Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2000, Pages 86-87

Muslim-American Activism

Muslims Rally in Support of Palestine

An estimated crowd of 10,000 gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2000 and marched to the White House for a rally in support of what is being called the Al-Aqsa intifada—a grass roots Palestinian uprising against continued occupation and oppression by Israel.

Members of mosques from Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and coming from such diverse Arab nations as Qatar, Yemen, Algeria, and Morocco, were bused in to participate in what was perhaps the biggest gathering in support of Palestinians ever staged in the U.S. They watched in anguish as the murder of Mohamed al-Durrah and scenes of street fighting not shown by American media were projected onto a large screen behind the stage.

Arab musicians performed between video screenings, and speakers at the rally ran the gamut from a group of Hassidic Jewish rabbis to former Congressman Paul Findley (R-IL). The rabbis spoke of the Torah as being a peaceful book, and Judaism a peaceful religion, but condemned Zionism as being a violent nationalist movement which should not be equated with Judaism. They also said that Jews in Palestine could live under a Muslim regime as they had done for centuries.

Rep. Paul Findley spoke of the need for Americans to fight violent Zionist policies in Palestine by refusing to further support Israel financially, diplomatically or militarily. To this end he urged all in attendance to vote for George Bush in accordance with the AMPCC-PAC bloc vote decision. If Vice President Al Gore became president, Findley said, Muslim Americans could find themselves sending their sons off to war in support of Israel.

The former congressman also encouraged individual action. He asked how many in the crowd had written, called, e-mailed, or visited their congressmen to voice their objections to the recent House resolution condemning Palestinians for the violence. Findley called on those concerned to be a political action committee of one.

In support of such activism the sponsoring groups passed out postcards pre-addressed to President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and to the House and Senate saying, “NO MORE OF MY TAX DOLLARS TO ISRAEL,” and showing the pictures of Mohammed al-Durrah dying in his father’s lap. There was also a petition circulated in support of Palestinian rights and condemnation of Israeli violence. Stickers saying, “STOP FUNDING ISRAELI TERRORISM” were also handed around.

Such organizing bodes well for the future of Muslim-American and Arab-American influence in the U.S. Not all demonstrators were satisfied with videos and speeches, however. A group of some 500 to 1,000 protesters broke off from the main crowd in front of the stage and demonstrated as close to the White House as the permit allowed. This group was highly energized, and yelled slogans like, “Down, down, down with Israel,” and “Shame, shame, U.S.A.”

Police looked a little nervous when this part of the crowd got rowdy, with the officers donning helmets and pulling up cars to face off the demonstrators. The fact that one of the policemen allowed his young son to remain, however, indicates that they were not seriously expecting trouble. And they got none. The crowd stayed within the parameters of the demonstration permit, and no arrests were made.

Sara Powell

CAIR Voter Poll Results

At a Sept. 15 press conference, the Council on American Islamic Relations announced the results of its September poll of Muslim voters’ intentions. Gov. George W. Bush had gained 12 percentage points from the June polling, bringing him from 28 percent to 40 percent. Vice President Al Gore fell from 32 percent in June’s poll to 24 percent in September’s. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader rose a significant 20 percent, from only 5 percent to 25 percent, between the earlier and later polls. Based in part on these results, the AMCPCC-PAC later endorsed Bush for president.

—Sara Powell

CAIR Leadership Conference

The CAIR Leadership Conference, held Oct. 7 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Virginia, sought to equip attendees with the skills to become effective leaders of motivated individuals. Organized around the theme “Mobilizing Muslims in America,” speakers discussed how to communicate effectively at public gatherings, news conferences and in interviews. Other issues addressed were looking out for Muslim civil rights; organizing a community to present a unified voice that will be heard by elected officials; building a positive image of Islam through proven public relations and media strategies; establishing a network of Muslim leaders; and developing strategies for working with Capitol Hill. Speakers passed on ideas for recruiting volunteers, using Internet technologies to create a network of leaders and activists, and other ways to mobilize a community to take a role in public affairs.

CAIR’s sixth annual fund-rasing dinner capped off the conference. CAIR presented its Islamic Community Awards for activism to Halima Kerlew and Jamal Abdul Muty; education to Susan L. Douglass; volunteerism to Teresa Tancre; civil rights to Ashraf Nubani; dawah (outreach) to Dr. Anwar Hajjaj; media presentation to Adam Wolfer; youth activism to Zainab Al-Kebsy; and social work to Lending a Helping Hand, Inc.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj gave a spirited keynote address and former congressman Paul Findley spoke to the audience about “Mobilizing Muslims in America,” in which he called for a Muslim-American bloc vote.

Delinda C. Hanley