Houstonian Corner (V9-I22)

30 community organizations attend M. J. Khan’s briefing about meeting with Secretary Chertoff

The City of Houston Councilman Honorable M. J. Khan addressed a gathering of office bearers and members from thirty-three community organizations at La-Sani Restaurant in Houston this past Wednesday evening. Among those present were several Muslim Scholars of the Imam Committee of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) including Chairman Sheikh Mustafa, Madarasa-e-Islamiah, Clearlake Islamic Center, Mercy Community Centers, Islamic Dawah Center (IDC) Downtown Houston, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Medical Association, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Houston, Ismaeli Muslims of Houston and many more.

M. J. Khan’s outreach meeting was held in reference to the recent meeting with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff by five Muslims scholars and leaders at his office in Washington. The purpose of this D.C. meeting was to exchange insights about issues and challenges facing American Muslims and to look for ways to improve the Homeland Security Department’s engagement efforts with the community. Daniel Sutherland, David Gersten and Shaarik Zafar, of the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, were instrumental in organizing this meeting. They can be reached at: (202) 357-8373; E-Mail: shaarik.zafar@dhs.gov; Web-Page: www.dhs.gov/civilliberties

Mr. Khan was one of the invitees to this D.C. meeting, where various matters with regards to national security were discussed and suggestions sorted for the kind of language used by the government during the ongoing war on terror. More such meetings will be held in the future. The idea is to engage various communities, like the Arabs, South-Asians and Muslims, so as to have meaningful dialog in achieving a safe and prosperous environment for all.

Those invited to the DC meeting included: 1) Shahed Amanullah, who is a Civil and IT Engineer, an Internet Entrepreneur and the founder of one of the largest and best Islamic websites www.ALTMuslim.Com; 2) Dr. Akbar Ahmed, who is Chair of Islamic Studies at the Ibn Khaldun Center of American University in Washington DC; 3) Reza Aslan, author of “No God but God” and an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, a regular commentator for NPR Marketplace and Middle East Analyst for CBS News; 4) Hon. M. J. Khan, who is a Council Member of the City of Houston, the fourth largest metropolis of the USA, a true political leader of the Muslim and South-Asian communities; and 5) Dr. Eboo Patel, the Founder of Interfaith Youth Corp, who has served the boards of the Aga Khan Foundation USA and has been featured on various mainstream American media: Unfortunately, due to prior engagements, Dr. Patel could not attend this first meeting with Mr. Chertoff.

Khan at this outreach meeting, briefed more than 100 people about the salient features of the meeting with Homeland Security, one of which was the refutation by Secretary Chertoff of the recent New York Times report which said that the U.S. Government is going to make the Visa Waiver Program with the Britain very strict for British Muslims, especially those of Pakistani descent. He confirmed in front of the four American community representatives in the meeting that this was an inaccurate report.

Khan informed us that the Muslim scholars and leaders told Homeland Security how the Muslims, especially the youth, feel hampered in voicing their concerns about what is happening around them because of their fear of getting entrapped by federal agencies and examples from various cities including Houston were cited where there is a strong feeling that young Muslims got deceived.

It was said that the internet is a good place to exchange varying views to get resolutions on many contemporary problems, but due to the fear of reprisals from agencies, Muslim youths are not effectively part of this media: It was promised that Muslim youths can freely go and express their views on the internet against any government policies: They should give constructive opinions as to what needs to be changed: The only obvious caution is no body can be allowed to instigate violence against innocent people.

Last but not least, Secretary Chertoff asked about the jargon used in the war on terror and if it is appropriate, since the Government wants to use the right language, which people feel appropriate. Hon. M. J. Khan said the group informed him words like Islamo-Fascism, Islamic Terrorists, Muslim Terrorists, etc. are all wrong, since Islam and Muslims have nothing to do with fascisms and terrorism. Also Jihadists is a wrong word and should not be used, since real jihad is to bring tranquility in individual and community life–and is therefore good, unlike the bad things that are done in the same name.

The Homeland Security Staff said a word “Takfeer” is under considering to be used for terrorists. On this Chairman Imam Committee of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Sheikh Mustafa said that this is also a wrong word, since it is used for someone, who is apparently Muslim, but someone judges him or her to be Non-Muslims: As human-beings, we can not make this determination that exactly who is Non-Muslim (or Kafir), so the word takfir should not be used by US Government. He also added that the government should not call Muslims Shi’a or Sunni or Liberal or Orthodox or Conservative, since that creates undue divisions among the Muslims, which is not healthy for peaceful communal life.

Sheikh Mustafa suggested a word out of Qur`an for terrorists, and that is “transgressors.” However, he said the Honorable imams of Houston should sit together and discuss among themselves and then get back with Hon. M. J. Khan with some concrete and appropriate words.



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