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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:

Dueling petitions spark debate over immigration

By Kristin Erekson - Thursday November 30 2006

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 Masood’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 “Miss Kelly,” who asked to be identified only by her online moniker, and Martin “Sol” Solomon, teamed up to write a petition that applauds ICE’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, “Miss Kelly” and Solomon plan on sending their paperwork to the ICE and other state officials, including Gov. Mitt Romney and Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“People 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,” said Solomon, who is well known for his political blog, Solomonia.com. “We are not anti-Muslim, but we are supportive of the authorities.”

“Miss Kelly’s” Web site focuses on issues surrounding Christianity and the rise in Islamic fundamentalism, while Solomon’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 “an outspoken critic of illegal immigration.” Graham invited “Miss Kelly” to his Monday show to discuss the arrest of the imams.

“The law is being enforced, and it’s nonsensical to say that because of someone’s religion they are above the law,” Graham added. “If America’s immigrations officers aren’t going to enforce laws in this case, when are they?”

An area Muslim, who is a member of the Islamic Centers of New England, contacted “Miss Kelly” earlier this week, saying that many Muslims – including himself – wanted to sign the pro-immigration law petition but were afraid to.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is crazy,’” “Miss Kelly” said. “People are coming here illegally and circumventing the system. Who cares how nice they are? Why should they get blanket support?”

Yet Barry D. Hoffman, Consulate General of Pakistan in Boston for New England, said these bloggers are just adding to the “tremendous amount of hysteria” against Muslims.

“If people are so interested in upholding immigration laws, then why don’t they arrest the ... Brazilians in Framingham,” Hoffman asked. “As far as these bloggers go, where do they think their grandparents came from?”

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 Masood’s résumé on the Islamic Center of New England’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 Hannan’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.

“We wanted to show the judge that there is a deep well of support in the community for these two imams,” Kaleem said. “We wanted to highlight the work they’ve done and what they stand for.”

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 Masood’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 “kind, compassionate and outgoing” 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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5 Comments

As soon as you began blogging about this issue I had my doubts about your argument that because some Muslims took gas station attendant, truck and cab driving jobs either outside the Mosque, or in addition to their role at a Mosque, despite having immigrated on a visa only issued to applicants brought into the US to work in religious institutions, that justice could only be served by arresting, trying and deporting them.

I think the Immigration authorities must follow the law and investigate immigrants who breech the terms of their visas, however your activism on this issue (now including a petition) never attempts to adequately grapple with why detention leading to deportation is an appropriate outcome for an immigrant whose only defiance of the terms of the visa which allowed him or her into the country, was to take what is otherwise lawful work at a low paying job.

Could it be that the terms of the visa don't compel the religious institution that hires the immigrant to provide a liveable wage and reasonable working conditions for their employee?

Is deportation really an appropriate response for a violation of a victimless wrongdoing?

The Consulate General of Pakistan in Boston for New England cannot be faulted for questioning why if you are so concerned with upholding US immigration laws, you neither repeatedly blog about, nor launch petitions when non-Muslim immigrants breech the terms of their visas.

Nor can the reporter be faulted in this case for implicitly leading her readers to question whether a blog [which] closely monitors local and national anti-Israel actions" is too partisan to deal with this issue non-selectively and considerately. And that is a shame.

My late father who had learned and was good at operating a sewing machine was, with his brother, a DP at Bergen Belsen after the defeat of the Nazis.

In order to get his brother a visa into a country which now was prepared to admit a few skilled DPs, but which only a few years earlier had a policy of "none is too many" and whose population according to a Gallup poll taken after the war overwhelmingly preferred admitting German over Jewish immigrants from the ashes of Europe, my father took and passed a test in the camp for qualified sewing machine operators twice, once for himself and once posing as his brother who had no such skill.

Would you have left your brother in Bergen Belsen under similar circumstances?

Would you have opted not to apply for the chance to keep the remnants of your family together and begin life again outside a DP camp, after the rest of your family, friends, home and town were incinerated by fascist genocidal monsters, so as not to cheat Immigration officials?

Would you have been elated if after arriving on North American soil, my father and uncle were detained and returned to Bergen Belsen?

And would you have launched a petition asking for them to be deported back to where they came from because my father cheated by posing as his brother on a test for skilled sewing machine operators, had someone tried to organize support for them to remain?

So sorry Solomon, while I appreciate that Immigration officials must do their jobs, I don't appreciate your activism on this particular issue.


Boiling down the obfuscation we're left with 3 things:

1) Yes, deportation is exactly the correct and traditional response for immigration violations.

2) There are a lot of issues in the world, I can only focus on a few of them. Immigration is, and has been a concern here, and an immigration issue involving the Muslim American Society (which our petition is basically a direct response to) is a natural (the regular feature "MAS Watch" should be a clue). [Oh, and yes, I believe immigrants from Pakistan demand a higher level of scrutiny than those from say...Brazil, for instance.]

3) Bergen Belsen closed some years ago, so that entire line of reasoning is specious. Most illegal aliens are here for reasons having nothing to do with escaping genocide.

Our immigration laws need to be enforced. Please sign the petition, here.


Warning -- A little off topic:

"None is Too Many." You must be talking about Canada. There was a book published some years ago by that title, about Canada's immigration policy during and after the Second World War Apparently, that was a phrase uttered by some Canadian minister when asked how many Jewish refugees Canada could handle.

While the article mentions that Masood claims a Masters degree from Boston University, said University has no record of this. Ms. Erekson took this information at face value, with no fact checking. A bit of resume padding perhaps, or another example of deliberate fabrication?

“As far as these bloggers go, where do they think their grandparents came from?”

My grandparents came here from Poland LEGALLY. All four of them.

My paternal grandfather got here in 1899 at the age of 16, my paternal grandmother in 1900 at the age of 20 (both via Ellis Island), and my maternal grandparents in 1939 after they managed to escape from Vienna via England, where they had a distant cousin who agreed to sponsor them.

Any more questions?

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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