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December 4, 2014 0

The Price of Religious Exclusion

The Town­ship of Bridge­wa­ter, NJ recently set­tled a law­suit filed by a local Mus­lim con­gre­ga­tion – the Al Falah Cen­ter – for $7.75 mil­lion.  The law­suit alleged that the Township’s expe­di­tious pas­sage of a new land use ordi­nance which effec­tively barred the Cen­ter from con­vert­ing a for­mer 15,500 sq. foot ban­quet into a mosque vio­lated the fed­eral Reli­gious Land Use and Insti­tu­tion­al­ized Per­sons Act (“RLUIPA”).bridgewater

In Octo­ber 2010, the Cen­ter signed a con­tract to pur­chase a for­mer Red Roof Inn with the intent of con­vert­ing it into a mosque.  A prior Town­ship traf­fic study con­cluded that the pro­posed con­ver­sion would not increase traf­fic.  And in March 2011, the Sum­mit County Plan­ning Board found that the con­ver­sion raised min­i­mal traf­fic issues and it con­di­tioned approval of Al Falah’s land use appli­ca­tion on instal­la­tion of a new traf­fic light paid for by the Center.

But six days after the County issued its find­ing and shortly before a new state law favor­able to the Center’s land use appli­ca­tion went into effect, the Town­ship adopted a new land use ordi­nance that effec­tively barred Al Falah from using the prop­erty for a mosque.  Inter­est­ingly, the same ordi­nance did not affect the oper­a­tion of the other sev­en­teen exist­ing houses of wor­ship within the Town­ship, none of which are mosques.

A fed­eral dis­trict court found that the Township’s actions likely vio­lated RLUIPA, as well as denied Bridgewater’s motion for sum­mary judg­ment.  The Town­ship appealed this deci­sion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The Inter­faith Coali­tion on Mosques (“ICOM”), which is spon­sored by ADL, filed a friend-of-the court (ami­cus) brief with the Third Cir­cuit in sup­port of the Cen­ter.  How­ever, the case set­tled dur­ing the pen­dency of the appeal.

Under the set­tle­ment terms, the Cen­ter will not build a mosque on the Red Roof Inn prop­erty.  But the Town­ship will pay $2.75 mil­lion to buy an alter­na­tive 15-acre prop­erty for the Cen­ter and Bridgewater’s insur­ance car­rier will pay Al Falah another $5 mil­lion for alleged dam­ages and attorney’s fees.

The legal set­tle­ment is not an admis­sion of lia­bil­ity or dis­crim­i­na­tion.  But per­haps it has taught the Town­ship and oth­ers munic­i­pal­i­ties an expen­sive and vital les­son: reli­gious free­dom in Amer­ica is for all faiths, not just some.

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December 3, 2014 9

Calls for Violence against Israel at Annual AMP Conference in Chicago

bannerCalls for vio­lence against Israel were heard at the 7th annual Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine (AMP) con­fer­ence, which took place over Thanks­giv­ing week­end at the Hyatt Regency Hotel out­side of Chicago. The con­fer­ence, billed as “Ris­ing from Ashes: Gaza Teaches Life!,”  addressed a num­ber of top­ics, such as, “Do Occu­pied Peo­ple Have the Right to Resist their Occu­pa­tion?,” “Islama­pho­bia and Pales­tine,” and “Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the chang­ing Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment toward Israeli aggression.”

AMP is the lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion pro­vid­ing anti-Zionist train­ing and edu­ca­tion to stu­dents and Mus­lim com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions in the U.S and its con­fer­ence fea­tured a num­ber of U.S. and inter­na­tional anti-Israel activists as guest speak­ers, includ­ing Hatem Baz­ian, a co-founder of AMP; Josh Rubener, the National Advo­cacy Direc­tor for the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion; and Rashid Kha­lidi, the Edward Said Pro­fes­sor of Mod­ern Arab Stud­ies at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity and an Advi­sory Board mem­ber of the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occupation.

The most extreme com­ments at the con­fer­ence came from Taher Herza­l­lah, AMP’s national Cam­pus Coor­di­na­tor. Dur­ing his remarks, Herza­l­lah claimed that, “The State of Israel is a lie,” and spoke about how the “Israel lobby” works to ensure that Israel’s legit­i­macy is not chal­lenged. He also claimed that the focus of anti-Israel groups should be on the younger gen­er­a­tion and ended his com­ments with a call for vio­lence, stat­ing, “Israelis have to be bombed, they are a threat to the legit­i­macy of Pales­tine, and it is wrong to main­tain the State of Israel. It is an ille­git­i­mate cre­ation born from colo­nial­ism and racism.”

Mads Gilbert, a Nor­we­gian triage spe­cial­ist and pro­fes­sor of emer­gency med­i­cine who recently was banned from enter­ing Gaza by Israel, also sup­ported a call for vio­lence when claim­ing that the Nor­we­gian peo­ple do not sup­port Hamas or Fatah, but that they do “sup­port the fight with arms.” Gilberts, added that the strug­gle in Gaza is one against racism, apartheid, and polit­i­cal Zion­ism, and he also spoke pos­i­tively of rocket fire into Israel, claim­ing that, “When we heard of each rocket from Gaza [into Israel] that gave us hope and strength.”

One speaker, Sheikh Abdelfat­tah Mourou, a Tunisian lawyer who founded the Tunisian Islamic Ten­dency Move­ment, remarked that Israel was “defend­ing itself by killing inno­cents” dur­ing the most recent round of fight­ing between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. He also stated that, “When an Israeli pilot kills a fam­ily of 25, when he knows the head of Hamas is not home, it is shame­ful of the whole world to accept this claim of self-defense…The claim of Israeli secu­rity is a shame­ful one.”

Other speak­ers at the con­fer­ence dis­cussed the “Israel lobby” and its alleged role in “look­ing to pro­tect the Zion­ist nar­ra­tive.” Israeli anti-Zionist author Miko Peled claimed that the lobby stretches far and that, “There are spheres of Jew­ish influ­ence here in the U.S., like AIPAC and the Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tion.” Fol­low­ing Peled’s com­ments, Dima Kha­lidi, Direc­tor of Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Legal Sup­port and Coop­er­at­ing Coun­sel with the Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights, stated that, “Jew­ish Zion­ists are a pow­er­ful force, not just AIPAC.”

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December 2, 2014 0

Hackers Post Anti-Semitism On U.S. Universities’ Websites

Update — 12/04/14: ADL alerted Face­book about the “AnonG­host Team” page. The page has been removed. 

The hacker group AnonG­host Team claimed respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing of sev­eral Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties’ web­sites, includ­ing those of Port­land State Uni­ver­sity, Utah State Uni­ver­sity, Olin Col­lege of Engi­neer­ing, Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity in St. Louis and other edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions in the U.S.anon-ghost-hack

The hack­ings redi­rected web­site vis­i­tors either to pages play­ing a record­ing of the Quran and fea­tur­ing a mes­sage in Eng­lish that starts with an anti-Semitic pro-terror state­ment, “Death to All Jews…Viva Hamas, Qas­sam” or to a page fea­tur­ing anti-Israel images and play­ing a pro-Qassam anti-Semitic song with the lyrics, “Teach the son of the Jew­ish woman how many times we will con­quer him.”

These hack­ings rep­re­sent part of a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non of hacker groups direct­ing web­site vis­i­tors to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages.

The AnonG­host Team announced these hack­ings on their social media plat­forms and also posted sev­eral state­ments claim­ing respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing of a num­ber of other web­sites in the United States, the UK and other parts of the world.

AnonG­host includes a num­ber of hack­ers, mostly from North Africa, who are active in tar­get­ing Israeli and Jew­ish web­sites and express sup­port for ter­ror groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and Hamas. In the past, group mem­bers were among the active par­tic­i­pants in an orga­nized cam­paign to launch cyber-attacks against Israel known as OpIs­rael.

The group also claimed that ear­lier this year it hacked sev­eral Jew­ish insti­tu­tions’ web­sites, includ­ing those of the Colum­bia Jew­ish Con­gre­ga­tion, the Jew­ish Com­mu­nity Action, Jew­ish Peo­ple Around the World and sev­eral others.

A hacker call­ing him­self Muri­ta­nia Attacker appears to lead the AnonG­host Team. Muri­ta­nia Attacker is a self-described anti-Semite, writ­ing on Twit­ter on Novem­ber 26 that “I am proud to be Anti-semitic , Death To All Jews ! [sic].” In June 2014, Muri­ta­nia Attacker was quoted in an online inter­view describ­ing the hack­ers in the AnonG­host Team as “14 years to 35 years old” and added “they are well edu­cated , and they all go to school … they are not brain­washed they know the truth.”

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