Issues of concern to the Arab / Muslim lobby and advocacy groups






Where do you see any conflicts of interest between:
- the interests of the Arab/Muslim lobby & Jewish/pro-Israel lobby?
- the interests of the Arab/Muslim lobby & pro-Turkey lobbies?
- the interests of the Arab/Muslim lobby & U.S. national interests?

PRE-SEPT. 11  LOBBYING ISSUES (click here)

Nearly one in five people in the world today claims the faith of Islam.  A diverse community of believers spans the globe. Over fifty countries have Muslim-majority populations, while other groups of believers are clustered in minority communities on nearly every continent.

Although Islam is often associated with the Arab world and the Middle East, fewer than 15% of Muslims are Arab.

GLOBAL - MUSLIM POPULATION:   1.2 - 1.4 billion

Approximate Distribution of Muslims

Asia 780,000,000 70 %
Africa 381,400,000 30 %
Europe 33,000,000 3   %
Latin America 1,400,000 0.1%
North America 5,600,000 0.5%
Oceania 400,000 0.0%

ASIA:   780,000,000

Russia & Central Asia:
(click here)

is home to a large population of Muslims. Sources suggest that there may be as many as 20 million Muslims in China, up to 2 percent of the country's 1.3 billion population. Other sources suggest Muslims in China may number as high as 40 million. The largest of the ten Muslim ethnic groups in China are the Hui. The other nine, in descending order of size, are Uyghur, Kazakh, Dongxiang, Kirghiz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek, Bonan, and Tatar. Xinjiang has the largest number of Muslims; many are also concentrated in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

India: Islam is the second-largest religion in India (after Hinduism - 80.5%), where Muslims number around 137 million (13.4%). India has the third-largest population of Muslims in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.

AFRICA:  381,400,000

The majority of Muslims are located in North, East and West Africa.

EUROPE:  33, 000,000

France:    6 million
(10% of the population)
Most Muslims in France are from North African countries, whose parents and grandparents arrived as workers)

Germany:   3.3 million
Most of Germany's 3 million Muslims are Turks whose parents and grandparents arrived as guest workers beginning in the 1960s)

UNITED STATES:   4 - 7 million
(Approximately half the Arab-American population in the U.S. is Christian. Ancestors of Arabs began to immigrate to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, from regions near Syria & Lebanon, then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. There are also many African-American converts to Islam in America)

In recent decades, Muslims have become a small but significant minority in most Western countries. Taken as a group, these nations have an aggregate Muslim population that is probably between 1 and 4 percent. These populations are often concentrated geographically, and this figure can be much higher for specific countries or localities. Exact figures can be difficult to come by: Some researchers define Muslims narrowly, in terms of those adherents who regularly attend mosques; others consider Muslims in terms of broader cultural groupings. In some countries, like France, it is discouraged or even illegal to acquire official government statistics based on religion. Finally, estimates can be influenced by religious and political agendas.

Nonetheless, a variety of research methods using surveys, numbers of mosques and immigration records, can provide fairly reliable data. Counts of Muslim populations in the United States, for example, range from less than one million to over ten million, though figures clustering around either 2-3 million or 6-7 million are most often cited.

For figures of Muslims in Europe

For further estimates of Muslim populations by country (click here)


European Muslim Population Estimates

Country Total Population in 2005 Muslim Percentage Muslim Population in 2005
Northern Europe
Denmark 5.40 3.02 0.16
Estonia 1.3 0.70 0.01
Finland 5.20 0.18 0.01
Iceland 0.30 0.04 0.00
Ireland 4.1 0.01 0.00
Latvia 2.30 0.38 0.01
Lithuania 3.4 0.14 0.00
Norway 4.60 1.04 0.05
Sweden 9.00 3.10 0.28
United Kingdom 60.1 2.50 1.48
Western Europe
Austria 8.20 2.23 0.18
Belgium 10.5 3.60 0.37
France 60.7 10.00 5.98
Germany 82.5 3.70 3.06
Leichtenstein 0.04 3.43 0.00
Luxembourg 0.50 1.10 0.01
Monaco 0.03 0.50 0.00
Netherlands 16.3 5.40 0.87
Switzerland 7.4 3.10 0.23
Eastern Europe
Belarus 9.8 0.10 0.01
Bulgaria 7.7 11.87 0.89
Czech Rep. 10.20 0.20 0.02
Hungary 10.10 0.10 0.01
Moldova 4.2 0.20 0.01
Poland 38.2 0.10 0.04
Romania 21.60 1.00 0.22
Russia 143.0 19.00 27.65
Slovakia 5.40 0.02 0.00
Ukraine 47.1 0.45 0.22
Southern Europe
Albania 3.2 70.00 2.17
Andorra 0.10 0.63 0.00
Bosnia Herzegovina 3.8 60.06 2.34
Croatia 4.4 3.00 0.13
Greece 11.1 1.50 0.17
Italy 58.7 2.40 1.37
Macedonia 2.0 30.00 0.63
Malta 0.40 1.10 0.00
Portugal 10.6 0.50 0.05
San Marino 0.03    
Slovenia 2.00 1.55 0.03
Spain 43.5 1.20 0.50
Yugoslavia ( Serbia & Montenegro ) 10.70 19.00 2.03
Total 729.70   50.90

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and is said to be the fastest-growing


  1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
  2. Islam: 1.3 billion
  3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
  4. Hinduism: 900 million
  5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
  6. Buddhism: 376 million
  7. Primal-indigenous: 300 million
  8. African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
  9. Sikhism: 23 million
  10. Juche: 19 million
  11. Spiritism: 15 million
  12. Judaism: 14 million
  13. Baha'i: 7 million
  14. Jainism: 4.2 million
  15. Shinto: 4 million
  16. Cao Dai: 4 million
  17. Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
  18. Tenrikyo: 2 million
  19. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
  20. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
  21. Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
  22. Scientology: 500 thousand

Current Issues affecting the Muslim World
(Lobbies, Interest & Advocacy Groups)

Activism & Islamic Advocacy

--Relief agencies, activist and lobby organizations
working on behalf of Muslims worldwide fear support & funds may be unfairly limited because of accusations that money is being provided to these groups by individuals or organizations alleged to have links with terrorist groups. Holy Land Foundation was shut down in late 2001, one of the largest Islamic charitable organizations in the U.S. amidst accusations that the group provides support to the Palestinian group Hamas. U.S. officials raided and shut down two more major Islamic charitable organizations in late 2001, in a widening investigation of terrorist funding.

--In Germany Citizenship Tests Stir Up Muslims & Cultural Debate. Tests proposed in other European countries.

--Linking Islamic & Western Values: European imams meeting in Vienna have pledged to work harder to prove that Islam is compatible with democracy and that the majority of Muslims living in the West support human rights, free speech and pluralism. More than 130 prayer leaders from across the continent, whose meeting was sponsored by Austria as current European Union president, agreed Islamic theologians in Europe must do more to establish that their faith does not clash with Western values. Their declaration published on Sunday amounted to a catalogue of home-grown moderate views that Western politicians have been urging Muslim leaders to draw up as a bulwark against radical Islamist ideologies coming from the Middle East.

--Need for West to reach out to Muslims: Better understand sentiments linked to Western colonialism and expansionism, socio-economic factors, Israeli-Arab conflict, internal struggles within predominantly Muslim countries, and differences within the Muslim world.

--Profiling, stereotypes, stigma, discrimination.

--Backlash against Muslims.

--Studying Western generalizations and misconceptions about the Muslim world / examining Muslim generalizations and misconceptions about the West.

--Inaccurate news coverage versus fair and balanced.

--Debates over a "clash of civilizations," or "alliance of civilizations."  See

--Socio-economic development. Investments. Rule of law.

--Anti-terrorism cooperation:
Including mainstream Muslims in the fight against extremism and terrorism. Muslim scholars and leaders have spoken out against terrorism and offered explanations of misinterpreted teachings, and violence in the name of any religion.

--Role of Muslim scholars (example: regarding modernity versus conservatism.

--The meaning of "Jihad" in Islam (Quran's position on suicide bombings): The faith of Islam unequivocally and forcefully rejects the harming of innocent civilians. Jihad is often mistakenly described as "holy war." The meaning of Jihad has different interpretations and uses, such as an internal struggle for good, a constant struggle to preserve one's faith, or to defend the rights to freedom of worship.

--School dress & appearance in the workplace

--Prayer and holiday celebration

Current Issues affecting Muslims in the USA
(Lobbies, Interest & Advocacy Groups)

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): Main website for the leading Islamic advocacy and lobby organization in the United States, also issues recent Anti-Muslim Incident Reports. In early 2001,  prior to Sept. 11, CAIR issued its 6th-annual report on the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States. A full report of post-9/11 backlash incidents compiled and published by the Council on American Islamic Relations. They documented 1717 incidents of violence, threats, and bias in the first six months alone. The report also highlights the positive: the American Muslim community's assistance in 9/11 relief and law enforcement efforts, and support offered to Muslims by Americans of other faiths.  See

Muslim Public Affairs Commitee: Political lobby organization in the U.S.  Site includes opinion pieces and news releases. See

American Muslim Council: Established in 1990 to increase the effective participation of American Muslims in the U.S. political and public policy arenas. See

-Profiling incidents
-U.S. authorities monitoring of Muslim mosques and communities
-Violence against individuals, threats, mosques vandalized, headscarves attacked
-Hate-crimes (verbal and/or physical)
-Biased news coverage

Below are some other concerns, objectives and activities of Arab-Muslim American organizations:
Protecting the rights of people of Arab descent.
Promoting and defending the Arab-American heritage.
Serving the needs of the Arab-American community.
Voter mobilization and education; information for government, educational institutions, and the media on the policy concerns of Arab-Americans and on U.S.-Middle East relations.
Arab American electoral participation, and voter registration.
Arab American civil and political rights.
Counter-terrorism policies, proposals, surveillance & detention issues.
Combating discrimination, bigotry, and the defamation of Arab and Muslim people.
Demographics and census.
Ethnic and race relations.
Immigration reform.
Immigration counseling.
Middle East peace process.
U.S. foreign policy and policy in the Middle East.
Congressional testimony.
Palestinian statehood.
Foreign aid.
Public opinion & polling.
Monitoring media bias toward Israel.
Promoting an even handed U.S. foreign policy based on justice and peace for all parties in the Middle East.
Electoral politics: Arab American Democratic and Republican Clubs.
Electoral politics: Arab American Leadership Council (promotes Arab American service in public and political life through technical and financial support for candidates, endorsements of government appointments and policies at every level, and liaison within the national parties).
Coalition building.
Lobbying (state and grassroots).
Congressional voting analysis.
Local and municipal affairs.
Media outreach.
Direct action.
Initiative/referendum campaigns.
Conferences & seminars.
Award programs.
Monitoring the Arab image and racist stereotypes in American film and television.
Promoting interfaith dialogue and dialogue between America's Arab and Jewish communities.
Library/information clearinghouse.
Film, video, etc.
International activities.
Newsletter and publications.
Speakers program.
Telecommunications services (databases and mailing lists).
Advocacy training and technical assistance.

Rise in violent hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims in North America

This weekend, two Muslims fell victim to baseball-bat wielding bigots - one Muslim victim is in the hospital in a coma.
In Sparks, Nevada, 2,000 Muslims live amongst their neighbors in peace.  They worship at the Northern Nevada Muslim Community center.  On Friday evening, following evening prayers, two men gathered outside the mosque to socialize before going home.  At that moment, two young men approached the mosque, one carrying a baseball bat.  The assailant swung, hitting 46-year-old Mohammed Sanad in the arm.  As Mohammed ran inside to get help, the assailant turned to 48-year-old Dr. El Tag Mirghani, hitting him several times in the head.  The attackers finally dropped the bat and ran away when a member of a nearby church came running to help.

Mohammed Sanad has a broken arm; Dr. El Tag Mirghani is in critical condition and is clinging to life in a drug-induced coma.  Ironically, Dr. Mirghani is himself a well-respected physician specializing in Internal Medicine (Mohammed Sanad is an electrical engineer). 

Aside from the horror this one case brings, it is only the most recent in a series of attacks against Muslims:

Winnipeg, Canada; Islamic Center of Southern California; mosques in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia

British Columbia, Canada; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Greenville, South Carolina; Springfield, Illinois; Yuba City, California

Violent Crime:
Sparks, Nevada; Memphis, Tennessee; Denver, Colorado (suspect caught before taking action)

World events often give rise to stereotyping and prejudices, which manifest themselves locally.  No community is immune, and these events remind us all to be careful.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations publishes a list of recommended safety measures that every Islamic organization and mosque should look at. As the number of Muslims in North America continues to rise, it is time for everyone to realize our common humanity.  Muslims are not a threat - we contribute to the community as doctors, engineers, professors, parents, ... and neighbors. 

Anti-Muslim Hate & Skinheads

Last weekend, a dear friend of mine was harassed and threatened by a couple of skinheads.  She was minding her own business, in a popular store parking lot with her children and a young Somali sister.  First the men started in with verbal insults, sarcastically yelling "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great" in Arabic), and telling her to go back to her country (this sister happens to be an American, but never mind).  Then they started in with the camel jockey and towel-head jokes.  Finally, one made a non-verbal death threat - looking at her straight in the eye while he motioned with his finger across his throat.

This all happened outside a local store one block from my home.  It used to be a place I enjoyed walking to with my children on a nice sunny day.

As Muslims become more numerous and more spread out around the world, we more often become the target of hate-mongers who fear anything and anyone different from them.  They have added us to the list of those they hate - Africans, Jews, Asians...   They vow to make their local area (North America, Europe, wherever) a white-only refuge from the rest of the world. 

Who are these racists and where do they come from?  How can you protect yourself against verbal and physical assault?  What does the law say?   What should you do if someone harasses or assaults you?  These questions have been in the forefront of my mind all week.  The links below will help you learn about your rights, the law, and personal safety.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Muslims were advised to take extra safety precautions throughout the U.S.
What should you do if someone harasses you?  Call the police?  Turn around and go home?  How can communities prevent such incidents from occurring?  What can the Muslim community do to raise safety awareness? 

AUDIO LECTURES:  Muslims need to remain polite, vocal, and articulate in light of the multicultural and occasionally hostile circumstances of America.  Excellent Qur'anic advice on various practical situations.

ISLAM'S RESPONSE TO RACISM: Muslims believe that the variation in people's colors and languages are a sign of Allah's glorious creation, so that people can learn about, and know, one another (quotes from Quran click here).




CAIR Muslim community safety kit Step-by-step guide to community safety if America attacks Iraq

Action Alerts Monday, March 17, 2003

CAIR Muslim community safety kit
Step-by-step guide to community safety if America attacks Iraq

As it becomes increasingly clear that America will attack Iraq in the next few days, CAIR has put together a "Muslim Community Safety Kit" for Muslims, Arab-Americans and those perceived to be "Middle Eastern" who may be targeted by religious or ethnic profiling or bias-related hate crimes. According to the FBI: "A U.S. war with Iraq or another terrorist attack could trigger a wave of hate crimes against Muslims and Arab-Americans in the United States." (Associated Press, 3/12/03)

Dear Imam, activist, community leader, brother or sister:

As-salaamu alaykum. Peace be to you. This "Muslim Community Safety Kit" has been developed to assist you and your community in the event of a war against Iraq and any resulting anti-Muslim backlash. The 9-page kit is designed to better equip you with the knowledge necessary to protect against anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry or attacks, and to secure your basic legal rights. Below are suggestions for pro-active steps you can take.


  1. Read this kit carefully.
  2. Circulate to your friends and family.
  3. Photocopy relevant portions and post in your local mosque, Islamic center or organization.
  4. Contact CAIR if you have any questions, or if you do not understand any part of this kit.



Muslims must do their part to ensure the safety and security of our nation. If anyone notes suspicious persons or activities in their community, they should report it immediately to the local Field Office of the FBI. SEE:


Develop a list of attorneys who are willing to be consulted by the Muslim community in response to backlash incidents. Ask Muslim attorneys to volunteer their services to community members during this time of crisis.


Community leaders should immediately coordinate meetings between representatives of the Muslim community and local state and national law enforcement agencies. These meetings should focus on ways in which the community can help national security and on how authorities can protect Muslims and Arab-Americans from harassment and discrimination.


Delegations of Muslim representatives should schedule meetings with local, state and national elected representatives or their key staff to discuss community concerns. To find out who represents your area on the national level, go to:


Similar meetings should be coordinated with representatives of local interfaith and minority groups. These meetings should focus on building lines of communication and support, and hearing from these groups how they deal with discrimination and bigotry.


Representatives of the Muslim community should meet with local school administrators to discuss safety plans for students and to sensitize the administrators to harassment of Muslim students.

Ask for a "zero tolerance" policy for harassment of Muslim students. An example of a letter that a school board might send to local school administrators may be found at:

Obtain copies of CAIR's "Educator's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices" by contacting CAIR or e-mailing:


Community leaders should develop emergency e-mail and phone contact lists to be used in case of an incident that threatens the community's safety. Local imams, Islamic center board members, and Muslim activists should be on the lists.

A second list should be developed containing contact information for all local law enforcement agencies.


Call for a meeting of the local Muslim community to discuss the information outlined in this kit. The meeting should take place at a local mosque or Islamic center and should be advertised using the emergency contact list.


Establish a network of community members who can offer emotional and material support to those who may be the victims of hate crimes or discrimination. Victims should not be left alone to deal with the negative impact of such incidents.


If you believe you have been the victim of an anti-Muslim hate crime or discrimination, you should:

  1. Report the incident to your local police station and FBI office IMMEDIATELY. Ask that the incident be treated as a hate crime. Ask witnesses to give you their name and contact information.
  2. Inform CAIR even if you believe it is a "small" incident. Incidents may be reported online at: or TEL: 202-488-8787, FAX: 202-488-0833, E-MAIL:
  3. Document the incident. Write down exactly what was said and/or done by the offender. Save evidence. Take photographs
  4. Act quickly. Each incident must be dealt with when it happens, not when convenient
  5. Decide on the appropriate action to be taken. Consider issuing a statement from community leaders, holding a news conference, organizing a protest, meeting with officials, or starting a letter writing campaign.
  6. Mobilize community support. Contact CAIR and a local mosque or organization.
  7. Stay on top of the situation.
  8. Announce results. When the incident is resolved, make an announcement to the same people and organizations originally contacted.



Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, race, or national origin. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees your right to:

  1. Reasonable religious accommodation. The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices constitutes discrimination. "Religious practices" includes wearing a beard, hijab, prayer on the job, and going to Jumah prayer.
  2. Fairness in hiring, firing, and promotions. Your employer is prohibited from considering religion when making decisions affecting your employment status.
  3. A non-hostile work environment. Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment or unwelcome, excessive proselytizing.
  4. Complain about discrimination without fear of retaliation. Federal law guarantees your right to report an act of alleged discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for your complaint.


  1. Remain calm.
  2. Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
  3. Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
  4. Begin documenting the discrimination by saving memos, keeping a detailed journal, noting the presence of witnesses, and making written complaints (keep copies). Create a "paper trail."
  5. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and local county or state civil rights agencies to educate yourself about legal options.
  6. Contact an attorney to discuss your case.
  7. DO NOT sign any documents or resign without an attorney's advice.
  8. Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
  9. Ask for mediation.
  10. Contact CAIR to file a report.


As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory. If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, immediately:

  1. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
  2. Ask if you have been singled out because of your looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
  3. Ask for the names and ID numbers of all persons involved in the incident.
  4. Ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
  5. Write down a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date, and the name of the airline.
  6. Contact CAIR to file a report.


  1. You have the right to inform others about your religion. You have the right to pass out literature or speak to others about Islam, as long as it is not done in a disruptive manner.
  2. You have the right to wear religious clothing. You also have the right to wear clothing with a religious message, as long as other clothes with messages are allowed.
  3. You have the right to organize student-led prayer on campus, as long as the service is not disruptive.
  4. You may have the right to attend Friday prayer. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to allow students "release time" to attend religious classes or services.
  5. You have the right to be excused from school for religious holidays. You should inform the school that you will be absent.
  6. You have the right to be excused from class discussions or activities that you find religiously objectionable.
  7. You have the right to form an extracurricular Muslim student group.


Areas of Vulnerability:

Take the following safety measures:


  1. Distribute written instructions on handling bomb threats.
  2. Keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Ask that the message be repeated. Record or write down everything that is said.
  3. Ask for the location of the bomb.
  4. Inform the caller that the detonation of a bomb could hurt many innocent people.
  5. Pay attention to background noises such as music, which may give a clue to the caller's location.
  6. Listen closely to the caller's voice. Make note of accents, voice quality (calm, excited) or speech impediments.
  7. Report the threat immediately to the local police, ATF and FBI. Have appropriate phone numbers listed in written instructions.
  8. If the threat comes in the form of a letter, save all materials, including the envelope. Handle the letter as little as possible.
  9. Search the interior and exterior of the mosque. Evacuate the building if a suspicious package or device is found.

Cautionary Notes

BOMB THREAT CHECK LIST (Keep near phone in case of threatening calls.)

Time of call:
Exact words of caller:
Person receiving call:
Call Reported to:

Questions to Ask

When is the bomb going to explode?
Where is the bomb?
What kind of bomb is it?
What will cause it to explode?
Why did you place the bomb?
What is your name?

Caller's Voice

adult male female child
calm disguised nasal angry stutter
slow sincere lisp rapid giggling
deep crying loud squeaky excited
stressed accent slurred normal

What were the background noises, if any?


* What to look for:
* Name and title of addressee are not accurate.
* No return address, or the sender is not known to the addressee.
* Handwriting is distorted.
* Unprofessionally wrapped, uneven, bulky, lopsided.
* Contains bulges or soft spots.
* Poorly wrapped package is marked "Fragile-Handle With Care," "Rush," or has unusual restrictions such as "Personal" or "Private."
* Excess amount of postage.
* Protruding wires or tin foil.
* Package makes a buzzing or ticking noise, a sloshing sound, or emits an odor.

What to do:

DON'T open the package or letter.
DON'T put it in water or in a confined space such as a drawer.
DO isolate the article and secure the immediate area.
DO open windows if possible to help vent potential explosive gases.
DO contact your local police department and Postal Inspector.

Suspect Description

Auto type:
Auto color:
Auto license:
Direction of travel:


American Muslims support strong law enforcement. We also treasure civil rights. Your right to be politically active or to hold different beliefs/views is protected by the Constitution. If you are visited by the FBI, remember:

1. Never lie or provide false information to the FBI. Lying to an FBI agent is a crime.
2. You have no obligation to talk to the FBI, even if you are not a citizen. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you. It does not imply that you have something to hide.
3. You do not have to permit them to enter your home. FBI agents must possess a search warrant in order to enter your home. If they say they have a warrant, demand to see it before allowing them to enter. Even if they have a warrant, you are under no obligation to answer questions. ALWAYS have an attorney present when answering questions.
4. Contact CAIR and an attorney for advice.

Issue: Ethnic Stereotyping
Film Review: "Kingdom of Heaven"

Parvez Ahmed, CAIR Board Member May 2 2005

Film may aid interfaith dialogue

Because Sir Ridely Scott's new epic "Kingdom of Heaven" was filmed against the backdrop of the Crusades, it is likely to stir up religious passions still associated with that centuries-long conflict. ("Kingdom" is scheduled to open in theaters nationwide May 6.)

Many Muslims were concerned about the possibility of religious or ethnic stereotyping when they first heard that yet another Hollywood movie would feature Arab-Muslim characters. That concern was not without valid precedent.

In his exemplary book "Reel Bad Arabs," Professor Jack Shaheen notes that only Native Americans outdistance Arabs and Muslims in being vilified by Hollywood. Dr. Shaheen details a sad history of stereotypes in films that portray Arab-Muslims as terrorists ("Black Sunday," "The Siege"), greed mongers intent on controlling U.S. banks ("Rollover") or bumbling comic foils ("Ishtar," "Protocol," "Jewel of the Nile"). He notes that only a handful of films have portrayed Arabs and Muslims with any sympathy ("Three Kings," "The 13th Warrior").

Bucking the general trend, "Kingdom of Heaven" provides a balanced portrayal of a painful historical conflict. It refrains from the usual stereotyping or dehumanizing of Muslims.

American Muslim representatives recently took part in a screening of "Kingdom." They said the film is a "positive" depiction of Islamic culture during the Crusades. They also said that one of the film's most striking messages, that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace, will provide an opportunity for increased interfaith dialogue.

In the film, the bad guys are not all Muslims and the Christians are not all angels. Perhaps "Kingdom of Heaven" will do for Muslims that Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves" did for Native Americans, humanize a perceived "other."

Unfortunately, Internet chat rooms and talk radio shows are already abuzz with the concerns of those who cannot fathom how Muslims can be portrayed as dignified, proud and humane people for whom the ends did not justify the means. Media reports indicated that some conservative Christian are "marshalling their forces" against the film, claiming it is "insulting and unfair."

Perhaps all of us could take a lesson or two from Salahuddin Ayubi the great Muslim general depicted in the film who, even when attacked, upheld Islamic traditions of hospitality, prohibiting the killing of non-combatants and advocating kindness to people of other faiths.

The Quran, Islam's revealed text states: "Fight in God's cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression - for, verily, God does not love aggressors." (2:190) And also: "As for those who do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably." (60:8)

Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims used to rally the Crusaders persist to this day. These misperceptions are not mere footnotes in history, they continue to have a negative impact, sometimes influencing our nation's policies when dealing with Muslims both at home and abroad.

If nothing else, "Kingdom of Heaven" may spark renewed efforts to promote interfaith understanding and reconciliation based on an appreciation for the real history of that violent period in the histories of both Christianity and Islam.

We must all take advantage of this film to take whatever constructive steps are necessary to ensure that we learn from, and do not repeat, the mistakes of the past.

More Islamic Charities Shut Down

December 15, 2001

Federal officials have raided and shut down two more major Islamic charitable organizations, days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The offices of Global Relief Foundation (GRF) and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) were raided by federal officials on Friday.  All of their financial assets and records have been blocked, pending an investigation into possible ties to terrorism.

This government action has effectively shut down all major Islamic charitable outlets in the United States.  On December 4th, government officials raided and froze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF).  These three charitable groups are the largest and most-respected Islamic relief organizations operating in the U.S., passing tens of millions of dollars to needy children and families throughout the world each year.  All three organizations are registered non-profit 501(c)(3) charities -- HLF since 1989, BIF and GRF since 1992.  Officials from all three organizations are reportedly cooperating with investigators and providing voluntary interviews, in the belief that this error will be cleared and the funds released.  All three organizations have vehemently denied any link to terrorism. 

The organizations have provided emergency and developmental assistance in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Lebanon, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Turkey, and within the United States.  While the government has not yet issued an official statement about Friday's action, Treasury officials previously acknowledged that a 'substantial amount' of the money raised (by HLF) does go to worthy causes.

The government action comes two days before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims make their annual charitable contributions.  Muslims are required to pay 2.5 percent of their savings and assets in charity each year, a pillar of the faith called zakat (purification of wealth).

Muslim Condemnations of 9/11

Muslim leaders speak out against violence and terrorism
Quotes from the Quran

"O Mankind!
Most certainly, it is

(God Almighty) who have
Created you all
From a single (pair)
Of a male and a female,
And it is We who 
Have made you into
Nations and tribes,
That ye may recognize each other
(Not that ye may despise each other).
Verily, the noblest of you
In the sight of Allah
Is (he who is) the most
Righteous of you."
Holy Quran 49:13

"And mankind is naught but a single nation." Holy Quran 2:213
"And among His Signs
Is the creation of the heavens
And the earth, and the variations
In your languages
And your colors; verily
In that are Signs
For those who know."
Holy Quran 30:22
"Say: We believe 
In God, and in what
Has been revealed to us
And what was revealed 
To Abraham, Isma'il (Ishmael);
Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes,
And in (the Books)
Given to Moses, Jesus,
And the Prophets,
From their Lord:
We make no distinction 
Between one and another
Among them and to God do we
Bow our will (in Islam)."
Holy Quran 3:84
"Let there be no compulsion in matters of Religion"
Holy Quran 2:256
"Verily, those who believe (in the Quran) 
And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures)
And the Christians and the Sabians,
Any who believe in God
And the Last Day,
And work righteousness 
Shall have their reward
With their Lord; on them 
Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."
Holy Quran 2:62 

In the aftermath of the violence and horror of 9/11, criticisms were made that Muslim leaders and organizations were not outspoken enough in denouncing acts of terrorism. Muslims are constantly perplexed by this accusation, despite unified condemnations by leaders both in the United States and worldwide. For the record, the inhuman attacks of September 11 were condemned in the strongest terms by virtually all Islamic leaders, organizations, and countries. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia stated that, "...hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood, constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts."

Since Sept. 11, there have been many statements issued by Muslim leaders around the world, as well as by governments, non-governmental organizations, and Muslim-American groups--who have all denounced the terrorist attacks.

International gatherings have also condemned the attacks, such as the April 2002 conference in Malaysia which unanimously adopted the "Kuala Lumpur Declaration on International Terrorism" (adopted by the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers which represents the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference, OIC).