Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Conversations with Andy Sullivan

You may know Andy Sullivan as the Hard Hat guy. The blue collar corner guy who continues to argue against the building of a masjid near ground zero. Although mainstream republicans have dropped the issue, (in fact, CPAC refused to recognize a talk on the issue as an official part of their event) Andy keeps fightin'! I have no idea how he plans on fighting. No one pays any attention to the issue anymore and there is nothing he can do politically or legally.

Well, I like to keep my eye on Andy and guess what? He went to the recent CPAC convention and debated the masjid issue with Joe Klein (a columnist for Time magazine). I couldn't help but chyme in and guess what? Andy replied! below is a copy of the comments he and I have made back and forth so far. Enjoy!

I am proud to be born and bread in America because I can practice Islam better here than I can in a lot of Muslim countries! Freedom of religion is as American as apple pie and we can't let them take that away from us.
Al Qaida loves nothing more than to hear idiots on tv go on about how Islam is evil and Islam is the enemy because they take those clips to every day Muslims in the MIddle East and say "See? I told you they hate you! Join our cause!" We need to stick to the moral high ground.
amilsarfraz 5 days ago

I'm proud of my country and will not tolerate its dismantling. I never impeded on anyones right to pray as a matter of fact after 911 me and my fellow workers use to walk all the arabic workers to their cars for fear of them being attacked. I just think to knock down the Burlington coat Factory building would be destroying a piece of our history. That was the first strike of the 911 Attacks AND the highest concentration of DNA discovered there.It should of been landmarked.
Building a mosque will not lead to the dismantling of America. The Republican Party is an outgrowth of the "Know Nothing" Party: a political party that was dedicated to keeping Irish Catholics out of politics and out of America. They said the same thing you are saying: "they're going to destroy America." Thank God they didn't succeed because Catholics add to American culture. So do Muslims. Don't blame a 1400 year old faith and a billion people around the world for what a handful of idiots did.
amilsarfraz 4 days ago

I am happy you can practice your faith freely but the reason you can is because we protect our freedoms unlike the 57 muslim nations. I'm sure you are aware that Islam is a political ideology that tells you what to do from the moment you wake up till you go to sleep. Religion is but a slither of the system. I know a great deal more about this system then you think. Shariah is a state and that's one too many here. We live our lives by the Constitution BTW your welcome andybluecollar 19 hours ago

I can practice my faith in American better than in some Muslim states b/c our government has a history of supporting oppressive dictators in those countries that hate religion (Shah of Iran, Saddham Hussain, Hosne Mubarak, etc.). Islam is a 1400 year old faith that teaches people how to worship the One God. The One God that guided Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Ishmail (both of them!), Jesus, and Muhammad (May God's peace and blessings be upon them all). (whyislam . org) I'm sure you know that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

US to transfer extra $150m aid to Palestinians

I'll be honest, I never thought this would happen, especially before President Obama's second term. Usually, it seems that most presidents (I could be wrong) don't really do anything with the Israel/Palestine until the end of their presidency.

Taken from here.

The US is to transfer an additional $150m (£93m) in aid to the Palestinian Authority and called on other donor nations to increase aid.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement in a video call with Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad.

Ms Clinton said that despite deadlock, a "positive outcome" was still possible in the Middle East peace talks.

But Israel's plan for more settlement building in the West Bank was counterproductive, she added.

The funding was described as an effort to shore up the Palestinian Authority's budget.

The announcement came after Israel said it planned to build more than 1,300 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

The US has rejected Israeli claims the new homes would not affect the peace process.

Mrs Clinton is to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin in New York on Thursday, and is expected to raise the issue of the settlements.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oklahoma Shariah Ban

A Muslim activist in Oklahoma City filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging a voter-approved measure that bars Oklahoma state judges from considering Shariah, the Islamic religious code based on the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed's teachings, in formulating rulings.

State Question 755, which passed Tuesday with 70% of the vote, declares "the legal precepts of other nations or cultures" off-limits to Oklahoma courts. "Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law," it reads.

The suit, filed by Muneer Awad, director of the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, asks the federal district court to block officials from certifying the referendum. Mr. Awad says the measure violates the First Amendment, which protects "free exercise" of religion and prohibits official "establishment of religion." A hearing was set for Monday.

The complaint alleges Oklahoma has singled out Islam for "profound stigma," consigning Muslims such as Mr. Awad "to an ineffectual position within the political community."

Oklahoma's Legislature voted overwhelmingly to place the Save Our State Amendment before voters. A co-sponsor, state Sen. Anthony Sykes, denied it sought to stigmatize Muslims. "We're not trying to send any sort of message here," said Mr. Sykes, a Republican.

Rather, he said, Oklahomans wanted to insulate their judiciary from un-American influences. While no Oklahoma court ever has cited Shariah law, "we are on a slippery slope," he said.

Democratic Sen. Richard Lerblance, one of two state senators to vote against the measure, called it "a scare tactic."

"They call it 'Save Our State.' I don't know what we're saving it from," he said. "We have yet to have any court do anything based on Shariah law."

Several states have adopted rules that restrict judges from making decisions that take into account foreign or international legal materials, said William Raferty, a research analyst with the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va. Only Oklahoma's measure singles out a particular religious tradition, he said, though a proposal in Arizona lists Shariah along with canon law, Jewish law and karma, a conception of fate in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Mr. Sykes and other conservatives who perceive a threat from Islamic law cite a 2009 case in which a New Jersey judge declined to issue a restraining order against a Moroccan man who forced sex on his unwilling wife.

Among other reasons, the judge said the husband's belief that his wife must submit to sex "was consistent with his [religious] practices." An appeals court reversed the judge and ordered that a restraining order be issued, citing a Supreme Court decision rejecting a Mormon's claim that his faith exempted him from an anti-bigamy statute.

"To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself," Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote.

Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are binding on all state and federal courts, and no justice of the Supreme Court ever has asserted he or she is bound by any authority other than the U.S. Constitution.

However, beginning in 1791, when Chief Justice John Jay adopted English rules for the new U.S. Supreme Court, American judges occasionally have examined how foreign courts address similar legal problems.

For instance, in a 1997 decision concerning Washington state's ban on assisted suicide, Chief Justice William Rehnquist cited court decisions from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia and New Zealand.

Mr. Sykes said he wanted to protect the Oklahoma judiciary from the influence of "Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan and, I'm sure, Sonia Sotomayor, given her political leanings," who he believed were inclined to rely on international law.

Justice Ginsburg responded to similar criticism in a July speech to the International Academy of Comparative Law, at American University. She said foreign opinions "are not authoritative; they set no binding precedent for the U.S. judge. But they can add to the store of knowledge relevant to the solution of trying questions."

She cited Justice Robert Jackson's 1952 concurrence that the president lacked authority to seize steel mills during wartime. Justice Jackson "pointed to features of the Weimar Constitution in Germany that allowed Adolf Hitler to assume dictatorial powers. Even in wartime, Jackson concluded, the U.S. president could not seize private property."

University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai said that earlier this year, the state legislature commissioned "a monument to the laws of another religion"--the Ten Commandments--for the state Capitol.

"Oklahoma's apparent approval of the legal traditions of a majority religion and attempt to suppress the legal traditions of a minority religion" may conflict with the Constitution's requirement that government treat all religions equally, Mr. Thai said.

He said the new state law may forbid Oklahoma judges from citing the Ten Commandments, because they are "international in origin."

Write to Jess Bravin at

Monday, October 25, 2010

The myth of Muslim support for terror

Taken from here.

Those who think that Muslim countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria.

The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24 percent believe these attacks are "often or sometimes justified."

Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world's most-populous Muslim countries – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are "never justified"; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.

Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?

Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that's an understandable polling result.

But these stereotypes, affirmed by simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not supported by the facts – and they are detrimental to the war on terror. When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.

Indeed, the far-too-frequent stereotyping of Muslims serves only to reinforce the radical appeal of the small minority of Muslims who peddle hatred of the West and others as authentic religious practice.

Terror Free Tomorrow's 20-plus surveys of Muslim countries in the past two years reveal another surprise: Even among the minority who indicated support for terrorist attacks and Osama bin Laden, most overwhelmingly approved of specific American actions in their own countries. For example, 71 percent of bin Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79 percent in Pakistan said they thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American humanitarian assistance in their countries – not exactly the profile of hard-core terrorist sympathizers. For most people, their professed support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as a kind of "protest vote" against current US foreign policies, not as a deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American or anti-Western view.

In truth, the common enemy is violence and terrorism, not Muslims any more than Christians or Jews. Whether recruits to violent causes join gangs in Los Angeles or terrorist cells in Lahore, the enemy is the violence they exalt.

Our surveys show that not only do Muslims reject terrorism as much if not more than Americans, but even those who are sympathetic to radical ideology can be won over by positive American actions that promote goodwill and offer real hope.

America's goal, in partnership with Muslim public opinion, should be to defeat terrorists by isolating them from their own societies. The most effective policies to achieve that goal are the ones that build on our common humanity. And we can start by recognizing that Muslims throughout the world want peace as much as Americans do.

• Kenneth Ballen is founder and president of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding effective policies that win popular support away from global terrorists.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR Ends Williams' Contract After Muslim Remarks

NPR News has terminated the contract of longtime news analyst Juan Williams after remarks he made on the Fox News Channel about Muslims.

Williams appeared Monday on The O'Reilly Factor, and host Bill O'Reilly asked him to comment on the idea that the U.S. is facing a dilemma with Muslims.

O'Reilly has been looking for support for his own remarks on a recent episode of ABC's The View in which he directly blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Co-hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in the middle of his appearance.

Williams responded: "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

But strong criticism followed Williams' comments.

Late Wednesday night, NPR issued a statement praising Williams as a valuable contributor but saying it had given him notice that it is severing his contract. "His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," the statement read.

Williams' presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.

His status was earlier shifted from staff correspondent to analyst after he took clear-cut positions about public policy on television and in newspaper opinion pieces.

Reached late Wednesday night, Williams said he wasn't ready to comment and was conferring with his wife about the episode.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Suspect in NYC Muslim cabbie stabbing out on bond

Taken from here.

NEW YORK (AP) - A college student charged with a hate-fueled attack on a Muslim taxi driver was freed on bail Tuesday, staying silent about a stabbing that helped heighten concerns about tolerance in the weeks before the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

An impassive Michael Enright said nothing as he left court, arm-in-arm with his mother and surrounded by about a half-dozen supporters. His mother, Cathy, declined to comment.

Enright, 21, had been jailed since his Aug. 24 arrest. Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers set his bail last week at $500,000; Enright's family put up a suburban home and other assets to free him. He's due back in court Dec. 8.

Enright asked cab driver Ahmed Sharif whether he was Muslim, uttered an Arabic greeting and told him to "consider this a checkpoint" before slashing him in the neck, authorities said. The Bangladeshi driver survived.

Enright initially told police that Sharif tried to rob him and he'd defended himself, prosecutors said. The film student later declared to police that he was "a patriot," according to prosecutors.

Enright has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault, both charged as hate crimes. His lawyer, Lawrence Fisher, has said the film student was beset by alcoholism and by post-traumatic stress disorder from a trip to Afghanistan.

Enright went there last spring to shoot a documentary and was briefly embedded with troops. He was profoundly disturbed by his experiences, according to his lawyer. Enright was held for a time in a psychiatric ward, though prosecutors have questioned whether he has serious psychiatric problems.

When arrested, Enright was carrying notebooks describing his Afghanistan experiences - as well as an empty bottle of scotch, authorities said. He told police he had downed a pint of it.

While free on bail, he'll have to get alcohol-abuse treatment and mental-health care, avoid bars or clubs that serve alcohol, wear an electronic monitor that tracks his whereabouts and comply with an 8 p.m. curfew at his home in Brewster, N.Y., about 60 miles north of Manhattan.

Enright's arrest came at a fraught moment in relations between Muslims and others in the U.S. As the Sept. 11 anniversary neared, an emotional debate over a planned Islamic center and mosque two blocks from ground zero grew into a political flashpoint, figuring in campaigns and commentary around the country and spurring protests and counterprotests.

Opponents say a mosque doesn't belong so near the site of a terror attack carried out by Islamic extremists. Supporters say the plan speaks to religious freedom.

In a nod to the contentious context surrounding the Sharif's stabbing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared with the driver and called for people to "understand that we can have a discourse."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Obama's pro-Israel chief of staff quits

Taken from here.

WASHINGTON // Barack Obama yesterday announced the resignation of his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a staunch supporter of Israel, in the highest-profile change yet in the US president’s nearly two-year administration.

Mr Emanuel, who is quitting to run for Chicago mayor, will be replaced, at least in the interim period, by the administration insider and Obama confidant Pete Rouse. The change will mark a shift in tone in the White House. Mr Rouse is seen as a quiet and conciliatory figure in stark contrast to Mr Emanuel, who is known to supporters and detractors alike as "Rhambo" for his pugilistic and brusque manner.

The news may also be met with some relief in the Middle East where Mr Emanuel's appointment, one of the first by Mr Obama after taking office, was greeted with near unanimous disappointment. Mr Emanuel volunteered for the Israeli army during the 1991 Gulf war and has long advocated that a militarily strong Israel is a strategic US interest. When he was appointed to the Obama administration, Ma'ariv, an Israeli newspaper, even ran a story about him headlined, "Our man in the White House".

Fiercely partisan, he has rarely voted against his own Democratic Party, but did so to support the position of George W Bush, the former US president, on democratisation in the Middle East. He was also a vocal opponent of plans to allow Dubai Ports World to manage operations at six US ports in 2006, plans that would eventually founder on intense congressional opposition. It was Mr Emanuel who was tasked with smoothing over tensions with Israel when Washington and the Israeli government clashed over the timing of a large settlement tender in occupied East Jerusalem earlier this year.

Nevertheless, it is not clear if his resignation will have much consequence for US Middle East policy. While his original appointment might have been designed partly to allay fears among pro-Israel groups in the US about the Obama administration's Middle East policy, Mr Emanuel was mostly concerned during his time in the White House with pushing through the administration's legislative agenda in congress, not least on healthcare reform.

And when he did get involved with the Middle East, there are suggestions that he clashed, sometimes fiercely, with Israeli government officials, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who is reported to have called him a "self-hating Jew". His resignation after two years is also part of a traditional turnover of officials as mid-term elections loom and the administration's focus shifts from pushing through legislation to consolidating positions.