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Former Congressman Calls on Muslims to Help Set America on Right Course

By Edwin Ali

Former Congressman and world renowned author Paul Findley has lamented the bias against Muslims in America following 9/11 and made a stirring appeal to the followers of Islam to help set this country back on the right course.

“We, each of us, ought to do something to set America back on the right course, because America is on a gravely mistaken course Muslims have to do more to set the record straight in so far as Islam is concerned. First, go to church, speak to the preacher, and offer to answer questions. There will be literally thousands of people who will be better informed,” he told participants to the second annual South Florida Banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) at the Hilton Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.

His call was echoed by Founder and Chairman of CAIR, Omar Ahmad, who spoke on the theme “I am American, I am Muslim”.

The welcome address was given by Altaf Ali, Executive Director of CAIR-FL who referred to the changes that followed 9/11 adding that the changes have in some way affected “all of us, in some way, shape or form. Many of us have begun to question the phrase Liberty and Justice which is a corner stone of this great society. Some of us have become so disheartened by some of the atrocities that have taken place, that they have returned to their homeland. I am encouraging and imploring all of you to be steadfast and recognize and understand that every immigrant group who came to this great land, had to strive and struggle to achieve a foothold in this great nation.”

In this current struggle, he added, “we will feel pain, we will suffer in some way and some of us will be victimized, but with the permission of Allah, we will prevail and in the end success will be shared with those friends who supported us and forgiveness will be given to those who stood against us.”

In his address, Mr. Findley noted that the theme of the dinner was “Liberty & Justice for All”, he expressed the hope that President George Bush “who says he reads the Bible, I hope that one day he would go to Deuteronomy and read about God’s injunction to Moses. Seek justice, only justice, seek Justice, Only Justice.”

Mr. Findley, who spoke on the theme, “They Dare To Speak Out”, added that 9/11 led to our Government’s terrible over reaction in my opinion, with the curtailment of civil liberties that have been so important in our national life, that we have striven for over the centuries to bring into being and in strength. In violation of the Constitution, a frightened congress gave the president and the president alone the right to make war any place he deems it necessary. He alone will be the judge. War making has become in violation of the spirit of the constitution and the President will be given the personal opportunity to alter pubic policy, today’s doctrines that have been important to personal life.”

He challenged Muslims to take steps to end the bias against Islam and speak about Islam and suggested that Muslims attend church and talk to their neighbors about Islam which is not a vengeful faith, with a vengeful god. He expressed alarm over the fact that his neighbors believe Muslims condone terrorism, and that Muslims have a vengeful God and that “Muslims want to alter, if not to abolish the constitution. He added that the level of ignorance and misinformation of Islam is enormous.

He said it was this ‘false image of Islam which allows Israel to defend its position, using some of the examples being perpetuated as a reason for its treatment of the Palestinians.”

The world knows that Israel has made a puppet of the United States government., and quoted a great Israeli citizen who said America rules the world and Israel rules America.

Against a background of repeated cheers from the audience, Mr. Findley observed that there was goodwill for America among the Muslim community world-wide. “A few years ago, the Muslim world adored America and the Government. Then came disappointment, then came outrage, and then came fury and even hatred. For 35 years, with unconditional backing from the U.S. Government, Israel has humiliated and brutalized the Palestinians and the mistreatment today is worse than ever before. For 35 years, the U.S. Government has been hand in glove with Israel.

“Most Americans seem unaware of this guilt, this complicity on the part of the U.S. Government but believe me, most of the rest of the world knows exactly what is happening. Believe me when Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians are dehumanized, the 1.2 billion Muslims world wide, have a similar pain because they are brothers and sisters,” he said.

“When Palestinians are being fenced off like a bunch of camels, as they are now, and are subject to endless curfews, it hurts Muslims world wide and many other non Muslims like myself,” Mr. Findley said.

He referred to the President’s recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon but (the President) says nothing about bringing justice to the Palestinians, “he seems not to realize that the agony of the Palestinians is a world wide problem, recognized as such, but seems oblivious to the fact that the US government, not just Israel, but the US government is blamed for this sad state of affairs.”

He had hoped that America would have emerged from the Vietnam experience in good spirit and true to its expressions. “Look at America today. I strived to liberate America from subservience. For 35 years its subservience has led America astray. It has proved to be a corrupting influence on Judaism, Israel and America. The people who defend Israel with every twist and turn with policies and activities should realize the humiliation that they have brought upon the Palestinian people.”

The former Congressman said “the consequences of our bias towards Israel and against Arabs and Muslims has had horrific consequences already. The first casualty which began almost 35 years ago, was free speech on the development of Middle East policy.”

“I know, I was in Congress for 22 years, I was on the Committee that developed the policy for the Middle East and I can say that there has never been anything that can truly be called free speech, free expression, free exchange of ideas. All Congress has done during that time and still does is to consider what Israel wants, and what Israel wants from Washington, Israel gets.”

Mr. Findley observed that there have been many casualties over the years, another one of which is the end to fairness and balance in Middle East policy. He noted also that there has been the stifling of free speech on Middle East policy as well as the absence of Civil liberties here at home which followed 9/11.

He urged the participants to bring out the truth about Islam to the American people adding that wonderful things will happen at every turn of the road “as you remove false images and as you do, you will help Muslims to enjoy their lives and who will help all of America. Never give up.

Mr. served for 22 years as a Member of the U.S. Congress from Illinois and is author of such best sellers as “They Dare to Speak,” and “Silent No More” and is the author of numerous humanitarian awards. He was later presented with a plaque in recognition of his support for CAIR.

In his remarks, Mr. Ahmad spoke of the efforts by CAIR to reach out to non Muslims, giving Mr. Findley as one example,. He said that there are many people who are working in association with CAIR to improve relations with the American people and cautioned that two years after Sept. 11, Muslims are now beginning to discover themselves and are beginning to find their place in this country and to define “who we are and what we stand for.”

He referred to the challenges facing Muslims in America and added that “we are beginning to understand what is our role in this country. Muslims are not about to become millionaires or have 50 or 60 members in the U.S. Congress, but have to go back to basics and should draw a lesson from the Prophet Muhammad (OWBP) when he was forced to flee Mecca, returning some 10 years later victorious.

“Despite the challenges facing us today, I am optimistic. As a community, we are improving, we are fighting back, we are defending our fundamental rights and we are starting to open up to others. There are many people who are willing to open their hearts to us and we have encouraged Muslims to open their Mosques to non Muslims who can come and visit”, he added.

He lamented the fact that Muslims are not taking advantage of the opportunities before them to explain their religion to others, and should ask themselves “How can we help America, instead of what we can benefit from America” We have to become the bridge between America and the Muslim world and should not be afraid to criticize those Muslim countries which have dictatorships, where women have no rights and where some rule without democracy and no freedom of religion.”

Mr. Ahmad criticized those professed scholars and writers who have misled the nation on the religion of Islam, adding that some of their comments and articles were not only baseless, but totally inaccurate and false.

Mr. Parvez Ahmad, CAIR-FL Board Chairman told the audience that the relationship forged today will “help us through some of the difficult times and help us enjoy the good time ahead as throughout America’s rich history, there has been no constant, striking in its simplicity but profound in its impact.” He added that the struggle to define America’s liberty and citizenship rights and freedom continues and CAIR recognizes that it is part of a distinguished tradition of Americans. “Our aim is to provide a moral, ethical and legal framework to prevent the incursions of our liberty. We do not underestimate the urgency for securing our country against terrorism and do take seriously, our responsibilities towards our freedom. The price of freedom remains eternal vigilance, and vigilant we are today’.

He outlined some of the activities of CAIR over the past year and highlighted the challenges the organization faced following the arrest of three Medical students and the arrest and detention of Tampa Podiatrist Dr. Harold Goldstein, and lamented the fact that even though the Podiatrist was held with enough arms and ammunition to blow up 50 Islamic Mosques and Centers he was not charged as a terrorist.

A proclamation from the Mayor of Broward, Diana Wesserman-Rubin, was read by Mr. Robert Foulkes , Chair, Multi-Ethnic Advisory Board, Broward County Commission. Declaring August 2, 2003, As CAIR Appreciation Day in Broward County, Florida.

The proclamation read: “Whereas, the Florida Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations is a non profit grass-roots membership organization with its local office in Broward County Florida, and whereas

The Council on American Islamic Relations is the largest Muslim Civil Rights organization in the country with 18 offices across the country, and whereas the mission of CAIR-Florida, is to present an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to to the American public, and whereas:

CAIR-Florida seeks to empower the Muslim community in America through political and social activism and whereas:

CAIR-Florida advocates dialogue between different faiths and encourages substantive inter-action between faith-based communities both in America and across the world, and whereas

CAIR-Florida seeks to educate Muslims about their responsibilities of citizenship and about their rights as citizens and residents of the United States of America, and their responsibilities of civic duties, and whereas:

CAIR-Florida supports freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and whereas:

CAIR-Florida supports domestic policies that promotes civil rights and accommodates diversities which reflect America’s diverse population and whereas:

CAIR-Florida is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of faith, and advocates on behalf of those who are discriminated against because of their beliefs, and whereas:

CAIR-Florida opposes domestic policies that limits civil rights, prevent Ethnic Organizations profiling, infringe on due process, or that prevents Muslims from full participation in American civic rights, and whereas:

CAIR-Florida, is the national ally of groups, religious or secular, that advocates justice and human rights in America and around the world, and whereas:

CAIR –Florida believes that Islam, with its emphasis on self-sufficiency, charity and community service, strengthen America’s social and religious fabric, and whereas:

CAIR-Florida rejects and condemns all forms of terrorism, of any individual, group or State, NOW therefore:

Be It Proclaimed by the Board of County Commissioners of Broward County Board, that the Board decree Saturday, August 2nd, 2003, As Council on American Islamic Relations Appreciation Day in Broward County, Florida.

Master of Ceremonies Ahmed Bedier, who is CAIR’s Communication Director noted that CAIR can never repay some of the individuals who have supported and helped the organization in its work and therefore was showing its appreciation by the presentation of a number of awards.

He called on CAIR-Florida Director Altaf Ali to make the first presentation to Michael Mayo News Columnist for the Sun Sentinel. Ali said it was an honor and privilege to read some of the columns written by Mr. Mayo and handed over a plaque to him.

Mr. Mayo expressed appreciation to CAIR and Altaf for the gift which he felt he did not deserve as he was only doing his job and paid tribute to the organization as well as Ali for the work they are doing. “I have nothing but positive experiences and respect for the work of CAIR and Altaf”, he said. Mr. Mayo lamented the situation in South Florida where there were bickering, divisiveness and hate, adding “I try to rise above this, as I am for open and constructive dialogue.

“I am bothered as an American and I think everybody here who is American and who love their country, watched with shock and horror the events of Sept. 11 and then the aftermath also has brought other events, some of which are understandable, others incomprehensible and I think it is the role and duty of the Press to question and look into what we are doing as a country and what we are doing within the country.”

Mr. Mayo noted that the theme of the Banquet was “Liberty and Justice for All” and added that “right now I am troubled by the things going on, secret evidence, secret detentions, secret reports and that is not the America that I grew up with, and I love this country but am troubled with some of the things happening”.

He referred to the case of Jose Padilla, an American, who the Government claimed is an Al Qaeda member and who was planning a number of activities, was taken into detention 15 months ago and “I want justice for him.”

Mr. Mayo added that if Padilla was a member of Al Qaeda and was planning to heap violence and destruction on this country, I want justice but in my world, justice means the rule of law. “Justice means you charge him, he should have access to a lawyer, and you bring him into open court, and have him judged by a jury of his peers” Mayo said to the cheers of the audience. “Justice does not mean locking him up and throwing away the keys, so I am troubled by that. So again, I do not know if he is guilty or not, all I know is that her has not been charged with anything and I think it is about time that we get to the bottom of it.”, he added.

He called for open dialogue with members of the Muslim community, adding that he wants to hear from them and to talk with them.

Before the Community Service Award was presented to Mr. Foulkes, Altaf Ali paid tribute to him as a “friend of the Muslim community.”. “This individual, brothers and sisters and friends, is an honorable man and if there is one voice for the Muslims, it is Roland Foulkes”.

In accepting the award Mr. Foulkes began by saying…”In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” which was part of the inscription in the Plaque. In a short address, he referred to a move by some members of the School Board in Broward to exclude CAIR and all Muslim Organizations from being involved in any activities in the school district.

The move, Mr. Foulkes said, arose from a video which Altaf Ali prepared for schools in Broward, highlighting some of the concerns which students may be having during this time of conflict, “and I felt that was wrong and still feel so.”

“On the night of July 10, the meeting at which the motion was to be considered, was packed by Muslims and it was not surprising that it was withdrawn, but the motion can be brought up again, and therefore I urge you to be vigilant, as the motion can be brought up again,” Mr. Foulkes said.

CAIR-FL Director Altaf Ali then presented Robert Steinback, Editorial Columnist of the Miami Herald, with an Excellence of Journalism Award.

In accepting the award, Mr. Steinback said since 9/11 it has been a difficult time for all Americans and while thee has been a lot of change of “our perceptions, I am not sure that this has changed us for the better.”

“Sept. 11 should have been a time for us to reaffirm our faith in the principles that have made us a great nation over the years, for example, commitment to justice and freedom, the rule of law and the value of life and liberty,” adding that “we have to be sure that our fear does not change who we are, but that we have to be stronger about being who we already are.”

Throughout his short speech, Mr. Steinback stressed the need for upholding principles, adding that sometimes the principle is even more important than self. “I would rather die first for my country than kill first” he continued. “We are all on this mission together to expand and enhance the principles which must guide our actions, and the only thing to fear is fear itself”.

Mr. Mark Schlakman, of the Center for Advancement of Human Rights also spoke at the function urging understanding and commitment to justice and peace, a point echoed by the Master of Ceremonies, Ahmed Bedier, who is the Communications Director of CAIR.

He urged members of the Muslim community to respond to inaccuracies in the press and not allow such reports to go unanswered.

During the dinner, a video presentation was shown and was well received by the audience, many of whom expressed satisfaction with the contents. Some aspects were devoted to CAIR’s activities and highlighting some of the challenges which the organization faced during this year.

 


 

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