How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Answers to some of the questions swirling around mosque controversies


Photo by HORIZON/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The interior of a mosque in Ishafan, Iran, May 2006

The Huffington Post featured an interesting Q & A yesterday with Salam Al Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Al Marayati (also a member of KPCC's regional advisory council) addresses some of the questions and fears swirling around the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" in New York and related controversies elsewhere, including in Temecula, where some residents have protested against the development of an Islamic cultural center and mosque near a Baptist church.

Among the topics he addresses: Islamic law, national security, and terrorism. From the interview:

Q: What about Sharia (Islamic law) in the U.S.?

A: If what you mean by Sharia is what is practiced in the Muslim world -- no! Many Muslims fled the Muslim world because of corrupt regimes, injustice, misogyny, and downright discourtesy...When we see stoning of women in Afghanistan or Nigeria, or child marriages in the Arabian Peninsula, that is not Sharia. It is an exploitation of Islam to oppress people, especially women.

Q: Is terrorism ever justified?

A: No. Terrorism is evil...Yet, when terrorists tape video messages from the caves of Afghanistan or the jungles of Somalia, they get free publicity in all US markets. When we condemn terrorism, it is barely recognized.


Because it's Friday: The 25th anniversary Night Stalker tour


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The Night Stalker's likeness on Silly Putty, October 2009

Yes, a tour. The occasion is the 25th anniversary of capture of "Night Stalker" serial killer Richard Ramirez, the onetime Eastside terror who was chased down and beaten to a near pulp on the street by a mob of angry East Los Angelenos who recognized him after the cabrón had the gall to try and steal a couple of their cars one hot, hot late August morning in 1985.

Ramirez, who was eventually convicted on 13 counts of murder, remains on death row in San Quentin. And in celebration of that fact, artist Al Guerrero, aka Eastside Desmadre Tours, has put together a tour of Ramirez's haunts this Sunday, with the added highlights of witness interviews, live musical street theater (really) and a character who goes by Crimebo the Clown.


Must-see photo slideshow gives haunting glimpse of a darker side of Ellis Island

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An interior shot, by a different photographer, of an abandoned medical building on Ellis Island, June 2008

There is the most gorgeous photo slide show on the NPR website today of the abandoned hospital buildings of Ellis Island, the work of photographer Stephen Wilkes. From NPR:
Wilkes' photo project, Ellis Island: Ghosts Of Freedom, shows the somber side of immigration — the side you don't see while on island tours. For many, the dream of a better life terminated in Ellis Island hospitals, where they were detained at any sign of disease. In one of Wilkes' images, the Statue of Liberty is reflected in a mirror. "I suddenly imagined a petite Eastern European woman rising out of her bed every morning," he writes in the caption."Seeing the reflection would be the closest she'd ever come to freedom."

The hospitals were closed in 1954 and basically left untouched, except by the elements of nature, and unseen, until Wilkes came along. Empty rooms, peeling paint, a lonely shoe left on a table — this deterioration is what Wilkes finds beautiful. His meditative studies of light and composition guide the viewer through Ellis Island's dark side, oddly illuminated by an afternoon glow.