How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Regulating freedom of choice:' Readers react to France's burqa ban

Art by Khalid Albaih/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Q&A post last week that highlighted the reactions of three prominent Muslim women in California to a controversial French law banning face-covering veils, enacted last week, has generated a lively debate in the comments section.

While the arguments have been heated, and the opinions not all politically correct, it has been an interesting discussion in that it displays how there are different ways of defining freedom.

The post featured interviews with Hadeer Soliman, vice president of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine; Edina Lekovic, director of policy and programming for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles; and Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The interviews were conducted by KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh, who herself is Muslim and wears hijab, the traditional head scarf.

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'The right to choose how we dress:' American Muslim women speak out on French burqa ban

Photo by Siobhán Silke/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Kenza Drider, one of the most vocal opponents of France's burqa ban, April 2011

On Monday, France implemented a controversial ban on the face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women, which are referred to there as burqa or niqab. Women who continue to wear the veils are subject to steep fines if cited. The French government defends the ban as promoting sexual equality, while critics have called it a blatant appeal to anti-Muslim voters. Meanwhile, there has been mixed reaction from Muslim women as the ban is debated around the world.

KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh, a recent graduate of UC Irvine who herself is Muslim and wears hijab, the traditional head scarf, interviewed three prominent Muslim women in California on reaction to the ban. She spoke with Hadeer Soliman, vice president of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine; Edina Lekovic, director of policy and programming for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles; and Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Here's what they had to say about the burqa ban, how it affects Muslim women here, and broader concerns they see surrounding it.

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A week’s worth of reactions to the House hearings on Islam

Photo by waltarrrrr/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A view of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, CA, November 2009

The news of last Friday's earthquake in Japan all but obscured what had been some of the biggest news of the previous day, the first hearing of a planned series in the House Committee on Homeland Security on the “extent of radicalization” among American Muslims, led by committee chair and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.

Muslim groups and other minority organizations condemned the hearings as xenophobic; King defended them as “absolutely essential.” Prior to the first hearing March 10 (the next one has not been scheduled), KPCC’s Public Insight Network sent out a series of questions to members of its audience, inviting Muslims and people of all faiths to share their take on the hearings.

By last Friday morning, the House hearing had quickly fallen off the news radar, but people continued to respond. The majority were Muslim, though Christian and Jewish respondents answered the questions as well. Here are some excerpts from their responses.

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Q&A: Temecula imam speaks out about today's House hearing on Islam

Photo by Steven Cuevas/KPCC

Harmoush at a Temecula planning commission hearing, December 2010

Today marked the first hearing in the House Committee on Homeland Security on the "extent of radicalization" among American Muslims, led by committee chair and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.

The hearings, which were broadcast on C-SPAN, began at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, not the best time for West Coast viewers. But those who have followed the story have strong opinions about the gist of the hearings nonetheless. Among them is Imam Mahmoud Harmoush of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, which last year drew heated opposition and protesters to the Riverside County wine region over its plans to build a larger facility a few miles away, by a Baptist church. The project received city approval recently.

Yesterday, Harmoush was among those who responded to a query from KPCC’s Public Insight Network inviting local Muslims and people of all faiths to share their take on today’s hearings. He agreed to allow his response to be published.

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American Muslims: Understanding a little-understood minority

Photo by HORIZON/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Source: Pew Research Center




Tomorrow's Congressional hearing on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism is likely to be remembered as a key moment defining racial and ethnic relations in the United States in the post-9/11 era. New York's Rep. Peter King, the Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has defended the hearing as "absolutely essential;" American Muslims, along with other immigrant groups and civil rights advocates, have condemned it as government-sanctioned xenophobia.

At the heart of the conversation are American Muslims, perhaps the nation's least-understood minority. Here are a few details about a segment of the U.S. population that numbers more than 2 million:

A Pew Research Center study from 2007 identified American Muslims as "mostly middle class and mainstream." While predominantly immigrants, the study found them to be generally more integrated into American society and culture and more affluent than their immigrant counterparts in Europe.

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