PROMISES FOR STRONGER MUSLIM POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AT THE AMC'S 8TH ANNUAL CONVENTION
On May 6, 1999 the American Muslim Council launched its 8th annual convention at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC, where lobbying sessions were held with several AMC activists and congressional experts and assistants. In a briefing for the lobbying session, Randa Fahmy, counselor for Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI); Suhail Khan, press secretary of Congressman Tom Campbell (R-CA); Leah Khaghani, staff assistant to Congressman David Bonior (D-MI); Kamal Nawash, legal adviser to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); and Kosovo representative Bekim Hasani all advised would-be lobbyists of the American Muslim community on how to make their voices heard in American politics. On the specifics of the principal issue to be discussed with members of Congress, the speakers focused on the dangers of the unconstitutional use of secret evidence in 25 current cases of individuals being held in prison with no charges. Although they represent different members of Congress from both parties, Fahmy, Khan and Khaghani noted that all three congressmen stand very strongly against the use of secret evidence.
In a lobbying debriefing session, AMC director Aly R. Abuzaakouk asked members to call their representatives in Congress and ask them to support the return of Kosovar refugees to their homes and to request humanitarian aid be sent to Iraq. At the session, activists complained about the absence of an umbrella organization to work for both domestic and foreign issues that are of major concern to the American Muslim community in the U.S. In his response, Abuzaakouk confirmed the birth of such an organization (the American Muslim Political Coordination Council) and advised AMC members to subscribe to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, where they can find the most recent coverage of Congress and of American Muslim activism in the U.S.
At a Capitol Hill dinner, several members of Congress expressed their support for American Muslim concerns. "We have things in our history we are not proud of in this country," said House Democratic floor leader Bonior, referring to the use of secret evidence against members of i the American Muslim community. Senator Abraham, a Christian Arab American, also criticized the use of secret evidence and airport profiling and expressed his support for NATO military action to protect the Kosovars and for sending humanitarian aid to Iraq. "We will continue to be there for your community," he said. Representative Campbell noted that "we [in Congress] have to recognize that there are people in Palestine who have the right to their own land." Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) said, "As a Jew, I am very much against ethnic cleansing." She promised to support sending aid to the refugees in Kosovo. Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL); John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI); John Dingell (D-MI); Rush Holt (D-N J); Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD); Dale Kildee (D-MI); Jim McDermott (D-WA); Jim Moran (D-VA); Nick Rahall (R-WV); and Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) all voiced support for the American Muslim community and its issues.
After a White House briefing with National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, the convention convened at the Sheraton Hotel in Crystal City, VA with a session on "International Policy on Iraq." Founder of Voices in the Wilderness, Kathy Kelly, told heartbreaking stories of Iraqi children dying because of the sanctions. "Sanctions themselves function as a weapon of mass destruction," she said. She invited members of Congress and the executive branch to join Voices in the Wilderness in a visit to Iraq. "Is there one congressman who will go over to Iraq and look at what eight and a half years of sanctions have done to the Iraqi people?" she asked. She criticized the cynicism of the U.S. government concerning the suffering of the Iraqi people. …