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Chicago Tribune: Man faces new charges in 2003 van explosion
By Tom Rybarczyk, Tribune staff reporter.
Tribune staff reporter Rudolph Bush contributed to this report.


A Burbank man was arrested Monday on federal charges he violated the civil rights of a Muslim family when he allegedly tossed a fireworks explosive into their unoccupied van.

Eric K. Nix, 26, has been convicted in Cook County of misdemeanor charges stemming from the same 2003 incident.

Shortly after his arrest at 8:30 a.m. Monday, he pleaded not guilty to the federal charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ian Levin.

Nix was performing community service as part of his sentence for the misdemeanor conviction when U.S. deputy marshals arrested him.

His punishment in September 2003 in Cook County Circuit Court, 200 hours community service and two years' probation, was criticized as a "a slap on the wrist" by Muslim civil rights groups and the victim, Abbas Salmi.

"We are definitely pleased with the fact that justice is taking its due course," said Fadi Farhan, director of governmental relations for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"The punishment in any case should fit the crime, and this charge fits the act more than the previous [charges]."

If convicted of the federal charges, Nix faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of $250,000.

Nix's defense attorney could not be reached for comment.

The new charges against Nix represent an unusual case of the federal government charging a defendant under a different statute for the same incident for which he was tried at the state level, officials said.

Asked what led to the new charge against Nix, Assistant U.S. Atty. Sergio Acosta said it would be inappropriate to comment.

Daniel R. Alba, 31, was also charged federally in connection with the incident for allegedly making false statements to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm agents.

Prosecutors alleged that Alba of Burbank told ATF agents he did not know who caused the explosion. He also pleaded not guilty and faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Both men were released on their own recognizance.

Nix pleaded guilty to arson, criminal damage to property and committing a hate crime for the March 2003 attack, just days after the U.S. invaded Iraq.

He was convicted for throwing a brick through a window of a Muslim-owned furniture store in 2001, officials said. He spent 30 days in jail.

The "large, mortar-type firework" exploded and caused irreparable damage to the van and terrified Salmi's family, said Salmi's attorney, Betsy Shuman-Moore of Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

ABC-TV NEWS @ 5: PSA reminds Americans that Muslims condemn terrorism, too
By Sarah Schulte

July 14, 2005 — Muslim-Americans are airing a new public service announcement on the heels of the London terrorist attacks. The PSA is an effort to show that Muslims are just as outraged by terrorism as any other religious group. Muslim-American groups say they have been blamed for not publicly condemning terrorism. So, in an effort to change that perception, the Council on American-Islamic relations is launching a nationwide public service campaign. The goal is to make it clear that Islam is not about hatred or violence.

Exactly one week after suicide bombers attacked London, America's largest Muslim group says now is the time to reach as many people as possible to remind them that Muslims condemn terrorism.

"Even though Muslims have been condemning terrorism consistently and persistently over the past months and years, the message has not been received by certain members of the open community," Ahmed Rehab, Council American-Islamic Relations.

By using different faces of Islam, the Council on American-Islamic relations is hitting the airwaves to get their message across..

Several Chicago Muslim groups say while they have made great progress since 9/11 to erase stereotypes, one act of terrorism can take them several steps backward, which is why many say the public service announcement is so important right now.

"The Muslim community as a whole is in extreme fear, depression and sorrow, and they want the opportunity to let average Americans out there know how terrible we feel about the situation," said Ali Khan, American Muslim Council.

Some Muslim-Americans actually blame their own community for not getting this message out clearly. Civil rights attorney Kamron Memon believes ever since 9/11 Muslims have focused most of their attention defending themselves against the Patriot Act. Memon says it's time to shift the focus.

"We have been focused to a great extent on the civil liberties side. We have not paid as much attention to the national security side and to issues like what we as American Muslims can do to help make our country safer," said Kamran Memon, civil rights attorney.

Muslim-Americans say their community needs to do more than PSA's. Groups say an open discussion about national security is needed with different religions, government agencies and average Americans.



Chicago Suntimes: Same hate crime, new U.S. charges
against convicted Burbank man

By Natasha Korecki - Federal Courts Reporter

In 2003, Eric Nix was charged with a hate crime after he hurled a fireworks-type mortar into a Muslim family's van in Burbank.

But months later, Nix got off with what the Muslim community called an "unfathomable" sentence -- two years probation and anger management classes.

That case was in state court.

In an unusual move, federal prosecutors stepped in Monday and arrested Nix, 26, slapping him with federal civil rights charges for the same incident. This time, Nix faces up to 10 years in prison if he's convicted.

'He could have killed somebody'

The feds also charged Nix's friend, Daniel Alba, 31, with lying to federal agents in an alleged attempt to lead them astray. Both men, who live in southwest suburban Burbank, pleaded not guilty and were released on a $10,000 bond Monday.

Nix is accused of lighting an explosive inside a van belonging to the Salmi family, parked on the 7700 block of South Mayfield.

The Palestinian Muslim family filed a lawsuit earlier this year in Cook County Circuit Court against Nix, seeking at least $100,000 in damages.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sergio Acosta said he couldn't comment on why the feds brought charges in the same case.

But at the time of Nix's probation sentence in 2003, an Islamic group demanded a federal investigation, saying if it were a Muslim who bombed a van, he'd be held on severe charges. That same group applauded the new charges Monday.

"He throws a bomb in a van, he could have killed somebody, and they give him anger management classes. We obviously don't believe that was appropriate," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group. "I think the original case did not take into account the seriousness of this person's actions. I think it's entirely appropriate to bring federal charges against him."

Nix was arrested early Monday while performing community service he must do for the state conviction.

Nix was brought up on three state felony charges for the 2003 incident -- arson, criminal damage to property and committing a hate crime. He also served a month in prison in 2001 after an Oak Lawn Police officer saw him throw a brick through the window of an Arab-owned furniture store in Burbank. The incident happened two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

An attorney said the Salmi family was pleased to hear of the new charges.

"Terrorism affects all Americans, including Arab Americans," said Betsy Shuman-Moore of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. "Violence and intimidation based on religion and ethnic origin violates a wide array of state and federal criminal and civil laws, which should be enforced fully."







CAIR-Chicago Co-Sponsors Cafe Finjan

CAIR-Chicago participated in its first Cafe Finjan event on Thursday, July 14th, at Che Cafe - 1058 W. Taylor Street. Cafe Finjan is a series of interfaith arts exchanges, begun in 2004 by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs as part of its Jewish-Muslim Community-Building Initiative. The series creates spaces for Chicagoland Jews, Muslims, and others of diverse backgrounds to come together and give voice to their identity and experience as part of a larger community.

With 60 available seats, Cafe Finjan had more than a full house, with several guests standing in the back. It was an evening of local Jewish and Muslim poetry readings, storytelling, and singing. A member of each of the participating organizations introduced their organization, its purpose and activities. Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, introduced CAIR-Chicago and spoke of the volunteer opportunities available.


CAIR-Chicago would like to thank all the performers, volunteers and sponsoring organizations for making this event happen. We would also like to thank all our guests whose support ensures the continuity of our work.


SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS (in alphabetical order):
Council on American-Islamic Relations  Chicago (CAIR-Chicago)
Council of American Muslim Professionals  Chicago (CAMP)
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs  (JCUA)
Muslim Bar Association of Chicago  (MBA)

Hands of Peace

Dr. Shakeela Hassan, CAIR-Chicago Board member, and Fadi Farhan, Director of Governmental Relations, took part in a gathering of Palestinian and Israeli children aged 14 to 16 hosted by Islamic Foundation in Villa Park on Friday, July 15, 2005. The gathering was part of a program called Hands of Peace; Hands of Peace brings children from Palestinian as well as Israeli homes together in the United States to interact and create dialogue on the personal level. CAIR-Chicago was proud to take part in the effort and congratulates the children involved for their courage in confronting the many issues involved in the conflict directly and frankly.





RECENT CASES:

Civil Rights Update – 7/15/05

The Civil Rights Department at CAIR-Chicago currently has 133 cases in which 63 cases are active and are being pursued by department personnel. Below are the cases that were reported to CAIR-Chicago within the last two weeks.

Criminal

  • The FBI and Bloomington, Indiana police are investigating an apparent arson attack on an Indiana mosque as a possible hate crime. Local Muslim leaders and law enforcement officials said that a rock was thrown through a window of the Islamic Center of Bloomington sometime Friday night. Liquid “accelerant” was then poured through the window and ignited. The fire was extinguished before it could do major damage to the facility. A burnt Quran, Islam’s holy text, was also found outside the mosque. CAIR-Chicago issued a press release applauding the FBI and local law enforcement agencies for their prompt response in handling the issue and will follow up with the investigation.
Government:
  • A Muslim man was physically assaulted by three police officers in the parking lot of the police department after having been charged with an offense. The officers pulled the man out of his car and proceeded to physically attack him, which resulted in a broken jaw and other minor injuries. CAIR-Chicago is working with the family’s attorney in filing a complaint against the police officers.

  • A Muslim man who has been detained by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for four years is being deported on the 20th of July and has complained of abuse and mistreatment by government employees. CAIR-Chicago is pursuing his complaint of abuse by prison employees.

  • A Muslim man was denied permanent residency status despite having been married to a U.S. citizen for 5 years. The man’s work permit expired one year ago and cannot be renewed, leaving him unable to provide for his family. CAIR-Chicago is researching the details of his case and contacting his attorney to discuss the options available to him.

  • A Muslim man received a deportation order after having begun the process for citizenship. CAIR-Chicago is working with his attorney to explore the options available to him.

  • Three Muslims have reported delays in their citizenship process, having applied for their citizenship and passing all necessary USCIS requirements, but have been waiting for citizenship status due to pending background checks. One man has even been waiting for 9 years. The case is being dealt with as a part of a nation-wide CAIR-Chicago project in collaboration with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). For more information on this project, see the Citizenship Delay Action Alert below.

Prison:
  • An individual working closely with the chaplain of a prison facility contacted CAIR-Chicago with what was observed to be unequal treatment of Muslim inmates and unequal representation of Islam. The prison facility reportedly requires inmates to take a test if they request a copy of the Qur’an to determine whether the person is actually Muslim. CAIR-Chicago assisted the individual with materials to present the prison facility’s chaplain regarding the religious rights of inmates and will pursue further action if necessary.
Public Accommodation:
  • A woman wearing full covering was walking through a local department store with her family when a couple began to ridicule her saying “Look at that woman with that thing on her face. That is disgusting!” The couple also accused the family of being terrorists and told them to go back home. The local police department was contacted and a police report was made.

  • A Muslim woman was forced to remove her headscarf (hijab) to be searched by a male employee of a testing center in Alabama. As a result, the woman’s scores suffered greatly as her concentration was affected by the incident. CAIR-Chicago is handling this case as a part of a potential class action law suit.

Ongoing Progress:
  • CAIR-Chicago met with UIC administration, campus catering services, and Muslim students to discuss creating Halal food options for Muslim students on campus. UIC’s significant Muslim student population, thanks to the responsiveness and cooperation of the university and catering service, will soon be able to enjoy Halal food options and more viable vegetarian alternatives on campus.

  • CAIR-Chicago applauds the FBI for bringing federal charges against a man who firebombed a Burbank Muslim family’s van in March of 2003. Eric K. Nix used a mortar-type firework to attack the Muslim family’s van as it sat in their driveway, causing the van to explode. Nix plead guilty to arson, criminal damage to property, and committing a hate crime on state level charges. He had received 200 hours of community service and two years probation for the attack. Many in the Chicagoland American Muslim and Arab-American communities felt the punishment did not fit the crime. Federal law enforcement officials are now charging Nix with violating the Muslim family’s civil rights. If convicted of the current federal charges, Mr. Nix could face a maximum of 10 years and a fine of $250,000.

  • CAIR-Chicago applauds the FBI and the Bloomington, Indiana police and fire departments for their prompt responses to an apparent arson attack on an Indiana mosque by investigating the crime as a possible hate crime. For more information on the attack, see the incident summary above.

  • The City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings (DOB) is issuing an investigation after a complaint filed by CAIR-Chicago on behalf of a Muslim building owner who was excessively fined for building violations he had promptly responded to.

  • The City of Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority is issuing an investigation after a complaint filed by CAIR-Chicago on behalf of four Iranian women who were subjected to racist comments by a Navy Pier Trolley driver. The driver told the women to “go learn English” among other derogatory comments and ridiculed them in front of other passengers.

  • The Circuit Court of Cook County has issued an investigation in response to a complaint filed by CAIR-Chicago on behalf of a Muslim man who witnessed four courthouse employees making racist derogatory comments about Arabs. The courthouse employees made comments such as “The only good Arab is a dead one” in front of the Muslim man and his family.

ACTION ALERTS:

Muslim Americans Detained and Questioned at U.S./Canadian Border:

As part of a potential class action law suit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and CAIR-Chicago is asking anyone who has been detained and questioned at the U.S./Canadian border to please contact civilrights@cairchicago.org.

The facts of the above case are as follows:

A Muslim American man says he has been searched and questioned four times while trying to re-enter the country from trips abroad, even though he had proper identification. The man was held for six hours last month as officials at a U.S. checkpoint in Canada questioned him about the September 11th terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing the man and says they have heard similar complaints from other Muslim Americans.

Religious Discrimination Delays Citizenship Process:

As a joint effort with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), CAIR-Chicago is asking individuals who passed a citizenship examination and have been waiting for over 90 days, or have been waiting for a Green Card for permanent residence for over 90 days to contact us at either civilrights@cairchicago.org or mennakhalil@gmail.com.

Religious Discrimination at Standardized Testing Centers:

As part of a potential class action law suit, CAIR-Chicago is asking for anyone who has experienced any form of religious discrimination at a testing center to please contact us at civilrights@cairchicago.org. An example of a possible form of religious discrimination includes requiring or requesting the removal of a headscarf for searches, or discriminatory remarks made by employees about Muslims or Islam.

The facts of the above case are as follows:

A Muslim student was asked to remove her headscarf on two separate occasions at a testing center before she began a standardized test required for graduate school. The supervisor and employees of the testing center refused to show her a written copy of the policy requiring Muslim women wearing a headscarf to be searched. A witness at the testing center also observed the employees making discriminatory remarks about Muslims while the victim was taking the test.

Please let us know if you or someone you know have experienced a similar incident and would like to take action to prevent such forms of religious discrimination at standardized testing centers in the future.

Vandalized Property in the North-Side

In the past several months several Muslim families from the north-side of Chicago and the northern suburbs have had property vandalized by unknown perpetrators in the late hours of the night. If you or someone you know has had property vandalized, and feel that you may have been the target of a hate crime, please contact civilrights@cairchicago.org.







July is "Help the Needy" Month:

As part of Muslims Care (www.muslimscare.org), a national campaign promoting community service, CAIR-Chicago is organizing a volunteer opportunity for enthusiastic Muslims in the Chicagoland area. Volunteers are needed to prepare and serve meals to residents at Hilda’s Place, an Evanston-based homeless shelter.

Hilda’s Place, a branch of Connections for the Homeless, provides meals and shelter to individuals in need and offers extensive support services that assist in the transition to independence. [For more information on Hilda's Place, please visit: http://www.cfthinc.org/hildas_place.htm]

WHEN: Saturday, July 30th, 5:00-8:00pm

WHERE: Lake Street Church basement, 1458 Chicago Ave., Evanston [From the El: walk north from the Purple Line Dempster stop]

HOW: Contact Dina Rehab at outreach@cairchicago.org or 312-212-1520


CAIR-Chicago Invites the Public to Participate in the Civil Liberties Coalition of IL Town Hall Meeting with Special Guest and Speaker, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9)

The Civil Liberties Coalition of IL (CLCI) is holding a Town Hall Meeting that is open to the public to discuss the deleterious effects of some of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act on the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. The CLCI Town Hall Meeting will be held on Sunday, July 17, 2005 from 1 to 3 pm at Bremner Lounge, Centennial Forum, 1125 W. Loyola Ave., on the campus of Loyola University. Refreshments and finger food will be provided.

During the Town Hall Meeting, the CLCI hopes to engage the public in a frank discussion with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9) on controversial portions of the PATRIOT Act and their subsequent effects on national security, civil rights and liberties, privacy, as well as a host of other issues.

Member organizations of the CLCI include:
  • The American Civil Liberties Union
  • Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights
  • Chicago Council of Lawyers
  • Cook County Bar Association
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations - Chicago
  • Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  • Japanese American Citizens League
  • Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
  • Muslim Bar Association
  • Muslim Civil Rights Center
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO)
Inquiries regarding the Town Hall Meeting or the Civil Liberties Coalition of IL should be directed to Fadi Farhan, CAIR-Chicago Director of Governmental Relations, at gov.relations@cairchicago.org.















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Executive Director
Yaser Tabbara

Director of Communications
Ahmed Rehab

Director of Governmental Relations
Fadi Farhan

Civil Rights Coordinator
Christina Abraham

Outreach Coordinator
Dina Rehab

Board of Directors
Shakeela Hassan, MD
Alim Elliott Khan
Mazen Kudaimi, MD
Kamran Memon, Esq.
Alif Muhammad
Ahmed Rehab
Zaher Sahloul, MD
Yaser Tabbara, Esq. - Secretary
Safaa Zarzour, Esq. - President







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For more information, please contact:

CAIR-Chicago (A Chapter of The Council On American-Islamic Relations)
28 E. Jackson Blvd, Suite 405, Chicago IL 60604
Phone: 312-212-1520, Fax: 312-212-1530
Email: info@cairchicago.org, Website: www.cairchicago.org


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The Chicago Activist is a publication of CAIR-Chicago
17 N. State St., Suite 1500, Chicago IL 60602
Phone: 312-212-1520, Fax: 312-212-1530
Email: info@cairchicago.org, Website: www.cairchicago.org