Islamophobes discover “DNC Muslim Prayer Jihad”?
by Sheila Musaji
A group called the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs (BIMA) http://muslimbureau.com/ is hosting an event prior to the DNC called Jumah at the DNC: A Message to the Grassroots on Friday August 31, with other events over the week-end. The Jumah prayer will be at Marshall Park near the convention center. Imam Siraj Wahhaj will lead the prayer, and later there will be an Islamic Leadership Banquet featuring Sh. Muhammad Adly and Captain James Yee as speakers. The organizers of the event are Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Jibril Hough. Hough told the Charlotte Observer that he expected 20,000 Muslims to attend the prayer service as well as other BIMA-sponsored events scheduled in the days before the convention, including an Islamic issues conference and banquet, and a cultural festival.
Here is the information from the BIMA site:
The Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs, (BIMA) as a non-profit organization is designed to serve and facilitate the efforts of Islamic organizations and Institutions in their endeavors as well as spread awareness about Indigenous Muslim issues. BIMA is headquartered in Newark, New Jersey and also operates a Da’wa and Resource Center in Brooklyn, New York at Masjid Kawthar. BIMA also provides numerous services to the Muslim community and support groups in areas of education, counseling and social services.
On August 31st, 2012, Labor Day weekend, BIMA will be hosting an open air Jumah Prayer at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jumah Prayer will be followed by a number of other programs and events relative to the American Muslim plight, which will include a Banquet with special invited guest, an Islamic Issues Conference, an Islamic Cultural Festival and Halal Entertainment for all ages.
BIMA’s purpose in rallying large numbers of Muslims to participate in this event, Jumah at the DNC, is to make the general public aware that the Muslim community is a healthy and vibrant component to the American society. Being that these events will occur between August 31st and September 3rd; which happens to be the Labor Day weekend, we felt that it would be most convenient for Muslims to be able to travel without being inhibited by their work schedules and other obligatory duties. Also it is the best time for Muslims to capture national and international attention.
This platform is non-political and non-partisan; meaning that it is not an endorsement of any political candidate or elected official. It is intended to address the concerns and issues that are challenging to the American Muslim citizens in the 21st century. It is mandatory that concerned Muslims stand up for their Constitutional and Human Rights and repel the outright injustices that are being perpetuated against the American Muslim Community. This single complaint is characteristic of the many grievances that have transpired in this nation when bad government has infringed upon the rights of its citizens. But if we continue to remain silent on these issues or confront them on divided fronts we will continue to be ineffective in getting our rights as citizens of America acknowledged. This will be the agenda launched by BIMA at the DNC with hopes that the American Muslim community will allign themselves for future endeavors.
And according to another page on their site they explain that they feel that “there is a great need for the Muslim Community of America to participate in any historical event that will serve as a goodwill gesture to the American people.” They hope for a large turnout and “will be inviting local and national Islamic organizations” and their members. They are fundraising and collecting donations to cover expenses.
This is not an organization that I had heard of before this, and their “about us” page provides no information about their leadership except that it was founded in 1992 by the late Hajj Heshaam Jaaber. This is perhaps the same individual who said the funeral prayers for Malcolm X. The title of this organization Bureau of “Indigenous” Muslim Affairs is unfortunate, and indigenous generally refers only to the Native Americans.
Michael Gordon in the Charlotte Observer in an article Religious groups plan spiritual events while Democrats are in town notes
... From mass prayer gatherings by Christians and Muslims to speeches and programs, the City of Churches plans to live up to its name. ... Thousands of Muslims will flock to Marshall Park on Aug. 31 for their traditional Friday, or Jumah, prayer.
Two days later, “Charlotte714” could draw thousands of Christians to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for what is billed as a nonpartisan, interdenominational Sunday afternoon of prayer for the city and the country. Some 60 congregations have signed up in support, says businessman David Benham, who is organizing the event with his brother Jason.
He also discusses the numerous religious denominations planning special programs prior to, and during the convention to discuss issues of social justice and the environment. All are hoping that their concerns may reach a national audience. He also notes that the Jumah will be followed by an Islamic issues conference that will address such topics as “Islamophobia, Anti-Shariah, Middle Eastern Crisis, the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act.” This will be capped off with the Islamic Regal Banquet and an Islamic cultural festival.
So, it seems that contrary to the paranoid hysteria of the Islamophobes, American Muslims are simply one of many religious groups that see the DNC as an opportunity to share their message. “Inconveniences aside, the convention gives religious groups an international stage for their messages and ministries.” He quotes a representative of St. Peter’s Catholic Church as saying that “Hopefully, some people will be here who realize how important it is to raise social-justice issues and start talking about them a little bit more,” Bendezu says. “With that, they might stop by and listen.”
So far the event is receiving publicity mostly from the Islamophobic echo chamber.
— Bob Taylor of the Washington Times is upset that the DNC lists the assembly as an “official function”, and calls the event an example of “taqiyya”. — Jack Minor at WND calls it a gathering of “radical Muslims”. — The Gateway Pundit claims that “the Obama campaign will host Muslim Jumah but won’t let Cardinal lead prayer”. — Timothy Whiteman of the Examiner is upset that he believes Cardinal Timothy Dolan was not invited to deliver a prayer at the DNC and somehow connects this with the fact that the DNC is “embracing” Muslims. — Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network finds this gathering a “cause for concern” — Robert Spencer calls the event “Jihad at the DNC” and he is quoted as saying ““The Obama administration is listing this Jumah at the DNC business as part of the convention activity as an official function.” which is a lie.— Pamela Geller [url=http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2012/08/jihad-at-the-democrat-national-convention.html] calls the event a “blatant stealth coup”, and said that “Obama refused Cardinal’s prayers” but made Muslim Jumah an “official function” and it “looks like Obama is engaging in his own holy war”. — Truth Broadcasting claims that “the DNC to bus 20,000 Muslims to the Convention”. — The Canada Free Press thinks that they should “rename Charlotte to something like ‘Charlott-istan’”.
These folks are attempting to give the impression that this event is “sponsored” by the DNC, that Muslims are getting special treatment, and even that the government is paying to bus Muslims in for this event. As usual, they are wrong on every count.
The DNC will be held September 4th to 6th, so it is impossible to come to the conclusion that an event being held on August 31st could be an “official function” of the DNC event which doesn’t even begin until four days later.
The only “special treatment” Muslims are getting is that no Muslim will offer prayers at either the DNC or the RNC (although the RNC will have a Catholic Cardinal, Rabbis, a Sikh, a Greek Orthodox Archbishop, and two Mormon leaders on the official schedule).
The Jumah event is being sponsored by, arranged by, and paid by a Muslim organization. It is not sponsored by the DNC, and it is not an official function of the DNC.
No one refused the Cardinal, and he will be giving the closing prayer at the DNC.
Lots of other groups, primarily Christian, are having events prior to and during the convention. None of these is sponsored by the DNC.
Perhaps the Islamophobes should have checked out Snopes.com who said that the claim that the Jumah event was sponsored by the Obama campaign and that they had declined to have a prayer offered by a Catholic Cardinal was FALSE! They might also have checked out the DNC schedule of events or any newspaper for the dates of the convention. However, facts are not their stock in trade.
A Muslim Prayer event in D.C. in 2009 also stirred up this kind of controversy.
The Islamophobia Industry sees non-existent Muslim jihad plots everywhere, and uses them in an effort to marginalize the civic participation of Muslims.
The Islamophobes consistently promote the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims. They generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam. When they are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence. When they are called out for their bigotry, they claim that they are being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia, or it is a term made up purposefully by Muslims in order to deflect attention from the fact that according to the Islamophobes there is no such thing as Islamophobia.
There is a reason that many, even outside of the Muslim community see such demonization of Muslims as Islamophobic. There is a reason that the ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”. There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that they are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle. There is a reason that Geller and Spencer are featured prominently in the Center for American Progress “Fear Inc.” report on the Islamophobia network in America. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack: The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security. There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature. There is a reason that they are featured (with extensive backgrounder articles) in our TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry. There is a reason that these individuals are featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes. The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, and it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism.
Today the Jumah prayer event was held, and rather than the much thrown around number of 20,000 Muslims expected, only about 200 Muslims attended. I am not certain why BIMA planned such an event, and advertised such incredible projections on the same day as the 49th annual ISNA convention kicks off in Washington, D.C., but the poor showing does not reflect well on the organization.
The Charlotte Observer reported
... A Christian group set up on a sidewalk beside the park turned on a loud sound system as the Muslims tested their system. They held up a sign: “Democrats attack morality, family, children.”
“We’re glad that (the Muslims) are here,” said the Rev. Phillip “Flip” Benham of Concord-based Operation Save America, an anti-abortion group. “If the devil is going to throw a party, it’s imperative that the church of Jesus Christ show up.”
... Christians also are expected to gather in big numbers throughout the city, including “Charlotte714,” a Sunday afternoon program of music and prayer that’s expected to attract thousands to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. It’s billed as a nonpartisan, interdenominational afternoon of prayer for the city and county. Some 70 area congregations of multiple faiths have signed up in support.
One of the organizers, Concord businessman David Benham, Flip Benham’s son, said he and fellow sponsors have been meeting for prayer at First Baptist Church, which borders Marshall Park, where the Muslim prayer event took place. They were to meet there Friday at 7:15 a.m. “We decided that was going to be a great time to gather and pray because the Muslims were going to be coming to the park,” Benham said. “We were praying that God would forgive our sins. Islam’s not the foundation of this country. Christianity is.”
On Friday night, Catholics are to meet for a rosary and prayer at Time Warner Cable Arena. And they also plan a pro-life march and rally Wednesday at The Square in the center of the city.
The Washington Times reports “The only signs of a disturbance came about fifteen minutes before the Jumah commenced when a Christian protest group attempted to override the Muslim delegation with blaring speakers. That was quickly subdued by local law enforcement and there were otherwise no disruptions. In addition to the Democratic protest sign other messages said, “Jesus is the way”, “Jesus is life”, and “Islam is a lie.” Protesters were allowed to display their signs without incident, and they were never challenged in any way.
These protesters are the same individuals and groups who harassed attendees at the 2009 Islam on Capitol Hill prayer.
Fact Check reports that
Charlotte in 2012, which allowed community members to promote events on its website, has since removed BIMA’s event listing.
Charlotte in 2012 is a nonpartisan organization set up to promote the city during the convention and to engage people in related “business and civic” opportunities. More than 1,000 non-convention-related events were scheduled. A senior host committee official told us the organization does not endorse any of the community groups that list events on its site.
The page on which BIMA advertised its prayer service allowed community members to promote events next to those officially sponsored by the Democratic Party or the city. The official told us the prayer event’s page — which has since been taken down — lacked the official logo of the DNC, which is a blue and white circle enclosed around human silhouettes, and the logo for an official city-sponsored event, which has a silhouette of Charlotte’s skyline. The DNC’s official website lacks any mention of a “Jumah” or specific Muslim prayer service.
BIMA’s event listing on the host committee’s website had said that the Jumah’s purpose is to make the “general public aware that the Muslim community is a healthy and vibrant component to the American society.”
... Charlotte in 2012 sent us the following statement regarding its removal of BIMA’s event listing:
“This event, like many others on the page, was user generated. Upon further review, and because speakers for the event and statements and positions from event organizers were not appropriate and relevant to the Host Committee, Charlotte in 2012 has decided to remove the event from our events calendar.”
The official did not respond to a follow-up email asking why the organization considered BIMA’s statements and positions to be inappropriate.