MAS Immigrant Justice Center Celebrates a Significant Victory in Immigration Court
In 2009, the Obama administration moved to grant political asylum to foreign women who suffer severe physical or sexual abuse from which they are unable to escape because it is part of the culture of their own countries. The move was a significant shift in policy that opened the way for physically and sexually abused women to seek the same protection that those fleeing female genital mutilation are already offered.
Karen Musalo, a lawyer and director of the Centre for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, who represents women involved in a similar asylum case, stated that "these are not easy cases to prove." Applicants must prove that the violence is pervasive and that there is a societal perception that this is acceptable. Then, she has to prove that the government is unable or unwilling to protect her, and on top of that she has to show that there is nowhere in her country where she can be safe from her abusers.
Following the Obama administration ruling, Khalilah Sabra, MAS Immigrant Justice Center Executive Director, filed for political asylum for the young woman identified only as 27-year-old NA, as potentially having grounds to apply for political asylum because she feared she would be subjected to what is called an “honor killing. MAS Immigrant Justice Center submitted briefs and extensive evidence to verify the applicant’s claim. It was denied asylum at the first tier of decision-making, DHS interview. The judge in the Immigration Court amended the decision at the conclusion of the hearing.
“Although the protection of women whose human rights are violated should not be a controversial proposition, it has been and continues to be, and women have had to struggle for the recognition that women's rights are human rights. The judge obviously agreed and our client can now look forward to a future where she is not in fear of losing her life.” When the client reported her fear to the police in her country, they dismissed her claims as a "private matter."
For many years, the US government said battered women did not qualify because they could not show persecution on specific grounds such as race or political opinion. That position was eroded in 1996 in a key ruling over female mutilation.
Until then the courts held that the women were victims of cultural oppression and that was not grounds for asylum because they were not members of a persecuted group under US law. 'The harm that women suffer is often a harm that is a cultural norm or accepted within a culture. Courts have previously held the position that this can't be persecution as required by refugee law because it's a cultural requirement," said Sabra. "Now the board of immigration says that it doesn't matter that it's a cultural rite - if it's a violation of human rights and objectively an egregious harm, it's persecution. The cases send a message loud and clear that domestic violence can be the basis for a successful claim to asylum. This kind of case stands for the broader principle that women who suffer a range of violations of their fundamental human rights - from female genital cutting (FGC) to forced marriage or sexual slavery - are also entitled to protection as refugees.
Violence against women has become “normalized” in several countries and is broadly accepted despite the efforts of human rights and women’s groups to overcome this widespread acquiescence. The normalcy of abuse of women is reflected throughout some societies. It manifests on multiple levels — in the home at the hands of an abuser, in society through social attitudes accepting violence against women, and in the government by the unresponsive and ineffective legal system that is unable or unwilling to protect women. The Obama administration's action has been instrumental in bringing justice to such cases.
Muslim American Society is the first Islamic faith based institution to be be recognized by the BIA as an organization legally recognized to provide immigration legal services. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. MASIJC Accredited representatives assist aliens in immigration proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals (Board), or before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Imam Mahdi Bray And MAS Freedom Speak At Syrian Rally
On Saturday, April 16th, despite a driving rainstorm, MAS Freedom Executive Director Imam Mahdi Bray joined hundreds of spirited and determined demonstrators at the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC to demand an end to the brutal repression of Syrian pro-democracy demonstrators at the hands of Syrian police and security forces of the regime of President Bashir Assad. The embassy demonstrators, including Muslims and their allies in the U.S. human rights advocacy community, gathered in solidarity with their Syrian sisters and brothers who,, despite suffering hundreds of deaths and injuries, persist in their demand that the Syrian president step down and so that the nation can chart a new future, with respect for universal human rights and genuine democracy.
Imam Bray, who came to the rally while recovering from a serious illness, excited the crowd by proclaiming that the Muslim American Society Freedom, as leading voice for human rights advocacy in the United States, stood in complete solidarity with the dissident forces in Syria who are suffering at the hands of a violent, dictatorial regime that is becoming more desperate and brutal each day in their refusal to give power to the Syrian people.
Imam Bray stated that “MAS Freedom’s participation in this rally, and our support t for the popular freedom movement that is sweeping the Muslim and Arab world, is a moral and spiritual imperative. American Muslims and their institutions must not remain silent while governments in majority-Muslim nations use violence and brute oppression in attempting to stop the God- given desire of people for freedom and human dignity.”
Imam Mahdi Bray and MAS Freedom joins Syrian human rights activists for freedom and justice rally in front of Syrian Embassy
What: Demonstration in solidarity with the Syrian peopleWhen: April 16, 2011 at 12:00pm
Where: The Syrian Embassy2215 Wyoming
Avenue Northwest,Washington D.C.
For more details:
Dear Friends and Supporters - Assalam Alaykum (Peace be unto you),
On Wednesday December 29th, 2010, our brother and civil rights activist Imam Mahdi Bray suffered a cerebral stroke while sleeping. Since then, Brother Mahdi has undergone surgery and started his long journey to complete recovery, God willing. While he has shown great signs of improvement in recent weeks, he will still need extensive care and rehabilitation in the coming weeks and months. We are hopeful that his condition will continue to improve God willing. Please keep him in your prayers.
Many of you have expressed concern and a desire to help Mahdi during this difficult time. We have established a trust fund for Br. Mahdi. A unique trust fund has been setup by Imam Mahdi's friends and well-wishers. All donations to the Imam Mahdi Support Fund Trust will be used for the well-being of Imam Mahdi and his family.
Help support our brother in any way possible. Donate to the Imam Mahdi Support Fund by clicking here.
You can also mail your checks to:
Imam Mahdi Support Fund Trust
P.O. Box 7232
McLean, VA 22106
Let's show our brother Mahdi our love and support.
PLEASE NOTE: Contributions or gifts to the Mahdi Bray Support Fund are NOT tax deductible for federal income tax purposes.
Every gift counts – thank you for your support.
On behalf of the Imam Mahdi Support Fund,
Joshua Salaam, Trustee
Mohammad Rahman, Trustee
Tammam Dandashi, Trustee
by Ibrahim Ramey
The Peter King-inspired media drama on Capitol Hill has come and gone. Political commentators, analysts, pundits, Islamophobes, liberal interfaith defenders, and ordinary folk filled with questions ( and trepidation) are talking about the hearings and how they either (1) reinforced their pre-existing ideas about the involvement of Muslims in the enterprise of terrorism, (2) presented a long list of witnesses who had no credibility as far as the issue is concerned, or (3) made no real impact on any meaningful discourse about the subject.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the event, for me, was the illumination of Rep. King's past involvement as a public supporter of the Irish Republican Army, and his declaration that the IRA was not a terrorist organization because he civilian targets of their violence were not Americans.
All of these things are true, and now the Muslim American community must live in, and struggle with, the question of where we must go and what we must do after this hearing, and in the current political environment. Should we be afraid of an even greater backlash against Muslim organizations and mosques in America? Should we go ahead with life as usual and content ourselves with our careers and our families? Or is there some lesson that we can learn from the public, government attention that is now focused on "Muslim radicalization"?
What I believe is simply this: American Muslims now have an extraordinary opportunity to step up, be heard, and uplift the true character of both or faith and the social fabric of our communities in the United States. And while it is certainly true that there have been attempts to radicalize some of our (mostly younger) adherents and that some strains of anti-US and anti-imperial sentiments are among us, our community is being shown as overwhelmingly law-abiding, and in fact even less prone to extremism than many of the detractors and professional Muslim-bashers that oppose us.
So, with these things in mind, here are three immediate things that we can do to answer the issues raised by Rep. king and his colleagues on the political Right:
I do not suggest that our struggles in America, or anywhere else in the world, could be magically transformed by these actions. But is we do these things, we will stand taller, and be stronger, in the face of our opponents and for the benefit of ourselves and our relationship with Allah (SWT).
by Ibrahim Ramey
What could you do with an extra $1.6 trillion? That is the collective amount that the nations of the world spend annually on military hardware, and this issue is becoming a very important one for the global non-governmental organization (NGO) community.
On Wednesday, March 9, MAS Human and Civil Rights Program Director Ibrahim Ramey addresses a gathering of NGO groups and representatives at the United Nations Church Center in Manhattan and addressed this question, both as an advocate of global peace and security and as a Muslim. He told the packed gathering of civil society leaders that "Trident Submarines don't address fundamental global problems like hunger, homelessness, and the destruction of the environment", and that "as civil society leaders, we have an obligation to grapple with the question of why so many of our resources go to create weapons for mass killing instead of investments in real security and to address urgent issues of international human need."
Ramey also mentioned that in the history of Islam, there were many positive and successful initiatives that created real solutions to problems of peaceful co-existence among persons of different faith traditions. He cited the Treaty of Medina (622 C.E) created by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Unto Him) as a clear example of how principles of nonviolence, and non-military solutions to conflict, could be used by communities instead of resorting to conquest and warfare.
Ramey also called for the NGO community to "address the critical role that the United States plays in spending more for war and weapons that all the rest of the nations of the earth combined." He specifically lifted up the idea of a federal-level national department dedicated to the peaceful resolution of conflict that would be funded with only one percent of the budget dedicated to the Pentagon. "$6.5 billion a year to develop and uplift peace would be a great thing for the United States", he commented.
The special program was organized by NGO organizations that work on interfaith cooperation and disarmament. Ibrahim Ramey is a current member of the Steering Committee of Religious NGO's the United Nations, and the groups will launch a larger campaign on April 12, 2011, to coincide with a day calling for global action to sharply reduce military spending.
By Ibrahim Ramey
The monumental events in Egypt have become a catalyst for a huge wave of popular uprising that is sweeping the Arab world. In nations as diverse as Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, and Libya, hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have taken to the streets to demand basic freedoms and an end to the corrupt regimes that oppress them. In many cases, these nonviolent demonstrations have been met with lethal force by both military supporters of these regimes, and assorted thugs and counter-progressive forces that act as proxies for the official governments.
But it is in Libya, ruled by an autocrat for the last 40 years that events have reached a point of open warfare. According to reports from the respected international organization Human Rights Watch, more than 300 peaceful demonstrators have been killed by military forces loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Quaddafi. The Libyan army is using automatic weapons and snipers to shoot opponents massed in the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi, and countless others have been serious wounded. But the pro-democracy demonstrators in Libya have not been deterred from their freedom struggle; indeed, it is reported that one military unit in Benghazi has defected from government control, while the parliament building in Tripoli was set ablaze.
While we certainly call for an end to the violence that is convulsing Libya and much of the Arab world, we note that the overwhelming majority of this violence comes from the government forces that are adamantly opposed to democracy. Unarmed demonstrators demand social change in the face of overwhelming force. The despots whom they seek to replace have all too frequently shown no regard for human life. And yet, the demonstrations continue.
The Muslim American Society believes in the fundamental right of all people to enjoy their God-given human rights and freedoms, and to establish lawful governments that protect these rights. Indeed, the religion of Islam, when practiced with clarity and integrity, affirms and protects these rights as well. When governments in majority-Muslim nations violate these rights, the people of these nations have the responsibility to protest, and to change those governments through nonviolent means of mass protest and mobilization. And when the legitimate demand for change is met with violence, then it is the duty of all civilized nations to stand with the heroic people who resist oppression.
We believe, as American Muslims, that these fundamental human rights must be guarded, and that ruling parties and established governments should not use force to maintain their rule. The legitimacy of any system of government, as the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, can only come from the consent of the people. And when that consent is challenged or withdrawn, then those governments must be dissolved, and yield to the popular demand for change.
The Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation will both endorse and actively participate in World Interfaith Harmony Week, which begins at the United nations on the first week of February, 2011, and is scheduled to become an annual event that calls for greater interfaith collaboration, peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect among religious traditions of the world.
According to Ibrahim Ramey, MASF's Director of Civil and Human Rights and a member of the Steering Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN, World Interfaith Harmony week, endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations and the broad community on religious Non-Governmental Organizations at the United Nations,"will affirm the values of Islam and the desire of all progressive American Muslim organizations to become partners in building more concrete and sustaining cooperation among faith traditions for a more democratic, peaceful, and sustainable world."
MAS Freedom will sponsor, beginning in February 2011, an essay contest for Muslim youth in the United States on the subject of " What It Means to Be a Good Interfaith Neighbor", a theme that directly reflects the life and values of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the area of building relationships between Muslims and people of other faith traditions. Ramey noted that "Because the MAS Freedom team continues to be involved in numerous interfaith leadership activities and projects, we feel that promoting World Interfaith Harmony Week can continue our contribution to the global agenda for peace and interfaith understanding."
Thousands of people gathered in nearly 40 cities across the country this week in response to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) raids on peaceful anti-war and international solidarity activists in Chicago and Minnesota. The growing threat to the right to dissent has been demonstrated in the U.S. government's efforts to silence speech, and criminalize and target peaceful movements. These efforts are becoming more aggressive, emboldened further by the Supreme Court's increasingly conservative decisions, for instance regarding material support in the form of humanitarian aid to so-called terrorist organizations. Fortunately, opposition to this blatant repression of our basic civil rights is mounting daily. As you know, MAS-Freedom has worked to protect the Constitutional right to dissent for social movements in the United States.
We are calling on our allies to take action in support of long-time peace and human rights activists who have come under attack for their work against U.S. occupation and military intervention abroad.
On September 24th, 2010, the FBI subjected about a dozen anti-war activists and activists working in solidarity with struggles in Palestine and Colombia to searches and raids of their homes in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. Activists in California, Wisconsin and North Carolina were also harassed.
The activists in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan were served with Grand Jury subpoenas. They are refusing to testify, a brave choice which could land them in jail. The illegitimate Grand Jury process, which began on October 5, must be stopped. The raids and Grand Jury process constitute an FBI abuse of power clearly designed to create a climate of fear among those who dare to fight for peace and justice. We must be vigilant in our defense of these activists and their right to continue their important international solidarity work without harassment.
This is an escalation of the daily targeting of and culture wars against Arab and Muslim communities and immigrants in the United States. It is a continuation of the long-standing repression of dissent in the United States from McCarthyism to the brutal targeting of peoples' movements by COINTELPRO, and, of most recently, environmental justice activists. It is also part of an increasing wave of right-wing hate that has been legislated through state and federal policies that turn police into immigrant bounty hunters.
We are calling on our counterparts - anti-war, human rights, Palestine and other international solidarity activists, anti-racist activists and grassroots organizers - to act in solidarity with those being targeted by political repression. We ask you to stand with us now to publicly defend the rights of all activists and communities in the United States who express dissent against U.S. policy and who work for peace, human rights and global justice within and beyond US borders.
You Have the Right to Protest and Dissent
The policies, practices and actions of federal and local law enforcement at the are part of a larger civil liberties crisis that has been intensifying at an alarming rate over the past decade. Peaceful police-protestor interactions across the country have been met with brutal force by law enforcement, all while domestic surveillance activities by the government have increased dramatically. Individuals and activists are also given overblown and draconian sentences for constitutionally protected, lawful and peaceful conduct.
Protect the right to dissent and the free flow of information.
The government cannot, in the name of security, criminalize peaceful protest and dissent. Nor can the government shut down journalists who, serving as the eyes and ears of the public, seek to report on such speech and the public acts of law enforcement.
Contact the MAS Freedom office at (202) 552-7414, (703) 642-6165, or toll free at 1-(888) 627-8471, or contact us by email addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington, D.C. (MASF) Sept. 8th, 2010 - On September 7th, a MAS Freedom team travelled to Gainesville, Florida in support of the Gainesville community positively responding to the proposed Sept. 11th burning of the Qur’an. Muslim American Society Freedom (MASF) is the civil and human rights advocacy component of the Muslim American Society (MAS), America’s largest grassroots Muslim organization. MAS Freedom has requested a local law firm to seek to have the proposed Qur’an burning activities of Rev. Terry Jones and his small fringe religious group stopped because they have not obtained a fire permit as required by city law.
According to fire chief Gene Prince, "under the city's fire prevention ordinance, an open burning of books is not allowed." Gainesville code 10-63, states a "general prohibition on outdoor burning and open burning." Section 6 specifically outlaws the burning of "Newspapers" and section 7 outlaws the burning "corrugated cardboard, container board, and office paper."
The local Gainesville Muslim community, in conjunction with other local faith and civic community leaders, has prepared a positive proactive response to the proposed Sept. 11th burning of the Qur’an by Rev. Jones and his followers. The Muslim community of Gainesville is sponsoring an interfaith community project called “The Gainesville Initiative.” A representative of the initiative stated that “we will respond to Rev. Jones’ hatred and intolerance by providing community programs and services that foster good will and public service.” Through the Gainesville initiative, the local Muslim community has planned community events that focus on outreach and community service, as well as religious tolerance and diversity.
Some of the events include interfaith services, blood drives, feeding needy families, and a full day of community events on Sept. 11th at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza in downtown Gainesville. A complete list of the Gainesville initiative events can be found on masfreedom.org. Mahdi Bray, executive director of MAS Freedom stated, “The current climate of Islamophobia in our nation certainly has emboldened people like Rev. Jones and those of his ilk. The classic definition of a bigot is one who is intolerant of another based on race, political views, or religion. Clearly Rev. Jones fits this definition. His group is in financial trouble with financial notices visibly posted on the church’s property. Clearly he is seeking money and his fifteen minutes of fame as a bigot. It’s wonderful to see that the Gainesville community has rejected his venom and hate. This is a community that has rejected hate and intolerance and is moving on with a message of respect, service, and dignity for all of its residents.”
For more information contact: Mahdi Bray at MAS Freedom at 1-888-627-8471 or at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASF) July 29, 2010 - Dr. Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldoun Chair at American University in Washington, DC, gave an interview to National Public Radio in which he indicated that his research reveals that there is an increase in the vandalizing of mosques in America. His research also indicated that there's a significant rise in groups and organizations that are challenging the right of Muslims to build mosques in America.
This campaign to stop Muslims from exercising their religious and constitutional rights seems to be relentless. MAS Freedom through its "Protect Mosques and Religious Freedom Campaign" will continue to defend the right of Muslims and all Americans to build houses of worship. We encourage the Muslim community and all people of conscience to join us in defending this fundamental religious principle. If you would like assist in this important initiative, "Protect Mosques and Religious Freedom Campaign" in protecting mosques all across America contact Ibrahim Ramey, the MAS Freedom Human and Civil Rights Program Director, at (888) 627-8471, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, to help support the right of worship for Muslims in America!
Your financial support for defending mosques and religious freedom is greatly needed.
MAS FREEDOM IN THE NEWS
HR 2278: A Clear and Present Danger to Our Freedom of the Press
WASHINGTON, DC. (MASNET) Mar. 23, 2010 – On Monday, March 22nd, a group of distinguished national leaders, journalists, and diplomats gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to speak out on what has become a major national and international challenge to the rights of free speech and Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press in the United States. (more)
MAS Straight Path Youth Initiative Encourages Muslim Youth to Increase Civic Engagement Share
WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) Mar. 05, 2010 – These are difficult times, both in America and in the world. But young Muslims are moving beyond despair and resignation to serve their community and nation in responsible and creative ways.
But the MAS Freedom Straight Path project will, insha’Allah, serve to educate young people about the dangers of irrational religious extremism, while offering them practical nonviolent alternatives that can better serve the legitimate interests of Muslim communities, while striving to make the overall society better as well. (more)