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Executive Editor: Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Chronology of Islam in America (2017)
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

January 2017

A smokescreen for bigotry: Disguising anti-Muslim bias with land-use objections
Jan 2:
Sewage lines, traffic patterns and zoning ordinances. Meet the instruments of bigotry in America today.
It’s happened three times in Virginia already, cases where development regulations and mundane municipal laws have been used to smokescreen surging Islamophobia. And it’s something new, something that folks who have lived in these communities for decades have never experienced.  “I would never believe in my life that something like this would happen,” said Samer Shalaby, whose pointer-and-blueprints community meeting presentation went viral after audience members unleashed a bigoted, anti-Muslim shouting spree at him. “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult in this county,” a man who said he was a former Marine yelled at Shalaby that night in November 2015. Turns out the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg has been operating in Spotsylvania County for 28 years. And Shalaby’s family has been there for 31. Until last year, they were viewed as neighbors. They were engineers, car salesmen, moms picking up their kids from soccer games or band practice. But then Donald Trump began running for president, pledging to ban Muslims from entering the country and establish a registry for Muslim Americans. It was amid that heated and ugly rhetoric that the center announced its expansion plans — and promptly ran into a wall of opposition. And now, a year later, the Islamic center is still tied up in traffic-pattern objections and subdivision squabbles. In Culpeper, about 40 miles away, local officials rubber stamped pump-and-haul permits to handle sewage for businesses or houses of worship. The county board approved 26 of them since 1992, including nine for churches. But when the Islamic Center of Culpeper bought a parcel of land and proposed a small mosque, a local Republican activist whipped the community in a frenzy over the sewage permit, which became a sneaky way to block the entire project. [Washington Post]

Colorado resident won't remove anti-Muslim sign from front yard
Jan 4: A Longmont, Colorado, resident has declined city officials' request that he remove a homemade sign bearing an anti-Muslim message from his front yard after it drew complaints that it promotes hatred. Painted in red on a wooden board chained to a tree in front of Harry McNevin's home, are the words: "Muslim's kill Muslim's (sic) if they don't agree. Where does that leave you, 'infidel.'" People have called the message "hate speech," but Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects Americans' ability to express their opinions. "As offensive as a sign like that might be, most of the time a sign on private property is not going to be a criminal violation of any sort," Garnett said. "That was our impression here as well." Longmont resident Shawn Taylor said the phrase is obvious hate speech that does not belong in Longmont or the country. "We need to move past this type of hatred and learn to live together," she wrote in a Facebook comment responding to a Times-Call reporter. " Just because we have a hater and bigot for our new president, doesn't mean we as Americans have to follow his lead in that regard." She said she and her sister are considering staging a protest in front of McNevin's house once they figure out exactly what he means so they can craft their retort. [Daily Camera.com]

Senate Democrats introduce bill to block Trump Muslim registry
Jan 5: Nine Democratic senators filed a bill blocking the executive branch from registering people based on religion, race, gender, age, national origin or nationality. "Contrary to the President-elect's beliefs, America's diversity is not a threat — it is, in fact, our greatest strength," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) was quoted by The Hill as saying. He added that "if our incoming President ever attempts to create a discriminatory database of Americans, let this be our warning shot: we will fight him every step of the way and in every way we can." The partial text of the bill says: This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Protect American Families from Unnecessary Registration and Deportation  Act of 2017’’ or the ‘‘Protect American Families Act.’’ (1) the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, or any other Federal department may not create or implement a law enforcement or national security program that requires, or  has the effect of causing, people to register or check  in on the basis of religion, race, age, gender, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, or citizenship; and (2) consistent with the prohibition under paragraph (1), no Federal funds may be used to create 16 or implement an immigration registry or check-in program. Jordain Carney of the Hill recalled that Trump floated a database to track Muslims in the U.S. during the campaign, telling NBC in November 2015, "I would certainly implement that." Asked last month if he was rethinking his proposals to require Muslims to register or to ban them from entering the U.S., Trump told reporters, "You know my plans all along, and I've been proven to be right." In December 2016, President Obama permanently dismantled the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS). NSEERS was introduced following the 9/11 terror attacks, but was suspended in 2011 after heavy criticism by civil rights organizations. NSEERS required certain non-citizen males over the age of 14 from 25 countries to be registered and fingerprinted. With the sole exception of North Korea, every one of the 25 countries on the NSEERS bulletin was Muslim or Arab.
[AMP Report]

U.S. border security now asking foreign travelers for social media accounts
Jan 7: T
he U.S. government
has quietly begun asking some foreign travelers entering the country to voluntarily share their social media accounts, in an attempt to prevent terrorism. The request is specifically being given to those arriving on the visa waiver program, who are given the option to select social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+, and then enter their account names for each when going through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization process. As Politico reports, the move has not been without controversy. Tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, as well as consumer advocates, have criticized the new policy, citing privacy concerns, among other things. And while a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection said that the new measure is meant to "identify potential threats," there are also concerns about how much of an "option" it will be for foreigner travelers entering the country who don't want to share their social media information. Opposition to the new policy began last June, when the government revealed its proposal to begin asking foreigners for their account information. In response, digital rights group Access Now submitted more than 2,000 comments from Internet users reacting to the policy to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. [MSN.Com]

Bills introduced in US Congress to designate Muslim Brotherhood s terrorist organization
Jan 9: U.S. Representative Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), today introduced a bill (H.R. 377) to ask the Secretary of State to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. The following day, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced an identical bill (S. 68) in the Senate titled the The Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act. The bill states that the group has met the criteria of a terrorist group, and thus should be designated as such. The House bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and already has twenty cosponsors. The Senate bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and has three original cosponsors. Both Senator Cruz and Rep. Diaz Balart introduced similar bills in the 114th Session. The House version was passed by the Judiciary Committee but neither made it to a floor vote. Not surprisingly the Washington Post and the Huffington Post were quick to point out the real motives behind the bills related to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Washington Post said it is also likely to have a far-reaching impact on American Muslims at a time when Muslim community leaders say the religious minority is facing the worst harassment it has seen since the aftermath of 9/11. The Huffington Post pointed out that American Muslim advocates contend that the real intent of Cruz’s bill has little to do with foreign policy rather the legislation would enable the U.S. government to target domestic Muslim groups that Cruz and others earnestly believe are part of a massive, covert conspiracy to destroy the U.S. from within. "Proponents of the measure, including members of Trump’s incoming administration, have long used the Muslim Brotherhood label as shorthand for Muslim organizations, politicians and government officials with whom they disagree, and civil rights advocates fear those allegations could be used as pretext to investigate and alienate those who challenge the government’s treatment of Muslims" the Washington Post said adding: "Supporters of the designation have wielded it most frequently against advocacy groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which regularly files lawsuits on behalf of Muslims over alleged discrimination, as well as against charities. They have also used it to attack Democratic members of Congress, Muslim government officials, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and the Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who criticized Trump at the Democratic National Convention in the summer." [AMP Report]

Armed man protests outside Islamic Center in Bozeman, Montana
Jan 9: An armed man protesting near the Islamic Center of Bozeman forced a brief lockdown at Bozeman High School today. The man began the day with an American flag and a rifle. It was the rifle that got the attention of police. Back and forth on Beall and 15th Avenue, right across from Bozeman High School, the man walked, refusing to tell reporters his name, only saying he was protesting because of the building on the corner - the Islamic Center of Bozeman. At about 11 a.m. at least one person noticed the man, seen with a rifle. Police were called in and the high school was put on lockdown. The man was placed in handcuffs while police investigated. He was eventually let go but was asked to put the firearm away. The Bozeman Police Department said that the man was compliant, and was not breaking any laws. After being released, the man grabbed his flag and resumed his protest.
But in the afternoon, he had company.
[MTN News]

Islamic Center in Austin, Texas, Burns to the Ground
Jan 9:
Flames ripped through the three-story building under construction of the Islamic Center in Austin, burning it to the ground.
Shakeel Rashed, Secretary of the Islamic Center said that before the fire, the foundation had been set, the frame was sup and windows were in place. As to what started the fire, Rashed said they didn’t have any electrical systems installed yet. They did have one construction machine inside that fire marshals are looking into — but he is asking the community to restrain from drawing any conclusions before the investigation is completed. “We want to keep our mind open, we’ve always felt this was an open community, and I am a big fan of Austin, so it’s very surprising if it would be a hate crime in this area.” [Fox 7 New]

Anti-Islam Bill Introduced in Oregon
Jan 10:
A Salem-area Republican has introduced legislation that would ban Oregon courts from considering Sharia law, the set of religious customs followed by some Muslims, when issuing rulings. Senate Bill 479, by Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, amounts to a single sentence: "A court of this state may not consider Sharia law in making judicial decisions." Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations
characterized Boquist's proposal as anti-Muslim."In many cases (legislators) don't really care whether it passes or not," Hooper said. "They want to marginalize American Muslims and Islam. Just to introduce this kind of legislation can have that effect, because it gives Islamophobes a platform." Boquist sponsored identical legislation in 2015. The practice of citing Sharia law in American courts is all but nonexistent, said Jim Moore, professor and director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University. Moore said Boquist's bill harkens back to Oregon's troubled history around race. Moore mentioned the Klu Klux Klan-backed "Oregon School Law," passed in 1922, which targeted Catholic schools by banning religious garb in the classroom. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law in 1925. "We've seen these kinds of laws against nonexistent issues in the past," Moore said. "Now it happens to be Muslims." [The Oregonian/OregonLive]

Rally to Close Guantanamo and End Islamophobia at U.S. Supreme Court
Jan 11:  A coalition of human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantanamo attorneys, 9/11 family members, and members of diverse faith communities held a "Rally to Close Guantanamo" outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The rally was followed by a march to the Senate Building where the confirmation hearing of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General was taking place. The rally marked 15 years since the first prisoners were brought to the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The groups called on President Obama to expedite releases from Guantánamo and to make public the full U.S. Senate Torture Report. They demanded that President-elect Trump reject the use of torture, continue transferring men from Guantánamo, end indefinite detention, and reject national security or other measures that discriminate against Muslims. President Obama has failed in his pledge of eight years ago to close the US detention camp at Guantánamo. To borrow the Bill of Rights Defense Committee & Defending Dissent Foundation,  Guantánamo remains a living symbol of US torture and other human rights abuses, and a place of misery for the 59 men it still houses.  Most of them have never been charged with, let alone tried for, any crime. The Supreme Court rally featured statements by representatives of Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Witness Against Torture, and other groups.  [AMP Report]

Anti-Muslim bills based on conspiracy theories have been introduced in two states
Jan 12: Over 120 similar bills or amendments aimed at preventing Sharia law from being applied to US courts have been submitted in state legislatures since 2011. In the past 11 days, Republican lawmakers in Indiana and Oregon have proposed bills aimed at preventing Islamic law from being used in court cases, an unfounded conspiracy theory that lives on despite a lack of evidence supporting the claim that Muslims in America are trying to subvert the US Constitution. While the bills themselves may appear straightforward, many advocates see them as unnecessary and redundant — instituting at the state level what would already be in violation of the Constitution of the United States. Some advocates also see these bills as evidence of overt bigotry and an irrational fear of “creeping Sharia” — a term in anti-Muslim circles that stems from an anti-Islam sentiment — and the belief that the US and its citizens are in danger of Islamic law entering the US legal system and affecting daily life. Anti-Sharia or anti-foreign laws have passed in ten states, with dozens more proposed in the last decade — the vast majority of these failing to pass or reach the point of a vote. The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, a research group that studies various aspects of Muslim American life, found that at least 128 anti-Sharia law or anti-foreign law bills have been introduced since 2011. The main driving force behind these laws and related conspiracy theories, according to the Anti-Defamation League, has been the work of David Yerushalmi, an Arizona lawyer who the Southern Poverty Law Center called an “anti-Muslim activist.” Yerushalmi, in addition to his own work and writings, is also associated with other anti-Muslim groups, such as the Center for Security Policy, a group run by noted conspiracy theorist and former Reagan-era Pentagon official Frank Gaffney. He also has represented the Quran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones and is connected with other anti-Muslim crusaders such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer — both founders of the group anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of America. Yerushalmi, through his group, American Laws for American Courts (ALAC), has provided the defining template for many anti-foreign law or anti-Sharia bills around the country. Language used in Indiana’s bill by State Sen. Holdman appears to contain certain phrases that are similar to Yerushalmi’s current bill template. [Buzz Feed]

UN Secretary General: Muslims have become convenient scapegoats
Jan 16: Muslims have become “convenient scapegoats,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said today, addressing a forum to tackle the recent rise in discrimination against Muslims. The forum in New York City was co-organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Permanent Missions of the United States, Canada and the European Union Delegation. Speaking in a video message, Guterres, who assumed office at the start of 2017, outlined both what he believes is the cause for the recent trend and its cost to society. "In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats. We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbors as 'the other.'" "Discrimination diminishes us all," he said. "It prevents people – and societies – from achieving their full potential. Let us draw strength from the values of inclusion, tolerance and mutual understanding that are at the heart of all major faiths and the United Nations Charter. As the holy Quran states: 'nations and tribes were created to know one another.'" Addressing the forum, the OIC’s Ambassador to the UN, Moiz Bokhari, stated that political rhetoric was one of several causes for the spike in anti-Muslim sentiment. “They include the rise of xenophobic political discourse and movements, upsurge in the extremist ideologies and related terrorist attacks across the world, global migration crisis due to unresolved political issues, and promotion of negative stereotypes and misinformation against Muslims based on ignorance of Islam by various forms of media,” he said
according to a statement. He noted that levels of anti-Muslim violence in the West pale in comparison to the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Muslims in Central African Republic or bloodshed from Sunni-Shia clashes in the Middle East in recent years. “It is true that the current political climate in Europe is very toxic,” Alfiaz Vaiya, coordinator of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), told Middle East Eye on the side-lines of the UN event. “As the Brexit vote and Trump’s victory showed, we cannot take anything for granted. We do have a threat in Europe that we could have some politicians on the extreme far right if not leading governments, then leading parties that gain the most votes.” [AMP Report]

US counter extremism initiative is discriminatory, rights advocates say
Jan 17: The US Department of Homeland Security raised the ire of civil rights activists after awarding $10m in grants to various law enforcement agencies and NGOs as a part of its Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. CVE’s stated mission is to address the roots of radicalisation through building “relationships based on trust with communities”. However, civil rights groups have questioned the program and criticized it as discriminatory because it targets Muslim Americans. In 2014, about 20 rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sent a letter to DHS voicing concerns about the program. It said CVE asks communities to report suspicious speech or associations to law enforcement. "The result of generalized monitoring—whether conducted by the government or by community 'partners' — is a climate of fear and self-censorship, where people must watch what they say and with whom they speak, lest they be reported for engaging in lawful behavior vaguely defined as suspicious," the letter read.  Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a Washington DC-based civil rights organisation, said CVE is problematic because it infringes on the separation of state and church by singling out the Muslim community. ADC had warned Muslim and Arab groups against applying for CVE grants. [Middle East Eye]

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