim population of nearly 500,000 is the nation’s largest. He was told to target the Islamic Center of Irvine, he said, because it was near his home.

FBI tactics were already a sensitive issue at the Irvine mosque, a stucco, two-story building that draws as many as 2,000 people for Friday prayers. With tensions rising between law enforcement and Muslims over allegations of FBI surveillance, J. Stephen Tidwell, then head of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, spoke at the mosque in June 2006.

“If we’re going to mosques to come to services, we will tell you,” he said, according to a video of his speech. “. . . The FBI will tell you we’re coming for the very reason that we don’t want you to think you’re being monitored. We would come only to learn.”

Two months later, in August 2006, Monteilh arrived at the same mosque. He had called earlier and met with the imam. That Friday, he took shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, before hundreds of worshipers.

Worshipers said that in Monteilh’s 10 months at the mosque, he became almost manic in his devotion, attending prayers five times a day and waiting in the parking lot before the 5 a.m. prayer. Monteilh said he was told by the FBI to take notes on who opened the mosque each day.

Worshipers said his Western clothes gave way to an Islamic robe, a white skullcap and sandals, an outfit Monteilh said was chosen by his handlers. As he grew closer to Muslims, he said, the FBI told him to date Muslim women if it gained him intelligence.

Worshipers noticed that Monteilh often left his keys around the mosque, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who speaks often at the mosque.

“It seemed strange to people,” Ayloush said.

Inside the car remote on the bundle of keys was a microphone that recorded Muslims at the mosque, in their homes and at a local gym. Monteilh, who told people he was a fitness trainer, used the gym to seek out Muslim men.

“We started hearing that he was saying weird things,” said Omar Kurdi, a Loyola Law School student who knew Monteilh from the mosque and gym. “He would walk up to one of my friends and say, ‘It’s good that you guys are getting ready for the jihad.”

Worshipers said Monteilh gravitated to Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, an Afghan-born Arabic-language instructor who was a regular at Friday prayers.

Monteilh said he was instructed to infiltrate mosques throughout Orange and two neighboring counties in Southern California, where the Muslim population of nearly 500,000 is the nation’s largest. He was told to target the Islamic Center of Irvine, he said, because it was near his home.

FBI tactics were already a sensitive issue at the Irvine mosque, a stucco, two-story building that draws as many as 2,000 people for Friday prayers. With tensions rising between law enforcement and Muslims over allegations of FBI surveillance, J. Stephen Tidwell, then head of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, spoke at the mosque in June 2006.

“If we’re going to mosques to come to services, we will tell you,” he said, according to a video of his speech. “. . . The FBI will tell you we’re coming for the very reason that we don’t want you to think you’re being monitored. We would come only to learn.”

Two months later, in August 2006, Monteilh arrived at the same mosque. He had called earlier and met with the imam. That Friday, he took shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, before hundreds of worshipers.

Worshipers said that in Monteilh’s 10 months at the mosque, he became almost manic in his devotion, attending prayers five times a day and waiting in the parking lot before the 5 a.m. prayer. Monteilh said he was told by the FBI to take notes on who opened the mosque each day.

Worshipers said his Western clothes gave way to an Islamic robe, a white skullcap and sandals, an outfit Monteilh said was chosen by his handlers. As he grew closer to Muslims, he said, the FBI told him to date Muslim women if it gained him intelligence.

Worshipers noticed that Monteilh often left his keys around the mosque, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who speaks often at the mosque.

“It seemed strange to people,” Ayloush said.

Inside the car remote on the bundle of keys was a microphone that recorded Muslims at the mosque, in their homes and at a local gym. Monteilh, who told people he was a fitness trainer, used the gym to seek out Muslim men.

“We started hearing that he was saying weird things,” said Omar Kurdi, a Loyola Law School student who knew Monteilh from the mosque and gym. “He would walk up to one of my friends and say, ‘It’s good that you guys are getting ready for the jihad.”

Worshipers said Monteilh gravitated to Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, an Afghan-born Arabic-language instructor who was a regular at Friday prayers.

A few days later, Ayloush got an anguished phone call from Niazi and the other man in the car.

“They said Farouk had told them he had access to weapons and that they should blow up a mall,” Ayloush recalled. “They were convinced this man was a terrorist.”

Ayloush reported the FBI’s own informant to the FBI. He said agents interviewed Niazi, who gave them the same account, but the agency took no action against Monteilh.

Still, Monteilh’s mission was collapsing. Members of the mosque told its leaders that they were afraid of Monteilh and that he was “trying to entrap them into a mission,” according to Asim Khan, the former mosque president. The mosque went to Orange County Superior Court in June 2007 and obtained a restraining order against Monteilh, court records show.

Soon afterward, Monteilh said FBI agents “told me they wanted to cut me loose.” After he vowed to go public, he said, he met with three agents at the Anaheim Hilton, where an FBI supervisor threatened him with arrest.

“She said, ‘If you reveal your informant status to the media, it will destroy the Muslim community’s relationship with the FBI forever.” Monteilh said.

The FBI declined to comment on Monteilh’s allegation.

At a subsequent meeting, Monteilh said, he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000 in cash. An FBI letter to Monteilh’s attorney, on file in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, says Monteilh signed the non-disclosure agreement in October 2007.

But Monteilh was arrested in December 2007 on a grand-theft charge and ended up back in jail for 16 months. In January, he sued the FBI, alleging that the bureau and Irvine police conspired to have him arrested, then allowed his informant status to become known in prison, where he was stabbed.

The FBI and police have denied the allegations, and the lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. But the judge allowed Monteilh to file an amended complaint, with similar allegations, in September. The case is pending.

A case unravels

In the meantime, the case against Niazi unfolded. He was indicted in February 2009 by a federal grand jury on charges of lying about his ties to terrorists on immigration documents. In court, prosecutors said that jihadist materials were found on Niazi’s computer and that he had wired money to an alleged al-Qaeda financier. Prosecutors said he is the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s security coordinator. Much of the evidence was FBI testimony about Niazi’s recorded conversations with an FBI informant, who sources say was Monteilh.

“Frankly, there is no amount of bail or equity in a home that can protect the citizens of this community” from Niazi, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot said in arguing for his detention.

Within days of Niazi’s indictment, Monteilh revealed his informant status in a series of interviews with Los Angeles area media.

“I think the FBI treated me with the utmost treachery,” he said in the interview with The Post.

In subsequent months, Monteilh sought out Niazi’s attorneys and told them he was ordered to entrap their client.

A year and a half later, on Sept. 30, prosecutors summarily moved to dismiss the case against Niazi, and a judge agreed. The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles cited the lack of an overseas witness and “evidentiary issues.” Sources familiar with the decision said Monteilh’s role – and his potential testimony for the defense – was also a factor.

Niazi declined to comment. His attorney Chase Scolnick said he is “very pleased with the outcome. It is a just result.”

In recent weeks, Monteilh said, he has been approaching Muslims at a local gym and apologizing for “disrespecting their community and religion.” Monteilh, who is now unemployed, says he regrets his role in the Niazi case and was glad when the charges were dropped.

On a recent Friday, more than 200 men sat on the carpet for prayers inside the Irvine mosque, most of them in khakis or jeans. During the sermon, the imam offered some advice.

“If an FBI agent comes in and says, ‘You’re under arrest,’â??” he told the crowd, they should pray to Allah – and then call a lawyer.

As worshipers milled around outside, they said they support the FBI’s role in fighting terrorism but feel betrayed by the infiltration of their sacred place.

“The FBI wants to treat the Muslim community as a partner while investigating us behind our backs,” said Kurdi, the Loyola student. “They can’t have it both ways.”

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

December 3, 2010

EVERY VICTIM NEEDS AN “ASSIST”

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 10:50 am

The plight of undocumented workers is often riddled with abuse and neglect. Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

EVERY VICTIM NEEDS AN “ASSIST”

Lena came to America when she was thirteen. After graduating high-school, she began to clean houses for six dollars an hour. Despite doing well in her studies, she was unable to legally enroll in the state university. After the second week, lewd statements led to inappropriate touching. She tried to ignore the advances and pleaded to be left alone. Her pleas were ignored by the employer, but as his actions became more violent, she found the courage to ignore his threats and seek help. It was the threat of deportation that initially caused her to avoid seeking criminal redress against her abuser. 

The growing number of undocumented migrant workers (illegal immigrants) in the United states has raised many societal concerns ranging from community organization to labor force participation to crime rates. What is often overlooked in discussing the relationship between immigration and crime is the victimization of undocumented migrant workers. Much has been done in the way of examining offending rates of this population, however the rates of victimization among undocumented migrant workers is an important issue in criminology and criminal justice. this population faces an increased risk of victimization and has few outlets for dealing with crime. Undocumented migrant workers face an increased risk of being victimized due to opportunity and their distrust/fear of anyone in the criminal justice system.

Undocumented workers like Lena make up a vital if invisible workforce. They’re the people who show up after hours to clean our offices, do our dry cleaning, wash our dishes, and pack our fruits and vegetables in unseen warehouses on the edges of the city. To advocates, they are an essential part of the economy, doing jobs American citizens won’t. To critics, they are gaming the system, exploiting the country’s generosity, and draining tax dollars when they fall on hard times.

One aspect of our immigration system often ignored by both sides, however, is also one of the most insidious: The invisibility of undocumented workers has created a situation rife with abuse, especially against women like Lena whose legal status often makes them vulnerable to sexual harassment at work. Though reliable statistics are hard to come by, the few studies that have been completed on the topic paint a bleak picture – a California State University survey found that 90 percent of migrant workers, for example, cite sexual harassment as a problem – and local experts say violent sexual harassment among undocumented immigrants is a growing concern in across the nation. “It’s all too common,” says attorney Stephen Born of the law firm Mills & Born, “It’s hard to know what’s unreported. Immigrants who are illegal avoid any contact with the authorities. It’s one of those very-difficult-to-quantify issues.”

Even when victims do come forward, it has become nearly impossible for them to achieve justice.  Like other victims of sexual assault, undocumented women do not have the ability to move or speak out or change their circumstance.” In fact, the tight-knit nature of immigrant communities reinforces the wall of silence. In some cases, a victim might not say anything because family or other community members are dependent on the perpetrator for a job or monthly check. That pressure is even stronger on women from cultures where talking about sex is taboo. “For Latinas it is very hard to share that,” says Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, a Somerville-based agency providing services to Hispanics. “I can clearly picture a Latina telling another woman, and her saying, ‘It was your fault, what were you doing there?'” In some Asian cultures, reporting sexual harassment is virtually nonexistent. In certain Middle Eastern and African countries, admitting to being raped is equivalent to a death sentence.

There are no solid statistics on the rate of sexual violence against women the Muslim-American community, and it is difficult to determine whether Muslim women are victimized more than other immigrant women in the general population, but reports have increased two-fold since 9/11. Women and girls became more intimidated and silenced by the perpetrator of the hate crimes for fear of retaliation, retribution and indifference.

In the last year Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice and Legal Center (MASIJC) has seen a dramatic increase in distress calls. Clinic director, Khalilah Sabra, in concerned that Islamophobia and the massive increase in hate rhetoric against Muslims have contributed to an increase of abuse, “In many of the cases, the abuser maintains control by threatening deportation. Not surprisingly, most of these women and girls are correctly aware that their immigration status jeopardizes their rights and filing a complaint may backfire on the entire family.” Therefore, this injustice often deters battered immigrant women and girls from reporting abuse and reduces the likelihood of securing criminal convictions of abusers. Unfortunately, few local communities, service providers and government agencies are prepared to meet the challenges of providing protection and culturally sensitive services to migrant and immigrant women. MASIJC’s ASSIST program, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers technical assistance that focuses on the specific cultural, religious, linguistic, social and legal issues that victims of domestic violence from these communities face. The communities Muslim women come from are not open enough to proactively discuss and deal with this kind of criminal behavior, Furthermore, there is a significant cultural gap between these women and the outside/external parties who are attempting to help them. The advice that ASSIST provides to women is, in substance and method, culturally and religiously sensitive and thus is more respectful of their identity. This is a type of confidential support and comfort that they cannot receive from some mosques and community centers. ASSIST services included counseling based on the Islamic perspective on issues of marriage, divorce and domestic violence and providing women with a jurisprudential framework for their problems and explores with them possible Islamic legal solutions that best protect them and serve their interests. MASJIC acknowledges that Immigrant women, including Muslim women, face even tougher hurdles in cases of domestic violence and other kinds of assaults because of linguistic and cultural differences and a lack of knowledge regarding their legal rights and is providing victims with the tools they need to articulate their rights within their own religious and cultural contexts.

State and local authorities are supposed to treat victims the same whether they are in the country legally or not. Some counties, say advocates, are not particularly aggressive in prosecuting cases of immigrant abuse. Not all law enforcement officials are as sympathetic, and advocates worry that the current wave of anti-illegal immigration legislation in the country will make it that much more difficult to convince victims to come forward.

But getting a victim to come forward is only part of the problem. Sometimes corroborating witnesses themselves are undocumented immigrants and don’t want to call attention to their own legal status. That was the case with Nelci de Lara, a Brazilian woman allegedly sexually assaulted by the owner of Samba Cleaning Service, which cleans homes and office buildings. In early 2004, de Lara claims, the owner, Gilberto da Silva, assaulted her while she was cleaning a house in Newton. After, she says, he continued to expose himself to her while on the job. “It was devastating,” says de Lara’s attorney, Dennis Bottone. “Around the time she was terminated, she was literally afraid to walk out the front door and walk around the block.” Da Silva denied any assault, and none of the other employees were willing to testify. “They said, ‘I don’t want to; I am going to lose my job. I am also going to be reported to immigration,'” says Bottone. The  DA’s office eventually dropped the charges.

For more information about ASSIST, please call (202) 421-6611.

Muslim American Society Immigrant Justice and Legal Clinic

24 HOUR CRISIS LINES

Domestic Violence

919-828-7740 | 866-291-0855 toll-free

Sexual Assault

919-828-3005 | 866-291-0853 toll-free

December 2, 2010

Why MAS Freedom Supports the DREAM Act

Introduction

In the summer of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pricked the conscious of America with his inspirational “I have a  dream” speech, his dream for justice and fairness for all regardless of race, creed or color lives on. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed”.

 

Why MAS Freedom Supports the DREAM Act

Every year, some 65,000 young people graduate from secondary schools in the United States, but they can neither attend college, join the military, or in some cases, even get a full-time job.  Why? because they are children of workers who came to the United States without legal documentation.

But there is an opportunity to grant legal immigration status for these young people, who were born and socialized in the United States and who, in many cases, only speak English.  It’s called the DREAM Act, and MAS Freedom fully supports the passage of this landmark legislation as a just and necessary step to fully enfranchise these young people, who came to the U.S. with their parents and who have not violated any U.S. laws.  This legislation, which received bipartisan support when it was introduced ten years ago, allows for the youth to apply for conditional legal residency in the United States if they arrived here before the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least six years.  From there, these youth can qualify for dual legal status in the United States.

And while there is some expected opposition to the DREAM act from anti-immigrant political elements in Congress, it’s important to note that this proposed law has the full support of the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Education, and and the Department of Defense.  It is expected that the young people affected by this legislation will be able to continue their education and service to America in a number of ways that will benefit our national economy and the overall well being of the nation.

MAS Freedom participated, along with the White House Offices of Public Engagement, the Domestic Policy Council, and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Policy, in a December 1 conference call on this critical bill, which is scheduled to come before votes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate within a few days.  We believe that this legislation is fair and necessary to fully enfranchise tens of thousands of youth who came to American with their undocumented parents and who grew up in a nation that they care about and want to serve.  We urge you to call your congressional representative and urge him or her to fully support the passage of the DREAM act as an expression of our commitment to justice for these young people.

November 30, 2010

Neighbors Offer Support To Corvallis Mosque

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 12:51 pm

Introduction

If we the people in the face of hatred and bigotry continue to turn to each other rather than on each other the haters will never win.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

 

Neighbors Offer Support To Corvallis Mosque

 

CORVALLIS, ORE. — The former director and other members of a Corvallis mosque were busy with the clean-up after a fire damaged the mosque’s office over the weekend.

The front door stood open yesterday, allowing friends and neighbors to walk in and offer support.

Neighbor Jan Lahr said of the 19 year old Somali-born man accused of plotting to bomb the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland last Friday:

“The person who did whatever he did had nothing to do with our community,” Lahr said. “He dropped in a few times, from what I can tell. But this mosque has been important to our community for years. And these people are important to us”.

But not everyone in Corvallis is supportive.

A passing police officer saw flames coming out of the office about 2:15 Sunday morning.

The FBI says the fire was deliberately set. Evidence from the scene is being sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va.

The FBI is looking for information about the arsonist and offering a $10,000 reward for a tip that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Click here to read more.

 

 

Another Muslim-basher from North Carolina Enters the Congress

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 11:21 am

Muslims are well- acquainted with Islamophobia antics of Sue Myrick. Unfortunately, in the 2012 Congress, she will have a Congressional companion in the name of Renee Ellmers. Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: Birds of a feather flock together…and so do Islamophobes.

Another Muslim-basher from North Carolina Enters the Congress

The newly elected congresswoman from the Second Congressional District of North Carolina is Renee Ellmers, who won her election this past November against the incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge. Ms. Ellmers was supported by the conservative Tea Party movement, and she has wasted no time in staking out a position that apparently uses the terms “Muslim” and “terrorist”  interchangeably.

Like Representative Sue Myrick, who has vigorously and persistently attacked Muslim organizations for offenses that exist only in her imagination, Congresswoman-elect Ellmers prefers to think of Muslims in the most derogatory and prejudicial way.  In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on September 30th, she attacked the idea of the Park 51 Project of the Cordoba Initiative, calling the proposed New York City mosque a “victory Mosque”, and implying that it might be financed by extremist elements at war with America.

Also, in a video produced by her political campaign, she claimed that “there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero”.  Apparently, the Congresswoman-elect did not bother to find out that (1) the proposed Islamic center is not on the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and (2) the proposed building site already has an active prayer place for Muslims-as does the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

We do hope that the Congresswoman-elect might spend some time getting to know her Muslim neighbors in North Carolina and the United States.  We think that she just might find our community to be vigorous, progressive, and a true asset to the nation-and not the “terrorists” that her unfortunate stereotypes suggest that we are.

Ibrahim Ramey

November 29, 2010

MAS Freedom Remembers Brother Mukit Hossain

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 3:39 pm

Yesterday we buried a friend and a beautiful brother. May Allah (swt) forgive him and bless him and grant him paradise. We miss him so. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: From Allah we come and to Allah we return.

MAS Freedom Remembers Brother Mukit Hossain

On November 27th, Mukit Hossain, a beloved co-worker and friend, made his transition back to Allah at the age of 54. His passing was sudden. He is survived by his wife, Sabrina Abedin Hossain and two daughters, Maya and Hana Hossain, along with numerous relatives and friends in his native country Bangladesh and throughout the United States.

Mukit will be remembered for his numerous contributions to the Muslim community of Northern Virginia and the larger community of the United States.  Mukit was a member of the board of trustees of the ADAMS Center, and he was also among a very small group of Muslim leaders who had the foresight, and insight, to recognize the importance of voting and civic engagement as a process for empowering Muslims in America.

Since 2001, he was active in the leadership of the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, where he worked tirelessly to register and mobilize Muslim voters.  Mukit’s efforts were rewarded in 2006, when he worked to coordinate the MAS Freedom Voting is Power (VIP) initiative.  This effort was instrumental in energizing the Muslim electorate in northern Virginia, which provided the margin of victory for a victorious candidate for the United States Senate.  He also was recognized for his interfaith work with Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian congregations, and for his successful organizing efforts on behalf of legislation that demanded “truth in advertising” for both Halal and Kosher food products.

He was the founder of Food Source, an organization dedicated to feeding homeless people in Fairfax County.  And more recently, Mukit and his family left the more frenetic pace of city life to raise Halal goats on a farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.  Mukit would describe his transition to country life and farming as “one most peaceful job of his life.”

Mukit, though, was more than an accomplished political activist, farmer, and leader.  He was a beloved friend to many of us who will remember his rapier-like wit, his bright smile, his humor, and even his hilarious accounts of life in the United States as a Bangladeshi Muslim graduate of Duke University.  And most of all, we will remember Mukit as Muslim who would always take time to remember Allah (swt) in prayer, while encouraging his brother and sisters to join him. Mukit always reminded us at MAS Freedom that the work that we do should be truly be for the sake of Allah (swt).

MAS Freedom joins with the Muslim community, and with the wider community of faith, in remembering the impact that Brother Mukit made on the lives of others. We offer our support and condolences to the family of Brother Mukit.  May Allah (swt) receive him and grant his Paradise, for truly, from Allah we come, and to Him is our return.

November 24, 2010

MASF Immigration Clinic and Coalition Sponsors Immigration “Story Night”

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 2:55 pm

Introduction :

MAS Freedom Immigration legal clinic and immigration activist found a knight for immigrants to share their voice and their story. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of Day:  “If walls could talk what a story they could tell.”

MASF Immigration Clinic and Coalition Sponsors Immigration “Story Night”

Immigrants Step Out of the Shadows to Share Their Stories of Fear and Abuse

The MAS Freedom Immigration Clinic (name) co-sponsored at the MAS center in Raleigh, NC. The program allowed immigrants to share their stories of mistreatment, fear, and abuse with other immigrants and community activist organizations.

Joining the MAS Immigration Clinic in co-sponsoring the event were the following organizations: NC ICE Watch, American Friends Service Committee, Coalicion de Organizaciones Latino Americanas, Latin American Coalition, Mulsim American Society-Freedom, NC Justice Center, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Story Night was a public gathering of immigrants and non-immigrants to tell stories about how people are affected by immigration enforcement. The main goals were to share stories, to have their experience both validated and affirmed, and to bring awareness of the numerous human rights abuses of immigrants to the broader community.

One of the stories of immigrant abuse was told an individual whose name has been omitted in order to protect her safety:

The woman was just 19 when she caught a bus from a city suburb in El Salvador through Guatemala to the Mexican border. From there she took a train that carried her across Mexico to the U.S., where she boarded a bus that was heading to North Carolina and her final destination, Durham.

She made the journey mostly alone. She had friends who left El Salvador with her, but they scattered once they crossed into Mexico. She traveled a route rife with smugglers and sex traffickers and drug cartels, and says there were times she was afraid she would die. “I thought if something happens to me, I won’t be able to see my mother again.”

She avoided the dangers en route to America, but four years after she arrived, in 2009, she was blackmailed by a man who claimed to be an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent. Over several months, in dozens of ominous e-mails and text messages, he threatened to have her deported unless she had a sexual relationship with him.

Several participants detailed the incidents that they believed were related to their immigration status, religion, language, or national origin.

Although the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs have been promoted by the U.S. government as a way for local law enforcement to sweep U.S. streets of undocumented immigrants who are felons and violent criminals, this is not what actually happens.  A crowd of Latino immigrants gathered last Saturday evening to tell their personal stories and how 287(g) put them at risk. These stories were not unlike those offered by immigrants of the Arab and Middle Eastern communities.

“Many community members we serve tell us that they fear law enforcement and  distrust our public institutions, such as 911 services and police officers, for fear of deportation,” says Khalilah Sabra, program director of MAS Immigrant Justice and Legal Center, a Muslim advocacy group with offices in Raleigh, Charlotte and Kansas City. “Many immigrants in general experience social isolation, which makes them more vulnerable to abuse. Undocumented individuals are targets for predators who know that their victims will be reluctant to report crimes committed against them or instances of abuse.

Few citizens are aware that 87 percent of all individuals picked up in participating counties in North Carolina were booked on infractions of driving without a license, which they cannot legally obtain, according to the Latino Migration Project‘s latest report.

Instead of ridding America of foreign felons, the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs have actually allowed criminals to victimize undocumented immigrants, who confront a dilemma: Do they report the incidents to police and risk deportation? Or do they continue to be victimized?

In 1996, the Immigration and Nationality Act was amended to add Section 287(g), which allows local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security launched Secure Communities, which allows county jail officials to identify potential undocumented immigrants. Forty-eight law enforcement agencies in North Carolina participate in one or both programs, including the the Wake and Orange County sheriffs departments and the Durham Police Department.

Since local police departments have become de facto border agents, undocumented immigrants no longer feel that they can report crimes-those they witness or those that actually victimize them.

If you would like to sponsor an Immigrant Story Night in your community, please contact MASF:

MAS Freedom 1325 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 1-888-627-8471 Fax: 757-299-9961

http://masfreedom.org/

November 22, 2010

London Mayor to Bush: Come over here and you might not ever see Texas again

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 12:40 pm

Introduction: President Bush said that one of the worst moments of his presidency was when Kanye West made a post-Katrina statement that President Bush “doesn’t care about black people.” For the record, Kanye West rebuking the president was definitely not his worst presidential moment. Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: Oh, freedom and liberty. How many crimes have been committed in your name!

London Mayor to Bush: Come over here and you might not ever see Texas again 

It may seem like a wildly unlikely scenario, but the conservative Mayor of London, England was quite serious: If former president George W. Bush sets foot in Britain on his current book tour, he might just be arrested for war crimes committed during the time of his administration.

Mayor Boris Johnson-himself a Tory-was not joking at all.  His warning came in light of the admission, by the former U.S. President, that he (Bush) had authorized the use of water boarding as a torture technique used in the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Muhammad, one of the apparent plotters and alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.  Bush claims, and even boasts, in his book of memoirs (and later in a television interview), that he gave the green light for the use of the torture interrogation.

And was he proud of this admission?  “Damn right”, said the former leader of the free world.

But the problem with all of this, as Mayor Johnson also stated, is that water boarding is considered a form of torture under both United States and international law, and the former President’s admission makes him, in legal terms, a war criminal. And even if the Obama administration is willing to give Bush a free pass on these criminal actions, nations like Great Britain are not so ready to passively allow even celebrity human rights violators to stay in their nation with impunity.  This was a harsh lesson that the late Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, realized some years ago when he was arrested in Britain for doing some of the same things to Chilean political protesters that Mr. Bush bragged about in the aftermath of the terror attacks on America some 9 years ago.

But the London mayor also raised another point, and this is even more serious:  Even if arrest and detention were to be “unlikely” for the former head of state of a nation so closely allied with Britain, to allow Bush to fly about the nation and the world unpunished, while admitting his offenses, erodes the moral credibility of the Unites States, and its allies. These nations pontificate against regimes that openly torture, and kill, their political opponents.  But how can the U.S. condemn the governments of places like Burma and Zimbabwe when the American head of state boasts about authorizing the same actions against detainees?

Other political leaders and scholars have also given cautionary advice to the former President about the perils of international travel.  John Turley, Professor of Law at George Washington University, stated that, were Bush to travel to Western Europe, he might get more than just a hostile political reception.  He could, indeed, be subject to arrest for the political decisions that he is so openly bragging about.

Torture is not a play thing or a joke.  To the extent that it has been authorized for use against detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, or anywhere under U.S. control, it is a serious crime that cannot be ignored by a nation that claims to uphold the highest standards of international law.  And if our current Attorney General and President believe in upholding these laws, then they should take appropriate action- including going after the real co-conspirators who perpetrated these illegal actions under the false pretext of guarding our ‘national security.”

-Ibrahim Ramey

Editor’s note:  MAS Freedom  supports adherence to national and international law as a member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT).

November 11, 2010

To U.S. Muslims, it’s just words

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 11:04 am

Introduction: “There’s a growing consensus among Muslims both at home and abroad”, said President Obama. Talks north, but walks south. Check out the piece below.

-Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the day: Mr. President, we know you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?

Same old speech

To U.S. Muslims, it’s just words

President Obama’s speech in Indonesia did little to inspire Muslims back home. Their overwhelming response to his remarks on Wednesday: It was a nice gesture, but we weren’t impressed.

Using a tone reminiscent of the mutual respect and understanding he used in his Cairo speech to Muslims, Obama laid out his vision of a genial relationship he hopes for the United States to have with Muslim countries.

“We always appreciate it when the president tries to make a positive effort to reach out to the Muslim world,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“He’s a good communicator. No one gives a better speech than the president — no one can deny that he gives an excellent speech,” said Mahdi Bray, executive director of Muslim American Society.

But the compliments stopped there.

Directors of four groups representing Muslims — the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim American Society — all expressed to POLITICO that they were disappointed with the progress the Obama administration has made to address the concerns of Muslim-American communities.

“We just wish the rhetoric would turn into policy that could have a positive impact,” said Hooper, who said Obama’s speech in Indonesia was one he had “seen before in Istanbul and Cairo.”

Muslim Americans “want the administration to push for more progress,” and they are seeing a gap between what Obama has accomplished so far and the promises he made during the campaign, said Alejandro Beutel, a government liaison at the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Obama’s Muslim critics cited the presence of troops in Afghanistan, the failure to shut down Guantanamo Bay, a sub-par effort to protect Muslim-Americans’ civil rights, and the country’s ambivalent role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as areas Obama hasn’t met his objectives.

“There have been no serious dialogues on these concerns by members of the administration,” Bray said. “The rhetoric doesn’t meet the domestic or global realities.”

He added that Obama has also fallen short in taking appropriate actions at home. “He attended a mosque in Cairo, one in Istanbul, one in Asia. He’s attended churches and synagogues — but he’s yet to go to a mosque less than 30 blocks from the White House,” Bray said, referring to the Islamic Center in Washington. “Even Bush visited the Islamic Center soon after 9/11. This was probably Bush’s finest hour, and Obama’s lack of symbolic gesture has not been lost.”

Sarah Thompson, communications director of the Islamic Society of North America, empathized with the White House and said the Muslim community is not unaware of resistance the administration faces.

“Extremists, far-right political figures and people in the media … have a campaign against Obama the Muslim sympathizer, ” Thompson said. “There are some extremely well-funded, extremely far-right campaigns mobilizing against Muslims, and what people hear the most is what they’re going to believe.”

The challenge for Obama and his administration, she suggested, will be to clarify the distinction between terrorists others of Muslim background.

“People acting on behalf of Al Qaeda are deranged, deluded individuals that have no right to act on behalf of any religion, and have no right to call themselves a part of any religion — certainly not Islam,” Thompson said, acknowledging that Obama had highlighted this sentiment in his speech in Indonesia.

While the groups’ spokespeople agreed that traveling around the world holds benefits for the United States, some of them questioned whether the timing of the trip was a sound strategic move.

“It seems as if our president has adopted a ‘philosopher king’ kind of approach,” Bray said. “People are looking for a more hands-on, direct approach from their president, but Obama isn’t giving the impression to the American people — be it Muslims or non-Muslims — that he is really engaged.”

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