Showing posts from 2015

Interview with the Forum and Link regarding the Sixth Circuit Bible Believers' decision

The Bible Believers v. Wayne County et al. decision of the Sixth Circuit Court Questions and Answers with Professor and Attorney Ihsan Alkhatib*
On October 28, 2015, the Sixth Circuit Court decided on the appeal for a re-hearing of Bible Believers v. Wayne County et al. The Court decided for the Bible Believers delivering a decision and an opinion that legal scholars considered a significant development in First Amendment jurisprudence. The Bible Believers is a group of evangelical street preachers who used inflammatory tactics and rhetoric to spread their religious message during the Arab American Festival in 2012. The Forum and Link interviewed Professor Ihsan Alkhatib, assistant professor of Political Science at Murray State University in Kentucky with questions regarding the significance of the decision and its implications.
Forum and Link: What do you think of this decision? Were you surprised? Professor Ihsan Alkhatib: It is a significant First Amendment decision that has been cover…

Iran and Syria: What Al Aqsa? Conquering the Umayyid Mosque

Below is an excerpt from Shi’ite Lebanon: Transnational Religion and the Making of National Identities by Roschanack Shaery-Eisenlohr. The book was published in 2008. This excerpt sheds light on the way Iranian regime sees its role in the Arab world.
Page 110           The mission was less to literally fight against the Israelis [in 1982], since the main activity of the Iranian Pasdaran was providing military training to Lebanese Shi’ites in Ba’albak; rather, in the words of Mansur, it was “to propagate the idea that Israel is defeatable (tude’- kardan-i isra’il shekast pazir ast).” 68 Most noteworthy is the visit of the group to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus prior to their departure to Lebanon, to which the journalist, by drawing parallels between the event of Karbala and the Pasdaran’s mission to Lebanon, is giving historic importance.
History was repeating itself, the followers of Husayn were on their way to the Umayyad Mosque again, but with the difference that in the year 61 hijra

Imam Hassan Qazwini and his divisive and controversial legacy at the Islamic Center of America:

Imam Hassan Qazwini and his divisive and controversial legacy at the Islamic Center of America: A mixed sect mosque in Qazwini’s horizon?
You have to admire the former imam of the Islamic Center of America (ICA). He is savvy, speaks English well and has a knack for hobnobbing with politicians. He has good people skills. During his tenure at the ICA he had been particularly popular with the youth and the women in the community Women are the unsung heroes of houses of worship in the US. Many women felt that Imam Qazwini appreciated their contributions to the ICA.
On September 22, 2015 Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press wrote an article on Imam Hassan al Qazwini based on an interview at the imam’s Canton home. The imam told him that he wants to start his own mosque. Warikoo wrote: ‘While the Islamic Center’s membership was primarily Lebanese Shia, the new center is “not going to be ethnically based, nor sectarian based,” Al-Qazwini added. “It’s going to be appealing to all Muslims, Sun…

Imad Hamad's Detroit News column on the FBI, plane surveillance and CVE

Imad Hamad, American Human Rights Council executive director, has written an excellent opinion column for the Detroit News on the issues of the use of FBI surveillance planes and the use of counseling by the FBI for those young Muslims suspected of radicalization and of being high risk for  involvement in terror activity. The column read in part:

There is no doubt that the U.S. faces a real terror threat. And surveillance, when it comports with the law and the democratic traditions of the nation, is a legitimate and necessary law enforcement tool. The FBI planes are not solely an Arab or Dearborn issue, and portraying them as such is inaccurate and perhaps irresponsible as well.
Most importantly for the Arab and Muslim American community, the news of the FBI planes over parts of Metro Detroit came when the Wall Street Journal published on Aug. 5 a report about FBI efforts to counter violent extremism.
The article quoted Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad, who was contacted by a family conc…

The Lessons of the Wissam Allouche case: About lies, not terrorism

The Lessons of the Wissam Allouche case: An American Lebanese Shiite Muslim caught in the government and media dog- and- pony show
Wissam Allouche, a Lebanese Shia immigrant from Lebanon was sentenced to five years in prison for lying on his citizenship application and for lying to get a security clearance from the Department of Defense. The US government had asked for a ten- year sentence.
Allouche’s criminal case began in 2013 and he was tried and convicted in 2015 in the Western District of Texas district court.  After conviction, the US Attorney for the Western district of Texas issued a press release that read in part:
“Jurors found that defendant lied about his previous association with the Amal militia This afternoon in San Antonio, a federal jury convicted 45–year-old Lebanese–born Wissam “Sam” Allouche of knowingly lying to federal authorities on his U.S. citizenship petition about his relationship with the Amal militia, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security …

ADC's Abdrabboh column in the Detroit News

In the Detroit News, American-Arab anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Michigan office regional director wrote a column entitled "Yes hate crimes happen here." The column's genesis is in the Kroger case that ADC took but the Wayne County prosecutor Kim Worthy declined to prosecute as a hate crime. [This is the same Kim Worthy that charged an Arab immigrant gas station clerk with first degree murder for shooting a customer in the back, once, with the customer dying later from complications]

The picture that attorney Abdrabboh describes as to the prosecution of hate crimes is accurate. Many times meeting the burden of proof is a great challenge and going the civil route with its lower evidentiary standard is the only avenue of relief. Arab Americans need organizations such as the Arab American anti- Discrimination Committee (ADC) to defend their civil rights and civil liberties and the Kroger case shows that while our society is admirably tolerant and inclusive, there are…

The wisdom of the importation of the politics of division to the Muslim and Arab American communities

My dissertation was on the political behavior of Arab Americans. Using the data from the Detroit Arab American study, I examined three forms of political participation- voting, campaign donations and writing to political officials. I looked at the differences between national groups, faith groups and generations. I found that there is no significant difference in political participation between Christians and Muslims and that education and income are, as expected, strongly linked to political participation. One finding that showed assimilation of Arab Americans was the consistent increase in participation between the generations-from the first generation through the third generation.
We know that Arab Americans are assimilating and are part of the political process. However, my study relied on survey data. Surveys are snapshots of reality. The data was gathered after 9/11. Did political participation increase after 9/11? The survey numbers could not address that. In addition to relying…

Interview with Imad Hamad, Executive Director of the American Human Rights Council “Our ‘Protecting Our Humanity’ banquet was a great success and we sense a strong support of human rights in the Arab and Muslim communities.”

Imad Hamad is a well- known figure in the Detroit Arab American community. After leaving the American Arab anti- Discrimination Committee, Mr. Imad Hamad and others formed the American Human Rights Council (AHRC). The Forum and Link attended the packed first banquet. The creation of a new organization whose focus is on human rights was a brilliant idea for Mr. Hamad. There are many organizations in the community who do great work. AHRC is the only community based organization that focuses on human rights. H.E. Dr. Clovis Maksoud, AHRC Honorary Chair, in an email addressed to AHRC and its supporters stated: “AHRC comes at a time when the abuse of human rights in many parts of the world and its destructive impact on the unity of many societies, your advocacy to emphasis human rights and humanitarian aid in the United States must also be translated to areas where it is even much more required. What many societies in Africa and in the Arab World are experiencing at this moment must be inc…

Imam Elahi is the Voice of Wisdom and Compassion on the ICA-Qazwini Saga

The dispute between imam Qazwini and the Islamic Center of America's board has divided the members, friends and supporters of the Islamic Center of America (ICA). Harsh, sometimes nasty and almost always unholy language has been used to comment on the dispute. The most troubling aspect of the Islamic Center of America saga is some of the tactics used and the vulgar language used by some of the supporters of imam Qazwini. Qazwini himself inflamed the situation further when he used inflammatory rhetoric- referring to his opponents as cancer, ISIS and Yazeed.  Recently imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom spoke words of peace, compassion and wisdom. using language of reconciliation and genuine concern in a posting on the Dearborn Area Community Members Facebook page. That Facebook page, whose administrator is Dearborn attorney Majid Moghnieh, had seen many exchanges of harsh and nasty rhetoric between supporters and opponents of imam Qazwini. Some of the comments make you wonder…

Understanding the Dispute at the Islamic Center of America: Excerpts from Liyakat Nathani Takim's book Shi'ism in America

Understanding the Dispute at The Islamic Center of America: Helpful Excerpts from Liyakat Nathani Takim's book Shi'ism in America
The Islamic Center of America is in the news due to the dispute between the board and its imam Hassan Qazwini.
There is nothing exceptional or suis generis in the ongoing dispute. Issues of ethnicity, finances, “mosque politics” all help understand the dispute.
One academic work that helps one understand the dispute is Liyakat Nathani Takim's book Shi'ism in America. Below are excerpts from his book:
  Page 55: Most Shi’i immigrants try to impose the homeland culture in America by determining how the mosques are run, or what is an acceptable dress code, language, and behavior. Newer immigrants also tend to have their own predispositions on issues such as gender integration, political activism in a non-Muslim country, engagement with different ethnic groups, interfaith dialogue, joint activity with Sunnis, and the like. In many cases, Shi’i immi…

Interview with Ali. S. Wehbi, Lebanese Extreme Runner, Adventurer:

Interview with Ali. S. Wehbi, Extreme Runner, Adventurer: Overcoming challenges, promoting social causes*
On my last visit to Lebanon I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Ali S. Wehbi an Extreme Runner, Adventurer. Lebanonization is synonymous with communal conflict and the breakdown of the state. The news from Lebanon is almost always depressing due to one conflict or another.  News coverage is biased to the negative, to bad news. But there is also good news- news that inspire, that give hope and provide a good example for all of us. Such a news story is Ali Wehbi’s story. Ali’s story is a great inspiration.  When his mother died of cancer in 2005, Ali felt helpless. There was nothing that could be done medically to save the life of the person whom he loved most in the whole world. To cope with this loss, he decided to challenge himself and help others. Ali was always an athlete. He jogged and played basketball. The trauma of the loss pushed him to embrace extreme running, for a cau…