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Issue 286, Friday 22 February 2013 - 12 Rabi' al-Akhar 1434

Brief Islamophobia USA

Muslim Air Force vet barred from boarding flight

A Muslim US Air Force veteran, who had trouble entering the country last year to visit his ailing mother, was barred on February 6 from boarding a flight in Oklahoma City to return to his home in Qatar.

Saadiq Long attempted to board a Delta flight at Will Rogers World Airport but was denied a boarding pass.

“I think about three police officers arrived after that,” Long said. “It was very, very strange, by the way, and very intimidating.”

A US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent told Long he couldn’t board a plane but did not give him a specific reason, Long said.

Director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Adam Soltani who had joined Long for his departure, said they asked, “Well, who do we contact?” They then were referred to the FBI, Soltani said.

Long said his lawyer has attempted to reach the FBI, which maintains a no-fly list.

TSA spokesman David Castelveter said: “The TSA does not confirm whether someone is or is not on the no-fly list, as that list is maintained by the FBI.”

Long said he had been visiting his mother, who suffers from congestive heart failure, for several months. He was attempting to return to Qatar, where he lives with his wife and children and teaches English. He intended to travel via Amsterdam.

Long said last year he also had difficulty entering the country and that the FBI harassed him and his sister after his arrival. The harassment stopped after Long requested a Department of Justice inquiry, Soltani said.

Long said he plans to stay in Oklahoma City until the FBI instructs him on what he can do to fly. He said he needs to get back soon to support his family.

“Two months and they still can’t tell me why I can’t fly,” he said. “Of course, I’m willing to go through whatever it takes.”

Policeman photographed mocking Somali’s in hijab

A Minnesota police department was forced to open an investigation after a photo of two its officers mocking hijab wearing Somali women went viral this month.

The first photo surfaced on Twitter on February 3 depicting K-9 officer Robert Buth dressed as a Somali Target employee in a red hijab. The second photo surfaced on February 6 on an anonymous Twitter account, was e-mailed anonymously to police Chief Thomas Smith and gained more momentum on Twitter.

In the second image, as of yet unidentified officer is wearing an orange jilbaab and what appears to be blackface makeup. Police said it’s unclear if the second officer was a sworn officer at the time the photo was taken, apparently in 2010. It appeared to originate on Facebook before it landed on Twitter.

The photos, apparently taken at parties in 2010 and 2012, have set off a storm of criticism from Somali and Muslim community members who feel belittled by the images.

St Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter slammed the officers’ behaviours. “The actions of the officers depicted in these photos are offensive and embarrassing,” said Carter. “Mocking culture, skin color and religion for a laugh may seem trivial, but any behavior that violates the sacred, essential trust between our officers and residents is reckless and inexcusable.”

Although St Paul officials have not commented on whether the officer is wearing blackface makeup, many community members believe he is, said Lori Saroya, Executive Ddirector of the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations. “We’re getting a lot of calls from the community,” she said. “I think it’s a lot more serious. It just opens a whole other door.”

Muslim family say they were shot at because of their faith

An Oklahoma City family whose house was shot at during a drive-by on January 31 evening think they were targeted because of their Muslim faith.

According to the family a stranger drove by Allie and Maryam Taghavi’s home on January 29 and asked their 21-year-old son the family’s religion.

A sign hung on the porch and visible from the road said, “as-salamu alaykum,” a phrase used by Muslims meaning “peace be with you.”

Allie Taghavi was home with three of his adult children when shots were fired around 7:45 pm.

“I screamed when I heard the shots, but it was so rapid...like firecrackers,” he said.

Allie Taghavi ran from his bedroom into his 23-year-old daughter’s room where a bullet had pierced a wall a few feet away from where she was sitting.

Seconds later, shots were fired into the bedroom just to the south where Allie Taghavi had been. One bullet crossed the width of his bedroom and passed into a bathroom where it lodged in the wall.

No one was injured in the incident. The family fled its home after police cleared the scene a few hours later.

Family members said they don’t plan to return.

FBI asked to investigate agents who allegedly intimidated Somali man

A leading Minnesota Muslim support group has asked the FBI to investigate claims its agents repeatedly tried to intimidate a Somali man.

Executive director of the CAIR-MN Lori Saroya said the Somali accuser alleges that two FBI agents tried several times to enlist him as an undercover informant. When the man refused their offers, the agents allegedly threatened the man.

“They told him they would spread a picture of him all over the community. And after they did that, everyone in the community would be scared to talk to him,” Saroya said.

An FBI spokesman confirmed an investigation has been launched.

“We consider that community to be a vital partner in some of our efforts. Obviously, we strive to maintain the strength of that relationship,” said an FBI spokesman

Over the last several years the FBI has investigated links between local Somalis and the terrorist group al-Shabab. The Government believes more than 20 Twin Cities men have travelled to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab.

Michigan Supreme Court rejects appeal in mosque controversy

The Michigan Supreme Court will not hear an appeal over the sale of a Detroit-area school for a mosque and Islamic community centre.

In an order released on February 2, the court said a September decision by the appeals court in favour of the Farmington school district will stand.

The Islamic Cultural Association bought the vacant Eagle Elementary School in West Bloomfield Township in 2011. An Oakland County judge and the appeals court have rejected some residents’ claims that the deal was corrupt and secretive.

The Islamic Association has said opponents are unfairly targeting people over their Muslim faith. The West Bloomfield Planning Commission has not taken action on the proposed mosque.

McDonald's pays out $700k to Muslim community after falsely claimed its food was halal.

McDonald’s has agreed to pay out $700,000 to members of Michigan’s Muslim community last month after one of its restaurants allegedly wrongly claimed to be serving halal food.

The situation came to light after local resident Ahmed Ahmed said he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 in a franchise restaurant in the Dearborn neighbourhood of Detroit.

He claims he later discovered the food was not halal, despite signs in the restaurant suggesting it was.

There are two McDonald’s restaurants in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, both of which sell halal food for one of the largest Muslim communities in the US.

A letter sent to McDonald’s and Finley’s Management by lawyers said Ahmed had “confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory” that the restaurant had sold non-halal food “on many occasions”.

After they claimed to have received no response to the letter, Ahmed’s lawyers filed a lawsuit as part of a class action.

McDonald’s reportedly agreed to the tentative $700,000 settlement, with the money to be shared by Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.

McDonald’s and Finley’s Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests. The preliminary deal is expected to be finalised on March 1.

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