Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Jewish Advocate has published a front-page article on the effort by Miss Kelly and me to get signatures on our petition to support our immigration officials. If you haven't signed yet, please go here, read the background and support this effort. Here is the article in full:
Arrests of local imams divides community on law enforcement
Two Bostonians expanded the debate on immigration rights to the Web last week as they created an online petition in support of the recent arrests of local Muslim leaders.
Imams Hafiz Muhammed Masood of the Islamic Center of New England in Sharon and Hafiz Abdul Hannan of the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell in Chelmsford, along with Masoodâ€™s 24-year-old son, Hassan, were released on bail from the Plymouth County House of Correction last Tuesday.
The Pakistan natives were among 33 individuals taken into custody around the country as part of an ongoing investigation into a visa fraud scheme. The plan allegedly helped large numbers of illegal aliens fraudulently obtain religious worker visas to enter or remain in the states, according to a statement released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Local bloggers â€œMiss Kelly,â€ who asked to be identified only by her online moniker, and Martin â€œSolâ€ Solomon, teamed up to write a petition that applauds ICEâ€™s efforts. The document, which had 145 signatures as of press time, was produced after the Boston chapter of the Muslim American Society crafted its own petition last Thursday in support of Masood and Hannan. If the number of signatures breaks the 1,000 mark, â€œMiss Kellyâ€ and Solomon plan on sending their paperwork to the ICE and other state officials, including Gov. Mitt Romney and Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
â€œPeople talk about the need for immigration laws to be enforced, but when [these officials] try to enforce them, they get in a lot of trouble,â€ said Solomon, who is well known for his political blog, Solomonia.com. â€œWe are not anti-Muslim, but we are supportive of the authorities.â€
â€œMiss Kellyâ€™sâ€ Web site focuses on issues surrounding Christianity and the rise in Islamic fundamentalism, while Solomonâ€™s blog closely monitors local and national anti-Israel actions.
Boston political humorist and WTTK 96.9 FM radio host Michael Graham said he signed the petition for pro-immigration laws because he is â€œan outspoken critic of illegal immigration.â€ Graham invited â€œMiss Kellyâ€ to his Monday show to discuss the arrest of the imams.
â€œThe law is being enforced, and itâ€™s nonsensical to say that because of someoneâ€™s religion they are above the law,â€ Graham added. â€œIf Americaâ€™s immigrations officers arenâ€™t going to enforce laws in this case, when are they?â€
An area Muslim, who is a member of the Islamic Centers of New England, contacted â€œMiss Kellyâ€ earlier this week, saying that many Muslims â€“ including himself â€“ wanted to sign the pro-immigration law petition but were afraid to.
â€œI thought, â€˜Oh my god, this is crazy,â€™â€ â€œMiss Kellyâ€ said. â€œPeople are coming here illegally and circumventing the system. Who cares how nice they are? Why should they get blanket support?â€
Yet Barry D. Hoffman, Consulate General of Pakistan in Boston for New England, said these bloggers are just adding to the â€œtremendous amount of hysteriaâ€ against Muslims.
â€œIf people are so interested in upholding immigration laws, then why donâ€™t they arrest the ... Brazilians in Framingham,â€ Hoffman asked. â€œAs far as these bloggers go, where do they think their grandparents came from?â€
The seizure of the imams also sent ripples of shock throughout the local religious community, especially since the men come from prestigious backgrounds. For instance, 48-year-old Masoodâ€™s rÃ©sumÃ© on the Islamic Center of New Englandâ€™s Web site states that he has advanced degrees from Boston University and Islamic University in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
But MAS has been working hard to boost Masood and Hannanâ€™s images by arranging rallies and encouraging individuals to fast and pray for their support. MAS also formed a petition that garnered more than 1,400 signatures and was passed on to Judge Paul Gagnon during the bail hearing last Tuesday, according to Bilal Kaleem, associate director of the Boston chapter of the MAS. The imams were released on $7,500 bail, and Hassan was given $2,500 bail.
â€œWe wanted to show the judge that there is a deep well of support in the community for these two imams,â€ Kaleem said. â€œWe wanted to highlight the work theyâ€™ve done and what they stand for.â€
In the next couple of months, Masood, Hannan and Hassan will likely attend a pre-trial hearing before an immigration judge to determine what relief may be available, according to the Masoodâ€™s attorney, William Joyce of the Boston law firm Joyce and Associates.
Rabbi Barry Starr of Temple Israel in Sharon said that while the facts of the case have not been revealed to him, he does view the trio as â€œkind, compassionate and outgoingâ€ religious leaders.
The Boston Globe's puff piece is here: Muslims embrace their freed leader - Relief, angst as imam faces US visa charges
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Sign the Petition! 'Dueling petitions spark debate over immigration'.
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