Boston (V9-I22)

Bush Honors Quincy Imam

Boston–March 14, 2007–President Bush appointed Imam Talal Eid of Quincy, Massachusetts to the United States Commission on International Religious freedom, a bipartisan federal agency based in Washington, DC.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is a US government agency created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. It monitors the state of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad according to the definition in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Commission gives independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.

The USCIRF advises the US Department of State which countries it believes should receive designation as a Country of Particular Concern for violations of religious freedom. The Secretary of State is not obligated to follow the USCIRF recommendations.

Eid was born in 1951 in Lebanon. He studied at al-Azhar University in Cairo. In 2005, the Harvard Divinity School conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Theology.

Eid is Founder and Director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Institute of Boston. He served as imam at the Al-Nasir Mosque in Tripoli for seven years and as imam and religious director of the Islamic Center of New England from 1983-2005. He currently serves as Muslim chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Brandeis University.

The USCIRF’s first Muslim Commissioner was UCLA law school professor Khaled M. Abou El Fadl. But Talal Eid is the first Muslim cleric on the commission. TMO asked Imam Talal Eid to comment on his role in the Commission as a representative of Islam.

“In the mosque, the imam is not the center, rather God/Allah, the Creator. The rabbi is a cleric, but his/her role is different than that of the priest. Even Christian clerics differ in their role toward their communities. And thus do the imams.”

Eid continued, “I am willing to engage people in dialogue. To have a dialogue with people of shared principles is important. But more important is to have dialogue with people who are different, probably very different. People should learn how to solve their social problems through dialogue. Hatred and violence can bring destruction and may cause tragedies and misery.”

“The Commission’s role is to suggest solutions to problems related to religious freedom to the best of my understanding and belief. I may not be able to solve the problems of the world, but I have to start somewhere.”

Harvard Shows Iranian Political Art

Cambridge–May 18, 2007–TMO attended the opening reception of a photo exhibit entitled “Walls of Martyrdom: Tehran’s Propaganda Murals” at Harvard University. To show the power of imagery in Iranian culture, Fontini Christia displayed photographs of Tehran’s public murals in an exhibit designed by Ghazal Abbasy Asbagh.

Asbagh’s husband Alireza Korangy participated in the panel, “Murals and Martyrdom in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Another panel, “A Comparative Perspective of Martyrdom and Propaganda Art in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories” followed.

The program claims, “The exhibit’s primary objective is to document and present images that are part of the daily urban experience in Tehran…the exhibit also aspires to debate and deconstruct…the extent to which they express revolutionary fervor and religious fundamentalism or merely the regime’s anxieties and insecurities.”

Some felt the art expresses Iran’s “death culture.” Yet others found that the smiling martyr murals clearly celebrate transcendence, like the American “Give me liberty or give me death.”

“Martyrdom is the legacy of the Prophet” (s) an Islamic pieta, shows a haloed image of Prophet (s) holding the unmoving and visibly wounded body of a young man.

A young volunteer in the Iran-Iraq war is pictured in a field of flowers stretching into the horizon.

Iranians remember their war heroes as beautiful souls. American war heroes are memorialized with white crosses, but seldom remembered so personally.

One mural shows a mindset related to cultural conflict, showing a hand reaching from a satellite dish with a match to burn stylized flowers representing Iranian culture–the flowers are as one might see decorating walls in a traditional mosque.

Exhibit designer Asbagh remarked to TMO that some of the murals have some similarity to Soviet realist posters. She said, “I am happy to bring a little of the real Tehran to the USA.”

She has long noticed a major disconnect between the reality of Iran and the coverage of Iran in the US media. She hopes that this exhibit can help Americans get to know Iranians as people.

Evidence: Frivolous Lawsuit Aimed at Ethnic Intimidation

Boston–May 22, 2007–New court evidence reveals that David Project directors and several attorneys were planning to stop construction of the Roxbury Mosque.

One attorney suggested, “How about simply appealing the building permit and tying things up?”

“Ultimately our interest is based on the premise that…people in the ISB are supporters of terrorism and sworn enemies of America and Jews,” said real estate developer Steve Cohen.

The group decided to investigate potential parking violations and other legal technicalities.

On July 22, 2004 David Project director Anna Kolodner started panicking.

“The steel is going up on the mosque,” she wrote to the group. “We need to have a plaintiff. This is a priority. Please contact any individuals that would consider this role and let us know.”

Using the lawsuit, Kolodner demanded records from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to use for negative publicity.

Realizing that few Americans could care less where the Islamic Society of Boston obtained their mortgage, Cohen discussed creating suspicion by using vague language to question the mosque’s non-criminal foreign “connections.”

“However, the First Amendment will bar any governmental action against the mosque based on these connections – not in the absence of incitement that might lead to ‘imminent action.’ So all we are left with is a public relations campaign.”

This admission betrays a premeditated decision to incite hate by using “terrorist” as an ethnic slur to manipulate public sentiment, while their plaintiff sued the city for selling to Muslims.

“The suit itself will have to stick to the narrow constitutional issues, which have nothing to do with the terrorist connections,” Cohen continued. “However, the PR campaign surrounding the suit can strike a different chord: i.e. that the city of Boston should not be subsidizing a mosque or any organization with terrorist connections.”

“We will be much more effective if we let others ask this question than if we do so ourselves,” Cohen strategized.

On September 2, 2004, Anna Kolodner wrote, “Filing the lawsuit will serve to trip the switch on the larger agenda of exposing the radical fundamentalist underpinnings of the mosque and its leaders…We need to develop a media campaign and identify who will be the public spokesperson for the group…We need an expert in Power Point to develop a presentation that can be used with the media, politicians, and community groups.”

That Power Point expert turned out to be Robert Spencer.


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