Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Boycotting Breakfast - an act of childishness

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently sent out invitations to a large diverse group of the City’s religious leaders for his annual interfaith breakfast.
The overwhelming majority responded positively.  One group decided to boycott the event as a form of protest.  They were angry at the Mayor’s refusal to join the group of naysayers vilifying the NYPD and it’s Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The Islamic Leadership Council stated they didn’t feel comfortable “going to have coffee and donuts with the Mayor...”   The uncomfortably they say is based on the Mayor’s refusal to denounce the NYPD’s CounterTerrorism Program which has kept New Yorkers safe from terrorist plots in the 10 years since 9-11.  The Council considers the NYPD’s action illegal and has called on both the Justice Department and Congressional Committees to investigate.
What exactly is the Islamic Leadership Council?  When was it formed?  And who do they represent?
The Council, also known as the Majlis Ashsura of Metropolitan New York, represents 35 Sunni Muslim congregations in the New York City area.  In a city with over 175 Mosques that amounts to about 20 %.  It does not represent Shia or Sufi Muslim congregations.  They do not represent the vast majority of Muslim Americans living in the greater New York / New Jersey Region. 
   According to its website it was incorporated in the State of New York in 1995 as a non profit organization.  Its first President was Imam Al Amin Abdul Latif who ran the organization out of his house in Suffolk County.  Latif was a former New York State Department of Corrections Chaplain.  The current President, Imam Talib Abdur Rashid of the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood, is also a former prison Chaplain who worked in Sing Sing.  Two of the Council’s members, Imam Aziz ud din Bilal and Imam
Zulqarnain Abdu Shahid recently gained notoriety by being arrested by NYPD.
Bilal also known as Charles Fuller was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in August 2011.  This was not Bilal’s first run in with the law. He has been arrested 18 times for charges including robbery, grand larceny, and bribery of a public official.
Imam Zulqarnain Abdu Shahid was arrested for attempting to smuggle dangerous contraband into a New York City Correctional Facility in 2010.  Shadid, formerly known as, Paul Pitts, had previously been arrested for Murder and Robbery and had served 18 years in prison for the crimes.
The Islamic Leadership Council has also spoken out in support of Imam Luqman Abdullah.  Abdullah was killed in a violent shootout with law enforcement officers in Detroit in 2009.
It was Abdullah who encouraged members of his congregation to shoot police officers if they had a gun handy, according to FBI transcripts.
The Council has also hailed as a leader in the Islamic community, Imam Jamil al Amin currently serving a life sentence in Federal Supermax prison for the murder of one police officer and the wounding of another in 2000.  
It was Amin, better known as H Rap Brown, the former Black Panther, who coined the phrase, “violence is as American as cherry pie”
They view him as a political prisoner, the victim of an overzealous police department and prosecutor’s office.
With membership and heroes like this is there any wonder why the Council has such disdain for law enforcement in general and the NYPD in particular?
This was not the Islamic Council’s first foray into the protest movement.  Several months back Imam Aiyub Abdul Baki of the Islamic Leadership Council gave a sermon in Zuccotti Park in support of the Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered there. In part the speech denounced the NYPD’s treatment of the movement with charges of  oppressive tactics by law enforcement against OWS and Muslims and comparing the two movements by stating that they were fighting the same enemy.  That being the NYPD.
Still the Council seems to hold great influence in city government.  It is the certifying ecclesiastical body used in the hiring of Islamic clergy in the New York City Department of Corrections and other government agencies, and as such it has access to the Mayor’s office to air its grievances in the appropriate forum.  One of the Islamic Leadership Council’s stated objectives is, “To develop understanding and cooperation with other faith based organizations for the common good.”
Refusing to sit down at an interfaith breakfast only demonstrates the Council’s intolerance when it doesn’t get its own way.  Such behavior is immature and irresponsible.  Mayor Bloomberg was right not to acknowledge the Council’s
childishness when speaking about the event.    Sometimes the best corrective action for a spoiled child is to ignore them until the tantrum passes.

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