Saturday, 25 September 2010
A hi-tech weapon has been unveiled in the battle against sexual harassment in Egypt, where almost half the female population face unwanted attention from men every day.
HarassMap, a private venture that is set to launch later this year, allows women to instantly report incidents of sexual harassment by sending a text message to a centralised computer. Victims will immediately receive a reply offering support and practical advice, and the reports will be used to build up a detailed and publicly available map of harassment hotspots.
The project utilises an open-source mapping technology more commonly associated with humanitarian relief operations, and the activists behind it hope to transform social attitudes to the harassment of women and shame authorities into taking greater action to combat the problem.
"In the last couple of years there's been a debate in Egypt over whether harassment of women on the streets is a serious issue, or whether it's something women are making up," said Rebecca Chiao, one of the volunteers behind the project. "So HarassMap will have an impact on the ground by revealing the extent of this problem. It will also offer victims a practical way of responding, something to fight back with; as someone who has experienced sexual harassment personally on the streets of Cairo, I know that the most frustrating part of it was feeling like there was nothing I could do."
Harassment of women is believed to be on the rise in Egypt. The only significant recent study on the phenomenon was a survey by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights in 2008, which revealed that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women have been exposed to some form of sexual harassment, including groping, verbal abuse, stalking and indecent exposure.
Contrary to popular opinion, incidents do not appear to be linked to the woman's style of dress, with three-quarters of victims having been veiled at the time. But efforts to curb the problem have met with resistance.
Although a number of draft laws dealing with sexual harassment are under consideration by parliament, there is still nothing on Egypt's statute books that specifically prohibits harassment – blame for which is often placed on the victim rather than male perpetrators. Just weeks after a series of sexual assaults marred a public holiday two years ago, Egypt's first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, accused the media of exaggerating the threat posed by sexual harassment, and concerns about tarnishing the country's image have continued to stifle debate on the subject.
"We have to transform the social acceptability of sexual harassment and open up a discussion about solutions," said Chiao. "Egypt is our home. When you have a problem in your home then you fix it because you're proud of it.
"You don't cover it up and hope it goes away. We're not trying to ruin Egypt's reputation, we're just trying to address this problem in a constructive and progressive way."
Friday, 24 September 2010
Thursday, 23 September 2010
When a Bangladeshi government official told Sultana Arjuman Banu she was an "uncultured prostitute" for not wearing a burqa, the outraged headmistress took him to court.
In a landmark verdict, Bangladesh's High Court ruled that "attempts to coerce or impose a dress code on women clearly amount to a form of sexual harassment".
A woman's right not to wear the Islamic veil has become a hot topic in Bangladesh, with three high court rulings in less than six months banning "forced veiling" in the Muslim-majority country.
The veil is neither compulsory nor customary in Bangladesh, but public opinion is divided on the politically charged issue, and even as the courts affirm a women's right to go bare-headed, more women are opting to cover up.
"My hijab is my freedom," 19-year-old television presenter Fahmida Islam, who reads the news on the privately owned, conservative Diganta Channel and wears a full-length veil, told AFP.
"Bangladesh should embrace its Islamic heritage more," she said.
Bangladeshi women traditionally wear saris or salwar kameez, and the Islamic veil is a relatively new arrival - which some credit to the influence of the Bangladeshi diaspora, particularly the millions of migrant workers in the Gulf.
Burqa-clad women are an increasingly common sight both in the capital Dhaka and in rural areas, though Fahmida said "many people have the wrong concept of the veil. Some girls wear burqas but take them off to go to parties".
The veil has become a new front in the battle - fought in the courts, in parliament and the education system - to keep the Bangladeshi state officially secular, despite the country's predominantly conservative population.
In March, the high court banned police from "hassling women" who do not wear the full-face veil after police in northern Rangpur district arrested nine teenage couples in a public park and ordered the girls to wear burqas.
"A girl can only be arrested if there is a criminal case against her, not because of what she is wearing," the country's deputy attorney general, Rajik Al Jalil, said at the time.
In April, the court banned forced veiling of female workers after an official insulted Sultana Arjuman Banu, trying to force her and fifty other female teachers at the school in Kurigram district to wear headscarves.
"How an educated man could utter the word prostitute to a headmistress of a government primary school is not comprehensible," the court said in its ruling, before ordering the official to make an unqualified apology.
Last month, the high court issued a ruling banning the imposition of any religious clothing on students, following reports that a principal at a state-run college in northern Bangladesh has forced students to wear veils.
"No girl should be repressed, harassed or punished for not wearing burqa or religious attire," education secretary Syed Ataur Rahman said in a Ministry of Education order issued to support the court verdict.
"Forcing a girl to wear veil or any religious wear or barring her from sports and cultural activities will be considered an offence," he said.
Bangladesh was created as a secular democracy in 1971 after a bloody battle for independence from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
A series of constitutional amendments in the 1970s and 1980s made Islam the state religion and legalised religion-based political parties.
The Awami League government, which came to power in December 2008 elections, is committed to protecting the secular status of the state - moving to ban religious political parties and launching an overhaul of the education system.
But Bangladesh is also a deeply patriarchal society, experts say, where the idea that a woman should dress modestly to prevent sexual harassment is accepted across the social spectrum.
"It is a justification often used in ordinary conversations as well as policy rhetoric: 'Oh, well, women really ask for it, they should be modestly dressed,'" said barrister Sara Hossain.
"Ultimately, this can get pushed to an extreme where women feel safest if they are covered up," said Hossain, a petitioner on headmistress Sultana Arjuman Banu's case.
The recent court rulings are a step towards turning this situation around, by "creating safer, securer spaces and putting the burden on others to make sure that they don't assault women", Hossain said.
"The rulings will give space and strength to women who do not want to observe these kind of [Islamic] dress codes or who want to be freer in the way that they want to conduct themselves," she said.
But many women, like Samia Islam - who started wearing the veil a few years ago, after her husband completed the Hajj pilgrimage - argue the Islamic veil is the best way for women to stay safe.
"When I started wearing the veil properly, it changed my experience of my own country," Samia said, adding "irritating, insulting rough talk," she used to hear from men had transformed into polite compliments about her veil.
"Most women wear the veil because of their family - this was all me, willingly I've embraced the veil as a Muslim woman. I think all women should do this. It protects them from all types of unwanted attention," she said.
Mehtab Khanom, a psychologist who teaches at Dhaka University, warns the recent court rulings will have a limited impact on women's rights.
There is significant pressure on young Bangladeshi girls to dress modestly and behave politely, she said, and in the family and even in official quarters, women's misconduct is still seen as the main driver of sexual harassment.
"It is always the girls being blamed in this country," Khanom said.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Hundreds of British Muslims leaving and returning from holidays abroad face harassment and intimidation by security forces when they pass through UK airports and seaports, an investigation by The Independent has found.
One man interrogated by police over his British credentials was asked whether he watched Dad's Army, while another was questioned over the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
New figures seen by this newspaper show that the number of innocent people stopped and questioned at airports and other points of entry to the UK has doubled in the last four years, raising serious concerns about racial profiling. Many British Muslims have cancelled future vacations rather than risk being questioned and held for up to nine hours by anti-terrorist officers.
Senior Muslim police officers are also understood to be concerned about the overuse of the special powers granted under the Terrorism Act 2000. The frequent searches at ports and borders have been criticised by Lord Carlile QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who argues that the number of cases can be "reduced in number without risk to national security".
Earlier this year the Home Secretary, Theresa May, scaled back section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which gives police officers the power to stop and search members of the public without any reasonable suspicion. But under Schedule 7 of the same legislation, police officers have greater powers to stop and detain travellers leaving and entering Britain, including taking samples of their DNA.
Figures obtained by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number of people stopped and questioned has risen from 1,190 in 2004 to 2,473 in 2008. The most recent numbers of Schedule 7 cases of stopping, questioning and searching last year show that, between January and September, police and Special Branch officers carried out 1,773 operations.
In the last five years 1,110 people were held and questioned by the police for up to nine hours. And despite a total of 10,400 "stops" carried out over the same period, only 99 people have been arrested. Of these, 48 were charged with terrorist or terrorist-related offences.
Mohamed Nur, 26, was stopped at Heathrow airport in June after returning from a holiday in Dubai. He was held for nine hours and forced to give DNA samples and fingerprints. During the questioning, one of the police officers asked about his British credentials. "He asked me 'Do you consider yourself to be English?' I said I consider myself to be British, rather than just English," Mr Nur said.
"He said 'How do you consider yourself to be British when you have no historical links with Britain? It's like me going to Somalia and living there and people still not considering me to be Somali because of the way I look.'
"I said 'I've lived most of my life in Britain so that's why I'm British'. Then he asked me about Dad's Army, and whether I watched it or not. I said 'Yes'. He said 'Do you find it funny?' and I said 'Yes'. Then he said 'I consider you British'."
Mr Nur's complaint is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.
Asif Ahmed, 28, a property developer from Renfrew in Scotland, was stopped at Edinburgh airport as he returned from Stansted airport with his wife. The couple were collecting their bags when two plain-clothed officers approached them. They were taken to an interrogation room, separated and questioned for more than an hour. During the questioning Mr Ahmed claimed: "I was asked if I knew where [Osama] bin Laden was."
Zin Derfoufi, civil liberties officer for FOSIS, told The Independent: "Schedule 7 is the most wide ranging 'stop' power in the UK but it is also the least transparent. This new information will not only assist the public's understanding of how this power is being used but, significantly, 10 years after it was first introduced, it is also the very first step in empowering us all to be able to monitor its use and to hold the police to account."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Stopping people at airports is, on occasion, a necessary activity to protect public safety. These figures cover from 2004 to 2009. No figures are kept on ethnicity of individuals who are stopped and it is therefore not possible to conclude if any particular group is targeted unfairly."
Adil Hussain, 26: Detained and quizzed on beliefs for six hours
The PhD computer student at Imperial College London was stopped by police at Dover in April this year at the start of his walking holiday in the Alps.
Although Mr Hussain and his companions protested that they were simply spending the weekend on a short break, anti-terrorist officers told them that some of the terrorists who attacked Britain were also well educated and enjoyed hill walking.
They were held for six hours, during which time they were searched and had their phones confiscated. At first the group believed their detention would last no longer than a few minutes.
Mr Hussain said: "Half an hour or so passes and one of the officers comes by for me to sign a paper outlining my rights and declaring that I have been held under the Anti-Terrorism Act. I am asked whether I would like anything to drink or eat – they have halal food. It turns out to be lamb curry and I think they must have a lot of Muslim visitors. They even have a prayer mat. I am reminded that I do not have the right to remain silent – if I refuse to answer any questions I could be arrested. "
For the next six hours the men were separately interrogated about their interest in Islam, their friends in the UK and their views on British and American troops in Afghanistan. Finally they were released, but all their electronic equipment was confiscated.
Mr Hussain added: "My being singled out randomly for a 'pat down' and for my car to be inspected for dangerous materials is understandable – all of this delaying me an hour or so.
"However, I find it wholly unacceptable to be held a further five hours late into the night simply for the officers to profile me, questioning my religious and political views and threatening to charge me for refusing to answer any questions. I find this outrageous and do not see why I have to be subjected to such treatment merely on account of my ethnicity and religion."
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
University under fire for plans to honour New Republic's Martin Peretz who wrote that 'Muslim life is cheap'
Harvard academics and students are demanding that the university rescind a plan to honour the editor-in-chief of a leading Washington political magazine this week after he wrote that Muslims are unfit for the protections of the US constitution and said that "Muslim life is cheap".
Martin Peretz has partially apologised for the comments but critics say they are only the most recent of a long line of bigotted columns in the New Republic by the former Harvard professor that have drawn accusations of double standards in how the American media confronts prejudice.
Peretz caused a stir when he wrote in a column earlier this month that Muslims in the US should not be entitled to constitutional guarantees of free speech.
"Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims ... So, yes, I wonder whether I need honour these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse," he said.
The comments provoked criticism from bloggers and academics but were initially ignored by mainstream newspapers despite Peretz's prominence – among other things he is a close friend of the former vice-president Al Gore – and the influence of his magazine.
Some of the strongest criticism has come from Harvard, where some students and academics are demanding that the university cancel a ceremony on Friday to name a $500,000 (£322,000) social studies chair after Peretz.
"Such an invitation lends legitimacy and respectability to views that can only be described as abhorrent and racist in their implication that the rights guaranteed by the US constitution should be withheld from certain citizens based on their religious affiliation," student organisations said in a letter to the university that has been signed by more than 400 people.
Among the critics is Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard, who described Peretz's views as hateful.
"If you had said this about blacks, Jews or Catholics, it would be a scandal," he told the Boston Globe.
Peretz has made two apologies, saying he was wrong to say Muslims should be stripped of their free speech rights, but defended his assertion that Muslim life is cheap. "This is a statement of fact, not value," he said.
He made a further apology on the eve of the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur, saying he had "publicly committed the sin of wild and wounding language, especially hurtful to our Muslim brothers and sisters".
But some of Peretz's critics say he has a history of expressing views that would draw stinging criticism from the mainstream press if they were not about Muslims. In March, Peretz admitted to a prejudice against Arabs.
"Frankly, I couldn't quite imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right," he wrote in the New Republic.
Peretz, who is a strident supporter of Israel, has said in conversation that he believes Palestinians are unfit to have their own country and suggested that Arabs are genetically violent.
Although Peretz was criticised in a New York Times column after his recent comments, critics have contrasted the reticence of the American media over his views with the barrage of condemnation for the journalist Helen Thomas, after she said Israel's Jewish population should "go home" to Germany, Poland or the US.
Peretz was among her severest critics, calling Thomas wicked and a Jew-hater.
Some prominent American bloggers, among them Glenn Greenwald who writes for Salon.com, accuse the US mainstream media of protecting Peretz because of his connections.
"Marty Peretz has a lot of connections at the highest levels of media and politics. He's a good friend of Al Gore who he has been championing for a long time. The way things work is that once you enter this realm of being respectable and serious it is almost as if anything goes," said Greenwald. "The New Republic is considered respectable in Washington and so the fact that the editor-in-chief of that magazine is a ranting, raving bigot, it's almost as if he's immunised because he's in this circle of respectability."
Howard Kurtz, the media editor of the Washington Post, was among those journalists critical of Thomas, suggesting that she should "go home" to Lebanon and that she is a heroine to Hezbollah. Asked why the mainstream media has largely ignored Peretz's views over the years, Kurtz replied: "I'm afraid I just haven't focused on the subject."
Friday, 17 September 2010
Phil Woolas, current MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, stands accused of doctoring photographs, misrepresenting facts and fomenting racial and religious divisions in order to “make white folks angry” at his opponent, Lib Dem’s Elwyn Watkins, as part of a desperate bid to retain his seat in the run up to the May 2010 general election. Mr Woolas is accused of seizing on anti-Muslim sentiment in Oldham by claiming his rival endorsed a Muslim campaign to remove him.
A combination of Mr. Woolas’ voting record as Immigration Minister, his involvement in the expenses scandal, in which he claimed for tampons and women’s’ clothing, and a national swing against the Labour party were deemed to be unfavorable for his chances of re-election. His own election agent, Joseph Fitzpatrick, commented, “We are picking up the vibe that Phil is going to lose.” The Conservatives had chosen Kashif Ali, a Muslim, as their candidate, which, it was thought, would cause those Tory voters that disliked this selection to vote for the Liberal Democrats instead.
Given this situation, in the words of The Telegraph,
“Mr Woolas and members of his election team became convinced that he would be beaten by the popular Liberal Democrat candidate, Elwyn Watkins, who had sufficient momentum to wipe out the minister’s 3,590 majority.”
So in the weeks before the election, Mr Woolas’s team allegedly hatched a plan cynically to exploit racial tension in Oldham, the scene of race riots in 2001, by portraying Mr Watkins as a candidate courting the vote of Islamic extremists.”
Mr Fitzpatrick proposed to Steven Green, Mr. Woolas’ campaign adviser,
“If we can convince them that they are being used by the Moslems it may save [Woolas] and the more we can damage Elwyn the easier it will be to stop the Tories from voting for him.”
“We need … to explain to the white community how the Asians will take him out … If we don’t get the white vote angry he’s gone.”
This would lead to the publication of two pamphlets carrying such headlines as “Lib Dem pact with the devil” and “Targeted: militant extremists go for Phil Woolas”. A pamphlet released the day before the election even claimed that the Lib Dem campaign was backed by groups that had issued death threats against Mr. Woolas.
Two high court judges are presiding over the hearing against Mr. Woolas and, if found guilty, he could be fined and barred from public office. A new election would be triggered in the constituency.
By Michael Moore
I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.
I want it built on Ground Zero.
Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.
There's been so much that's been said about this manufactured controversy, I really don't want to waste any time on this day of remembrance talking about it. But I hate bigotry and I hate liars, and so in case you missed any of the truth that's been lost in this, let me point out a few facts:
1. I love the Burlington Coat Factory. I've gotten some great winter coats there at a very reasonable price. Muslims have been holding their daily prayers there since 2009. No one ever complained about that. This is not going to be a "mosque," it's going to be a community center. It will have the same prayer room in it that's already there. But to even have to assure people that "it's not going to be mosque" is so offensive, I now wish they would just build a 111-story mosque there. That would be better than the lame and disgusting way the developer has left Ground Zero an empty hole until recently. The remains of over 1,100 people still haven't been found. That site is a sacred graveyard, and to be building another monument to commerce on it is a sacrilege. Why wasn't the entire site turned into a memorial peace park? People died there, and many of their remains are still strewn about, all these years later.
2. Guess who has helped the Muslims organize their plans for this community center? The JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER of Manhattan! Their rabbi has been advising them since the beginning. It's been a picture-perfect example of the kind of world we all want to live in. Peter Stuyvessant, New York's "founder," tried to expel the first Jews who arrived in Manhattan. Then the Dutch said, no, that's a bit much. So then Stuyvessant said ok, you can stay, but you cannot build a synagogue anywhere in Manhattan. Do your stupid Friday night thing at home. The first Jewish temple was not allowed to be built until 1730. Then there was a revolution, and the founding fathers said this country has to be secular -- no religious nuts or state religions. George Washington (inaugurated around the corner from Ground Zero) wanted to make a statement about this his very first year in office, and wrote this to American Jews:
"The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy -- a policy worthy of imitation. ...
"It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens ...
"May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants -- while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."
3. The Imam in charge of this project is the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. Read about his past here.
4. Around five dozen Muslims died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Hundreds of members of their families still grieve and suffer. The 19 killers did not care what religion anyone belonged to when they took those lives.
5. I've never read a sadder headline in the New York Times than the one on the front page this past Monday: "American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?" That should make all of us so ashamed that even a single one of our fellow citizens should ever have to worry about if they "belong" here
6. There is a McDonald's two blocks from Ground Zero. Trust me, McDonald's has killed far more people than the terrorists.
7. During an economic depression or a time of war, fascists are extremely skilled at whipping up fear and hate and getting the working class to blame "the other" for their troubles. Lincoln's enemies told poor Southern whites that he was "a Catholic." FDR's opponents said he was Jewish and called him "Jewsevelt." One in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and 41% of Republicans don't believe he was born here.
8. Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh blew up?
9. Let's face it, all religions have their whackos. Catholics have O'Reilly, Gingrich, Hannity and Clarence Thomas (in fact all five conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court are Catholic). Protestants have Pat Robertson and too many to list here. The Mormons have Glenn Beck. Jews have Crazy Eddie. But we don't judge whole religions on just the actions of their whackos. Unless they're Methodists.
10. If I should ever, God forbid, perish in a terrorist incident, and you or some nutty group uses my death as your justification to attack or discriminate against anyone in my name, I will come back and haunt you worse than Linda Blair marrying Freddy Krueger and moving into your bedroom to spawn Chucky. John Lennon was right when he asked us to imagine a world with "nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too." I heard Deepak Chopra this week say that "God gave humans the truth, and the devil came and he said, 'Let's give it a name and call it religion.' " But John Adams said it best when he wrote a sort of letter to the future (which he called "Posterity"): "Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it." I'm guessing ol' John Adams is up there repenting nonstop right now.
Friends, we all have a responsibility NOW to make sure that Muslim community center gets built. Once again, 70% of the country (the same number that initially supported the Iraq War) is on the wrong side and want the "mosque" moved. Enormous pressure has been put on the Imam to stop his project. We have to turn this thing around. Are we going to let the bullies and thugs win another one? Aren't you fed up by now? When would be a good time to take our country back from the haters?
I say right now. Let's each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It's a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org). If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C'mon everyone, let's pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.
I lost a co-worker on 9/11. I write this today in his memory.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Protesters for and against the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero have clashed in New York on the anniversary of 9/11. Despite recent tensions in the US, some Americans are choosing Islam as their religion.
On Saturday about 1,000 people gathered near Ground Zero to support the construction of the mosque, AP news agency reported. Another group of several hundred demonstrators opposed to it rallied nearby.
There have also been reports of copies of the Koran being burned near Ground Zero, and in other American cities on the ninth anniversary of the tragedy.
At odds with the controversy are the thousands of Americans who make the choice to convert to Islam each year.
“I converted last year, on the first of Ramadan,” says Katelynn Billings, a 22-year-old American who was raised as a Christian by her family. “My mother was afraid that I was going to marry someone that was going to beat me. She was crying a lot. She thought that I was betraying her because I was changing my religion to something that she didn't know about.”
Backtracking to almost a decade ago, to the day Islam became a household word in America, one may easily recall then-President George W. Bush’s words:
“Our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of very deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.”
That was when the “War on Terror” began. President Bush’s tactics included targeting extremist Muslims who were labeled as terrorists.
Many Americans like Katelynn Billings remember that time in the United States quite well.
“I was 14 when September 11 happened, so I didn't really know what was going on. I didn't really know if that was Islam. People said it was, so I believed it just like everybody else,” Katelynn.
However, as Katelynn grew older, she decided to learn about the religion on her own, which led her to the Mustafa Center – a mosque just outside of Washington DC, which has become a haven for many Americans who, like Katelynn, have found Allah.
A recent poll found that almost 40 per cent of Americans believe that Muslims should carry identification cards. Despite such hostile public opinion, however, almost 20,000 Americans decide to convert to Islam every year. These converts say they do not regret their choice at all.
For many, it is a choice they are frequently reminded of. Ever since September 11 attacks, Muslims around the world have struggled with bans of their religious clothing. They have also faced profiling in airports and discrimination in their everyday lives.
“People that I knew since I was very small think that I've changed personalities because of this,” Katelynn says, referring to her religion. “They don't see past the scarf. They just see the fact that I have changed.”
After joining a class to learn more about Islam, Carl Dodge also decided to become a Muslim.
“One of the big jokes I've always made is that before I actually joined the class and opened the Koran, everything I learned about Islam I had learned from CNN, and a lot of people are like that,” Dodge believes. “So there were some negative reactions.”
In mainstream media the depiction of Americans who have converted to Islam has been somewhat extreme. First, there was John Walker Lindh, the Californian who converted, joined the Taliban and ended up fighting with them in Afghanistan.
A more recent case is “Jihad Jane,” the blond-haired, blue-eyed convert who allegedly recruited people to wage violent jihad.
“It does upset me a little bit, because there are a lot of preconceptions that people have,” confesses Carl Dodge. “And until I actually took the time to open a Koran and see what was written, my only impression of Islam was what I had seen on TV.”
“I just had somebody ask me the other day: ‘Are you against America now?’” he says. “I'm a US veteran, I served in the US navy and I do believe in this country. I volunteered to defend this country. I volunteered to stand up for what the constitution says.”
Katelynn Billings believes that the existence of Islamophobia in the US is illogical.
“It's the right to practice your own religion – that's what this country was founded on,” she asserts. “People that started this country were fleeing religious persecution.”
No matter what unfolds around her, Billings says she is proud to be a Muslim.
“If no one in the world wants to talk to me and be my friend, I still don't regret it,” she maintains. “I am completely happy right now, happier than I've ever been in my entire life.”
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
According to Crescent Moon Watch website, most of the world will celebrate Eid on Friday the 9th of September.
The Gulf countires have announced that Eid will be on Friday.
Most of the Europe will celebrate it on Friday as well, but it is possible for those who started later than Saudi, will celebrate on Saturday.
Parts of Asia including India and Pakistan will celebrate it on Saturday.
USA will have Eid on Friday.
In any case please update when your eid is and EID MUBARAK to everyone in advance.