- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html
Saturday, December 30, 2006
If you have not had the chance to watch The Road to Guantanamo, please do so now.
Last night, I rented out the movie and decided to watch it. This part film part documentary is the most powerful movie I have seen lately. It sure is going to inform you, move you, anger you, shame you, and mobilize you to protect America from those sacrificing our values, our laws, our humanity, and our national security.
It is a must see. (I rent it out from Blockbuster video store)
Last August, I published a commentary in which I demanded that we either offer the detainees a fair trial or that we just shut down what I called the Gitmo Gulag. After watching the movie, I am more convinced that this detention camp serves mostly to degrade our morality and credibility.
Learn more about this movie
Read the following good review
ROAD TO GUANTANAMO: And Freedom and Justice for All!
By Salaam Abdul Khaliq
In the dead of night, the sound of bombs exploding around the truck carrying Taliban fighters is horrific. By pure happenstance, four British Muslims find themselves drawn into an unenviable predicament. Earlier in February of 2002, the four Brits flew to Pakistan where one of them was to be married. Moved by an Imam’s Friday sermon to help their co-religionists, the naïve four youngsters cross the Afghanistan border to help the collateral damage of the U.S.-led invasion. Days later, they are unknowingly driven to Kundiz, a Taliban stronghold.
Now, and in the middle of nowhere, they desperately try to claw onto the back of the only vehicle that will lead them to safety. The fourth friend is nowhere in sight. What is holding them from hopping on the truck is Asif’s shoe, which would not fit. Within seconds, a flash followed by a tremendous explosion pulverizes the truck and its human content to smithereens. The three friends are knocked back, unconscious. When they wake up in the morning, they find death everywhere. Without food, water or shelter, they are captured by Northern Alliance soldiers and eventually turned over to U.S. forces. After enduring several interrogations, they are flown to Guantanamo Bay with dozens of other prisoners.
In Camp Delta, the three Brits receive America’s special brand of hospitality, totally in line with the principles of justice pioneered by the Founding Fathers but re-imagined by the Bush administration. Definitions like “enemy combatants” are coined to bypass international law concerning POWs. Labels such as “cold-blooded murderers” are licentiously tagged to justify various forms of torture. The Muslim inmates are held in open-air fenced cages much worse than animals at the zoo. Without a shred of evidence against them and without access to legal counsel, the detainees are not allowed to talk, stand or pray. They are forced to wear goggles and exercise only once a week for ten minutes. The rest of the time they have to remain crouched in their cells under the searing heat. Periodically, they are taken to an empty room and pestered with deafening music and flash strobes while shackled to the ground. To top if off, their holy book is kicked and trampled on (although the flushing down the toilet part was not shown.) For the latter, the Americans have even bettered the Israelis whose Gestapo tactics they were schooled in.
The Road to Guantanamo by award-winning British director Michael Winterbottom could not be timelier. Only recently, three prisoners held at the facility were reported to have committed suicide. The father of the Yemeni deceased now claims that his son died under torture and has demanded a full autopsy to determine the actual cause of death. The United States is increasingly under pressure from the international community to close down the camp and come clean on its human rights violations. President Bush would have none of it. He has repeatedly refused to put an end to America’s shame among the nations. Guantanamo is a blot on the conscience of all Americans; it is making a pariah state of a country that is supposed to be the beacon of justice and liberty. The very principles of due process have been made a mockery of by a junta of hawks bent on redefining the Bill of Rights and the Constitution for the sake of their own devious desires for a New World Order. Surely, Washington and Jefferson must be throwing up in their graves.
After Britain lobbied for its citizens, the “Tipton Three,” as they came to be known, started getting better treatment at the camp and were eventually flown home where they were almost immediately set free. Close to 450 other unfortunate prisoners are still held at the facility with no relief in sight. The latest suicides are signs of worse things to come.
Incredibly, none of the ex-prisoners is bitter or angry. They have all said that the experience made them better Muslims and better persons and only wished the United States would apologize. After two years of wrongful imprisonment and torture, an apology is the least owed to them. Although they may never forget, they have already forgiven. If only those who walk the corridors of power could take heed.
Watch The Road to Guantanamo and weep. Either prosecute or set free those ‘presumed guilty until proven innocent.’ American principles of freedom and justice must never be compromised for the grandstanding of neo-fascism.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
By HUSSAM AYLOUSH
A number of religious celebrations are converging yet again this month, adding to the festive holiday atmosphere, and allowing Americans an opportunity to ponder and change things for the better.
For the past five years, the fact that the end of Muslim religious observances, Ramadan or the Hajj, coincided with Christmas made this period more memorable for my family (this year, the Hajj season started Thursday, and Hajj activities begin around Dec. 29). We immersed ourselves in remembering God's blessings and mercy and will do the same on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps to the surprise of some Americans, Jesus holds a special place in both the Christian and Islamic faiths. Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, is ingrained in the mainstream culture and is generally celebrated on three levels -- it is practiced privately, manifested in public displays and government-sanctioned holidays, and it is commercialized through department store sales and discounts.
Fast and Pray
When I was a college student in Texas, I had the pleasure of staying with a Christian family with three generations represented at the dinner table on Christmas Eve.
Those times reminded me of family dinners at my house during Ramadan, the monthlong fast during which Muslims deny themselves food, drink and other pleasures during the day.
Although we do not celebrate Christmas, Muslims around the world respect and follow Jesus, as they do other prophets in Islam -- Abraham, Moses, David, Noah, John the Baptist and Muhammad.
In observing Islamic traditions, Muslims celebrate only two holidays, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha (Dec. 31, 2006), marking the end of Ramadan and the end of the Hajj, respectively.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus and all other prophets privately by fasting, praying and being thankful that God sent them to teach mankind about peace, justice and compassion.
During this time of year, government agencies impart the Christmas spirit by featuring Christmas trees or other ornaments on public property. We tread on shaky ground when we attempt to mix religion and state this way, no matter how honorable our intentions.
In government institutions, it is more appropriate and constitutionally sound to be inclusive and reflective of different holiday celebrations rather than celebrate one and risk alienating a segment of the community.
The First Amendment is clear in prohibiting government from favoring or establishing a state religion. So, Americans should neither shy away from displaying a range of holiday-themed symbols -- such as a Christmas tree, a menorah and a crescent -- nor view attempts to include other traditions as a threat to Christian values.
America stands for diversity and represents all faiths and backgrounds. It is through engagement of all communities in the mainstream that we will come to understand and accept one another.
Focus on Spirit
Many think that Christmas is cheapened by the pervasive consumerism seen on television and at malls. Thanksgiving and Christmas sales, even lights and decorations on storefronts, are all signs of a capitalist society at work. Jesus could not care less for such minutiae. Neither can I.
An appetite for buying and gift-giving in itself, as thoughtful as it may be, does not exhibit the true spirit of Christmas.
If there is one lesson we can all take away this Christmas, it is remembering that the essence is Jesus and his teachings. Let us treat each other the way we want to be treated. Let us, as a society, place the same value on other religions as we place on ours. Let us be more appreciative of one another and engage more with one another.
Hussam Ayloush is executive director of the Anaheim-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
It is even more serious of an issue when Muslims engage in such practice because Allah clearly commands us in the Quran not to let the injustice of others against us make us sway from justice. We always have to stand by truth and justice as a principled stance, no matter how others treat us. We should treat others the way we would like to be treated, not as we might actually be treated by some.
It is true that certain extremist Jewish groups and individuals have manipulated the tragic memory of the Holocaust to silence any criticism of Israeli crimes against Palestinians. A good book to read on this topic is the Holocaust Industry by Professor Norman Finkelstein, a renowned scholar and academic who is also the son of Holocaust surviving parents.
However, Muslims and those who sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians should not link that political conflict with the Holocaust. Debating whether the Holocaust happened or not is not only insensitive to the families of the millions who perished, but is also counter-productive to the efforts to help the just Palestinian cause, especially when such arguments are raised by an Arab or a Muslim. Moreover, those who deny or question the Holocaust are not only fighting the Zionist extremists, but they are also insulting and hurting many fair Jews who are vocally critical of Israeli brutal policies and who are our friends and allies.
We want and will achieve justice and peace in that part of the world and especially for the Palestinians who have taken the brunt of the suffering, but not through unjust means. The end does not justify the means. Good ends can only be achieved by good means.
We all have a responsibility to debate the Middle East conflict based on the real facts which involve occupation, racism, brutality, and the violation of International Law. The conflict is not about Jews, Christians, or Muslims.
If the memory of the Holocaust is to be brought up, it should never be to deny it, but rather to remind us all of how low human beings can become in allowing such brutality and viciousness to happen and to do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again, to anyone.
Read more about the Holocaust at:
The following is a statement from CAIR regarding this issue:
CAIR CONDEMNS IRANIAN HOLOCAUST DENIAL CONFERENCE
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/13/06) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned a conference in Iran that seeks to deny the Holocaust, the systematic destruction of the Jewish community in Europe by the Nazis during World War II.
In a statement, CAIR said:
"No legitimate cause or agenda can ever be advanced by denying or belittling the immense human suffering caused by the murder of millions of Jews and other minority groups by the Nazi regime and its allies during World War II. Cynical attempts to use Holocaust denial as a political tool in the Middle East conflict will only serve to deepen the level of mistrust and hostility already present in that troubled region."
CAIR also expressed concern that individuals who have promoted racist views, like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, were invited to speak at the conference. "Islam, through the example of the Prophet Muhammad, has always rejected racism in any form," said CAIR's statement.
In his final sermon, the Prophet stated: "All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Also, a white (person) has no superiority over a black (person), nor does a black have any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action." SEE: http://cair.com/Muhammad/
The Washington-based council has in the past condemned an Iranian contest soliciting political cartoons mocking the Holocaust and supported calls for an apology from an Arab-American newspaper that published excerpts from an anti-Semitic tract.
In its past statement supporting an apology from the newspaper, CAIR said "we must challenge those who would fan the flames of anti-Semitism." CAIR's statement condemning the Iranian cartoon contest called the Holocaust "one of the lowest moments in human history."
Monday, December 11, 2006
InFocus Newspaper, December 2006
"Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.’" Before searching for this quote in the New Testament, you might first ask your Muslim co-worker, friend or neighbor for a copy of the Quran, Islam’s revealed text. The quote is from verse 45 of chapter 3 in the Quran.
It is well known, particularly in this holiday season, that Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. What is less well understood is that Muslims also love and revere Jesus as one of God’s greatest messengers to mankind...
Thursday, December 07, 2006
A good letter to the editor published in the Press Enterprise:
Quran poses no threat
Press Enterprise, Dec. 7, 2006
Please tell me radio talk-show host Dennis Prager was joking when he said it would damage the unity of Americans if Keith Ellison were allowed to use the Quran to be sworn into office.
As a registered Republican and conservative for more than 40 years, I was so deeply offended by Prager's remarks that I considered changing parties.
The very foundation of this country hinges on the freedom to choose one's religion, and one of the foundations of conservatives is the right of people to do what their conscience and beliefs tell them without government intrusion.
Prager gives conservatives a bad name with his right-wing rant. It's no wonder people think conservatives are nuts. Rest assured, most of us are not.
If Ellison were forced to swear an oath on a book he doesn't believe in, that oath would not be valid.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
It is a good day for religious freedom and pluralism in America. The Prager infamous commentary and the swift response to it will offer a good example to the world that we as a nation might disagree on many legitimate political issues, but, for most, we still stand united and committed to an America that is true to its values of liberty and justice for all.
Here are a few interesting commentaries and articles that are worth reading.
Jewish group, ADL, Slams Prager
Dennis Prager’s argument that Representative-Elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, should not be permitted to take his oath of office on a Koran is, intolerant, misinformed and downright un-American.
Prager is flat-out wrong when he asserts that Representative Ellison’s use of a Koran would be “damaging to the fabric of American civilization.” ...
Prager’s patriotic prattling is misinformed on the facts, too. No Member of Congress is officially sworn in with a Bible...Prager presents intolerant, ugly views...
Even Conservative Commentator Michael Medved could not agree with Prager
(I have to commend him for his principled and respectful stance)
There is no logical or constitutional basis for denying a duly elected member of Congress the right to select the holy book he chooses to use in taking his oath of office...
Some religious conservatives have made themselves look terrible -- mean-spirited and intolerant and theocratic -- by objecting to this innocuous gesture, and generating a phony controversy over longstanding traditions of religious pluralism...
Unfortunately for conservatives who argue against Mr. Ellison, there's also the inconvenient but highly relevant matter of the Constitution of the United States. Article VI, Clause 3 states: " ... no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."...
First Muslim Congressman has right to take oath on Quran
Dean Koldenhoven, Daily Southtown
The so-called "conservative" radio talk-show host Dennis Prager made quite an issue of the fact that Keith Ellison wants to use the Quran instead of the Bible for his swearing-in. Prager has been stirring the conservative crowd into sending out messages to other elected officials to not let Ellison use the Quran instead of the Bible for the swearing-in ceremony. Mr. Prager should read the Constitution before sending out his biased material...
Perhaps Ellison is targeted by some because he happens to be the first black congressman from Minnesota and the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Minorities, whether it be race or religion, unfortunately become targets of people who have unfounded fears of minorities...
Prager's un-American rant
Paul Campos, Rocky Mountain News
...A different perspective on religious obligation is provided by Dennis Prager, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and newspaper columnist. Unlike right-wing buffoons of the Ann Coulter and Michael Savage type, Prager likes to present himself as a serious and thoughtful commentator...
Thus it's noteworthy that Prager has just published a column so idiotic and immoral that it raises the question of whether the political movement of which he is a prominent representative has become fundamentally un-American...
Reform Jewish Leader Supports First Muslim Member of Congress’ Right to Take Oath of Office Using Koran
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement: (The whole statement is a must read)
"The criticism by Dennis Prager of Rep. Keith Ellison’s use of the Koran for taking the oath of office is irreconcilable with American law and ideals as well as Jewish values and interests...
"No provision has meant more to ensuring that Jews and other religious minorities would enjoy rights as citizens without regard to their religious practices and identity than the Constitution’s Article VI ban on religious tests for office...
"America should be proud of having elected the first Muslim member of Congress. It reflects the diversity of this nation and its openness and tolerance to all people based on their qualifications and merit not on their religious identity...
"I urge Mr. Prager to rethink his position and apologize to Rep. Ellison."
Monday, December 04, 2006
In a letter to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council Chairman Fred S. Zeidman, CAIR wrote:
"No one who holds such bigoted, intolerant and divisive views should be in a policymaking position at a taxpayer-funded institution that seeks to educate Americans about the destructive impact hatred has had, and continues to have, on every society. As a presidential appointee, Prager's continued presence on the council would send a negative message to Muslims worldwide about America's commitment to religious tolerance."
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Despite the fact that the swearing ceremony of new members of Congress does not involve any scriptures or books (we will have to forgive Prager on this since bigots are not famous for being very smart or educated), the issue just shows that right-wing nuts will go to any extent in order to undermine and curtail the freedoms in our country, of course, all in the name of defending those freedoms! Go figure.
No, Mr. Prager, America is not a Christian country, nor a Jewish one, nor a Muslim one. It is a country that protects the right of all its citizens to practice any religion or no religion, if that matters. I suggest that you read our Constitution and especially the First Amendment to it to learn about what America stands for.
Long live our freedom of religion. And long live our freedom of expression which allows bigots like Prager to expose themselves.
God Bless America.
Newly elected Muslim lawmaker under fire
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON Â The first Muslim elected to Congress hasn't been sworn into office yet, but his act of allegiance has already been criticized by a conservative commentator.
In a column posted Tuesday on the conservative website Townhall.com, Dennis Prager blasted Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison's decision to take the oath of office Jan. 4 with his hand on a Quran, the Muslim holy book.
"He should not be allowed to do so," Prager wrote, "not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American culture."
He said Ellison, a convert from Catholicism, should swear on a Christian Bible Â which "America holds as its holiest book. Â If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress." ...
Dave Colling, Ellison's spokesman, said he was unavailable for comment. Earlier, Ellison told the online Minnesota Monitor, "The Constitution guarantees for everyone to take the oath of office on whichever book they prefer. And that's what the freedom of religion is all about." ...
"Requiring somebody to take an oath of office on a religious text that's not his" violates the Constitution, said Kevin Hasson, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Members of the House of Representatives traditionally raise their right hands and are sworn in together on the floor of the chamber. The ritual sometimes seen as the swearing-in is actually a ceremonial photo op with the speaker of the House that usually involves a Bible.
"They can bring in whatever they want," says Fred Beuttler, deputy historian of the House.
Prager, who is Jewish, wrote that no Mormon elected official has "demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon." But Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, carried a volume of Mormon scriptures that included the Bible and the Book of Mormon at his swearing-in ceremony in 1997...
Friday, December 01, 2006
Dec. 1, 2006
It is a sign of desperation on the part of America's most vicious Islamophobe, Steven Emerson, to resort to deception and defamation to try to undermine CAIR's work. It troubles him to see a growing number of Muslims and Jews working together on issues of social justice, religious tolerance and civil rights. The more we directly talk to each other, the more irrelevant extremists like Emerson are going to be.
CAIR representatives regularly speak at synagogues. Rabbis and people of the Jewish faith continue to be invited to speak at mosques and CAIR events. CAIR spends a great deal of time conversing and exchanging ideas with the Jewish community. Some of most ardent supporters of CAIR and champions of human rights for the Muslim community are Jewish.
For the record, CAIR never did and will never sponsor any event that promotes any form of racism, including anti-Semitism. Specifically, as Emerson was told repeatedly, CAIR has no connection, direct or indirect, to the event he referred to in New York.
If anything, CAIR has repeatedly spoken against those who resort to negative stereotyping in order to comment on the Arab-Israeli conflict, such as when we criticized an Arab newspaper that published excerpts from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Claiming that CAIR or I are anti-Semitic will be found ridiculous and offensive by CAIR's many Jewish members and donors who include rabbis among them.
Information and not misinformation is the first step on the path to dialogue, mutual respect and trust and cooperation. When I needed to learn more about the Jewish community, I went to The Jewish Federation and to my Jewish friends. I did not go to the KKK.
I invite you to learn more about Islam and CAIR by visiting www.cair.com and more about me by visiting my blog at www.hussamayloush.blogspot.com and not from the hate-mongering of Emerson or Pat Robertson.
I know that we are not always going to agree on all issues, including the Middle East conflict. However, dialogue is the only way forward toward a just resolution of the Middle East conflict.
I am confident that most of us would like for our debate and even disagreement to remain within the civil and compassionate boundaries taught to us, respectively, by our great teachings of Judaism and Islam. It is time for all of us to reject the extremists who insist on deciding on our behalf that there is no common ground among us.
CAIR Southern California