If Islam is Foreign, so is Christianity and Judaism

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief

Dr.Aslam AbdullahA Jewish attorney supported by a few pro-Republican Christian religious fanatics and fueled mainly by some top notch neo-con hawks are behind the movement to stop the so called Islamic Sharia being applied in the United States. In several states the anti-Sharia bill has been introduced as anti-foreign law. In other words, when someone talks of foreign law, he or she is referring to Islam.

There is so much venom against anything that is related with Islam, specially after our withdrawal from Iraq, that not many have bothered to explain or understand the Sharia as defined in Islam’s main source of guidance, the Quran as Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet (s)), which is often described as the second source of the Islamic guidance is based on and controlled by the Quran.  Many Muslims are defensive, often apologetic on this issue and the opponent of Islamic Sharia are deceptive and provocative. Politicians find in it a vote-grabbing opportunity without any relevance or sense to what they are saying and talking about.

Often labelled anti-foreign law, the so called anti-sharia bill, inadvertently claims that Islam is foreign to the US, hence, laws rooted in Islam are also foreign. However, they do not realize that ant-foreign law bills (anti-Sharia bill) goes against Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and almost every religion with the exception of the religion followed by the native Indians before Christianity imposed itself on America and Mormonism. Christianity or Judaism were not born in Washington or Kansas, not even in Europe. They have their origins in what we now call the Arab lands such as Iraq, Egypt and Hijaz (known as Saudi Arabia).

Thus, under what is defined anti-foreign law, family laws having their roots in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism or any other religion may fall under its preview. The oath of allegiance to the Pope that Catholic nuns and priests take can be considered its part. The allegiance to the state of Israel expressed strongly by over 6 million Jewish American population can be described a practice based on foreign laws. Not only Eid ul Fitr or Eid ul Adha, but Christmas, Hanuka, Diwali or Buddha Jayanti can be termed as foreign. Circumcision based on Semitic religious laws can also be a foreign law as well as the practice of non-circumcision. There is no limitation in describing what is foreign.

A Hindu wearing a sacred thread around his waist can be described a foreign practice. A Jew wearing a cap can be considered a foreign tradition. A Christian baptizing a child can also be described as foreign. A husband having legitimate physical intimacy after the wedding in a Hindu or Buddhist temple can be considered violating the anti-foreign law. Perhaps, the Mormons may qualify to be one of the few indigenous religions as Joseph Smith seems to have initiated this tradition in America. Perhaps, the practice of polygamy by a few of them can be considered real patriotic as it is based on ideas that were evolved endogenously. But the irony is that Mormonism is not even considered a religion by many mainstream Christian churches.

To save the nation from such crazy people specially insane politicians and Christian and Jewish fanatics, the founding fathers specially had the first amendment saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Fearing that states governed by fanatics who through political manipulation may capture the power, the founding fathers also passed the 10th amendment saying that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Matters pertaining to freedom of religion, definition of religion and foreign and native religions do not fall under the jurisdiction of states. Hence any state law related to religions that overrides the constitutional guarantees can and must be thrown out.

What is happening in Michigan as well as other states is anti-constitution and anti-people. It is happening because a few religious wolves wearing the garb of patriotism are inciting people who do not share their religion. The struggle against such people is no different than the struggle for freedom and civil rights.

These legislation must be challenged by those who take their pledge of allegiance seriously. Besides political action, one must be prepared to challenge these legislative initiatives legally. A movement against anti-Sharia bill is not Muslim, it is American and national.

For Muslims the debate about Sharia is yet another opportunity to explain to the country what the Sharia is about. However, this is an alley, which is not very illuminated. Most Muslims naively feel that the answers to all the issues that Muslims and non-Muslims have been facing in modern world, have already been answered by scholars born in 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. They do not find any room for any new ideas or arguments in understanding the divine guidance.

Seemingly, those Muslims who have spoken on the media on behalf of Islam have often come up with half cooked explanations based on their understanding of the stagnant jurisprudence of medieval Muslim states and outdated historical anecdotes promoted by a sectarian understanding of Islam.

Even though most Muslim leaders and groups continuously speak about Sharia, few attempts have been made in our modern times to develop an understanding that can be understood not only Muslims but by non-Muslims too. As usual, the Sharia issue has become a fund collecting means on behalf of those who want to present the Sharia opponents as yet another danger to Islam and Muslims.

The opportunity presented by hate mongers should be used by thinking Muslims to develop a better understanding of Sharia through discourses among all sections of educated Muslim American community. Since the Sharia is mainly be defined by the Quran and since this last and lasting divine book of guidance is meant to give guidance to all Muslims, everyone who can contribute to this debate should be involved to ensure that no viewpoint is missed. If the divine message is dynamic in its essence so is be the definition of sharia. If the divine guidance is applicable in all times, so is its sharia.

(A separate article as to how the Quran defines the sharia will follow)

13-35

Hazare-Team: Dictatorial & Undemocratic?

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Whom do social activist Anna Hazare and members of his team really represent? The seating capacity at Ramlila Maidan, the public ground selected by his team to display their protest against corruption and demand for a legislation, that is Lokpal bill, is approximately 50,000. Though there have been reports of people displaying their support in different parts of country, numerically except in Delhi and Mumbai, they have not crossed or even touched the number 1,00,000. In context of India being home to 1.21 billion, Hazare’s supporters do not represent a significant percentage of the country’s population, statistically. Nevertheless, the fact that Hazare’s protest dominates the media-news, including the headlines cannot be ignored. Statistics suggest that there is a major gap between what is being projected by the media and the actual story. Even if the number of Hazare’s supporters across the country adds up to several millions, they do not constitute even five percent of the nation’s population. In other words, it is as yet too early to accord Hazare the stature of a national leader even though media-hype gives this impression. The same is suggested by reports of numerous people donning caps and T-shirts with the slogan, “I am Anna.” Statistically, they don’t represent the entire country.

Understandably, the country’s citizens -including Hazare- have the freedom and right to raise their voice and also protest against what they feel disturbed by. In fact, it is the democratic duty of each and every citizen to display his/her stand against problems or evils they feel concerned about. There is no denying that corruption is one of the many problems, the Indian citizens are aggrieved about. At the same time, democratically speaking, while Hazare and his team have the right and duty to make suggestions regarding corrective measures and legislation, they cannot “dictate” their demands to an elected government. The course that Hazare-team gives the impression of taking, going on hunger-strike, organizing marches, planning “sit-in” demonstrations outside legislators’ residences and other such activities, is not in keeping with the democratic and socialist spirit of the Indian Constitution. Rather, considering that an elected government is in power and the country has measures available to enact new laws and amend old ones to ensure effective anti-corruption legislation, the Hazare-team is expected to be duty -bound to respect the country’s Constitution.

Politically, socially, constitutionally and even statistically, the Hazare-team is not representative of any segment or institution of the country to have the authority to dictate its terms to an elected government. In fact, if an elected government yields to this group, it would not only be abuse of the country’s constitutional system but also be bad precedence, which must not be permitted to take roots. It cannot be ignored that India is home to many religions, with most marked by a pronounced caste-system. The ethnic division in the Indian society is also responsible for emergence of numerous political parties. Can Hazare-team be held as representative of all the Indian socio-political groups? No. And therein lies the fear. Howsoever strongly Hazare-team may raise voice against corruption and even threaten the elected government with more demonstrations, their “strength” rests more on hype raised about them than actual issues. Corruption is not the only issue bothering Indian society. Have they talked of assuring action against female infanticide, dowry-deaths, the sufferings faced by Indian minorities- including Muslims, Christians and Hindus belonging to lower castes? Hardly.

Please note Hazare’s words: “If you (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) cannot get the bill, I ask you to leave the chair.” Legally and ethically, it is not appropriate for any authority to dictate such terms to an elected leader. Even the country’s President is not legally authorized to dismiss the Prime Minister till he and his party lose support in the Parliament. Against this backdrop, one is prompted to raise the question as to what has led the Hazare-team to assume their role as greater than that of the country’s elected government and the Constitution? Legally and ethically, it is more like a blot on country’s political image than suggestive of Hazare-team heading for a second freedom struggle. The latter may have carried some relevance if India was not a free country.

Not surprisingly, Muslims in general seem fairly critical of Hazare-team’s course of action. Questioning its “democratic legitimacy,” they fear that it may lead to communal polarization and encourage extremist Hindu leaders to gather crowds to pursue their anti-Muslim agenda. “The Anna Hazare phenomenon is leading us to the rejection of representative democracy itself. The movement is an upper-caste uprising against India’s political democracy. That apart, vesting so much power in the Lokpal, a non-elected person, could lead to a dangerous situation,” according to Dalit columnist Chandrabhan Prasad. In the opinion of Kancha Ilaiah, a Dalit-Bahujan thinker, “The Anna movement is an anti-social justice, manuvadi movement. The Dalits, tribals, OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and minorities have nothing to do with it. We oppose it.”

13-35

Communal Violence Bill Incites Heated Debate

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Heated political debate is brewing between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Communal Violence Bill cleared recently by National Advisory Council (NAC), led by United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-head Sonia Gandhi. The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Regulations) Bill 2011, if adopted by Parliament, will permit the center to intervene in cases of communal or targeted violence by invoking a provision in article 355 of the Constitution. As per this article, the bill permits the central government to declare any case of communal violence as “internal disturbance” and take actions considered appropriate. The center’s duty, according to article 355, is “to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and ensure the government of every state is carried on in accordance with provisions of this Constitution.” 

Criticizing the proposed bill, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said it would lead to intrusion into states, make the majority community culpable and damage inter-community relations. Countering BJP’s stand, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “We are shocked at the BJP’s reaction. Firstly, nothing has been finalized. Opinions are being sought from diverse sections. The BJP is trying to further its communal agenda. It is trying to do so by pre-emptive strike and debunking a draft bill under discussion.” He added: “The country knows which political party has communal agenda from its birth, continues to be bound by umbilical chord of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and carries the shame of Gujarat, Karnataka and Babri with ease.” With the party (BJP) being “naturally worried,” it has opted for this “pre-emptive strike,” Singhvi said.

The bill has also been described by the BJP as “dangerous, draconian, discriminatory and damaging to India’s federal policy.”  The Congress has retaliated by saying: “We will fight them to the end on this issue, there won’t be compromises. There will be a huge political cost involved for anybody who sides with the BJP on this issue.”

The Congress is confident that the BJP would be isolated in its opposition to the bill when it is introduced in the Parliament. “The BJP is free to challenge the constitutional validity of the law after it is enacted. Let it be tested in court instead of trying to abort it before its birth on petty and trivial grounds. The BJP’s pernicious propaganda is reflective of its communal agenda and guilt complex,” Singhvi said. The Congress is “determined” to bring the bill in the next session of the Parliament.

Rejecting BJP’s allegation on center’s plan to encroach into states’ domain, Singhvi said that the clause which permits this, also has safeguards. Before intervening, the center would first advise the state, if there was a communal flare-up. The center would wait for action and would intervene only if state’s inaction led the situation to further flare up.

Justifying the need for central intervention in serious cases, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal cited the experience of Gujarat-carnage. Despite nine years having passed by, FIR had not been registered in many cases, Sibal pointed out. A Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by Supreme Court, was still examining the need to lodge an FIR in the Gujarat-cases, which only necessitates the need for central intervention in extraordinary cases, Sibal said.

Demanding explanation on controversial provisions of the bill, which allegedly hold only majority community as responsible for riots, BJP senior leader Ravi Shanker Prasad said: “Tell us clearly, Soniaji- can the majority community in India become victims of communal violence or not?” Dismissing the need for the bill, Prasad said: “We all agree that riots should be prevented. But prevention should not become worse than the disease. There is civil society, courts and the media in the country which have helped in curbing riots.”

“There is no need for the bill. It will work to divide the majority and minority communities,” BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said. Blaming the Congress for using the bill to divert attention, Hussain said: “There is peace and harmony in the country today. The Congress is not able to digest this.” Hussain also expressed apprehension on the bill being used against National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled states. As current laws were enough to check communal violence, he said priority should be given to legal measures for tackling terrorism.

The sensitive bill was introduced in the Parliament in 2005. It has taken several years for the government to finally act on pushing the bill through the Parliament.  Despite the BJP sparing no measure to attack the Congress, the latter is confident that the party will be able to push the bill through the Parliament.  Describing the bill as “minority appeasement,” the BJP is hopeful of consolidating the support of majority community’s votes. The Congress is sure, according to party leaders, that parties such as Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal together with the Left and Telegu Desam are least likely to side with the BJP on the bill.

13-23

Congressmen Almost Unanimously Vote Against Freedom of the Press

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yusra Alvi

Karachi, Pakistan–THE United States claims that one of its top foreign policy initiatives is to spread democracy and freedom around the world. But a recent bill in the US Congress has led many to wonder whether the US wants to become one of the world’s biggest hindrances to media freedom.

Early December the US House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority to pass a bill in order to stop satellite TV channels from 17 Arab nations from being transmitted to American audiences due to their engagement in ‘anti-American incitement to violence’.

In a Congress that cannot seem to agree on many burning issues — whether fixing the broken healthcare system or ways of dealing with the turbulent economic situation — the bill passed with 395 ‘yes’ votes, and only three dissenters.

The bill — known as House Resolution 2278 — has to pass many stages before it becomes a law, but it has shocked many for contradicting American support for free speech.

Airing of respectful disagreement with the policies of the US government is a part of the development process, which should be taken positively the US.

12-19

Consensus Eludes Women’s Reservation Bill

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Euphoria raised over Women’s Reservation Bill’s passage in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) appears to have virtually lost its importance within less than a month. The bill was passed by Rajya Sabha, last month on March 9, a day after the Women’s Day. The bill proposes to reserve 33% seats for women in the Parliament and State Legislatures. Prospects of the bill securing passage in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) seem fairly limited. This was indicated by the failure of the all-party meeting held in the capital city to reach any consensus. During the meeting (April 5), chaired by leader of Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, leaders of different parties expressed their stand on the controversial bill.

A brief note, issued after the all-party meeting by Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, stated: “The leaders of various parties expressed their views on the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 pertaining to the Reservation of Seats for Women in the House of the People and State Assemblies.” “Further discussion will continue,” the note said, signaling that stalemate over the controversial bill has not yet been resolved.

The Congress party, heading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, is on stickier ground than before, as at the all-party meeting, its key ally – Trinamool Congress Party (TCP), also voiced opposition to the bill. During the meeting, TCP chief Mamata Bannerjee, supported the demand of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) for a “quota-within-quota,” as per which the bill should include reservation for women, who are Muslims, belong to backward classes and Dalits.

“The Muslim interest should not be ignored,” Bannerjee said during the meeting while joining the chorus raised by opponents of the bill.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also emphasized that the party would oppose the bill, if it was presented in its present form without a “quota-within-quota.”

Prospects of parties arriving at any agreement on the bill seem fairly limited. A key supporter of the bill, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has indicated that it would oppose it, if it included the demand for “quota-within-quota.”  Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, said that her party (BJP) was “totally against quota-within-quota.”

Interestingly, the left bloc legislators, supporters of the bill in its present form, have not clarified their stand on “quota-within-quota.”  While stating that his party was not opposed to “consider” the proposal for “quota-within-quota,” Basudeb Acharia (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said: “Under the constitutional set up, there is no provision in election either for OBC (Other Backward Classes) or Muslim minorities.” He laid stress that his party favored passage of the bill in its present form; in other words- without “quota-within-quota.” 

When questioned on his party’s stand on “quota-within-quota,” Gurudas Dasgupta (Communist Party of India) said: “We have not raised it.” At the same time, he said that his party was against the bill being “dumped.” The CPI is not against the government taking time “to arrive at a consensus” but was against “any kind of deferment if the intention is to dump the bill,” he said. 

The question of a “consensus” being reached on the bill seems practically impossible as the three parties (RJD, SP and JD-U) remain firm on their demand for a “quota-within-quota.” Their stand was supported at the all-party meeting by TCP and BSP. RJD chief Lalu Prasad said after the meeting: “I thank the government for this all-party meeting. But Muslim, backward classes and Dalit women must be given quota. Our stand has not changed. We have requested the government to rethink the issue and call for a second meeting.”

“We have opposed the bill in its present form. We are not opposed to reservation for women,” SP leader Mulayam Singh said.

With 441 members out of 544 members in Lok Sabha in favor of the bill, the Congress would lose majority in the House, if TCP withdraws its support. Interestingly, chances of the bill being presented in the Lok Sabha, without a consensus being arrived at seem fairly limited. The TCP legislators had abstained from discussion and vote on the bill in Rajya Sabha last month.

Developments suggest that bill is likely to be pushed to the backburner till a “consensus” is reached among the different political parties. In fact, the bill may not be introduced in the Lok Sabha without a “consensus” being arrived at. This is suggested by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s reply to how would she handle the chaos and stormy scenes in the House over the bill. Laying stress that there was need for a “consensus first” among all parties on the bill, Kumar said: “There has to be a consensus about that for which they (the parties) are trying. Lets see what happens.” 

Ironically, differences prevailed even on the wording of the statement issued by the government at the end of the meeting. Initially, the government wanted to state that the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and that decency and decorum would be maintained in the Parliament. The government was also keen to state that efforts would be made to find an amicable solution to the issue. Objections raised by Lalu Prasad, however, compelled the government to redraft the statement, deleting these points and instead state: “Further discussions will continue.”

During the two-hour meeting, the government was represented by Mukherjee, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defense Minister A.K. Antony and Law Minister Veerappa Moily. Among others who attended the meeting were leaders of BJP, SP, RJD, BSP, CPI-M, CPI, JD-U, Telegu Desam Party, TCP and Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam. 

12-15

Women’s Reservation Bill: “Conspiracy” Against Muslims…?

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Congress-led government’s attempt to create history on March 8, 2010 by securing passage of Women’s Reservation Bill through the Parliament on International Women’s Day has failed. The controversial bill reserves 33 percent of legislative seats in the Parliament. Ironically, though the bill has support of the Congress and from ranks of opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left bloc, it is fiercely opposed by Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bahuajan Samaj Party (BSP).

Being celebrated across the world for almost 100 years, the global theme highlighted by United Nations for International Women’s Day this year was “Equal rights, Equal opportunities: Progress for all.” In India, the attempt made to reserve 33 percent of seats for women in the Parliament did not succeed on March 8. Rather, the dismal picture presented of the ruckus created in the Parliament, leading to repeated adjournments of both the Houses, raised questions on politicians playing a greater part in distorting legislative procedures than in contributing to actually creating history. Soon after the bill was tabled in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) by Law Minister Veerappa Moily, around a dozen members opposing it attacked the Chairperson, Vice President Hamid Ansari. They even threw tore the bill into pieces and threw around the paper, pen stands and microphone. The legislators opposing the bill shouted down the supporters to prevent a debate on the bill.

Justifying their opposition, the SP and RJD announced withdrawal of their support to the Congress-led coalition government. Demanding a quota within the reservation-quota for women, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said: “We are not opposing the bill per se. We want, and the nation wants, that the reservation should be given to backward women who don’t have resources. The real India should be empowered. Give them 50 percent reservation. We will not oppose that.” Taking the same stand, SP leader Mulayam Singh said that the bill should provide quota for minorities, Dalits and backward classes. Claiming that bill was a “conspiracy” against interests of Muslims and Dalits, SP chief said: “The interests of minorities and Dalits are being undermined. The reservation should be for Muslims.”

BSP leader Mayawati also opposes the bill without their being a “quota-within-quota” for women belonging to backward castes and the minority community. Incidentally, rifts are reported within the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) too, with one of its key allies Trinamool Congress led by Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee demanding reservation for minorities and backward classes in the bill. 

While the BJP pledged its support to bill, it expressed reservations on voting for it without a debate on the same. Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP legislator in Rajya Sabha said: “We want this bill to be passed with proper debate and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure this eventuality in the house. Let us try to trust the managerial ability of this government which is coming in to question with every passing hour.”

Meanwhile, as Women’s Day passed by with the government having failed to “create history,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “It’s wastage of the day (International Women’s Day). The Women’s Reservation Bill is a subject where the only question is when and not if. It is an idea whose time has come.” Criticizing the bill’s opponent, he said: “The thinking of a handful of people has been exposed…. This mentality brings shame on Indian democracy.”

In general, the Indian Muslim leaders and organizations are keen on a reservation bill for increasing minorities’ representation in the Parliament. The women’s bill, without any reference to Muslim women, carries little importance for them. They are opposed to it, fearing that it would further marginalize Muslims’ representation in the Parliament.

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) represented by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal in the Lok Sabha has opposed the bill, describing it as “simply unacceptable for minorities especially Muslims.” “The bill is actually an anti-minority bill in guise of empowerment of women,” he said. AIDUF claims that prominent political houses aim to use the bill to let women members of their families enter the Parliament. The bill thus is a game plan of a section of political elite to make a weak woman weaker and a strong one stronger, AIDUF said. With there being a “negligible minority representation” in the Parliament, the bill will lead to “no representation” for the minorities. Without any quota for Muslim and Dalit women, the bill is a “mockery at all minorities and Dalits and against the interest of Indian nationhood,” AIUDF stated. “If religion based reservation is unacceptable for majority when it comes to political empowerment of minorities, how can a gender-based reservation be viewed as rational,” AIUDF questioned.

Since 1996, the Women’s Reservation Bill has been introduced and re-introduced several times in the Parliament to have only faced strong opposition. With their political base emerging from the support of minorities and backward classes, SP, RJD and BSP are determined to fiercely oppose it. Describing the bill as “political dacoity,” which “won’t be tolerated,” Lalu Prasad told media persons in presence of Mulayam Singh: “We will use our democratic rights fully whatever the consequences. They (the government) can get us thrown out.”

12-11

9/11 Investigation Referendum on NY Ballot: 30,000 Signature Petition Achieves Aim

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Reuters

NEW YORK, Sept. 10–In a last minute decision, lawyers for the City of New York conceded that the New York City Coalition for Accountability Now (NYC CAN), a group comprising 9/11 family members, first responders and survivors, indeed did submit over 30,000 valid signatures to put the referendum for a new 9/11 investigation before the voters of New York City this November.

In an earlier letter from the City Clerk dated July 24, 2009, the City had claimed too few valid signatures had been on the petition.

Asked whether he thought NYC CAN could overcome the City’s challenge to the legality of the petition, legal counsel to the petitioners, Dennis McMahon, said, “Absolutely. Although the City has an incredibly successful record of shooting down ballot initiatives, we will be arguing from a fresh perspective that reflects the unprecedented events of 9/11. We believe the courts will see how critical an issue this is, and be persuaded with our legal reasoning and point of view.” A final determination on the legality of the petition will be reached in time for the referendum to be included on the November ballot should the petitioners prevail.

Representatives for NYC CAN, 9/11 family member Manny Badillo and Executive Director Ted Walter, arrived at the Board of Elections on the morning of Wednesday, September 9, to assist the court-appointed referee in commencing a line-by-line review of the disputed signatures, only to learn the referee’s review had been called off due to a last minute concession by the City. Mr. Badillo immediately got on the phone to inform others of the news.

“The City conceded we have 30,000 valid signatures. Big victory.”

The City’s concession comes as a result of the immense effort put forth by 50+ volunteers who gave more than 1,000 hours over a two week period from August 10 to August 25 to identify a total of 7,166 signatures that were wrongly invalidated by the NYC City Clerk and Board of Elections. On August 27, NYC CAN filed the 631-page Bill of Particulars cataloguing each of the 7,166 signatures it contended were in fact valid. NYC CAN submitted another 28,000 signatures on September 4 to guarantee the referendum will go on the ballot if they win the court case, bringing the total signatures submitted to 80,000.

NYC CAN must deliver its memorandum of law in response to the City’s motion for summary judgment by Monday, September 21. The City will be given an opportunity to reply before the referee’s decision is made on Monday, September 28. Fast-track appeals will likely follow no matter who wins. A final decision will have to be made by September 30.

If the referendum passes in November, it would lead to the creation of a local, independent commission with subpoena power that would be tasked with comprehensively reinvestigating the attacks.

For more info: http://www.nyccan.org.

Padilla vs. Yoo: An Update

July 23, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Jacob G. Hornberger

Editor’s note:  John Yoo is the Bush administration attorney who provided the fundamental intellectual basis for the torture programs of the Bush administration.  Because of his memos the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, were not applied to prisoners captured after 9/11.  Because of Yoo’s work, nor were those prisoners able to avail themselves of the benefits of American law.  Because of the Orwellian legal procedures the Yoo doctrine attempted to justify, Guantanamo legal proceedings became absolute disgraces to the American system of law–in fact, even communist courts would have been disgraced by the nonsense that passed for legal proceedings under Bush, Cheney, and Yoo–defendants were prevented from hearing the very grounds for their own imprisonment, because such grounds were “classified.” 

Because of Yoo’s memos, those prisoners were subjected deliberately to whatever cruel and unusual punishments Mr. Yoo and his cohorts were able to conjure up–Mr. Yoo argued that all of this was acceptable. 

The continued prominence of Mr. Yoo is convincing evidence that in fact there is no rule of law in the United States, that the constitution is now trampled upon, controlled by the highest bidders and the cheapest arguments of dictators and totalitarian scum, it was the unwilling witness of the heroically despotic abuses committed underneath it by Yoo and his ilk.  We hope that it faces a more dignified future under the watchful eyes of people who are more than mere parrots to repeat the protections it offers while simultaneously eviscerating its meaning, unconscious of the blood on their hands and the screams of those they oppress while mouthing the multisyllabic shibboleths of Constitutional freedoms.

There are two interesting developments in Jose Padilla’s lawsuit against former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who was one of the authors of the infamous torture memos.

First, the Justice Department is no longer defending Yoo in the case. He will now be represented by a private attorney, paid for by the Justice Department.

Second, Yoo is appealing the ruling of the federal district court denying his motion to dismiss Padilla’s case.
A motion to dismiss requests the court to summarily dismiss the plaintiff’s case without hearing any evidence. The motion essentially says: “Even if you accept as true everything the plaintiff is saying in his petition, he is not entitled to win as a matter of law.”
Generally, courts are loath to summarily dismiss cases brought by litigants. The general rule is that everyone is entitled to the opportunity to prove his case.
Thus, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court will accept as true everything that is stated in the plaintiff’s petition. If such facts, if later proved, can support a legal case against the defendant, the court will deny the motion to dismiss.
Can a defendant appeal a motion to dismiss? The general rule is no because the courts frown on interlocutory appeals, that is, appeals that are taken before a case has been finally resolved. Since a denial of a motion to dismiss is not a final resolution of the case (because the case is allowed to continue forward), the general rule is that an appeal cannot be taken from it.
So, why would Yoo be taking an appeal at this stage? My hunch is that he, along with a lot of other people in the Bush administration, are panicked over the judge’s ruling and are now looking for every way possible to delay the continuation of the suit.
Why? Because Padilla’s lawsuit provides the means by which Yoo and other Bush administration people can be forced to testify under oath in a federal court proceeding as to exactly what went on in the so-called war on terror.
Except for Padilla’s case, giving sworn testimony is something the Bush people could easily succeed in avoiding, given congressional apathy toward an official investigation and executive branch opposition to criminal prosecutions.
Why is Padilla’s lawsuit important? Because the ultimate ruling in the case will apply not just to him but also to all Americans. The suit alleges that the U.S. government took Padilla into custody and held him for several years without charge, until finally indicting him and convicting him in federal district court of the federal crime of terrorism. For years prior to the indictment, Padilla was held in the custody of the U.S. military, where he was denied right to counsel, the right to due process of law, the right to bail, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a jury trial, and other procedural protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. He was also subjected to torture, sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, and many other cruel and unusual pre-trial measures.
The government takes the position that it had the legitimate authority to do these things to Padilla and that it, in fact, has the legitimate authority to do them to every other American, as part of its “war on terrorism.” Yoo is saying that as a government lawyer who was just delivering legal opinions, he is immune from Padilla’s suit.
The district judge disagreed. He held that the U.S. government lacks constitutional authority to subject the American people to such treatment and that any lawyer who knowingly participates in a scheme to subject Americans to such mistreatment is not immune from suit.
Given the predilection of the courts against interlocutory appeals, in my opinion the Court of Appeals will quickly rule against Yoo’s appeal, enabling Padilla to continue with his case and begin taking sworn depositions. That will be when things start to get interesting.

Racial Profiling Still Pervasive: ACLU Report

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Chris Levister, Black Voice News.com

U.S. authorities detain and harass thousands of people each year solely on the basis of religion, race or nationality despite efforts by senior law enforcement officials and the government to stop it, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

An ACLU report said racial profiling was often applied to immigrants from South Asia and to North Africans suspected of being Islamic militants following the September 11, 2001, attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda militants.

The report, submitted on Tuesday to the U.N. Committee to End Racial Discrimination, said profiling could involve harassment, detention, arrest or investigation. Many Latin American immigrants were also targeted for immigration violations while others, including Black Americans, were profiled as suspected drug offenders, said the report, which did not provide precise figures.

President Barack Obama’s government upholds the policy of the previous Bush administration that such profiling should end, but related laws contain a significant gray area, said Chandra Bhatnagar, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s human rights program.

According to 2003 federal guidelines, it is illegal to detain or investigate someone solely on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, but there are exceptions in the context of national security and border control.

“While there is a political consensus regarding the problem and a need for a solution it has not translated into concrete action,” Bhatnagar said. He referred to the End Racial Profiling Bill first introduced in 1997, but which had not passed into law.

One factor that had increased the profiling of Latin Americans was a federal program to shift responsibility and resources for immigration enforcement to local and state authorities, according to the report.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that an increasing number of people had been targeted under profiling for possible immigration offenses over the past eight years, it said.

“Police officers who are often not adequately trained and in some cases not trained at all, in federal immigration enforcement, will improperly rely on race or ethnicity as a proxy for undocumented status,” the report said.

The involvement of local police in this was having a “devastating impact” on some communities, Bhatnagar said.

In April the ACLU of Southern California filed suit against Moreno Valley police and city officials and the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology claiming racial profiling.

The suit filed on behalf of three Moreno Valley barbers in U.S. District Court in Riverside alleged that “five of the six barbershops selected as targets for raid-style inspections on April 2, 2008, were owned by, operated by, and primarily frequented by African Americans.”

The officers, city employees and members of the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology allegedly targeted six shops in warrantless raids because of race, said lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit also alleges innocent clients waiting for haircuts and other services were detained, harassed and forced to produce identification.

ACLU alleged the officers and other agents targeted the businesses “based, in part or in whole, on the race of the barbers and their clientele.”

Police, city and state officials have denied the claims. The case has attracted national attention for what ACLU lawyers and many in communities of color call blatant evidence that racial profiling is still pervasive.

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The Big Hate

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Krugman

Back in April, there was a huge fuss over an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security warning that current conditions resemble those in the early 1990s — a time marked by an upsurge of right-wing extremism that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Conservatives were outraged. The chairman of the Republican National Committee denounced the report as an attempt to “segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration” and label them as terrorists.

But with the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, closely followed by a shooting by a white supremacist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the analysis looks prescient.

There is, however, one important thing that the D.H.S. report didn’t say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.

Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven’t directly incited violence, despite Bill O’Reilly’s declarations that “some” called Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Baby Killer,” that he had “blood on his hands,” and that he was a “guy operating a death mill.” But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.

And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.

Exhibit A for the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism is Fox News’s new star, Glenn Beck. Here we have a network where, like it or not, millions of Americans get their news — and it gives daily airtime to a commentator who, among other things, warned viewers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be building concentration camps as part of the Obama administration’s “totalitarian” agenda (although he eventually conceded that nothing of the kind was happening).

But let’s not neglect the print news media. In the Bush years, The Washington Times became an important media player because it was widely regarded as the Bush administration’s house organ. Earlier this week, the newspaper saw fit to run an opinion piece declaring that President Obama “not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself,” and that in any case he has “aligned himself” with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

And then there’s Rush Limbaugh. His rants today aren’t very different from his rants in 1993. But he occupies a different position in the scheme of things. Remember, during the Bush years Mr. Limbaugh became very much a political insider. Indeed, according to a recent Gallup survey, 10 percent of Republicans now consider him the “main person who speaks for the Republican Party today,” putting him in a three-way tie with Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich. So when Mr. Limbaugh peddles conspiracy theories — suggesting, for example, that fears over swine flu were being hyped “to get people to respond to government orders” — that’s a case of the conservative media establishment joining hands with the lunatic fringe.

It s not surprising, then, that politicians are doing the same thing. The R.N.C. says that “the Democratic Party is dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.” And when Jon Voight, the actor, told the audience at a Republican fund-raiser this week that the president is a “false prophet” and that “we and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, thanked him, saying that he “really enjoyed” the remarks.

Credit where credit is due. Some figures in the conservative media have refused to go along with the big hate — people like Fox’s Shepard Smith and Catherine Herridge, who debunked the attacks on that Homeland Security report two months ago. But this doesn’t change the broad picture, which is that supposedly respectable news organizations and political figures are giving aid and comfort to dangerous extremism.

What will the consequences be? Nobody knows, of course, although the analysts at Homeland Security fretted that things may turn out even worse than in the 1990s — that thanks, in part, to the election of an African-American president, “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.”

And that’s a threat to take seriously. Yes, the worst terrorist attack in our history was perpetrated by a foreign conspiracy. But the second worst, the Oklahoma City bombing, was perpetrated by an all-American lunatic. Politicians and media organizations wind up such people at their, and our, peril.

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