Muslim Advocates, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on discrimination against American Muslims, alleges in the suit that Facebook has violated a series of local and federal consumer protection laws. The suit points out that the company itself, in a July 2020 internal audit, found that “Facebook has created an atmosphere where ‘Muslims feel under siege’” on the platform.
But I am cautious about assigning too much blame to Facebook for the staggering magnitude and breadth of anti-Muslim activity in the U.S. As the author of “Fear in Our Hearts: What Islamophobia Tells Us about America,” I argue that this could be a convenient distraction – with limited overall effect – from the deeper histories and realities of white supremacy that require sustained attention.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was “making false and deceptive statements” when he told Congress that the company removes content that violates its hate-speech rules, a lawsuit alleges.
The suit, filed Thursday in D.C. Superior Court, alleges that since 2017, civil rights groups and other experts have brought hundreds of anti-Muslim groups and pages on the platform to Facebook’s attention, but that the company has failed to penalize more than half of them.
It also alleges that Facebook and its top executives violated the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, under which it is illegal for a company to make material misrepresentations about a good or service. Civil rights group Muslim Advocates, the law firm Gupta Wessler and University of Chicago law professor Aziz Z. Huq brought the suit.
“Every day, ordinary people are bombarded with harmful content that violates Facebook’s own policies on hate speech, bullying, harassment, dangerous organizations, and violence,” the suit alleges. “The anti-Muslim hate that’s pervasive on Facebook presents an enormous problem — both online and in real life.”
Facebook has created an atmosphere where “Muslims feel under siege,” the suit says.
A new mosque in Warren on 10 Mile Road was vandalized, Muslim leaders said.
The Al Ihsaan Islamic Center, also known as Ideal Islamic Center, was opened a few months ago by immigrants from Bangladesh in what was previously a Lutheran church. On Friday afternoon, someone smashed several windows of the mosque with a hammer, according to the imam, Muhammad Islam.
A piece of the hammer broke off and fell inside the mosque, Islam told the Free Press on Monday. He speculated that if the hammer had not broken, more of the mosque might have been vandalized.
He said that a neighbor has video footage showing the person who attacked the structure driving in a car outside the mosque.
Warren police did not comment on the incident. A police lieutenant referred phone calls to Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer; a message left with Dwyer’s office was not returned Monday.
Islam and the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) expressed concern that the vandalism may have been a hate crime.
“Because of increasing hate incidents targeting houses of worship and minority communities nationwide, we urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this act of vandalism as a possible hate crime,” Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan CAIR, said in a statement.
As Dilara Sayeed, a 51-year old Muslim in Chicago, entered an office building for a meeting, she had an experience which she had thought almost unthinkable a few years ago.
Besides her office attire, Sayeed was also wearing a colorful hijab, a symbol of her faith. Sayeed is a social activist, an educator and a Harvard alumna. She also ran for election in the Illinois House of Representatives to represent District 5 in 2018. As such, her work and achievements, rather than her religion, had been at the forefront of most interactions.
As Sayeed got into the elevator, however she was confronted by an elderly white woman, a complete stranger, who said she would go to hell for wearing the hijab.
Sayeed said she hadn’t experienced this kind of negativity since she was growing up. “People used to yell things like ‘Go back to your country’,” she said. “I even got bullied constantly at school because of my religion.”
The situation had improved over the years as the Muslim community in Chicago grew, and people became more understanding towards Muslims. However, everything changed again when Donald Trump became president three years ago.
“I was feeling in myself, ‘Can I even come back to this place?’ ”
Subscribers of the Tennessean opened their Sunday papers last weekend to discover a full-page ad that warned a “nuclear device” would detonate in Nashville on July 18,. The ad said it would be set off by “Islam”—not by Muslims, not by a terrorist group, just by “Islam.” The ad, created by a fringe post-apocalyptic Christian organization called the ministry of Future for America, set off an immediate furor as it traveled online. The Tennessean itself called it “utterly indefensible” and rushed to find out how it had made it into print. By Monday, a sales manager had been fired.Alex Martin Smith✔@asmiff
This morning, the Nashville @Tennessean — the largest newspaper in the state — published a full-page ad from a far-right client warning “Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, Tennessee.” It’s accompanied by photos of Donald Trump and Pope Francis.
On Sunday, David Plazas, the opinion and engagement director at the Tennessean and the USA Today newsrooms in Tennessee, had started a furlough, like many of his colleagues, because of the coronavirus economic slowdown. He was immediately called back to address the crisis. We spoke on Tuesday about how the ad came to be, the paper’s firm response, and the impossible work of local journalism right now. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Aymann Ismail: When did you first see the ad?
David Plazas: I’m a print reader. I get the print newspaper to my home every day, and I was just as shocked an anybody, because I saw the ad at the same time that the majority of our leadership did. It was extremely upsetting. I was angry. I’ll be honest with you: I was feeling in myself, “Can I even come back to this place when I finish my furlough?” That was the initial raw emotion I had. But then I also said, I have the responsibility and the duty to do what I can to try to make this right. Because I have the capacity to do so.
Back in December 2015, you spoke out loudly and proudly against anti-Muslim hatred. “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” you wrote in a post on Facebook, two days after then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week,” you added, “I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others.”
The headline in the New York Times? “Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Reassures Muslim Users.”
Yet here we are in December 2019. Four years later, you and Facebook have gone from reassuring Muslims to amplifying hate and bigotry against us. You have allowed what the actor Sacha Baron Cohen recently described as “the greatest propaganda machine in history” to be used to target and persecute some of the most vulnerable Muslim communities on Earth.
FOR STARTERS, MARK, how does it feel to be complicit in an actual genocide?
I’m talking of course about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In March 2018, the chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, told reporters that social media companies like yours had played a “determining role” in the violence, having “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict.”
Was it actually a Muslim ban, as it was called at the time it was introduced? Or was that just an anti-Trump label? What percentage of people from those banned countries did pass the “enhanced vetting” and get an actual visa to enter the United States?
I looked through the government’s data to find answers.
The US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs regularly provides data on the number of visas issued for all countries.
Based on the data the agency provides for the fiscal year, the number of immigrant visas issued for the country of Iran decreased by 78% between 2017 and 2018.
WILLMAR — Usama Dakdok’s first visit to Willmar was a quiet and private affair last month, but his second visit was anything but that.
Two very different crowds gathered Thursday evening at the Kennedy Elementary School, where the Egyptian-born pastor of the Straight Way of Grace Ministry came to deliver his message that Islam is dangerous. It’s a message he’s been delivering to communities in Minnesota and other states for more than a decade.
Outside the school, well over 200 people joined under the message “we are better together” to celebrate Willmar for its cultural diversity. The diverse crowd, including many from Willmar’s Somali community, came in opposition to Dakdok, but focused on their message: Willmar is an inclusive and welcoming community.
The Rev. Dane Skilbred, Vinje Lutheran Church of Willmar, and Aden Hassan, imam for the Islamic Society of Willmar, joined in celebrating the city’s “welcoming resolution” in a formal address to the crowd. An interfaith group including leaders from ISAIAH, a coalition of faith communities,and the Islamic Society of Willmar helped organize the gathering as a prayer vigil.
Some who joined the event felt moved to grab the megaphone and offer their own words to celebrate the community.
“We are here for the right reason,” said Bonnie Hauser, semi-retired after serving as an elementary instructor in the Willmar Schools. Hauser told the audience that she was proud to be a Willmar teacher, where children of different ethnic and faith backgrounds learn together.
“This is what I know my community could be,” said Jessica Rohloff, a lifelong Willmar resident and a community organizer.
Najib Aqib, a member of Willmar’s Somali community, didn’t grab the megaphone, but he was among those who joined to support the prayer vigil. He said he moved to Willmar in 2005 and has found it to be a very welcoming community, and that is why he came to the event.
“This is the best place to live,” he told the West Central Tribune.
Organizers plan to protest an appearance Thursday from Usama Dakdok, who has visited Minnesota dozens of times to convince his audience that Islam is dangerous.
John Burns had been living in Willmar, Minn., for some time, but one interaction in particular stands out. An acquaintance wanted to recruit him to a group that has been warning others about the dangers of Islam and the infiltration of Muslims into their west-central Minnesota community.
But Burns, 75, was the wrong guy. He’s been voicing concerns against anti-Islamic sentiments in the town, which is home to a growing Somali American population. He’s written letters to the editor, spoken at city council meetings and called every media outlet he could think of.
“These people often have the enthusiasm of somebody who’s just discovered a new religion that explains everything,” Burns said of a local group that bills itself as a patriotic Christian organization. “At some point it turns into fanaticism, and that’s troubling.”
The group, called “Thee Book Club,” has rented an auditorium Thursday evening at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar to host a controversial speaker who’s made his mark across Minnesota and beyond trying to convince attendees that Islam is a dangerous cult.
Usama Dakdok, a Christian who grew up in Egypt, visited northern Minnesota more than 20 times from 2015 to 2016, often speaking to rural communities with small or no Muslim populations. He’s back in Minnesota this week to address crowds in the communities of Backus and Willmar, where he’s spoken at least once before. He’s also taken his anti-Islam message to Rochester and St. Cloud and across the country.