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African American Muslims
T he grenade attack in Iraq by an African American muslim, Sgt. Asan Akbar, that killed two and wounded several, set off a maelstrom of right-wing criticism against black Muslims in the U.S. Right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin saw the deadly jumble of political correctness lurking behind the attack. Malkin wrote that “Sgt. Akbar is not the only MSWA— Muslim soldier with attitude—suspected of infiltrating our military, endangering our troops, and undermining national security.” She concluded, “Not one more American, soldier or civilian, must be sacrificed at the altar of multiculturalism, diversity, open borders, and tolerance of the murderous ‘attitude’ of Jihad.”
Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, wonders when and where Sgt. Akbar was radicalized. Was it through “Wahhabi-backed Muslim Student’s Association, which has a chapter” at the University of California, Davis, where Akbar “reportedly went to school from 1988-1997.” Maybe it was “at the mosque he attended in the South Central section of Los Angeles, the Masjid Bilal Islamic Center [which]…received funds from the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), a Saudi-controlled fund headquartered in Jeddah that claims to have capitalized $19 billion worth of projects around the world.” Gaffney believes that Sgt. Akbar’s “murderous ideas about America, its armed forces, and the Muslim world” may have come from “a chaplain in the U.S. military.” According to Gaffney, “As of June 2002, nine of the armed forces’ fourteen Muslim chaplains received their religious training from another Saudi-supported entity, the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS) in Leesburg, Virginia.” In March 2002, Operation Greenquest “raided the offices of GSISS, along with twenty-three other Muslim organizations. Agents also raided the homes of Iqbal Unus, the Dean of Students at GSISS, and Taha Al-Alwani, the school’s president. According to search warrants issued at the time, these groups were raided for ‘potential money laundering and tax evasion activities and their ties to terrorist groups such as...al Qaeda as well as individual terrorists...(including) Osa- ma bin Laden’.”
Malkin and Gaffney have jumped into the middle of a debate that has been brewing in right-wing circles since 9/11. Notable right- wingers, Watergate felon Charles Colson, columnist Cal Thomas, and pro-Israel activist Daniel Pipes have long argued that Blacks who become Muslims—especially for what they term “non-spiritual” reasons—may be a clear and present danger to the safety and security of the U.S.
Daniel Pipes’s October 2001 New York Post column takes direct aim at the Nation of Islam: “To what extent does the rhetoric and example set by prominent figures such as Louis Farrakhan and Siraj Wahhaj influence followers like the alleged sniper to engage in violence? If it does, given that this is wartime, do steps need to be taken to curtail their rhetoric?” Not wanting to paint Muslim converts with too broad a brush, Pipes concedes that “some of the roughly 700,000 African-American converts to Islam are moderate and patriotic citizens.”
Pipes, who directs the pro-Israel Middle East Forum, has written that it is the “pattern of alienation, radicalism and violence among black American converts to Islam,” particularly among those in prison, that could lead to a swelling of the ranks of homegrown terrorists.
Charles Colson expressed similar concerns about jailhouse conversions to Islam in a late-June 2002, Wall Street Journal column. Colson, who was special counsel to President Richard Nixon and served seven months in prison in 1974 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice for Watergate related crimes, now runs the Prison Fellowship Ministries. Colson pointed out that he has witnessed a “growing Muslim presence” in prisons and these “alienated, disenfranchised people are prime targets for radical Islamists who preach a religion of violence, of overcoming oppression by jihad.”
According to Colson, al-Qaeda training manuals “specifically identify America’s prisoners as candidates for conversion because they may be ‘disenchanted with their country’s policies’.” Colson claim- ed that “terrorism experts fear these angry young recruits will become the next wave of terrorists. As U.S. citizens, they will combine a desire for ‘payback’ with an ability to blend easily into American culture.”
Cal Thomas cited Colson in his column, claiming that several hundred African American imams have been trained in Saudi Arabia to convert “large numbers of African- American inmates not only to their religion, but to their political objectives, including virulent anti- Americanism.” Colson (as did Roy Innis of CORE) singled out confessed al-Qaeda shoe bomber Richard Reid, who converted to Islam in a British prison, and dirty-bomb suspect Jose Padilla as examples of jailhouse converts to Islam who turned to terrorism.
Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries’ InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) receives government funding to operate projects aimed at reducing recidivism rates in four states, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and Texas. According to the IFI website, the initiative “is a revolutionary, Christ-centered, Bible- based prison program supporting prison inmates through their spiritual and moral transformation beginning while incarcerated and continuing after release.” One way to prevent conversions to radical Islam claims Colson would be for prison officials to “deny radical imams access to inmates.”
Innis On The Move
R oy Innis, the national chairperson and chief executive officer of CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality), has also signed on to this notion. In interviews with several right-wing publications and conversations with Justice Department officials, Innis has warned that African American prisoners and college students are open vessels for terrorist recruitment.
Innis has a different profile than the others. He was a well-respected figure during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Over the past three decades, Innis’s CORE has evolved from the frontlines of the civil rights movement to alignment with America’s religious and secular right. Despite occasional appearances by Innis and his son Niger on television’s talking head circuit—they are especially favored guests at the Fox News Channel—the organization has essentially been in a state of rigor mortis for decades.
Innis may be counting on the threat of terrorism for his group’s revival. Since 9/11, CORE has dabbled in several “War On Terrorism” related activities. It joined city, state, and federal agencies, operating out of Pier 94 in Manhattan, “to provide direct assistance to those individuals most affected by this disaster,” according to its website, and it announced plans “to file a multi-billion dollar class-action suit against known terrorist Osama Bin Laden...seek[ing] to have Bin Laden declared liable for the deaths of thousands of innocent people and responsible for the disruption of the lives of millions more.” Late last year, NewsMax.com , a right-wing online news magazine, reported Innis had requested a meeting with the Bush administration’s Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge, Attorney General John Ash- croft, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in order to discuss the “clear and present danger” posed to U.S. race relations by the rising tide of “non-spiritual’ Muslim conversions.” Innis told NewsMax , “Even before the Beltway sniper attacks I anticipated a real problem for our country and for black Americans in particular. And that is the large number of non-spiritually based conversions to Islam—both inside and outside of jail. It’s not going to take long for al-Qaeda to begin capitalizing on this, if they haven’t already,” Innis said.
Innis pointed out that Osama bin Laden’s ability to sneak people “into the country with visas and attack the country…won’t be so easy to do anymore. But,” he added, “the guys coming out of jail, the recent converts, the angry guys floating around the country who are looking for a framework to express their hostility—they don’t need visas.”
Innis also trained his sights on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakahn who he said “needs to clean his own house...to make sure that he doesn’t have sociopaths and psychopaths and haters of other sorts and al-Qaeda adherents floating into his organization.” Innis suggested that Farrakhan “weed out his non-spiritually based followers” and take care that “his rhetoric doesn’t give aid and comfort and nurture” to al-Qaeda sympathizers.
Innis’s request met a quick response: the Washington Times reported that, while he didn’t meet with top officials, he spoke with DOJ representatives and “discuss[ed] the recruitment of black American Muslims by terrorist organizations.” At the New York City encounter Innis told officials that he was concerned about the potential for a growing “alliance” between Middle East-based terrorists and domestic black Islamists.
“There has been a fear because of racial and religious reasons,” Innis said. “But [many federal officials] have been in denial but this has become a very real danger. And there are signs all over the place. If we want to ignore this danger then we are not doing a good job to keep this country safe,” said Innis, who added that the meeting with the DOJ was “informal” and he hoped to meet with Attorney General John Ashcroft at a later date. Innis is particularly concerned with the recruitment of black prisoners and black college students by Muslim organizations. “We can go to the Bureau of Prisons, for example, and ask for a review of the various ministers,” Innis said. “This is too important an issue for these kinds of things to not be under review.” According to the Washington Times , Innis hoped to establish a new project that would investigate groups like the National Islamic Prison Foundation, “which coordinates a campaign to convert inmates to Islam. Foundation officials claim an average of 135,000 such conversions per year.”
Innis’s political metamorphosis has resulted in membership on the boards of several conservative organizations, including the Hudson Institute, a right-wing think tank, the Landmark Legal Foundation, one of former President Bill Clinton’s most persistent critics, and the National Rifle Association. In 1998, the Libertarian Party News reported that Innis had joined the Libertarian Party, telling Party officials “You have the kind of principles this country needs more of.” Innis testified in support of the Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Robert Bork, spoke in favor of Bernhard Goetz, aka the subway vigilante, endorsed the far-right Alan Keyes for president, and in August 2000, he was a featured speaker at the Christian Coalition’s Faith and Freedom Celebration.
In the NewsMax interview, Innis expressed his concern that violent actions by African American terrorists could set race relations back in this country after decades of progress. He said more beltway sniper- type incidents could destroy “all the years of civil rights improvement in America. All the revolutionary gains of Dr. Martin Luther King, of CORE and the NAACP and the others could be washed away overnight if the phenomenon continues unchecked.”
In early February, NewsMax . com credited Innis with having Imam Warith Deen Umar “banned from the New York State’s ten correctional facilities” (he was also fired as a part-time religious counselor for the federal prison system).
Innis’s anti-terrorism project may have a financial component as well: CORE could be positioning itself to receive Bush’s faith-based grants to establish a government- funded program similar to Colson’s, but focused specifically on African American inmates.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.