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Executive Editor: Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Chronology of Islam in America (2019)
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

January 2019

Solidarity with Jewish Community after sign at Ventura Temple defaced with Nazi Swastika

Jan 7: The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today expressed solidarity with the Jewish community after anti-Semitic graffiti was found on a sign at a Ventura synagogue on January 4.  Police received a vandalism complaint from the Temple Bath Torah, where a Nazi swastika had been spray painted on a sign in front of the temple. Ventura police did not know when the vandalism occurred. The agency is actively investigating the incident as a hate crime.

In a statement, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said: “We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and continue to defy the senseless actions of bigots who violate our country’s long-standing principles of religious tolerance and inclusion. Hatred and harassment at houses of worship remains a serious problem. As we have stated many times, an attack on any house of worship is an attack on all our houses of worship. We continue to stand and defend our fellow community members in the face of xenophobia and bigotry.” CAIR and the American Muslim community have in the past expressed solidarity with Jewish, Christian, Native American, African-American, and Sikh communities in New York, Indiana, New Mexico, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Alabama, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Ohio, Texas, and other states following acts of hate, threats, violence, vandalism, arson, or bombings. [CAIR]

Amazon Pulls Bath Mats With Islamic Religious Text Jan 8: Last week, the Muslim civil rights organization CAIR urged Amazon to take down doormats and bath mats on the site featuring Islamic religious text, arguing that the products “would be stopped-on or otherwise disrespected by customers.” Soon after, Amazon told CAIR it was removing all of the flagged items, which included 20 products from a third-party seller. The rugs and bath mats featured Islamic calligraphy, references to the Prophet Muhammad, and verses from the Quran, CAIR noted in its statement. The advocacy group said that it had received complaints about the products—sold by Emvency—characterizing them as offensive. But Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for CAIR, told Gizmodo that he doesn’t believe these products were designed and sold with malicious intent. “I think what happened was you have a Chinese company probably that produces a product and then they slap hundreds of different images on that product hoping that people will like those images and buy them without really thinking of the implications of those images,” Hooper said, adding that if you look at Emvency’s other products, there’s a number of varying images and designs aside from those related to Muslims or Islam. Hooper said that CAIR has been working with Amazon, and will notify the company when the “inevitable new email” about an offensive product comes in. “I don’t think there’s a real solution other than vigilance,” Hooper said, adding that it’s also important to educate people on why these products are offensive. In an email, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed the products identified by CAIR were being removed, telling Gizmodo, “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account.” (Last month, Amazon reportedly pulled items offensive to Sikhs after a similar complaint by Sikh advocates.) [Gizmodo]

Muslims Celebrate Congressional Victories
Jan 10:
An exuberant crowd celebrated the victories of the first female Muslim members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), at a Jan. 10 reception hosted by the national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) at Arlington, VA’s Hyatt Crystal City Hotel. Fellow Muslim Rep. AndrĂ© Carson (D-IN), in office since 2008, was also in attendance.
“Our young women are now believing that their place is on the House floor, that their place is in the White House, that their place is serving others,” said Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. “I don’t want us to be silent when the president of the United States calls Mexicans ‘rapists.' Don’t wait until he comes after us. Speak up now. We are all in the same element of fighting against racism and bigotry.” “I am delighted at this particular time in our nation’s history for there to be two unapologetic, unbought progressive leaders from the Muslim community who are women representing us in Congress,” Omar told the enthusiastic audience of some 500 guests. “By our sheer presence in Congress, we say as Muslim women that we are in charge of our lives and our destiny. We decide where and how we show up.” Carson praised the qualities of Tlaib and Omar. “Rashida and Ilhan are fighters,” he enthused. “They are smart, powerful, ready; they represent the next generation of Democratic leaders. And each and every one of you should be proud at this moment. We have fire power in Congress.” Omar and Tlaib both ran progressive campaigns, focusing on issues such as immigration, keeping families together, racial and social justice, affordable health care and education. “These political leaders managed to galvanize the hopes and aspirations of people, and are now public servants who happen to be proud American Muslims,” noted CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad. [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs]

Texas Republicans failed to oust GOP County leader because he is Muslim
Jan 10: A bid to remove a Texas county GOP leader from his post because he is Muslim has been rejected. The Tarrant County Republican Party voted today to keep Dr. Shahid Shafi in his post as vice chairman, according to the Star-Telegram. In a video posted on the Star-Telegram's website, Mike Snyder of the Tarrant County Republican Party announced, "the vote total was 139 to support Dr. Shafi and only 49 to reject him." Snyder went on to say, "tonight's vote demonstrates the majority of Republicans in Tarrant County stands with Dr. Shahid Shafi. And on the firm foundation of religious freedom memorialized in the Declaration of Independence." Following the vote, Shafi said, "our union is a little more perfect today. And it's time for us to put those divisions to rest." Shafi was appointed in July. His ratification received near unanimous support from the group's executive committee. The lone dissenter, however, created a small group that brought forth a motion to oust Shafi, Jeremy Bradford, executive director of the Tarrant County GOP, told CNN. Tarrant County includes the city of Forth Worth. Sources within the party say the dissenter is Dorrie O'Brien, who has been outspoken on Facebook about her concerns about Shafi's religion.

New Mexico's first Muslim American lawmaker sworn in
Jan 15: New Mexico has sworn in its first Muslim American lawmaker in state history.  Rep. Abbas Akhil, an Albuquerque Democrat, took the oath of office Tuesday after winning a close race to represent southeast Albuquerque.  Akhil is an immigrant from India and an active member of the Islamic Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque. 
He defeated Republican State Rep. Jim Dines. [KRQE]

Naming of Louisville Airport After Muhammad Ali
Jan 17: Muhammad Ali's Kentucky hometown will honor the late boxer by renaming its airport for him. The Louisville Regional Airport Authority's board voted Wednesday (Jan. 16) to change the name to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. Ali died in 2016. Ali's widow, Lonnie Ali, said in a news release from the board that she is proud of the name change. She said although Ali was a "global citizen," he never forgot his hometown. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer cited research showing that Ali's name recognition is greater than Louisville's and said he's organizing a group to work toward celebrating Ali's Louisville ties more broadly. The Kentucky chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Kentucky) today welcomed a vote by the Louisville Regional Airport Authority Board to change the name of the airport to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. In a statement, CAIR-Kentucky Chair Waheedah Muhammad said: “Muhammad Ali was a world citizen who was recognized and loved wherever he traveled. His face and voice were among the most recognized in the world.  As Kentuckians and as American Muslims, we are doubly proud that Kentucky will be honored to have the airport in Ali’s home town, Louisville, bear his great name. It is something that all Americans should be proud of.” [AP/CAIR]

Black Muslims account for a fifth of all U.S. Muslims
Jan 17: Even in the early 20th century, when Islam had little presence in most parts of the United States, the religion had a foothold in many black urban communities. Today, black people (not including those of Hispanic descent or mixed race) make up 20% of the country’s overall Muslim population, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. Still, Muslims make up only a small portion of the overall black population in the United States. The vast majority of black Americans are either Christian (79%) or religiously unaffiliated (18%), while about 2% of black Americans are Muslim. About half of black Muslims (49%) are converts to Islam, a relatively high level of conversion. By contrast, only 15% of nonblack Muslims are converts to Islam, and just 6% of black Christians are converts to Christianity. Black Muslims are like black Americans overall in that they have high levels of religious commitment. For instance, large majorities of both black Muslims and black Christians say religion is very important to them (75% and 84% respectively). This is a higher level of commitment than for nonblack Muslims (62%). Black Muslims are also more likely than other Muslims in the U.S. to perform the five daily prayers (55% vs. 39%). In the early 1900s, some Muslim religious leaders in the U.S. asserted that Islam was the natural religion of black people, broadly drawing upon the narratives of African Muslims captured centuries ago and sold as slaves in the Americas. Most prominent among the groups saying this was the Nation of Islam, which was originally founded in 1930 and is currently led by Minister Louis Farrakhan. Today, just two of every 100 black Muslims surveyed say they currently identify with the Nation of Islam. Instead, most black Muslims say they are either Sunni Muslims (52%) or identify with no particular Islamic denomination (27%). However, it is worth noting that the 2017 survey did not ask Muslims if they had ever 
previously identified with the Nation of Islam – an important point because many black Muslims, including prominent American Muslim figures such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Imam W. Deen Mohammed, were members of the Nation of Islam before coming to associate with the mainstream Islam. [PEW]

'Muslim ban': Two years on, Trump's order still destroying lives
Jan 27: Two years after President Donald Trump signed an executive order severely restricting travel from several Muslim-majority countries, the effects of the executive order that came to be known as the Muslim ban, are still happening. "We've seen families torn apart, individuals not being able to visit loved ones, weddings that were missed, healthcare they haven't been able to receive, students not being able to come to school - there is a real life daily impact that it has, and that's ongoing," Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said. Beyond the direct impact of the ban on potential travellers and family members who may await them here, advocates say the executive order has created an atmosphere of fear that has contributed to the rise of Islamophobia. "The Muslim ban itself - being discriminatory - marginalises American Muslims and paints them as being a threat to their fellow citizens and neighbours," McCaw said. "Since President Trump was elected and he issued the Muslim ban executive order, there has been a stark increase in hate crimes and acts of discrimination targeting American Muslims, and vandalism targeting their houses of worship and community centres." Ayoub echoed McCaw's statement, adding that the ban had a "psychological impact" on Arab, Muslim and immigrant communities in the US. "Mistrust in the government, worrying about their immigration status, worrying about loved ones, the stress - that really took a toll," he said. According to Ayoub, that anxiety was not limited to people from countries listed in the executive order, as people from all communities, including US citizens, started questioning if they would be targeted next. And their concerns are warranted: Sharifa Abbasi, who works for the Virginia-based HMA law firm, said she has noticed that the processing time for visas for people from countries with large Muslim populations not on the list – like Tunisia, Afghanistan and Pakistan – have slowed down. "If you are already outside the country, there are a lot of people that are hopeless," she said. "Imagine all of the talent in these past two years that really could have done something for the country." [Middle East Eye]

Two militia men plead guilty to bombing Minnesota mosque

Jan 27: Two men have pleaded guilty in federal court to bombing a Minnesota mosque and attempting to bomb a women’s health clinic in Illinois. Prosecutors say the two men and another man accused in the case were part of an Illinois militia group that called itself  “White Rabbits.” The U.S. Justice Department last year charged Michael McWhorter, Joe Morris and a third man, Michael Hari, with using an explosive device to damage the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., in 2017. McWhorter and Morris pleaded guilty to five federal charges on Thursday, including the attacks on the mosque and the Illinois clinic. They had originally entered a not guilty plea. Hari, portrayed by both prosecution and defense lawyers as group’s ringleader, is being held in federal custody in Illinois. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports. McWhorter and Morris admitted to traveling hundreds of miles from Illinois to Minnesota, leaving their cellphones at home and avoiding toll roads, to carry out the attack on the mosque. They smashed the mosque’s window and threw a pipe bomb into the imam’s office before the morning prayers. No one was injured in the attack. Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, told reporters after the hearing that the attack was not an isolated incident. The Muslim community “has come under serious attack by white nationalists, white supremacist groups and militia groups across this country,” Hussein said. He added: “We’re not going anywhere. We are more resilient than ever.” Hussein encouraged law enforcement and the current administration to recognize the “growing threat” of violence against Muslims. He also called for a life sentence for the men, who face at least 35 years in prison when they are sentenced. [The Arab American News]

Rep. Chu, Sen. Murphy Reintroduce Bicameral Bill to Block Muslim Ban Implementation
Jan 29: Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) have each introduced companion bills in the House and Senate to block the implementation of President Trump’s executive order blocking travel from majority Muslim countries. The bills,H. R. 81 and S. 246, would prohibit the use of any funds or fees to implement Executive Order 13780, signed on March 6, 2017. Rep. Chu and Sen. Murphy, along with House and Senate original cosponsors Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), issued the following statements: “I will never forget the chaos and pain created by the first Muslim Ban. Nor will I forget the crowds of lawyers and families who came to protest at airports,” said Rep. Chu. “The Muslim Ban – now in its third iteration, but wrong in any form – is just one of the weapons Donald Trump is using to foment xenophobia and bigotry and drive wedges in our communities. It is simply unamerican. We do not create policies based on religious animus and we do not target people because of who they worship.” “Two years ago, after President Trump announced his hateful Muslim ban, I heard from families across Connecticut who feared they would never see their loved ones again. But the proposed ban wasn't just a threat the families affected by it – it threatened the very idea of America. We are made stronger – and safer – by embracing our diversity,” said Sen. Murphy "Trump's Muslim ban not only harms our families and our economy, it betrays our core values and it makes us less safe,” said Rep. Lofgren. “ “President Trump’s travel ban is inherently discriminatory. It does nothing to make us safer and causes real pain and hardship for American families who remain separated from loved ones, even if they are sick or dying.,” said Sen. Feinstein. “Our bill would assert Congress’ oversight authority and block this unnecessary, discriminatory policy.” Organizations endorsing the bill include: Amnesty International, USA, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Church World Service (CWS). [Chu.House]

Muslim civil rights group sues Maryland over ban related to Israel boycott
Jan 30: The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit in January challenging Maryland governor Larry Hogan’s executive order banning state agencies from contracting with businesses that boycott Israel.
The “No Boycott of Israel” order aims to combat the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement opposing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which Hogan has charged with “economic discrimination” against Israel. Twenty-six states currently have some form of a ban on supporting the BDS movement, including laws requiring contractors to take a personal oath not to participate in boycotts. CAIR is also filing a First Amendment challenge to a similar law in Texas, where a Muslim woman of Palestinian descent recently lost her job of nine years after refusing to sign an anti-BDS pledge in order to work as a children’s speech pathologist in public schools. Civil rights advocates have long lobbied against measures banning BDS boycotts, saying they violate freedom of speech. “It is unconstitutional and dangerous, especially because it prioritizes the interests of a foreign government who is in violation of international law over Marylanders’ First Amendment rights,” said Zainab Chaudry, CAIR’s director of Maryland outreach. The lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Syed Saqib Ali, which names Hogan and state attorney general Brian Frosh, is the sixth federal lawsuit of its kind. Ali served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2011 and is a software engineer who applied for a state contract to build a software tool that would compare life insurance policies. Ali found that in order to apply he would first have to certify that he was not currently boycotting Israel or any Israel-occupied territories and that he would not do so during the term of his contract. Ali refused; a cofounder of Freedom2Boycott in Maryland, he has long boycotted companies in Israel and its occupied territories. Ali noted that he has also boycotted companies based in the state of North Carolina because of laws criticized as anti-LGBT and that he is currently boycotting businesses and properties owned by President Trump and his family. At a news conference in Baltimore, he pointed out that Hogan issued his directive after the Maryland legislature rejected the anti-BDS legislation. [Christian Century]

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