Omar Sacirbey writes for Religion News Service in Washington, D.C.
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Report: Internet Hate Speech Can Lead to Acts of Violence
Anti-Muslim hate speech on the Internet is commonplace and can motivate some people to commit acts of violence against Muslims, according to a report released Tuesday by Muslim Advocates, a legal and advocacy group in San Francisco.
The report contains examples of hate speech and how it can lead to violence, as well as how victims of online hate speech can report it and counter it. The report aims to help educate parents, students, youth, community leaders, Internet companies, and policymakers on how to counter online hate speech.
Muslims Welcome Shuttering of NYPD Spying Unit
Muslim and civil rights groups welcomed the news that the New York City Police Department’s Demographics Unit will disband but said they still fear they may be targets of warrantless surveillance.
Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit in 2012 to stop the program, and the group was later joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“We need to hear from the mayor and NYPD officials that the policy itself has been ended and that the department will no longer apply mass surveillance or other forms of biased and predatory policing to any faith-based community,” said Ryan Mahoney, president of another Muslim civil rights group, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Is New Katy Perry Video Blasphemous? Some Think So
Nearly 60,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding that YouTube take down a Katy Perry video they say is blasphemous and offensive to Muslims.
About 75 seconds into the video for the song “Dark Horse,” a Cleopatra-like Perry shoots a laser at a man dressed as a pharaoh but also wearing a pendant that says “Allah” in Arabic. Both the man and the Allah pendant disintegrate.
“Blasphemy is clearly conveyed in the video,” reads the petition, started by 22-year-old Shazad Iqbal of Bradford, England, who suggests Perry sets herself up as an enemy of God by shooting the man with the Allah necklace. “We hope YouTube will remove the video.”
'Salaam, Love' Counters Stereotypes of Muslim Men
Oppressive. Boorish. Misogynist: Those are the popular images of Muslim men and how they treat women.
But there’s more to it than that, thought Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, the editors of Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.
Many Muslims welcomed the two women’s 2012 collection of 25 stories as an overdue conversation starter. Soon they got flooded with requests for a male version.
They initially dismissed the idea, assuming men wouldn’t want to write so openly about such intimate matters. But as the queries kept coming, the two editors decided a Muslim male version wasn’t that far-fetched, and given the stereotypes of Muslim men, much needed.
Best Buy Commercial Points Way to Greater Muslim Acceptance
Viewers watching the American Football Conference championship game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots earlier this month may have seen a Best Buy commercial for a Sharp 60-inch television that seemed ordinary, but in one way was extraordinary.
The ad shows a young, clean-shaven salesman named Mustafa talking about the television, advising customers and relaxing at home watching movies and football with his friends.
“I’m never going to get these guys out of here,” he jokes to his girlfriend at the end.
While the commercial never identifies Mustafa as a Muslim, many might assume that given his name, a diminutive for Muhammad. For viewers used to seeing negative images of Muslims on television, the commercial was a rare exception.
Women Photographers Shatter Middle Eastern Stereotypes
An Iraqi woman dons a black hijab but bares her thighs. A Lebanese woman wearing a sheer blouse curls up on a bed, both innocent and seductive. An attractive young Iranian couple shares breakfast at a small table, seemingly oblivious to the tank looming just a few yards away.
There are no harems, belly dancers, or male oppressors in this photography show, nor any of the other Middle Eastern stereotypes that Westerners generally associate with that far away, often misunderstood, region.
“She Who Tells a Story,” a photo exhibit now showing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and headed to other U.S. museums, features the work of 12 women from the Middle East who shatter stereotypes with works that are provocative, beautiful, mysterious, and surprising, all at the same time.
Muslim Christmas celebrations gain a toehold
A generation or two ago, when America’s Muslims were new immigrants who made up an even smaller minority of Americans than they do today, they viewed the lights, trees, carols, gifts, and festive spirit of Christmas as a threat to their children’s Islamic faith.
But these days, a growing number of Muslims celebrate Christmas, or at least partake in some ways, even if they don’t decorate their homes with trees and a light show. Indeed, many Muslim families have created their own Christmas traditions.
“I teach my three children, who attend public school and happen to be born into an interfaith Christian-Muslim family, that we absolutely do celebrate Christmas because we are Muslim,” Hannah Hawk of Houston wrote in an email. Rather than putting up a tree or lights, “we celebrate the reason for the season, Jesus, by studying all that is written about him in the Quran and by examining historical theories.”
Religious, Civil Rights Groups Demand Investigation of NYPD Spying
A coalition of 125 religious, civil rights, and community-based organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday urging a civil rights investigation into a New York City Police Department program that spies on Muslims.
Groups from several faith traditions signed the letter including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the National Council of Jewish Women, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Sikh Coalition. Civil rights groups include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, South Asian Americans Leading Together, and the National Network for Arab American Communities.
The NYPD program is already the target of two federal lawsuits, one filed in June by the ACLU and the City University of New York Law School’s Center for Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility, and the other filed in June 2012, by several Muslim plaintiffs represented by Muslim Advocates and the law firm Bhalla and Cho.
Middle Eastern Virus May Mar Hajj Pilgrimage
The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the hajj, presents a gantlet of health challenges. This year’s pilgrimage, which falls Oct. 13-18, is no different.
Of particular concern is the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia last year. At least 120 cases have been reported in the country, including 49 deaths, according to the World Health Organization and Saudi officials.
Assault on Professor Part of Wave of Attacks on Sikhs, Muslims, Others
Shortly after teenagers beat up a Columbia University physician Saturday, a Muslim woman was attacked a few blocks away.
It is not clear whether the attacks on Dr. Prabhjot Singh and the Muslim woman, who were both treated at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, are related. But many say the motives, if not the perpetrators, are depressingly familiar.
They are part of a long line of assaults on Sikhs, who are sometimes mistaken for Muslims; on Muslims; and, more generally, on people perceived as foreigners.
Abercrombie & Fitch to Change ‘Look Policy,’ Allow Hijabs
Abercrombie & Fitch will change its “look policy” and allow employees to wear hijabs after a three-year legal battle with two Muslim women was settled out of court.
The settlement requires Abercrombie to report religious accommodation requests and discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for three years, and includes $71,000 in compensation for the two women. The settlement also averts a Sept. 30 trial.
Abercrombie fired Umme-Hani Khan, a stockroom worker in its San Mateo, Calif., store, in 2010 for refusing to work without her religious headscarf. Khan, who had worked at the store for four months without incident, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC, which sued the retailer in 2011.
Denim Burqa Ad: Bold or Insulting?
Islamophobic or empowering? Those are among the reactions to a new Diesel jeans ad featuring a heavily tattooed, topless white woman wearing a redesigned, denim burqa.
The slogan next to her: “I Am Not What I Appear To Be.”
Racist and condescending are among the criticisms that have been leveled at the ad, created by Nicola Formichetti, former stylist to Lady Gaga, who made waves last month with her song “Burqa.” But others, including a female Muslim marketing consultant who advised Diesel, said the idea was to make people question assumptions and stereotypes.
New Comedic Documentary Explores Muslims in the U.S.
Muslim stand-up comedy is nothing new. But what makes “The Muslims Are Coming” different is that it portrays what happens when a troupe of comedians performs before red state Americans in such places as Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.
The documentary by Negin Farsad, an Iranian-American, and Dean Obeidallah, of Palestinian-Italian roots, opened in Chicago yesterday.
Muslim Clerk Wins Hijab Fight Against Abercrombie and Fitch
A federal judge ruled Monday that the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing chain violated federal anti-employment discrimination guidelines when it fired a Muslim employee in 2010 for not removing her religious headscarf, or hijab, for work.
Abercrombie asserted that as part of its business plan, it not only employed sales-floor personnel, but “models,” had a “look policy” that gave employees certain grooming and appearance guidelines, and sought to give customers an “in-store experience.”
Umme-Hani Khan wore her headscarf when she interviewed at Abercrombie’s store in San Mateo, Calif. Khan said she accepted the “look policy,” which included a no headgear provision, and in October 2009 started her new job, which was mainly in the stockroom, but required her one to four times per shift to restock clothes on the sales floor.
Muslim Mother Seeks Justice for the Son She Lost on 9/11
It’s been five years now that Talat Hamdani has been able to talk about her son without crying, but she still prefers mostly not to tell his story.
“It’s all over the Internet,” she said.
She’s stopped talking about how she initially didn’t worry when her son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, who was a cadet with the New York City Police Department, didn’t answer his cellphone that night; about how police questioned her and her husband when authorities couldn’t find their son’s body, to see if he had any terrorist connections; about the New York Post headline a month after the attacks — “Missing – Or Hiding? – Mystery Of NYPD Cadet From Pakistan,” that cast him as a suspect in the 9/11 attacks.
N.C. Governor Allows Anti-Shariah Bill to Become Law
North Carolina became the seventh state to prohibit its judges from considering Islamic law after Gov. Pat McCrory allowed the bill to become law without formally signing it.
McCory, a Republican, called the law “unnecessary,” but declined to veto it. The bill became law on Sunday.
The state joins Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
Supporters hailed the bill as an important safeguard that protects the American legal system from foreign laws that are incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, while critics argued that the bill’s only purpose is to whip-up anti Muslim hatred because the Constitution already overrides foreign laws.
What Imams Talk About During Eid
In their holiday Eid al-Fitr khutbas, or sermons, on Thursday many imams across the country noted a growing climate of acceptance in America but urged Muslims not to forget the problems facing their communities in the U.S. and overseas.
“The Eid khutba is like the State of the Union address,” said Oklahoma-born convert Suhaib Webb, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the biggest mosque in New England, to an overflowing crowd — men dressed in crisp robes, tunics, and three-piece suits, women in black abayas, long floral wraps, and colorful headscarves.
“Our community is at a unique crossroads,” Webb said, issuing a call for older Muslim generations to allow younger generations to have greater roles in community affairs. “There are a lot of young people with a lot of excitement, and a lot of old people with a lot of fear. And that’s not a healthy thing.”
Muslims Oppose Possible Raymond Kelly Bid for Homeland Security
Muslim-American groups are mounting a growing campaign to quash the potential nomination of New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Muslims say that as head of the nation’s biggest police force, the commissioner oversaw a spying program that targeted Muslims based solely on their religion, showed poor judgment by participating in a virulently anti-Islamic film, and approved a report on terrorism that equated innocuous behavior such as quitting smoking with signs of radicalization.
Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano announced she is resigning in September to become president of the University of California system.
“Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not, I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job,” President Barack Obama said in a July 16 interview with Univision.
Muslims are particularly indignant because Obama said on numerous occasions that he would work to end profiling.
N.C. Muslims Hope Gov. Pat McCrory Vetoes Anti-Shariah Bill
North Carolina Muslims hope they can persuade Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, to veto a bill that prohibits state judges from considering “foreign law.”
“It’s going to be tough,” said Rose Hamid of Charlotte. “But I do believe there is a chance.”
Muslims across the state oppose the bill they think is motivated by intolerance and may potentially infringe on other religious groups. Bills against judicial consideration of “foreign laws” are believed to really be opposing Shariah, or Islamic law.
Muslims Criticize Bloomberg Veto of NYPD Watchdog
Muslim-American civil rights groups are criticizing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for vetoing a bill on Tuesday that would have created an independent inspector general to oversee the New York City Police Department.
The New York City Council passed the bill June 27 as a check against controversial NYPD policies that critics say violate the civil rights of Muslim and other minority New Yorkers. Reports that the NYPD spied on mosques, Muslim businesses, organizations, and students began surfacing in 2011.
“The NYPD is out of control and discriminates against innocent Americans, and Mayor Bloomberg has let Americans down by allowing the NYPD to use discriminatory policies without any accountability,” said Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group based in San Francisco.