of the Day
- September 8, 2010
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local
newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage
of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood
activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible
issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular
point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From the Los Angeles Times
Protesters, LAPD clash as chief defends shooting
Police disperse crowd near Westlake site where officer shot a day laborer to death. At least 22 people are arrested.
By Kate Linthicum, Esmeralda Bermudez and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times
September 8, 2010
As Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck defended the fatal shooting of a day laborer and officials called for calm, protesters and officers clashed Tuesday night in Westlake near the site of the incident.
About 300 demonstrators gathered at the LAPD's Rampart Station. Some in the crowd hurled eggs at police cars and others threw objects at the station windows, prompting officers in riot gear to push the throng along 6th Street.
Officers fired non-lethal projectiles at protesters near Union Avenue and 6th, where Manuel Jamines was fatally shot Sunday afternoon by an officer who said Jamines refused commands to drop a switchblade.
About 9:30 p.m., police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and moved in to disperse the crowd as trash cans were set on fire and rocks and bottles were thrown at officers.
As police pushed crowds on 6th, some protesters climbed atop multistory apartment buildings, where they threw objects at officers below. Officers fired non-lethal projectiles toward the rooftops as residents peeked from their windows.
Several officers suffered minor injuries after being hit by bottles and rocks, police said. At least 22 people were arrested on charges such as failure to disperse, said LAPD Sgt. Alex Chogyoji.
At an evening news conference, Beck said the three bicycle patrol officers who confronted Jamines had about 40 seconds to act and did as good a job as could be done in such a quick-moving, emergency situation.
"There was very, very little opportunity to do much more than what was done," he said.
Beck identified the three officers involved as Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran; Steven Rodriguez, a five-year veteran; and Paris Pineda, who also has been on the force for five years.
Hernandez fired the shots, Beck said.
Police showed photographs of the bloodied knife — a switchblade that is about 6 inches long when opened — that they say Jamines, 37, was holding at the time of the shooting. Investigators are testing the blood to see whose it is, the LAPD said.
Beck said the area where the incident occurred "is not an easy place to police," in part because of its large immigrant population and widespread illegal vending.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was at the news conference, urged residents not to resort to violence. "We need to calm the waters," he said.
That message failed to resonate with protesters.
Near 6th and Union late Tuesday, police fired at least two volleys of non-lethal projectiles. Demonstrators, including families with children, bolted down the street and into alleyways. Witnesses said a man fell off his bike and struck his head.
Jesus Alejandro Hernandez Carmona, 20, was lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from the left side of his head, near a candle-lit memorial to Jamines. He was surrounded by a crowd that was book-ended by police lined up along 6th at Union on the east and Burlington Avenue on the west.
Los Angeles Fire Department ambulances were at the scene but were not crossing the police line. When asked by a reporter why the man was not receiving medical attention, a police commander said, "Tough."
Carmona was eventually helped to the ambulance by friends and received treatment.
Several people shouted angrily into loudspeakers and a group of young men wove through the crowd on bicycles. A vendor hawked bags of potato chips.
Vitalina Rubio, 52 looked on with disappointment as protesters hurled the eggs.
"You can't fight violence with violence," said Rubio, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in the MacArthur Park area for nine years.
Several cars and pedestrians were trapped amid the mass of demonstrators. One man kept shouting in Spanish, "I only wanted KFC!"
Earlier in the day, Beck briefed the civilian Police Commission on the shooting, explaining that the one officer who fired his weapon did so in "immediate defense of life."
The chief's defense of the shooting came amid continuing protests from some Westlake area residents who complained that police routinely mistreat them. They say officers toss food from illegal vending carts and verbally harass them.
"We want someone — the mayor, a council member, anyone — to come here and say enough is enough," said resident Ana Lopez, 42. "The people want answers."
Beck stressed that the investigation into Jamines' death had just begun. But he promised it would be as transparent "as humanly possible."
The incident started Sunday afternoon when Rampart Division's bicycle unit responded to a call of a man threatening passersby with a knife.
The officers rode to the corner of 6th and Union , and found Jamines making threats. They confronted him with weapons drawn, repeatedly ordering him in English and Spanish to drop the knife, Beck said. But Jamines instead raised the knife over his head and came toward the officers, Beck said, at which point Hernandez fired two rounds.
Jamines was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sitting at the Guatemalan consulate's office on Tuesday, three of Jamines' cousins spoke somberly about his death. They described the father of three as a hard-working man who struggled with alcohol on the weekends. He came from a small town in Nahuala, Solola, where his body will soon be transferred by the consulate.
Isaias Jamines said Manuel had begun drinking about 9 a.m. on the day he died. He said he saw his cousin on 6th Street and asked him to quit drinking and go home. Moments later, when Isaias arrived at his apartment, he heard three gunshots.
"I couldn't believe it was my cousin," Isaias said.
"Why couldn't they have shot him in the leg or somewhere else instead of killing him? He was drunk, but he was never a violent person."
Juan Jamines, another cousin, asked the Westlake community to remain peaceful and cooperative.
"We don't want problems," Juan said. "We just want justice."
Pablo Alvarado, the director of the National Day Laborer Network, said he hoped that the shooting would help start a dialogue between day laborers and police.
"Violence like this should not separate us but should draw us together," he said.
Although some residents complained about the way police treated them, others — including many business owners — supported the efforts of the LAPD over the last several years to drive down drug dealing and other crime that was once much more rampant. The department earned wide praise for cleaning up MacArthur Park, and that continues to pay dividends for the community.
A town hall meeting will be held by the Police Department at John H. Liechty Middle School at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Authorities investigate acts of vandalism at mosque as potential hate crime
The U.S. attorney is looking into the case of a brick being thrown at a window at a mosque in Madera, Calif., as well as a recent attack on a Planned Parenthood site in the town.
By Diana Marcum, Special to the Los Angeles Times
September 8, 2010
Reporting from Fresno
Vandalism at a mosque in Madera, Calif., is being investigated as a potential hate crime by the U.S. Department of Justice, officials confirmed Tuesday.
U.S. Atty. Benjamin Wagner said prosecuting hate crimes is a priority, particularly in the Eastern District of California, which includes Madera County and covers Central California, one of the fastest-growing regions in the state.
"It's an environment with rapid urbanization. The diversity and change that makes California such a great place also means … there are more potential flashpoints," he said. "This office has a lot of experience prosecuting hate crimes."
Central California has many growing Muslim communities. In Madera, however, there are only about 200 Muslims in a city of 58,000 and most are long established. Many are doctors.
A brick nearly smashed a window at Madera's mosque, and signs were left behind that read, "Wake up America, the enemy is here," and "No temple for the god of terrorism." The latest incident occurred Aug. 24.
A group called American Nationalist Brotherhood claimed responsibility for the attacks and also, this week, took responsibility for vandalizing a Planned Parenthood office in Madera.
Wagner said it was not uncommon to see multiple targets.
"It's what they call 'the mosh pit of hate,'" he said. "A lot of hate crime perpetrators are not single-issue haters."
Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, welcomed the announcement.
"It's a declaration that our society, our government will not tolerate hate crimes, no matter what," he said. "But we still really hope local and national law enforcement increase patrols around Islamic centers during the next three days."
This year, Sept. 11 coincides with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the conclusion of the monthlong Ramadan celebration, a time of great joy and festivity in the Muslim community. In Fresno, an annual festival was canceled because of concerns over escalating tensions stirred up by the debate over a proposed Muslim cultural center near ground zero in New York.
In Madera, some spoke out in solidarity with the town's Muslim community.
Wagner said such personal stands help law enforcement.
"There's no way to measure it in terms of crimes that aren't committed, but often the perpetrators of hate crimes are under the misguided impression that they are attacking an outlying community no one cares about," he said. "It helps law enforcement when the greater community speaks up and corrects that impression."
The Rev. Terry Jones is pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center
in Gainesville, Fla. He says supporters have mailed Korans to burn.
Reaction to proposed Koran burning doesn't faze Florida church
A plea from Gen. David H. Petraeus, who fears that burning the Muslim holy book could provoke violence, is rebuffed. But Pastor Terry Jones hints that he may reconsider the Saturday event.
By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
September 8, 2010
The pastor of a tiny, fringe evangelical church in Florida on Tuesday rebuffed a plea for restraint from Gen. David H. Petraeus, who warned that a plan to burn the Muslim holy book could provoke violence against American troops and citizens overseas.
"Instead of possibly blaming us for what could happen, we put the blame where it belongs — on the people who would do it," Pastor Terry Jones of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., told the Associated Press. "We should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form."
Jones also said he was still praying over his decision and hinted that he might change his mind. "We understand the general's concerns and we are taking those into consideration," he told WOFL-TV in Orlando.
A coalition of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders held a news conference in Washington on Tuesday to condemn Jones' statements and other slurs aimed at Muslims nationwide.
"The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Koran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11," said a statement by religious leaders organized by the Islamic Society of North America.
Religious leaders warned that Muslims overseas would interpret extremists like Jones as reflecting mainstream American attitudes toward Muslims. In Afghanistan on Monday, protesters made a point of wrapping an effigy of Jones in an American flag before burning both the effigy and the flag.
Reaction in the Arab news media was more muted, with most commentators and government officials calling on U.S. citizens to honor religious freedom and condemn Jones.
Petraeus, who directs U.S. forces in Afghanistan, seemed concerned that Jones' insults would enrage ordinary Afghans whom his soldiers are trying to win over as they battle Taliban religious extremists.
The general said Monday that images of burning Korans "would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
Weeks of anti-Muslim diatribes by Jones have brought unwelcome publicity to Gainesville, a progressive college town of 125,000 that normally would be focused on the University of Florida's football game Saturday. Jones' antics have also fed into a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide as the Sept. 11 anniversary approaches and U.S. troops continue to die in two wars waged in Muslim nations.
The reverend's threat follows angry protests against a proposed Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center site in New York. In recent weeks, other protesters have objected to planned mosques or Islamic centers in several states, calling them threats to local security.
In Gainesville, news crews have descended on the small stone-and-frame church, located on the city's northern outskirts. Jones' leathery, mustachioed face has appeared on TV networks beamed worldwide, delivering fiery condemnations of Islam.
City officials in Gainesville, where Mayor Craig Lowe has called the Dove World Outreach Center "an embarrassment to our community," have vowed to try to prevent Jones from burning anything on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the attacks.
Jones has been denied a burning permit, but says his lawyers have advised him that his 1st Amendment right to express his beliefs supersedes any local ordinance.
Police and other public safety officials will be on hand Saturday to enforce the city's open-burning law, said Bob Woods, Gainesville's communications manager. The ordinance's list of eight classes of items that may not be burned does not specifically include books, but does include paper.
Asked what the city would do if Jones carried out his threat, Woods replied, "We would respond appropriately. It depends on his actions.''
Lowe asked Gainesville residents to join him "in continuing to assert our community's true character" in response to what he called Jones' "offensive behavior."
Jones said he had received more than 100 death threats and now wears a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip. FBI agents have visited the preacher to voice concerns for his safety, according to the Associated Press.
The world's leading Sunni Muslim institution, Al Azhar University in Egypt, has accused Jones of fomenting hate and bigotry and has asked American churches to condemn him. Indonesian Muslims have demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, threatening violence if any Korans are burned.
In 2005, after a report in Newsweek — later retracted — that U.S. guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison had flushed a Koran down a toilet, deadly riots broke out in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Hundreds of protesters in Afghanistan's capital burned an effigy of President Obama in October 2009, acting on rumors that American troops had desecrated the Koran. U.S. military officials emphatically denied that any copies of the Muslim holy book had been mishandled.
For Muslims, the Koran is the word of Allah. The holy book is treated with deep reverence, and any defiling of it is considered a grave offense.
"The Holy Koran is sacred, just like the Bible is to Christians," Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, director of community outreach for the Islamic Society of North America, said in an interview. "Desecration of this book is something people will not tolerate."
Elsanousi said his organization has asked Muslims worldwide not to react violently if Korans are indeed burned.
The White House said Tuesday it agreed with Petraeus that burning Korans could endanger U.S. troops overseas, and the State Department called Jones' threat "un-American."
Last week, Jones said burning Korans "is a message that we have been called to bring forth. And because of that, we do not feel we can back down.''
Asked Tuesday about Petraeus' concerns, Jones told the Orlando TV station: "We should be issuing statements to radical Islam telling them this is enough. They better not do anything. If they do, we will answer."
On Labor Day, Jones posed in a dark suit outside his church, next to a portable billboard that read: "International Burn A Koran Day — 9/11/2010 — 6 p.m. to 9 p.m."
Jones has written a book titled "Islam Is of the Devil," and his church has distributed T-shirts bearing the same message. On the church's website, a "Ten Reasons to Burn the Koran" list discusses the plan:
"We are using this act to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful. The world is in bondage to the massive grip of the lies of Islam."
According to the church, supporters have mailed in Korans to be burned.
Obama to mark 9/11 anniversary at Pentagon
The president will attend the memorial in Washington as Vice President Biden visits New York and Michelle Obama and Laura Bush travel to the Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 crashed.
By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau
September 7, 2010
President Obama plans to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by attending a memorial service at the Pentagon, the White House said Tuesday.
In addition, Vice President Biden will attend services at ground zero in New York, while Michelle Obama will be joined by former First Lady Laura Bush at the Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville, Pa., Robert Gibbs announced at his daily press briefing.
Obama also spoke at the Pentagon in 2009. The decision to return there this year, rather than to commemorate the anniversary in New York, comes weeks after the president weighed in on the controversial proposal to build an Islamic community center and mosque blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center.
"The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable," he said at a White House Iftar dinner, marking the start of Ramadan, on Aug. 13. "But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."
Obama later clarified that he was not commenting on the "wisdom" of the specific plan for the so-called Park51 complex.
A recent Quinnipiac survey of New York voters found that 53% of respondents agreed that, because of sensitivities of 9/11 victims' families, the community center should be built somewhere else; 39% disagreed.
I was an 'anchor baby'
Merely having a baby on American soil doesn't doesn't give foreign parents a foothold, as 14th Amendment opponents often imply.
By Marie Myung-Ok Lee
September 8, 2010
I was an "anchor baby." According to family lore, the day I was born at Hibbing Memorial Hospital in Minnesota in the early 1960s was also the day my parents received their deportation papers. They had come to America from war-torn Korea on student visas that had run out. Laws at the time prohibited most Asians from immigrating, so they were told to leave, even with three American children.
The 14th Amendment, with its guarantee that anyone born here is an American, protected my siblings and me from being countryless. Today, in the growing clamor over illegal immigration, there have been calls to repeal this amendment, with the pejorative "anchor baby" invoked as a call to arms. The words suggest that having a child in America confers some kind of legal protection on illegal parents, that it gives them a foothold here.
But in reality, merely having a baby on American soil doesn't change the parents' status. As a so-called anchor baby, my existence did nothing to resolve my parents' situation; if anything, it only added to their stress.
In Korea, my father was a talented physician who also happened to speak fluent English. These skills led to his appointment as a medical liaison officer with a MASH unit during the Korean War. The assignment brought him to the attention of some American officers who, after the war ended, arranged for him and my mother to come to the U.S. so my father could continue his education. He ended up training with Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, a pioneer of heart surgery; my father was one of the first anesthesiologists in the world capable of administering anesthesia during open-heart surgery.
Other wartime contacts led to his job as an anesthesiologist in Hibbing, a northern Minnesota town that, because of its isolation and bitter winters, had trouble attracting doctors. My father was the sole anesthesiologist for miles, which meant that he spent long hours at the hospital, where he met with each patient the night before their surgeries and wouldn't leave until he'd answered all their questions. At home, a phone call during dinner — announcing springtime chain-saw accidents, appendectomies, emergency C-sections — often sent him rushing back to the hospital.
It wasn't until years later, when he made friends with another anesthesiologist who could cover for him — a German immigrant in Duluth, 70 miles away — that we could finally take a family vacation; until then, my father even had to be careful about drinking a beer at a cookout in case the hospital should call with another emergency.
It was peculiar laws rather than criminal intent that made my parents outlaws at the time of my birth. For most of American history, our country has had an open-door policy on immigration, restricting only people employed in certain kinds of occupations (such as prostitution) and those with communicable diseases. Then, in 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act out of fear that Chinese immigrants would take American jobs.
In 1924, the Immigration and Naturalization Act established quotas that heavily favored "desirable" Western Europeans while banning immigration from Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. Had my father been from Germany — like his anesthesiologist friend in Duluth, also toiling away at a job American doctors eschewed — citizenship would have happened easily. The same if my father had been from Mexico, as the act placed no quota restrictions on immigration from countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Instead, my parents went through an awful period of uncertainty, instability and stress, which included being swindled by a number of "immigration lawyers." In the end, self-interest won out. Not my parents' self-interest (although they did want to stay in the U.S.) but the interest of a town that needed its anesthesiologist.
Another friend of mine, also Korean American — an academic who has written groundbreaking books and nurtured a generation of scholars — mentioned to me that when her parents died, she opened a special box she'd always thought held secret, glittery treasures, only to find it stuffed with deportation warnings from the INS. Many of my immigrant and second-generation friends share this secret shame festering underneath the foil seals on our college and graduate degrees and our taxpaying lives. Studies show that immigrants, legal and not, are more law-abiding than the rest of the populace, and possibly more patriotic.
As a writer, I receive letters from readers who tell me how my work has touched, even changed, their lives; as a child, I often heard my father's patients expressing similar sentiments of gratitude. Even the most anti-immigrant citizens have probably been touched by an illegal alien and/or an anchor baby in ways they probably cannot fully fathom.
Our Minnesota town, where people prided themselves on following the law to the letter, did not rush to bring in the INS and run our illegal family out on a rail. People were instead so fearful of losing my father and his skills that the entire town signed a petition to protest the deportation order. This petition was brought to Congress by our local representative and eventually signed into a law to "provide relief" for my mother and father — but only them.
And although they were legal, they still weren't entitled to become citizens. This satisfied the townspeople, who were happy we were anchor babies —that we anchored my father to this place where his skills were so needed. But my parents, even as "permanent alien residents" with three (later four) American-born children, were still left in legal limbo, inhabiting an America that allowed them to stay, work, pay taxes, but not vote.
As an alien, my father worked at a job that other Americans did not want to do, and others like him have, too, harvesting crops, performing surgery, nurturing children, working in factories, making scientific discoveries, mopping floors.
In 1965, at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, President Lyndon Johnson signed a new immigration act to correct "a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation." It meant my parents were no longer "aliens ineligible for citizenship." They passed their citizenship tests with flying colors and received passports with blue covers and gilt eagles that matched their children's. My father went on to work at Hibbing Memorial Hospital for three more decades. And finally, we were an American family.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee is the author of the novel "Somebody's Daughter." She teaches at Brown University.
A drug kingpin falls
Edgar Valdez Villarreal's arrest was a blow to the drug cartels. But Mexico, and the U.S., have a lot of work to do in fighting drug trafficking.
September 7, 2010
The arrest of drug lord Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal in Mexico last week illustrates the good, the bad and the conundrum of President Felipe Calderon's war on cartels. Valdez was the third kingpin taken out of commission in less than a year and the first to be captured alive, offering an opportunity for intelligence-gathering on the multibillion-dollar drug smuggling business. Generally speaking, getting rid of crime bosses is good. It wreaks havoc on organizations that otherwise would be wholly focused on consolidating their formidable power; Valdez was nabbed in the midst of a bloody battle to succeed Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was killed by Mexican troops in December. Yet removing leaders also can be an endless game of whack-a-mole. It doesn't put the cartels out of business, and the ensuing turf violence can undermine public support for the drug war.
Calderon has been unable to forge a national consensus around the drug war. Mexicans tell pollsters they are unhappy with the security situation in their country, but they are not optimistic that the assault on traffickers will succeed. Soldiers, police, prosecutors, politicians and journalists routinely are killed by traffickers, yet Mexico's political classes do not seem to regard this as a strategic threat to the Mexican state. Calderon tried to bolster public support for the drug war with a national "dialogue" last month, to no avail. Critics said he was selling his strategy, not listening or consulting; opposition parties largely boycotted it, more preoccupied with partisan politics than with forging a unified response to a national crisis. The media, meanwhile, have accused Calderon of manipulating Valdez's arrest to bolster his own popularity, timing the announcement to coincide with his annual state-of-the nation address.
Mexican authorities have trotted out Valdez, handcuffed and smiling, to the media, prompting speculation that he would be handed over to the United States, where he is a citizen and might be allowed to cut a deal for informing on others. Valdez already has told investigators that leaders of the major cartels met in 2007 to divide up distribution routes, but that Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel, broke the pact, setting off a war among the cartels that has claimed many of the 28,000 lives lost to drug violence in the last four years. In video of an interrogation in police custody, Valdez speaks of having received trailers full of cash from north of the border. Which gets to one of the weaknesses of the drug war: In his annual address, Calderon said authorities had confiscated $72 million in U.S. banknotes and $9 million in Mexican pesos in the previous year — a drop in the bucket in a business that by some estimates earns $39 billion a year . Besides nabbing crime bosses, U.S. and Mexican officials need to find the money. And Calderon must unify his country around a long-term strategy for fighting drug trafficking.
Wind farms and the radar problem
Wind farms interfere with commercial and military radar systems. That's stalling some projects, but it doesn't have to.
September 7, 2010
Increasing the amount of electricity we get from renewable sources such as the sun and wind is a national priority and a state mandate. Among the many obstacles to getting that done — opposition to new transmission lines, worries that solar plants will harm endangered species, conflicts over land use — one has until recently remained largely off the public radar screen. But the radar screen is precisely the problem: Wind farms interfere with commercial and military radar systems.
In 2009, wind projects that would have produced a combined 9,000 megawatts of power were shelved or stalled after the Department of Defense or the Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns about radar, according to the New York Times. That's nearly as much as the power generated by wind farms that were actually built last year. The Mojave Desert is a particular trouble spot because of the many military air facilities in the region, and several proposed projects there have been withdrawn after hitting turbulence from the military.
Modern wind farms plant rows of spinning turbines on towers up to 400 feet tall, sometimes causing aircraft passing overhead to appear to vanish from radar screens. It's a serious problem but it's not insurmountable, as wind developers in Solano County recently showed.
After officials at Travis Air Force Base raised objections to a wind-power project in the nearby Montezuma Hills, the project's developer and the Air Force reached a highly unusual agreement to share data. An independent consultant used the information to demonstrate that the turbines wouldn't interfere with the base's radar system, and the Air Force withdrew its opposition.
Unfortunately, that kind of cooperation is rare. More typical is the situation described by JASON, an independent advisory group that does scientific consulting for the U.S. government, in a 2008 report on wind farms and radar. It suggested that the military's preferred response to proposals for wind projects near bases was "to declare encroachment and block installations of offending turbines, rather than attempt to find technical means of ameliorating the turbine impact."
Such technical solutions exist, but they're expensive. The best one is simply to replace outdated military radar systems with more modern equipment that isn't fooled by wind turbines, but there are others, such as using high-tech coatings on turbine blades that don't interfere with radar. What's really needed is for the Obama administration to work out a coherent plan for dealing with such conflicts between its energy and national security priorities.
From the New York Times
U.N. Says About 500 Were Victims of Congo Rapes
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
UNITED NATIONS — Approximately 500 women were raped in eastern Congo in July and August, demonstrating that both rebel militias and government troops used sexual violence as a weapon, two senior United Nations officials said Tuesday.
Since United Nations officials first disclosed late last month that large numbers of women had been gang-raped, the number reported has grown, to 242 victims from at least 150 concentrated in 13 villages in North Kivu Province, including 28 minors.
But Atul Khare, the deputy head of peacekeeping and the senior official sent from United Nations headquarters to investigate, told the Security Council on Tuesday that at least 257 more women had been raped elsewhere in North Kivu and South Kivu Provinces, for a total of at least 499 victims.
The latest victims include 21 girls between 7 and 21 years old, and six men, he said.
“Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalization of the population of the villages of the area,” he said of the peacekeeping mission, while noting that ultimately the protection of civilians was the job of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over 15,000 rapes were reported annually in both 2008 and 2009, Mr. Khare said. The latest reported include 10 rapes carried out in August by government soldiers, attacks that have been referred to a military prosecutor.
The Security Council will remain focused on the issue to try to better understand the underlying causes, said Susan E. Rice , the American ambassador to the United Nations. The rapes occur in villages near the transit routes for the lucrative trade in illegally extracted minerals.
Margot Wallstrom, who leads a new United Nations office concentrating on sexual violence in armed conflict, told the Council that the rapes in the villages in North Kivu “were not an isolated incident but part of a broader pattern of widespread systematic rape and pillage.”
She cited horrific accounts from women attacked around Kibua, a village in North Kivu, that militiamen shoved their hands inside women's sexual organs to look for hidden gold and that the village was surrounded so that no one could run away.
Both United Nations officials said that the organization must work harder to bring the perpetrators or their commanding officers to trial. They also said that the United Nations must be more active in trying to prevent rapes as soon as they hear that rebel fighters are on the move.
The first reports of clashes came in late July, but it took weeks for word of the large number of rapes to emerge.
United Nations peacekeepers are stationed about 20 miles away from where the rapes took place, but none visited until Aug. 2, when a patrol passed through one village. United Nations officials said no villagers had come forward initially about the rapes.
But an e-mail sent within United Nations agencies on July 30, as the attack was unfolding, indicates that United Nations officials knew that rebels were in the area and that at least one woman had reportedly been raped.
Gunmen Free Up to 800 From Nigeria Prison
KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Heavily armed gunmen attacked a prison in the central Nigerian city of Bauchi late on Tuesday, freeing as many as 800 inmates including suspected members of a militant Islamic sect, police said Wednesday.
State police commissioner Danlami Yar'Adua said the gunmen killed four people including two bodyguards and set part of the prison on fire. He said everything possible was being done to track down the escaped prisoners.
"About 50 men with machine guns came to the prison site, forced the prison open and released all the prisoners," one Bauchi resident told Reuters, asking not to be named.
Residents said the attackers were believed to be members of Boko Haram, a radical Islamic sect behind an uprising which killed hundreds of people in and around the northern city of Maiduguri a year ago.
Followers of Boko Haram -- which means "Western education is sinful" in the Hausa language spoken across northern Nigeria -- want sharia (Islamic law) imposed more widely across Africa's most populous nation.
The Bauchi prison was holding members of the sect who were detained after last year's uprising.
The killing of several policemen in recent weeks, and of two traditional rulers in the past week, had already raised fears in Maiduguri that Boko Haram was making a return.
Security has been tightened in Maiduguri, with the police and army carrying out joint patrols and a dusk-to-dawn ban imposed on motorcycles, which have been used by gunmen to carry out the recent attacks.
Symbols of government authority, including police stations, prisons and schools, were among the buildings attacked at the beginning of last year's uprising.
Nearly 800 people were killed, many of them shot by the security forces, in gunbattles which raged for days as the police and army fought to put down the uprising by sect members armed with home-made guns, machetes and knives.
In Florida, Many Lay Plans to Counter a Pastor's Message
By DAMIEN CAVE
MIAMI — Even before national religious leaders and Gen. David H. Petraeus condemned Terry Jones's plan to burn the Koran on Sept. 11 at his Gainesville church, grass-roots opposition had begun to swell.
Clergy members, academics and elected officials in Gainesville have planned nearly a dozen events to counter the plan, starting on Wednesday with an interfaith prayer service. On Saturday, hundreds of local residents and visitors are expected to rally against Mr. Jones, an evangelical pastor, with signs containing messages like “Peace among religions leads to peace among nations.”
“He represents only 30 people in this town,” said Larry Reimer, a local pastor, noting the size of Mr. Jones's church, the Dove World Outreach Center. “It needs to get out somehow to the rest of the world that this isn't the face of Christianity.”
Like many others, Mr. Reimer has personally tried to dissuade Mr. Jones. He recently left him a telephone message with the story of a Christian family from Indonesia that fears for their lives because of Mr. Jones's plan.
Americans living abroad have issued similar pleas. One teacher in Afghanistan wrote the pastor an impassioned e-mail describing the boisterous protesters he saw condemning Mr. Jones outside his classroom Sunday. “Your actions endanger my life,” he wrote.
How much Mr. Jones is listening remains unclear. The phone at his church was busy on Tuesday, and he did not respond to e-mail seeking comment.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Mr. Jones said he was “definitely praying” about the demonstration, but he seems to have left himself little room to maneuver. In a recorded sermon last month, he said: “What we're doing has no middle of the road. You have to believe it is totally, totally God or absolutely of the devil.”
Officials in Gainesville are making plans as if the burning will occur. A police checkpoint will be added. And though Fire Department officials have denied Mr. Jones a bonfire permit, Deputy Fire Chief Tim Hayes said Tuesday that contained residential fires that did not extend beyond three feet by three feet were allowed.
“We have no idea what this guy's planning,” Chief Hayes said. “We will do everything we can within the law.”
Concern Is Voiced Over Religious Intolerance
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
WASHINGTON — Prominent Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders held an extraordinary “emergency summit” meeting in the capital on Tuesday to denounce what they called “the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry” aimed at American Muslims during the controversy over the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero.
“This is not America,” said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick , the emeritus Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, flanked by three dozen clergy members and religious leaders at a packed news conference at the National Press Club. “America was not built on hate.”
They said they were alarmed that the “anti-Muslim frenzy” and attacks at several mosques had the potential not only to tear apart the country, but also to undermine the reputation of America as a model of religious freedom and diversity.
The imam behind the plan to build an Islamic center near ground zero, Feisal Abdul Rauf, finally spoke out about the controversy, saying in an opinion piece in The New York Times published Tuesday night that he would proceed with plans to build the center. He wrote that by backing down, "we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides."
The meeting in Washington occurred amid growing concern by the White House, the State Department and the top American military commander in Afghanistan over plans by Terry Jones, the pastor of a small church in Florida, to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Gen. David H. Petraeus warned on Tuesday that any video of Americans burning the Koran “would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” endangering the lives of American soldiers.
A State Department spokesman called Mr. Jones's plan “un-American.” Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said any activity “that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration.”
Several clergy members in Washington and Florida said that there were efforts to dissuade Mr. Jones from proceeding with the event, but that he appeared unlikely to relent.
The religious leaders in Washington said in their statement, “We are appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text that for centuries has shaped many of the great cultures of our world.”
Interfaith events are not unusual, but this one was extraordinary for the urgency and passion expressed by the participants. Some of the same religious leaders later met with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to urge him to prosecute religious hate crimes aggressively.
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism , said: “We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, have attacked us verbally, and others have remained silent. It cannot happen here in America in 2010.”
The clergy members said that those responsible for a poisoned climate included politicians manipulating a wedge issue in an election year, self-styled “experts” on Islam who denigrate the faith for religious or political reasons and some conservative evangelical Christian pastors.
The Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good , said: “To those who would exercise derision, bigotry, open rejection of our fellow Americans of a different faith, I say, shame on you. As an evangelical, I say to those who do this, you bring dishonor to those who love Jesus Christ.”
The summit meeting was initiated by leaders of the Islamic Society of North America , an umbrella group of mosques and Muslim groups, who contacted Jewish and Christian leaders they know from years of joint interfaith projects.
A Catholic priest, the Rev. Mark Massa, executive director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops , wrote the draft of the statement. About three dozen clergy members representing Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, evangelical and Orthodox Christian groups refined it at the meeting.
They did not take a stand on whether to support the proposed mosque and community center near ground zero in Manhattan, saying, “Persons of conscience have taken different positions on the wisdom of the location of this project, even if the legal right to build on the site appears to be unassailable.”
But some groups at the meeting, like the National Council of Churches, an umbrella group representing 100,000 churches, have come out in support of a mosque near the World Trade Center site, said the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the council.
Immigration Crackdown Steps Into the Kitchen
By SARAH KERSHAW
FOR a man facing the possibility of up to 30 years in prison, almost $4 million in fines and the government seizure of his small French restaurant here, Michel Malecot has an unusually jovial and serene air.
During lunch recently, he walked around the French Gourmet, his 45-seat restaurant, bakery and catering company in the city's Pacific Beach neighborhood, hugging his regular customers and planting a kiss on each cheek, before meandering back into the sprawling kitchen to make himself a herring baguette with butter.
“Serve this with warm potatoes,” Mr. Malecot said, “and c'est bon.”
An immigrant from the South of France, he came here in 1972, settling in San Diego because he said the climate reminded him of home. And now it is the knotty issue of immigration that has made him a local cause célèbre, thrust him into one of the nation's most contentious debates, jeopardized his future and sent a current of fear through the $550-billion-plus restaurant industry.
In April, Mr. Malecot, 58, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of illegally hiring 12 undocumented immigrants and, in what prosecutors portray as a brazen deception, continuing to employ them after learning that they were in the country illegally. He pleaded not guilty. Now, if convicted, he faces the possibility of forfeiture of the restaurant building, along with an adjacent rental property, Froggy's Bar. Legal experts say it would be an exceptionally stiff punishment, but one that could be a sign of things to come for an industry that is one of the nation's largest employers of immigrants.
“They're using a body of law intended for drug dealers and money launderers and going after an iconic bakery and philanthropic business,” said Jot Condie, the president of the California Restaurant Association, which has 22,000 members. “If their strategy is to get the attention of the industry, mission accomplished.”
Under a policy that went into effect in April 2009, the Obama administration is taking a much tougher stance on employers who hire illegal immigrants than any administration in decades. Enforcement agents have subjected businesses across the country to much greater scrutiny, using tactics that were almost nonexistent until two years ago. Federal officials said they expected to announce record numbers of investigations and fines by the end of the year. As of July 31, Immigration and Customs Enforcement , an arm of the Department of Homeland Security , had announced investigations of 2,073 businesses so far this year, outpacing the 1,461 conducted in all of 2009.
Restaurants are not the only businesses to fall under the searchlight. But until recently, immigration enforcement had been notoriously lax, with a kind of universal wink at kitchens filled with employees working either off the books or with false documents, government officials and industry experts say.
But that is quickly changing, based on the rising number of investigations and the penalties being sought against restaurateurs.
In June, the owner of two Maryland restaurants who pleaded guilty to hiring and harboring illegal immigrants was ordered to forfeit to the government more than $700,000 in assets — in addition to his motorcycle — and faces up to 10 years in prison. In November, a restaurateur in Mississippi who had pleaded guilty to hiring illegal immigrants was sentenced to a year in prison and a year of supervised release. Combined fines in the case, shared among several defendants, amount to $600,000.
Out of a total of about 12.7 million workers in the restaurant industry, an estimated 1.4 million — both legal and illegal immigrants — are foreign born, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . According to 2008 estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, about 20 percent of the nearly 2.6 million chefs, head cooks and cooks are illegal immigrants. Among the 360,000 dishwashers, 28 percent are undocumented, according to the estimates.
Those numbers sounded low to a Manhattan chef and restaurateur who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he does not want to draw attention to his TriBeCa restaurant.
“We always, always hire the undocumented workers,” he said. “It's not just me, it's everybody in the industry. First, they are willing to do the work. Second, they are willing to learn. Third, they are not paid as well. It's an economic decision. It's less expensive to hire an undocumented person.”
While many restaurants do comply with the law, according to government officials, labor economists say immigrants are highly appealing hires because they tend to be especially loyal, stable and dependable. They are also more likely than United States citizens to work for lower wages without health insurance, sick days or paid vacations and paid breaks.
Of nine major chefs and restaurateurs asked about the government's intensified focus on employers of immigrants — Wolfgang Puck , Stephen P. Hanson, Stephen Starr, Jeffrey Chodorow, Danny Meyer , Daniel Boulud , Rick Bayless , Rich Melman and Nick Valenti — only Mr. Valenti's company, the Patina Restaurant Group, would comment.
In a written statement, the company said: “Patina Restaurant Group does periodically bring in employees from other countries following all Federal Immigration laws. This is a small percentage of our workforce, for which we utilize the programs provided by the department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing us to bring in chefs and management talent from abroad, along with international students to expand their knowledge with hands on training.”
The TriBeCa restaurateur, who said he had been working in the business for more than two decades, said that about one-fourth of his employees are illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico, Africa and South America. He said that those who provide him with Social Security numbers are paid by check. Others receive cash, which allows restaurant owners to avoid paying taxes. He insisted that he did not pay anyone less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“If they give me a Social Security number, I don't ask questions,” he said. “That's what people do.”
If immigration laws are fully enforced in the restaurant business, “At the end of the day, the customer is going to end up paying for it,” he said. “We'll have to pay higher wages, more taxes and then we will have to charge more. The economy is not that great, so you charge more, you have fewer customers and more people going out of business.”
Barbara Coe, founder and president of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which advocates limiting immigration, said she has little sympathy for restaurants that hire illegal workers.
“Any restaurant that chooses to hire them deserves to go bankrupt,” she said. “They are padding their pockets by breaking the law.”
Some advocates for immigrants agree.
“We don't think a restaurant should exist if it doesn't pay legal wages,” said Ted Smukler, public policy director of Interfaith Worker Justice, a workers' rights group. “New immigrants are deathly afraid of complaining, and that makes them appealing workers for unscrupulous employers.”
At the French Gourmet, the government says that in addition to Mr. Malecot, Richard Kauffmann, a manager and pastry chef, was deeply involved in what it calls a conspiracy. Mr. Kauffmann faces similar charges, prison time and fines, and has pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Malecot opened the French Gourmet, which now has about 120 full- and part-time employees, in 1979. He married an American woman and became a United States citizen in 1985.
He is one of the city's top caterers, having won a slew of local and state awards for the business. Its wedding cakes have been listed as a “Best of Weddings” pick on Knot.com for several years.
But the business, whose motto is “It's a Delicious Day at the French Gourmet!”, drew a less welcome brand of attention after Mr. Malecot catered a benefit free of charge for a veteran returning from the Iraq war in 2006. According to Mr. Malecot's lawyer, Eugene Iredale, the small dinner was held at an Air Force base, where heightened security measures and identity checks led to the discovery that one of the French Gourmet's employees, an Algerian immigrant, was working illegally. From then on, the authorities were watching.
According to the indictment, the business had already received what are known as “no match” letters from the Social Security Administration , saying that the Social Security numbers used by some employees were not valid. Those letters instruct employers not to take any action against the workers, but instead to resubmit valid numbers.
The indictment contends that Mr. Malecot then started paying those employees in cash, before Mr. Kauffmann and others submitted new Social Security numbers that they falsely certified as genuine. And the government says the French Gourmet went to great lengths to deceive the authorities — leading to felony charges of harboring immigrants, or concealing their illegal status.
On May 15, 2008, the streets around the French Gourmet were shut down as about a dozen armed agents stormed into the restaurant. They arrested 12 workers, dug through papers and carted away hard drives from the office.
(Mr. Malecot was in France at the time of the raid, and charges were not filed against him until last February. He surrendered in court, without being arrested, and was released on $150,000 bail.)
Mr. Malecot's case points up one of the complexities of hiring immigrants: A federal law requires businesses to submit worker documents that “on their face reasonably appear to be genuine,” the law says. But fake papers are easily obtained by immigrants. To avoid being tripped up by paperwork that looks real, employers say that they are forced into the role of policing immigrants.
Government agencies now recommend that employers hire an auditing firm or train personnel to detect fraudulent documents. A growing number of states now require employers to use E-verify, a government-run online system that instantly determines the eligibility of job applicants to work in the United States. Even in states where the system is not required, industry experts said, more restaurants are using the system. The French Gourmet is now among them.
Critics, however, say that the data in the system can be wrong and that some people who are eligible to work are being turned away.
The National Restaurant Association is lobbying a deadlocked Congress for changes in immigration laws, including policies that would make it easier for undocumented workers to gain legal status.
Mr. Malecot, who spoke freely in an interview at the restaurant, said he believed that he had filed all the proper employment paperwork for the arrested employees. Those workers are now witnesses in the case against him, according to Mr. Iredale.
“Maybe you just look at this as destiny,” Mr. Malecot said. “I came here with nothing. I guess it's all a game. But it's definitely a blow, and it's frustrating.”
Mr. Malecot is an active philanthropist in San Diego, contributing to causes including Alzheimer's and cancer research and education to help victims of torture. His employees describe him as a father figure who has paid for their dental work and babysitting, charters a fishing boat for the annual company party and provides every employee with a week's paid vacation, extremely rare in restaurants.
Because of his financial troubles as a result of the case, he said, he can no longer afford some of these perks. The next court date is Nov. 29.
“He's very generous,” Asunción Gallardo, a Mexican immigrant who has cooked at the restaurant for 16 years, said in Spanish, out of earshot of Mr. Malecot. “It's like we're all a family. We eat — he gives us three meals a day and food to go. And then he gives out food for the poor.”
Since the indictment, Mr. Malecot said, he has lost at least $500,000 in catering jobs. Catering accounts for about 70 percent of the French Gourmet's revenues, which so far this year amount to roughly $4.5 million, Mr. Malecot said.
But longtime customers have been dining there more often to show their support, he said.
One of them, Pat Hyndman, has been eating at the French Gourmet for 10 years and said: “My immediate reaction is this is a bunch of government nonsense. He's the most respected caterer in town. But then I realized this is much bigger than Michel.”
A conspiracy indictment was brought last week against a Los Angeles company, alleging forced labor on a chilling scale. Six contractors are accused of a scheme to hold 400 workers from Thailand in virtual slavery on farms in Hawaii and Washington State. The Justice Department says it is the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by the federal government. Just as disturbing is how familiar the accusations are.
The company, Global Horizons Manpower, is accused of abusing the federal guest worker program, known as H-2A, in 2004 and 2005 and luring workers with false promises of steady work at decent pay. The workers, poor men from the Thai countryside, took on crushing debt to pay exorbitant recruiting fees, about $9,500 to $21,000. After they arrived in America, according to the indictment, their passports were taken and they were set up in shoddy housing and told that if they complained or fled they would be fired, arrested or deported.
The case, brought in Honolulu, coincides with the sentencing on Thursday of two Hawaii farmers, Mike and Alec Sou, who pleaded guilty in January to a forced-labor scheme involving 44 Thai workers. The Sous worked with Global Horizons before but are linked to the latest case only by the methods they admitted to using.
In the abuse of legal foreign workers, the numbers vary but the methods are the same. It is slavery without shackles. Its perpetrators seldom have to resort to violence or even threats of violence. Since workers are buried in debt before they even leave their home countries, the threat of being fired and deported is enough.
To lose a guest-worker job means irreparable harm: destitution, unpayable debt, the loss of mortgaged family land. Under those conditions, a worker will accept any abuse, live and work in squalor and do what he is told. Everyone else — the middlemen; the companies that get “cheap, compliant labor,” in the words of the Global Horizons indictment; and the grocery buyers who eat cheap, fresh produce, subsidized by suffering — is satisfied.
American history is full of examples of large-scale abuses of farmworkers, from the Bracero program for Mexicans in the 1940s to the present day. The Bush administration, which was in charge of the H-2A program at the time Global Horizons is accused of doing its worst, generally turned a blind eye to wage-and-hour enforcement. In its waning days, it issued new rules that gutted worker pay and labor protections in the program.
The Obama administration has taken a somewhat stronger line in protecting workers. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis overturned the Bush-era H-2A rules changes and started programs to help low-wage workers know their rights and report abuses. The government has been issuing special visas to workers who were victims of trafficking, notably in the case of Indian workers exploited in Mississippi shipyards after Hurricane Katrina.
But a vast enforcement gap persists. A bill that would strengthen immigrant guest workers' rights languishes with the rest of immigration reform. Thousands in the undocumented work force toil unprotected. The Global Horizons case is only the beginning.
Building on Faith
By FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
AS my flight approached America last weekend, my mind circled back to the furor that has broken out over plans to build Cordoba House, a community center in Lower Manhattan. I have been away from home for two months, speaking abroad about cooperation among people from different religions. Every day, including the past two weeks spent representing my country on a State Department tour in the Middle East, I have been struck by how the controversy has riveted the attention of Americans, as well as nearly everyone I met in my travels.
We have all been awed by how inflamed and emotional the issue of the proposed community center has become. The level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship.
Many people wondered why I did not speak out more, and sooner, about this project. I felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad. It would be better if I addressed these issues once I returned home to America, and after I could confer with leaders of other faiths who have been deliberating with us over this project. My life's work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.
We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.
Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years. Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.
Our broader mission — to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology — lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims. It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.
From the political conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians to the building of a community center in Lower Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering understanding and peace.
At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.
Cordoba House will be built on the two fundamental commandments common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: to love the Lord our creator with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We want to foster a culture of worship authentic to each religious tradition, and also a culture of forging personal bonds across religious traditions.
I do not underestimate the challenges that will be involved in bringing our work to completion. (Construction has not even begun yet.) I know there will be interest in our financing, and so we will clearly identify all of our financial backers.
Lost amid the commotion is the good that has come out of the recent discussion. I want to draw attention, specifically, to the open, law-based and tolerant actions that have taken place, and that are particularly striking for Muslims.
President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.
The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift.
From those who recognize our rights, from grassroots organizers to heads of state, I sense a global desire to build on this positive momentum and to be part of a global movement to heal relations and bring peace. This is an opportunity we must grasp.
I therefore call upon all Americans to rise to this challenge. Let us commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 by pausing to reflect and meditate and tone down the vitriol and rhetoric that serves only to strengthen the radicals and weaken our friends' belief in our values.
The very word “islam” comes from a word cognate to shalom, which means peace in Hebrew. The Koran declares in its 36th chapter, regarded by the Prophet Muhammad as the heart of the Koran, in a verse deemed the heart of this chapter, “Peace is a word spoken from a merciful Lord.”
How better to commemorate 9/11 than to urge our fellow Muslims, fellow Christians and fellow Jews to follow the fundamental common impulse of our great faith traditions?
Feisal Abdul Rauf is the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and the imam of the Farah mosque in Lower Manhattan.