Muslims Changing Names to Avoid Discrimination
Feb 18, 2008 08:02 PM PST
In the six years since the 9-11 attacks, Muslims in America have faced discrimination because of their faith, and many are choosing to change their names to avoid it.
The legal process in simple, but the emotional one is much more complex.
"We tried to change the name," said Ibrahim Dremali, the imam at the Islamic Center of Greater Austin. "It was a lot of process, but you know what, we came to the conclusion: This is the price to be a Muslim. Struggle. Unfortunately."
Dremali is one of many Muslim Americans who thought about changing their Arabic names after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Dremali said one of the most difficult places for Muslims is the airport, where just a person's name can land him on the no-fly list and lead to hours of questioning.
"I swear to God, when I go to the airport, I don't want to go; I'd rather drive," Dremali said.
"I do feel a bit saddened from the inside that we have to do that, because we have the freedom to practice whatever religion we want," said Mohamed-Umer Esmail, the imam at the North Austin Muslim Community Center.
Esmail said many Muslim parents are even thinking twice about the names they choose for their children.
"This is what they tell me is that we don't want our children to have any difficulty growing up," Esmail said.
Esmail and Dremali said they continue to explain their faith to others even six years after the attacks.
"Hey, we are American, we are not Osama Bin Laden," Dremali said. "This is the things we have to let the people understand. There is a big difference between that part of the world, and we are as Muslims in America."
Accusations still follow imam in Iowa
SHIRLEY RAGSDALE SHIRLEY RAGSDALE
REGISTER RELIGION EDITOR
When Ibrahim Dremali accepted the position of imam for the Des Moines Islamic Center a little over a year ago, he was effusive in his praise of the warm Iowa welcome he and his family received.
He said the acceptance was in stark contrast to the hostile environment he left behind in Florida, where, after Sept. 11, 2001, he and members of his mosque were accused of being terrorists.
"Iowa is the only place I've been where there was no discrimination," Dremali said at the time. "It is the only place where people don't look at me as if I were a stranger."
Since coming to Des Moines, Dremali has held a high-profile position in the community, inviting Christians to visit the mosque to learn about Islam and speaking alongside Jewish and Christian leaders at schools and churches. He is in much demand as a panelist at student events across the nation.
However, the groups that dogged him when he was imam for a Boca Raton, Fla., mosque continue to bombard Des Moines media outlets with anti-Dremali e-mails.
The most recent, sent by Joe Kaufman of Coral Springs, Fla., chairman of Americans Against Hate, was headlined: "Episcopal Cathedral to Host Radical Islamist." The e-mail noted Dremali would be a speaker in the "From the Root of Abraham" at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral. The Lenten series incorporated Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious texts. Kaufman called on St. Paul's to cancel the event and bar Dremali from its premises.
"We cannot fathom why an Episcopal Cathedral would invite someone like Ibrahim Dremali to speak at its religious institution," Kaufman said in the e-mail. "Except to provide Dremali a cover for his past actions and affiliations."
Although the Rev. Robert Alan Schiesler, dean of the cathedral, received the e-mail, the event took place, and Dremali was invited back to speak again.
At the event, Dremali said he never imagined that people would "work so hard at trying to deceive the American public. I never thought such people existed until I started to read fabricated stories about myself. . . . They follow a specific agenda claiming that they are Americans against hate. Instead, they spread hate."
Kaufman said Monday that he is driven by a desire for security and safety in the United States and that he believes Dremali is a security risk. Kaufman's crusade began with an article he found on the Internet about a pro-Palestinian rally at which Israeli flags were burned and anti-Israel slogans were chanted. Dremali was quoted in the article as telling the crowd not to feel sorry for the martyrs. Kaufman interpreted the remark as an endorsement of suicide bombers. Dremali has denied he made the statement.
After Sept. 11, Kaufman and others in Florida began building their case against Dremali using his connections with Islamic charities and Muslim organizations, reports of people who spoke at or were otherwise affiliated with the Boca Raton mosque.
Rabbi David Kaufman of Temple B'nai Jeshurun, who is not related to Joe Kaufman, has received the anti-Dremali e-mails and has visited groups' Web sites.
"These sources lean heavily on hearsay, innuendo and guilt by association," Kaufman said. "They seem to be out to attack the Muslim community and Dremali in particular."
Joe Kaufman has taken his information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to no avail. "I was told it is very difficult to take action against anyone in regard to terrorism and terrorist activities," Kaufman said.
Dremali said he believes the allegations raised by Kaufman led to his name being placed on a federal no-fly list, which causes him to spend extra hours in airports every time he flies. He has appealed to Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa for help in having his name removed from the list.
"I cannot imagine how it is considered a crime to be born in Gaza or to be a Muslim, but (to these people), as long as you are a Muslim, you are a criminal," Dremali said. Yet, he said that he is confident that his ordeal by Internet and e-mail will end and that the motives of those who continue to torment him will be made clear.
In the meantime, "They cannot prevent me from continuing to pursue a peaceful life in America," Dremali said. "I'm proud to be American, I'm proud to be a Muslim and I'm proud to be Ibrahim Dremali."
Notable facts about Sheikh Ibrahim Dremali
- Memorized the Noble Qur'an and Sahih Bukhari
- 20 years experience as an Imam with 10 years in Imam Leadership programs
- Ph.D in Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence) with specialization in Fiqh (Jurisprudence)
- Islamic Financial Advisor and Consultant for 5 years while acting as a liaison between banks and clients
- Principal for Islamic School (KG-5th Grade)
- Professor for classes in Fiqh, Aqeedah, Islamic Finance and Criminal Law for various Islamic Universities
- Frequent guest speaker at Universities, Conferences, Radio Talk Shows, Television, Interfaith meetings, and community centers across the nation
- Regularly teaches books of Fiqh (Jurisprudence), Aqeedah (Creed), Tafsir (Explanation of the Qur'an), and Hadith (Traditions of Prophet Mohammed)
- Teaches church courses on Introduction to Islam
- Teaches courses on Islamic Perspectives on Sickness and Death to board of medical doctors
- Established ‘Muslim Day of Iowa' with the state of Iowa for the past 3 years
- Appointed to serve on the Religious Affairs Committee by the Governor of Iowa
- Appointed to serve on the Global Warming Committee by the Mayor of Iowa
Islamic Work and Teaching Experience
- Director, Islamic Center of Greater Austin, TX (Sept 2007-present)
- Director for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Austin Peace Academy, TX (Sept 2007-present)
- Professor, Drake University, IA, Introduction to Islam (Aug 2005-Oct. 2007)
- Professor, Des Moines University, IA, Medicine in Islam (May 2006-Oct. 2007)
- Imam, Islamic Center of Des Moines, IA (Jan 2005-Oct.2007)
- Principal, New Horizons Academy, IA (Jan 2005-Oct. 2007)
- Instructor, Quranic Science Institute, IA (Jan 2005-May 2007)
- Professor, Sharia Academy of America, FL (June 2005-present)
- Co-founder, Sharia Academy of America, FL (June 2005)
- Professor, American Open University, VA (Apr 2002-present)
- Professor, American International University, VA (Apr 2004-May 2006)
- Islamic Financial Consultant, National Bank of Dubai, UAE (Dec 2003-Dec 2004)
- Islamic Financial Consultant, Dubai Bank, UAE (Dec 2002-Dec 2003)
- Islamic Financial Advisor, Global Protector Financial Group, NY (Jun 2002-Jan 2004)
- Imam, Islamic Center of Boca Raton, FL (Aug 1998-Jan 2005)
- Co-Founder, Islamic Center of Boca Raton, FL (Aug 1998)
- Qur'an Teacher, Garden of the Sahaba Academy, FL (Aug 2003-Jan 2005)
- Qur'an Teacher, Pompano Beach Islamic School, FL (Aug 1997-July 2002)
- Imam, Islamic Center of Belle Glade, FL (May 1997-Aug 1998)
- Principal, Darul Uloom Institute, FL (Aug 1989-June 1994)
Memberships and Associations
- Board member of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa (IAI)
- Board member of Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC)
- Board member of Interfaith Power and Light (IPL)
- Member of permanent (FATWA) Committee, Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America
- Counselor of Student Affairs, American Open University
- Advisor, American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA)
- Member of the North American Imams Federation
- Advisor, Global Scholar Congress
- Advisor, Global Protector Financial Group
- Advisor, National Bank of Dubai
- Advisor, Dubai Bank
- Member of Geophysical Union
- Member of Geological Society of America
- Member of American Water Resources Administration
- Member of Urban and Regional Information System Association
- Member of the Florida Association of Professional Geologists