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IW News Brief: Syrian Rebel PM Is Ex-CAIR Official, and More
by David J. Rusin • Mar 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm
Islamist Watch (IW) maintains an extensive archive of news items on nonviolent Islamism in the Western world. The complete collection can be found here; lists organized by topic are accessible on the right side of the IW homepage.
The following are some of the recent developments covered in the IW database:
New Syrian opposition leader linked to U.S. Islamist groups
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the umbrella body seeking to replace the Assad regime, has elected U.S. citizen Ghassan Hitto as interim prime minister. Hitto served on the board of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), but this is just one of his many ties to Muslim Brotherhood entities. The Indianapolis Star notes that Hitto worked for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which, like CAIR, were unindicted co-conspirators in the trial of the Hamas-financing Holy Land Foundation (HLF). Hitto also has been connected to the Muslim American Society (MAS), described by prosecutors as "the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America," and the defunct Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Given this record, it would strain credulity to suggest that Hitto is not an Islamist.
A 2012 IW article looks at other leading American Islamists who now play key roles in the Syrian opposition, including Louay Safi, Yaser Tabbara, and Najib Ghadbian. Though their involvement does not bode well for Syria's future, consider the bright side: the more they focus on promoting Islamism over there, the less time they can devote to it over here.
Parents push back against London school's plan to go halal
Resistance to the proliferation of halal food has bubbled up in the London district of Chingford, where parents are outraged over Larkswood Primary's intention to adopt a halal-only menu, even though just one in ten students is Muslim. "Why should their views be forced on us? I think it's disgusting," a mother said. "I do not want my child eating food which has been slaughtered in this way and blessed." She claimed that parents had been led to believe that halal items would be offered merely as an option. Headteacher Lynne Harrowell has thus far dismissed the criticism: "It is in line with the majority of other schools in London. … Most of New Zealand lamb is halal, as is the meat in many restaurants and fast food places like KFC. Many people are very aware that most of us eat halal meat." In other words, halal is everywhere, so get used to it.
Larkswood parents are not the first in England to take a stand. Last October, Lynnfield Primary School in Hartlepool revealed that it would begin serving halal meat to all students, but the decision was quickly reversed following "complaints from fuming parents." More such displays of backbone will be necessary to slow halal's long march through the institutions.
Muslim Democrats seek political clout in New York City
Efforts to align the Democratic Party with Muslim interests took yet another step with the March 14 launch of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, "dedicated to helping elect responsible Democrats to local office." Based on an estimated 105,000 Muslim voters in the city, the group believes that it can sway a number of races. The party is taking notice as well; the club's kickoff was attended by two mayoral candidates, representatives of others, and CAIR's Zead Ramadan, a City Council hopeful. One of its prime movers is Linda Sarsour, an Islamist who wants the organization to combat "NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community." Sarsour joined a press conference on March 11 to publicize Mapping Muslims, a new report blasting police counterterrorism work and urging mosques to "announce … that informants are not tolerated."
The relationship between Muslims and the Democratic Party has grown closer in recent years, as epitomized by a May 2012 fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Headlined by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and featuring high-profile Islamists such as CAIR executive director Nihad Awad, the event rolled out the National Muslim Democratic Council, which aims to "maximize American Muslim support for Democratic candidates and policies." According to CAIR, over 85 percent of Muslims voted for President Obama in 2012.
Triple parking for Islam: A tale of cabbies and conflict
Think parking is bad in your neighborhood? DNAInfo.com shares a slice of life from Manhattan's East Village, where the Madina Masjid is "drawing a steady stream of cabs that clog streets and flout parking rules so their drivers can attend prayer services," thus "disrupting area business." Infractions include "filling metered spaces and parking in front of fire hydrants, in truck loading zones, and in bus lanes" while police reportedly do little. "They can be triple-parked," explained a nearby baker who "has learned to plan his deliveries of baking supplies around the mosque's five daily services." One heated argument allegedly turned violent.
An article about a strikingly similar situation involving the Islamic Cultural Center on the Upper West Side appeared in 2011. British anti-mosque activist Gavin Boby would refer to these cases as manifestations of a supremacist "parking jihad," but regardless of any ulterior motives, Manhattan's taxi troubles carry an important lesson: parking concerns expressed in opposition to mosque projects are often legitimate — and not simply a cover for "Islamophobia."
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For additional news and analysis, please visit the IW website.