CAIR-NY, CAIR-NJ Settle Challenge to Trump Administration’s ‘Digital Muslim Ban’ Cellphone Seizure, Customs to Delete Data

Customs officials agree to delete data copied from cellphone seized without any warrant or explanation

(NEW YORK, NY, 10/31/18) – The New York and New Jersey chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY and CAIR-NJ), state chapters of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, today announced the settlement of a federal court case challenging U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) warrantless and unconstitutional seizure of an American Muslim U.S. citizen’s cell phone. 

Rejhane Lazoja, a 39-year-old woman residing in Staten Island, N.Y., had her phone taken when she landed at Newark Liberty International Airport earlier this year.  CBP held Lazoja’s iPhone 6S Plus and SIM card for 130 days, never explaining why they were taken. Under this groundbreaking settlement, CBP agrees to delete all data copied from Lazoja’s iPhone. 

SEE: Feds took woman’s iPhone at border, she sued, now they agree to delete data

Numerous lawsuits have challenged CBP’s deletion of data at the border, but this settlement is the first in the country to secure the deletion of illegally-seized data. Under the agreement, CBP did not admit any wrongdoing.  The case was also novel for proceeding under rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a provision for recovering property unlawfully seized by federal authorities. The case appears to be the first in the country to use rule 41(g) secure the deletion of electronic information that was unlawfully seized at the border. It also appears to be the first such settlement since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in U.S. v. Carpenter, striking down warrantless seizure of cellphone location data.

SEE: August 23, 2018 Brief Supporting Motion for Return of Property.

 “The Trump administration needs to understand that our border is not a Constitution-free zone,” said CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn. “This settlement brings us one step closer to the day when Americans can travel with the peace-of-mind that our rights will be respected.  As the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, there is nothing more invasive than searching and copying the data on our smartphones. These phones track our location, our conversations and even our passing thoughts. Muslim travelers must not be subjected to this warrantless electronic dragnet simply for practicing their faith. If CBP wants to search our phones, or if they want to access our social media accounts and text messages, I have a simple answer: get a warrant.”

“The CBP has been profiling Muslims for years as they cross the border,” said CAIR-NJ Legal Director Jay Rehman. “Their latest tactic of confiscating phones and attempting to retrieve data is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment privacy guaranteed under the Constitution.”

“When I came back to the U.S., I expected to be welcomed home,” said plaintiff Rejhane Lazoja. “Instead, I was questioned, degraded, and had my phone taken away. I’m incredibly relieved to know that my files and my photos have been deleted. After this settlement, I hope others won’t have endure the same degradation I faced.

“This is a win for Ms. Lazoja and an important outcome in an emerging area of law,” said CAIR-NY Attorney Carey Shenkman. “Sadly, so many Muslims who travel endure circumstances like in this case, but we hope this result shows CBP that we will be there to challenge them as long as they keep violating constitutional rights at the border.”

SEE: October 30, 2018 Stipulation Re Data Deletion and Dismissal.

CAIR-NY and CAIR-NJ filed the case on August 23rd, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging that CBP violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution both by taking Lazoja’s iPhone, and by keeping it for months after she returned home to the United States on February 26, 2018. The case is styled as a motion for return of property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), and the Defendants include U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, CBP Commissioner Kevin K. Mcaleenan, and CBP Newark Port Director Adele Fasano.

The motion argues that CBP violated Lazoja’s Fourth Amendment rights not only by seizing the phone, but by the length of time the phone was retained and by any copying of her personal data. In June the U.S. Supreme Court held in Carpenter v. United States that police need to obtain a warrant in order to seize cell tower location data.

According to the filing: “Seizing and searching a cell phone is unlike seizing or searching any other property. Cell phones are a uniquely intimate and expansive repository of our lives. They do far more than just make calls and send e-mails; they monitor and log much of our movement, activity, and even our thinking in real time. They enable us to stay connected with coworkers and loved ones -- losing a phone essentially cuts one off from modern society. In June, the Supreme Court recognized the indispensability of cell phones and the heightened privacy interests at stake when they are utilized in warrantless investigations.”

CBP has steadily increased electronic device searches at airports in recent years.  In fiscal year 2017, they searched 30,200 devices, up from 19,051 in the prior fiscal year. 

SEE: The Cybersecurity 202: Warrantless device searches at the border are rising. Privacy advocates are suing.

Meanwhile, Muslim travelers report that they are stopped for highly-invasive secondary inspection searches nearly three times as often as other Americans when traveling. According to a recent survey of Muslim travelers, 30 percent reported being subjected to secondary screening, which often includes cellphone searches, compared with 12 percent of overall travelers.

SEE: ISPU American Muslim Poll 2017
The case comes as federal courts increasingly recognize that cellphones contain uniquely intimate data, and that searches of the data, apps, and other records they contain should require a warrant. 

The invasion was even more severe for Lazoja, whose phone contained confidential attorney-client communications and photos of her without her hijab (Islamic head scarf). Lazoja wears the hijab as an expression of her Islamic faith, covering her hair in front of men who are not relatives. CBP’s retention of such photos only compounds the trauma of this warrantless invasion of her privacy. Additionally, CBP may share this same data with local and other federal law enforcement agencies.

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


CAIR-NY, Activists and Street Vendors to Hold Press Conference Following Anti-Muslim Attack

Media Advisory

(NEW YORK, NY, 7/18/18) – On Thursday, July 19, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), advocates and street vendors will hold a press conference responding to a recent hate attack on Hassane Elbaz. 

CAIR-NY, Activists and Street Vendors to Hold Press Conference Following Anti-Muslim Attack

On July 12, the alleged assailant reportedly snuck up behind Elbaz’s cart and attacked and injured both Elbaz and his colleague. The alleged attacker reportedly shouted “I'm going to f--k you up, terrorist m----------r! Arab, go back to your country!” The suspect fled before the NYPD arrived. According to media reports, the NYPD has not yet classified the assault as a hate crime.
SEE: CAIR-NY Condemns Assault on Muslim Street Vendor, Calls for Hate Crime Probe

WHAT: CAIR-NY, Activists and Street Vendors Hold a Press Conference Following Anti-Muslim Attack

WHO: CAIR-NY, The Street Vendor Project (a project of Urban Justice Center) and allies

WHEN: Thursday, July 19th at 11 AM

WHERE: Outside of 636 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.

- END –

CAIR-NY, Lloyd Patel Law Firm Secure $50K Settlement for Fired Muslim Worker

For Immediate Release

CAIR-NY, Lloyd Patel Law Firm Secure $50K Settlement for Fired Muslim Worker

Newly-arrived immigrant fired from first U.S. job, forced to pray outdoors in middle of winter
(NEW YORK, NY, 3/22/18)
– The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, and Lloyd Patel LLP, a leading employee-side labor and employment firm, today announced a $50,000 settlement with a Queens company for wrongfully terminating a Muslim man.
The 29-year-old South Asian green card holder, who prefers to remain anonymous, was wrongfully fired in 2017 simply for asking to pray. As a newly-arrived immigrant, this was the man’s first job in the United States, but he worked less than a week before being terminated.
The man’s supervisor reacted negatively to the revelation he was Muslim and became increasingly hostile once they learned about his faith. In his short time at the company, the man’s supervisor reportedly began to target him, sabotaging his work assignments and making derogatory statements about his faith.  
This same supervisor refused to let him spend a few minutes a day praying in an empty part of the office, forcing him to pray in a nearby park in the dead of winter. In addition to providing compensation for lost wages and emotional damages, the employer is also required to conduct non-discrimination training for both management and employees.
“No New Yorker should be forced into the cold, or fired from work, simply for wanting to pray,” said CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn. “Our laws are clear: New Yorkers have the right to reasonable accommodations to practice their faith. You don’t have to choose between your religion and your job. This settlement helps send a signal to employers that Muslim New Yorkers will not accept workplace discrimination or harassment. Our laws protect the right to take reasonable breaks, to pray, to wear the hijab, and to keep a beard.”
“Our client made the difficult and courageous decision to take a stand against unlawful religious discrimination by taking legal action, and we could not be more proud to have represented him,” said Lloyd Patel LLP Partner Erin Lloyd. “We are pleased with the monetary award for our client and that future employees at this company will be made aware of their legal rights and protections.”
The announcement came less than a week after the New York civil rights organization filed a civil rights class action lawsuit against New York City, accusing the NYPD of mistreating Muslim women. The suit alleged that the NYPD’s policy of forcing Muslim women and other detainees to remove religious head coverings was unlawful and unconstitutional.
SEE: CAIR-NY, ECBA File Civil Rights Class Action Lawsuit to Block NYPD From Removing Arrestees’ Hijabs for Booking Photos
The settlement comes amid a surge in anti-Muslim harassment, discrimination, and hate crimes in New York State.  The group noted a 974% increase in such reports from 2015 to 2017.
SEE: CAIR-NY Reports 74% Increase in Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Since Trump’s Election
Press Release: Civil Rights Report 2017
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
Lloyd Patel LLP, a leading a New York City-based labor and employment law firm representing workers in unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation actions.


CAIR-NY Says U.S. Supreme Court's Decision on Trump’s Muslim Ban Ignores Impact on Citizens and Their Relatives Abroad

For Immediate Release

 (NEW YORK, N.Y. 12/4/17) – The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today expressed alarm at the Supreme Court's decision to allow Muslim Ban 3.0 to be implemented until the Supreme Court makes a final decision about the executive action's constitutionality. 

Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued two orders staying the Hawaii and Maryland federal courts' injunctions which had, until today, largely prevented the Trump Administration from implementing Muslim Ban 3.0's visa restrictions.  Although this decision allows Muslim Ban 3.0 to go into effect now, the Supreme Court could still find it unconstitutional at a later date.

"This decision is nothing less than a dereliction of duty from our nation’s highest court," said CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn. "The Supreme Court's actions remind us that we can't simply rely on the justices to stop President Trump's marginalization of Muslims and other minorities. The fight is far from over, and we must all do everything we can to oppose Muslim Ban 3.0."

CAIR and the Brennan Center for Justice filed suit against President Trump's Muslim Ban on behalf of six American Muslims impacted by the immigration restrictions. On appeal, this case, Zakzok v. Trump, was consolidated with two others and are jointly pending before the Fourth Circuit.  Oral argument in the Fourth Circuit is set for this Friday, December 8th, in Richmond, VA.

Video: CAIR, Other Civil Rights Groups Hold Presser After Md. Court Arguments on Trump’s Muslim Ban

In a broad ruling on October 18th, U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang granted CAIR and other groups' request for a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from implementing its latest attempt to exclude Muslims from the United States. 

Judge Chuang ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to ultimately succeed in proving that anti-Muslim animus motivated the travel ban in violation of the Establishment Clause. He also noted that the ban violates federal law, which forbids the government from discriminating against visa applicants based on their nationality.

SEE: Second Judge Rules Against Latest Travel Ban, Saying Trump’s Own Words Show It Was Aimed at Muslims

In September, CAIR -- with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Profeta & Eisenstein -- filed an amicus brief with U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of seven American Muslims.

READ Amicus Brief
These groups also filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in August.

Read CAIR’s Amicus Brief
In January, just days after Trump signed the first Muslim ban executive order, CAIR filed suit. 

SEE: CAIR Files Federal Suit Challenging Constitutionality of Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Executive Order
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.

CAIR-NY Condemns President Trump’s Threat to Jail Terrorist Suspect In Gitmo

For Immediate Release

CAIR-NY Condemns President Trump’s Threat to Jail Terrorist Suspect In Gitmo

(NEW YORK, NY, 10/31/17) – The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned President Trump’s unconstitutional threat to jail Sayfullo Saipov in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Saipov, a green card holder originally from Uzbekistan, was arrested in connection with yesterday’s deadly attack on Lower Manhattan.

SEE: Trump calls terror suspect ‘an animal’ and says ‘send him to Gitmo,’ wants to close diversity visa program

Mr. Trump also said that the federal criminal and immigration systems were “a joke” and “a laughingstock,” going on to suggest that Saipov’s family “could be a threat.” The latest proposal comes as the Department of Defense continues to hold a U.S. Citizen who surrendered to allied forces in Syria in mid-September.  Since then, his name, age and other personal details, have been withheld, even from U.S. lawyers seeking to represent him.

SEE: Case of suspected American ISIS fighter captured in Syria vexes U.S.

“Rather than trying to bring our country together, this President is seeking to rip apart our constitution, attacking our fundamental rights,” said CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn. “We’ve never sent suspects arrested on U.S. soil to Guantanamo Bay, not even in the darkest days after 9/11.  Mr. Trump claims we are politically correct, but he is just factually wrong.  The U.S. criminal justice system has successfully prosecuted numerous terrorists, while the Guantanamo Bay tribunal system has yet to convict a single suspect.  Trump’s proposal shows that he doesn’t trump the NYPD, FBI and his own U.S. Attorney to handle this case.  We will do everything we can to block this policy and any other attempts to exploit tragedy to attack our values and constitution.”

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.

– END –

CAIR-NY Condemns Racist, Anti-Semitic Letters Sent to Jewish Businesses, Israeli Consulate

(NEW YORK, NY, 10/6/17) – The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned the anti-black, anti-gay, and anti-Semitic letters sent to seven businesses and the Israeli Consulate in New York City.
According to police, the letters include President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” a red, white, and black swastika, and four lines of text that target black, gay, and Jewish people. They were discovered by various business owners between September 29 and October 2. NYPD hate crime investigators are looking into who sent the racist letters.
SEE: Letters With Swastikas and 'MAGA' Sent to 7 Shops, Israeli Consulate: NYPD
“This horrendous act shows why Muslims New Yorkers must stand with our neighbors against bigotry in every form,” said CAIR-NY Legal Director Albert Fox Cahn. “We must defend the values of tolerance, diversity, and freedom of religion that have always made America and New York great. We stand with our Jewish, Black, and LGBTQ neighbors and hope that the perpetrators will be discovered and appropriately punished.”

CAIR-NY and the American Muslim community have in the past expressed solidarity with Jewish, Christian, Native American, African-American, and Sikh communities in 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.  Last month, CAIR-NY condemned the attack on a Jewish mother and daughter mistaken for Muslims in Forest Hills.
SEE: CAIR-NY Condemns Hate Attack on Jewish Mother and Daughter Mistaken for Muslims

Community members are asked to report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR-NY at (646) 665-7599, or by filing a report at:
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.

Saluted in uniform, harassed as a civilian: life as the NYPD's Muslim chaplain

One morning, Khalid Latif was asleep in his bed when he was awakened by two FBI agents. Latif remembers the agents telling him, “You’re just too good to be true, and we want you to know we’re watching you.”

At the time, Latif was an honored member of the NYPD and traveled around the world for the US State Department. He had met with President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and the Dalai Lama. Yet every time he went through an airport, he was searched, questioned, and detained. When Latif asked the TSA agents why, they said, “you’re young, you’re male, and you’re Muslim, and those things don’t go so well together right now.”

For Khalid Latif, this has been his reality in a post-9/11 world.

In his role as Imam at New York University, he currently devotes his life to combat Islamophobia and to create a safe, open, nonjudgmental environment for Muslim students and local community members to come together, worship, and feel that they have a support system.

“The deeply entrenched racism in our country has to be addressed,” says Latif. “And it has to be addressed not for any single minority population, but for the sake of all of us as human beings.”

The above video is another installment of The Secret Life of Muslims, from director Joshua Seftel. The films were created with support from the Ford Foundation, the Doris DukeFoundation for Islamic Art, the New York Community Trust, and Pillars Fund. We'll be releasing more over the coming weeks.

Oscar Morel is Officially Charged with First-Degree Murder of Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin

By Rocco Parascandola, Joseph Stepasky and Sephan Rex Brown, For NY Daily News, On Aug 16th 2016, Read Original

The lone gunman busted for the cold-blooded execution of a revered Queens imam and his friend faces life in prison without parole if convicted in the double homicide.

Oscar Morel was officially charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in theweekend killings of mosque leader Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin as they walked side by side on a Queens street.

District Attorney Richard A. Brown acknowledged the motive behind the shootings remained unclear. Hate crime charges remain a possibility against Morel, 35, of Brooklyn.

The first-degree murder charge was announced after police sources said Morel stashed the murder weapon in a crudely concocted hole in the wall of his basement apartment.


The .38-caliber Taurus revolver police say Oscar Morel used to kill a Queens imam and his friend. (NYPD)

He also faces two counts of second-degree murder, and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

The not-so-secret hiding place created for the black .38-caliber Taurus revolver was quickly found by cops Monday evening, sources said.

Morel had cut out a piece of a wall, hid the gun inside the hole and then used sheetrock screws to re-install the piece, sources said.

When cops appeared at the apartment, the cuts in the wall were obvious, sources said.

Detectives were trying to determine if the revolver was linked to any other crimes. The gun is unlicensed, so police are still trying to determine how Morel got the weapon, sources said.

He worked as a porter at the New School since November 2013, the school said.

"While we are unable to comment on his arrest, we are cooperating fully with the authorities in this matter," the New School said in a statement.

Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 65, were both shot in the back of the head by a gunman who opened fire without saying a word, police said.

“The defendant is accused of the murder of a highly respected and beloved religious leader and his friend as they walked home from an afternoon prayer service,” said Brown.

“Their deaths are a devastating loss to their families and the community that they served as men of peace.”

Cops continued to scour Morel’s home for any evidence that would lead them to a motive, and are examining his phone, sources said.

Sources said police had yet to find evidence he was hired to commit the murders, but it remained an avenue of investigation.

Police also found clothes in Morel’s basement apartment that matched the outfit worn by the shooter and captured on security video, authorities said.

The deadly ambush was carried out with ruthless efficiency — but police say Morel’s wild behavior after the murders led to his arrest.

After Morel blasted the victims from behind in Ozone Park at 1:50 p.m., he fled in a black Chevy TrailBlazer, police said.

Ten minutes later, he was embroiled in a confrontation with a cyclist at Pine St. and Pitkin Ave., smashing his ride into the biker, cops said.

That led authorities to Morel’s East New York home. When approached by police Sunday evening, Morel rammed his vehicle into a detective’s car in a failed attempt to flee, police said.

Morel, who has one prior arrest for misdemeanor pot possession, admitted to being in Ozone Park at the time of the slayings, but demanded a lawyer when cops quizzed him further about the murders, a police source said.

He had no known ties to Ozone Park or the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque, where Akonjee preached.

Muslim veterans lead NYC parade of immigrants celebrating their ‘hyphen’

By Omar Etman, For PBS News Hour, On Aug 16th 2016, Read Original

New Yorkers from more than 80 countries marched through downtown Brooklyn in solidarity with Muslim-American veterans on Sunday in a show of unity many participants aimed to counter recent waves of Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment spurred by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The celebration of the third annual International Day of Friendship was part of Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams’ “Embrace Your Hyphen” campaign, which encourages residents to celebrate all aspects of their identity.

The event came the week after Trump drew criticism for his comments to the parents of a Muslim army captain killed in Iraq in 2004.

“We must out-Trump Trump,” Adams said, to big cheers.

[The flag of Libya in the row of 195 flags represented at the 3rd annual International Day of Friendship celebration in Brooklyn, NY, on August 7, 2016. Photo by Omar Etman/PBS NewsHour Weekend]

The flag of Libya appears in the row of 195 flags represented at the 3rd annual International Day of Friendship celebration in Brooklyn, NY, on Aug. 7, 2016. Photo by Omar Etman/PBS NewsHour Weekend

In introducing three Muslim-American veterans, Adams said: “This is not the land of cowards. We do not turn against each other. We embrace each other. And we do not allow people to use religion to harm those who righteously worship in peace.”

[Krystal Guzman and her grandmother Angela Filomena representing Puerto Rico at the 3rd annual International Day of Friendship celebration in Brooklyn, NY on August 7, 2016. Photo by Omar Etman/PBS NewsHour Weekend]

Krystal Guzman and her grandmother Angela Filomena represent Puerto Rico at the 3rd annual International Day of Friendship celebration in Brooklyn, NY, on Aug. 7, 2016. Photo by Omar Etman/PBS NewsHour Weekend

During the march, Jessica Filomeno, 38, representing Puerto Rico, held the flag of Norway. “That’s what I love about this parade: you can represent anybody,” she said.

Filomeno’s mother and daughter, who was wearing a traditional Puerto Rican dress, had also joined in the festivities. Filomena has attended the International Day of Friendship each year.

In 2014, the parade traveled only a few blocks, and not as many countries were represented, she said. This year, the flags of 195 countries were on display.

[Boys do the moko jumbie, a stilt walking dance native to Trinidad and Tobago, at the 3rd annual International Day of Friendship celebration in Brooklyn, NY on August 7, 2016. Photo by Omar Etman/PBS NewsHour Weekend]

Boys do the moko jumbie, a stilt walking dance native to Trinidad and Tobago, at the 3rd annual International Day of Friendship celebration in Brooklyn, NY, on Aug. 7, 2016. Photo by Omar Etman/PBS NewsHour Weekend

Felina Backer, a volunteer from Haiti who also sang the national anthem, said she was happy to see immigrants loudly celebrating their hyphenated identities.

“People are here saying, ‘I’m an immigrant and I matter.'” she said.

[Byambakhuu Darinchuluun (L) and members from the delegation from Mongolia enjoy the festivities]

Byambakhuu Darinchuluun, left, and people representing Mongolia enjoyed the festivities. Photo by Omar Etman/NewsHour Weekend

Byambakhuu Darinchuluun, representing Mongolia alongside 25 others from the Mongol Heritage Foundation, appeared to revel in the celebratory air.

When asked about anti-immigrant comments made by Trump, he shrugged it off, gesturing to the diverse crowd around him.

See more photos from the parade below.

Islamic Cultural Center of New York vandalized — as advocates announce $500,000 effort to fight Islamophobia

By Stephen Rex Brown, For NY Daily News, On Aug 16th 2016, Read Original



New York Muslims announced a $500,000 campaign against Islamophobia Tuesday — the same day cops reported an Upper East Side mosque was vandalized.

As the New York Community Trust foundation announced the hefty grant to improve community relations between Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbors, police sources said that a vandal smashed a plaque above a gate at The Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

Surveillance footage from Sunday evening captured the suspect hurling a hammer at the plaque bearing the center’s name in Arabic three times before successfully shattering it. 

[NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi]

A vandal smashed a plaque above a gate at The Islamic Center of New York.


“It's a hate crime. It's concerning. Who knows what next they could do?” Mohamed Murci, the director of the center.

Will Smith talks Islamophobia in America

This wasn’t the first time the house of worship had been defaced, either.

[Surveillance footage shows a suspect authorities believe is responsible for vandalizing The Islamic Center of New York on Sunday.]

Surveillance footage shows a suspect authorities believe is responsible for vandalizing The Islamic Center of New York on Sunday.

Roughly three months ago, someone spray-painted a different sign for the mosque logo near the  E. 97th St. entrance, spokesman Mohammed Hagiabucar said. Then, a month later, someone stole the sign entirely. Staff reported both incidents to the police but no one has been arrested, according to Hagiabucar. 

"It's scary," he said. "We don't know what is in these people's minds." 

[NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi]

Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York, said Islamophobia in the city is rampant.


Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said Islamophobia was on the rise — and blamed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

King: Muslim students targeted as Islamophobia spreads

“Fifteen years since 9/11 — this is the worst we've ever seen," Sarsour said at New York Community Trust’s Third Ave. headquarters. “We've seen hate before but never to this level. Trump's type of rhetoric inevitably leads to this type of hate.”

The hefty grant, which will be distributed among eight nonprofit groups, will fund efforts to foster more engagement with Muslim New Yorkers. One initiative will encourage Muslims to join local community boards.

"People who know a Muslim will look at Islam more favorably. I think that speaks volumes," said Tazmin Uddin, 25, a coordinator with Turning Point for Women and Families.

Person left threatening note at a Muslim family’s Staten Island home: 'I’m coming for your baby'

By Mary McDonell, For Cops investigate threatening ‘ISIS’ note left at Muslim family’s Staten Island home: 'I’m coming for your baby', On Jul 20th 2016, Read Original


Cops are investigating a possible bias crime against a Staten Island family after a note threatening Muslims was found at their home, officials said Tuesday.

A husband and father returned to his St. George home Monday to learn that a threatening note had been scribbled on notebook paper.

“I’m going to kill you Muslim bitches,” the crude note said. “You’re ISIS. I’m coming for your baby.”

Cops said the family has lived in their home for three years, and that they had no issues with their neighbors or co-workers.

Suspect turns himself in for beating two Muslim teens

“It’s so scary, I didn’t even bring my baby home today,” the wife said outside their home on Tuesday.

“I left her with a friend.”

The woman said their landlord discovered the letter.


CAIR-NY to Announce Article 78 Filing by Muslim Targets of NYPD Spying

(NEW YORK, N.Y., 11/25/13) –- On Tuesday, November 26, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), along with other Muslim and civil rights organizations, will hold a noon news conference at One Police Plaza with Imam Abdur-Rashid and Samir Hashmi, who have filed Article 78 petitions against the NYPD in response to the department’s refusal to provide intelligence records gathered on the two men. 

[NOTE: An Article 78 proceeding is a legal method to challenge the actions, or lack of actions, of an administrative agency in court.]

SEE: AP’s Probe Into NYPD Intelligence Operations

WHEN: November 26, Noon

WHERE: One Police Plaza, New York, NY

CONTACT: CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadyia Khalique, 212-870-2002, E-Mail:


Press release by the Law Firm of Omar T. Mohammedi, LLC:

Since 2002, the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) has engaged in a domestic surveillance program and practice of religious profiling that targets Muslim individuals, places of worship, businesses, schools, student groups, and other establishments located in and throughout New York.

Talib W. Abdur-Rashid, the Imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc. and the President of the Majlis Ash-Shura (Islamic Leadership Council) of Metropolitan New York, has been the subject of such illegal surveillance. Surveillance of Imam Abdur-Rashid intensified following the Sean Bell verdict in 2008, due to the Imam’s stand against the NYPD’s profiling of African Americans and its illegal stop & frisk policies.  

Mr. Hashmi, former Treasurer of the Muslim Student Association at Rutgers University, was surveilled while he was a student at Rutgers. The NYPD launched an aggressive and egregious operation to monitor the Muslim student group at the university in New Jersey in 2009, using undercover NYPD officers to establish a secret safe house in an off-campus apartment. After a detailed investigation, the FBI and local police concluded that the covert operation’s objective was to monitor Muslim students at Rutgers University.

Imam Abdur-Rashid and Samir Hashmi individually submitted Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, seeking the intelligence the NYPD gathered on them through its illegal surveillance. Their requests were categorically denied. Imam Abdur -Rashid and Samir Hashmi have now filed Article 78 petitions against the New York Police Department in response to its blanket and baseless refusal to provide intelligence records gathered concerning the two men. 

“As an active member and a leader in the Muslim community,” Imam Abdur-Rashid says, “I am outraged that the NYPD not only spies illegally on me and the Masjid I serve, but refuses to offer the information they have on me.” Mr. Hashmi fears he was “targeted and surveilled just for trying to be an active student leader in the community.”

"Imam Abdur Rashid and Mr. Hashmi are entitled to know the information the NYPD has about them. They are outstanding members of the community. They have not done anything illegal for the NYPD to have dossiers on them in the first place," says attorney Omar Mohammedi.

For further information please contact:

Omar Mohammedi, Esq.

Mehak Jamil, Esq.

Law Firm of Omar T. Mohammedi, LLC

(212) 725-3846

CAIR-NY is a chapter of America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Become a Fan of CAIR-NY on Facebook

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CONTACT: CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadyia Khalique, 212-870-2002, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail:

Hamburg Walmart manager fired over anti-Muslim posting

By Jay Tokasz | News Staff Reporter / Buffalo News

A Facebook rant about Muslims by an employee of a Walmart store in Hamburg has prompted the retail giant to fire the man.

The derogatory posting on Friday morning was brought to the attention of Wal-Mart Stores executives by a member of the local Muslim community and by a national Muslim advocacy organization.

The assistant manager at the Walmart on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg posted a photograph from behind of two Muslim women dressed in full cover and the written comments: “Halloween came early this year ... do they really have to ... dress like that ... your in my country ... get that ... off!!!!!.”

The employee was identified as Terry Earsing by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil liberties organization that advocates on behalf of Muslims and had urged “appropriate disciplinary action” in the matter.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said Wednesday that the employee was fired.

“As soon as we became aware, we began looking into this and as a result, this associate is no longer with the company,” said Kayla Whaling. “We set high expectations for our associates, and this associate clearly failed to meet these expectations at every level.”

Whaling said Wal-Mart learned of the posting Friday.

Earsing apologized for the comments in a telephone interview with The Buffalo News.

“I’m truly, honestly sorry about the whole thing. I just apologize. I don’t know what else I can say,” he said.

Earsing said the incident started out as a joke that went awry.

The board president of CAIR’s New York chapter praised the retailer for acting swiftly according to its policies.

“We absolutely commend them for doing the right thing,” said Ryan Mahoney. “I wish this person didn’t take this course of action and force this outcome.”

CAIR expressed concern because the organization thought that the photograph was taken while the assistant manager was at his workplace and not on his own personal time.

“Because he did it at his job, it’s not about personal expression, it’s about Wal-Mart’s policy toward hate speech,” said Mahoney.

Earsing said a friend of his sent the picture to him, and he added his comments to the picture in a Facebook posting.

He said he was at home at the time he made the post.

“I didn’t do it from work,” he said.


Racial Profiling Backfires: historically marginalized communities unite in NY

Before Muslims were aware of mass spying and racial profiling, other communities were already in the battle to end discriminatory policing. In the 1985 Handschu v. Special Services Divisi case, undercover and surveillance techniques on religious and political organizations were challenged. The courts acted to restrict these techniques only to cases where there was specific information linking organizations and individuals to criminal activity. The FBI's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) also conducted surveillance and interrogations of various political organizations and civil rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). These samples from recent history provide a glimpse into the use of surveillance techniques by our government to disempower those who challenge the dominant political powers.

The NYPD Stop & Frisk program and Mass Surveillance of Muslims are unfortunately another violation to add the list of historical abuses of power.  Unlawful racial profiling is currently being used by the NYPD -funded with our tax dollars- to disempower and disenfranchise particular communities and voices.

While these policies serve to marginalize and divide our communities, they have in fact done the opposite.  Last week, diverse communities from across New York rallied on the front steps of City Hall in solidarity to show support for legislation and policies that will end racial profiling and unlawful surveillance. It was a historic victory. 


Photo Credit: Communities United for Police Reform (CPR)

People of all backgrounds came together and stood for change, and I was honored to be among them. We demanded our city council members serve their constituents and uphold the constitution; To provide us with a police department that protects our communities, not one that discriminates and profiles us based on our ethnicity, race, gender, religion, or political ideas. And we urged policy-makers not to cower to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's public pressure to ignore the concerns of Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and other communities who are targeted by the police. 

It is amid this public pressure and campaign of disinformation that last week seemed unlikely. How could a bunch of marginalized people from across New York overcome the command of our own Mayor and police commissioner? 

But that's exactly what happened. In the early hours of Thursday morning, after 2:00AM, the City Council submitted a veto-proof majority vote for a the End Discriminatory Profiling Bill (Intro 1080) and the NYPD Oversight Bill (Intro 1079)

 Council Memebers Jumanee Williams and Brad Lander led the effort to pass the CSA at the City Council

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) -a coalition of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists from across New York- has been at the forefront of the effort to make our communities safer by ending NYPD policies that unfairly target various groups of people. Through its member organizations and community supporters, CPR has been able to link people and issues from across New York for a common cause -to end discriminatory policing. 

CPR's member organizations include the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who recently challenged the NYPD stop & frisk program at trial in Floyd,et al. v. City of New York. While Stop & Frisk is not normally seen as a 'Muslim issue', New York Muslims became active advocates against the practice in solidarity with other marginilized communities. Muslim organizations including CAIR organized a day to 'pack the courtroom' during the Floyd trial to show our support to end discriminatory policing and solidarity with the communities impacted by it. 

This solidarity was again on display in mid June when the announcement of another lawsuit was made in front of One Police Plaza. Like the principled stand against stop & frisk, these same organizations and community members united to challenge NYPD mass surveillance of Muslim communities. 


Through the efforts in the streets, in our communities, in Albany, at the City Hall, and in the courtrooms, it has become evident that race, religion, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, culture, or income has not been an obstacle to organizing to change the NYPD. While it appears the NYPD and our Mayor believe our race or religion predisposes us to crime, we reminded them that instead it predisposes us to justice.   

At each of these major events, and for each of these major issues, diverse communites of diverse backgrounds stood side by side in solidarity to make history, and to make a statement—Justice for All of Us!

Zohaib is a student at the New York University, and a Government Affairs Intern at CAIR-New York. As an intern with CAIR-NY he has monitored legislation at the federal, state anmd local level that impacts the Muslim community. 

Muslim Post Disaster Relief: Rebuilding Lives & Perceptions

As news of the recent natural disaster in Oklahoma unfolded, many were surprised to hear about the influx of organizations contributing supplies and volunteers on the ground—in particular Muslim organizations. However, on the East Coast where communities united, rebuilt, and continue to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Muslim relief organizations have become a staple on the scene. 

Hurricane Sandy inflicted a great deal of damage in New York, New Jersey, and the nearby coastal areas, leaving countless neighborhoods and communities devastated in its path.  Yet through the despair brought by the storm, we saw stories of selflessness and heroism that inspired our nation. American Muslim grassroots organizations that provided much needed help in post-Sandy aid work were among these stories, offering a narrative rarely discussed in mainstream discourse-- a narrative of Muslims as dedicated Americans helping others in a time of need.

The destruction of Hurricane Sandy was accompanied with exhaustive media reports of the post-relief efforts. Sandy represented the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and it affected over 8 million Americans. 170 people were killed in the path of the storm and many more were critically injured, and countless people lost their homes and were left without essential items needed for survival. 


In this difficult time, grassroots organizations stepped in to help rebuild impacted areas; and in doing so rebuild the public narrative surrounding American Muslims. Groups such as Islamic Relief USA, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)-Relief, the Muslim American Society, the National Network of Arab American Professionals, along with individual efforts by American Muslims who started new groups specifically to bring aid to those in distress such as the Hurricane Sandy Yellow Team, spent countless dedicated hours in post-Sandy relief.

These Muslim organizations built multiple coalitions with government entities such as FEMA, and partnered with various faith groups of all denominations, to provide clean-up operations and aid services in several hard hit communities while also strengthening interfaith bonds. 

One of the more impressive efforts based in the Muslim community came from ICNA-Relief, who set up a Muslim response to Hurricane Sandy Survivors-- a campaign which cost upward of one million dollars. The funds were used to distribute more than 9,000 meals to hurricane victims. Sleeping mats, school bags, and other essential goods were provided for anyone in need. ICNA-Relief was especially active in New Jersey, where their efforts were praised by Mayor Lorenzo Langford of Atlantic City. In New York's Brighton Beach ICNA-Relief held a health fair with assistance from FEMA, and they distributed food packages, winter clothing, blankets, and heaters to those trying to recover from the disaster. Free medical care was also provided to those in attendance. Those efforts in New York earned the organization recognition by channel NY 1 as "New Yorkers of the Week."


“They were the first people to show up on the scene in this neighborhood and give everybody help. They came, they gutted out the house as quickly as possible,” said Nicole Pogan, of Brighton Beach, in a report by channel NY1. “It was very emotional for me to go through what I went through, just like every other New Yorker that was hit by Sandy. And when the ICNA relief showed up, I was just so happy. They really helped me out a great deal.”

Kiran Siddiqi, a lawyer from New York, was one of the many American Muslims who had the opportunity to volunteer and help neighbors impacted by Sandy. “I volunteered because as a Muslim I felt a strong compulsion to help my neighbors who were in much need and distress,” said Siddiqi. “After a glimpse of the devastation my fellow neighbors were facing, I felt an obligation to help in any way that I could.”

The efforts by hundreds of volunteers and numerous organizations summed up an outpouring of support from the American Muslim community– a narrative that offers a compelling contrast to the usual portrayals we see on our televisions or hear from elected officials. At a time when anti-Muslim hysteria is at its peak, and well-funded Islamophobes are routinely questioning the loyalty and sincerity of American Muslims, efforts to help victims of natural disasters has overwhelmed many negative stereotypes.  Relief work in the unfortunate aftermath of natural disasters have brought out the best in all Americans. We have accepted the challenge and united to offer a helping hand in a time of difficulty for many.

Helping each other out as Americans becomes especially important in light events such as the Boston Marathon Bombings which led to a flurry of reports of violent incidents on American Muslims as misguided 'revenge' attacks. Media pundits have also contributed to the amount of Islamophobia in mainstream discourse. Most notably among them was Fox News contributor Eric Rush, who, in reaction to the Boston Bombing, tweeted that all Muslims should be killed.

Needless to say, the kind of people who engage in acts of violence, or spew hatred on social media or television news, are not the same Americans who are rolling up their sleeves to help our nation recover and rebuild. And those Americans who are on the ground, have overcome stereotypes and differences to achieve a greater good through compassion. What the Muslim organizations and volunteers have taught us in the aftermath of Sandy and the Oklahoma tornado, is that along with restructuring many parts of our nation that have been devastated through storms, a new and more accurate depiction of American Muslims is being restructured as well. We can only pray that this re-built image, like our re-built streets, homes, neighborhoods, and lives, will be stronger than ever. 


Fahad Hasnain is a Community Outreach volunteer with CAIR-NY. He is a graduate from the CUNY Queens College and currently leads an effort to promote voter awareness and voter registration drives at Islamic Centers across New York City. .

Muslim School Holidays Make Sense, the New York Post Doesn't


In Andrea Peyser’s New York Post column last week titled “Good Sense Takes a Holiday,” the columnist known for covering scandals in the entertainment world expressed everything but good sense. Instead she pointed fingers while sarcastically dismissing the religious observances of over 10% of New York City's public school students.

Peyser claims that respecting a student’s religious observance is affecting the ability of our youth to learn and threatening our education system's ability to function. In particular, respecting the religious observance of Muslim students.

According to Peyser, political correctness and appeasing Muslims—not an increased police presence, prison-like school buildings, the use of prescription pills to address learning problems, an inability to promote teacher accountability, overcrowded classrooms, bullying, increased budget cuts and school closures—are a threat to the learning environment of public school students.

Peyser continues to display her lack of ‘good sense’ and sincere concern by comparing Mother’s Day, Halloween, and even dinosaurs to the observance of Muslim holidays in public schools.  In doing so she conveniently ignores religious holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover which are observed by the New York City Department of education with nearly three weeks of combined vacation time. On those holidays members of the Jewish and Christian community, including schoolteachers and students, get to spend time with their families for their respective religious observances.

So how is it that the request for a similar recognition for Muslim teachers and students lacks 'good sense'? So much so that Peyser decided to leave behind her usual columns about Lindsay Lohan’s nail polish to write about our ailing educational system.

At this point it should be obvious that Peyser lacks any credibility or credentials to provide substantive dialogue about our education system. In fact her only interest in this subject is in attacking democratic mayoral candidates and the Muslim communities they are addressing--a New York Post favorite pastime. 

Muslims are not asking for special treatment. Our community is only asking to be afforded the same opportunity to celebrate our holidays with our families as our brethren in the Jewish and Christian faith communities.

Muslim holidays, just like Jewish holidays, are based on a lunar calendar and vary from year to year. This means the two days out of the year Muslims are wishing to celebrate often coincide with weekends, other religious holidays, or fall during the summer vacation (which will be the case for the next 5 years).

Suggesting as Peyser put it, Muslims should “just take off” is also not a reasonable alternative.

When members of the Jewish community were given the same option, some districts saw nearly 80-90% of its population absent from school. This reality would be a greater threat to the learning environment and a greater waste of our tax dollars than actually recognizing the holiday as vacation.

What’s perhaps even more troubling about Peyser’s claims is her support of Bloomberg’s position that “You cannot have a day off from school for every single holiday, or we’d have no school.’’ As a Muslim, I am still trying to understand what the Mayor meant. So it’s apparently okay for me to miss school in order for my Jewish and Christian classmates to celebrate religious holidays with their families (which I am more than glad to do), but it’s not okay for my classmates to do the same for me (which I am sure they would be glad to do)? Who decides whose education and religion should be given the preferential treatment? Is it my education, or my religion, or both that’s less important than that of someone who is not Muslim?

We hope New York Post readers with 'good sense' will know these things as New York City continues to grow and evolve into a city of many faiths—all of them respected equally. American Muslims are a proud part of this city, and as active and engaged citizens it should be no shock that government officials elected to represent us address our concerns—including recognizing our religious holidays. In doing so, the candidates and all elected officials are doing something Peyser obviously is not--displaying “good sense.”


Mariyum Luqman was born in Brooklyn and currently serves as communications and outreach intern at the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY).

The Associated Press's New Definition of "Islamist"

By Abby Ohlheiser, For Slate Daily Magazine, On Apr 5th 2013, Read Original


Here's one more revision of note to the AP Stylebook: "Islamist" is no longer allowed as shorthand for Islamic militants, extremists, or radicals.

The Associated Press announced the change late Thursday, just two days after it garnered headlines for dropping the term "illegal immigrant." Essentially, the new definition of "Islamist" attempts to keep the term more neutral by drawing a line between a political philosophy and set of movements, and Islamic extremists and militants.

The old definition read as (via the US News):

"Supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi."

While the new version reads a bit longer, and not unlike the immigration change, requests reporters take the time to offer more details on a case-by-case basis:

"An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.

"Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi."

As with the "illegal" definition change, this latest tweak is being framed as a victory for activists—in this case, the Council on American-Islamic Relations—who called at the start of this year for the news organization to change their style guide, which is used widely but not universally by English-language publications. In a statement, CAIR said of the change, "We believe this revision is a step in the right direction and will result in fewer negative generalizations in coverage of issues related to Islam and Muslims."

Some in the conservative blogosphere are less than happy about the "Islamist" change, as you might expect, given that anti-Sharia activists routinely use the term to describe CAIR itself as an extremist organization. Then again, the AP wasn't exactly in the best standing with some on the right after the "illegal immigrant" Stylebook change, or for the news organization's Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the NYPD's covert monitoring of New York Muslims.

Click here for original article. 

In Bay Area, a Fragile Relationship Between Muslims and the F.B.I.

The New York Times
Colin Moynihan  |  Feb 28, 2013

View original article here.

Early one morning in 2007, Muhammad Chaudhry showed up at the Islamic Center of East Bay in Antioch, Calif., and found seven bullet holes in one of the building’s front windows.

Soon, agents from the San Francisco office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived and documented it and previous incidents at the center. In 2005, someone had left messages including “racial slurs” on the center’s answering machine, the agents wrote. In 2006, a single shot had damaged a window; a few months later, the same window was destroyed with a brick.

In a report written three weeks after the shots were fired, and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, an agent wrote that no investigation would continue “since there is no current evidence to show this incident as being a hate crime.”

Six months later, arson gutted the center. F.B.I. agents opened an investigation, but members of the center wondered whether the fire could have been prevented if the agency had pursued the fusillade that preceded it.

All of the episodes at the center “were consistent in targeting us,” and an investigation into the shooting “would have been helpful,” Abdul Rahman, the chairman of the center’s board of trustees, said recently. “Now we’ll never know if these involved the same people.”

The F.B.I. did not respond to specific questions about the things that happened at the center and another case from the same year, because some of the agents that worked in the San Francisco office in 2007 have since left, said Julianne Sohn, a bureau spokeswoman there.

She added that it was also hard to comment on individual reports without knowing if there were other related documents, but said that the F.B.I. was dedicated to looking into any hate crimes that were reported.

“Here in the Bay Area, we take hate crimes very seriously,” Ms. Sohn said. “Whenever we get any kind of allegation or complaint we look at it thoroughly.”

Reservations over how the situation at the center in Antioch was handled underscore a sometimes delicate relationship between the F.B.I. and the Muslim population near San Francisco.

About a year ago, a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and other groups yielded about 15,000 documents detailing interactions between FBI agents and Muslims in that part of the state.

Lawyers and activists said that the documents showed that the F.B.I. had used a mosque outreach program, meant to combat hate crimes directed at Muslims, to gather information about people engaged in lawful activities. News reports followed, along with debates over how the F.B.I. should approach the Muslim population. At the time, F.B.I. officials said those operations were appropriate.

But most of the thousands of pages the F.B.I. turned over received little or no attention. Among them were reports that documented a handful of instances in which agents declined to pursue possible hate crimes.

Although the F.B.I. requires that agents examine all such claims, not all result in a full investigation. Some lack dependable evidence, and agents may determine that others do not include hate-crime components as defined by federal law. Ms. Sohn said that it could be hard to find proof of intent, a key element in demonstrating that a hate crime took place.

But Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent and now a senior policy counsel for the A.C.L.U. in Washington, said that two instances in which the San Francisco office did not pursue investigations stood out.

One involved a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, who told agents in 2007 that he had received threatening calls from blocked numbers after including his phone number on fliers promoting an antiwar protest.

One caller told the student to be “very, very careful,” an F.B.I. report stated and added, “You wouldn’t want an accident to happen to you.”

The second used a racial epithet, the agents wrote, and told the caller to blow himself up “before we do it for you.”

The report went on to note that F.B.I. records indicated that a person whose name was redacted, apparently the student, had previously written e-mails that “conveyed hatred toward the United States and Israel and support for the Palestinian cause.”

A man named Snehal Shingavi said he was the one who had received the threats and spoken with the F.B.I. He said that the agency had not accurately characterized the views he had expressed in e-mails and added that it was improper to catalog political opinions attributed to him.

“The linking of my political activity with the decision not to fully investigate the death threats is very troubling,” Mr. Shingavi said.

Also troubling, Mr. German said, was the decision not to start a hate-crime investigation after shots were fired at the Islamic Center of East Bay, given the escalating nature of the attacks there. An investigation, he said, could have solved or deterred crimes and helped foster trust between the F.B.I. and the center.

“Here was an opportunity to do something to protect the community,” Mr. German said. “There is concern in the community that the F.B.I. is viewing them through only one lens, as potential suspects.”

Mr. Rahman, from the center in Antioch, said that agents began contacting him regularly after the arson there, sometimes taking him to lunch. He was eager to establish a rapport, he said, but became uncomfortable when questions about the fire seemed to give way to questions about the center’s members.

“After you’ve been victimized, that is not something you want to hear,” Mr. Rahman said, adding that he cautioned the agents that their work in general would not benefit from such an approach, telling them: “You’re not going to build a relationship this way.




On TV, an Everyday Muslim as Everyday American

By Samuel G. Freedman, For New York Times, On Feb 8th 2013, Read Original

The screen showed a balding man with tawny skin and a salt-and-pepper goatee, and seconds later it spelled out his name: Mujahid Abdul-Rashid. The advertisement went on to show him fishing, playing in a yard with two toddlers, and sitting down to a family meal.

One week later, again during an N.F.L. game, the same commercial appeared. This time I listened to the words. The advertisement was for Prudential’s financial products for retirees. Mr. Abdul-Rashid was talking about his own retirement after 19 years as a clothing salesman, and the family time he now intended to enjoy.

“That’s my world,” he said over that closing shot of the family dinner.

What I had just seen was something rare and laudable: what seems to be the first mass-market product commercial featuring an identifiably Muslim person not as a security risk, not as a desert primitive, but as an appealing, everyday American.

As if to underscore the point, the Prudential commercial with Mr. Abdul-Rashid was appearing on television during the same period last fall that saw two widespread commercial campaigns vilifying Muslims. One was the series of ads on New York subways and buses placed by a group led by Pamela Geller, the outspoken blogger and critic of Islam, which depicted a worldwide conflict between the civilized West and Islamic “savages.” The other was the billboard during the presidential campaign that showed President Obama submissively kissing the hand of a sheik.

Then, during the Super Bowl last weekend, a Coca-Cola commercial trotted out the stereotype of the Arab on camelback. As points of comparison, consider that Frito-Lay retired its “Frito Bandito” caricature more than 40 years ago. And in 1989, Quaker Oats removed Aunt Jemima’s kerchief and gave her pearl earrings so she no longer evoked a house slave.

I was intrigued enough by the Prudential commercial to find Mr. Abdul-Rashid. Like the other nine people in the campaign, he is an actual person, not a hired performer. And as his name implies, he is Muslim, an African-American born in Los Angeles who converted to Islam in 1980.

Mr. Abdul-Rashid, who does some acting on the side, first heard about the Prudential job through a search for recent retirees that was picked up by an e-mail list for actors in the Bay Area, where he lives. He made it through several rounds of interviews to be selected for the series of “Day One Stories,” as the campaign was called. His spot had its debut during “60 Minutes” on CBS in November 2011, and has played about 130 times since then on networks like the History Channel and ESPN. Adweek magazine saluted the commercial with one of its “Ad of the Day” designations.

Nobody from Prudential or from Droga5, the agency that created the “Day One Stories,” ever asked Mr. Abdul-Rashid about his religion. Nor does the commercial show him in any religious activity. Still, for any sensate viewer, his name alone attests to his Muslim identity.

“I’d never thought about the ad in those terms, because the thrust of the commercial had nothing to do with my religion whatsoever,” Mr. Abdul-Rashid, 61, said. “You saw an African-American family interacting and then my name at the end. But one day I went to a mosque in Oakland with my friend, and the imam said, ‘This is good, it lets people know we are the mainstream.’ ”

Mr. Abdul-Rashid’s first name, given to him by a Saudi Arabian teacher with whom he studied Islam before converting, is the kind of thing the Pamela Gellers of the world could have waved like a flag. Even some of Mr. Abdul-Rashid’s theater colleagues suggested after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that maybe he would be wise to change his name. He refused.

“The name Mujahid means someone who strives to live in the way of God,” he said. “And, yes, it means holy warrior, too. But if you ask me, that means fighting the good fight. If you see a hungry person and feed him, that’s fighting holy war. The greatest holy war is within ourselves.”

Not being an advertising specialist, I consulted several experts to hear their view of the Prudential commercial. They concurred on its uniqueness and importance.

“It expands our idea of the American Dream and it gives us a new way of looking at it,” said Timothy Malefyt, a professor of marketing at Fordham University who worked in the advertising industry for 15 years. “This guy shares our ideals, our fears. He talks about his work ethic, his love of family. Right away, you can see he’s Muslim. So he’s different from us, but he’s also like us. This lets us reevaluate American Muslim identity.”

The ad struck Nazia Du Bois, the director of global cultural strategy for Ogilvy & Mather, as singular in the American market. “I can’t think of any other ad as bold, as brave, as this,” she said in an interview. Amplifying her point in an e-mail, she wrote, “This commercial demonstrates an enlightened definition of what it means to be American. It does this by broadening the definition of the American ‘everyman.’ ”

If you want a delightful postscript, try this: Mr. Abdul-Rashid, with more time for theater as a retiree, is performing in an acclaimed revival of August Wilson’s play “Gem of the Ocean” in San Diego.

But there’s a more depressing footnote, too. When I contacted Prudential for comment about the commercial, the company repeatedly declined to speak. Its vice president for global communications, Deborah Meany, asserted in an e-mail that Prudential had no idea Mr. Abdul-Rashid was Muslim.

An aphorism says that no good deed shall go unpunished. You can only hope that Prudential’s silence about its own admirable commercial isn’t an example, in a nation where Islamophobia persists, of a good deed that is being disavowed.

Original article found here.