The Olympics and Sochi. As we all gather around the TV each evening to be thrilled by ice dancing and another exciting match of curling, we should remember the repressive conditions that Sochi’s 20,000 Muslims live under. Muslim leaders have been pushing for permission to build a new mosque since 1996. “I’m so tired of writing letters—whole files—it just drags on and on,” a Muslim organizer told the Norwegian news organization Forum 18 in 2006.
Today’s The New York Times published a “Letter-to-the-Editor” that I wrote, responding to their editorial “Mixed Results for Mideast Democracy” of Jan. 16.
My appointment as Executive Director has continued to generate media attention. I was interviewed last week by Radio Sawa, a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week Arabic-language radio station broadcasting in the Arab world. The station is a service of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and is publicly funded by the U.S. Congress. Read the story (in Arabic) at RadioSawa.com. I was also interviewed on AslanMedia, the website of best-selling American Muslim author Reza Aslan.
This is the end of my first month as Executive Director of CAIR-Philadelphia. It has been quite a whirlwind of activity. Since the press release announcing my appointment was sent out on October 15, there have been over 7,000 Internet postings about the story, the great majority of them positive. Articles about CAIR-Philadelphia appeared online at Phillymag.com, Philly.com, The Washington Post, The Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia, Ha’aretz, and at hundreds of other Internet sites. I was also interviewed on Aljazeera, did a 30-minute interview on WEAA (the NPR station in Baltimore), with additional interviews in The Washington Times and The New York Jewish Week.
On September 14, 2012, I wrote a letter in support of a Philadelphia man awaiting execution here in Pennsylvania in my capacity as Civil Rights Director and Staff Attorney of CAIR-Philadelphia. However, my letter is not an example of legal advocacy. Instead, my letter is based entirely upon religious argument – something I have never done in my entire legal career.
People keep asking me to respond to this event in my capacity as an ‘American Muslim,’ but, in truth, I’m not responding to this event as either an American, or as a Muslim. I’m simply responding to these events as a human being who is mourning a tragic and unnecessary loss of life.
I write to you with bittersweet news. I will be stepping down as the Executive Director of CAIR-Philadelphia exactly a month from today. This was a very difficult decision because I love this job, but I have chosen to move on and pursue graduate studies so that I may become a more effective public servant, God willing, and perhaps return to Philadelphia in a few years. Working with CAIR has been one of the greatest, most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life, and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity.
CAIR-Philadelphia works with local, state and national faith-based organizations to bring civil and human rights issues to the forefront. Protecting the basic human right to practice and express one’s faith freely is the responsibility of people of all faiths and traditions.
A common practice of the right-wing is to target minorities by using puppets and enablers within those minority groups to affirm xenophobic views. Dr. Zuhdi Jasser serves this role for the most vile anti-Muslim organizations and funders in this country. His organization, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, is almost entirely funded by Islamophobe entities, including the Clarion Fund.
Right now, the Pennsylvania legislature is considering a bill which is part of a national effort to vilify, stigmatize, and demonize Islam and Muslims. Fortunately, CAIR-Philadelphia is working to make sure that this bill never becomes law. On its face, House Bill 2029, introduced by Rep. RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon) and titled “American and Pennsylvania Laws for Pennsylvania Courts,” is a bill which prohibits Pennsylvania courts from considering applying any “foreign law” which would limit an individual’s constitutional rights. Unfortunately, the plain language of this bill hides a much more sinister purpose – to demonize Islam and Muslims.