Brooklyn mosque row reflects wider tensions – BBC – May 10, 2011

Brooklyn mosque row reflects wider tensions

By Laura Trevelyan BBC News, New York

Mosque site
Some argue the row over the Sheepshead Bay mosque is the latest sign of US “Islamophobia”
Inside a Brooklyn courtroom on Tuesday, the latest confrontation between Muslim Americans wanting to build a mosque and protesters wishing to stop construction unfolded.

“Equal and exact justice to all men,” read the words of US President Thomas Jefferson, inscribed on the court’s wall.

Assembled in the packed courtroom were different residents from Sheepshead Bay – some Muslim Americans, others from a group called Bay People who were applying for an injunction to halt the construction of a mosque in their neighbourhood.

The nation founded on the principle of freedom of religious worship is seeing disputes from Tennessee to New York’s Staten Island, as Muslims wishing to build places of worship run into opposition – almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks.

The most high profile case was the Islamic centre to be built close to Ground Zero in Manhattan – now it was the turn of what critics call the Brooklyn “mega-mosque”.

Racism dispute

If the mosque in Sheepshead Bay were built, traffic, parking difficulties and the noise of the call to prayer would be disruptive, Bay People has claimed.

“The neighbourhood residents are mostly of Italian/Russian/Jewish/Irish descent and will not benefit from having a mosque and a Muslim community centre,” the group’s website states.

But others accuse the organisation of a thinly-veiled anti-Muslim agenda.

Albert Butzel, the lawyer representing Bay People, told the Judge Mark Partnow: “Despite the defendant’s claim that the basis for our opposition is racism, that is simply not the case. ”

Mr Butzel said the opposition to the mosque arose from its location in the middle of a residential, low-rise area.

The same arguments would apply to a church or synagogue, he said.

The “invasive facility”, three stories high, would create traffic problems, as it would not have off-street parking.

“We believe zoning regulations have been violated but the department of buildings does not,” said Mr Butzel.

For the defence, lawyer Lamis Deek said a “terrorising environment” had been created for the Muslim community in Sheepshead Bay.

Barack Obama lays a wreath at Ground Zero The death of Osama Bin Laden is said to have stirred some incidents of anti-Muslim sentiment

After Osama Bin Laden’s killing, graffiti reading “He’s Dead” went up at the construction site.

The case was motivated by “racism and hatred”, Ms Deek said.

In the same neighbourhood, a third of a mile (0.5km) away, was a much larger church, without off-street parking, and a synagogue that’s under construction.

“Why not have rallies and protests against the church and the synagogue that’s nearly built?” asked Ms Deek, who pointed out that there were two six-storey buildings directly behind the site of the mosque.

Case thrown out

After both sides had made their case, Judge Mark Partnow announced that based on the evidence, the application to halt construction of the mosque had been denied – to loud applause from the mosque’s supporters.

“I’m so pleased, I’m beyond relieved,” said Huwaida Mansoor, a young Muslim American woman from Sheepshead Bay.

“My daughter saw that graffiti after Osama Bin Laden’s death, and I had to explain it all to her. It’s so sad that you have to do that,” Diana Mohamed said.

She added: “I’m happy with the result. Living with the protesters and hearing what they say, seeing those signs, the hateful looks, it’s really bad, we just want to live peacefully.”

Lenny Nor was disappointed by the judge’s ruling.

“My window is across from the construction. We are worried about where they will all park,” Mr Nor said.

“There’s no racism. The problem is they’re playing the anti-Muslim card,” said another man from Sheepshead Bay, who didn’t want to give his name.

Lamis Deek

Nationwide conflict

This is an issue which goes far beyond a Brooklyn courtroom.

Muslim Americans building places of worship are encountering fierce opposition across America, where freedom of religious expression is a constitutional right.

The Sheepshead Bay case has attracted prominent US critics of Islam, like the blogger Pamela Geller, who played a leading role in the protests against the proposed Ground Zero Islamic Center.

Ms Geller takes issue with the Muslim American Society, the group backing the Sheepshead Bay mosque.

“It’s a proxy of the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organisation,” she says.

She adds: “They’re violating building codes, yet the city, and government officials are in the tank on these issues, it’s political correctness.”

“They’re trying to establish a rabat, a beachhead, in a small residential neighbourhood.”

Ms Deek told the BBC that the idea that Muslims were foreigners no matter how long they had lived in a neighbourhood was racism, intensified by the political environment.

But she sensed a change, as Muslims assert their constitutional right to freedom of worship.

“The Muslim community is tired of being victimised,” Ms Deek said.

While local opponents of the Sheepshead Bay mosque state their opposition in terms of noise concerns, national critics of Islam see its construction as yet another encroachment by what they believe is a repressive ideology.

Muslim Americans are determined to stand up for their rights. Bin Laden’s death has done nothing to lessen the mutual suspicion between the different sides.

Debbie Almontaser, of the Muslim Consultative Network, a group advising Sheepshead Bay Muslims, says Muslim Americans will stand up for those rights against what she calls a national epidemic stemming from Islamophobia.

Remembering Furkan Dogan – New Left Notes/Desertpeace – March 3, 2011

Remembering Furkan Dogan
Commentary by Chippy Dee, Photos © by Bud Korotzer
March 3, 2011 – Desertpeace
Late last week there was a meeting at The Commons on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn that few attending will ever forget.  Organized by Al-Awda, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild and several other groups, the speakers were Professor Ahmet Dogan of Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey – the father of Furkan Dogan, the 19 year old Turkish-American who was one of the 9 humanitarian aid workers murdered on the Mavi Marmara when Israeli commandos attacked the flotilla on it’s way to Gaza last May, Lamis Deek, Palestinian lawyer and activist, Dima Abi Saab, co-chair of Al-Awda, Katherine Gallagher, Sr. Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Felice Gelman from the US Boat to Gaza Campaign.
Deek spoke first saying that the tragedy on the Mavi Marmara was part of a long history of violence against Palestinians and their supporters perpetrated by the “rogue Israeli regime”.  The rights of Palestinians have been abused from the very beginning.  After the Goldstone Report, issued as a result of the violence that took place during Operation Cast Lead against the people of Gaza, Israel tried to get international law changed so that they would not be held liable.  Israel is able to do whatever it wants and face no consequences because the US protects it from any punishment.  Now efforts are being made in this country to stop people from supporting justice for Palestine by using the “material support” statute against them.  According to a recent Supreme Court ruling material support is now being interpreted to include words in support of people or organizations.  Essentially it nullifies the 1st Amendment.  Deek pointed out that we all face danger because we have lost the right to freedom of speech.
Abi Saab, speaking next, said that Furkan was killed because he loved justice and there are no meaningful words of comfort that we can offer his family.  She pledged that we will continue to work for justice in Palestine and to “expose the racist Zionists”.
Then Professor Dogan began to speak.  He spoke quietly and the packed room fell silent.  Nobody moved, all were intent on hearing every word.  He said he wanted to give some information about his son who was born in Troy, NY while he was studying there.  The family returned to Turkey when Furkan was 3 years old.  While a high school student he became very interested in humanitarian issues in Gaza.  Furkan had a huge heart – he worried about the pains of others.  While in his final term in high school he heard about the flotilla to Gaza campaign.  He wanted to go very badly but his parents reminded him that he had another priority, graduating.  But Furkan took his exams early and got into the best medical school in Turkey – he wanted to be an eye surgeon and then go to Africa to work with the people there.  He had wanted to go see Troy because he was born there and then visit friends in Chicago but all that changed when he learned about the flotilla.  He asked his parents for permission to go.  They knew how bad the situation in Gaza was but didn’t want to crush Furkan’s strong humanitarian instincts.  They finally agreed that they couldn’t reject his request.  They also thought that he would be safe because he would be using his American passport.
Furkan pushed the IHH organizers to accept him – he was relentless.  Finally he was the last person chosen and he was very happy and excited.  Furkan bought toys to bring to the children in Gaza with his own money.  There was a good bye ceremony in their city.  The last contact that Professor Dogan had with his son was a request from Furkan to rush documents that were needed by the Turkish authorities which he forgot to bring.  The father called to tell him that he had done as he was asked and that he, Furkan, was accepted to attend medical school. Furkan was overjoyed.
On May 31st at 4 AM his wife heard news of the Israeli attack and began to scream.  They were very frightened having never expected a military attack.  The father’s voice broke, he paused a moment, wiped away a tear, and then continued the story.
The next morning the parents tried to get information about what had happened but nobody knew anything, including the American Embassy.  They hoped he was OK, thinking that he was probably sleeping on one of the lower decks.
On June 3, 2020 the Turkish government sent a plane to pick up all the people in the flotilla who were being held in an Israeli prison.  The parents went to Istanbul with clean clothes to greet their son.  The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a list of all the passengers – Furkan was not on the list.  His parents assumed that it was a mistake and waited by the gate for their child to disembark.  He didn’t.  Since he was a US citizen they thought he might be elsewhere.  Again they called the American Embassy and got no information.
The next morning they learned that there were 2 unidentified bodies at the morgue.  They went there as a formality not expecting Furkan to be there.  “He was and I identified him.”  The father continued his narrative, ‘I saw his face.  He was shot 3 times, between his eyes and near his nose.  We took him home for burial.  100,000 people came to his funeral.’
The autopsy report said that he was shot 3 times in the back and then turned over and shot in the face.  “They deliberately murdered my son.”  Furkan had come on deck with his camera to photograph the attack.  What they did was “unacceptable”.  No human could do that in international waters in the middle of the night.  “My son was executed with a US weapon”.
He explained that he was here to search for a legal remedy.  “I want to know what is the US planning to do about this?”  There is an ongoing investigation in Turkey and at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, but nothing in the US.
Katherine Gallagher, acting as Ahmet Dogan’s attorney, said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the murder of Furkan an  ”extra-legal, arbitrary, and summary execution” and reiterated that the Gaza blockade was illegal.  Further, the report stated that in Gaza 80% of the people need assistance, 45% are unemployed, and 90% of the factories are closed.  The destruction that Israel caused is massive. The boats in the flotilla could have been stopped without the attack.  The US is the only country in the world that voted against the report.
It was determined that Felice Gelman should give her report from the US Boat to Gaza Campaign before the Q & A session.  She said that 5,000 people had contributed but they still have to raise a little more money.  There will definitely be a US boat named Audacity of Hope in the next flotilla which will be sailing in May and will have boats representing 22 countries from all over the globe.  During Israeli Apartheid Week, coming soon, there will be 20 activities connected to the flotilla.  She concluded her report by assuring the professor that we will all always honor his son and what he tried to accomplish.
Many people had questions but some just wanted to say something about Furkan.  One audience member thanked Professor and Mrs. Dogan for raising such an extraordinary son who will remain part of us forever.  Two others said that when they were on the Viva Palestina 5 humanitarian aid to Gaza convoy they went to Furkan’s high school for a ceremony in his honor.  They added that there was not a dry eye to be seen.  Another, representing a peace group in Jersey City, presented him with a framed Certificate of Honor and a portrait of Furkan that they made for him.  As these people spoke there was a visible diminishment of the stress on the father’s face.  He seemed to realize that he was among people who were very deeply moved by his son and just as deeply outraged by what had been done to him.  The proud father said, let me tell you something else about my son, and he recounted stories of his beautiful child’s kindness and generosity, his genuine caring for people in need giving whatever he had to them.  He would never give his old clothes away, only his new ones.
One questioner asked what the legal process was in the US about this case.  Gallagher said that one possibility was asking the US to investigate “war crimes”  The Department of Justice could begin a criminal investigation because one of the ships, Challenger 1, was American.  Civil action, however, would be difficult.  As of this moment there is no ongoing litigation in the US.  This country has made it clear that their relationship with Israel is more important than protection of it’s citizens.  Turkey has pushed the UN to take action.  Turkey has also created a Panel of Inquiry which wrote a report.  They are requesting an apology and compensation from Israel as well as the return of confiscated property.  Witness statements and autopsy reports have been collected.  All military cooperation between Turkey and Israel has been canceled.
As the meeting concluded the organizers gave some ‘movement’ t-shirts to the Professor.  He smiled and said that his other 2 children would be happy to wear them.  Furkan was his youngest.
No one at the Commons that cold February night will forget the gentle but anguished voice of the father recounting the painful story of what had happened to his cherished child.  Tragically we can multiply this story thousands of times over when we think of what is being done to the children of Palestine every day while the rest of the world stands silently by.

Arabic culture and Islamic religion put on trial in al-Moayed, Zayde case, American lawyers – Yemen Observer – August 17, 2009

Written By: Zaid al-Alaya’a

Article Date: Aug 17, 2009 – 9:53:44 PM

YEMEN – The conviction of Sheikh Mohammad al-Moayed and Sheikh Mohammad Zayde was secured by an arrogant and ignorant prosecution, said Lamis Deek, a Palestanina-American lawyer on the defense team of al-Moayed and Zayde last Sunday.
In a press conference organized by the al-Moayed and Zayde defense team, Deek said that the prosecution of the two put to trial first and foremost the Arabic language, Arab culture, and the Muslim religion; creating in that courtroom day and day again an atmosphere of irrational fear of  the Arab man and Arab society.
“The victory was not just for their own rights, but a victory for the rights of all people including the American people. They secured a victory not only for their own rights, but a victory for the rights of all people, including the American people,” said Deek.
Deek said that they welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which overturned their conviction as a testament to the egregious trial practices. This case is a critical step towards restoring our fundamental and constitutional right to a fair and unbiased trial to all Americans.
“Sheikh Mohammad al-Moayed and Sheikh Mohammad Zayde pled only to agreeing – not actually to giving – but only to agreeing to accept American money which they would then attempt to give to Hamas. And while they did not directly acknowledge that Hamas was a terrorist organization, they did acknowledge that Hamas engages in politically motivated acts of violence.

They pled guilty to planning to fund a party that is supported and welcomed in Yemen, to an act that by Yemeni standards is an honor, not a crime. In accepting this plea, and by their great sacrifice, they stood against the criminalization of the Palestinian resistance to occupation,” said Deek.
On responding to the medical situation of al-Moayed, Deek said that the inhumane conditions, solitary confinement, and the gross medical neglect of a torturous life under the mercy of the bureau-prisons have destroyed the physical health of Sheikh Mohammad al-Moayed.
Tina Foster, another female Iranian-American lawyer with the International Justice Network, an organization who is working with the Hood Organization here in Sana’a, and other human rights activists, have been working to end the suffering and human rights abuses that continue to be inflicted on Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo.
“Through these efforts, on January 20th of this year, President Obama – in virtually his first act as President of the United States – promised to close Guantanamo Bay. All of us who have worked in this struggle had renewed hope by this, and it seemed that the end of former president Bush’s illegal and unjust action in the so-called ‘War on Terror’ would finally come to an end,” said Foster.
Foster said that their struggle is far from being over, as almost one hundred Yemeni detainees remain at Guantanamo and continue to be subjected to unfair and inhuman treatment at the hands of the United States government.
Foster said, regarding the acts of torture on prisoners in Guantanamo – which President Obama promised close, it appears that now that the injustices of Guantanamo are being perpetuated at an even worse prison – the prison run by the United States military at Baghram Airbase in Afghanistan.

“Our clients, Fadi al-Makaleh and Amin al-Bakari, are to this day on strike at Baghram. Both were kidnapped by the United States and have been tortured in secret US prisons and they remain at Baghram, being held without access to any court of law or any lawyers or any access to justice,” said Foster.
After three years of legal battles on these cases, in April of this past year a federal judge finally ruled for the first time that Guantanamo detainees and Baghram detainees – these two clients in particular – have the right to have their cases heard in US courts.
But to the great disappointment of the al-Moayed defense team, President Obama is now challenging this and has appealed to the Court of Appeals. The case will be heard later this year in Washington D.C. in the Court of Appeals.
There can no longer be any doubt that President Obama wishes to use Baghram in the same way that President Bush used Guantanamo.
“Obviously this concern should be for all of us, as the Obama administration continues to maintain the right to kidnap our Muslim brothers from anywhere in the world and hold them indefinitely without access to justice. In addition there are people in the United States, such as our Yemeni brother Abad al-Fakeeh, who is currently serving an excessive and severe sentence in the United States for the most minor of technical offences,” said Foster.
According to Foster, there are thousands of other American Muslim prisoners being held in outrageous conditions.
“Addressing you here today and sitting next to my freed client Mohammad Zayde has been the greatest honor of my legal career. I must thank the Yemeni people for their warm welcome and for keeping the struggle alive on behalf of these two heroes who are finally returned to you. I also need to thank the Committee for the great honor of having served as their representative in the United States,” concluded Foster.
Sheikh al-Moayed didn’t attend the press conference due to his deteriorating health, so his aide, Mohammed Zayde, expressed his delight over their freedom and return to their country.
Zayde thanked the President, the Prime Minster, the Yemeni people, and the parties, organizations, and rights activists for their efforts in obtaining their release, commending the American lawyers’ efforts for their support saying that their dealing was unique and humane and has contributed to increasing prison morale. He urged the Yemeni government and right activists to work for the release of the rest of the detainees in American prisons.
He added that he is glad to return to his social charitable activity to bring back the smiles and joy to the faces of the poor and to fight real terrorism – hunger and poverty.
Sheikh Hamoud Hashim al-Tharihi, Head of the notational committee for defending Zayde and al-Moayed, expressed their committee’s preparedness to continue efforts for other detainees’ release.
He said he would not relax until the last Yemeni, Arab, and Muslim prisoner are freed, through the cooperation of the entire world’s honorable people.
Al-Tharihi, Hood organization and al-Moayed’s brother, honored the American lawyers, handing them the National Committee shield for Al-Moayed and Zayde’s defense, in addition to a certificate from the Foreign Affairs Minister which was given to the team on his behalf.
Among the defense team of al-Moayed and Zayde was also Bob Boyle, the attorney for the appeal. He could not attend the conference but said that he wanted the people to know that his commitment did not end with the return of Sheikh Mohammad al-Moayed. He said also that the entire legal team, Elizabeth Finks, Sarah Kunstler, Tina Foster, and Lamis Deek remain dedicated to seeking justice for both of the men.

Al-Moayad and Zayed get heroes’ welcomes – Sahwa Net – August 13, 2009

Al-Moayad and Zayed get heroes’ welcomes
Yasser Al-Wesabi, Sahwa Net

Tens of thousands of Yemenis received on Tuesday Sheikh Mohammad Ali Hassan and Mohammad Zayed who were jailed for more than six year in the United States.

Al-Moayad and Zayed were welcomed by great reception from crowds that hindered the movement of motorcade. Masses leaded by the Islah party’s leaders , ministers , politicians and dignitaries gathered in each sides of roads, brandishing the pictures of two men and banners calling today” freedoms day.”

A local committee established to defend al-Moayad and Zayed , the National Committee for Defending Al-Moayad and Zayed, considered the huge ovation a victory for rights and freedoms.

The lawyer of Al-Moayad who companied to Sana’a, Lamis Deek, said that the U.S. government failed to get evidence against al-Moayad and Zayed , and lately resorted to take admissions that he was intending to support Hamas.

She stressed that the support of Hamas is legal throughout Yemen and Muslim world, pointing out that the evidence of the U.S prosecution were not legitimate.

The chief of the Hood Organization for Defending Humans and Rights said the support of Hamas is honored by all Muslims and the acknowledge of its support a accolade to them.

Al-Moayad and Zayed were arrested in Germany in 2003 and extradited to the United States. A US court sentenced al-Moayyad in 2005 to 75 years in prison and Zayed to 45 years over alleged financial support to al-Qaeda and Hamas.

US Court of Appeals overturned the convictions last October and ordered a retrial because of inflammatory testimony about unrelated terrorism cases in the first trial.

Freed Yemeni scholar in hospital – Al Jazeera – August 12, 2009

Freed Yemeni scholar in hospital
Sheikh Mohammed al-Moayad admitted to hospital with acute liver failure.
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2009 21:37 GMT

Published at Al Jazeera English

A Yemeni Islamic scholar freed after six years of imprisonment in the United States on terrorism charges has been taken to hospital with acute liver failure, his son has said.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Moayad returned to Yemen on Tuesday after a US federal court overturned his terrorism conviction.

His son Zakaria said his father was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday and taken to the intensive care unit.

His lawyer, Mohamed Naji Allaw, said he was waiting for approval from Saudi Arabia to be treated there, or in Jordan.

Warm welcome

Al-Moayad received a hero’s welcome from ministers, political leaders, other dignitaries and thousands of people on his arrival in Yemen on Tuesday.

The man was sentenced to 75 years in prison by a US court in 2005 for providing financial support to al-Qaeda and Hamas, after being extradited from Germany where he was arrested two years earlier.

But a US appeals court ordered a retrial last October after overturning the convictions on grounds they were prejudiced by inflammatory testimony from unrelated terrorism cases in the original trial.

He was released after his lawyer struck a plea bargain deal with US prosecutors, sources close to his family said.

Under the agreement, he pleaded guilty to providing aid to Hamas, which is listed among terrorist groups by US government, and was sentenced to six
years time served.

Demand release of protesters illegally arrested by NYPD at march against Israel’s crimes in Gaza – January 11, 2009

Break the Siege on Gaza Coalition

15,000 March Against Israel’s Crimes in Gaza
Police provoke and arrest protesters

January 11, 2009–Today, more than 15,000 people rallied in Times Square to protest Israel’s ongoing assault against the people of Palestine .  The demonstration stretched from 42nd Street south to 38 Street, along 7th Ave , and was followed by a spirited march past the New York Times building to the Time Warner building on 58th Street where CNN’s New York office is located.

Organizers reported provocative and hostile police behavior throughout the event.   Police massed at the end of the march route began cursing, taunting and attacking protesters.  One uniformed cop was reported as yelling, “Why don’t you all blow yourselves up?”

Eyewitnesses reported that the police used pepper spray in an unprovoked assault on the protesters including teenagers and children as young as ten years old.  Others were pushed and struck by police.

At least 30 people were arrested during the day, and everyone who was arrested was beaten by police, some severely.  Most were arrested while simply trying to leave at the end of the march, when police charged and began arresting and beating people.

One provocateur grabbed a Palestinian flag and began trampling on it.  When onlookers attempted to retrieve the flag, they were attacked and nine were arrested.

Organizers are reporting that the attacks and arrests clearly targeted Arab youth.  Lamis Deek, human rights attorney and co-chair of Al-Awda New York, said, “The systematic pattern of attacks and provocations and the sudden appearance of police amass at the end of the march were clearly a message from City Hall.  This police riot was clearly on orders from Mayor Bloomberg, who just returned from Israel where he cheered on the attacks against the people of Gaza , and who is clearly trying to intimidate the mass protests that have taken place here, and will continue to take place.  But these tactics will not keep us off the streets.  We outnumbered the rally in support of Israel ‘s crimes by a hundred to one.”

***As this is being written, we have received reports that an undetermined number of people, including children, are still being held by the NYPD.  Please call the NYPD and demand the release of all who were arrested at the protest today!   

We have been informed that some of those arrested will be arraigned tomorrow morning – please pack the court at 100 Centre Street in Manhattan at 9 am!