News

NYCLU files papers in NYPD Muslim surveillance lawsuit

By Danielle Tcholakian, For Metro, On Feb 4th 2013, Read Original

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed papers yesterday as part of Handschu v. Special Services Division, the federal court case seeking to stop the NYPD from carrying out surveillance of Muslims.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has repeatedly defended the surveillance program. At a lecture to the Carnegie Council last September, Kelly said, “As a matter of Police Department policy, undercover officers and confidential informants do not enter a mosque unless they are following up on a lead vetted under Handschu.”

Kelly was referring to the Handschu guidelines, meant to insure that the police only monitor when there is a clear indication that the group or individual is committing or about to commit a crime.

Not so, said Shamiur Rahman, a Queens resident of Bangladeshi descent who was recruited as an informant by a plainclothes officer in January of last year.

In a declaration in the NYCLU papers filed yesterday, Rahman recounts being instructed by his NYPD handler “Steve” to “spy on members of the Muslim communities in New York” in “mosques and other locations.”

Rahman delivered photos to the NYPD of people worshipping at mosques, and “recorded cell phone numbers from the sign up sheet of people who attended Islamic instruction classes.”

He was also instructed to inform on the Muslim Students Association at John Jay College, where he “took pictures of people in the group and recorded the license plate numbers of their cars.”

NYPD handler “Steve” reportedly told Rahman the police did not suspect the MSA of any wrong-doing, “they just wanted to make sure.”

“According to my NYPD boss Steve,” Rahman said, “the NYPD considers being a religious Muslim a terrorism indicator.”

How the community copes:

Muneer Awad at the Council on American-Islamic Relations said this on-going surveillance has created a culture of insecurity and anxiety among Muslim New Yorkers.
Awad said that students activists and people in Islamic centers “don’t feel as free speaking about issues.”

Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab-American Association of New York said in her declaration in the papers filed yesterday that a man once said to her, “I don’t know whether the guy praying next to me is an informer or not.”

She told him she “could not reassure him that people in the Mosque might not be informers.”

Awad pointed to this sentiment as indicative of the violation Muslim New Yorkers experience.

“You expect discussions with religious leaders to be confidential,” Awad insisted. “This isn’t happening in other communities, other communities wouldn’t tolerate it.”

Informants:

Muneer Awad said he’s heard of recruiting attempts by the NYPD.

“A number of people… told us they felt like they were approached by members of law enforcement in an intimidating manner, suggesting they either work with law enforcement or deal with increased scrutiny from law enforcement,” Awad said.

He said such scrutiny could come in many forms, from being placed on no-fly lists, to trouble for family members in the process of obtaining citizenship.

Awad tries to tell these people they are under no legal obligation to comply, and that such pressure is “inconsistent with what our Constitution guarantees.”

Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne rejects these accusations, insisting that “the NYPD adheres to the Constitution in all it does, and specifically the Handschu guidelines in the deployment of undercover officers.”

Browne also noted that “terrorists have tried to attach New York City on 16 different occasions that we know of” since 9/11. According to Browne, the NYPD has foiled plots to attack the Brooklyn Bridge and the Federal Reserve Bank, and to kill American soldiers returning home to New York.

From Islamophobic surveillance to ‘stop and frisk’: Organizers decry criminalization of their communities in NYC

by Alex Kane on January 30, 2013
http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/islamophobic-surveillance-criminalization.html

Islamophobic subway ads, “stop and frisk” and the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) surveillance program--what’s the connection? Activists and experts spoke out last night to make explicit the links between all of these seemingly separate strands of discrimination in the city.

A packed house of some 125 people gathered in an Upper West Side church January 29 to hear about Islamophobia and “stop and frisk” in New York City. The event was organized by the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC), a grassroots group dedicated to being a Jewish voice against the scourge of anti-Muslim sentiment that has found a home in some Jewish establishment organizations. The event, titled “Making Connections and Organizing for Change: Anti-Muslim Hate Speech, Police Surveillance and Stop and Frisk,” reinforced the burgeoning coalition between Black and Latino groups working on “stop and frisk,” Muslim activists working on Islamophobia and Jewish activists supporting that work. The diverse crowd who showed up spoke to that coalition.

The panel was moderated by Marjorie Dove Kent, the dynamic head of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JREJ), a member group of JAIC. Other speakers included: Muneer Awad, the head of the Council on American Islamic Relations of New York (CAIR-NY); civil rights lawyer Alan Levine; community organizer Frank Lopez; and Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab American Association of New York.

“None of these acts of Islamophobia,” like Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim subway advertisements, “are isolated,” said Levine. The civil rights lawyer who authored a National Law Journal article on why NYPD surveillance was unconstitutional said that acts like Geller putting up hateful subway ads are encouraged by the NYPD’s assumption that Muslims are a suspect class of people.

“The defense of the surveillance program by the police chief and the mayor gives force to Pam Geller’s bigotry,” said Levine. CAIR-NY’s Awad made a similar point in a brief interview with me after the panel (I showed up a little late and missed his talk). “It’s not just anti-Muslim hate crimes,” said Awad--it’s the entire culture of Islamophobia that has developed and institutionalized in the city.

Lopez, a poet and filmmaker affiliated with the organization Brotherhood/Sister Sol, detailed how “stop and frisk” practices by the NYPD have criminalized whole communities in the city. “Stop and frisk” refers to the police practice of stopping and patting down city residents suspected of a crime. But it is a policy that has overwhelmingly fallen on the Black and Latino communities in the city, and is now being challenged by a series of civil rights lawsuits aimed at radically changing the NYPD practice.

The NYPD’s wholesale surveillance of Muslim communities was perhaps the main focus throughout the night, but links between “stop and frisk” and the surveillance program were made explicit. “For me, whether you’re spying on the Muslim community, or stopping and frisking Blacks and Latinos, it’s the same thing,” said Sarsour, a Palestinian-American Muslim who is a prominent figure in the fight against Islamophobia in New York. “Let’s stop separating the issues,” she said, noting that both surveillance and “stop and frisk” amounts to criminalizing communities of color. Sarsour also noted that a significant chunk of the New York Muslim community is Black.

Those connections have already been taken up by activists in a concrete way. Much of the question and answer session was dedicated to discussing and advocating for a set of bills to reform NYPD practices that are currently pending in the City Council. Known as the Community Safety Act, the bills would create an Inspector General for the NYPD; ban profiling by the police department; protect against unlawful searches; and require officers to identify and explain themselves to the public. It is meant as a corrective to what many see as an out of control NYPD that is unaccountable to the city residents they serve. The coalition working on pushing through these bills, which has considerable support in the City Council, is called Communities United for Police Reform, and it includes civil liberties organizations, Black and Latino groups, Muslim groups and Jewish groups.

But New York is a town where the mayor holds much of the power in city government, and so the mayoral candidates’ positions on these bills and issues is of paramount importance. Bloomberg is a lost cause, and is fully behind the NYPD’s practices and its chief, Ray Kelly. But Bloomberg’s term is up this year, and a new crop of candidates are angling for the seat.

Sarsour noted that “stop and frisk” has been elevated into a major issue for the mayoral candidates, but spying on Muslims has not.

As public advocate, an office dedicated to being a watchdog over city government, Democrat Bill de Blasio has spoken out against how “stop and frisk” is currently used. So have other Democratic mayoral candidates, including the presumed front-runner and current City Council speaker Christine Quinn, comptroller John Liu and Bill Thompson. (Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota has defended “stop and frisk,” which garners higher support among white New Yorkers when compared to minority New Yorkers.) But on Muslim spying, it’s a different story. De Blasio and Quinn have defended the surveillance program, as Levine noted. Thompson has stayed silent, while Liu, who is under investigation by the federal government because of his fundraising practices, has criticized the NYPD’s spying.

Quinn remains likely to win, though, and she has reportedly said she would keep on NYPD chief Kelly at the helm.

“On NYPD spying, nobody’s really that good,” said Sarsour. “People don’t want to touch Muslim spying.” Perhaps one reason behind the different positions are the poll numbers: a recent poll says that 53 percent of New Yorkers disapprove of “stop and frisk,” a number that is likely a result of the prominent organizing being done against the practice. But the majority of New Yorkers back the NYPD’s practice of surveilling Muslim communities.

But Sarsour also noted that there are 20 open City Council seats, making it a crucial year in New York City politics. Sarsour urged audience members to vote based on police accountability issues.

Sarsour also closed out her remarks by noting that there are reasons to be hopeful, even as Islamophobia continues to crop up in New York. She was heartened by the ongoing campaigns to place anti-hate advertisements in the subway as a way to counter Geller’s recent anti-Muslim subway ads.

Everybody Loves Raymond

By Edited by Donald Forst, For NYPD Confidential, On Jan 21st 2013, Read Original

Not only is Raymond W. Kelly the longest-serving police commissioner in city history but he is also, with a 75 per cent approval rating, the most popular.

How does he do it?

Credit Paul Browne, Kelly’s chief spokesman and longtime factotum, who has been expert both in exaggerating the NYPD’s successes in fighting terrorism and in hiding its mistakes.

Last week, NYPD Confidential described how Browne — known to readers of this column as Mr. Truth — lied to two Associated Press reporters in their Pulitzer Prize-winning series about the existence of NYPD’s Demographics Unit, which mapped the department’s spying on the city’s Muslims.

This week, let’s examine Browne’s terrorism manifesto of Dec. 19th, in which he updated the number of terrorism plots against New York City to 16.

Here’s what Browne has to say of four of the better known plots.

HERALD SQUARE

What Browne said: “Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay plotted in 2004 to place explosive devices in the Herald Square subway n Manhattan. The plot was derailed through the involvement of an NYPD informant and an undercover officer.

“Elshafay pleaded guilty in 2004 to conspiracy to damage or destroy a subway station by means of an explosive. In 2006 Siraj was found guilty … He was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“Shepherding the case from initial lead to federal prosecution required close cooperation with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.”

What Browne didn’t say: This was the NYPD’s first high-profile case. Siraj, a Pakistani immigrant, was arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden and charged with plotting to bomb the nearby Herald Square subway station.

Siraj had an IQ of 78, considered borderline intellectual functioning, a step above mental retardation.

Evidence at his trial revealed that the police had paid $100,000 to a confidential informant, who gained Siraj’s trust and encouraged him in his plot.

Co-defendant Elshafay described himself as schizophrenic and said he had spent time in a psychiatric ward. Shortly after his release from his treatment, he said he plotted with Siraj. Immediately after his arrest, he agreed to testify against Siraj.

The NYPD never informed the FBI of its investigation until the end of the case when police needed a federal warrant

SUBWAY PLOT

What Browne said: “In September, 2009, New York narrowly averted an attack on its subway system plotted by three individuals who grew up in Queens. …The three had planned to set off bombs in the subway during rush hour shortly after the eighth anniversary of 9/11…. The plot was thwarted through intelligence it received by the FBI with the cooperation of the NYPD through the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

What Brown didn’t say: Amidst the FBI’s investigation, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen ordered an Intel detective to contact a confidential informant. But Cohen never informed the FBI.

Meanwhile, the informant, Queens Imam Wais Afzali, tipped off the father of Najibullah Zazi, one of the three plotters. The father informed his son, who lived in Aurora, Col. and who then cut short his trip to New York, short-circuiting the investigation. The FBI, which had placed a wiretap on the father’s phone, was forced to arrest Zazi and the other two plotters prematurely.

To hide Cohen’s role, the NYPD transferred Deputy Inspector Paul Ciorra, a terrorism expert, to a captain’s slot in the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Trials, where his assignment was to prepare the schedules of the department’s five police trial judges — an obvious demotion.

The day after the New York Times suggested that Ciorra had been made a scapegoat for the mistakes of higher-ups, Kelly transferred him again — this time to the position of commanding officer of the Highway Unit — a full Inspector’s position, suggesting a future promotion. [See NYPD Confidential Sept. 28, 2009]

BROOKLYN BRIDGE.

What Browne said: “In 2002, Lyman Faris, a U.S.-based al-Qaeda operative, planned to cut the Brooklyn Bridge’s support cables at the direction of 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. However, as a testament to NYPD terrorism deterrence efforts, Faris called off the plot, indicating to al-Qaeda leaders that ‘the weather is too hot.’ … NYPD’s 24-hour coverage of the bridge, much of which was put in place following 9/11 and intentionally made highly visible, played a large role in Faris’s decision to abandon the plot.

“Faris was arrested in 2003, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for providing material support and resources to al-Qaeda, among other charges. Knowing that the city’s bridges and critical infrastructure remain attractive terrorist targets, the NYPD maintains heightened security around such facilities.”

What Browne did not say: The FBI had alerted the NYPD to Faris’s plan to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. As a result, the NYPD increased the bridge’s security.

There is no evidence the NYPD’s presence on the bridge played a role, large or small, in Faris’s decision to abandon the plot. According to a Department of Justice press release at Faris’s sentencing on October 28, 2003, Faris said he lacked “gas cutters” — the necessary equipment to sever the bridge’s suspension cables. In other coded messages, he indicated he had been unable to obtain them.

Despite the NYPD’s security on the bridge, which Kelly has maintained included round-the-clock patrol cars on the entry ramps and a police boat nearby in the East River, on the night of June 26, 2012, a 32-year-old graffiti artist named Enno Tianen was somehow able to climb to one of the bridge’s stanchions 119 feet over the East River and tag his name —“Lewy BTM” — in three spots.

How did he do it? Did he use a rope? A scaffold? Lights? Did he have accomplices? How long did all this take him? Most important, where were the cops in those patrol cars at the entry ramps and in the police boat?

JOSE PIMENTEL

What Browne said: “Jose Pimentel, a native of the Dominican Republic and convert to Islam, was charged with plotting to detonate bombs in and around New York City in November, 2011. …After a two-and-a half year investigation by the NYPD Intelligence Division, Pimentel was caught while assembling three bombs. Pimentel’s criminal case is pending.

What Brown did not say: The FBI declined to indict Pimentel. FBI sources said he was unemployed, broke, beset with mental problems and incapable of building a bomb himself. The bomb was constructed in the apartment of an NYPD undercover, who smoked marijuana with Pimentel and helped him construct the bomb.

Because of the FBI’s reluctance to pursue Pimentel’s case, he will be tried not in federal but in state court.

Original Article found here: http://nypdconfidential.com/index.htm

Inside the Terror Factory

Mother Jones
Trevor Aaronson|  January 11, 2013

See original article here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/terror-factory-fbi-trevor-aaronson-book

TF_image_2.jpg

Editor's note: This story is adapted from The Terror Factory, Trevor Aaronson's new book documenting how the Federal Bureau of Investigation has built a vast network of informants to infiltrate Muslim communities and, in some cases, cultivate phony terrorist plots. The book grew from Aaronson's award-winning Mother Jones cover story "The Informants" and his research in the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley.

Quazi Mohammad Nafis was a 21-year-old student living in Queens, New York, when the US government helped turn him into a terrorist.

His transformation began on July 5, when Nafis, a Bangladeshi citizen who'd come to the United States on a student visa that January, shared aspirations with a man he believed he could trust. Nafis told this man in a phone call that he wanted to wage jihad in the United States, that he enjoyed reading Al Qaeda propaganda, and that he admired "Sheikh O," or Osama bin Laden. Who this confidant was and how Nafis came to meet him remain unclear; what we know from public documents is that the man told Nafis he could introduce him to an Al Qaeda operative.

It was a hot, sunny day in Central Park on July 24 when Nafis met with Kareem, who said he was with Al Qaeda. Nafis, who had a slight build, mop of black hair, and a feebly grown beard, told Kareem that he was "ready for action."

"What I really mean is that I don’t want something that's, like, small," Nafis said. "I just want something big. Something very big. Very, very, very, very big, that will shake the whole country."

Nafis said he wanted to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, and with help from his new Al Qaeda contact, he surveilled the iconic building at 11 Wall Street. "We are going to need a lot of TNT or dynamite," Nafis told Kareem. But Nafis didn't have any explosives, and, as court records indicate, he didn’t know anyone who could sell him explosives, let alone have the money to purchase such materials. His father, a banker in Bangladesh, had spent his entire life savings to send Nafis to the United States after his son, who was described to journalists as dim by people who knew him in his native country, had flunked out of North South University in Bangladesh.

Kareem suggested they rent a storage facility to stash the material they'd need for a car bomb. He said he'd put up the money for it, and get the materials. Nafis dutifully agreed, and suggested a new target: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Nafis later met Kareem at a storage facility, where Nafis poured the materials Kareem had brought into trash bins, believing he was creating a 1,000-pound car bomb that could level a city block.

In truth, the stuff was inert. And Kareem was an undercover FBI agent, tipped off by the man who Nafis had believed was a confidant—an FBI informant. The FBI had secretly provided everything Nafis needed for his attack: not only the storage facility and supposed explosives, but also the detonator and the van that Nafis believed would deliver the bomb.

On the morning of October 17, Nafis and Kareem drove the van to Lower Manhattan and parked it in front of the Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street. Then they walked to a nearby hotel room, where Nafis dialed on his cellphone the number he believed would trigger the bomb, but nothing happened. He dialed again, and again. The only result was Nafis' apprehension by federal agents.

"The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy," US Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement after the arrest. "At every turn, he was wrong, and his extensive efforts to strike at the heart of the nation's financial system were foiled by effective law enforcement. We will use all of the tools at our disposal to stop any such attack before it can occur."

How many of these would-be terrorists would have acted were it not for an FBI agent provocateur helping them? Is it possible that the FBI is creating the very enemy we fear?

Federal officials say they are protecting Americans with these operations—but from whom? Real terrorists, or dupes like Nafis, who appear unlikely to have the capacity for terrorism were it not for FBI agents providing the opportunity and means?

Nafis is one of more than 150 men since 9/11 who have been caught in FBI terrorism stings, some of whom have received 25 years or more in prison. In these cases, the FBI uses one of its more than 15,000 registered informants—many of them criminals, others trying to stay in the country following immigration violations—to identify potential terrorists. It then provides the means necessary for these would-be terrorists to move forward with a plot—in some cases even planting specific ideas for attacks. The FBI now spends $3 billion on counterterrorism annually, the largest portion of its budget. Our nation's top law enforcement agency, traditionally focused on investigating crimes after they occur, now operates more as an intelligence organization that tries to preempt crimes before they occur. But how many of these would-be terrorists would have acted were it not for an FBI agent provocateur helping them? Is it possible that the FBI is creating the very enemy we fear?

Those are the questions I set out to explore beginning in 2010. With the help of a research assistant, I built a database of more than 500 terrorism prosecutions since 9/11 [9], looking closely and critically at every terrorism case brought into federal courts during the past decade. We pored through thousands of pages of court records, and found that nearly half of all terrorism cases since 9/11 involved informants, many of them paid as much as $100,000 per assignment by the FBI. At the time of the story's publication in Mother Jones in August 2011, 49 defendants had participated in plots led by an FBI agent provocateur, and that number has continued to rise since.

Historically, media coverage of these operations—begun under George W. Bush and continuing apace under Barack Obama—was mostly uncritical. With their aggressive tactics essentially unknown to the public, the FBI and Justice Department controlled the narrative: another dangerous terrorist apprehended by vigilant federal agents!

But in late 2011, the conversation began to shift. A couple of months after my story in Mother Jones and following the announcement of a far-fetched sting in which a Massachusetts man believed he'd been poised to destroy the US Capitol building using grenade-laden, remote-controlled airplanes, TPM Muckraker published a story headlined: "The Five Most Bizarre Terror Plots Hatched Under the FBI's Watch." Author David K. Shipler, in an April 2012 New York Times editorial, questioned the legitimacy of terrorism stings involving people who appeared to have no wherewithal to commit acts of terror: "Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it's not easy to tell the difference." Stories in other major news outlets followed suit, and by October 2012, a post in Foreign Policy was asking: “How many idiot jihadis can the FBI fool?

Which brings us back to Nafis. "The case appears to be the latest to fit a model in which, in the process of flushing out people they believe present a risk of terrorism, federal law enforcement officials have played the role of enabler," reported the New York Times, after the Justice Department announced Nafis' arrest. "Though these operations have almost always held up in court, they have come under increasing criticism from those who believe that many of the subjects, even some who openly espoused violence, would have been unable to execute such plots without substantial assistance from the government."

To read the remainder of this article, click here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/terror-factory-fbi-trevor-aaronson-book

See original article here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/terror-factory-fbi-trevor-aaronson-book

FBI: Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Still Up

Salon|  December 10, 2012
By Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center
This article was originally published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.http://www.salon.com/2012/12/10/fbi_anti_muslim_hate_crimes_still_up/singleton/

Hate crimes against perceived Muslims, which jumped up 50% in 2010 largely as a result of anti-Muslim propagandizing, remained at relatively high levels last year, according to 2011 hate crime statistics released today by the FBI.

The bureau reported that there were 157 reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2011, down slightly from the 160 recorded in 2010. The 2011 crimes occurred during a period when Islam-bashing propaganda, which initially took off in 2010, continued apace.

The FBI statistics, which are compilations of state numbers, are notoriously understated. Two Department of Justice studies have indicated that the real level of hate crimes in America is some 20-30 times the number reported in the FBI statistics, in part because some 56% of hate crimes are never reported to police and more than half of those that are are mischaracterized as non-hate crimes. Nevertheless, the FBI statistics can be used to get a sense of general trends.

Last year saw continued high levels of anti-Muslim propaganda such as the crusade by some against the alleged Muslim plan to impose religious Shariah law on the United States. There were a number of local battles over the construction of new mosques, and several were attacked by apparent Islamophobes.

At the same time, the FBI statistics suggested that there was a 31% drop in anti-Latino hate crimes, from 534 in 2010 to 405 last year. It’s not clear what might be behind that drop, other than an apparent diminution in anti-Latino and anti-immigrant propaganda as negative attention focused on Muslims.

Other hate crime categories remained relatively steady. Anti-Jewish hate crimes fell from 887 in 2010 to 771 last year, while anti-LGBT hate crimes rose slightly, from 1,256 to 1,277. Anti-black hate crimes also fell slightly, continuing a trend of dropping from a high of 2,876 in 2008 (when Barack Obama appeared on the national political scene, fueling anti-black hatred in some quarters) to 2,076 last year.

Woman Charged With Murder as a Hate Crime in a Fatal Subway Push

A 31-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday and charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in connection with the death of a man who was pushed onto the tracks of an elevated subway station in Queens and crushed by an oncoming train.

The woman, Erika Menendez, selected her victim because she believed him to be a Muslim or a Hindu, Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said.

“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s nightmare: Being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” Mr. Brown said in an interview.

In a statement, Mr. Brown quoted Ms. Menendez, “in sum and substance,” as having told the police: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” Ms. Menendez conflated the Muslim and Hindu faiths in her comments to the police and in her target for attack, officials said.

The victim, Sunando Sen, was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

Mr. Sen “was allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself,” Mr. Brown said. “Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant’s actions should never be tolerated by a civilized society.”

Mr. Brown said he had no information on the defendant’s criminal or mental history.

“It will be up to the court to determine if she is fit to stand trial,” he said.

Ms. Menendez is expected to be arraigned by Sunday morning. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. By charging her with murder as a hate crime, the possible minimum sentence she faced would be extended to 20 years from 15 years, according to prosecutors.

On Saturday night, Ms. Menendez, wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, was escorted from the 112th Precinct to a waiting car by three detectives. Greeted by camera flashes and dozens of reporters, she let out a loud, unintelligible moan. She did not respond to reporters’ questions.

The attack occurred around 8 p.m. on Thursday at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside.

Mr. Sen, 46, was looking out over the tracks when a woman approached him from behind and shoved him onto the tracks, according to the police. Mr. Sen never saw her, the police said.

The woman fled the station, running down two flights of stairs and down the street.

By the next morning, a brief and grainy black-and-white video of the woman who the police said was behind the attack was being broadcast on news programs.

Patrol officers picked up Ms. Menendez early Saturday after someone who had seen the video on television spotted her on a Brooklyn street and called 911, said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department. She was taken to Queens and later placed in lineups, according to detectives. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Friday that, according to witnesses’ accounts, there had been no contact on the subway platform between the attacker and the victim before the shove.

The case was the second this month involving someone being pushed to death in a train station. In the first case, Ki-Suck Han, 58, of Elmhurst, Queens, died under the Q train at the 49th Street and Seventh Avenue station on Dec. 3. Naeem Davis, 30, was charged with second-degree murder in that case.

Mr. Sen, after years of saving money, had opened a small copying business on the Upper West Side this year.

Ar Suman, a Muslim, and one of three roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Mr. Sen in Elmhurst, said he and Mr. Sen often discussed religion.

Though they were of different faiths, Mr. Suman said, he admired the respect that Mr. Sen showed for those who saw the world differently than he did. Mr. Suman said he once asked Mr. Sen why he was not more active in his faith and it resulted in a long philosophical discussion.

“He was so gentle,” Mr. Suman said. “He said in this world a lot of people are dying, killing over religious things.”

Reporting was contributed by William K. Rashbaum, Wendy Ruderman, Jeffrey E. Singer and Julie Turkewitz. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Hate Group's New Subway Ads

The Daily Beast|  December 12, 2012
By Arsalan Iftikhar
Original Article Found Here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/11/pamela-geller-s-new-subway-ads.html

Imagine how millions of peace-loving Christians would react if they saw a subway advertisement during their morning commute showing cherry-picked Bible quotes such as “I come not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34) or "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled" (Luke 12:49-51), trying to wrongfully portray Christianity as a religion of violence. I think it would be fair to say that most fair-minded Americans would be able to see right through the sinister veneer of these blatantly ridiculous advertisements. Now imagine that we are talking about Islam instead of Christianity.

Controversial anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller has just purchased new advertising space in several subway stations in the New York area so she can display her newest anti-Islam message. According to The New York Observer, Geller’s latest slate of anti-Islam ads seem to “feature a panorama of the sky the moment the World Trade Center burst into flames [on September 11], accompanied by a quote from the Quran that reads ‘Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.’” Geller is no stranger to Islamophobia.

Geller is clearly trying to cherry-pick a verse of the Quran out of context in order to stoke anti-Muslim fears amongst ordinary Americans. First of all, her cherry-picked quote from Quran 3:151 above actually refers to the famous Battle of Badr, where the Prophet Muhammad had to defeat back attacking pagan Arab idolaters. Most importantly, this verse (and most other verses dealing with historical battles) refer to hostile pagan idolaters who attacked Muslims and they do not refer to Christians or Jews (who are referred to as “People of the Book” or Ahl Al-Kitab in Arabic) who all believe in the same monotheistic god of Abraham as Muslims believe.

Geller recently came to many Americans’ attention in September 2012 when she bought her first round of anti-Muslim subway ads which stated, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." The controversial advertisements were roundly condemned by most people around the country, including by prominent national Jewish organizations who were quick to call out her Islamophobia.

To those like Geller who think that Islam is more of an ‘inherently violent’ religion than other major world religions, Professor Philip Jenkins, author of the book Jesus Wars, once said during a March 2010 interview with National Public Radio (NPR) that, "By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane." He continued: "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide." Professor Jenkins even went so far as saying during his March 2010 NPR interview that, "Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible."

But none of us should cherry-pick. Our holy books all have plenty of messages of tolerance, which we should use to help bring people together and not let fear-mongering bigots like Geller rip us apart as a nation.

10-Year Vet Says FBI Harassing His Family

News Channel 4, KFOR-TV|  December 13, 2012
By La'Tasha Givens
Original Story Found Here: http://kfor.com/2012/12/13/air-force-vet-says-fbi-harasing-his-family/

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding answers from the Justice Department in a case involving a Oklahoma veteran.

Saadiq Long said he’s been on the FBI’s radar since last year.

He wasn’t allowed to board his flight back to Oklahoma after working in Qatar.

He was told he’d been placed on the “no fly list.”

The 10-year veteran said had no idea why and was recently removed from the list and allowed to return to Oklahoma last month.

But ever since, Long and his sister Ava Anderson said federal agents follow them wherever they go.

At Thursday’s press conference, CAIR director Adam Soltani said, “There has been unlawful and harassment actions orchestrated by FBI and local law enforcement officials.”

“The FBI, in three different cars followed me, my mom and my dad everywhere from McAlester to Oklahoma City,” Long said. “It’s so bad that my nephew can point out the unmarked cars.”

Anderson said last week two cars where following them on the freeway with bright lights, the drivers weren’t in police cars.

In fear for her safety, she drove to the McAlester police department.

Anderson said the lawmen were rough on her.

“One of the agents told the officer who handcuffed me to ‘throw her a** to the ground’ and so he forcefully, while I’m in handcuffs, threw me to the ground,” she said. “An FBI agent walks up to me and says, ‘I was just trying to get you to stop so that I could apologize to you and your family for the inconvenience,’ (in reference to the non-fly situation). Now mind you, there are eight to 15 guns pointed at me. Am I supposed to believe they stopped me to apologize?”

“The FBI doesn’t confirm or deny ongoing investigations,” FBI Special Agent Rick Rains told us. “The FBI has responsibility to protect American citizens. In carrying out those responsibilities, the FBI does not violate the civil rights of citizens or in any way harass or intimidate US citizens or other individuals.”

The family said they will consider legal action if they don’t get answers soon.

 

Original Story Found Here: http://kfor.com/2012/12/13/air-force-vet-says-fbi-harasing-his-family/

New Muslim Movement Challenges Islamophobia on Home Turf

Tea Party circles in East Tennessee might seem an unlikely environment for launching a Muslim organization. Will Coley, a 31-year-old Tennessee native, Muslim convert and Tea Party activist did just that.

His one person outreach project to Tea Party conservatives and libertarians grew into the first national organization countering Islamophobia on the Right.

Their message: Islam is compatible with an anti-big government or libertarian philosophy. They do not denounce sharia, but defend it within a libertarian framework. 

"Our approach is different," says Coley. "We use principles within sharia like maqasid (primary goals) to show their connection with John Locke's principles of life, liberty and property."

Coley claims this strategy makes an impact.

"I have noticed everywhere we go it is about the same," says Coley. "We talk to 50 people. The five to six that pointed the group in an anti-Islam direction still hate us, but the rest start thinking, researching."

Most notably, in 2011 Coley persuaded the majority of Tea Party organizations in East Tennessee to take a stand against Islamophobia.

After speaking with fourteen Tea Party chapters about Muslim beliefs on liberty and sharia (Islamic religious law code), twelve of them agreed to reject anti-Muslim appeals. They even publically supported a petition opposing a proposed "sharia ban" in Tennessee.

Coley's efforts drew the attention of members of the small but growing community of Muslim libertarians, especially after an initial article on the anti-Islamophobia website Loonwatch.com.

Davi Barker, 31, a California journalist, national columnist at Examiner.com and blogger for Silver Circle Underground and Daily Anarchist, first contacted Coley to do a story on him. The two quickly began working closely together. Coley did the public presentations, and Barker writing on their philosophy of Islamic libertarianism. They were soon joined by Hesham El-Meligy, 41, from New England and Ramy Osman, 35, from Virginia.

The last two had started a website called Muslims4Liberty.org, while Coley and Barker had independently started a Facebook group called Muslims For Liberty. They decided to combine forces.

"[W]e started collaboration with them and we became a family immediately," says El-Meligy.

By 2012, Muslims4Liberty/Muslims For Liberty (M4L) has gained hundreds of followers, establishing chapters in Tennessee, California, Ohio, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Australia, Malaysia and Pakistan.

El-Meligy, drawing on his connections and experience in the Northeast US, led M4L's work with other groups in opposing New York Police Department surveillance of American Muslims. Osman organized M4L's participation in the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms' (NCPCF) "Ramadan Gifts for Prisoners" charity drive. M4L also co-sponsored the only two national debates featuring third party presidential candidates during the 2012 election, hosted by Larry King and broadcast by C-Span and Al Jazeera.

The rapid growth and rise of M4L developed as an entirely grass-roots effort, without the support of more established Muslim or civil rights organizations.

"It started out as just me, basically," says Coley. "[G]oing to events, going to protests, educating people about Islam."

Coley began doing Tea Party outreach in Florida in 2009. He started as an ordinary Tea Party activist, concerned about economics and allegedly growing government power.

But his concern at what he saw as the emergence of Islamophobia in the Tea Party movement spurred him to act.

"I was watching the neocon takeover happen," says Coley. "Literally overnight I saw groups devoted to economics and constitutional limits turn into something else. Suddenly there were invites to see anti-Islam speakers. This crazy anti-Islam message was taking over."

Coley responded by going to events, giving speeches and presentations, and challenging alleged anti-Muslim speakers.

The libertarian talk show host Phil Russo invited him onto his show as a guest. When Russo's co-host quit in protest, he invited Coley to become his new co-host.

Coley also found other allies. "[W]e had republican candidates serving the homeless at Masjid al-Haqq," says Coley adding that he "got A LOT of help from non-Muslims."

At this time, Coley's work was entirely solo. Other Muslims had a "you go and then tell us how it went when you get back" attitude, says Coley. "An event would be me inviting everyone I know, and then myself, my wife, and our 5 month old....500 people there, 3 Muslims."

Things changed in 2011, when Coley moved his family to his home state of Tennessee. "I wanted to raise my family here, not in big city Orlando," says Coley.

He also began doing outreach to local Tea Party groups. His original intention was to focus on educational basics about Muslim belief and practice, such as the Five Pillars and the Qur'an, as well as Muslim artwork.

The sudden announcement in the press of anti-sharia legislation in the Tennessee House and Senate changed everything.

"[We] changed the format of the Islam Awareness lectures at the library. Since sharia had become the issue, we decided to devote each week to covering a different area or aspect of sharia," says Coley. "We invited two Tea Party groups. One cursed at me, called me names and said I was Muslim and therefore they had no interest in speaking to me or hearing anything my 'lying mouth' had to say. The other invited other Tea Party groups."

"After the lectures, these Tea Party groups took our information home with them. We offered paper, pens, and wrote notes on the board. Then there was a meeting of all the East Tennessee tea party groups, fourteen in all, and they had a vote. 12/2 was the vote, to abandon attacking Islam as a tactic."

The rise of an American Muslim libertarian movement is not surprising to Anthony Gregory, 31, a leading antiwar libertarian, policy analyst and commentator.

"Islam has long had a deep respect for commerce, having been founded by a merchant, as well as many voices calling for peace and limits upon political power as demanded by natural law and natural rights," says Gregory.

Asked whether it is really worthwhile to do Muslim outreach to right of center circles, where suspicion of Islam and Muslims has been alleged to be most prominent, El-Meligy responds,

"No one is conservative on everything and no one is liberal on everything, we are but a rainbow, within ourselves and on our planet, so let's make it better for everyone."

The Los Angeles Times: A Permanent War on Terror

A permanent war on terror
In trying to prevent terrorist attacks, the U.S. risks eroding civil liberties.
By Petra Bartosiewicz  |December 7, 2012 latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-1207-bartosiewicz-domestic-war-on-terror-20121207,0,6038997.story

When it comes to homeland security, we've been seduced for more than a decade by a "preemptive" mandate that directs us to catch terrorists before they strike next. Where law enforcement once investigated crimes to determine who was responsible and how they could be prosecuted, it now also gathers intelligence to prevent potential future crimes.

This mandate, however, has been characterized by a distinct absence of actual terrorist plots. Instead, we've seen an increasingly familiar pattern — the most recent case in the last few weeks involved four young Southern Californians who were arrested in a case built largely by a well-paid informant. The young men allegedly were on their way to join Al Qaeda. One of them was already abroad. The others had booked flights through Mexico to Afghanistan and, according to the government, played proxy holy war at a paintball course and exchanged macho emails.

Would they have become truly dangerous to America? Maybe. But in the past, these stings have mostly put behind bars a lot of impressionable young men — rather iffy bad guys — who were often urged toward jihad by the intelligence operation targeting them.

Along the way, constitutional protections such as the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial have been put at risk. Everyone is a potential suspect, and everyone is under surveillance.

As President Obama embarks on his second term, among the key questions he faces is how he will continue to wage the war on terror. Many of these questions have been focused overseas — on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, on drone warfare and what to do with the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

But domestically we're not debating the overreach of our counter-terrorism efforts, which involve primarily the FBI but also state and local law enforcement. Among the kinds of things deemed suspect by the L.A. Police Department, for example, are people who take photos "with no apparent aesthetic value" or who carry on "long conversations on pay or cellular phones."

The unprecedented expansion of intelligence gathering comes with a host of enhanced surveillance and investigative tools that erode civil liberties but offers little evidence that we are safer from another terrorist attack. Many of these measures were first introduced under President George W. Bush through legislation such as the Patriot Act. Under Obama, they appear increasingly entrenched in our national security landscape.

These amplified investigative powers were originally part of an emergency response to the 9/11 attacks. The FBI, as the agency responsible for counter-terrorism in the U.S., shouldered the brunt of recriminations over missed cues that might have forestalled the attacks, and its director, Robert S. Mueller III, found himself battling calls for the FBI to be broken up into two agencies: one tasked with traditional law enforcement and the other focused on intelligence gathering. To stave off the loss of half his institutional footprint, Mueller assured Congress that the bureau could be a model of law enforcement and intelligence gathering.

The implications of this now-institutionalized model have not troubled most Americans, probably because "intelligence-led policing" has focused on a beleaguered and relatively powerless minority, Muslim Americans. But it is already being deployed against ever-expanding categories of "suspect" citizens.

Under Obama we have seen the offices of longtime antiwar protesters in Chicago and Minneapolis raided on suspicion of providing "material support" to Palestinian and Colombian terrorist groups; in New Jersey, animal rights activists were convicted under a new law that makes any "interference" with an animal-related company a potential crime of terrorism; and in Oregon and Washington, environmental activists were similarly convicted as terrorists for arsons they had committed to protest public lands policies and wilderness development.

A chief repository of domestic intelligence data are the nation's more than 70 "fusion centers." Staffed by local, state and federal officials but largely funded by the Department of Homeland Security, these centers have been described by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as among the "centerpieces of our counter-terrorism strategy." But a Senate report published in October found that the intelligence produced by these centers was "often shoddy, rarely timely" and "more often than not unrelated to terrorism." The investigation identified "no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot."

The template of the government's major "homegrown" plots, where informants largely invent the plot, agree to supply the weapons and encourage the inflammatory rhetoric that elevates the crime to the level of terrorism, continue to be cited under the Obama administration as evidence that we are winning the war on terror. But in the few instances where an actual attack was attempted — from the 2001 "shoe bomber," Richard Reid, to the 2010 Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad — the plots have apparently surprised the law enforcement intelligence apparatus, and the attackers have been caught because of their own ineptness and the prompt actions of civilians.

That the preemptive paradigm is largely intact suggests we are still haunted by the failures of 9/11. It may be politically expedient for the president to err on the side of national security against civil liberties for fear of being seen as soft on terrorism, but he should consider his legacy. Bush is the president who launched the war on terror. Will Obama go down in history as the one who made it permanent?

 

Muslims in Queens Attacked by Bigots and the Media

The Huffington Post|  December 5, 2012
By Sonny Singh
Original post found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonny-singh/ali-akmal-beating_b_2233695.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Last week, two separate brutal attacks against Muslim men took place in Queens, New York. On November 24, 72-year-old Ali Akmal was nearly beaten to death while going on his early morning walk and remains in critical, but stable, condition.

CBS New York reports:

Akmal's tongue was so badly swollen that he couldn't talk for two days. When he finally could, he told police that when he first encountered the two men, they asked him, "are you Muslim or Hindu?"


He responded "I'm Muslim," and that's when they attacked.


The beating was so savage and personal, Akmal was even bitten on the nose.

Just a few days earlier, 57-year-old Bashir Ahmad was beaten and stabbed repeatedly as he entered a mosque in Flushing, Queens early in the morning on November 19. The attacker yelled anti-Muslim slurs at him, threatened to kill him, and also bit him on the nose. Ahmad was hospitalized and received staples in his head and stitches in his leg.

These vicious attacks come just a few months after the white supremacist rampage that left six Sikhs dead in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August, followed by a string of at least 10 separate anti-Muslim attacks around the country in the two weeks that followed.

Needless to say, I was horrified last week when I heard about the attack on Ahmad and am even more horrified today after learning about Akmal, a grandfather, nearly being killed in this act of violent hatred a few days later. The trauma of the Oak Creek shooting is still fresh for us Sikhs in the United States, and there is little doubt that these recent attacks on Muslim men in Queens are rooted in the same type of bigotry that has so often made Sikhs targets since 9/11. As I've said before, our struggles are deeply connected.

The way I heard about the attack on Ahmad last week was almost as troubling as the attack itself. I read this headline on NBC New York's website: "Queens Mosque Stabbing Victim Says He'd Retaliate if Given Chance."

Before providing any details on what happened in the attack and why, the story leads off with, "A Muslim man who was stabbed as he tried to open the door to a Queens mosque says he will strike back if he ever sees his attacker."

I read the headline and lead paragraph repeatedly; I could hardly believe what I was seeing. A man was just beaten and stabbed in a possible hate crime (the article mentions the anti-Muslim slurs), but the story is: "The Muslim may retaliate."

The New York Post's coverage of the incident was similar, leading off with:

A devout Muslim man who was stabbed as he tried to open the door to a Queens mosque on Sunday says his hate-spewing attacker had better watch his back.


'If I see him again, I will kill him from 20 feet away,' 57-year-old Bashir Ahmad told The Post yesterday. 'I will hurt him.'

I imagine I would be extremely emotional after such an attack as well, and while I have never been physically assaulted, I have experienced plenty of racist harassment, including my turban being pulled off on the NYC subway. My emotions ran out of control in the minutes and hours after it happened -- I was fuming with anger, rage, humiliation. I guess I should consider myself lucky that no reporters were there. Apparently the anger of someone with brown skin and a beard makes a more exciting story for the media than the bleak reality of racist violence.

Perhaps we shouldn't even be so surprised by these attacks when the media's depictions of Muslims has become so biased. American media -- including Hollywood -- have long portrayed Arabs and Muslims as barbaric, blood-thirsty caricatures. Things have apparently gotten so out of control that even after a Muslim man like Bashir Ahmad is victimized in such a horrific way, the take home message for the public is still that the Muslim is the aggressor, is suspicious, is a potential threat.

Not long ago, blackface and minstrel shows were commonplace in the U.S. Racial justice activists worked tirelessly to push these sorts of bigoted depictions of black folks to the margins and did so with great success (though the problem is far from solved). We desperately need a similar movement today to uproot Islamophobia from the mass media.

Original post found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonny-singh/ali-akmal-beating_b_2233695.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Freedom Means Being Able to Wear the Veil, Too

CNN World|  December 5, 2012
By Sahar Aziz, Special to CNN
Original Article Found Here: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/05/freedom-means-being-able-to-wear-the-veil-too/

Editor’s note: Sahar Aziz is a fellow at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and an associate professor of Texas Wesleyan School of Law. She serves as the president of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association. The views expressed are her own.

In October, in a blatant act of discrimination, a Muslim woman wearing a veil in an Oklahoma bank was reportedly told she had to be escorted from the door to the teller. The Valley National Bank in Tulsa stated that this was not an act of religious discrimination, but rather part of their “no hat, no hood” policy instituted to allow security to clearly identify and take surveillance pictures of customers.

But as Executive Director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Adam Soltani said, "singling out Muslim women or other people of faith who wear religiously mandated head coverings that do not hinder identification is inappropriate and discriminatory."

According to the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of the roughly 1 million Muslim women in America wear headscarves. That’s a significant number of women in this country who face potential difficulties based on their decision to practice their faith the way they see fit. Yet their unique civil rights challenges are not reflected in any substantive way in the agendas of American Muslim organizations, who dance around the issue of gender, or among American feminist groups, who don’t want to touch issues of religion with a ten foot barge pole.

With the American public generally still suspicious of Muslims, evidence increasingly suggests that for American Muslim women, the “veil” now “marks” them as representatives of the suspect, inherently violent, and forever foreign “terrorist other” in our midst.

More from CNN: France ban provokes passionate reaction

A recent policy brief published by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, shows that Muslim women of all races and levels of religiosity face unique forms of discrimination at the intersection of religion, race, and gender because of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Consequently, these women are caught in the crosshairs of national security conflicts that profoundly affect their lives – including the safety of their family and their economic prospects – and receive inadequate support from advocacy groups focused on defending Muslims, women’s rights or civil liberties post-9/11. With the number of bullying cases against Muslim children and employment discrimination cases filed by American Muslim women on the rise, American women’s organization must stand up and take notice.

While these women’s rights groups have focused on equal pay, abortion rights, and other gender-specific issues certainly benefit Muslim women, the American women’s rights agenda fails to address the unique forms of subordination experienced by American Muslim women and the challenges faced by many other religious groups. With 86 percent of American women affiliated with a faith tradition, exploring issues of women’s rights and religion is a critical issue.

This exclusion from the agenda is the latest iteration of the ongoing challenge faced by Western feminists to remain relevant in an increasingly diverse and complicated conversation on women’s rights in this country. Add the element of religion, specifically American Muslim women who cover their hair, and traditionally progressive feminist organizations get nervous. Ironically, feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation have consistently called for banning the burqa and spoken in defense of women’s rights in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern nations while remaining silent on an American Muslim woman’s right to wear the headscarf free of discrimination and violence. They might address the fact that civil rights are abused when it comes to religious women’s rights; however, they don’t take issue and support the gender rights of these women through concerted campaigns.

What will it take for a woman’s choice to cover her hair based on her religious beliefs to be seen as a civil and woman’s right? Whether a woman wants to take off the burqa in Afghanistan or wants to wear the headscarf in Oklahoma, women’s rights organizations must remain consistent in their support of choice and yes, freedom to practice religion in the way that aligns with a woman’s core beliefs.

In the end, a woman’s rights are about personal autonomy to choose her life’s path, not whether we approve of it.

Original Article Found Here: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/05/freedom-means-being-able-to-wear-the-veil-too/

Muslims in Queens Attacked by Bigots and the Media

The Huffington Post|  December 5, 2012
By Sonny Singh
Original post found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonny-singh/ali-akmal-beating_b_2233695.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Last week, two separate brutal attacks against Muslim men took place in Queens, New York. On November 24, 72-year-old Ali Akmal was nearly beaten to death while going on his early morning walk and remains in critical, but stable, condition.

CBS New York reports:

Akmal's tongue was so badly swollen that he couldn't talk for two days. When he finally could, he told police that when he first encountered the two men, they asked him, "are you Muslim or Hindu?"


He responded "I'm Muslim," and that's when they attacked.


The beating was so savage and personal, Akmal was even bitten on the nose.

Just a few days earlier, 57-year-old Bashir Ahmad was beaten and stabbed repeatedly as he entered a mosque in Flushing, Queens early in the morning on November 19. The attacker yelled anti-Muslim slurs at him, threatened to kill him, and also bit him on the nose. Ahmad was hospitalized and received staples in his head and stitches in his leg.

These vicious attacks come just a few months after the white supremacist rampage that left six Sikhs dead in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August, followed by a string of at least 10 separate anti-Muslim attacks around the country in the two weeks that followed.

Needless to say, I was horrified last week when I heard about the attack on Ahmad and am even more horrified today after learning about Akmal, a grandfather, nearly being killed in this act of violent hatred a few days later. The trauma of the Oak Creek shooting is still fresh for us Sikhs in the United States, and there is little doubt that these recent attacks on Muslim men in Queens are rooted in the same type of bigotry that has so often made Sikhs targets since 9/11. As I've said before, our struggles are deeply connected.

The way I heard about the attack on Ahmad last week was almost as troubling as the attack itself. I read this headline on NBC New York's website: "Queens Mosque Stabbing Victim Says He'd Retaliate if Given Chance."

Before providing any details on what happened in the attack and why, the story leads off with, "A Muslim man who was stabbed as he tried to open the door to a Queens mosque says he will strike back if he ever sees his attacker."

I read the headline and lead paragraph repeatedly; I could hardly believe what I was seeing. A man was just beaten and stabbed in a possible hate crime (the article mentions the anti-Muslim slurs), but the story is: "The Muslim may retaliate."

The New York Post's coverage of the incident was similar, leading off with:

A devout Muslim man who was stabbed as he tried to open the door to a Queens mosque on Sunday says his hate-spewing attacker had better watch his back.


'If I see him again, I will kill him from 20 feet away,' 57-year-old Bashir Ahmad told The Post yesterday. 'I will hurt him.'

I imagine I would be extremely emotional after such an attack as well, and while I have never been physically assaulted, I have experienced plenty of racist harassment, including my turban being pulled off on the NYC subway. My emotions ran out of control in the minutes and hours after it happened -- I was fuming with anger, rage, humiliation. I guess I should consider myself lucky that no reporters were there. Apparently the anger of someone with brown skin and a beard makes a more exciting story for the media than the bleak reality of racist violence.

Perhaps we shouldn't even be so surprised by these attacks when the media's depictions of Muslims has become so biased. American media -- including Hollywood -- have long portrayed Arabs and Muslims as barbaric, blood-thirsty caricatures. Things have apparently gotten so out of control that even after a Muslim man like Bashir Ahmad is victimized in such a horrific way, the take home message for the public is still that the Muslim is the aggressor, is suspicious, is a potential threat.

Not long ago, blackface and minstrel shows were commonplace in the U.S. Racial justice activists worked tirelessly to push these sorts of bigoted depictions of black folks to the margins and did so with great success (though the problem is far from solved). We desperately need a similar movement today to uproot Islamophobia from the mass media.

Post Sandy, Muslims are Seen Through a Different Lens

Voices of New York|  December 3, 2012
By Gabrielle Alfiero
Find original article here: http://voicesofny.org/2012/12/in-sandy-relief-muslims-find-chance-to-be-seen-through-a-different-lens/ 

Abdulrauf Khan, 40, warns a group of volunteers to avoid stepping on errant nails in the kitchen of a small home on Brighton 8 Street in Brighton Beach. He’s surrounded by ripped up floorboards and industrial trash bags full of debris. His black felt hat is speckled with white dust.

During Hurricane Sandy, the basement and first floor of this home filled with water. Now the house is being gutted while the residents, a family of five, are in a shelter.

Khan is the assistant director of disaster relief for the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA, a nonprofit relief and social services organization with headquarters in Jamaica, Queens. The responsibility to help those in need is informed by the Islamic faith, Khan says.

According to ICNA, approximately 300,000 of those affected by Hurricane Sandy are Muslims, but Khan stresses that anyone in need can benefit from ICNA Relief efforts.

“This is part of our religion,” Khan says. “When you help, it is regardless of any ethnicity, any race, any religion. That’s our mission.”

Mucahit Bilici, assistant professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says the Muslim community’s call to service comes from humanitarian as well as religious concerns.

“Muslims are so misrepresented in popular culture that it becomes incumbent upon them to prove that they care, that they are human beings,” Bilici says.

ICNA Relief set up a drop-in station in front of Masjid Omar mosque on Neptune Avenue. Women in hijabs wait in line behind young people in sweatpants and jeans to receive blankets and portable heaters, or to see Dr. Batool Hussaini, who takes vitals and provides over-the-counter medication. Volunteers translate FEMA applications into Urdu and Punjabi.

Rafael Brenes, 51, is waiting for a heater for his son’s room. His nearby home is still without heat.

“Night times get real cold,” Brenes says. “My son has to sleep with all his clothes on.”

The Arab American Association of New York, a nonprofit social service and advocacy group in Bay Ridge, has also been active in hurricane relief. Linda Sarsour, 32, executive director of AAANY, says the organization has received food and clothing donations and delivered hot meals.

Sarsour says her faith urges her to serve those in need, but service also provides an opportunity to engage with people who know little about Islam, a concept that Muslims call Dawah.

“This is our way of not necessarily telling people to become Muslim, but for people to interact with Islamic faith from a place of service,” Sarsour says.

Days after Hurricane Sandy left more than 8 million people without power, AAANY staff knocked on doors to deliver pizza in the Midland Beach neighborhood in Staten Island.

At one apartment, an older woman cracked open her door to find Sarsour standing on the other side, wearing a blue hijab and holding a pizza delivery box. Sarsour asked if she was hungry, and the woman opened the door a little wider.

The woman immediately said, “‘I didn’t know. I should have asked more questions.’”

It took Sarsour a minute to understand what the woman meant.  Two years earlier, a Muslim group sought to open a mosque in the same neighborhood. Some residents vehemently opposed the mosque, including the woman to whom Sarsour was offering a pizza.

“This was her first opportunity to see people like me through a different lens,” Sarsour says. “We were seen as people coming to provide help. We were seen as New Yorkers.”

Find original article here: http://voicesofny.org/2012/12/in-sandy-relief-muslims-find-chance-to-be-seen-through-a-different-lens/ 

King to give up Homeland Security chairmanship

By Tom Brune -- Newsday, Thur, Nov 15, 2012
Original article found

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Thursday that he will have to give up his post as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee next year because of his party's term-limit rule.

King said he's already overstayed the rule's six-year limit -- he's been the committee's top Republican for more than seven years, after first taking the gavel in September 2005.

Come January, King will lose the "bully pulpit" he used to help keep 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Muhammad's trial out of Manhattan, keepGuantanamo Bay's prison open, and draw worldwide attention and controversy with hearings on American Muslims and terrorism.

"It was the greatest experience I've ever had," King said. "I'm very satisfied. As far as I'm concerned, I achieved everything I set out to do."

As King steps down, the New York congressional delegation not only loses its only committee chairman in the House, but a member among GOP leadership who fought to keep federal homeland security money flowing to New York at a time of federal budget cuts.

But the committee also loses a chairman who became a lightning rod for criticism, particularly from liberal and Muslim groups, for his hearings on American Muslims and terror.

Farhana Khera, executive director of the lawyer's group Muslim Advocates, said she "breathed a sigh of relief" at the news. She said King's hearings were a "witch hunt" that sowed "fear and hatred towards American Muslims."

But Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, said, "King poured his heart and soul into his job as chairman."

He added, "He will be missed as chairman, but I expect will continue to be an important voice on security issues."

King said he will remain on the committee as chairman of the terrorism subcommittee. He said he also will again be appointed as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

"I'm not going anywhere," King said. "I'm just moving over a seat." He said he didn't want to leave the post, but he won't stage a fight to keep it.

Earlier this week, King said he had a 45-minute meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in which he asked to keep his chairmanship another term.

But, he said, Boehner told him the only waiver to the term limit would be granted to Rep. Paul Ryan(R-Wis.), Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate, so he can return as the House Budget Committee chairman.

King served as chairman from September 2005 until December 2006, when Democrats won control of the House. He was ranking Republican from 2007 until 2010. After the GOP won back the House, King became chairman again in 2011.

"I established the committee. I made it a force. I got attention for the committee," King said. "I also set the tone. I made Islamic terrorism the focus of the committee."

By Julienne Gage -- Al Arabiya News, Sat, Nov 24, 2012
Original article found

For most Muslims, what happens to the body of a deceased person is not quite as important as what happens to that person’s soul. Still, historians of all backgrounds are scrambling to locate the body and belongings of a Muslim buried in Washington, DC nearly 200 years ago, for it touches the soul of early American history. 

The deceased, Yarrow Mamout, was among tens of thousands – if not millions - of Muslims brought to America during the slave trade, but one of few for which historians have much information. 

Historic documents suggest Yarrow may be buried on the property he purchased after gaining his independence in 1797. That land is located in Washington’s historic Georgetown neighborhood where homes now sell for several million dollars. Its owner, real estate developer Deyi Awadallah, hopes to build and sell a new residence on the property. He knew nothing of Yarrow when he purchased the land last spring, but he’s willing to give archaeologists a chance – a few weeks or months - to investigate before he finalizes his plans. 

“I’m trying to respect the situation. It deserves that,” he said in an interview this month. 

According to James H. Johnston, Yarrow was sold into slavery as a teenager in Senegal in 1752. The Washington-based lawyer and freelance writer spent eight years investigating Yarrow’s story for his 2012 book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family. 

Read the rest of the article here

Top House Islamophobe Allen West Falls

THE DAILY BEAST
Top House Islamophobe Allen West Falls
Ali Gharib  |  November 7, 2012
Original Article Found Here

One of Congress's top Islamophobes, Republican Rep. Allen West, lost his reelection bid to Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy early this morning. With 100 percent of votes in from South Florida's 18th District, Murphy edged out the Tea Party freshman West by less than 2,500 votes, despite lopsided fundraising. West spent more than $17 million to Murphy's $3.6 million, and both candidates poured money into ads that made the race one of the country's nastiest.

 

In the House, West earned a reputation as a ferocious right-wing attack dog. The unfounded accusations that dozens of Communists populate the Congress's Democratic caucus were nothing new, but his most novel legacy may be West's inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims. Along with Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN), West used his time in Congress to press his case that Islam is "not a religion" but a "totalitarian theocratic political ideology," and that terrorism is inherent to the faith—not radical Islam, but Islam, writ large. He's accused a fellow Member of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, of "represent(ing) the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established."

If all that wasn't bad enough, West has shared a stage with America's foremost anti-Muslim activist, Pamela Geller (who was recently in the news again). When he was called out for his ties to bigots like Geller and asked to respect Muslims' right to worship freely, his one-word response made an apparent comparison between the request and Nazi overtures for an American surrender in World War II. 

During this cycle, West took a break from campaigning to commemorate 9/11 by embracing the cause the Geller pushed to the fore in the summer of 2010: a campaign against the building of an Islamic community center near the Ground Zero site in downtown Manhattan. West used his congressional position to host a screening of a film from an Islamophobic group about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks.

West's views were so far outside the mainstream that his Republican primary opponent, Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder, endorsed the Democrat Murphy last week. "As a Republican for over 30 years, I'm embarrassed by the radical fringe that has taken over the party. Sadly, Allen West is their poster child, and the hateful, divisive comments he's made throughout this campaign make it clear to me he’s the wrong choice for our district," Crowder said in a statement.

In Tuesday's election, Murphy's fate was closely tied to President Obama's winning reelection effort. Though too close to call in the presidential race, Obama won the same two of three counties in the 18th Congressional District that Murphy did. West and Obama's erstwhile opponent Mitt Romney both carried Martin Country, whereas Murphy and the president both took St. Lucie and Palm Beach Counties.

In Palm Beach County, Obama faced right-wing "pro-Israel" ads that dovetailed with West's frequent messaging that the longtime American policy pushed by the president will destroy Israel and questioning Obama's "commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish state."

Though West lost, his fellow congressional Islamophobes King and Bachmann fared better—winning and hanging on in a race too close to call, respectively. Nonetheless, given West's visibility, the Florida loss can on its own be seen as a victory for the religious tolerance and liberty, indeed, "upon which this country was established."

Key Members of Congressional 'Islamophobia Caucus' Swept From Congress

by Alex Kane on November 7, 2012
Find Original Article Here

West.jpg

Key members of what has been termed Congress’ “Islamophobia caucus” went down in their re-election fights last night, dealing a blow to anti-Muslim activists’ efforts to influence policy and the national discourse. National Muslim organizations celebrated their victories today.

Allen West (R-FL), Joe Walsh (R-IL) and Adam Hasner (R-FL) were three Republicans that had used anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout their elected careers. But now they’re out of a job (though Hasner was running for a Congressional seat he did not hold).

“Folks in their districts wanted to send a message: we will not allow divisive politics, we will not allow extremism to run our political conversation,” said Haris Tarin, the director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Washington, D.C. office. “It also tells people that trying to divide Americans, by using anti-Muslim rhetoric, will not work in the long run.”

West, a former U.S. Army colonel, went down in Florida’s 18th Congressional district after Patrick Murphy squeaked by in a slim victory. West’s political career from the outset was marred by controversy; he is alleged to have threatened an Iraqi prisoner with death during an interrogation and to have fired shots near the prisoner--something that Murphy attacked him for in the campaign.

Illinois’ Walsh lost his Congressional seat to Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth. “With 93 percent of the unofficial vote counted, Duckworth had 55 percent, with 45 percent for Walsh,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Walsh, in addition to his far-right advocacy on the Israel/Palestine conflict, has also spewed anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In August, Walsh warned that radical Islamists were “trying to kill Americans every week” and that the next 9/11 was inevitable. Walsh also claimed that radical Islam “was here” in the Chicago suburbs. Shortly after Walsh’s remarks made waves, two Chicago-area Muslim centers were violently attacked.

Hasner was a former Florida state representative until 2010, and decided to run for a Florida House seat in 2012. But he lost to Lois Frankel last night. He was an up and coming Jewish Republican who is really cozy with Pamela Geller, the nation’s leading and most virulent anti-Muslim activist. Hasner also was a leader in ginning up fear over the non-existent threat of Sharia law coming to the U.S, and once invited notorious anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders to a “free speech” conference.

“These encouraging results clearly show that mainstream Americans reject anti-Muslim bigotry by candidates for public office and will demonstrate that rejection at the polls," Nihad Awad, executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “This election witnessed an increased political awareness and mobilization effort among American Muslims that dealt a major blow to the Islamophobia machine."

And while Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the undisputed leader of Islamophobia in U.S. government, ultimately won her race last night, it was extremely close. Despite spending 10 times the amount her opponent Jim Graves did, Bachmann only won by a few thousand votes. Bachmann is the woman who claimed, with no evidence, that there was Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government. MPAC’s Tarin said that the message voters in Bachmann’s district sent was, “if you continue to use this anti-Muslim rhetoric as your main platform issue, to divide Americans, it’s not going to work.”

In a press release, CAIR also noted some other races where anti-Muslim politicians went down: “In Arkansas, Rep. James McLean defeated Republican Charlie Fuqua, a candidate who advocated the deportation of all Muslims in a self-published book. In Minnesota, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) lost his seat. Cravaack was a key supporter's of Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) series of anti-Muslim hearings.”

Informant: NYPD paid me to 'bait' Muslims

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO | Associated Press – Tue, Oct 23, 2012Original article found at Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/informant-nypd-paid-bait-muslims-134358506.html

NEW YORK (AP) — A paid informant for the New York Police Department's intelligence unit was under orders to "bait" Muslims into saying inflammatory things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press.

Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bangladeshi descent who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called "create and capture." He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.

"We need you to pretend to be one of them," Rahman recalled the police telling him. "It's street theater."

Rahman said he now believes his work as an informant against Muslims in New York was "detrimental to the Constitution." After he disclosed to friends details about his work for the police — and after he told the police that he had been contacted by the AP — he stopped receiving text messages from his NYPD handler, "Steve," and his handler's NYPD phone number was disconnected.

Rahman's account shows how the NYPD unleashed informants on Muslim neighborhoods, often without specific targets or criminal leads. Much of what Rahman said represents a tactic the NYPD has denied using.

The AP corroborated Rahman's account through arrest records and weeks of text messages between Rahman and his police

handler. The AP also reviewed the photos Rahman sent to police. Friends confirmed Rahman was at certain events when he said he was there, and former NYPD officials, while not personally familiar with Rahman, said the tactics he described were used by informants.

Informants like Rahman are a central component of the NYPD's wide-ranging programs to monitor life in Muslim

neighborhoods since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police officers have eavesdropped inside Muslim businesses, trained video cameras on mosques and collected license plates of worshippers. Informants who trawl the mosques — known informally as "mosque crawlers" — tell police what the imam says at sermons and provide police lists of attendees, even when there's no evidence they committed a crime.

The programs were built with unprecedented help from the CIA.

Police recruited Rahman in late January, after his third arrest on misdemeanor drug charges, which Rahman believed would

lead to serious legal consequences. An NYPD plainclothes officer approached him in a Queens jail and asked whether he wanted to turn his life around.

The next month, Rahman said, he was on the NYPD's payroll.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Tuesday. He has denied widespread NYPD spying, saying police only follow leads.

In an Oct. 15 interview with the AP, however, Rahman said he received little training and spied on "everything and anyone." He took pictures inside the many mosques he visited and eavesdropped on imams. By his own measure, he said he was very good at his job and his handler never once told him he was collecting too much, no matter whom he was spying on.

Rahman said he thought he was doing important work protecting New York City and considered himself a hero.

One of his earliest assignments was to spy on a lecture at the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. The speaker was Ali Abdul Karim, the head of security at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn. The NYPD had been concerned about Karim for years and already had infiltrated the mosque, according to NYPD documents obtained by the AP.

Rahman also was instructed to monitor the student group itself, though he wasn't told to target anyone specifically. His NYPD handler, Steve, told him to take pictures of people at the events, determine who belonged to the student association and identify its leadership.

On Feb. 23, Rahman attended the event with Karim and listened, ready to catch what he called a "speaker's gaffe." The NYPD was interested in buzz words such as "jihad" and "revolution," he said. Any radical rhetoric, the NYPD told him, needed to be reported.

John Jay president Jeremy Travis said Tuesday that police had not told the school about the surveillance. He did not say whether he believed the tactic was appropriate.

"As an academic institution, we are committed to the free expression of ideas and to creating a safe learning environment for all of our students," he said in a written statement. "We are working closely with our Muslim students to affirm their rights and to reassure them that we support their organization and freedom to assemble."

Talha Shahbaz, then the vice president of the student group, met Rahman at the event. As Karim was finishing his talk on Malcolm X's legacy, Rahman told Shahbaz that he wanted to know more about the student group. They had briefly attended the same high school in Queens.

Rahman said he wanted to turn his life around and stop using drugs, and said he believed Islam could provide a purpose in life. In the following days, Rahman friended him on Facebook and the two exchanged phone numbers. Shahbaz, a Pakistani who came to the U.S. more three years ago, introduced Rahman to other Muslims.

"He was telling us how he loved Islam and it's changing him," said Asad Dandia, who also became friends with Rahman.

Secretly, Rahman was mining his new friends for details about their lives, taking pictures of them when they ate at restaurants and writing down license plates on the orders of the NYPD.

On the NYPD's instructions, he went to more events at John Jay, including when Siraj Wahhaj spoke in May. Wahhaj, 62, is a prominent but controversial New York imam who has attracted the attention of authorities for years. Prosecutors included his name on a 3 ½-page list of people they said "may be alleged as co-conspirators" in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged. In 2004, the NYPD placed Wahhaj on an internal terrorism watch list and noted: "Political ideology moderately radical and anti-American."

That evening at John Jay, a friend took a photograph of Wahhaj with a grinning Rahman.

Rahman said he kept an eye on the MSA and used Shahbaz and his friends to facilitate traveling to events organized by the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society. The society's annual convention in Hartford, Conn, draws a large number of Muslims and plenty of attention from the NYPD. According to NYPD documents obtained by the AP, the NYPD sent three informants there in 2008 and was keeping tabs on the group's former president.

Rahman was told to spy on the speakers and collect information. The conference was dubbed "Defending Religious Freedom." Shahbaz paid Rahman's travel expenses.

Rahman, who was born in Queens, said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.

He said he sometimes intentionally misinterpreted what people had said. For example, Rahman said he would ask people what they thought about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, knowing the subject was inflammatory. It was easy to take statements out of context, he said. Rahman said he wanted to please his NYPD handler, whom he trusted and liked.

"I was trying to get money," Rahman said. "I was playing the game."

Rahman said police never discussed the activities of the people he was assigned to target for spying. He said police told him once, "We don't think they're doing anything wrong. We just need to be sure."

On some days, Rahman's spent hours and covered miles in his undercover role. On Sept. 16, for example, he made his way in the morning to the Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn, snapping photographs of an imam and the sign-up sheet for those attending a regular class on Islamic instruction. He also provided their cell phone numbers to the NYPD. That evening he spied on people at Masjid Al-Ansar, also in Brooklyn.

Text messages on his phone showed that Rahman also took pictures last month of people attending the 27th annual Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan. The parade's grand marshal was New York City Councilman Robert Jackson.

Rahman said he eventually tired of spying on his friends, noting that at times they delivered food to needy Muslim families. He said he once identified another NYPD informant spying on him. He took $200 more from the NYPD and told them he was done as an informant. He said the NYPD offered him more money, which he declined. He told friends on Facebook in early October that he had been a police spy but had quit. He also traded Facebook messages with Shahbaz, admitting he had spied on students at John Jay.

"I was an informant for the NYPD, for a little while, to investigate terrorism," he wrote on Oct. 2. He said he no longer thought it was right. Perhaps he had been hunting terrorists, he said, "but I doubt it."

Shahbaz said he forgave Rahman.

"I hated that I was using people to make money," Rahman said. "I made a mistake."

___

Staff writer David Caruso in New York contributed to this story.

See original article at Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/informant-nypd-paid-bait-muslims-134358506.html

CAIR-NY Rebukes Connecticut Decision to Dismiss Hate Crime Charges

By Rebecca Henely
Times Ledger 

An Astoria cab driver and members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations gathered at a neighborhood mosque Monday to denounce a Connecticut prosecutor for dropping charges against a former Morgan Stanley banker who was accused of stabbing the driver.

“There is overwhelming evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt,” said Hassan Ahmad, the attorney for cab driver Mohammed Ammar.

William Bryan Jennings, who worked in Lower Manhattan and has a home in Darien, Conn., had been charged with assault, intimidation due to bias and larceny. Jennings had hired Ammar to take him home Dec. 22, 2011, and agreed to pay $204 for the about 40-mile drive, Darien Police said. When Ammar reached Jennings’ home, Jennings had supposedly refused to pay and an argument began, police said.

Jennings had been charged with injuring Ammar with a pen knife as Ammar drove away to try to dial 911 on his cellphone in a place where he could get a signal, police said.

CAIR said Jennings had also told Ammar, who is Egyptian by birth and an American citizen, to “go back to your country” and said he would not face repercussions because he pays “$10,000 in taxes a year.”

At the news conference, held at the Masid Dar-Al-Dawah Mosque, at 35-13 23rd Ave. in Astoria, Ahmad said after reporting the incident to the authorities Ammar had found the pen knife weeks later in his yellow taxi cab. Out of fear, Ammar did not tell authorities until several more weeks had passed.

Steven Weiss, supervisory assistant state attorney for Connecticut, ended up dropping the case because Ammar failed to produce the knife earlier, Ahmad said.

Eugene Riccio, attorney for Jennings, praised Weiss for dropping the case.

“We’re grateful for the prosecutor’s decision,” Riccio said. “In doing so, we felt that it was clearly the right thing to do under the circumstances.”

Riccio said his client had not committed any criminal offense.

Ammar, who said he was broken up by the dropped case, pointed out that he had been driving his taxicab for 10 years with no problems like this.

“I’m very sad. I’m very upset,” Ammar said. “It’s really, really unfair.”

Muneer Awad, executive director for CAIR’s New York branch, said they were calling on the Department of Justice to take on the case.

“It’s not only disgraceful, but it’s criminal,” Awad said.

Ahmad said Ammar was also mulling a lawsuit. He said his client made a mistake in not telling authorities about the knife but that the basic facts of the incident were not in dispute and that the prosecutor had planned to continue to go forward with the case for months after Ammar produced the knife.

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” Ahmad said.

See the original story at the Times Ledger here:

http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2012/42/cabattackdropped_all_2012_10_18_q.html