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Black Muslims Left Out of National Conversation on Islam

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By Stephon Johnson and Orobosa Igbinedio, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - “We have to be able to decode what’s happening and realize that this is religious intolerance on one hand, and it’s [also] good ol’ red-blooded American racial and ethnic bias on the other hand,” said Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, sitting in his office at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc. in Harlem.

A controversial nationwide conversation has sparked following the proposal of a Muslim-themed community center two blocks away from Ground Zero. Those in opposition harbor the national pain of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 nine years ago and feel it is insulting and insensitive to the memory of the near 3,000 people who lost their lives. On the other hand, religious freedom is decreed in the Constitution, therefore, developers of the center at Park 51 have a legal status to build wherever they please.

This conversation has brought protestors from both sides to the street to express their views. It has brought about political lobbying and campaign strategies in order to stir the emotions of those both in opposition and in favor.

Meanwhile, a Time magazine poll published August 19 shows that 25 percent of people in the United States believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim and only 26 percent of people are in support of the construction of this Muslim community center.

Many in the mainstream media have failed to acknowledge that the proposed building will not simply serve as a mosque but as a fully equipped community center with a swimming pool, culinary school, art studios and other features.

Furthermore, another mosque, the Manhattan Mosque, stands only five blocks northeast from the site of Ground Zero; Muslims have been worshipping at this location since a year prior to the World Trade Center’s construction.

In the Pentagon, which was also subject to a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, there is a non-denominational center where Muslims are able to pray throughout the week and hold services on Fridays.

But despite the protests and the vitriol directed at the proposed mosque (and Islam in general), Abdur-Rashid sees something missing when it comes to the national conversation: Black Muslims.

“The first thing we need to do is decode some of the language,” said Abdur-Rashid. “The first language that has to be decoded is “Americans.” That really means “white Americans.” That’s who’s uptight about this. It’s opposition that’s occurring in different parts of the country in reaction to the construction of mosques. It’s not just Park 51 in Lower Manhattan. It’s in Milwaukee. It’s in California. It’s in different parts of the country.”

But Abdur-Rashid also detects something more than a religious angle to the protests. “The opposition that is coming from certain segments of the White American community is not just tied to the building of mosques. There’s a race angle, an ethnicity angle as well as a religious angle,” he said. “Ethnicity wise, it’s not just Arabs. It’s Arabs and southern Asians. Southern Asian immigrants, according to all of the studies done over the past 15 to 20 years, are the largest group of Muslims in the United States. Then African-Americans are second and Arabs are third.

According to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2009, concerning the population of Muslims in different countries, there are just over 2.45 million Muslims in America (0.8 percent of the population). When broken down to ethnicity, a Pew study conducted in 2007 states that 35 percent of all American Muslims were born here. Of that 35 percent, 20 percent are African-American. So why aren’t Blacks included in the national conversation on Islam? The answer, according to Abdur-Rashid, is two-fold.

“The way that this whole issue is playing out is the result of what I call a failed strategy on the part of Arab and southern Asian Muslims to be accepted into American society or assimilated into American society and a successful strategy on the part of the status quo [and] ruling class on the other hand.” Abdur-Rashid believes that the failed strategy of Arab and southern Asian Muslims was in not promoting a dialogue with Black Muslims once they arrived in America, especially after the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Immigration Act of 1965.

“An important part of their assimilation strategy has been to put an immigrant face on Islam in America,” said Abdur-Rashid. “Many of the immigrants who have come here have been financially well off. This has enabled them to found influential national organizations as they pursue a strategy of empowerment. All immigrants want to be empowered; all immigrants want to be part of American society. They’ve worked to put an immigrant face on Islam in America.

“As these immigrants have come here, two things have happened. One is that their goal has been to assimilate into White America, since we all know there are two Americas. And the America that these southern Asian and Arab immigrants have strived to assimilate to is not the America you and I are sitting in right now,” said Abdur-Rashid. “In doing this, the fact is that they came to this country and, for the most part, ignored the presence of African-American Muslims. [They] made no attempt to link with us, work with us, dialogue with us.

“Up until the past couple of decades, when you said Islam and Muslims in America, people have always thought about African-Americans. All of the famous Muslims in America up until this decade have been African-Americans who have had a tremendous impact on American society. Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. The list goes on.

“It’s failed not because these same Muslims had ill intent towards African-Americans; it was because they didn’t know the territory,” Abdur-Rashid continued. “They underestimated the underbelly of American society and the role that racism toward people of color has always played in American society. After Sept. 11, their artificial white privilege was revoked and they just became another kind of nigger in America. And the status quo started treating them like that.”

The vitriol aimed at Muslims in the United States unearths the height of “Islamophobia” and ignorance of a nation that prides itself on being cosmopolitan. So far, government officials such as New York State Gov. David Paterson have explained that there have not been any discussions about relocating the center to state-owned land as a compromise, as that would impinge on religious freedom and the legal rights of the developers. Relocating would indeed encourage further controversy and promote the very ideals that America aims to abort.

And according to Russell Simmons, that would also be cowardly.

“I’m disappointed in everyone, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democrats,” said Simmons. “I’m shocked at the media. There’s ignorance on all sides. Twenty-three percent of this world’s population is Muslim. They’re a peace-loving people. What we’re doing is creating more tension.”

Simmons, a hip-hop and business entrepreneur who’s also the chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, spoke to the AmNews and stated the need for those who have been victims of intolerance to stand up and defend the community center’s construction—unless they side with the opposition as well.

“I think the Blacks, the Jews and others who don’t stand up who have had similar experiences…shame on them,” said Simmons. “And to let someone have this misguided anger? We wouldn’t let people act that way unless it was in our hearts as well.

He concludes, ”“Muslims did not attack the World Trade [Center] ... I’m sorry that there are so many in America who feel the way they do.”

Fortune 500 Lacking Women, Minorities, According to New Study

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Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chair man of the Senate Democratic Task Force and the lone Hispanic Senator, today unveiled the results of his survey on women and minority representation among the senior management of Fortune 500 companies, as well as their use of minority and women-owned businesses in the contracting and procurement process.

The survey found that women and minority representation on corporate boards continues to lag far behind the national population percentages. Menendez’s survey was one of the most successful of its kind, garnering input from 219 corporations on the Fortune 500 list and 71 on the Fortune 100 list.

The study found minorities to represent a total of 14.5 percent of directors on corporate boards and overall have less representation on executive teams than they do on corporate boards.

Hispanics are least proportionately represented on boards and fared even worse on executive teams. They comprise 3.28 percent of board members and and 2.90 percent on executive teams, about one-fifth of the 15 percent they represent in the U.S. population. Among minority groups, African-Americans have the highest representation on boards compared to their population, but saw greatest decline in representation from boards to executive management teams, from 8.77 percent to 4.23 percent. Women on the other hand fared better on executive teams than on corporate boards, with 18.04 percent and 19.87 percent of representation respectively, but these figures still represent less than one-half of their proportion of the national population.

Senator Menendez and others also offered concrete recommendations, including the creation of a task force with select corporations, executive search firms, board members, and other experts to help companies move in this direction.

“As Chair of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force, one of my top priorities has always been promoting and expanding diversity at all levels of our economic, political and social sectors, and the basic understanding that has resulted from this survey will help guide us in doing so,” said Senator Menendez. “This report clearly confirms what we had suspected all along – that American corporations need to do better when it comes to having the board rooms on Wall Street reflect the reality on Main Street. We need to change the dynamic and make it commonplace for minorities to be part of the American corporate structure. It is not just about doing what’s right, but it’s a good business decision that will benefit both corporations and the communities they’re tapping into and making investments in. That’s why I’m offering my recommendations and to work one-on-one with companies who want to move those numbers and company executives who want to make a difference in the community.”

This survey is one of the largest studies of women and minority diversity among corporate leadership with one of the highest response rates. A total of 219 Fortune 500 companies participated, including 71 Fortune 100 companies, making this one of the largest surveys on women and minority representation in corporate leadership ever. It requested the following information from corporations: 1) whether or not they have written diversity plans with targets, 2) data on diversity at the Board and executive management level, and 3) information on supplier diversity.

Most important findings of the survey and recommendations based on this data:

Diversity on Corporate Boards

• Women represent 18.04 percent of directors; 1 out of every 5 board members is female. The proportional representation of women on Boards is less than one-half of their proportion to the overall U.S. population.

• Minorities represent 14.45 percent of Directors; 1 out of every 7 Board members is a minority. Minorities represent less than half of the 35 percent of the population they comprise overall in this country.

• Blacks/African-Americans have the highest representation at 8.77 percent compared to their population, reporting a Board ratio of about 69 percent.

• Hispanics have one of the poorest representations on Boards. They comprise about 3.28 percent of Board members, one-fifth of the 15 percent they represent in the U.S. population. Native-Americans made up about .04 percent of Board members, approximately 5 percent of their actual population.

Diversity on Executive Teams (CEO and direct reports)

• Women represent 19.87 percent of Directors; 1 out of every 5 Board members is female. Although women fared slightly better on executive teams than on corporate Boards, they still represent less than one-half of their population.

• Minorities overall have less representation on executive teams than they do on corporate Boards, representing 10.44 percent of executive managers, compared to 30 percent of their actual proportion to the U.S. population.

• Blacks/African-Americans saw the greatest decline in representation from Boards to executive management teams, 8.77 percent to 4.23 percent. In fact, they went from about one out of every 11 Board members to one out of every 24 executive team members. When compared to population statistics, Blacks/African Americans on executive boards represented only about one-third of their U.S. population.

• Hispanics/Latinos fare worse on executive teams versus corporate Boards at 2.90 percent, Asians and Native-Americans do slightly better at 2.55 percent and .25 percent respectively.

Indicted Senate Candidate Greene to Stay in Race

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

(NNPA) - South Carolina Democratic Senate hopeful Alvin Greene plans to continue his run for office despite being indicted on obscenity charges related to an alleged incident that took place on the University of South Carolina’s campus last November.

According to court records, a Richland County, S.C. grand jury on Aug. 13 indicted Greene on a felony charge of promoting obscenity and a misdemeanor charge of communicating obscene messages to another person after authorities said he showed a female University of South Carolina student pornographic images on a computer in one of the school’s computer labs, and then attempted to go to her room.

Greene confirmed that he was staying in the race when reporters from WCNC, a North Carolina NBC affiliate, made an unannounced trip to his home to ask him about his plans. Pressured into answering further questions, Greene asked the reporters to “leave the property” and “go away.”

The South Carolina Democratic party has sought Greene’s removal from the race since his upset win over former state Rep. Vic Rawl in the primary, despite running as a complete unknown with no apparent funds. Calls for an investigation into the primary election results were dismissed, but Greene’s recent indictment was the final straw for the party’s local chair, Carol Fowler.

“In June, I asked Mr. Greene to withdraw his candidacy because of the charges against him. Following today's indictments, I repeat that request,” Fowler said in a statement released to the media when Greene was indicted. “It will be impossible for Mr. Greene to address his legal issues and run a statewide campaign. The indictment renews concerns that Mr. Greene cannot represent the values of the Democratic Party or South Carolina voters.”

Greene will face incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican, in the general election in November.

Nielson: African-Americans Talk, Text More on Cellphones Than Any Other Ethnic Group

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Special to the NNPA from Target Market News –

(NNPA) - According to a new analysis of cellphone usage by The Nielsen Company, African-Americans spend more time on average talking and texting than any other ethnic group. The voice and text results are compiled from one year (April 2009-March 2010) of mobile usage data gathered by Nielsen, which analyzes the cellphone bills of more than 60,000 mobile subscribers each month in the United States.

Nielsen found that African-Americans use on average more than 1,300 voice minutes a month, compared to the next most talkative segment, Hispanics, which talk on average 826 minutes a month. Asian/Pacific Islanders logged on average 692 talk minutes a month, followed by Whites, who use approximately 647 voice minutes a month.

Black consumers sent and received on average 780 SMS text messages per month, more than any other group. Hispanics averaged 767 text messages. Whites were third with a monthly average of 566 messages, followed by Asian/Pacific islanders with 384 texts.

The Nielsen analysis also found that women outranked men (856 vs. 666) for minutes spent talking on cellphones. Likewise women led in text messages over men, with 601 vs. 447.

While teens 18-24 text more that adults 25-34, cellphone voice usage is quite close (981 voice minutes for 18-24 and 952 minutes a month for those 25-34 years old.)

South Africa's Media Fears Censorship Under New Gov't Bill

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Special to the NNPA from GIN –

(GIN) – South Africa’s investigative reporters say they fear a proposed “media tribunal” could end their exposes of public corruption and maladministration by government officials.

In the name of allowing average citizens to hold the media accountable, President Jacob Zuma's ANC has proposed a tribunal, accountable to an ANC-led parliament to monitor and sanction the press.

A Protection of Information Bill is also under consideration to curb the reporting of so-called “state secrets.” Journalists reporting official information the state deems classified could face as many as 25 years in prison.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, speaking to the South African National Editors Forum, defended the tribunal concept but stressed that media would not be treated as the apartheid regime treated black journalists. He invited the media to participate in drafting legislation.

In an opposition piece, Thulani Ndlovu, former Zimbabwe reporter and now law student, wrote: “The imperfections and limitations of the press are hardly the most pressing problems facing South Africa... Instead of attacking the press for 'blowing the whistle' on maladministration and corruption, the government should tackle those problems head on.”

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