As the number of Oregonians charged in terrorism cases steadily rises, the City of Beaverton Human Rights Advisory Commission sponsors a dialogue with the Muslim community on Wednesday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaverton City Library 12375 SW 5th St.
Guest Speakers are Ali Houdroge, founding member of the Islamic Center of Portland, and Dr. Shahriar Ahmed, president of the Bilal Mosque Association.
HRAC Chair Rob Soloman says the guests will talk about why they moved to Beaverton and what issues the Islamic community here faces in the wake of the U.S. 'war on terrorism.'
"I think people get scared and their fear clams them up – but if you don't expose yourself to other ideas, other perspectives, you don't get to confront your fear and overcome it,"
he said. "We're already thinking that we may get more people than the library will hold that day." The commission is looking into a larger facility for that evening's event to accommodate the possible crowd overflow.
Soloman says the HRAC works on fostering understanding between and within many social and ethnic groups in Beaverton, not just the Muslim community.
"We want to invite others to come sand join us and explain their perspectives and their issues," he said. "We want to engage cross-culturally."
Although Oregon seems an unlikely front in the federal prosecution of terrorist cases, there have been many – some resulting in imprisonment, some still in the prosecution phase, and one important case ending in a big cash settlement paid out by the federal government.
Many media reports over the years show that both the Islamic Center of Portland and the Bilal Mosque in Beaverton have been the targets of unsubstantiated accusations of fundamentalist radical activity since at least the 9/11 attacks in New York.
Consistent reports also indicate a steady stream of anti-Muslim harassment across the state, including the recent incident of an incarcerated Muslim beaten at the Inverness Jail in November, 2010.
The City of Portland is currently reconsidering its position on refusing to participate in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. City Commissioners had held holding a series of hearings before receiving a mysterious dump of information from the FBI that commissioners say they have to evaluate before moving forward on their decision.
Meanwhile the prosecution of 19-year-old Mohammed Mohamud, accused of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in an FBI sting operation arranged around a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square, is slated for a May hearing to determine when his actual trial will take place.
Also still in play is an ACLU-backed lawsuit challenging the federal government's "no fly" list, in which local Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye is one of 10 plaintiffs who allege that the airplane exclusion process is unconstitutional.
Kariye has been brought up by federal officials on "terrorism-related" charges since 2002, when airport officials falsely claimed there were "traces of explosives" in his luggage. He has never been convicted of any violent crime.
Perhaps the biggest example of what critics consider to be anti-Muslim government profiling was the case of Beaverton attorney Brandon Mayfield, a member of the Bilal Mosque community, who was in 2004 wrongfully arrested after a local FBI agent erroneously linked him to terrorist bombings of a train in Madrid, Spain.
Mayfield and his family won a $2 million settlement from the federal government, which admitted that its investigation was flawed.
The climate of fear and persecution such cases bringing to otherwise quiet suburban communities has led to a broader movement to open up the Muslim community and bridge gaps in understanding between faiths all across the state.
"Without dialogue, we, people of faith, cannot live up to the fundamental teaching of all faiths that we be tolerant and patient and just to others," Ahmed said in a statement this week.
He works for Intel and has led the Bilal Mosque in participating in more than 400 interfaith events over the past several years.
Houdroge was born in Lebanon and attended Portland Community College and Portland State University, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering. He has been managing the affairs of the Islamic Center since its inception in 1993, which serves a diverse Muslim Shia community from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India. He also serves as a religious advisor and is an active community member in Beaverton.
The presentation follows the Commission's regular business meeting at 6:30 p.m., and includes a question and answer session. For information go to www.beavertonoregon.gov/HRAC .