ISNA Civil Rights Panel

Article excerpt

A Saturday afternoon, Aug. 31 ISNA panel examined Muslim civil rights post 9/11--one of many panel discussions on this vital topic. After an introduction stressing that the concepts of justice and peace were inherent to Islam, Jean AbiNader of the Arab American Institute (standing in for James Zogby, who was unable to attend) averred that laws against immigrants were not new in the U.S. He stated that the "federal government bears direct responsibility along with Fox (News) and others for discrimination, and can't tell Americans not to discriminate while making discriminatory laws."

Though his father was a Lebanese Christian, AbiNader said, he read the Qur'an every day to his children because it was part of his heritage and he would not deny it. Concomitantly, AbiNader said, the U.S. works because people share dreams, and Arab and Muslim Americans bless the country with the heritage they bring to it.

He asked the audience to build broad coalitions with other groups, and to attend a civil rights rally led by Rev. Jesse Jackson on Sept 13. AbiNader advised the crowd not to stay home on Sept 11, as this would allow others to define the Arab and Muslim community in this country, but to define it themselves, because, he said, it is immigrant communities who are America.

To that end AbiNader listed four concrete things his audience should do: 1) not hide on 9/11; 2) donate money to Arab/Muslim political action committees--pointing out that AIPAC had a budget of $72 million while six major Arab and Muslim groups in Washington, DC, including CAIR and AAI, had a combined budget of $8 million; 3) vote; and, finally, 4) adopt prisoners of conscience to ensure they are not forgotten. …