More Muslims Gaining Political Ground

More Muslims Gaining Political Ground
Although Md. Delegate-Elect Doesn’t Trumpet Faith, His Win Signals New Surge
By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 30, 2006; A01

Since Gaithersburg software engineer Saqib Ali was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates this month, he has been flooded with calls and e-mails from across the country asking: How’d you do it?

The calls come from American Muslims like Ali, who, longtime political watchers and Muslim activists in the area say, is the first Muslim elected to a statewide — or districtwide — office in Maryland, Virginia or the District.

Although the 31-year-old made little of his faith during the campaign — in fact, he bucked those who said he should put it on his campaign literature — he is part of a concerted march of Muslims into civic and political life. His campaign was part of a push that began after Sept. 11, 2001, with worries about civil liberties and immigration policy and has blossomed this year.

Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. In the D.C. area, eight Muslims ran for office in Maryland this year, significantly more than in previous years, although only Ali won. And initial polling data and anecdotal evidence suggest that significantly more Muslims in Virginia registered and voted this month than in previous elections.

According to data gathered by the Muslim American Society and the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, the number of Virginia Muslims who voted was up 13 percent from 2005. The vast majority of the estimated 51,000 Muslims who cast ballots in Virginia voted for Democrats.

There are no statistics from previous years on Muslim voters in Maryland, but according to a post-election poll done by the Muslim American Society and the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, there are about 50,000 Muslim voters in Maryland, three-quarters of whom voted Nov. 7. A large majority voted for Democrats, the groups’ data show. The Virginia Muslim PAC is gathering voting data throughout the country.

Data collection on U.S. Muslims is relatively new and imprecise, and even estimates of the community’s size range from 1 million to 7 million. However, the available data mirror what activists and scholars of U.S. Islam say is indicated in anecdotal evidence: Muslims are quickly moving into the public sphere.

“It’s very obvious that there is more involvement,” said Zahid H. Bukhari, director of Georgetown University’s Project MAPS, a long-term research project on American Muslims that estimates there are 1.5 million to 2 million registered American Muslim voters. “More Muslims are running for office; Islamic centers are becoming more of community centers; everybody is much more involved,” Bukhari said.

Ali, whose parents were born in India and Pakistan, said he comes “from a family where they were always having political debates around the house, but then I found out that among all these family members who had all these grand ideas, none of them ever voted. There was a sense that, ‘I don’t like the way things are, but there’s nothing I can do about it.’ I thought: I’m going to show these people.”

Starting in January, Ali will represent District 39, a horseshoe-shaped swath of land in Montgomery County. The area has a growing community of newly arrived South Asians and Latinos, and Ali said he focused on courting immigrants during his campaign in part because he thought they might not have voted before. He supports driver’s licenses for residents regardless of their immigration status and in-state tuition for people who graduate from Maryland high schools; he opposes provisions of the federal Patriot Act.

“His pro-immigrant priorities completely jumped off the map for us,” said Kim Propeack, advocacy director at CASA of Maryland, an immigrant rights group. “When I met him, I told him how happy I was to see someone with an unabashedly pro-immigrant attitude.”

Ali did not talk much about his faith, however, which bothered some Muslims and non-Muslims, he said.

“I’m not hiding anything, but it didn’t seem relevant. It doesn’t make sense; no one advertises their church,” he said.

In fact, candidates for public office often make faith part of their political identities. Maryland candidates Michael S. Steele, Douglas M. Duncan and Benjamin L. Cardin all spoke about their religious beliefs during their campaigns.

But running as a Muslim has its challenges. A Montgomery man was given a police warning during the campaign after he sat outside Ali’s home with a sign saying “Islam sucks.”

Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist who is working with the Pew Research Center on a survey of American Muslims, said that although civic engagement has been increasing, there has been a shift in focus from influencing Middle East policy to strengthening domestic institutions.

Muslim donors gave approximately $200,000 to Virginia candidates, up from $40,000 in 2002, said Mukit Hossain, director of the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee.

Attendance at Muslim-oriented political events was also up, activists said. More than 600 people attended the Virginia Muslim Civic Picnic this summer, an event held for state candidates that has grown since it began in 2001. About 1,300 people attended a candidates’ night a few weeks before the election at Falls Church mosque Dar Al Hijrah, Hossain said.

And last December, the Maryland Muslim Council formed to help field and promote candidates, among other things. Since the election, Hossain said, he has received phone calls from Richmond, Harrisonburg and Fredericksburg, as well as from other states where Muslims want to know how to form local political action committees.

“In this election, we saw a level of mobilization and engagement of Muslims that has never happened before,” said Ibrahim Ramey, director of the Muslim American Society’s human and civil rights division, at a news conference after the Nov. 7 election.

Activists at the news conference said they were celebrating the high turnout and the fact that Muslims apparently influenced a key election with national implications: James Webb’s successful Democratic bid for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. The partisan leanings also were clear from the Webb lapel pin that Hossain wore.

Now that Muslims are starting to figure out how to turn out their vote, the horizon is becoming more complex. Heated debates are beginning over how prominent a role mosques will play in organizing people, whether Muslims will focus on civil liberties to the exclusion of social and economic issues, and whether they will remain a Democratic bloc, as they have since 2004.

“I don’t want us to become overly dogmatic and introverted or to become a ghetto, as has happened in European countries,” Hossain said. “I think the Muslim community can do a great job of bringing focus to social issues, whether they belong to the Muslim community or not. I hope, as we mature, we become a progressive force for other issues, not just civil liberties.”

Since Ali won his race, he has been busy answering those requests for advice. “What I tell them is, know your community well, work hard and don’t be a one-issue candidate,” he said. “And don’t let anyone paint you as ‘the Muslim candidate.’ “

Disembowelled and murdered for teaching girls

Disembowelled and murdered for teaching girls Thursday November 30, 2006
By Kim Sengupta
GHAZNI – The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy. The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over. He was partly disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes. The remains were put on display as a warning to others against defying Taleban orders to stop educating girls. Halim is one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taleban and United States and Afghan forces. The day we arrived an Afghan policeman and eight insurgents died during an ambush in an outlying village. Rockets were found, primed to be fired into Ghazni city during a visit by the American ambassador a few days previously. But, as in the rest of Afghanistan, it is the civilians who are bearing the brunt of this murderous conflict. At the village of Qara Bagh, Halim’s family is distraught and terrified. His cousin, Ahmed Gul, shook his head. “They killed him like an animal. No, no. We do not kill animals like that. They took away a father and a husband, they had no pity. We are all very worried. Please go now, you see those men standing over there? They are watching. It is dangerous for you, and for us.” Fatima Mustaq, the director of education at Ghazni, has had repeated death threats, the notorious ‘night letters’. Her gender, as well as her refusal to send girls home from school, has made her a hate figure for Islamist zealots. “I think they killed him that way to frighten us, otherwise why make a man suffer so much? Mohammed Halim and his family were good friends of ours and we are very, very upset by what has happened. He came to me when the threats first began and asked what he should do. I told him to move somewhere safe. I think he was trying to arrange that when they came and took him.” The threats against Mushtaq also extend to her husband Sayyid Abdul and their eight children. “When the first letters arrived, I tried to hide them from my husband. But then he found the next few. He said we must stand together. We talked, and we decided that we must tell the children, so that they can be prepared. But it is not a good way for them to grow up.” During the Taleban’s rule she and her sister ran secret schools for girls at their home. “They found out and raided us. We managed to persuade them that we were only teaching the Koran. But they spied and found out we were teaching algebra. So they came and beat us. Can you imagine, beating someone for teaching algebra.” – INDEPENDENT

Coulter Gets Results

Coulter Gets Results
By Ann Coulter | November 30, 2006

The six imams removed from a US Airways flight last week have apparently adopted my suggestion that if they really want to protest the airline, instead of boycotting US Airways, they should start flying it frequently. The spokesman for the imams – or as I believe it’s phrased in their culture, “designated liar” – Omar Shahin, staged a protest at Reagan Washington National Airport on Monday, after which, according to the Associated Press, “he and other religious leaders boarded a US Airways flight to demonstrate their determination to continue praying and flying.”

The original six imams removed from the flight last week first attracted attention when they said prayers to Allah on traditional Muslim prayer rugs in the boarding area. After boarding, they changed seats, spreading themselves throughout the plane. They were also overheard spouting anti-American rhetoric. Witnesses said the six men appeared to be either Islamic fanatics or U.S. Army chaplains on leave from Guantanamo.

Following the lead of FEMA in keeping Americans safe, the Homeland Security Department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is investigating the removal of the imams from the US Airways flight. (Talk about coincidences – I’m currently investigating the removal of the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties from the Department of Homeland Security!)

Imam spokesman Shahin is a great example of why airport security ought to be profiling Arabs. Shahin’s predecessor at the Islamic Center in Tucson was Osama bin Laden’s financier and head of logistics – until he was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2002.

Instead of aggressively distinguishing himself from his terrorist predecessor, judging by news reports, Shahin spent the five years after 9/11 denying that Muslims were behind the attacks and complaining of phony anti-Islamic “hate crimes” – as opposed to the pro-Islamic hate crimes he presumably endorses.

In 2003, for example, Shahin alleged that a woman in Arizona had thrown shoes at children at the mosque.

This is the most transparent hoax I’ve heard since, “If I did it, here’s how I would have done it.” This is like the joke about a speaker at an American communist rally opening with: “Workers and peasants of Brooklyn!” Shahin has so little insight into this country, he can’t even invent a believable hate crime.

It’s Arabs who have a thing about shoes being a sign of disrespect, not Americans. When Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, the crowd immediately pelted it with shoes.

Shahin himself couldn’t get away from this pan-Arabic shoe fetish, adding: “The incidents of Muslims being attacked kind of shocked me in my shoes.” Note to imams trying to fabricate hate crimes against Muslims: Americans don’t share your shoe neurosis.

At Reagan National this week, rabbis joined the Muslims at the prayer protest – though one imagines they did not share this prayer from the Hadith: “And the Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: ‘O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!'” In fairness, they usually save that one for the high holidays, like the “Festival of the Six Dead Jews” or “Honor Killing Week.”

Nor this one, also from the Hadith: “The Prophet said: ‘The Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. The Muslims will kill the Jews. Rejoice! Rejoice in Allah’s victory!'” (Is it just me, or might some fanatic twist those words into an excuse to kill Jews?)

Also strange was that the NAACP has piped in to complain about racial profiling of Muslims. The only reason Americans feel guilty about “racial profiling” against blacks is because of the history of discrimination against blacks in this country.

What did we do to the Arabs? I believe Americans are the victims in that relationship. After the attacks of 9/11, profiling Muslims is more like profiling the Klan.

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Imams Gone Wild

Imams Gone Wild
By Paul Sperry | November 30, 2006

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is demanding Congress investigate US Airway’s removal last week of six imams from one of its flights. The Muslim-rights group claims the imams, who were behaving suspiciously, posed no threat.

It’s “very, very inappropriate to treat religious leaders that way,” a spokesman fumed.

According to CAIR, imams are as harmless as Buddhist monks and deserve no less respect. Tell that to flight attendant Kimberly Banducci.

According to police reports I’ve obtained, the Delta Air Lines veteran was assaulted by a Muslim cleric in a bizarre attack aboard a flight from Miami International Airport three years ago. The wild scene, which involved federal air marshals and local police, was never reported in the media.

Here’s what happened: On Oct. 23, 2003, Sheikh Ahmed Hamman Mahmoud Hamman claimed he needed assistance as he boarded Delta Flight 1586. Banducci, who was flight coordinator that day, escorted the Egyptian imam, dressed in a flowing robe, to his seat. As she helped him get seated, Hamman remarked in heavily accented English how good she smelled and asked her name.

As she began to recoil from the bearded man’s passes, he suddenly grabbed her face with one hand and wouldn’t let go. Banducci told him he was hurting her and asked for help from passengers in the immediate area. She was able to pull away, but then His Most Holiness grabbed both her breasts and again would not release his grip. Banducci yelled at him to let go, but he refused, squeezing even harder. Only after she screamed for help and two air marshals broke cover did the man back down.

As authorities questioned him, Hamman acted like he couldn’t speak any English. The Miami-Dade Police Department took him into custody where he was booked the next day for felony battery, the police report says. Delta did not press charges, however, and kept the incident from the press.

US Airways, which has been flooded with positive calls from customers for its stand against the six obnoxious imams, is poised to take over Delta in a proposed merger, making it the nation’s largest carrier.

A local Muslim leader bailed the violent groper sheikh out of jail. Authorities say a man named Sofian Abdelaziz (aka Sofian Zakout, aka Sofian Abdelaziz-Zakout, aka Sofian Zakkout) representing the American Muslim Association of North America, or AMANA, posted bond for the 35-year-old Hamman, who was visiting Florida during Ramadan. Abdelaziz-Zakkout, a Kuwaiti native, was his trip sponsor.

He’s also a radical Islamic activist who is a close personal friend of the notorious Shukrijumahs of South Florida, a Saudi family whose son, Adnan, is an al-Qaida operative thought to be in line to head an encore attack on America. The FBI calls him “the next Mohamed Atta.” His late father was a local Wahhabi imam on the Saudi payroll.

Not surprisingly, Abdelaziz-Zakkout recently defended an accused al-Qaida confederate of Adnan Shukrijumah at his trial. He also opposed the U.S. strikes on Afghanistan after 9/11, and the U.S. assassination of al-Qaida terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

Back to the Saintly Six imams kicked off US Airways Flight 300. Their ringleader Omar Shahin whined, “What happened to us is terrible.” No, what happened on 9/11 is terrible, and airlines and their passengers will be damned if they’ll tolerate any more treacherous tricks from packs of truculent Muslim men on board their flights.

Shahin knows of such shenanigans. At his former mosque in Tucson, Ariz., he ministered to two college students removed from an America West flight after twice attempting to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected it was a “dry run” for the 9/11 hijackings, according the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the students, Hamdan al-Shalawi, had trained for attacks in Afghanistan, the report says. The other, Muhammed al-Qudhaieen, became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation.

Even so, the pair filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways. Defending them was none other than Shahin, the public face of the Slighted Six imams who returned to the US Airways ticket counter at the Minneapolis airport to scold agents before the cameras, and then staged a protest at Reagan International Airport in Washington.

In an “Arizona Republic” interview after the 9/11 attacks, he acknowledged once supporting Osama bin Laden through his hardline Saudi-backed mosque in Tucson. FBI investigators believe bin Laden operated a cell there. Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who piloted the plane that hit the Pentagon, attended the Tucson mosque along with bin Laden’s one-time personal secretary, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. Bin Laden’s former chief of logistics was president of the mosque before Shahin took over.

“These people don’t continue to come back to Arizona because they like the sunshine or they like the state,” said FBI agent Kenneth Williams. “Something was established there, and it’s been there for a long time.” And Shahin, a native of Jordan, appears to be in the middle of it.

Shahin now heads the North American Imams Federation, which is affiliated with the innocuous-sounding American Open University, where he teaches Islamic studies. The radical Islamic school, known by law enforcement as “Wahhabi Online,” has raised a number of red flags at the FBI, including the fact that:

— It’s founder and chairman, Jaafar Idris, is a Sudanese radical on the Saudi payroll who was recently deported for visa fraud and spreading extremism in America.

— A co-founder, Salah As-Sawi, is a professor at Al-Azhar in Egypt, a bastion of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, American Open University is a fully accredited satellite campus of Al-Azhar. As-Sawi worked with Idris at the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Sciences in Washington, a propaganda center set up by the Saudi Embassy to spread Wahhabism in America. It was raided after 9/11 and is still under surveillance by federal authorities.

— Alumni of the “university” include convicted members of the Virginia Jihad Network.

— The school has received funding from a suspected al-Qaida front that has expressly advocated suicide attacks and using airliners as weapons. The Islamic Assembly of North America, or IANA, is bankrolled by the Saudi religious minister who stayed at the same Washington-area hotel as the hijackers the night before they attacked the Pentagon. (He feigned a heart attack when FBI agents tried to question him and was subsequently evacuated with other Saudi officials on White House-approved escape flights after 9/11.)

A former CAIR official, Bassem Khafagi, headed IANA. He pleaded guilty to terror-related charges and was deported.

CAIR, which is listed as a partner organization to Shahin’s North American Imams Federation, insists American imams are peace-loving “patriots.”

Oh? Would that include Omar Abdul-Rahman, the blind sheikh serving life for plotting to blow up several New York landmarks? Or Imam Ali al-Timimi, a native Washingtonian, also behind bars for soliciting local Muslims to kill fellow Americans? Or fugitive cleric Anwar Aulaqi, the U.S.-born imam who prepared some of the 9/11 hijackers for martyrdom?

How about imams Mohammed al-Hanooti and Siraj Wahhaj (a CAIR and NAIF board member), both unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspiracy?

Perhaps CAIR is referring to other imams in New York who were recently busted for buying shoulder-fired missiles. Or the one in Lodi, Calif., who planned to build an al-Qaida terror camp there, and on and on.

Yup, they all wear halos all right. Or is that orange jumpsuits? Oh, that’s right, they’re all so misunderstood and mistreated. Boo-hoo, somebody call the wha-a-a-a-ambulance.

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