Articles of Interest, September 19, 2008

American citizen Susan El-Baneh, 18, and her Yemeni husband of less than a month were killed in the attack.

U.S. student, husband among dead in embassy attack in Yemen

(CNN) — Eighteen-year-old Susan El-Baneh and her husband of three weeks died holding hands, her brother said, victims of a terrorist attack Wednesday on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

The Lackawanna, New York, native, a high school senior, had gone to the Arabian Peninsula country a month ago for an arranged marriage. She and her husband were in the waiting area of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, trying to find out the procedure to bring her spouse back to the United States. Susan El-Baneh was the only American killed in the attack.

Some of El-Baneh’s family members, who had traveled from Lackawanna with her for the wedding, heard the blasts of the coordinated terrorist attack echo through the city’s walls.

When they called to find out what happened, the relatives were told that 17 people, including the attackers, had been killed, her brother Ahmed El-Baneh told CNN on Thursday. Among them were an unidentified man and his wife.

El-Baneh’s wedding was a source of pride for her family as they celebrated the holy month of Ramadan, a time in which Muslims believe the Quran was revealed and presented to the Prophet Mohammed.

“But if you die in the month of Ramadan, you go straight to heaven, and that is where my sister will be,” Ahmed El-Baneh said. “But anyone that did this cowardly act, they will go straight to hell.”

Susan El-Baneh is related to Yemeni-American Jaber El-Baneh, who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list, accused of being the seventh member of the Lackawanna Six. The six were convicted or providing material support to al Qaeda.

El-Baneh confirmed the relation but preferred to talk about his sister and how the attack proved anyone can be the target of a terrorist act.

“It touches everyone no matter who you are,” he said.

Muslims are supposed to be peaceful, he said, and those who committed the attack on the embassy in Yemen only smear that view.

“They say they do this for a cause, but there is no cause,” he said. “A cause is when you sit down and talk, not when you kill millions and millions of people, now including my sister among them. What is the cause for that?”

  • Maybe it’s just me but I find tit a “little” interesting how there is no big media blitz about this American Girl being the only American killed in the attacks.  Could it have something to do witht he fact that she is an American Muslim?  Certainly we don’t want to highlight that there is a difference between Muslims and terrorists.  God forbid we show that terrorism favors no religion and all are vunerable.  Let us all offer prayers for her and her family.

Michelle Obama: Don’t vote because ‘she’s cute’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Michelle Obama asked voters Thursday to make their choice on the issues, not because, “I like that guy” or, “she’s cute.”Might she be talking about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin?

“I’m talking about me,” she said with a smile.

Barack Obama’s wife, however, is not on the ticket in the presidential election. Palin is.

Michelle Obama is part of a concerted effort involving her husband, his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to neutralize the appeal that Palin has brought to John McCain’s ticket for some female voters. They are doing so unmistakably but gingerly, so as to not appear sexist or invite another lipstick-on-a-pig tempest.

But, perhaps, not gingerly enough.

Michelle Obama’s remarks came at a women’s roundtable on the economy. She told the audience of 600 that her husband is the only candidate focused on equal pay, health care, affordable college, teacher recruitment and other issues of concern to women. She said that’s what the election should be about.

“People shouldn’t make a decision this time based on, ‘I like that guy’ or ‘she’s cute,'” she said.

The line won a big round of applause. Before it subsided, she interjected: “And I’m talking about me.”

Obama Surrogates Claim Race Is Factor In Voting

Monday afternoon, state Representatives Bob Hagan of Youngstown and Tom Letson of Warren met with reporters.
They argue many voters who call themselves “Democrats” or “Independents”, but won’t vote for Obama, have only one excuse, with Letson saying, “I would say that a lot of it is they’re not going to vote for ‘the black guy'”.

Hagan called the issue “unpatriotic,” adding those not willing to vote for Obama need “to face that fact.  That that’s not acceptable in America.”
Both men say they will work to convince those “swing voters” to change their minds between now and election day.

Woman Gets Life For Sex With 5-Year-Old

Sanford convicted Kelly Lumadue, 33, for videotaped sex acts with the boy. It was Lumadue’s second trial for the crime.

A garbage collector found the sex tapes in the trash and turned them over to police.When Lumadue took the stand, she said her husband — who is a professional pornographer — made her do it.The victim did not testify during the case. He said he doesn’t remember what happened.Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Vegas police talked of ‘getting’ O.J. on recording

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Jurors who have been told to refrain from judging O.J. Simpson on his past heard a recording Thursday of a police employee exulting: “This is great. … California can’t get him. … Now we’ll be able to.”

Police detective Andy Caldwell conceded the statement was made as a team of officers examined a casino hotel room where Simpson is accused of leading a kidnapping and armed robbery. Caldwell said the comment came from a civilian employee of the police department, not a sworn officer.

The comments were picked up on a digital recorder that had been secretly placed by Thomas Riccio, who had arranged a meeting in the hotel room between Simpson and two sports memorabilia dealers that escalated into a confrontation last year.

Simpson and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, armed robbery, coercion and assault with a deadly weapon. The confrontation was over Simpson’s effort to retrieve items that the former football star says belonged to him.

Police: Son Beats Mom To Death With Crutch

56-Year-Old Man Arrested In Brutal Murder Of 80-Year-Old Mother

QUEENS (CBS) ― Police in Far Rockaway have arrested a 56-year-old man in the brutal murder of his own mother.

Investigators were called to the scene on Seagirt Avenue just after 3 a.m. Friday morning.

They found the victim, an 80-year-old woman, who had apparently been beaten to death with a crutch.

The son, who also resided at the home, has been taken to St. John’s Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Police have not released the identity of the suspect nor the victim.

Paramedic Steven Chasin

Fighting for their whiskers

Steven Chasin is the first to admit he isn’t the world’s most observant Jew.

Tattoos, a Jewish taboo, cover his burly body, while his shaved head goes bare. He doesn’t go to synagogue every Shabbat or keep all the laws of kashrut.

He doesn’t even hold what he calls a “Jewish type of job,” like being a doctor or a lawyer.

“I’m not the perfect Jew,” is how Chasin, a 40-year-old Fire Department paramedic from Virginia, puts it. But he has always strongly identified as one, and used outward symbols to reinforce the point, including the Star of David pendant that hangs around his neck and the full, brown beard that has graced his face for the past two decades.

“The beard is my way of celebrating and practicing,” he explains. “The beard is making up for some of the stuff I don’t do.”

So when Chasin was told that he would have to remove it to comply with fire department regulations, he didn’t take it well.

“It’s frustrating. It’s depressing also, because it doesn’t impact my job,” he says.

But that’s not how the Washington DC Fire Department sees it. It considers the regulation necessary for safety reasons, and threatens those who don’t comply with dismissal.

So Chasin, along with six Muslims and Nazarene Christians, filed suit, charging that they should be accommodated on grounds of religious freedom.

The District of Columbia District Court has sided with them, but the city is appealing. A hearing is scheduled for October 7.

The fire department argues that a beard can interfere with certain gas and oxygen masks that need an airtight seal with one’s face to work. The department doesn’t want to have firefighters and emergency medical technicians sent into harm’s way if there are concerns about the effectiveness of the seals.

But the court found that it would take exceptional circumstances for the department to need to send men into range of dangerous gases with only the type of mask at issue; in most cases, other masks work, and even in the first unlikely scenario, those emergency workers could handle other parts of the rescue operation.

But the department continues to insist it’s a safety hazard.

“You cannot have facial hair and expect to have a quality seal on your facemask,” says DC Fire and EMS Department spokesman Alan Etter. “We’re certainly not trying to suppress anyone’s right to express themselves religiously. We have to keep people safe.”

He also rejected the allegation that the shaving requirement was a “grooming issue,” implemented to instill order and uniformity, though Chasin believes that consideration is behind the regulation, since it wasn’t always on the books.

Chasin’s lawyer, Art Spitzer of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, says freedom of religion statutes mean fire department and other workplaces must make “reasonable accommodation” of religious beliefs.

In this case, he says there was no question about the sincerity of those religious beliefs on the part of any of the plaintiffs, and that “the real issue isn’t the sincerity of the belief, but whether the belief can be accommodated.”

In this case, so far, the court has said it can.

Continuing to work with a beard while the matter is pending has had its ups and downs, according to Chasin, with some co-workers being supportive and some looking askance.

But the bottom line, he says, is that “standing up for our beliefs is what it came down to. It doesn’t matter – being Jewish, being Muslim, being Nazarene – we stood up for what we believe is right and didn’t let them bully us.”

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American Iftars for Non-Muslims

CAIRO — When Aboud Al-Zaim and his family break the dawn-to-dusk fast next weekend they won’t be alone. The table will feature non-Muslim families of their Massachusetts town invited to a yearly communal iftar.

“We made a commitment to stay as active as we can in the community, and particularly to sponsor this Ramadan dinner,” Aboud, a construction engineer from the small town of Duxbury, told Boston Globe on Thursday, September 18.

Aboud and his Christian wife Lisa are two of the organizers of the Ramadan Celebration Dinner, a six-year tradition in Duxbury.

The public iftar is sponsored every year by the Muslim Families of Duxbury to share the meaning of the holy month with non-Muslim neighbors and friends.

Members of the town’s Interfaith Council also help out.

Like every year, the iftar is free of charge for any one who wishes to attend.

Lisa, married to Aboud for 18 years, and her two daughters will help prepare food and set up the tables in the town’s senior center on the day of the iftar.

Food preparation is presided over by Razia Jan, an Afghan native and an effortless community volunteer.

Aboud says that since the first Ramadan dinner, the event has been met with enthusiasm and welcome from the Duxbury non-Muslim community.

Last year, it was attended by about 100 residents of the small town.

“Every year we had just tremendous support from the community and it took on a life of its own.”

9/11 Veil

Duxbury Muslims started the public iftar tradition shortly after the 9/11 attacks to help lift a veil of suspicion cast over their faith.

“This is the education part,” says Aboud, the father of three who is originally from Syria.

His wife Lisa also believes the public Ramadan dinner helped the town’s Muslim community in the aftermath of 9/11.

“It started with us wanting to help others understand what Ramadan means and desensitize them to the stereotypes of what Muslim families are,” she said.

“We are a tacos and Subway family, too. We are not some kind of aliens who just landed here.”

Muslims in the US, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to the erosion of their civil rights since the 9/11 attacks.

Many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes because of their Islamic attires or identities.

The Duxbury public iftar is part of a larger Muslim drive nationwide.

In two other Massachusetts towns, Quincy and Sharon, the local mosques hold iftars that are open to everyone every evening during Ramadan.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has urged Muslims to hold community iftar dinners welcoming non-Muslim neighbors to learn more about Islam.

For Aboud, the iftar dinner is a success if it can change the wrong perceptions of somebody about Islam.

“If I can change and educate as few as one individual I have done my duty as a Muslim.”

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