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Friday, April 20, 2012

Sharia Workshop, Yorba Linda, and Other Things



Shakeel Syed (middle) supporting Irvine 11 in court



As I mentioned in a previous post, on April 18, I attended a Sharia workshop hosted by the Shura Council of Southern California at Loyola Marymont University in Los Angeles. I have yet to write a full report on the day-long event, but a couple of things that happened deserve their own posting (for example, the one I posted about Muzammil Siddiqi and the Freedom Pledge). Another thing happened that day that I would like to devote a separate posting to,. It concerns one of the organizers, Mr Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Shura Council. Mr Syed made headlines back in 2006, when he publicly complained about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger having refused his request for a meeting. That prompted this article which appeared in Samizdata.net:

OK, so Mr Syed wants laws to criminalize defamation of the prophets and religions. That is also what the 56-member Organization for Islamic Cooperation is also trying to push through the UN even though most of those countries persecute religious minorities, What they really want is laws against defamation of one religion and one prophet-their own. But let us move on.

I had a chance to chat with Mr Syed outside the hall and told him that for me, it was not a matter of hating Muslims or objecting to their freedom of religion. I told, him however, that there was an 800 pound gorilla in the back of the room. It's name was violence, hate and intolerance, and it was the persecution of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries. I gave him several examples, such as Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen etc. To all this, he just nodded and said, "Yes", "Yes," Yes". I also said that nobody in the room was talking about these things, and we were trying to ask questions without success. (We were being asked to write them down and send them up to the panel, but nothing ever got asked.) Mr Syed told me that we would have more time in the afternoon sessions and could have an open discussion at that time. (Eventually, that happened.) Syed made no comment in response to my statements about persecution of non-Muslims.

Later in the afternoon, when audience members were able to raise their hands and be called upon, a lady told the panel of attending a Muslim Student Association (Western regional) conference at UCLA a year or so ago. At this conference a speaker she mistakenly identified led the crowd through "the Pledge of Allegiance", which turned out to be the Muslim Brotherhood pledge of allegiance. The actual speaker was Amir Abdel Malik Ali, an open radical, who often speaks at UC Irvine and other campuses at the invitation of various Muslim Student Associations. Some of the people on the panel professed ignorance of who Ali was. A couple of others, like Maher Hathout, said that Ali was a fiery speaker and they had nothing to do with him.

Subsequently, another lady in the audience brought up the Yorba Linda event of February 2010, in which the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held a charity dinner, and the two featured speakers were Siraj Wahhaj and Ali. The lady went on to describe a meeting held with city officials, concerned community members and Muslim leaders asking them (ICNA) not to bring those particular speakers to their community because of their history of questionable or hateful comments, which have been documented in the past-especially in the case of Ali. (Wahhaj is usually cautious what he says on video, but there are existing audios of some of his sermons at his own mosque in New York, which are controversial.) According to this lady's account, one of the Muslim representative became agitated, pointed his finger back and said in no uncertain terms that it was their right to hold the event and invite whomever they wanted. She then identified that gentleman by name as Shakeel Syed, who was sitting in the room at the time. We never heard a response from him. Of course, as we know, the Yorba Linda event went forward, protesters came out, and held their own speeches (I was a speaker myself), and 60 or so folks also showed up who, instead of listening to our speeches went over to the parking lot to chant and shout at the attendees, which was most unfortunate.

So here is my point: If the organizers of the Loyola Marymount event are so quick to disavow Amir Abdel Malik Ali, why did the Islamic Center of North America invite him to speak at their dinner in the first place? How can Mr Syed talk peace and harmony out of one side of his mouth at Loyola Marymount while associating with  Ali-who would be offended if you called him a moderate? To this day, we don't know what Ali said at the dinner in Yorba Linda because outsiders were not allowed into the event-and the news media covering the protesters were only allowed in for a few minutes to get comments from organizers-then they had to leave.

Maybe since Mr Syed never responded to the issue at Loyola Marymount, he can clarify the issue. It comes down to this; you don't call yourself a moderate and associate with folks like Amir Abdel Malik Ali.

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