Prominent Muslim group denounces AJC-led coalition

Prominent Muslim group denounces AJC-led coalition

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Prominent Muslim group denounces AJC-led coalition

The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Monday called on the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) “to sever ties with the faith-washing Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council,” which was launched on Nov 14 to address Muslim-Jewish relations.

By Ray Hanania

The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Monday called on the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) “to sever ties with the faith-washing Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council,” which was launched on Nov 14 to address Muslim-Jewish relations.

AMP leaders demanded that the AJC immediately renounce their long list of public statements critical of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights.

The AJC has published many of its attacks against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims on the PR News Wire.

The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC) issued a press release on PR News Wire on Nov. 14, 2016 listing its goals and purposes and its members, which includes some prominent Arab and Muslim business activists. Its members include American Jews, one congressman, and several Palestinian, Arab and Muslim business activists from across the country.

The American Muslims for Palestine issued their press release on Monday Dec. 5, 2016 demanding that ISNA and MJAC members demand that the AJC renounce its past attacks against Palestinian, Arab and Muslim groups.

Protests in Chicago Sunday Oct. 18, 2015 against Israel's occupation. Photo courtesy of Dr. Atiyeh Salem

Protests in Chicago Sunday Oct. 18, 2015 against Israel’s occupation. Photo courtesy of Dr. Atiyeh Salem

Critics have argued that extreme pro-Israel groups critical of Palestinians and Arabs have reached out mainly to non-Arab Muslims to build relationships and to avoid supporting Palestinian rights.

Both releases from the AMP and from the MJAC are listed below in full, first with the AMP release followed by the MJAC release:

Here is the AMP Release.

(WASHINGTON DC 12/05/2016) — In the days since election results gave the world Donald J. Trump and the rise of demagoguery, some Zionist organizations have moved in quickly to exploit the air of uncertainty and fear in the Muslim community by offering questionable solidarity and so-called interfaith support.

After a campaign in which Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the United States, deport millions of immigrants and to create a Muslim registry, the American Muslim community has watched, dismayed and shocked, as the president-elect continues to appoint and nominate individuals with a decidedly anti-Islam bias.

Zionist organizations, which have a history of silencing Muslims on the issue of Palestine as well as dividing our community to create a “political firewall around Israel,”1 also have engaged in Islamphobic activities. However, now they are all too ready to announce their solidarity with the Muslim community.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), which is known to be intricately involved in the dissemination of Islamophobic rhetoric and policies, announced in November the creation of the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council2, co-convened by the Islamic Society of North America. The council’s purpose, according to the AJC’s website is to, among other things, develop a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the U.S.

The American Muslims for Palestine asserts the AJC is exploiting the current political climate in attempts to divide the Muslim community into “good, moderate Muslims who cooperate,” and so-called radicals. AMP warns Muslims against cooperating with organizations like the AJC, which has in the past asked the government to retry University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian, after he was acquitted of several charges3; supported President George W. Bush’s Muslim registry program in 20034; and helped create the David Project, a Zionist organization that promotes Israel on college campuses and which held annual “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week” in the mid-2000s.5

AJC Chairman David Harris, who sits on the newly formed council, wrote in 2002 that Arabs and Muslims in the United States were a “physical threat” to Jews; that the demographic growth of Muslim Americans posed a “long-term political threat;” and exhorted Jews to distinguish between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ American Muslim.6

After 9/11, Harris commissioned a private census of American Muslims in attempts to discredit the estimated 6 million to 8 million Muslims living here. “‘Six million has a special resonance,’ Harris wrote in a May 21 article in Jerusalem Report magazine. ‘It would mean that Muslims outnumber Jews in the U.S. and it would buttress calls for a redefinition of America’s heritage as ‘Judeo-Christian- Muslim,’ a stated goal of some Muslim leaders,’” the AP reported on Oct. 27, 2001.7

Harris wrote about the demographic count he commissioned from a University of Chicago professor in a blog post on Aug. 19, 2002: “Whatever the actual number, however, what is indisputable, given current immigration policy, is that the Muslim population in the U.S. is likely to grow quite rapidly in the coming years.”8 Just a few months later, on Jan. 9, 2003, the AJC issued a statement supporting then-President Bush’s “Registration of Certain Nonimmigrant Aliens from Designated Countries Program,”9 commonly referred to as the Muslim registry.

In that same 2002 blog post, Harris lamented the fact ‘moderate’ Muslim have been “kept at bay” by “radical groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).’10 

  • The following is a brief list of AJC activities that hurt the Muslim community in the United States and proves the AJC engages in Islamophobia:
  • A. Supported the Patriot Act in 2001 and 2008 as well as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.11
  • B. Supported the use of Secret Evidence and asked Congress to reject the Secret Evidence Repeal Act in 2000.12
  • C.  Supported national standards for drivers licenses, commonly referred to as a national ID card.13
  • D. Supported a national surveillance program.14
  • E. Called on the U.S. government to retry Sami Al-Arian after he was acquitted of several charges.15
  • F. Helped create the David Project, along with the ADL and AIPAC,16 which tries to stifle Palestine solidarity work on college campuses and which for years held the annual “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week.”17
  • G. Supported Congressman Peter King’s hearings into the “radicalization of American Muslims,” on Capitol Hill in 2011, an event many called “McCarthy-like.”18
  • H. Cast aspersions on the leaders of the Islamic Society of Boston in attempts to prevent the construction of a new mosque.19
  • I. Came to the aid of the David Project, named in a libel lawsuit filed by the Islamic Society of Boston. Said David Project Director Charles Jacob: “The national leadership of the AJC has condemned the Islamic Society of Boston’s lawsuit. It is a lawsuit brought against citizens who in our view raised important, legitimate, and well-substantiated concerns about the past and present leaders of the ISB, and about the evidence that certain of those individuals have been supportive of extremism.” 20
  • J. Awarded noted Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali the Moral Courage Award. “Ayaan Hirsi Ali has literally put her life on the line for her beliefs,” Harris said in a press release. “She is indefatigable in her efforts to wake us up to the dangers that threaten our value system, indeed our very way of life.”21
  • K. To date, the AJC has remained silent on the nomination of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist, prompting former AJC employees to publish an open letter asking for a condemnation of a man with virulently racist, nationalistic and Islamophobic rhetoric. 22

In light of this evidence, it appears that Muslims who joined the council, especially those associated with ISNA, would be hesitant to battle Islamophobia by teaming up with an organization with a history of Islamophobic activities. The inclusion of three people – Rabia Chaudry, Tahera Ahmed and Suheil Khan — who participated in the Zionist-funded Muslim Leadership Institute trips to Israel, is not surprising. After all, MLI is basically a gateway for promoting the Zionist agenda. But at the very least, ISNA, should have known better.

AMP has reached out several times to ISNA leadership over the years in attempts to persuade them to cut ties with Zionists; not just because of the Palestine issue, although that is central to our work, but because Zionism and its connection to Islamophobia hurts all Americans.

It’s true the AJC does have a record of defending civil rights. But it is clearly selective as to whose rights they’ll defend. As is evident from the numerous press releases on the AJC website and articles written by Director David Harris, the AJC is not comfortable with the growing Muslim and Arab population in the U.S. or our efforts to organize politically.

AMP asks the Muslims involved with this council then, why is the AJC reaching out now? Who benefits and for what aim?

ISNA recently released a statement trying to distance its board of directors from the newly formed council. However, it is still fully engaged in the council through the participation of its interfaith director, Sayyid Sayeed.

Furthermore, while it explained that the ISNA board of directors was not apprised of the formation of the advisory council, it nonetheless reiterated its support for the council in a clarification statement released on Nov. 18, 2016. ISNA tries to deflect its responsibility in this faith-washing effort by pointing to the more than 30 Muslim and Jewish participants. This ignores the fact ISNA was named as a co-convener, sending a confusing message to the larger Muslim community during an already confusing and unsettling time.

ISNA also stated that despite its support of the AJC-ISNA advisory council, its concern for the “domestic and international causes of concern to Muslims will remain strong.”

This assurance rings hollow given that ISNA can so easily disregard the AJC’s active role in Islamophobia in the United States. AMP once again calls on ISNA leadership to take the high road and set a strong example for Muslims across the country. Now is the time to stand strongly and without fear. It is time to form intersectional and interfaith relationships with Jews, the Black and Indigenous communities as well communities of color and other impacted groups who stand for justice and human rights for all people.  

Furthermore, before ISNA even considers engaging with the AJC on any issue, but particularly with the new advisory council, it must call upon the AJC to renounce its previous anti-Muslim positions, actions and biases, including but not limited to those listed above. It must ensure the AJC will move forward in the spirit of protecting civil rights for all, including all Muslims; not just those whom the AJC deems ‘acceptable.’ Finally, ISNA must call on the AJC to support Palestinian rights and call upon Israel to end the occupation.

NOTES (From AMP)

Here is the press release issued by the AJC and ISNA announcing the formation of the new group:

NEW YORK, Nov. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, a new national group of leading Muslim and Jewish Americans, was launched this month at a meeting convened by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

The Council brings together recognized business, political, and religious leaders in the Jewish and Muslim American communities to jointly advocate on issues of common concern. Stanley Bergman, CEO of Henry Schein, and Farooq Kathwari, President and CEO of Ethan Allen, are the Council’s co-chairs, and the initial members are listed below.

At the group’s inaugural meeting, the Muslim and Jewish participants met for two hours to get to know one another, discuss the Council’s mission, and identify and agree on a domestic policy agenda. Among the Council’s initial action items are:

  • The Council will highlight the contributions of Muslims and Jews to American society, and aim to celebrate their contributions in the best traditions of American democracy.
  • The Council will develop a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the U.S.
  • The Council will work to protect and expand the rights of religious minorities in the U.S., as enshrined in the Constitution, so they may practice their faiths in full freedom and security.

“Our two communities share much in common and should find ways, where possible, to work together for the benefit of the entire country,” said Stanley Bergman, Co-Chair of the Council.

“The Council aims to provide a model for civic engagement by two communities, vital to American society, that agree to work together on issues of common concern and overlapping interest,” said Farooq Kathwari, Co-Chair of the Council.

The initial members of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council are:

Ms. Raheemah Abdulaleem, KARAMAH
Ms. Shakila Ahmad, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati
Chaplain Tahera Ahmad, Northwestern University
Imam Shamsi Ali, Nusantara Foundation
Ms. Roberta Baruch, AJC Commission on Interreligious Affairs
Mr. Stanley M. Bergman, Henry Schein Inc.
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Central Synagogue
Ms. Rabia Chaudry, United States Institute of Peace
Senator Norman Coleman, Hogan Lovells
Mr. Steven Collis, AmerisourceBergen
Rabbi Joshua Davidson, Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York
Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, Covington & Burling LLP
Imam Plemon El-Amin, World Pilgrims
Mr. David Harris, AJC
Mr. S.A. Ibrahim, Radian Group
Congressman Steven Israel, United States House of Representatives
Mr. Farooq Kathwari, Ethan Allen Interiors
Mr. Suhail Khan, Microsoft Corporation
Ms. Daisy Khan, Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality & Equality (WISE)
Mr. Farhan Latif, El-Hibri Foundation
Mr. David Levin, McGraw Hill Education
Mr. Moses Libitzky, Libitzky Property Companies
Senator Joseph Lieberman, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP
Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt, Emory University
Imam Mohamed Magid, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)
Mr. Talat Othman, Grove Financial, Inc.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, New York University
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the Rabbinical Assembly
Imam Talib M. Shareef, The Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad
Dr. Sayyid Syeed, ISNA
Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com