December 1995, Pages 71-72
American Muslim Activism
The Wisdom Fund Defends German Cultural Prize Winner
Dr. Ayub Ommaya, a fellow of The Wisdom Fund, defended Prof. Annemarie Schimmel against charges of being too lenient on Islamists after the announcement that Schimmel will receive Germany's most prestigious cultural prize, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. The nomination of Schimmel, 73, a professor at Harvard University for 20 years and one of the world's leading experts on Islamic mysticism, resulted in protests from 220 writers, 100 publishing houses and several members of Germany's parliament who accuse her of being too lenient on political Islam.
In response to the protests, Dr. Ommaya said that "the charges against her are baseless and irrelevant. Professor Schimmel is a spiritual person who writes about Islam, and the culture of Muslims. Like Mother Teresa, Professor Schimmel is apolitical, and oblivious to the politics of countries she visits." Prof. Schimmel, now retired from Harvard, lives in a Sufi community in the Sind province of Pakistan. Previous recipients of the Book Trade Peace Prize include Albert Schweitzer, Vaclav Havel and George Kennan.
—Shawn L. Twing
Sen. Paul Simon Views Arson Site
On Oct. 8 Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) toured the site of an arson attack on a Springfield, Illinois mosque accompanied by members of the local Muslim community and an official of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Islamic Society of Greater Springfield's mosque was damaged by fire during the morning hours of June 6, necessitating an estimated $30,000 in repairs. Springfield fire investigators found traces of gasoline at the scene, which previously had been defaced with Ku Klux Klan and Nazi symbols.
In related news, the Islamic Center and Mosque of Greenville, South Carolina was destroyed on Oct. 21 by a fire that local authorities ruled an arson attack. South Carolina law enforcement division special agent Frank Conrad told CAIR officials that leads in the case point to the possibility of it being a hate crime. The estimated cost for rebuilding the mosque is $316,000.
—Shawn L. Twing
Gore Apologizes for "Jihad" Remarks
Vice-President Al Gore apologized for his recent use of the word "jihad" in an interview published in the Oct. 6 edition of the Washington Post. In an article headlined "Gore Assails GOP Environmental 'Jihad,'" Gore accused Republican leaders of waging a "jihad" on environmental protection policies. Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) executive director Nihad Awad wrote a letter to Gore saying in part: "I would like to express my concern at your recent use of the Islamic religious term 'jihad'. . .You are, of course, free to hold any views you choose on issues of importance to the American public, but these views should not be presented in a way that stereotypes one religious minority in America." Gore's written response stated: "I very much regret if you were offended in any way by a statement that I have made. Please be assured that I will continue to strive to show every person consideration and respect, and I am grateful for your willingness to share your comments with me."
—Shawn L. Twing
AMC Leader Hopes for Positive Changes After Assassination
Executive director Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council said he hopes the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin will draw attention to Jewish groups opposed to peace in America as well as in Israel. Alamoudi said that, while legal and political pressure is applied to extremists in Israel, the U.S. government has paid little notice to similar groups in New York that are trying to derail the peace process. "Many Jewish organizations in New York send money to settlers who are opposed to peace—it harbors a major source of Jewish extremism and the American government should get involved" to uncover these groups, he said.
Many mainstream politicians, including members of Congress, seek support from these right-wing Jewish organizations in America, Alamoudi added, and the assassination should end the legitimacy of these groups.
As a Muslim, Alamoudi said his community has been "tainted" with the terrorist label because of the actions of a very few fanatics. He said he hopes the Rabin asassination will show the media and the world community that all adherents of a religion cannot be blamed or stigmatized because of the misdeeds of a few extremists.
While the AMC leader called the killing a "terrible" act of violence, he said it can be turned into an opportunity to further the peace process if Palestinian and American negotiators take advantage of Israeli popular support for Rabin. "This is an optimum time to continue peace negotiations," he said. "Emotional support for Rabin and for peace [in Israel] may never be higher."
CAIR Issues Statement on "Million Man March"
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a three-point statement regarding the "Million Man March" in Washington, DC on Oct. 16. In that statement CAIR expressed its support for "the noble principles of economic and social justice, individual responsibility and political empowerment" of the organizers of the march.
However, CAIR distanced itself from the views of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan saying, "Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam do not represent the Muslim community in America. Many of Minister Farrakhan's public statements, particularly those regarding issues of race and the nature of God, are diametrically opposed to basic Islamic beliefs."
The three-point statement included a quotation attributed to the Prophet Muhammad during his last sermon: "A white [person] has no superiority over a black [person] nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action."
—Shawn L. Twing