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Islamic World News ( 19 Oct 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Equating Islam with terrorism is dangerous’

ROCKFORD: Parents Say Doll Preaches Islam

Astana: ‘Equating Islam with terrorism is dangerous’

Washington: Islam in America

CHICAGO: Farrakhan says 'new beginning' for Nation of Islam

Washington: "Smearcasting- How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation"

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians warned not to question Islam

Washington: Horowitz lambastes Islam in near-empty Macmillan

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Politics and Islam blend uneasily in Lebanese city

The Right's Final Attack: Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire

Los Angeles: CAIR-LA Launches Campaign to Turn out Calif. Muslim Vote

Washington: Obama 'Muslim' rumour: Ugly, false and out in the open

New York: Is the discredited smear campaign backfiring on Republicans?

Philippine: Faith and peace

KUALA LUMPUR: Europe Islamic banking to slow on global crisis

JAKARTA: Indonesia may delay first global Islamic bond

NASHVILLE, Some Muslims embrace Christian homebuilder charity

Washington: Muslim converts 'not Islamic enough' for their adopted son to have a brother

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau 




Equating Islam with terrorism is dangerous’

Oct 17, 2008

Astana, Oct 17 (IANS) The widening gulf between different religions was leading to dangerous global instability, said leaders of Western and Islamic countries here Friday, and warned against equating Islam with terrorism. At an international summit in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, foreign ministers and other participants from 65 countries and international organisations said reconciliatory measures and dialogue between Muslims and Christians were a must for global peace and stability.


“It is a great pity that we see incessant attempts to authenticate and unify Islam and terrorism. The doctrinal substance of Islam is distorted. This repulses a big chunk of Muslims who cannot help but be offended by such treatment of the Quran,” said Kazakhstan Foreign Minister M. Tazhin, addressing the conference, Common World - Progress through Diversity.


Muslim belief, he said, “is declared as extremism, which erodes the principles of tolerance”.


“Anti-Islamism is a danger with negative consequences not only for the Muslim community but also for Western countries themselves,” Tahzin warned.


The Kazakhstan foreign minister suggested that the world leaders should not argue on what he referred to as “grammatical subtleties of our life and time and instead address mundane problems affronting the world today”.


The summit is being held in the backdrop of the perceived widening gap between Islam and the Western world. The venue was a pyramid shaped architectural masterpiece, called the Palace of Peace and Concord in Astana - the hi-tech city in the north-central Kazakhstan.


Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed the need to jointly stave off threats to world security due to terrorism and the apparent discord between Muslims and Christians.


He said it was “imperative to stave off the division of the world along civilisational, cultural and religious lines and unite in the face of common threats to humanity”.


Kazakhstan - a former USSR state that became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union - is home to nearly 16 million people of 130 ethnic groups practising 46 faiths with a pre-dominant Muslim population.


The world’s largest landlocked country is bordered by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Caspian Sea towards the west.


The central Asian country, rich in mineral and fossil fuel resources, is a presidential republic. Nazarbayev, a popular leader with strong secular leanings, was re-elected as the head of the state in the 2005 elections with a thumping majority, with over 90 percent votes.


Kazakhs generally are highly appreciative of President Nazarbayev’s social and economic reforms even though some international organisations doubted that the 2005 elections weren’t held in accordance with global standards.


Condemning what he described as “mass media outrages” against feelings of followers of other religions, Nazarbayev warned that “journalists involved in these practices will face outrages against their own faith”.


“That is why, it is imperative to stave off the division of the world along civilisational, cultural and religious lines and unite in the face of common threats to humanity.”


OIC General Secretary Ekrneleddin Ihsanogiu said diversity was one of the fundamental principles of Islamic teachings that vouch for peaceful coexistence of different civilisations.


“Islam is the religion of peace, moderation and compassion and celebrates diversity and even recognises Christianity and Judaism,” Ihsanogiu said.


Echoing the same sentiments, foreign ministers and participants from, Pakistan, Russia, Belgium European Union, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Poland and other nations unanimously rejected any form of “tensions based on religious beliefs, cultural and civilisational differences and their use for fuelling hatred, xenophobia and confrontation”.


They also stressed the need to encourage permanent contacts and dialogue within and between Muslim and Western societies at political and social level.


They stressed that international relations should be guided by fundamental principles that underpin at corpus of human rights, democracy and equity.






Parents Say Doll Preaches Islam

By Bob Schaper

Oct 17, 2008

ROCKFORD - A doll selling in Rockford upsets parents and religious leaders.


The "Little Mommy Cuddle 'N Coo" makes realistic baby sounds. But some people say it also preaches. People across the globe - and some right here in Rockford - say the baby is spreading the word for Islam.


When pre-school teacher Beth Ann Lindhe was at Wal-Mart shopping with her two daughters, one doll in the toy aisle literally called her name. "When you walk past them on the shelf, they coo and they say 'Mommy,' so of course it's going to catch your attention," she says.


But what also caught her attention is what the baby says in the middle of its normal babbling. Or at least what some people think it says: "Islam is the light."


Anthony Maynard, the youth pastor at Loves Park's First Born Ministries, where Lindhe works, says the words are very clear. "What I want to do is let parents know that this saying is in there," he says. "And whether they agree with it or not is up to the parents. But me myself, I don't agree with putting something out there for kids that does not state on the box that it says this."


The toy's maker, Mattel, says in a press release that the only scripted word the doll says is "mama."


"Because the original sound track is compressed into a file that can be played through an inexpensive toy speaker, actual sounds may be imprecise or distorted," the company says.








Islam in America



In a special two-part documentary Rageh Omaar journeys across the United States exploring the story of Islam in the country.


He attempts to discover if - far from being fundamentally incompatible – Islamic America holds the seeds of a lasting solution to global discord between east and west.


The American Crescent


Rageh looks at why Islam has come to be described by some people as a "very American faith".


He traces its history in the US and talks to American Muslims about how their belief is compatible with the principles of American democracy.


And he learns that growing interest in and study of this early history is fostering a re-emerging sense of tolerance and acceptance, which extends to the nation's most recent immigrants.


 Islamic Stars and Stripes


In the second part of his journey, Rageh looks at how America's Muslims have coped with the aftermath of the events of 9/11, exploring the demands of patriotism and belief.


Meeting with believers and scholars, he looks at how the boundaries of “traditional” Islam are being pushed, and asks whether America is in fact witnessing a reformation that can sow the seeds of reconciliation.


The first part of Rageh's documentary, The American Crescent can be seen from Sunday October 17 at the following times GMT:






Farrakhan says 'new beginning' for Nation of Islam


Associated Press

Oct17, 2008


CHICAGO - The Nation of Islam, a secretive movement generally closed to outsiders, has planned a rare open-to-the public event at its Chicago-based headquarters in what the Minister Louis Farrakhan deemed a "new beginning" for the group.


Hundreds of religious leaders of different faiths have been invited to the event planned for Sunday, a rededication of the group's historic Mosque Maryam on the city's South Side. Farrakhan is scheduled to speak.


"We have restored Mosque Maryam completely, and we will dedicate it to the universal message of Islam, and the universal aspect of the teachings of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad," Farrakhan said in an invitation letter. "It represents for the Nation of Islam, a new beginning."


The event comes just weeks after the death of Imam W.D. Mohammed, the son of Nation founder Elijah Muhammad who broke with the group and moved thousands of African-Americans toward mainstream Islam.


The Nation purchased the mosque, a former Greek Orthodox Church, in 1972 and has since been making renovations. The stately 1948 structure, embellished with a golden dome and topped with an Islamic crescent moon, is adorned with Quranic verses in Arabic.


Experts say opening the mosque's doors to the public is a calculated move.


"It is a very conscious effort to open the mosque up to the community and to rededicate the community to learning about Islam," said Aminah McCloud, a professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University. "Previously, the Nation has been open to people coming to visit it, but its members don't generally go anywhere else ... now there is a concerted effort."


While the Nation has espoused Black Nationalism and self-reliance since it was founded in the 1930s, in recent years members have reached out to other groups. For instance, the Nation has a Latino liaison and has become involved in immigrant rights rallies and marches. Also, the Minister Ishmael Muhammad, a top assisting minister at the mosque and widely thought to be a potential successor to Farrakhan, has talked about unity between all people, at times speaking in Spanish.


Farrakhan, 75, has haltingly tried to move the Nation toward traditional Islam, which considers the American movement heretical because of its view of Elijah Muhammad as a prophet -- among other novel teachings. Orthodox Islam teaches that there has been no prophet after Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century.


He's also played down some of the group's more controversial beliefs. The Nation of Islam has taught that whites are descended from the devil and that blacks are the chosen people of Allah.


The event on Sunday also wraps up a week of events marking the 13th anniversary of the Million Man March, which Farrakhan began in 1995. That year, hundreds of thousands of people travelled to Washington, D.C. to participate.


On Thursday, Farrakhan spoke to inmates at Cook County jail urging self improvement, atonement and reconciliation, principles the Million Man March promoted.


Those values "can help reduce violence and anti-social behaviour ... and have universal significance and will benefit those willing to listen," according to a statement from the Nation.


Farrakhan's Sunday speech will mark his second major public address this year and is among several smaller community and religious events he has attended.


His public appearances have surprised many since in 2006, he seceded leadership to an executive board while recuperating from serious complications from prostate cancer.


In February, Farrakhan appeared at an annual Saviours' Day event in Chicago and called Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama the "hope of the entire world" that the U.S. will change for the better. The Obama campaign quickly denounced Farrakhan's support, because of past comments about Jews that many have called offensive.


In the past months, Farrakhan has attended funeral services of W.D. Mohammed and Jabir Herbert Muhammad, both sons of the late Elijah Muhammad.







"Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation"

Democracy Now

Oct 17th, 2008


In the last few weeks, 28 million copies of a DVD titled "Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West" have been distributed in key battleground states. The film features graphic, violent images and makes comparisons of Islam to Nazism.The DVD comes amidst concerns of increasing levels of ethnic and religious bias in US politics and the stoking of Islamophobia. We speak to Ibrahim Cooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Isabel Macdonald of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, co-author of the new report "Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation."


John McCain has been widely praised for correcting a supporter at a campaign rally last week in Minnesota.


    John McCain questioned at Minnesota campaign rally.


McCain’s was correct in telling the woman that Obama was not an Arab, but his response explicitly suggested that being called an Arab was itself a smear. The incident has raised concerns about increasing levels of ethnic and religious bias in US politics and the stoking of Islamophobia. In the last few weeks, 28 million copies of a DVD titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West” have been distributed as an advertising supplement in newspapers in key battleground states. It was paid for by the Clarion Fund, a non-profit group established by the film’s Israeli producer with the goal of exposing what it calls the threat of radical Islam. The hour-long film features graphic, violent images and makes comparisons of Islam to Nazism.


    Excerpt of “Obsession.”


The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has filed complaints with the IRS and Federal Elections Commission, saying Clarion has violated its tax-exempt status by distributing the film.


Ibrahim Hooper is the National Communications Director for CAIR. He joins us from Washington DC. And joining us here in New York is Isabel Macdonald, she is the communications director at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, and the co-author of the new report “Smear casting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation.”


Isabel Macdonald, communications director at FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), and the co-author of FAIR’s new report “Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation.”


Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic relations.






Malaysians warned not to question Islam




KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — An influential council of Malaysia's state rulers has warned people not to question the supremacy of Islam or the special privileges enjoyed by the country's ethnic Malay majority.


Racial and religious tensions have increased in the past year as minorities have become more vocal in their complaints about an affirmative action program that they say unfairly favours Malays. They also complain that their religious rights are being ignored.


In an unprecedented comment on current affairs, the sultans of nine states did not directly accuse the Chinese and Indian minorities of stoking anti-Malay feelings, but said recent statements and forums "held by certain quarters" had "caused provocation and uneasiness among the people."


Questioning the special position of Malays "can lead to disunity and racial strife that can undermine the peace and harmony," the state rulers said in a statement.


The warning underscores the social tensions in Malaysia, where Muslim Malays are about 60 percent of the nation's 27 million people. Chinese and Indians, who are mostly non-Muslims, comprise a third of the population and friction among the three ethnic groups is always below the surface.


The lengthy statement issued Thursday night follows a two-day meeting of the sultans, known as the Conference of Rulers. The hereditary sultans, who are Muslim Malays, occupy ceremonial offices but wield considerable moral authority among Malays.


"It (the warning) is quite unprecedented and I think it is coming in response to what the country is facing — what the rulers perceive as the fracturing of racial harmony," said Tricia Yeoh of Centre for Policy Research think-tank.


Last month, an ethnic Chinese opposition lawmaker was accused by a Malay newspaper of being anti-Islam. She was detained by police for a few days but no charges were filed. In August, lawyers were forced to abandon a conference on religious conversion after protesters stormed the forum.


The statement reiterates the supremacy of Islam, the special position of the Malays and the guarantee to protect minority rights — all enshrined in Malaysia's constitution.


"Non-Malays should not harbour any apprehension or worry over their genuine rights because these rights are guaranteed," the statement said.






Horowitz lambastes Islam in near-empty MacMillan

Ben Schreckinger

Oct 17 2008


David Horowitz opened his lecture on terrorism - part of "Islam fascism Awareness Week," a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Centre - with a joke.


"I hope you checked your pies at the door," he quipped, recalling the incident in which New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman was pied as he began his lecture in Salomon 101 last spring.


Three uniformed officers at the back and three at the front of the largely empty Macmillan 117 and Horowitz's own private bodyguard made any pies-to-the-face unlikely.


Horowitz, a Jewish writer and activist who holds adamantly pro-Israel views, said the purpose of his lecture was to counter "liberal orthodoxy" on campus. "You have one of the worst faculties in the United States," he said. "These people are communists - they are totalitarians."


The lecture was titled "Helping the Enemy to Win: Support for the Jihad on American Campuses."


"Islam is a fundamentalist religion," Horowitz said, adding that the Quran left very little room for interpretation when compared to the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.


Sean Quigley '10, Herald opinions columnist and executive editor for content of the Brown Spectator, which brought Horowitz to campus, said in his introduction that one purpose of the event was to bring an uncommon point of view to the Brown campus.


"We're not intending to attack Islam specifically or campus Muslims," Quigley said.


The Spectator invited the Brown Muslim Student Association to participate in the event, but BMSA declined, said Anish Mitra '10, the Spectator's executive editor for production and a Herald opinions columnist.


Horowitz criticized Muslim Student Associations on campuses across the country for observing "Nakba," which he described as a day of mourning the creation of Israel.


Horowitz likened observance of Nakba to white Americans holding a day of mourning on the anniversary of the end of South African apartheid.


Horowitz said one part of the Hadith - or sayings of Mohammad - which reads "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, 'O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him,'" is "a call to genocide."


He said MSAs around the country had refused to condemn the passage and criticized its removal by the University of Southern California from the MSA page on the university's Web site.


Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "there is no right on the Arab side - there is any," Horowitz said.


The Arabs invented the idea of a Palestinian identity on the advice of communists in order to gain the sympathies of Western leftists, Horowitz said.


Zionism is the "only national liberation movement in the world opposed by the left - because they're Jewish," Horowitz said. "The left is the fountainhead of anti-Semitism in this country - Jew-hatred."


"People like Jimmy Carter are only genocide enablers. He's a Jew-hater," Horowitz said.


During the question-and-answer session, one audience member told Horowitz he would "vomit" facing the liberal bias in Brown's classrooms. "This whole university is a project of the left-communist-feminist-Nazi-fascist media," he added.


In response, Horowitz criticized a former professor of black philosophy at Brown for having radically liberal views. "Could you imagine a professor teaching white philosophy?" he asked.


The same audience member answered, adding, "Maybe you could teach it here."


But another questioner thought the first audience member was mocking Horowitz. "He's being sarcastic. Stop responding to him!" he said.


One audience member pointed out that the United Nations labels Gaza and the West Bank "occupied territories."


"The U.N. General Assembly gave a standing ovation to a cannibal: (Ugandan dictator) Idi Amin," Horowitz said. "That's who runs the U.N."


When asked whether he considered the views of Christian fundamentalists such as Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin dangerous, Horowitz said, "Sarah Palin wouldn't hurt a fly - maybe a moose."


Will Grapentine, who graduated from Roger Williams University in May, said he thought it was encouraging to see students with different beliefs show up with open minds rather than protesting outside.


Grapentine, who said he has seen Horowitz speak many times, is running for state representative as a Republican in Rhode Island's 69th district.


"I thought that it was good to see diverse opinions ... at one of the most progressive institutions in the country," he said.


Natasha Pradhan '12, who comes from a Muslim background, said after the lecture that she did not agree with Horowitz's statement that the Quran leaves little room for interpretation in comparison to the Bible.


"Of course there a lot of different interpretations of the Koran." She said she felt Horowitz held many baseless preconceptions about Muslims. © Copyright 2008 Brown Daily Herald






Politics and Islam blend uneasily in Lebanese city

Oct 17, 2008 

By Alistair Lyon,

Special Correspondent - Analysis


TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Syria portrays this run-down city in north Lebanon as a hotbed of Islamist militancy -- worrying Lebanese leaders alert for any Syrian intervention.


The fears of both sides may be overblown.


"I doubt very much that Tripoli is the 'Kandahar' of Lebanon," said Oumayma Abdel Latif, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center who has studied the city's Sunni movements, including Salafi purists inspired by early Islam.


"The salafis who decided to embrace violence as a way to change -- we really don't know much about them," she said, describing such militants as a small, disparate minority.


Islamist fighters, including Arab veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have found havens in Lebanon, especially in Palestinian refugee camps off-limits to security forces.


Some have links to al Qaeda, as well as to local clerics who spring from homegrown Salafi groups with a longstanding foothold in Tripoli and other Sunni-dominated cities, researchers say.


The Lebanese authorities are rolling up a network of militants allegedly behind two Tripoli bombings that killed 22 people, including 15 army soldiers, in August and September.


Syria, whose troops left Lebanon in 2005 after three decades of control, has blamed Islamists from a "neighbouring Arab country" for a bomb blast that killed 17 in Damascus last month.


Security sources say 24 Lebanese and Palestinian militants have been detained in the past week, including seven said to have confessed to taking part in the Tripoli attacks.


The detainees, who have yet to be charged, obtained their explosives from an al Qaeda-linked militant in the Palestinian camp of Ain al-Hilweh in south Lebanon, the sources added.


They said the attackers sought revenge for the Lebanese army's defeat last year of Fatah al-Islam, an al Qaeda-inspired group, in Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian camp near Tripoli.


At least 430 people were killed, including 170 soldiers and 220 militants, in 15 weeks of fighting that destroyed the camp.




Tripoli remains on edge, even though traffic throbs in its noisy streets, adorned with giant posters of rival politicians.


The city's mostly Sunni residents, whose votes could sway next year's parliamentary election, are caught up in Lebanon's political conflict -- itself linked to a wider contest pitting Iran and Syria against Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies.


Sectarian feelings stirred in these struggles have fueled fighting -- calmed by reconciliation last month -- between Sunnis and pro-Syrian Alawis, from a sect akin to Shi'ism.


Concern about Syrian intervention rose last month after President Bashar al-Assad spoke of "extremist forces" in Tripoli and moved troops to the Lebanese border in what his foreign minister termed a campaign against "smuggling and sabotage".


Sheikh Daa'i al-Islam Shahhal, a top Salafi leader, told Kuwait's al-Anbaa newspaper that a Syrian incursion would "open the gates of hell" and create Iraq-style misery in Lebanon.


Sunni Arabs, a minority in Shi'ite-ruled Iraq, form one of Lebanon's main communities, along with Shi'ites and Christians.


Fear about Assad's intentions has receded, especially after Syria finally forged diplomatic ties with Lebanon this week, breaking six decades of ambiguity toward Lebanese sovereignty.


Yet hostility toward Syria is shared by many of Tripoli's numerous Islamist factions, whose activities span a spectrum from charity and religious work to politics and militancy.


Some Muslim clerics accuse Syria, Iran and their Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah ally of trying to smear Sunnis as terrorists. Security sources also say many of the Islamist militants came to Lebanon through Syria.


They suggest Assad is seeking favour with the West by painting Syria as a bulwark against Muslim militancy.


Sheikh Bilal Baroudi said all of Tripoli, "fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists", had stood by Lebanon's army against Fatah al-Islam, which he called a tool of Syrian intelligence.


"This position doesn't please Hezbollah or the Syrians," the mosque preacher said. "They always try to ignite problems to portray Tripoli and its Muslims as against the army."


He ridiculed any attempt to equate Salafis with terrorists.




Several Sunni leaders said they had felt orphaned since the 2005 assassination in Beirut of billionaire politician Rafik al-Hariri, the community's acknowledged national leader.


Sunnis here also shared the humiliation dealt to his son and successor Saad al-Hariri in May when Hezbollah and its allies briefly seized Beirut in a display of force. The later violence in Tripoli is widely seen as an attempted Sunni riposte.


But Tripoli's Islamists are far from united. Some keep up a dialogue with Hezbollah, admiring its resistance to Israel. Some Salafi groups even signed an understanding with the Shi'ite faction in August -- only to repudiate it the next day.


Sheikh Bilal Shaaban, leader of Tawheed, an Islamist faction that ruled Tripoli for a while until crushed by the Syrians in 1985, described his relations with Hezbollah as excellent. He accused Saudi Arabia of using Sunnis in a proxy war with Syria.


Contradictory rumours and conspiracy theories fly fast in Tripoli, where some Muslim clerics say local politicians and foreign powers exploit Sunni sectarian fears for their own ends.


"We are not a card in the hands of anyone and we don't want to be the fuel for sedition," said Sheikh Mohammed Khodr, who describes himself as a Salafi opposed to militia violence.


He stressed the need for religious leaders to advocate peaceful coexistence among Lebanon's 18 sects. "The alternative is chaos and civil war, which we have already tried."


(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)


© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved






The Right's Final Attack: Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire, A MotherJones report


With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, time is running out on the rightwing effort to delegitimise Barack Obama. At the last debate between John McCain and Obama, McCain finally confronted his opponent directly with the Bill Ayers charge. It was a half-hearted effort: he noted that he didn't "care about an old washed-up terrorist" but insisted that "we need to know the full extent" of Obama's relationship with the former Weather Underground radical, who has since become an education expert. Though McCain succeeded in appeasing conservatives who demanded he pounce on the Ayers matter, the polling evidence has indicated that whining about Obama's casual association with Ayers has not yet become a winning tactic for McCain and Republicans trying to depict Obama as an untrustworthy pol outside the American mainstream. But Ayers is not the only ammo for right-wingers striving to brand Obama as anti-American. Various conservatives are pushing other lines of attack to achieve this goal. And as they mount various ploys, their desperation is showing. Here are some of the last-minute blasts being waged by conservatives hoping to convince voters that they ought to be afraid--very afraid--of Obama:


Mohammed Atta's Driver License. An outfit called the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee has sent out an email to potential conservative donors calling Obama "dangerous" and boasting that it has hit on the killer issue that "will nail him." That issue: Obama supports allowing undocumented aliens to obtain driver's licenses. This means, the group says, that the next Mohamed Atta could obtain a valid driver's license--and somehow make use of it in a plot to kill thousands of Americans. "We are days away from our new TV ad exposing Obama's support for driver's licenses for illegals," the email says. Message: Obama doesn't understand the dangers facing the country and will help terrorists conspiring to destroy the United States.


Obama is a Socialist. McCain came close to saying this at that final debate, when he derided Obama for wanting to "spread the wealth" and maintained that Obama's plan to raise taxes on the well-to-do to help finance tax cuts for the middle class was "class warfare." But McCain did not use the S-word. Others are not so reticent. Richard Viguerie, chairman of and a founder of the modern conservative movement, proposes that Obama be slammed in a simple manner. "The Obama economic policy," he says, "can be summed up in two words: Marxism/Socialism." In Viguerie's view, the McCain campaign and others must reveal that Obama wants to "re-make America along the lines of socialist countries in Europe, most of which are headed toward collapse." Drop the S-bomb, he urges. Message: Obama is a commie who hates the rich and wants to kill the American Dream.


Obama Is a Secret Muslim Plotting With an Evil Billionaire. Human Events, a leading conservative magazine, sent out a promotional email the other day for an anti-Obama book co-written by Floyd Brown, a conservative activist infamous for having cooked up the Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential election. The email notes that there are "many Islamofascists who are sworn to the destruction of America" who are "actively campaigning for Obama" and that Muslims would demand and receive "special rights" from a President Obama. The email asks, "Being a Black Muslim doesn't disqualify [Obama] from running for President, so why won't he be honest about it?" In other words, yep, he's a covert Muslim. But beyond circulating this canard, the email claims that George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire financier who has supported Democratic and liberal causes, is "planning to sack the US economy, make himself billions richer, and put Obama in the White House marching to his mad tune." Message: A black Muslim in league with an evil Jewish billionaire--you do the math.


Obama Is Fronting for Islamic Jihadists. Writing in The Washington Times this week, former Reagan Pentagon official Frank Gaffney, charges that Obama's campaign has received "between $30 million and $100 million" from the Mideast, Africa and other places [where] Islamists are active." He asserts it "seems likely" that "these funds come not only from Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood types and jihadists of other stripes but from non-U.S. citizens." (His evidence? Don't be so picky.) Gaffney adds that "Obama hopes to win the White House by relying, in part, on the Jihadist vote." He writes: "The next three weeks afford the American people--and the media, the courts and the [Federal Elections Commission]--an opportunity to get to the bottom of Barack Obama's ties to and affinity for jihadists who have their own reasons for relishing his promise of 'change]' for this country. Unfortunately, the change his Islamists supporters have in mind is for global theocratic rule under Shariah, and the end of our constitutional, democratic government." Message: Obama will destroy Christianity in the United States and enslave you within an Islamic dictatorship.


This is heady stuff. And there are, no doubt, more 11th hour assaults in the works. Right-wing bloggers have promoted a British news story reporting that an African-American poet and friend of Obama's grandfather in Hawaii--when Obama was being raised by his grandparents--wrote pornography and engaged in sex with a 13-year-old girl. (Stop everything: Obama, when he was a teenager, received advice on how to be a black man from a pervert!) And one right-wing blogger has been pushing the conspiracy theory that it was Bill Ayers who actually wrote Obama's book Dreams from My Father.


For months, the McCain camp and conservatives have attempted to persuade voters that Obama is not one of them, not a truly loyal American--that, for instance, he pals around with domestic terrorists, as Governor Sarah Palin put it. (And the McCain campaign and the Republican Party this week launched a robocall operation that tells potential voters that they "need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the US Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans.") If the recent polling is accurate, this anti-Obama crusade has not tilted the electorate toward McCain. But one final push--with or without references to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright--will be coming from right-wingers anxious to prevent an Obama win. In a letter sent to supporters, Donald Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association, declares, "If the liberals win the upcoming election, America as we have known it will no longer exist. This country that we love, founded on Judeo-Christian values, will cease to exist and will be replaced by a secular state hostile to Christianity."


Some of these attacks do seem silly and are probably designed more to squeeze money out of paranoid rightwing contributors than to sway swing voters. (Don't vote for Obama because he will let Soros loot the US treasury?) But they are something of a warning: if Obama wins, this is the tenor of the conservative opposition he will face right out of the box: sensationalized, racialized, apocalyptic, and crazy.





CAIR-LA Launches Campaign to Turn out Calif. Muslim Vote

Oct. 17, 2008

PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/


LOS ANGELES, -- The Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today announced a number of initiatives to help mobilize the Muslim vote across Southern California.

The CAIR-LA initiatives are:

1. Encourage Sermons on Voting: CAIR has called on mosques in the Southland to dedicate sermons to the American Muslim obligation to participate fully in the political process and to help bring about positive social change.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush will give a sermon on the significance of voting Friday, October 17, at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, 1220 N. State College Boulevard, Anaheim.

The sermon will be followed by a short address by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.

2. Sponsor Voter Registration Booths: CAIR-LA representatives have set up booths at Muslim-owned businesses and Islamic Centers to register citizens to vote in this year's election.

3. Sponsor Political Empowerment Workshops: CAIR-LA Government Relations Coordinator Sharaf Mowjood has organized a number of workshops in the Inland Empire, Orange County and other areas to educate Muslims about the political process, voting and relevant local and national issues.

4. Release of 2008 Congressional Scorecard & Ballot Recommendations: The 2008 CAIR Congressional Scorecard is a non-partisan document aimed at educating citizens about the voting record of their congressional representatives on matters of interest to the Muslim community. Additionally, CAIR's election website presents information on various California ballot measures.


5. Comprehensive Election Website: A comprehensive election website was launched to empower American Muslim participation this election cycle. The site offers insights into election developments that concern America's Muslims and helps keep them informed about how Muslims are participating in the election.

To view the Web site, go to:

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.


SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations

Copyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire. Source:






Obama 'Muslim' rumour: Ugly, false and out in the open

Is the discredited smear campaign backfiring on Republicans?

Oct16, 2008

Neil Macdonald CBC News


Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain takes back the microphone from Gayle Quinnell who said she read that Senator Barack Obama 'was an Arab,' during a town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minn., on Oct. 10. Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain takes back the microphone from Gayle Quinnell who said she read that Senator Barack Obama 'was an Arab,' during a town hall meeting in Lakeville, Minn., on Oct. 10. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)


The "moment in Minnesota" appeared last Friday like the white, infected head of a pimple - impossible to miss, hard not to stare at, and embarrassing, at least to John McCain, who wants to present an unblemished face to the voting public.


Wearing her bright red McCain-Palin T-shirt, Gayle Quinnell rose from the crowd at a rally in Lakeville, Minn. to give her candidate a little of his signature straight talk.


"I don't trust Obama," she announced, as McCain nodded enthusiastically. Then she continued: "I have read about him. He's an Arab."


And there it was. Centre stage, on camera, about as public as you can get. The political pus that's been building for nearly two years under the surface of this presidential campaign, oozing forth in broad daylight.


McCain, a politician who's been around long enough to recognize a "moment" when he sees one, cauterized quickly.


"No. Nope. No, ma'am. No, ma'am," said the candidate, grabbing back the mike. "He's a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with . . ."


But, setting aside the internal implication of McCain's reply — that Obama can't be an Arab if he's a decent citizen and family man — and its impact on the sensibilities of this country's 3.5 million Arab-American citizens, McCain cannot have been too surprised by what he faced on that stage. Because his campaign has helped create it. 'Radical'


Gayle Quinnell is in fact the collective voice of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans whose nativist fears Republicans have been stoking for months. The   Americans who have been passing on smear-mails for years.


"Beware," said the first one I saw, back in January of 2007. "Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim."


It went on to reveal that Obama's African father was a "radical Muslim." and that Obama himself had studied at an extremist school in Jakarta. Other messages declare Obama refused to be sworn into the Senate on a Bible. Or that he refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance.


The e-mails are patently false, and have been widely debunked. But whisper campaigns are as persistent as the flu.



Clearly — witness Ms. Quinnell in Minnesota — the message has had an effect. Any reporter who's covered this campaign has seen it.


I heard it in May, as parishioners gathered outside a Baptist church in North Carolina. And I've heard it in the highly-educated, genteel suburbs of Washington.


A colleague says he's encountered the same thing in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Missouri: "It's usually 'I know he says he isn't, but I think he's a Muslim.' You hear it everywhere."


The whisper campaign seems particularly directed at Jewish voters, playing on their fears that Obama might not be pro-Israel enough, or that he is somehow in league with Muslims, read Arabs, read terrorists.


But Jewish readers of the New York Times might have been surprised this week by an article that identified where a lot of this stuff originated: Andy Martin, a conspiracy theorist who once set for himself the goal of "exterminating Jew power." Martin is apparently fond of filing lawsuits, some of which use even more pungent anti-Semitic rhetoric. He once filed a brief calling a judge a "crooked, slimy Jew."


Martin evidently isn't too keen on Muslims, either, and he was one of the first out of the gate questioning Obama's heritage.


The Times investigation traced the origin of the smear-mail campaign to Martin's self-published writings. And by the time the presidential race got under way, the e-mails had laid a foundation for organized conservative attacks.


Speakers at Republican events began referring to "Barack Hussein Obama," with heavy emphasis on their opponent's middle name.


At a McCain rally in Iowa, Rev. Arnold Conrad told the crowd: "There are millions of people around this world praying to their God — whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that [Obama] wins, for a variety of reasons." Those people, declared the churchman, would think their God bigger than the Christian God if that were to happen.

McCain's campaign approach


Early on, McCain himself demurred. He chastised a conservative talk-show host for warming up one of his crowds with the "Barack Hussein Obama" line, and distanced himself from Rev. Conrad: "I will not tolerate anything in this campaign that denigrates either Sen. Obama or Sen. [Hillary] Clinton," said McCain.


But this fall, as Obama's campaign gathered force, McCain evidently decided to tolerate some mud after all.


Speakers introducing him at rallies again started using the "Barack Hussein Obama" line, now with the Republican candidate standing nearby smiling.


And McCain's surrogates, led by his running mate Sarah Palin, began sharpening a more specific story line.


They seized upon Obama's past association with William Ayers, who, along with other members of the radical Weathermen group, bombed various government targets, including the Pentagon, in the early 1970s.


Ayers long ago turned him in and became a university professor and community organizer. In those capacities, he met Obama during the mid-90s. The two served together on a civic project founded by the Annenberg Foundation, and Ayers's work won him the Chicago Citizen of the Year Award in 1997.


To Palin, though, what Obama did in the mid-90s was to forge a close and enduring tie with a "domestic terrorist." In fact, she has told rally after rally, Obama is even now "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." No explanation of how a "domestic terrorist" became "terrorists." And not even any lip service to Obama's repudiation of Ayers's past bad acts.


The Republican chairman in Virginia, Jeffrey M. Fredrick, goes further. He compares Obama to Osama Bin Laden. "Both have friends who bombed the Pentagon," he says. "That is scary."


And so on. Obama as a terrorist, Obama as a Muslim, Obama as someone fundamentally different, someone mysterious to Americans, who doesn't share American values.


Obama, who seems to want to lose in Iraq?

Resolute despite contradiction


By last week, the crowds at McCain rallies were turning ugly. Mention of Obama's name invoked cries of "terrorist!" or "bomb him!" or "traitor!" or "off with his head!"


And little wonder, given this country's not-so-distant history, that the Secret Service contingent surrounding Obama is now laying on security measures rivaling those of the president himself.


McCain has begun trying to tamp down the hostility, telling supporters at rallies that they have "no reason to be scared" of Obama.


But Gayle Quinnell, for one, remains resolute. Obama, she told reporters after her moment on stage last week with McCain, is "a Muslim and a terrorist . . .all the people agree with what I said."


And Fox News Channel, of course, remains hot on the case.


A few days ago, Fox host Sean Hannity broadcast a segment titled: "Obama and Friends: The History of Radicalism." In it, introduced by Hannity as an "author and journalist," was none other than Andy Martin, originator of the anti-Obama e-mails.


Martin helpfully explained to Hannity that Obama spent his early years "in training for a radical overthrow of the government."



All of this, however, may now have actually turned against McCain.


The New York Times published a new poll this week suggesting Obama now enjoys as much as a 14-point lead over McCain in the polls. And some of that, said the paper, is directly because of the character attacks.






Faith and peace

Oct 18, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer


MANILA, Philippines The stunning decision of the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has left many involved in the peace process frustrated and dejected. Lourdes Mastura, wife of former congressman Michael Mastura who advises the MILF negotiating team, said that the Court was quite hasty in deciding the matter, which was not “a question of law” but merely “a roadmap to peace.”


But the Court has spoken, obviously providing guidance on how the government should forge an agreement with rebel groups without compromising the sovereignty of the State and short-cutting the requirement of consultation and transparency, which is the essence of democratic decision-making.


More worrisome is that the peace front is demoralized. Mastura knows that the peacemakers should get over their dejection. “We cannot afford another war,” she said, warning that while the MILF was still willing to explore peace, its next generation of leaders might be “hawks.”


But a needed push for a new go at peace is being provided by the ongoing general assembly of the Asian Conferences of Religions for Peace (ACRP), where some 350 leaders of the world’s religions — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, etc. — are holding discussions up to Oct. 21 to boost “Peacemaking in Asia.”


Through an assembly hosted jointly at the Manila Hotel by ACRP Philippines (which is headed by Mastura), the University of Santo Tomas and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the ACRP approach to peace is cultural and dialogic: It seeks to bring together representatives of world religions — many of them having been founded in Asia — so that together they can harmonize their diverse religious traditions in the quest for peace. The ACRP formula has worked in taming the Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka and the religious tensions in Indonesia, India and elsewhere, and in organizing a multilateral and inter-religious effort to provide relief for tsunami victims.


The present leadership of the ACRP, under secretary general (South Korean MP) Kim Sunggon and moderator Nir Nawaz Khan Marwat, is planning to make the Mindanao conflict its “post-assembly project” after the Manila meeting. “We offer ACRP as a partner in the peace-building process,” Kim, a Buddhist, said.


Earlier, in Davao, the Religions for Peace-Asia and Pacific Youth Network, a gathering of youth religious leaders from 16 countries, representing a broad cross-section of the world’s religions, called for a truce in Mindanao and urged all antagonists to pursue peace “with honor and sincerity.” They warned of a looming “humanitarian crisis” as a result of populations being displaced by the conflict.


Similarly, the ACRP Women’s Conference, held at the University of Santo Tomas on Oct. 15-16, discussed how women of different faiths play an “essential role” in peacemaking. Women, together with children and young people, are the first and often worst-affected victims of conflicts. Former Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo of the Mindanao Commission on Women said the alternative to peace is further bloodshed in Mindanao and she talked about the efforts of women there, Christian, Muslim or of indigenous religions, to press ahead with peace despite the endless cocking and firing of guns.


The sub-themes of the assembly show that the ACRP is not naïve about the prospects for peace in a very troubled world; that ACRP knows that peace and other issues are closely linked and should be addressed in an integrated and holistic fashion. The ACRP has come up with models for healing divisions and forging lasting solutions to conflicts: peacemaking, according to the sub-themes, can be forged through “shared security and conflict transformation, human rights and peace education, common values and community building, sustainable development and social justice, healing the past and building the future.”


The fact that the ACRP has existed for more than 30 years now should point to the effectiveness of its interventions. But even Mastura, a Christian married to a Muslim, said that the key is raising consciousness. “The ACRP has made progress in Mindanao by making the Mindanao problem known,” she said. “Knowledge is always the first step.” She added that her experience with the tortuous peace process has taught her patience. “You don’t build peace overnight,” she said. “You first build a constituency for peace.” And perhaps build awareness of the urgency for peace.


Copyright 2008





Europe Islamic banking to slow on global crisis


KUALA LUMPUR: The rise of Europe's nascent Islamic banking sector will be slowed as paralysed credit markets dampen demand for Sharia bonds and weak property prices hurt the industry, European Islamic Investment Bank said yesterday. A slowing global economy would also weigh on the sector, the London-based lender said, reinforcing a growing view that Islamic finance - despite its strict lending rules - may prove to be more vulnerable to the global downturn than earlier thought.


European banks, along with US lenders, have been badly hit by the global credit rout. European Union leaders vowed action on Thursday to underpin growth after world governments pledged $3.2 trillion to stabilise the financial sector.


Sharia banks would, however, is spared some of the fallout affecting conventional lenders as they are not exposed to subprime loans, European Islamic Investment Bank chief executive John Weguelin said.


"Islamic financial institutions should be no different from other institutions to the extent that they operate in the money markets and the money markets have been impacted - both Islamic and conventional - in the same way with the tightening of liquidity," Weguelin said.


"Clearly one of the areas that have been impacted is the sukuk market because of the credit crunch and the lack of demand within the sukuk market for those products," he said.


The industry's "concentrated exposure to limited asset classes particularly real estate" means it would not escape the global fallout unscathed, he said.


Islamic financing deals are backed by assets, commonly real estate and commodities, due to the Sharia requirement that transactions must involve real economic activity.


The $1 trillion Islamic finance sector has flourished in recent years, helped by huge reserves of Gulf oil earnings and growing demand for ethical investments.


Some industry experts argue that the industry's conservative lending principles have helped it avoid the complex and opaque lending structures that brought down the conventional banking system.


Weguelin said troubled financial markets presented opportunities for the Islamic industry.


"We think the valuations are going to make it very interesting in the coming months for people with cash to acquire assets at very attractive valuations," he said.


In Europe, demand for Islamic products is expected to be led by the UK, France and Germany due to the size of their Muslim populations, he said. About 20 per cent of Europe's population, including Turkey, are Muslims, he added.


"Islamic finance is starting to become mainstream in terms of the financial markets and therefore should become, over time, a viable alternative to conventional finance particularly the potential attraction of being able to tap into new pools of liquidity," Weguelin said.





Indonesia may delay first global Islamic bond

Oct18, 2008


JAKARTA: Indonesia’s first global Islamic bond is likely to be delayed because of financial market turmoil, a minister said on Friday, a further blow after the government cancelled all domestic debt auctions for the rest of this year.


Southeast Asia’s biggest economy had originally hoped to raise between $500 million to $1 billion from the sale of the Islamic bond, or sukuk, but “is unlikely to do it now, given market conditions,” Minister Paskah Suzetta told Reuters.


“I expect it would not be a good idea to raise debt, because the market is very competitive and there are many competitors. Everybody is aiming at the Middle East,” Suzetta added.


Indonesia has responded to the current global financial crisis with measures ranging from greater protection for bank deposits to efforts to improve liquidity and avoid a credit crunch.


The central bank has intervened in currency markets to support the rupiah while the Indonesia Stock Exchange halted trading for three days last week in an attempt to prevent heavy losses. The government had planned to sell the dollar-denominated sukuk, which was expected to have a maturity of 5-10 years, in November, with a road show scheduled for the fourth week of October.


The Finance Ministry had originally said the amount could be around $1 billion, but more recently it said that the amount would depend on market conditions.


Last week, Indonesia’s finance ministry said it would cancel planned domestic debt auctions this year due to turmoil in financial markets, and would only consider resuming the debt sales if conditions stabilised. The most populous Muslim nation raised 4.7 trillion rupiah from the sales of its first Islamic bonds in late August, short of its five trillion rupiah target.


Analysts said that while the sales were lower than targeted, with domestic investors buying almost 90 percent of the bonds, the issue still signalled strong growth potential for Islamic finance.


Indonesia has a population of 226 million people, and about 85 percent are Muslim. reuters






Some Muslims embrace Christian homebuilder charity



Associated Press Writer

Oct. 17 2008


NASHVILLE, Tenn. Mohamed Nurhussien faced the usual challenges of a low-income worker trying to buy a home, with one big difference: As a Muslim he was forbidden by his religion to pay interest.


The 54-year-old Eritrean immigrant with five children thought his only option was to save enough money to purchase a home outright, with cash earned from his job at a security company.


Then he heard about Habitat for Humanity. For some Muslim immigrants like Nurhussien, the Christian homebuilding charity that offers zero-interest loans has become a real godsend.


"The way Habitat deals fits exactly to our requirements," said Nurhussien, who bought a home earlier this year from the northern Virginia chapter of the group. "It's not free. It is no interest. It's good for me and whoever has the same belief."


In northern Virginia, a majority of 12 families who bought condominiums at the local Habitat's latest development, including Nurhussien, are Muslim. In Nashville, local Habitat executive director Chris McCarthy said the city's large population of Muslim Kurdish immigrants has embraced the nonprofit. Over 10 percent of the group's mortgage holders are Kurdish.


And Muslim leaders are responding by offering labor to build homes, financial support and more to Habitat. Since 1976, the nonprofit has offered homes based on people's need, their ability to pay and their willingness to help build the houses and attend classes on topics such as budgeting.


Habitat homes also help fill a void in the U.S., where Islamic loans for strict Muslims are not widely available, said Samuel Hayes, professor emeritus of finance at the Harvard Business School and an expert on Islamic finance.


Intermediaries often buy homes, and then sell them to Muslim families with a mark-up that reflects a reasonable rate of return for the money that sellers have tied up in the property, Hayes said.


"It's comparable to a mortgage with the interest rate built in," he said.


The difference may seem minor, but to many Muslims, it is an important distinction because they believe God knows the difference, he said.


Even when Islamic loans are available, not all Muslims consider it a true solution.


"Always people have doubts," Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said.


"Some say, 'It just still looks like interest to me,'" he added.


The director of outreach at the Dal Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., first realized how many Muslims in his area were buying Habitat homes when a Presbyterian minister friend invited him to a fundraising breakfast for the non-profit last year.


"So many people in the promotional film that were building homes were Muslim," Abdul-Malik said. "I said, 'Wait a minute. Something's wrong with this picture. Churches are stepping in and building Habitat homes for Muslims. We're not going to stand by and not help build homes for others.'


"It really put a bee in my kufi."


So Abdul-Malik began organizing meetings with Habitat representatives in local mosques and community centers. He wants Muslims to do more than just volunteer to build homes. The idea is to increase Muslim presence in Habitat leadership.


He foresees Muslims speaking out to support Habitat when it faces opposition to a new development. He also hopes Muslim contractors will donate in-kind services. And this year he's bringing a group of his own to the fundraising breakfast.


Local Habitat affiliates throughout the country are independent but work within a common framework. Race and religion are not considered when offering the homes, which sell for an average of $60,000, so no figures are available on how many Muslim families live in the houses. But some affiliates across the country reach out to Muslim groups while others do not.


Habitat of Northern Virginia has built 50 homes in 15 years and has a goal of building the next 50 in five years, said its executive director, Karen Cleveland. She said she is pleased with the growing Muslim involvement in the non-profit and heartened by the response to the meetings Abdul-Malik organized.


"We had never had any mosques or Muslim community centres sponsor a house before," she said, but now Abdul-Malik is organizing a coalition to do just that.


Habitat Nashville has built or rehabilitated more than 350 homes since 1985, and this year, the group plans build 42 new and rehabilitate five, said McCarthy. She said she's proud of the diversity of local Habitat neighbourhoods and that little racial or religious tension is apparent among Habitat families. Most Muslim families even happily accept the Bible that U.S. Habitat groups traditionally give to new homeowners along with the keys.


Avdal Wasman fled from Iraq in 1997 as a refugee and bought a Habitat home in Nashville in 2003. He first heard of the group from a friend, but Wasman said his wife told him it was too good to be true.


He was scared to sign a contract because several people had warned him to be cautious about signing any documents in the United States. But today, Wasman is a member of his community's homeowners association and one of Habitat's biggest boosters.


Wasman downplays any special value of Habitat to Muslims, saying the non-profit helps all sorts of people. But he does acknowledge that the no-interest loans are a "good point for Muslim people."


Nurhussien said in Habitat "you see the spirit of one caring for the other and people working for the benefit of humankind."


"Regardless of whether the organization started as a Christian, Muslim or Jewish organization, it doesn't matter."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.





Muslim converts 'not Islamic enough' for their adopted son to have a brother

Rachel Kaufman


When Robert and Jo Garofalo decided they wanted to adopt a child in Morocco they knew it would not be easy. Although the law in the Muslim state had been changed to allow foreign adoptions, the couple were required to convert to Islam first.


But in the end it was not the Moroccan authorities that proved the biggest hurdle for the film director and his wife — it was their own local social services. For three months, during which Mrs Garofalo lived with their adopted son in a rented flat in Tangier, the couple were subjected to a series of what they believe were unnecessarily harsh and intrusive interviews in which every aspect of their lives was scrutinised. Finally they were approved and were able to bring young Samuel back to their home, where he has thrived.


So when, earlier this year, they approached Surrey social services for approval to adopt again from the same Moroccan orphanage, they were surprised to discover that they would have to go through the whole process again. The couple were particularly concerned that, in order to assess Samuel’s “attachment” to them, he would have to be monitored and even filmed while playing.


Equally disconcerting was that even though social workers indicated in an initial report that they would be prepared to support the second application, the couple were left with the impression that they were being asked to do more to show they were living a Muslim lifestyle.


“The Moroccan orphanage felt it would be good for Samuel to have a brother and were very positive and encouraging. They were happy with the way we dealt with Samuel’s cultural and religious needs,” Mrs Garofalo, a 40-year-old actress, said. But this was not enough for Surrey, who made clear that an assessment would go ahead only if the couple proved that they were making enough effort to live a Muslim lifestyle.


In their report, social workers noted that although the couple had stated their religion was Islam “there is no outward sign that this is a Muslim family . . . Joanne and Robert are aware that the socio-religious element is an aspect of Samuel’s identity and heritage which this agency takes very seriously.” It recommended that “particular attention be given to sharing techniques and strategies with Joanne and Robert that will enhance their children’s sense of identity and legacy, particularly in view of their very public statement they made deciding to convert to Islam in order to adopt”.


Mrs Garofalo said: “The social workers made it clear that we should be seen to be ‘keeping Samuel’s culture alive’ by showing signs of it in our house. But what does that mean? He has to know about English life, as well as knowing where he comes from.


“Did they really expect me to be covered up, sitting on a prayer mat? When we’d converted to Islam so that we could adopt Samuel, there’d been no clause in the paperwork saying we had to put the Koran in our entrance.


“We might not be leading an outwardly Muslim lifestyle, but we are sensitive and respectful to Samuel’s background. We remain close friends with the orphanage manager, Naima, and next year are even flying out to her daughter’s wedding and taking Samuel with us. Surely this shows we are sensitive to his roots?”


The couple have since abandoned their plans to adopt again. “I’d love more kids. We’re older parents and we felt it would be good for Samuel to have a brother from the same orphanage. We could easily bring up another child, but we wouldn’t put Samuel through any more stress and disruption,” Mrs Garofalo said.


She believes that her experience is indicative of a bureaucratic system that pays too much attention to political correctness and too little to the needs of children who face a bleak future in developing countries.


From the beginning the process seemed almost designed to discourage them from adopting even a British child.


Mr Garofalo, now 52, met his future wife when she was on tour with his friend, the comic Jim Davidson. They married in 1999. After three failed IVF attempts and a miscarriage, the couple decided to adopt, but when they started the adoption procedure they were told that they would have to wait as Jo’s father had died after a long illness and they would have to have six months to “grieve”.


After more delays, the couple had almost given up when they learnt from Robert’s brother, Peter, a missionary in Morocco, that the new King had changed the law to allow Europeans to adopt Moroccan children.


They were advised that if they found a child in Morocco, it would be a breach of human rights if Surrey council refused to deal with their case quickly, so they were full of confidence when they flew to Tangier in February 2006. The next morning they arrived at the Crèche de Tangier, a colonial-looking building outside the city. It was clean and well run, but the couple were shocked at the sheer number of children it was dealing with. In one room alone there were 20 steel cots. It was here that Mrs Garofalo was introduced to four-month-old Achraf Halim.


That day the couple converted to Islam, compiled their paperwork, including police checks, birth certificates and proof of income, and presented it to a local social worker. The next day, they stayed with Achraf. “We decided to call him Samuel Achraf Robert.”


However, before they could bring Samuel back to Britain they had to obtain a certificate of eligibility” from Surrey social services. “When we contacted them [Surrey], they told us our case ‘wasn’t a priority’, because it wasn’t a domestic adoption and that the earliest we could expect to be assessed would be September, 2006 — seven months later. I was flying out to Morocco, staying in hotels, spending all day with Samuel at the orphanage, while fighting our UK situation and finalising the adoption in Morocco through the courts there.”


Exasperated, the couple threatened to go to the press to highlight their situation, which prompted Surrey council to hold an emergency meeting. “Finally we were appointed an independent social worker and our date was set for May, 2006.”


Meanwhile, they had arranged to rent a flat in Tangier, so that Jo could live with Samuel. “The plan was for me to travel to the UK to attend the assessment interviews at our home.” Over the next three months the couple underwent eight four-hour interviews; six as a couple, and one each on their own.


Mrs Garofalo’s former husband was contacted for a reference, even though their marriage had lasted only months, when she was in her early twenties. On one occasion, Mrs Garofalo was asked: “Would you adopt a child with a terminal illness or a facial disfigurement?” “When I told her I wouldn’t want to adopt a child with a facial disfigurement or one that was going to die, she became very condescending,” said Jo. “She said, ‘So. Jo. You have a problem with facial disfigurement?’


The Garofalos were finally approved in July 2006, and got Samuel’s visa in September. He was then monitored for a further six months and finally gained his British passport in September 2007.


So when, in January this year, they decided to adopt another child from the same orphanage, the Garofalos were taken aback to find that they would have to go through the whole assessment process again.


Even so, they went ahead and were visited by two Surrey social workers who prepared an initial report. But after being told that Samuel would have to be monitored and filmed, they decided to abandon their efforts.


“We decided we didn’t want to subject Samuel to that. We didn’t want him to be filmed at a play centre. And if we were being questioned at this stage like this, before we’d even started the procedure, what would it be like farther down the line?”


They are equally incensed that social workers appeared to be setting themselves up as arbiters of the couple’s commitment to Islam and made it clear they were not satisfied that they were living as Muslims.


“Samuel will always know about his religion, but it will be his choice as to what he follows when he is old enough to make that decision. What would it all add to a toddler’s life? He doesn’t understand religion. He likes Thomas the Tank Engine.”


Surrey County Council said that children’s services were under a legal duty to conduct an assessment on how the couple’s son was doing, and their efforts to promote his Muslim faith, before exploring a second adoption.


“The couple approached us with a view to adopting the second child and we told them that by law we had to do an assessment to find out how well the adopted Muslim child from Morocco had settled with them in this country, the security of his attachments and the likely impact on him of having a sibling with complex needs in the household. We also told them the assessment would look at their efforts to promote the adopted child’s religion and culture. After finding out these legal requirements, they decided not to continue the process.”


Adopting from abroad


— There are about 300 adoptions of children from overseas each year, compared with about 2,700 adoptions of children from care


— It is strongly recommended that couples get approval as adoptive parents from their local social services before they identify the child they wish to care for. Many countries now insist on it before they help you to find a child


— The approval process is identical to that for adopting children from within Britain and lasts between six months and a year


— It involves interviews with social workers, providing references and attending specialist courses


— Questions are usually asked about how parents will protect the child’s cultural heritage. The application for an inter-country adoption must be signed off by the Department for Children


— It costs around £25,000 in agency fees, for documentation, flights and often donations to orphanages