Archive for the ‘ American Muslims ’ Category

Lebanese Immigrant Becomes First Muslim Woman to be Crowned Miss U.S.A.

By Derrick Henry for The New York Times


Pageant organizers on Sunday night crowned a 24-year-old Lebanese immigrant from Michigan as Miss USA 2010.

Rima Fakih was born in Lebanon, moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York City, where she attended a Catholic school. She told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. Her family moved to Michigan in 2003, where she later became Miss Michigan USA.

Pageant officials told The Associated Press that pageant records were not detailed enough to show whether Ms. Fakih was the first Arab-American, Muslim or immigrant to win the Miss USA title. The pageant started in 1952 as a local swimsuit competition in Long Beach, Calif.

Ms. Fakih is from Dearborn and is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she earned her bachelors degree in economics with a minor in business administration, the pageant said in a release. She said she planned to attend law school after completing her term as Miss USA.

Fans in her state celebrated after learning that she had been crowned at the event held in Las Vegas.

“This is unbelievable,” Rami Haddad, 26, of Livonia told The Detroit Free Press on Sunday night. Mr. Haddad said he was one of Ms. Fakih’s biggest supporters. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t express my feelings.”

During the pageant, Ms. Fakih nearly fell in her evening gown because of the length of its train, but she recovered. During the interview portion she was asked whether she thought birth control should be paid for by health insurance. She said she believed it should because it is expensive.

“I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it’s a controlled substance,” Ms. Fakih said.

Miss Oklahoma USA, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, was first runner-up. She was asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, and said she supported the law, which would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. She also said she was against illegal immigration but against racial profiling.

Donald Trump owns the pageant with NBC, which aired the event live

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Muslim-Americans: Bracing For A Backlash

By Christopher Alessi for The Huffington Post

Adil Najam, a Pakistani-American professor at Boston University, took his 12-year-old son aside before sending him off to school last Wednesday. He told him to hold his head high, even if the other kids make fun of him and call him a terrorist.

In the days following this month’s attempted car bombing in Times Square by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, Pakistanis and other Muslim groups in the U.S. have been taking precautions to prevent a public backlash similar to the one Muslim-Americans faced following 9/11–but they are still preparing for the worst.

“We are so grateful, thank God, that the bomb did not blow up, but the real damage here is to the Pakistani community,” Najam said. “Everyone [Pakistani-Americans] now gets ready for the office – or school – knowing he will be looked at differently.”

As a result, community leaders, such as Dr. Saud Anwar, the director of Connecticut’s branch of the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee, are counseling fellow Pakistanis to jump on the offensive. “We’re hoping we’re not going to be marginalized and we’re trying not to be scared, so we’re mobilizing the community to condemn the incident,” he said.

After 9/11, Anwar made a choice to be more “politically active and to build bridges with the law enforcement community.” He now works closely with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to help identify suspected terrorists. He has also encouraged his fellow Pakistanis in Connecticut to become more engaged with the police, in part to counter the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorist-sympathizers.

If Muslim-Americans don’t take an active approach, Anwar believes, they will only be further marginalized, which in turn will lead to increased “identity crises” and subsequent radicalization in the greater Muslim community–an arguably vicious and deadly cycle.

Najam also contends that Muslims are being “more vigilant against crackpots within their own communities,” by reporting them to the authorities. “We are trying to deal with incidents involving black sheep much better,” he said, referring to fellow Muslims that are suspected of harboring radical and violent agendas.

Both Najam and Anwar are trying to preemptively thwart the onslaught they say their communities faced after 9/11. Back then, both men argue, many Muslim-Americans felt they were put under a microscope by the mainstream American media and society at large. “There was a very high level of apprehension immediately after 9/11,” Najam said. “‘American-Americans’ – whatever that is – were apprehensive about Muslims, and we were internally apprehensive about how we were being viewed.”

Prof. Sinan Antoon of New York University believes that U.S. government policy and rhetoric following 9/11 only compounded the situation for Muslims. “The war on terror discourse and the manichaean view of a world populated by those who are with us and those others who are against us spelled danger and disaster for Arab and Muslim citizens or immigrants,” Antoon said. “After 9/11,” he added, “Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans were all guilty by association.”

Indeed, for many ‘ordinary’ Americans – non-Muslims, or “American-Americans,” as Najam put it – ‘Muslim’ became the codeword for ‘terrorist.’ As a result, many Muslims felt forced to take responsibility for the acts of religious (and political) fanatics who happened to share the same faith.

Antoon further argues that Muslims were easily linked with terrorists after 9/11 because “terrorism was explained in cultural and civilizational terms, not in material history and politics.” “The result,” he explained, “was for the U.S. government to absolve itself of its own responsibility in supporting foreign jihadists in the 1980s…and skirt the blame to the cultural sphere and simplify phenomena and events as simply a class of cultures.”

But Najam is optimistic that things could be different this time. He believes that mainstream American society has evolved since the time period following 9/11. “Society is more adept at handling these [terrorism incidents] as acts of criminality,” he said. Most Americans, Najam argues, no longer see the actions of individuals such as Shahzad as representative of an entire cultural or religious group.

Anwar, too, is trying to remain positive. “There are over 1 million people of Pakistani heritage in the U.S., and there was one idiot that couldn’t think straight,” he said.

“I think America is better than that–blaming the whole community.”

Media Ignore The Fact That Man Who Alerted Police To Failed Times Square Bombing Is A Muslim Immigrant

By Zaid Jilani for ThinkProgress.org

The chief suspect in the case of the failed Times Square car bombing is Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who has confessed to the plot. Much of the media has latched onto Shahzad’s Muslim faith and his Pakistani identity, making inflammatory remarks and suggestions about Muslims and Pakistanis:

– CNN contributor and Redstate.com blogger Erick Erickson complained that the words “muslim” and “Islam” are “not mentioned” enough in stories about Shahzad. He wrote, “It really is pathetic that you’re more likely to see the words “racist” and “Republican” together in the newspaper these days than “terrorism” and “Islam.” [5/4/2010]

– Hate radio host Neal Boortz tweeted, “OMG! The Times Square Bomber is a Muslim! Shocker! Who would have believed it?” [5/4/2010]

– The cover of today’s Washington Post-published Express features a black-and-white photo of Shahzad with the sensationalist headline “MADE IN PAKISTAN” [5/5/2010]

Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a photograph vendor on Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention:

Aliou Niasse, a street vendor selling framed photographs of New York, said that he was the first to spot the car containing the bomb, which pulled up right in front of his cart on the corner of 45th street and Broadway next to the Marriott hotel.

“I didn’t see the car pull up or notice the driver because I was busy with customers. But when I looked up I saw that smoke appeared to be coming from the car. This would have been around 6.30pm.”

“I thought I should call 911, but my English is not very good and I had no credit left on my phone, so I walked over to Lance, who has the T-shirt stall next to mine, and told him. He said we shouldn’t call 911. Immediately he alerted a police officer near by,” said Mr Niasse, who is originally from Senegal and who has been a vendor in Times Square for about eight years.

As the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes, “South Asian, and Muslim communities may yield useful information to those fighting terrorism. Arabs and Arab Americans also offer the government an important source of Arabic speakers and translators. The singling out of Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs for investigation regardless of whether any credible evidence links them to terrorism will simply alienate these individuals and compromise the anti-terrorism effort.”

Reflecting on Niasse’s good samaritanism Muslim-American author Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes, “It’s somewhat consoling to know that the man who first noticed the smoking Nissan Pathfinder and sought help is also Muslim, a Senegalese immigrant. … I grew up Muslim in this country, with Muslim friends and non-Muslim friends, and there was very little difference between the two groups. We were all American.”

Pakistani Makes History as Nation’s First Winter Olympian

By Manzer Munir

Vancouver, Canada- On Tuesday February 23, 2010, Pakistan will field its very first entry into its very first Winter Olympics. While the nation has won three gold, three silver and four bronze medals in its history at the Olympics since becoming a nation in 1947, this is the first time Pakistan will field an athlete for the Vancouver Olympics in Canada. The sole member of Pakistan’s Winter Olympics team is a 24 year old Pakistani skier by the name of Mohammad Abbas. He was the first Pakistani to qualify for a Winter Olympic event and will participate in the Alpine Skiing in the Giant Slalom category.

Mohammad Abbas hails from Pakistan’s northern Nalthar valley near Gilgit, Balistan and the now troubled beautiful Swat valley of Pakistan. For years very popular with the British and since with affluent Pakistanis, this picturesque and scenic area of Pakistan is nestled at the foothills of the Himalayas and receives a good amount of snow fall in the winter months. There are not many ski hills in hot weather Pakistan, but there is one in the Nalthar valley where Abbas grew up as one of the local boys. He grew up in a small village near the ski slopes.

When the idea of creating a ski team first developed, all the candidates were local children. Unfortunately out of the original 9 hopefuls, only Abbas qualified for the Vancouver games. “I started skating in 1995 using homemade wooden skates, which is how all the children in our village used to learn. We didn’t have ski boots so we tied our feet to the skis with traditional woolen foot bindings. It was pretty precarious so we had to get our balance right,” he said.

For Abbas, it has been a long and at times arduous 15 year journey since 1995 when he first took interest in skiing at the age of 9 in his village near the ski slopes of Pakistan’s Nalthar valley watching Pakistani and foreign tourists skiing spurned young Abbas and many of his cousins to take up the sport. In a cricket mad country, not very many people pick up skiing. Very few people in Pakistan can afford ski equipment and also only a very small portion of the country gets snow, so it is a surprise that the nation is even fielding an athlete at the Winter Olympics.

Sitting in the Olympics athletes village in Vancouver, Abbas admits that he does not have the camaraderie or the support of Olympic teammates that most other nations participants share, and he was concerned that he may feel a bit lonely representing his country by himself at such a big stage. But the boy from Nalthar valley was greeted with great enthusiasm and support by the rather large Pakistani Canadian community of British Columbia. “The support from my fellow countrymen has really helped me deal with the lack of teammates,” said Abbas.

Abbas said that he “achieved his ambition through hard work” and hopes he has inspired other Pakistani athletes to take up the challenge and aim for future Winter Olympic games. He also realized that his chances of bringing home Pakistan’s first Winter Olympic gold are very small but he said he wants to finish the race in an “honorable manner and make his country proud.”

Although not expected to medal, he is considered the fastest of the first time entrants to compete in the Giant Slalom that is scheduled to take place at Tuesday. It is perhaps an accomplishment to have finally fielded a Winter Olympics team, but for Pakistan it is also a moral victory to have a young man represent the country from the same troubled yet beautiful valley that has been now for months fighting for its life from Taliban insurgents. He represents not just Pakistan’s Olympic hopes, but the spirit of the people of the area to make the best of their situation and rise above the adversity of their daily struggles in a very beautiful part of the world that has also long been known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan.”

War on Terror Requires Continued Muslim Support From Friends and Family of Suspects

Detroit, USA- The attempted Christmas Day foiled terror attack proved that there are terrorists out there still very much planning and attempting to carry out attacks on the United States and Europe. The alleged terrorist is a 23 year old man from an affluent family in Nigeria. The suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, boarded a plane from Amsterdam headed to Detroit, Michigan. The young man’s father, who is a prominent banker in Nigeria, had previously notified the American embassy in Lagos, Nigeria that his son may have become radicalized and he was concerned that he may carry out an attack based on his extremist views.

The American authorities had placed Abdulmutallab on a watch list known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list which has roughly 550,000 names. But despite being on this list, being denied a visa for the United Kingdom, and the fact that his father warned authorities a month ago, Abdulmutallab managed to buy a one way ticket purchased with cash, boarded a plane with no luggage, and snuck past security and screening at Amsterdam airport and almost succeeded in creating a Christmas Day massacre somewhere over the Atlantic or the United States.

The suspect has claimed to have received training and instructions from Al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, a country known for an active Al-Qaeda network called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and is also the paternal homeland of Al-Qaeda chief, Osama Bin Laden.

It is simply good fortune that the suspect was incompetent in carrying out the detonation on his device, which authorities say would have brought down the plane. Also helpful was the fact that there were several alert and vigilant passengers who were quick to prevent Abdulmutallab from succeeding in mass murder. Despite all the technological and security advances, the last line of defense always appears to be other passengers and civilians who must heroically act to stop these fundamentalists from carrying out their attacks.

There is a good deal to be learned by American intelligence and airport security agencies to ensure that terrorist incidents like these are prevented by following the clues and connecting the dots much earlier in order to avoid a catastrophe. The various agencies of the United States from the embassies and foreign missions to FBI, TSA, and Homeland Security must work closely to identify individuals who have been placed on strict watch lists. Also needed are very stringent security procedures for international flights coming to the United States, as the majority of the terrorists have attempted to blow up planes inbound to the United States from abroad. Also, authorities must ask themselves how they did not do enough after the young man’s father himself alerted US officials to inform them he was worried his son may have become radicalized and may be planning an attack.

The obvious good news that came out of this incident is that the terrorist attack was foiled and no one was injured. A closer look at the facts should also hearten the American public that for the second straight potential terrorist incident, a Muslim family member willingly and proactively alerted the authorities regarding the suspicious activities of their family member. Just as we saw with the family of the five Washington DC men who are accused of planning attacks on the US and are currently in detention in Pakistan, we should take heart in the fact that Abdulmutallab’s father felt compelled to notify American authorities of his son’s radicalization and possible terrorist planning.

It is sad to see an uptick in the amounts of terrorist incidents in the last few months, but it is also nonetheless heartening to see that Muslim family members are willing to step forward to thwart terrorist attacks and alert the authorities whenever they have suspected them to have become extremist and radicalized in nature and planning attacks. The recent events show that the authorities must continue to rely on Muslim communities to step forward and offer any assistance they can to prevent any future terrorist attacks as authorities tighten their security procedures to continue to protect the public.

Reported by Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Pakistani court suspends deportation as another case of homegrown terror troubles US authorities

Karachi, Pakistan- Pakistani police on Monday seized a luggage and a cell phone from a hotel where three of the five Americans who were arrested on suspicion of terrorism planning and militant links stayed. A court has ruled that the men cannot be deported to the United States until the judges review their case.  Pakistani police has alleged that the five young Americans intended to join militant and extremist groups in the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This case is troubling as it would appear that Americans and Western raised men are traveling to Pakistan to link up with Al-Qaeda and other militant groups like the Taliban.

Pakistani police had searched their hotel, aptly named Saddam Hotel in the southern city of Karachi.  The detainees have been accused of using the internet and such sites as Facebook and Youtube to reach out and connect to extremist groups and have been said to have been in contacts with a Taliban recruiter also.  The Pakistani court actions are intended to prevent the deportation of the accused to the United States until the courts in Pakistan can ascertain the facts and review the case.

The men, who are from the Washington DC area were picked up last week by Pakistani authorities after their worried families in the US contacted the FBI about their missing sons and enlisted their help in tracking the men down. The authorities were given a farewell video found by one of the family members that showed scenes of war and called for Muslims to be defended. FBI agents, who have had some access to the men, are trying to see if there is enough evidence to charge the men with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group.

A US government official was satisfied with the Pakistani government’s assistance stating that “We’ve had excellent cooperation with the Pakistani authorities, both on the diplomatic side and on the law enforcement side,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, “And the Pakistani authorities granted us access to the individuals within 24 hours of our request, which is a very speedy response.”

The threat posed by homegrown terrorists in the United States and in European countries is a growing concern for the FBI and US agencies. The incidents such as the Fort Hood shooting where Major Nidal Hasan allegedly shot and killed 13 fellow soldiers at the Texas base last month do nothing but further raise those concerns. Then there’s David Headley, an American born Muslim to mixed ancestry who is indicted in the Mumbai blasts of November 2008. And now comes the story of the five Muslim American men arrested in Pakistan who were interested in waging  jihad against the US.

It is too early to call it a growing trend, but the incidents and their frequency does suggest that there is certainly a minority segment of very young Muslim males who somehow are being radicalized not in strict Afghanistan or Pakistan or somewhere in Iran. Rather, in the streets of Virginia, New York, Chicago and other cities, certain young Muslim males are becoming radicalized and becoming extremists. This phenomenon can be best described as a catch 22. You see, these radicalized and misguided men feel that because the United States is waging wars in Muslin countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it is being an oppressor. To these men, defending Muslim lands from an outsider and an oppressor is an obligation and a duty and is a call for every Muslim. On the other side, there is the American policy of engagement of the enemy on its turf, as is seen in the Bush doctrine. “Take the war to the terrorists” as President Bush so famously put it in 2001.  These wars that were initiated to be pre-emptive in the case of Iraq and retribution in the case of Afghanistan, have inadvertently become the cause célèbre of these jihadists and young extremists.

In essence, there is a vicious cycle of violence at work here. We have American troops in Afghanistan who are there to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan so that the US is safe from a terrorist attack hatched overseas. Yet, the next threat may actually be coming from an American born Muslim who is being alienated and radicalized due to the “unjust” war against his “brothers” constant 24 hour cable news coverage, satellite TV and foreign news channels, the internet websites and other sources.

As instances of homegrown Muslim radicalization grow or come into the limelight, it is imperative that the vast majority of peaceful, law abiding and patriotic American Muslims keep vigilant and mindful of the few in their midst who may be becoming radicalized in front of their eyes. It is vital that the Muslim community speak up as the parents of these young men did and alerted the authorities when they became concerned that they may have some sinister designs after discovering their farewell video. It is together with our cooperation with the authorities that we can sniff out these lost individuals before they do any harm to anyone or to an entire religion. The mosques and Islamic centers must do more to ensure that there is no radicalization or fiery sermons. There needs to be a conscientious effort on the part of the American Muslim community of progressives and moderates to speak up and chastise those that are becoming extremists within their midst in order to prevent the next Fort Hood massacare or the next Mumbai.

 Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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