Archive for the ‘Arab-American’ Category

Obama’s National Muslim/Arab-American Coordinator Resigns

August 11, 2008

Senator Barack Obama’s newly appointed national Arab-American and Muslim outreach coordinator has resigned amid questions over his brief connection to a man whom the Justice Department named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial last year of several alleged Hamas fundraisers.

Mazen Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer with the law firm Schiff Hardin, was appointed June 26 to help Obama reach out to Muslims and Arab-Americans. Ten days later, amid questions posed by the Wall Street Journal about a possible link between him and an imam who had questionable ties to Hamas, Asbahi stepped down.

The Wall Street Journal had inquired about Asbahi’s relationship with Jamal Saaed. The two served together for a few weeks in 2000 on a board that is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust, which holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate nationwide. Saaed, an imam at a reportedly fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois, had been named in an investigation of alleged Hamas fundraisers, which ended in a mistrial last year, the paper reported.

The connection between Asbahi and Saaed was first noted by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, a Washington based web site that tracks the international activity of that Islamic party and its international supporters.

In his resignation statement released by the Obama campaign August 5, Asbahi explained, “In 2000, I agreed to serve as a member of the board of trustees of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund. I served on that board for only a few weeks before resigning as soon as I became aware of public allegations against another member of the board. Since concerns have been raised about that brief time, I am stepping down from the volunteer role I recently agreed to take on with the Obama campaign as Arab American and Muslim American outreach coordinator in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.”

After his appointment, Ashbahi had written on the campaign’s blog, “We need Muslim Americans to get excited about the Campaign, and there’s a lot to get excited about.

“Sure, there have been mis-steps,” he said. “And of course there are added sensitivities with our faith given the “smear” campaign trying to paint the Senator as too exotic and too un-American to be President.”

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, said Asbahi was a victim of Internet rumors. “This incident just shows how Islamophobia and the political climate is right now. Baseless smears about a Muslim with a very good reputation was used to marginalize not only him but the community from the political process,” Walid said.

America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group defended the Democratic presidential hopeful two days after Asbahi resigned his volunteer post.

“Muslim bashers play a ‘six degrees of separation’ game of guilt by association with any Muslim who dares to engage in positive social or political activism,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The Obama campaign has announced it will appoint a new person to the job.

What are your thoughts? Should the Obama campaign have asked Asbahi not to leave? Are brief connections such as the one between Asbahi and Saaed even relative?


RACIAL PROFILING–Now a legit means of law enforcement?

August 10, 2008

Border guards have begun temporarily detaining Arab-Americans and Muslims based on a “terrorist profile” rather than on any evidence of suspected criminality; representatives for the Department of Justice say this terrorist profile could be presented in draft form as early as this week and enacted later this summer.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it will announce a “terrorist profile” by which Muslim men of Arab and Pakistani descent who regularly travel abroad and maintain international contacts may be subject not only to brief stops at the border but also to full-fledged national security
investigations regardless of whether they are suspected of wrongdoing.

Civil liberties advocates say the rules could eventually affect immigrants of many ethnicities, including Iranians, who do business in other countries and maintain foreign contacts.
About eight months ago, border guards began detaining Wissam Charafeddine each time he crossed the border from Windsor, the southern most city in Canada, into the United States. Without explanation, he has been repeatedly handcuffed and detained in isolation for hours from his family. But each time he is released and found to be innocent of any suspicions. Charafeddine told The Detroit News he understood being detained the first time, but it is the fact that the authorities tell him he will be stopped each time he crosses the border, that irks him.
Charafeddine says he has done nothing wrong, but authorities say the process is part of an effort to transform the FBI in a post 9-11 world.

Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, “It’s necessary to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself into an intelligence-gathering organization in addition to just a crime-solving organization.”
“There will not be equality under the law, for me. And I don’t think that’s the real solution for terrorism,” Charafeddine, a naturalized American citizen who is an e-commerce business consultant, told The Detroit News. “It’s not solving the roots of the problem. I want to belong 100 percent in this country, I want the generations who come behind me to be 100 percent American,” he said.

Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., which is lobbying against the initiative, said, “What is dangerous is that they’ve moved away from reasonable suspicion of criminality into the area of what they are calling suspicious behavior.”

What do you think about this? This is a post 9-11 world where law enforcement must be transformed to keep up with the new threats but is racial profiling the answer? Is this even constitutional?