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Executive Editor: Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Chronology of Islam in America (2019)
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

February 2019

Cops launch hate crime probe after man spit on woman in hijab on a Long Island City street
Feb 2: Police released video on Friday night of a man who spit on a woman along a Long Island City street in a case now being investigated as a hate crime. Law enforcement sources said the attack occurred on Jan. 29 in front of a business on 30th Street near 37th Avenue. According to authorities, the female victim — who was wearing a hijab, a traditional head covering worn by some Muslim women — was walking along 30th Street when the suspect approached. Without saying a word, cops said, the suspect spat on her and walked on by. Following a preliminary probe, the case was presented to the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force for further investigation. Cops described the hateful spitter as a man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, a dark gray jacket, blue jeans and black sneakers. Police are now offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the perpetrator’s arrest. [The Times-Ledger  QNS]

Senate Passage of Anti-BDS Bill condemned

Feb 5: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, today condemned the U.S. Senate’s adoption of the misleadingly titled “Strengthening Americaï¾’s Security in the Middle East Act” (Senate Bill 1), an anti-BDS bill that would provide federal protection to states that pass laws penalizing Americans who participate in political boycotts aimed at Israel and its illegal settlements in occupied territories. It passed 77 to 23. “It is a shame that the U.S. Senate would pass such an unconstitutional bill that violates the First Amendment right of all Americans to challenge the illegal and discriminatory actions of a foreign government and goes against the principles of free speech on which our country was founded,” said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. “CAIR urges all members of the House who support free speech to oppose and remove the anti-BDS provisions of Senate Bill 1.” McCaw noted that the bill would make Israel the only country in the world, including the United States itself, that it is illegal to boycott. Senate Bill 1, which includes an anti-BDS law, would provide federal protection to states that pass laws penalizing Americans who participate in political boycotts aimed at Israel and its illegal settlements in occupied territories. It also confirms $38 billion in military assistance to Israel over the next 10 years and extends the U.S.-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act. There are currently 26 states with anti-BDS laws already on the books. The two federal courts that have ruled on these laws in Arizona and Kansas have both declared them unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment. In December, CAIR filed a motion on behalf of a Texas speech pathologist who was fired for refusing to sign a statement certifying that she does not, and will not, boycott Israel or Israeli settlements. [NOTE: BDS refers to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in support of Palestinian human rights.] [CAIR]

Christian student loses court challenge to school history lesson on Islam
Feb 13: As a high school junior, Caleigh Wood (Maryland) refused to complete a history lesson on "The Muslim World" that she said forced her to embrace Islam in conflict with her Christian faith - and the Constitution. A federal appeals court this week disagreed, saying school officials in Southern Maryland had not violated Wood's First Amendment rights because the curriculum did not endorse a particular religion "and did not compel Wood to profess any belief." "School authorities, not the courts, are charged with the responsibility of deciding what speech is appropriate in the classroom," wrote Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, who was joined by Judges Pamela Harris and James Wynn. "Academic freedom would not long survive in an environment in which courts micromanage school curricula and parse singular statements made by teachers." Attorney Andrew Scott, who represents Charles County school officials, said the ruling sends an important message to school officials throughout the state affirming their discretion to teach about religion. The Maryland case is the latest chapter in an ongoing nationwide debate about how to teach about religion in public schools. In its ruling, the court considered the school's broad world history curriculum rather than examining each potentially problematic statement. If judges found violations "every time that a student or parent thought that a single statement by a teacher either advanced or disapproved of a religion, instruction in our public schools 'would be reduced to the lowest common denominator,' " Keenan wrote in her 18-page opinion. The assignment involving the shahada, the court found, was meant to assess whether students understood the "beliefs and practices" of Muslims. The task was factual, and students "were not required to memorize the shahada, to recite it, or even to write the complete statement of faith," according to the ruling. "This is precisely the sort of academic exercise that the Supreme Court has indicated would not run afoul of the Establishment Clause," it said.  [The Washington Post]

Feds share watchlist with 1,400 private groups
Feb19: The federal government has acknowledged that it shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities, prompting concerns from civil libertarians that those mistakenly placed on the list could face a wide variety of hassles in their daily lives.
The government’s admission that it shares the list so broadly comes after years of insistence that the list is generally not shared with the private sector. Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has filed a constitutional challenge to the government’s use of the watchlist, called the government’s admission shocking. “We’ve always suspected there was private-sector dissemination of the terror watchlist, but we had no idea the breadth of the dissemination would be so large,” Abbas said. The watchlist is supposed to include only those who are known or suspected terrorists but contains hundreds of thousands of names. The government’s no-fly list is culled from a small subset of the watchlist. Critics say that the watchlist is wildly overbroad and mismanaged, and that large numbers of people wrongly included on the list suffer routine difficulties and indignities because of their inclusion. The government’s admission comes in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria by Muslims who say they regularly experience difficulties in travel, financial transactions and interactions with law enforcement because they have been wrongly added to the list. The Associated Press is the first to report on the disclosure after reviewing the case documents. [The Associated Press]

Self-proclaimed white nationalist dreamed of ways to ‘kill almost every last person on earth’
Feb 20: A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist has been arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists. A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist has been arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists. Christopher Paul Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland” and dreamed of ways to “kill almost every last person on earth,” according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since 2017 at the latest, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and searched the internet using phrases such as “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.” “The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” the government said in court documents filed this week, arguing that Hasson should stay in jail awaiting trial. Hasson was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges on Friday, but the government says those charges are the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.” Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland outlined in court documents Hasson’s alleged plans to spark chaos and destruction, describing a man obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views. Hasson’s commitment to destruction appeared to increase in recent weeks, according to details from prosecutors. He created a list of “traitors” and targets on Jan. 19 in a spreadsheet on his work computer. [The Washington Post]

Road rage, hate crime or both: Shooting death of Muslim man could draw FBI scrutiny

Feb 20: An incident that was initially reported as a fatal road rage shooting has shined an even brighter light on potential hate crime legislation in Indiana. Mustafa Ayoubi, a Carmel native and Indiana University graduate, was killed Saturday. His friends say it was because of his Muslim faith. Witnesses told investigators that Dustin Passarelli, 33, yelled slurs about Islam just moments before he shot Ayoubi to death in an apartment complex parking lot. At least two shots struck Ayoubi, 32, in the back, court records said. The man yelled:  "You are followers of Muhammad," and "Muhammad is a pedophile," Usman Ashraf, a friend of Ayoubi who witnessed the shooting, told IndyStar. This incident comes as Indiana lawmakers debate a new hate crimes law. Indiana is one of a handful of states without such a law. This shooting has drawn the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington D.C.-based Muslim civil rights group that has called for federal law enforcement authorities to take over the case and bring charges against the man accused in Ayoubi's death. Passarelli has not been formally charged with a crime. He is currently being held in the Marion County Jail while prosecutors weigh the evidence and decide their next steps.  Ayoubi's friend Ashraf told police Passarelli yelled "go back to your country" and used other ethnic and religious insults, according to the affidavit. A witness told police Ayoubi turned and started to run away when Passarelli shot him, according to the affidavit. Ayoubi was pronounced dead at the scene. The deputy coroner noted at least two gunshot wounds to Ayoubi's back, the document said. [IndyStar]

Muslim terror attacks get 357 percent more media coverage than those by other groups
Feb 20: A new study has found that religion is a significant predictor for the amount of coverage given to terror attacks, and specifically that those carried out by Muslims receive far more attention than any others. In a study published in Justice Quarterly, researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Alabama found that terror attacks by Muslims receive an average of 357 percent more media coverage than those by other groups. The team studied 136 terrorist attacks that took place in the U.S. between 2006 and 2015, and analyzed national print and online media using information form the Global Terrorism Database. Of these attacks, Muslims committed an average 12.5 percent. However, this “tiny” number of incidents received half of all news coverage, researchers explain. “What was especially surprising was the sheer amount of coverage granted to the small handful of domestic terrorists who were both Muslim and from outside of the U.S.,” said Allison Betus, a presidential fellow working for Georgia State's Transcultural Conflict and Violent Extremism Initiative. Such disproportionate coverage means “members of the public tend to fear the 'Muslim terrorist' while ignoring other threats. More representative coverage could help to bring public perception in line with reality,” the authors suggest. [Newsweek]

Landmark ruling permitting lawsuit challenging unlawful surveillance of Muslims

Feb 28: The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) today applauded a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit establishing that the courthouse doors remain open to members of the Muslim community who challenge unlawful government surveillance against them. In a landmark victory for freedom of religion and human rights, the court ruled the government could not bar the plaintiffs from obtaining their day in court simply by raising the specter of “terrorism” and “national security.”  In 2011, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, CAIR-LA, and the law firm Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP filed a class action case, Fazaga v. FBI, in response to the discovery that in 2006 the FBI used an undercover agent to infiltrate one of the largest and most diverse mosques in Orange County. The informant, pretending to convert to Islam, was directed to gather information on mosque attendees not because they had committed any crimes or even planned any illegal activity, but simply because they were Muslims. In its decision today, Ninth Circuit specifically provided an avenue for the plaintiffs to vindicate their constitutional rights through procedures established by Congress in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The court also ruled that the plaintiffs have a right to force the government to delete from its files information it illegally collected about them. The decision also allows the plaintiffs the opportunity to seek money damages for the FBI’s allegedly unlawful electronic wiretapping of their homes and offices. “Muslims in this country deserve the same freedom that protect all other religious groups: the right to practice their faith in peace without fear of government intrusion, said Yassir Fazaga, president of the Orange County-based Tanweer Institute and lead plaintiff in the case. “We are grateful that today’s decision gives our community in Orange County the opportunity to protect these rights in court.”  [CAIR]

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