The high level of ignorance in the United States of America about Islam and Muslims has generated an environment of hostility that is encouraging the obtuse and arrogant to commit acts of hate crimes and violence against Muslims and even Sikhs, who wear turban.
The Muslims living in these United States of America are taking action to challenge those committing hate crimes and violence, and engaging in discrimination; taking steps to educate those having vast knowledge of pure ignorance about Muslims and Islam; educating and providing information about Islam to those under the influence of extremists and race-card players.
To educate the masses in the US, the Muslims living in Southern California took another positive step in 2006 and founded the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC) to build an effective partnership between the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department and American Muslims.
To promote and establish a partnership with the Muslims community, Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff, County of Los Angeles, established a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Outreach Program in 2007, which later became the Los Angeles County Sehriff's Department Muslim Community Affairs Unit. He appointed Sergeant Muawiya Mike Abdeen and Deputy Sheriff Sherif Morsi as the officers in charge of this unit that performs twofold responsibility of building trust and understanding between the Muslim community and the Sheriff Department, and training the Sheriff Department staff on cultural sensitivity about Muslims and Islam. The Muslim Community Affairs Unit formulated a plan to teach a course called Islam-101, and to train and brief law enforcement Officers of Sheriff Department. The members of the Unit visit Islamic Schools, Mosques, and Islamic Centers; hold Community Town Hall meetings, forums and Seminars; and make Youth Group Presentations. The youth presentations are made to inform the youth about their responsibilities; to help them know and avoid anti-social activities that get people in trouble with the law. The unit members discuss topics such as drugs, violence, domestic violence, gangs, alcohol, hate crimes and other anti-social activities.
The program was later expanded to include all areas of the Los Angeles County. For the last four years the cooperation between MAHSC and the Sheriff Muslim Affairs Unit has yielded good results in terms of understanding the Muslims point of view, Muslims desire to save America from terrorists, extremists and racists; and their readiness to help the law enforcement authorities in reducing the hate crimes, violence and discrimination against Muslims. The MAHSC continues to inform and advise the Sheriff's Muslim Affairs Unit on matters of national security of America. Sheriff Leroy Baca, popularly known as Lee Baca, formulated the plan to handle all those issues that were discussed in many forums and town hall meetings. The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department became a model of cooperation between the Muslim community and Sheriff Department Muslim Community Affairs Unit. Many other cities in the United States emulated the model set up by Sheriff Lee Baca. The Congress in Washington became cognizant of the success of the cooperation between Muslim and the Los Angeles Sheriff Department. The House Committee on Homeland Security of the congress invited Sheriff Lee Baca to Washington to learn more about his model. Muawiya Mike Abdeen accompanied Sheriff Lee Baca to Washington to attend the congressional meeting.
At the hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security on March 17, 2010, Sheriff Lee Baca testified and said, "Americans, particularly elected officials, should not claim Islam supports terrorism. This is counter-productive to trust. It plays into the terrorist strategy that the West is against Islam. At this time in our history, with billions of dollars being spent on a war against terror, our nation should ask that all Americans follow President Obama's example and be the instrument of goodwill to Muslims throughout the world.
"It is my belief that the average American has the potential to be our best ambassador of goodwill. However, senators, members of congress, governors, mayors, boards of supervisors, sheriffs, police chiefs, scholars, scientists, and laborers and their leaders must set the example with a desire to visit mosques and communicate with Muslims, worldwide, in the quest of better understanding Islam. Extremists are what they are, but they cannot thrive or survive in a world that is not indifferent."
During the hearing, Congressman Mark Souder attacked Sheriff Baca and asked him about his working relationship with Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and his attendance at the 10 CAIR fundraising dinners. Sheriff Baca responded: "And I'll be there 10 more times." He added, ". . .for you to associate me somehow through some circuitous attack on CAIR, is not only inappropriate, it is un-American."
After the hearing, Sheriff Baca said: ". . .when a member of Congress is that misinformed, you gotta question whether or not they understand what their constitutional obligations are when it comes to public safety."
The Muslim American Homeland Security Congress commended Sheriff Lee Baca for his courageous and principled stand in support of mainstream American Muslims and their organizations. "We applaud Sheriff Baca's courageous efforts in standing up for American Muslims and American values and refusing to play politics with our national security," said Dafer Dakhil, Chairman of the MAHSC and trustee of the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation. He added, "We further urge the Department of Homeland Security and Congress to work with the sheriff of the largest county in the United States in creating effective partnerships between American Muslims and law enforcement agencies to protect our nation."
"Sheriff Baca defended his work with the Muslim community and CAIR and refused to submit to the pressure and intimidation of those who wish to marginalize and defame our community," said CAIR-Greater Los Angeles Area Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. Salam al-Marayati, Executive Director of MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council) said, "Sheriff Baca is our hero for standing up against the McCarthyism of our time."
It should be noted that McCarthyism is the practice of publicly accusing somebody of subversive activities or sympathies, especially without real evidence to substantiate this accusation. It is also the practice of using unsubstantiated accusations or unfair methods of investigation to discredit people. Salam al-Marayati, in this case was referring to the unsubstantiated accusation by Congressman Souder against the Muslim leaders, Muslim organizations and the American Muslim community. The Muslim leaders of America are providing information about Islam & Muslims to Americans, standing up to fundamentalists & extremists, and educating those who have vast knowledge of pure ignorance. On 17 March 2010, Sheriff Lee Baca educated Congressman Mark Souder, showed him the mirror and forced him to take a closer look at himself.
Khurshid Ahmed wrote in his book "Let it be clearly known that our complain is not that the Western scholars have adopted a critical approach - this they have every right to adopt. Our complain is that their approach has mostly been prejudiced, partial, colored and unscientific; their information wrong, inaccurate and exaggerated, sometimes imaginary and fabricated; their attitude dogmatic, unsympathetic and even hostile. ("Islam and the West" by Khurshid Ahmed, Islamic Publication Ltd., Lahore, Pakistan, July 1963)
On March 23, 2010, a town hall meeting jointly called by the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress and Bilal Islamic Center at the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Masjid in Los Angeles to discuss issues was scheduled long before Sheriff Lee Baca's encounter with the Congressman in Washington on March 17. Sheriff Lee Baca and Muslim Community Affairs Unit members, Sergeant Mike Abdeen, Deputy Sheriff Sherif Morsi, Deputy Ms. As-soon Naffisi and Deputy Muhammad Ahmed attended the meeting.
Dafer Dakhil, Chairman of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress welcomed Sheriff Lee Baca and thanked him for his courageous stand against the utterances of the Congressman about Muslims and Muslim organizations. He expressed concerns about Congressmen who use their Islamophobic and narrow-minded ideologies to influence policies on issues of national security.
Imam Abdul Karim Hasan, Imam of the Bilal Islamic Center of Los Angeles, made remarks on behalf of the Bilal Islamic Center and welcomed those present at the forum. Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, also addressed the forum and said that Sheriff's response to Congressman was a statement in defense of democracy in America. Dr. Maher Hathout further added, "And they will not vanish; they are on the record and they are a landmark on the road of our democracy." Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC, said that those who like to marginalize Muslims in America are using McCarthyism. Hussam Alyoush, CAIR, also spoke and thanked the Sheriff for the partnership and his willingness to listen to the issues, concerns and aspirations of the Muslims community. Sergeant Mike Abdeen talked about the activities of the Sheriff's Department Muslim Community Affairs Unit.
Dr. Maher Hathout was right in telling the attendees of the forum that the remarks made by Sheriff Lee Baca at the congressional hearings in Washington will remain permanently in the Congressional records; they cannot be removed from the records or destroyed. They will be available to the historians and future generations and they will not vanish.
Lee Baca defended himself and the Muslim community and became very emotional at this town hall meeting. Referring to congressman Sounder's inaccurate assessment of CAIR, he said, "If he (Congressman Souder) thinks I'm afraid of what he said, I will go to 10 CAIR fundraisers because he said it." Baca called Souder's comments "scary" and said they were an affront to all Muslim Americans. "When you attack CAIR," he said, "you attack virtually every Muslim in America." Lee Baca also said that he attended only two fundraisers for CAIR in four years, "In other words, he's (Congressman Souder) an amateur intelligence officer," Baca said.
The Muslim American Homeland Security Congress was set up in the wake of "this constant uninformed chatter about religion being a factor in terrorism," he said. "I'm saying -- because I've read the Koran and been involved with Muslim Americans for years -- this is not correct. God has nothing to do with mentally ill people committing terrorist acts".
At the end the meeting, questions and answers session was conducted and moderated by Hussam Ayloush. The Dua - supplication - and the closing remarks were made by Imam Abdul Karim Hasan of Bilal Islamic Center of Los Angeles.
The MAHSC Executive Board consists of the Bilal Islamic Center, CAIR, COPAA (Council of Pakistan America Affairs), IMAN Center, Islamic Center of Hawthorne, Islamic Center of Reseda, Islamic Center of San Gabriel, Islamic Center of South Bay, Islamic Center of Southern California, Islamic Shura Council, MAS (Muslim American Society), MPAC and Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation.