The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding.

Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first.

Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”.

Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.

Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting  from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Guardian (UK)

13-49

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding.

Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first.

Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”.

Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.

Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting  from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Guardian (UK)

13-49

Chameleons!

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

Chameleons (family Chamaeleonidae) are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards. They are distinguished by their parrot-like zygodactylous feet, their separately mobile and stereoscopic eyes, their very long, highly modified, and rapidly extrudable tongues, their swaying gait, the possession by many of a prehensile tail, crests or horns on their distinctively shaped heads, and the ability of some to change color. Uniquely adapted for climbing and visual hunting, the approximately 160 species of chameleon range from Africa, Madagascar, Spain and Portugal, across south Asia, to Sri Lanka, have been introduced to Hawaii, California and Florida, and are found in warm habitats that vary from rain forest to desert conditions.

Chameleons vary greatly in size and body structure, with maximum total length varying from 3.3 cm (1.3 in.) in Brookesia minima (one of the world’s smallest reptiles) to 68.5 cm (27 in.) in the male Furcifer oustaleti. Many have head or facial ornamentation, such as nasal protrusions, or horn-like projections in the case of Chamaeleo jacksonii, or large crests on top of their head, like Chamaeleo calyptratus. Many species are sexually dimorphic, and males are typically much more ornamented than the female chameleons.

Chameleon species have in common their foot structure, eyes, lack of ears, and tongues.

Their eyes are the most distinctive among the reptiles. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. They can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously. It in effect gives them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their body. When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception. They have very good eyesight for reptiles, letting them see small insects from a long (5-10 cm) distance.

They lack a vomeronasal organ. Also, like snakes, they do not have an outer or a middle ear. This suggests that chameleons might be deaf, although it should be noted that snakes can sense vibration using a bone called the quadrate. Furthermore, some or maybe all chameleons, can communicate via vibrations that travel through solid substrates such as branches.

Chameleons have very long tongues (sometimes longer than their own body length) which they are capable of rapidly extending out of the mouth.

Tongue structure

The tongue extends out faster than human eyes can follow, at around 26 body lengths per second. The tongue hits the prey in about 30 thousandths of a second.[4] The tongue of the chameleon is a complex arrangement of bone, muscle and sinew. At the base of the tongue there is a bone and this is shot forward giving the tongue the initial momentum it needs to reach the prey quickly. At the tip of the elastic tongue there is a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus that forms a suction cup.[5] Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the mouth, where the chameleon’s strong jaws crush it and it is consumed. Ultraviolet light is part of the visible spectrum for chameleons.[6] Chameleons exposed to ultraviolet light show increased social behavior and activity levels, are more inclined to bask and feed and are also more likely to reproduce as it has a positive effect on the pineal gland

12-19

Final Destination Iran?

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Rob Edwards, The Herald (Scotland)

Hundreds of powerful US bunker-buster bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 Blu bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Irans controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons.

Although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is used by the US as a military base under an agreement made in 1971. The agreement led to 2,000 native islanders being forcibly evicted to the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The Sunday Herald reported in 2007 that stealth bomber hangers on the island were being equipped to take bunker-buster bombs.

Although the story was not confirmed at the time, the new evidence suggests that it was accurate.

Contract details for the shipment to Diego Garcia were posted on an international tenders website by the US navy.

A shipping company based in Florida, Superior Maritime Services, will be paid $699,500 to carry many thousands of military items from Concord, California, to Diego Garcia.

Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs.

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran, said Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran. US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours, he added.

The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel, Plesch argued.

The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely, he added. The US … is using its forces as part of an overall strategy of shaping Irans actions.

According to Ian Davis, director of the new independent thinktank, Nato Watch, the shipment to Diego Garcia is a major concern. We would urge the US to clarify its intentions for these weapons, and the Foreign Office to clarify its attitude to the use of Diego Garcia for an attack on Iran, he said.

For Alan Mackinnon, chair of Scottish CND, the revelation was extremely worrying. He stated: It is clear that the US government continues to beat the drums of war over Iran, most recently in the statements of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

It is depressingly similar to the rhetoric we heard prior to the war in Iraq in 2003.

The British Ministry of Defence has said in the past that the US government would need permission to use Diego Garcia for offensive action. It has already been used for strikes against Iraq during the 1991 and 2003 Gulf wars.

About 50 British military staff are stationed on the island, with more than 3,200 US personnel. Part of the Chagos Archipelago, it lies about 1,000 miles from the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka, well placed for missions to Iran.

The US Department of Defence did not respond to a request for a comment.

12-12

Gold’s Bull Market Turns 9 Years Old

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mary Anne & Pamela Aden

Gold, silver and the metals group are coming down from their January highs, on the eve of gold’s nine year bull market run. Considering the gold price has had nine consistent yearly gains, and it’s still above $1000 is a feat in itself. Gold’s bull market is solid, a new phase has begun and it’s currently declining in a sharp, yet normal downward correction.

Corrections tend to cause fear. And considering the volatility we’ve seen in recent years, the fear level rises fast. The word bubble is the buzz word, and it’s understandable since we’ve had so many over the last decade. The tech bubble was followed by the housing bubble, the credit bubble, and the debt bubble that continues to grow.

The debt bubble is an ongoing reality; it’s international in scope and it’s the biggest ever. This is hanging over our heads and over the markets, and it isn’t going away, it’s just getting bigger.

GOLD RISES WITH UNCERTAINTY

Debt monsters of the past have tended to end in deflationary depressions, but it’s important to understand that gold can rise in this kind of environment. Remember, gold rises during economic uncertainty. In the early 1930s, for example, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt raised the price of gold almost 70% from $20.65 to $35 an ounce in a struggle to bring back inflation.

Gold is money. It’s the currency of last resort when monetary times are difficult. So when gold rises in all currencies, as it’s been doing for several years, you know the rise is enduring and superior (see Chart 1). So even though gold has no yield or earnings to measure like the other markets do, it has true value.

The central banks are flooding the markets with their own currencies, and competitive devaluations will continue to grow. Many countries depend on exports for economic survival. This means the best price in the current deflationary environment wins, which is what a cheaper currency does.

This situation originally started with globalization and it’s bullish for gold. The U.S. is still in a delicate situation. It needs a weaker dollar to compete and stimulus measures must continue, which are both ultimately bullish for gold.

This is one important reason why we do not think gold or commodities are in a bubble. We believe they are rising within a mega trend that could last several more years, perhaps a decade. Some say that China is in a bubble and if they are, the demand for commodities will fall. China may be overheated but we don’t think it’s in a bubble. Their growth, even if it’s only a part of what they claim, is solid.

Commodities are in demand and this continues growing with each passing month. China is the engine for demand. It’s the biggest consumer of many raw materials, like aluminum, copper and iron ore. In fact, just last month the number of iron ore and coal ships hired to carry cargo to China jumped 38%.

Rio Tinto, the second largest resource company in the world, forecasts that China’s consumption will be more than double by 2020. That’s only 10 years away.

China and other countries are also buying gold. It currently only makes up about 2% of the reserves in emerging markets. With the average being 10%, there is interest and a need to continue adding gold to their reserves.

Aside from central banks, mutual funds are adding gold to their portfolios as well. This month, the second biggest U.S. public pension, the California State Teachers retirement system, is considering investments in commodities in order to boost returns and provide a hedge against inflation.

Yes, gold is slowly making its way into mainstream investing, in large part thanks to the Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs. They have made it easy to invest in gold and commodities.

BAD NEWS COINCIDES WITH DECLINING MARKET

Debt and how it’s handled will be the driving force in the markets looking out to the years ahead. And interest on the debt, compounded, will be the biggest problem.

This is why there are so many doubts that the economic recovery will be sustained. The commodities, metals and energy fell sharply in recent weeks on concern that rising job losses in the U.S., and mounting debt in Europe, will slow economic growth and, therefore, curb demand.

Interestingly, this type of news becomes more common when the markets are due for a downward correction anyway. The great rises in the metals and crude oil were overextended and they’ve been poised for a downward correction.

With copper being the global economic barometer, the fact that it fell sharply for the first time since the rise began a year ago, provided a good example of bad news hitting an overextended market. A bull market decline is now underway.

Gold is a good example too. Its seven month rise that peaked in November, which we call the C rise, was a bullish one that had reached maturity. By gaining 40% and meeting our original target level, we knew the bulk of the rise was over, for the time being.

GOLD: “D” decline underway

A D decline is now underway. These declines tend to be the sharpest intermediate declines in a bull market, and so far this one is following the pattern. Chart 2 shows that gold’s leading indicator (B) declined clearly below its uptrend and it could now fall to the low area while the gold price itself stays under downward pressure.

The $1000 level is a key support area, which is near the prior C peak in 2008. The 65 week moving average, now at $975 is rising and it’s set to reach the $1000 level in a few months, which will further reinforce the support at $1000. For now, $975 to $1000 is the strong support level for gold.

Interestingly, gold at $975 would be a 20% decline from the November $1218 peak. The worst D decline so far in the current bull market was in 2008 during the financial meltdown. Gold fell almost 30% from March to November. This was an extreme case in an extreme situation. A decline to the $950 level would be similar to the 2006 D decline, which was the second worst decline since 2001.

In other words, the extent of the decline is about half over. As for timing… since 2004, the D declines have been lasting about twice as long compared to the first years of the bull. This means we could see the decline end any time from here on out, if it’s on the shorter end, but more likely it could last until April.

Pressure is likely to stay on gold and the metals in the weeks ahead, which means it’s time to take advantage of weakness by adding or buying new positions. Gold’s major trend remains up, indicating it’s headed higher. But for now, it will temporarily remain under downward pressure by staying below $1110.

12-12

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

kuwait28606_wideweb__470x311,0 The pages of history reveal the anguish, sweat and tears that women throughout the ages have suffered in winning suffrage rights from often male-dominated societies. Hard-fought, and eventually won, battles have been waged from the sunny coastlines of California all the way to the villages of France and back again. And, despite our extremely advanced technological age that has morphed the depths of our world into the palms of our hands, many women across the globe are still fighting for their rights.

One such country, where women have seen great progress in the area of women’s suffrage rights, is the tiny gulf State of Kuwait. Kuwaiti women won the right to vote and participate in parliamentary elections way back in 2005. However, it would take another 4 years for Kuwaiti women to circumvent political roadblocks intentionally put in their path and assert their right to participate in the inner workings of government. In 2009, Kuwaiti women cheered from their balconies and congregated in the streets to congratulate one another over no less than four Kuwaiti women being voted into the Kuwaiti parliament.

However, since that one sweet victory, women’s suffrage in Kuwait has come to a screeching halt. This past Monday, Kuwaiti women seized the opportunity of International Women’s Day to lodge a public complaint. The primary area of contention is the fact that Kuwaiti women are not allowed to become judges. And most are prevented from being promoted to higher positions in the government. Quite notably only 17 Kuwaiti women hold high-ranking government posts as opposed to 252 positions held by their male counterparts.

At a special symposium held to commemorate International Women’s Day in Kuwait, Kuwaiti women showed up in force to demand answers in an all too public forum. Kuwaiti women, ranging from lawyers to housewives, stood up to allow their voices to be heard. Gender discrimination was on the tip of all of the women’s tongues as the Kuwaiti government was branded too conservative and resistant to change. One speaker, a lawyer named Salwa al-Ajmi, told the symposium, “I have been working as a lawyer for the past 32 years but still I cannot become a judge. It is shameful that the government has accepted and signed international treaties banning discrimination against women and still bars females from becoming judges.”

The symposium also highlighted other areas where Kuwaiti females face gender discrimination and lack basic human rights which should be an embarrassment to a country that, at least on paper, purports to uphold the rights of women within its borders. For example, Kuwaiti women who choose to marry a non-Kuwaiti are legally barred from giving their children or even their husband the Kuwaiti nationality, which comes with countless financial perks and benefits from the government. Contrastingly, Kuwaiti males enjoy full nationality rights regardless of whom they marry. As a result, Kuwaiti women cannot receive a free home from the government or monthly social welfare payments for their children that, once again, Kuwaiti males benefit from.

All hope is not lost as a female member of parliament, MP Rula Dashti, used the symposium as an opportunity to announce her plans to draft a new gender equality bill that she will present at the next session of the Kuwaiti Parliament.  The timing could not be riper for Kuwaiti women to make headway with at least some of the rights they are after, as the Kuwaiti government is trying to amp up its global reputation as a beacon of human rights appreciation.

12-11

Gaza Defiant

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Sacramento–Several weeks ago I reported on (former) Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s rousing description, which she delivered here at the Salim Center in California’s capital city, on how she successfully — after two previous attempts – “ran” the Israeli blockade into Gaza.  Equally, as inspiring was the Senior Lecturer from the University of California, the Palestinian-American firebrand Hatem Bazian, on the history of the struggle and the aftermath now a year later on the smaller Palestinian country sandwiched between (West) Jerusalem and Cairo.

Just today as your reporter writes it is being relayed that Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had submitted their rejoinder to the U.N. (United Nations’) Report of “alleged” atrocities.  The Hamas government in Gaza City itself said it did not commit any War crimes because of the overriding preponderance of their casualties (over 1400 and a decimated infrastructure) in comparison which attested to the violation of the International Law of Proportionality governing the conduct of Warfare; therefore, they have not submitted their justification defense for their self-defense.

With such a morbidity rate it is clear that Tel Aviv meant to kill and maim innocent civilian lives.  Any rockets that the Arabs shot up were infused into the battlefield as a feeble attempt at self-defense, and not to destroy human life (which, in fact, rarely hit Jewish citizens).

The lead author of the 575-page Report of the United Nations’ Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Judge Richard Goldstone — who gained fame for his fairness and courage as a Constitutional Judge in his native South Africa helping to end Apartheid and to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during Nelson Mandela’s Presidency in the multi-racial government of his native South Africa, and, of recent — in this his later career — he has served in executive judicial capacities on several of the more high-profile War Crime International Tribunals, and his latest service, on the circumstances of Gaza of which Report is commonly referred to under his name, the Judge stated the root of the violence in Gaza “…is [the Israeli] occupation.” 

Mr. Bazian illustrated the extent of occupation in his talk:  U.N. Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967) instructed Israel to withdraw from the territory they had gained in the 1967 War.  The infamous Jewish Settlements in the (Israeli) Occupied (Palestinian) Territories are immensely illegal under International Law, but they have only increased since the Oslo Accords (of 1993) which agreement was meant to end the Hebrew expansion into Arab land.  In fact, Settler Colonialism has expanded their presence on Palestinian soil since then.  Palestinian borders and the sea lanes are controlled by the Hebrews.  The citizens of Gaza are in a penitentiary!   Further, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) claims the right of “hot pursuit” under their interpretations of its necessity.  (That is, they claim an extra-legal prerogative in the determination for its implementation.)

(George W.) Bush demanded the 2006 elections which Hamas won evenhandedly according to the international observers – including (former U.S.) President Jimmy Carter!

The culpability and corruption of Fatah, the Palestinian-controlled party in the West Bank cannot be denied either.  Egypt would not sell the occupation Army cement, but Ramallah smoothed it over, and the Apartheid walls have resulted; stealing the Palestinian natural resources and driving the indigenous Arabs — mainly Islamic but, also, Christian – from their lands. 

Palestine is not permitted to have an abiding militia but merely a police force.  Also, irregular guerillas operated outside International approbation protect and resist the oppressors.  On the other hand, the Hebrew forces are the fifth largest in the world with a nuclear arsenal to match.

While Washington has gifted Tel Aviv our most sophisticated weaponry, the homespun Qassam rockets possessed by the Palestinians are most primitive.  The military balance is ridiculous!  Yet, “We are blamed for [our] resistance!”

The fact is that Israel broke the ceasefire (as your correspondent has documented previously on these pages).  “We [Americans] have to change our frame of reference!”  The Jewish State is a criminal in the context of global edicts.  According to Dr. Bazian, irregular soldiers are not considered in the same framework under International norms.  (This is a debatable legal point, and that is why Goldstone accused the Gazan Administration of War criminality which, in turn, their officials denied based on the proportionality employed against them.)  “The IDF didn’t make distinctions between combatant and non-combatant.”  Thus, under conflict directive the counterattack can only be relative to the primary aggression, (and this absolved the Gazan Palestinian Arabs, for their counter-offensive upon Sderot and Ashkelon for Israel violated the Law of Proportionality against the citizenship on the Strip). 

Succinctly, Hamas and the Gazan people they represented did not constitute a security threat at all.  The Hebrew government assaulted this miniscule State because they did not wish an Islamist-dominated country on their Southern border, and, again, in Hatem’s view, the Jewish Labor Party-led government had to make up face for their very real lose to Hezbollah in 2006 north in the Galilee.

A majority of military observers agree that the Gazan War was a defeat for the Israeli Defense Forces; for they failed to create the “regime change” they had hoped to do because the native stakeholders in this ancient land of the Philistines did not rise up against their democratically elected representatives. 

We as a nation have to take responsibility for our part in the carnage!  

Now, 92% of the surviving children are suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.  The medical infrastructure has further, been destroyed! 

Up on the West Bank, the Hebrew State has set up 462 checkpoints.   

As Americans, we must see that all Israel’s weaponry came with the stamp of “Made in America.” 

While back in Gaza itself; there is 44% unemployment a 96% of the foreign consulates that were there have had to close.  External aid that has already been pledged has been denied delivery by the blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt.

The Goldstone Report conservatively attests to War and, possibly, Crimes against Humanity instigated by the Israeli Army.  It has been referred to the General Assembly for further discussion and hopefully action.  

There will be an educational Conference on Palestine in San Anselmo (Calif.) in Marin County just north of San Francisco on March 5th-6th at the First Presbyterian Church there (415) 456-3713 where Dr. Hatem Bazian is scheduled to give one of the workshops.  Also, there will be two Conferences in Honolulu and Seattle this month.  Information on those gatherings can be gathered directly from Sabeel North America at (503) 653-6625.

Professor Bazian concluded his Sacramento speech by exclaiming “Palestine wants to be free… [America] needs to speak out!”

12-8

Once More to Gaza

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Readers of The Muslim Observer are familiar with the Free Gaza Movement which in August of 2008 sailed two ships from Cyprus to Gaza breaking a decades long blockade by Israel. Four more missions followed successfully. The sixth voyage resulted in an attack by Israeli Naval forces that severely damaged the ship putting the lives of all aboard in jeopardy. The captain was able to bring the ship safely to a port in Lebanon; during the seventh attempt Israeli threats to the safety of the passengers along with terrible weather forced the ship to return to port.The eighth vessel was hijacked by the Israeli Navy, resulting in the confiscation of the vessel and the imprisonment of its passengers and crew in Israel. Despite repeated requests from Free Gaza attorneys, the ship has not yet been returned.
This courageous undertaking was the inspiration for other subsequent movements to aid the beleaguered people of Gaza.

Those who believed that the mission was over, that the dream had ended, did not reckon correctly with the dedication and courage of the people of the Free Gaza Movement. This spring a flotilla of six to ten boats will again sail to Gaza. Of these, five have been funded by IHH from Turkey, and a third, a cargo ship, has been funded by donations from the people of Malaysia. This time the Israeli Navy will be faced with a small navy, a navy of freedom fighters.

The ships will carry reconstruction material essential to the rebuilding of Gaza yet forbidden to them by the Israelis.

Fundraising is essential as is maximum publicity. Returning members of Viva Palestina and the Gaza Freedom March make excellent speakers for fundraising events. Since the Israeli occupiers do not permit the importation of paper or paper products, the Free Gaza Movement has launched a campaign which it has titled: The Right to Read. Books that are desperately needed are listed on the group’s web site: <www.freegaza.org>. If reconstruction material is to be donated, please contact friends@freegaza.org.

Three leaders and founders of the Free Gaza Movement were recently honored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Greta Berlin, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheets were each given a Gertrude Welch Peace and Justice Award.

The California organization established the award to honor those who made an outstanding contribution to social justice and peace both locally and globally.
Those who support the goals of the Free Gaza Movement but are not able to make the trip are urged to work in an auxiliary capacity.

In addition to fundraising and publicity supporters can urge their members of congress or parliament to join the voyagers. The Movement already has Members of Parliament from South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia, Europe, and South America on board.

Members of a land crew, support crew and media are also needed for the coming journey.

Suggestions, volunteering and contributions may be made at the above cited web site.

12-7

Interfaith Singing Event in Ann Arbor

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

ScreenShot106

Three members of the Threshold Choir of Ann Arbor sing at the East West Center on Airport Rd. in Ann Arbor. 

Photo by Steve Lyskawa

Ann Arbor–January 24–Three very different singing groups performed together at a Divine Language of Music Chanting special at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth at 704 Airport Rd. in Ann Arbor Sunday night.

An audience of about 120 people packed a beautiful room lit by candles, with paintings on the walls designed to represent spiritual teachings, and symbols around the room of cosmological things like the stars and moon.

Norma Gentile sang first–she is a recording artist of four solo musical CDs, 10 Meditation and teaching CDs.  She sings in a way designed to connect to spiritual powers.

Also singing were The Threshold Choir, which may be of slightly more interest to a Muslim audience.  The Threshold Choir, represented Sunday by about 15 singers, sings at the bedsides of people–sometimes bedsides of people who are dying, sometimes bedsides of people who are sick or in comas.  The Threshold Choir actually has branches all over the United States and in Canada as well, although they began in the Bay Area of California (where they now have several branches).

“We sing in small pairs or small groups in hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes when we are invited by family or caregivers,” explains their website.

At the Center for Spiritual Growth the Ann Arbor brach of the choir did a demonstration of several of their songs, including a rehearsed bedside singing ceremony.

The songs they sang at the event were all in English, including one called “Breathe in, cherish yourself, breathe out, cherish the world,” and another one which is a Navajo prayer, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced, live your life so that when you die, you rejoice and the world cries.”

The Threshold Choir is a women’s only choir which is in fact a kind of spiritual guidance–beginning singers are welcomed from all faith backgrounds but are trained for a period of months before they actually perform for people at their bedsides.

Finally there was a Sufi chanting group which chanted the Shahada and Allah’s Holy Names, and there was a drum accompaniment and also there were whirling dervishes; Mr. Kamau Ayyubi explained the dervishes hold their right hand up high and extend their left down, representing bringing Divine benefits to this world.

12-5

Islam in Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

haiti Haiti is a benighted country that your author knows well having made working journeys there, and serving on a Committee in my home State of California to support that nation in her struggles (the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) for over a decade now. 

The information your essayist is to relay was a surprise to me, too, although I had intended to write about a slave rebellion that a Muslim led during the early history of Creole Hispaniola for the Observer a year and a half ago, but I could not trace the references down even in the largest academic library in Western North America which is literarily down the street from me.  With the Internet, though, I have been able to trace the history and condition of the religion on the western half of that nation’s island.

Islam came at the earliest period of the then Colony by the importation of slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa.  As the current distressing rioting in Nigeria between Christians and Muslims demonstrates, there is a significant population of Muslims from West Africa.  From an historian’s point of view, the fact that the middle men in the slave trade were Arabs (Muslims) is most disturbing.

Much of the early accounts are confused by 200 years of oral tradition (many times relayed memory), legend and mythology.  There are two mangled accounts of rebellion, but they were in another French isle in the Caribbean, Martinique, that became associated with the Haitians.  One says that the leader still wanders around Saint-Dominique, as Haiti was called then.  This is no more than mythology.

Many Muslim slaves from West Africa were forcibly baptized, but there is a belief that the Maroons (any group of slaves descended from fugitive slaves from the Seventeenth through Eighteenth Centuries) mainly held onto their Islamic beliefs.  One such slave, Dutta Boukman, who was smuggled in from Jamaica, received his name because he could read, and his French masters reported he read upside down which indicated he most likely was reading Arabic and, at that, feasibly, the Koran.  This description is an unquestionable fact although legend claims he was a Voo-Doo priest, but “revisionist” Haitian scholarship suspects that he was a Muslim.  Nonetheless, his death by decapitation in a 1791 rebellion, which he commanded, raised the demand, again, that led for freedom and the finally successful Black Haitian Revolution for Independence in which the Muslims, who were instrumental in that War,  spoke Arabic to confuse their enemies!

Before Dutta, another Maroon leader, a Marabout warrior in the Islamic tradition, François Macandal, too, attempted a rebellion, but was burned ghastly at the stake in 1758.  The Mandingos, a distinct linguistic group, from West Africa, provided much of the leadership during the Haitian Revolution, and many of them were most definitely Muslims.              

Islam had a vital impact at the birth of the Republic, and now it is beginning to assert itself once again.  Various estimates are that the Muslim population in this Creole motherland is between 3500 and 7000.  Most of the adherents to the faith live in Port-au-Prince earlier this month, where the majority of the death and destruction befell and the Mosquee Al-Fatiha stands (stood?), and the Bilal Mosque and an Islamic Center in the second largest city in the country, Cap Haitian, on the north coast is situated. (Cap Haitian, fortunately, was not impacted as much.)  There are other places of worship locally maintained throughout the land mass although your writer has not been able to confirm the comprehensive condition of the community after the disaster on January 12th. 

In the 1920s an influx of Arab immigrants entered Haiti from the Middle East – especially from Morocco although ethnically the largest of the Haitian Muslim population today are indigenous to their Caribbean country.  Your researcher did trace down some individual North American Muslims, but not their demographics within the populace.  Being an impoverished mixed assemblage, they were not able to construct their first Mosque until 1985.  It was a built from a converted residence.  The first minaret was built in 2000.  Whether that minaret is standing has not been determined by your journalist, also.

Politically, the first Muslim to enter the Chamber of Deputies (i.e., their Congress) was Nawoon Marcellus on the Fanmi Lavalas ticket, the Left-leaning party led by President Aristide. 

Your writer, who has gotten encouraging press releases from Islamic charities benefiting the citizens irrespective of belief, it is important to know that your Zakat is, further giving succor to your Muslim brothers and sisters.  The figures (0.4of the population) and institutions your writer has mentioned may have drastically been decimated.  After the situation has been solidified, rebuilding this small but burgeoning religious society remains.

12-5

Islamic Relief to Help Haiti

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

Islamic Relief USA works with Mormon church to aid Haitian quake victims

2010-01-20T185336Z_1133674928_GM1E61L082001_RTRMADP_3_QUAKE-HAITI

Residents leave Port-au-Prince by a bus after a 6.1 magnitude aftershock in Haiti’s capital January 20, 2010.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

(Alexandria, VA, January 13, 2010) — Islamic Relief USA, America’s largest Muslim relief organization, announced today that it will immediately fly a $1 million shipment of aid to those impacted by yesterday’s earthquake in Haiti. That relief aid will be sent in coordination with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Those wishing to donate to Islamic Relief USA’s “Haiti Emergency” appeal may visit www.IslamicReliefUSA.org or call (888) 479-4968. Checks payable to “Islamic Relief USA” may be mailed to: Islamic Relief USA, P.O. Box 5640, Buena Park, CA, 90622.

In October 2009, Islamic Relief USA responded to two Pacific Rim earthquakes by coordinating a massive aid shipment to Samoa and deploying emergency teams in Indonesia.

Islamic Relief partners worldwide also responded to other major disasters such as the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. More than $100 million in relief aid was collected to assist the victims in those disaster areas. Islamic Relief also responded to Hurricane Katrina, delivering aid to more than 60,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

[NOTE: Media professionals interested in speaking to aid workers who have experience in disaster zones or to learn more about ongoing response efforts may contact Islamic Relief USA VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan at 818-216-9723.]

Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) humanitarian agency with offices also in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas. As an international relief and development organization, Islamic Relief strives to alleviate the poverty and suffering of the world’s poorest people. Since its establishment, Islamic Relief has expanded greatly with permanent locations in more than 35 countries worldwide.

For the sixth consecutive year, Islamic Relief USA has been awarded four stars by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the country. This prestigious award puts Islamic Relief among the top 2.25 percent of charities in the nation.
Media Contacts: Anwar Khan, 818-216-9723 (mobile), E-mail: anwar@IslamicReliefUSA.org; Mostafa Mahboob, 310-351-0952 (mobile), E-mail: mostafa@IslamicReliefUSA.org

12-4

The Next Step: A Stealth Drone

January 4, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

AFP

beastofkandahar2 WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Air Force on Tuesday confirmed for the first time that it is flying a stealth unmanned aircraft known as the “Beast of Kandahar,” a drone spotted in photos and shrouded in secrecy. The RQ-170 Sentinel is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is designed “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces,” the air force said in a brief statement.

The “RQ” prefix for the aircraft indicates an unarmed drone, unlike the “MQ” designation used for Predator and Reaper aircraft equipped with missiles and precision-guided bombs. Aviation experts dubbed the drone the “Beast of Kandahar” after photographs emerged earlier this year showing the mysterious aircraft in southern Afghanistan in 2007.

The image suggested a drone with a radar-evading stealth-like design, resembling a smaller version of a B-2 bomber.

A blog in the French newspaper Liberation published another photo this week, feeding speculation among aviation watchers about the classified drone. The air force said the aircraft came out of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works,” also known as Advanced Development Programs, in California — the home of sophisticated and often secret defense projects including the U-2 spy plane, the F-22 fighter jet and the F-117 Nighthawk.

The photo of the drone in Afghanistan has raised questions about why the United States would be operating a stealth unmanned aircraft in a country where insurgents have no radar systems, prompting speculation Washington was using the drones for possible spying missions in neighboring Iran or Pakistan.

The Sentinel was believed to have a flying wing design with no tail and with sensors built into the top side of each wing, according to published photos.

The RQ-170 is in line with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ request for more intelligence and surveillance resources and with the Air Force chief of staff’s plans to expand the fleet of unmanned aircraft, the air force said.

The new drone is flown by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron out of Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, which is under Air Combat Command’s 432nd Wing at Creech Air Base, also in Nevada. The United States has carried out an extensive bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan using the Predator and larger Reaper drones.

Robots or “unmanned systems” in the air and on the ground are now deployed by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.

12-1

Major Donor to Israel Causes Pleads Guilty…

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Philanthropist pleads guilty to bribes

JTA

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Elliott Broidy, a leading investor in the Israeli economy and major donor and activist in the Los Angeles Jewish community, pleaded guilty Thursday to the felony charge of rewarding official misconduct.

According to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Broidy admitted that he made nearly $1 million in payoffs to four senior New York state officials as he pursued an investment from the state public pension fund. He has agreed to forfeit $18 million in management fees and a judge may impose a sentence of up to four years in prison following Broidy’s guilty plea, the Wall Street Journal reported. The development is part of Cuomo’s wide-ranging pay-to-play probe on whether decisions about how to invest retirees’ money in the giant pension fund were wrongly influenced by money and politics.

Cuomo said that Broidy has acknowledged paying at least $75,000 for high-price luxury trips to Italy and Israel for a top official in the New York State Comptroller and his relatives. Several media sources quoted unnamed sources identifying the official as the former comptroller Alan Hevesi; his lawyer reportedly declined to comment.

By raising $800 million, Broidy turned his Markstone Capital Group into the largest private equity fund in Israel, at a time when the intifada was at its height and most investors were shunning the Jewish state. In Los Angeles, Broidy has been a major donor to the United Jewish Fund and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a trustee of the University of Southern California and USC Hillel, and has served on the Hebrew Union College board of governors and as a trustee of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

He is credited with revitalizing the dormant California-Israel Chamber of Commerce in the mid-1990s, together with Stanley Gold and Stanley Chais. Gold is president and CEO of Shamrock Holdings and outgoing president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Chais, a large contributor to Israeli and Jewish causes, faces three legal actions as an alleged middleman for Bernard Madoff.

Broidy has also been a GOP heavy hitter, serving as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a top fund raiser for the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush in 2004 Sen. John McCain in 2008.

Gold said that he has known Broidy for some 20 years and worked with him on behalf of the local Jewish federation and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, as well as the California-Israel Chamber of Commerce. “Elliott has given freely of his time and energy to the community, of which he has been an outstanding member,” Gold said. “Our hearts go out to him and his family at this difficult time.”

Gold added, “Elliott is a decent and good man. It is not my style to desert a friend in his hour of need.”

Broidy’s New York attorney Christopher Clark issued a statement saying that his client “regrets the actions that brought about this course of events, but is pleased to have resolved this matter with the New York Attorney General and will be cooperating in the ongoing investigation.”

Clark also said that Broidy has “resigned from all operational, supervisory, and other roles at the firm of Markstone Partners in order to focus his attention on legal matters.”

11-51

US Moves to Seize Four Mosques, Claiming Secret Iranian Control

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jason Ditz

In a move being touted as “a sharp blow against Iran,” the United States government is attempted to seize four Shi’ite mosques across the United States, calling it the largest `anti-terror’ seizure ever and claiming the non-profit which operates them is secretly a front for the Iranian government.

The four mosques are located across the United States, in New York City, Houston, Carmichael California, and Potomac, Maryland. The non-profit Alavi Foundation faces formal charges of violating 1995 sanctions signed by President Clinton.

The group is funded principally through rent collected at a New York City skyscraper it owns, which the government also intends to seize. They provide funds to a myriad of Shi’ite religious institutions in the US and Canada and support for Farsi language education programs in US schools. They also provide interest free loans for Iranian-Americans to attend college in the US.

The seizure of the mosques by the federal government will be a serious hardship for worshippers, of course, but the capture of the 35-year old foundation’s assets and its dissolution will be devastating for America’s tiny Shi’ite community, which amounts to only about one tenth of one percent of all Americans.

Though the seizure of churches by the federal government is not unprecedented, it is extremely rare and fraught with controversy. The seizure of private religious institutions on the premise that they are covertly controlled by an “enemy state” only makes this move all the more controversial and will likely prove troubling to many Americans, Shi’ite or otherwise.

11-48

Profiles in Courage: Atif Moon

November 17, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

595DAtif M. Moon of California was recently honored as one of the top ten outstanding Americans by the United States Chamber of Commerce. His story is one of courage and determine to overcome all odds.

Born with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the spinal cord, Atif M. Moon, 24, was given no chance of survival. After three surgeries at the age of one month, he was left paralyzed from the waist down and became wheelchair bound. Moon had three more surgeries at ages 13, 15, and 16 to stabilize his spinal cord, but has not allowed his physical condition to restrict him from living a full life.

Moon currently works for Bertech Industries, an Electronic Distribution company, doing Online Marketing and will be pursuing a Masters degree in Sport Management in Spring 2010. After graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Business Economics in 2007, he went on to work for NBC at the Tonight Show as well as in Marketing and Product Development. While in school, he served as an intern for Fox Sports TV as well as the Los Angeles Kings. In the Fall of 2006, Moon had the wonderful opportunity to work on behalf of the President by being selected as a White House Intern.

Moon has been involved in sports from his early childhood, participating in a 5K-wheelchair race in 1990 at the age of 5 and then going on to actively participate in wheelchair tennis tournaments around the country. He won his first major tournament in 1998, and since then has been ranked among the top Junior Wheelchair Tennis players in the nation.

Atif_with_JohnWeber_President_USJuniorChamber

As a Co-Founder of the Center for Global Understanding (CFGU), a non-advocacy, non-religious organization to encourage the Muslim American youth to participate in civic engagement, Moons focus has been to provide scholarships for college-level students to intern in Washington, D.C., to understand and learn about America’s institutions of democracy. With the ultimate goal of providing a way to bring people together and help Muslim Americans get engaged in public policy, poverty, health, and education issues, Moon feels that Muslim Americans should play a significant role to make this world a better place.

Moon resides in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

The Ten Outstanding Young Americans program (TOYA) is one of the oldest and most prestigious recognition programs in America. Annually since 1938, The United States Jaycees has sought out the ten young men and women who best exemplify the finest attributes of Americas youthful achievers.

Many notables have been honored as Outstanding Young Americans in the past including Presidents John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton, and Vice Presidents Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and Richard Cheney. Also honored were Howard Hughes, Orson Wells, Elvis Presley, Nelson Rockefeller, Ted Kennedy, dogsled champion Susan Butcher, and actors Christopher Reeve, and Shannon Reed.

11-48

Mass Killers and Media

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

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

Who is in right mind will commit an act attributed to Major Nidal Malik Hasan? Why did he commit such an act when the alleged shooter had sought discharge from the army? Who in his right mind will condone such a criminal act? Regardless of what the motives were, the insane killing of soldiers at Fort Hood is rightly condemned by all Muslim organizations unanimously. Not every act of violence committed by KKK is condemned by people of white skin. Not every act of killing by blacks is condemned by organizations such as NAACP. Not every murder committed in a free society like us is condemned by organizations promoting democracy and freedom. If we as a country with billions of dollars resources spent on law enforcement agencies have failed to prevent groups such as KKK or gun violence or mass murderers, why does any body except 1.6 billion Muslims to be responsible of the behavior of their insane, and crazy people.

But somehow the impression that is being created by the media and propagated by the right wing Christian extremists is that 1.6 billion Muslims are responsible for what was done by Nidal Malik Hasan, as their holy book is the main reason for his behavoior. Well, why donot they also attribute to Islam and the Quran the act of kindness, mercy and forgiveness offered by Muslims to the people regardless of their ethnic or religious background? Look at how Islam and Muslims were demonized by the media.

* Suspected mass murderer Nidal Malik Hasan: Identified as a Muslim American of Jordanian or Palestinian Descend, a sympathizer of suicide bombing, a convert to Islam, a Jihadist, a true believer in the Quran, a practicing Muslim, a promoter of Al-Qaida ideology, a member of a terrorist sleeper cell and so on so forth.

Look at the pattern of news reporting about mass killers in our national and local media listed below and then tell me who is distorting facts? Tell me who is misleading the public? Tell me who is sowing the seeds of hatred. Some of them will say, Aslam Abdullah, because he is a Muslim American, a Middle Eastern by ethnicity and a covert terrorist. Can any sensible American accept their claim? Yes, only those who see Muslims and Islam as their new enemy. These are people who are trapped in the history of the past and refuse to look at Islam and Muslims from an objective, balanced and fair perspective.

Let’s start with another shooting incident that follows on the heels of the Fort Hood incident:

* November 06, 2009, Florida police have arrested a suspect believed to have opened fire Friday in the offices of an engineering firm where he was let go more than two years ago. Authorities have identified the alleged gunman as Jason Rodriguez, 40, a former employee at the office building. Did any news media identify him as an American of Hispanic decent?

* On March 10, 2009, Michael McLendon set fire to the rural south Alabama home he shared with his mother with her body inside. He then set off on a 24-mile shooting spree during which he fired more than 200 rounds and killed 10 more people, including himself. Was he ever described by the media or officials as an American Protestant?

* On April 3, 2009, a Vietnam immigrant killed 13 people and then himself in a shooting spree at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York. Did anyone call him a Vietcong terrorist?

* In the year of 1989, in two separate incidents, Westley Allen Dodd sexually assaulted and killed three boys ages 11, 10 and four. His methods were so heinous, forensic psychologists dubbed him one of the most evil killers in history. Did anyone call him Christian killer?

* Jeffrey Dahmer was responsible for a series of gruesome murders of seventeen young men in Ohio and Milwaukee. Who called him a Christian murderer? No one!

* Why Ray and Faye Copeland, both in their 70s, went from being loving grandparents to serial killers who used the clothing of their victims to make a warm winter quilt to snuggle under is a story both morbid and perplexing. Did anyone describe them American terrorists?

* Dean Corll was a 33-year-old electrician living in Houston, Texas, who, with two teen accomplices, was responsible for kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering at least 27 young boys in Houston in the early 1970s. – No one called him an evangelical terrorist?

* Accompanied by his girlfriend Debra Brown, Alton Coleman went on a six-state raping and killing spree in 1984. – He was not described as a Christian rapist?

* Angelo Buono, Jr. was, along with his cousin Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers who went on a two month rape, torture and murder spree in 1977, in California. – Was he identified with his religion and ethnicity?

* Jerry Brudos was a shoe fetishist, serial killer, rapist, torturer and necrophiliac who stalked women around Portland, Oregon in 1968 and 1969. – Should we blame the people of Oregon and call him an Oregonian rapist?

* In 1984, at age 21, Debra Brown became involved in a master/slave relationship with habitual killer and rapist Alton Coleman and the two went on a massive killing, raping and torture spree across the Midwest. – No one ever mentioned his race or religion.

* William Bonin was a habitual sex offender turned serial killer, suspected of sexually assaulting, torturing and killing at least 21 boys and young men in California. He was convicted and executed for 14 of the 21 murders. – No one talked about his affiliation to his local Church.

* Herbert Richard “Herb” Baumeister (April 7, 1947 – July 3, 1996) was the founder of the thrift store chain Sav-a-Lot and an alleged serial killer from suburban Westfield, Indiana. – His conservative background never came into discussion.

* Ronald Dominique of Houma, Louisiana confessed to murdering 23 men over the past nine years and dumping their bodies in sugarcane fields, ditches and small bayous in six southeast Louisiana parishes. – Yet, his Christian religious identity never came into discussion.

* Kristen Gilbert was a bright, attractive, well-trained nurse who, in 2001 was found guilty of killing her patients at a Veterans Administration medical center. – Did the media release footage of his visit to his place of worship? No

* Eagle Scout turned serial killer, Richard Angelo, killed patients in order to make himself out to be a hero.- Did anyone raise doubts about Scouting? No one!

* Helmuth Schmidt killed innocent women he lured through personal ads. – Did anyone blame the media for being an accomplice of the crime.

* The Lewington brothers were one of Ohio’s most deadly brutal serial killers of all time. – Did anyone bring about their Church affiliation? No one!

* Albert Fish is known for being one of the most vile pedophiles and killers of all time. After his capture he admitted to molesting over 400 children and tortured and killed several others. – Did the media talk about his religious pastor discussing his personal life?

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* Tedd Bundy was attractive, smart, and had a future in politics. He was also one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history. Bundy screamed his innocence until his death in the electric chair was imminent. Then he told just enough to show the true evil inside him.- Yet no one in the media talked about his race or religion.

* Richard Ramirez, was named The Night Stalker, after terrorizing Los Angeles during a year long killing and rape spree that resulted in his conviction of 43 counts, including 13 murders and other charges including burglary, sodomy, and rape. – Yet no one talked about Satanism he was preaching and practicing.

* John Wayne Gacy was convicted of the torture, rape and murder of 33 men between 1972 until his arrest in 1978. He was dubbed the “Killer Clown” because he entertained kids at parties as “Pogo The Clown.” – Did anyone blame all the clowns for his behavior.

* Gaskins confessed to several murders during the last days of his life. How much truth was in his confessions was never confirmed. Many believed he did not want to be known in history as a tiny man, but rather as a prolific killer. – He was a devout Christian but we never heard of his religious convictions.

* David Berkowitz, better known as Son of Sam, is an infamous 1970s New York City serial killer who killed six people and wounded several others because a demon dog told him to do it. – Should we assume from his last name that he was of Jewish origin?

* The Plainfield, Wisconsin police department had no idea of the grotesque world they were about to enter when they went to Ed Gein’s farm home to investigate the disappearance of a local woman. Gein’s crimes went down in history as some of the most disgusting ever uncovered that encompassed murder, grave robbing and cannibalism. – Yet, no one ever mentioned that he was a Church goer.

* Juan Corona was a labor contractor who hired migrant workers for produce fields in California. In a murder spree lasting six weeks, he raped and murdered 25 men and buried their machete-hacked bodies in the orchards owned by local farmers. – No one blamed hedonism or homosexuality for his crimes.

* In late October 1979, California authorities were busy hunting down and capturing The Hillside Strangler, Angelo Buono. In the meantime, two more equally barbaric killers had teamed up to fulfill a prison time fantasy – to kidnap, rape, torture and kill a girl for each teenage year. – Yet, we did not hear of their worshipping habits.

* On October 26, 2005, Jeremy Bryan Jones was convicted of the rape, burglary, sexual abuse, kidnapping and capital murder of Lisa Nichols. He now faces prosecution for the murder of Katherine Collins of Georgia and Amanda Greenwell of Douglas County, Ga. Police suspect Jones is a serial killer who may be linked to at least 10 other murders across the country. – No one discussed his faith and ethnicity.

* For month authorities from Utah, Washington, and Colorado worked together to find the serial killer named “Ted” who was brutally killing women everywhere he went, using their kindness to lead them into his trap. – Yet no one blamed Christianity for impacting the mind of the killer.

* Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins was the most prolific serial killer in South Carolina history. Once his brutality was unleashed, he knew no boundaries, torturing, killing, cannibalizing victims, both male and female. – No one talked about those verses in the Old Testament that degrades women, even though several versions of the Bible were found in his custody.

* Pedro Alonzo Lopez, known as the ‘The Monster of the Andes,’ was one of history’s most horrific serial killers. He responsible for the brutal murders of over 350 children. He bragged of his crimes and promised to do it again if ever released from prison. – Yet in the middle of the night he was taken from prison to a van then driven to the Columbia border and set free. We never heard of his Catholic affiliation.

* Turner is the most prolific serial killer in the history of Los Angeles but was finally identified through DNA technology. – But no one identified his religion.

* No one could believe that the child-like face of John Eric Armstrong, nicknamed ‘Opie’ by his navy friends, was really the face of a cold and calculating serial killer. – But no one talked about his religious practices.

* Jack the Ripper, a serial killer murdered and mutilated at least five prostitutes in the East End of London in 1888 and because no one was ever, arrested or tried for the murders, crime buffs are still fascinated with the case more than 115 years later. – His religious background is unknown.

* It is estimated Shipman was responsible for 236 murders over 24 years, finally ending in 1998.- Yet, we never heard of his affiliation to Judaism or any other faith.

“Most of the time I killed them the first time I met them, and I do not have a good memory of their faces.” This is just one of many cold statements made by Gary Ridgway, when he pled guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the Green River killing cases. – Yet little is known about his faith and Church.

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ISPU Banquet Grosses $250,000

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Neda Farooqi, MMNS

ISPU annual dinner accentuates issues facing American Muslims; raises $250,000.

“It is not the building that makes us big, it is us, you and I, that make us big,” said Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, referring to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, annual fundraising dinner in the banquet hall of the largest mosque in North America on October 24, 2009. “May Allah bless you all.”

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) is a nonprofit think tank organization, originated in Michigan that researches and evaluates US and foreign policy.

“ISPU’s mission is to focus on education, research, and analysis with an emphasis on issues effecting the Muslim community,” said Dr. Nauman Imami, Director of the Glaucoma Service at the Henry Ford Health System and member of ISPU Board of Directors.

Imami drew an analogy between Google and ISPU. “Google does one thing and it does it very well. It answers any questions posed to it.” According to searchenginejournal.com, Google ranks as the number one search site in the United States.

Imami explained that a public policy is created when there is a defined problem, a perceived solution, and political alignment.

Imami posed the question: “How are Muslims in America portrayed?” ISPU’s research has impacted many media products, such as the Newsweek cover story titled, “Islam In America,” published on July 30, 2007. Other networks such as CNN, BBC, and The Economist compile studies and data from ISPU. Media outlets such as Christian Science Monitor and the Associated Press have referenced several ISPU reports.

“ISPU provides solutions based on evidence and data for American Muslims,” said Imami.

“ISPU focuses on topics that are important to the community. Your concerns, your families, and domestic & foreign policy,” said Farid Senzai, assistant professor in the political science department at Santa Clara University and Director of Research at ISPU.

ISPU released several policy briefs on foreign topics ranging from the Arab/Israeli conflict to the predicaments taking place in Pakistan.  ISPU also examines domestic issues such as divorce in the American Muslim community, Muslim youth and ratification, and health clinics in the US.

ISPU has recently published a brief, “Death by Culture,” that centers on domestic abuse. This publication exhibits violence that circulated around the Rihanna/Chris Brown case and Bridges TV case, whose founder decapitated his wife in their television studio.

Senzai informed the audience that ISPU policy briefs have a high impact on US & foreign relations. “Four distinctive ISPU reports on Pakistan translated into very direct impact in Washington,” said Senzai. ISPU has also worked on topics of US & Iran relations, hosting a conference that invited scholars from Iran delegations and Egypt Sate Department Delegations. He was also invited to go to Egypt after the release of ISPU’s publications on US and foreign policy. 

A massive, two-year study on Muslim divorce is yet to be released, soon available to the public. 

Apart from fundraising, ISPU recognizes scholars and philanthropists annually for their research and significant impact. The 2009 ISPU Scholar Award was presented to Dr. Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. “I shouldn’t be getting an award for speaking the truth,” said Cole, upon receiving the award. Dr. Anjum Shariff, a radiologist in St. Louis, was the recipient of the Distinguished Award for Philanthropy. His work entails helping refugee children attending struggling public schools and tutors high school students. Anjum Shariff has also formulated a program for students to shadow physicians at his workplace.

Soon after dinner and the award ceremony, keynote speaker, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was invited on stage.

“It is nice to see chandeliers in the masjid, MashAllah, instead of lights flickering,” said Hamza Yusuf. Hamza Yusuf Hanson is an Islamic scholar who teaches at the Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California.

Yusuf reminded the crowd that Islam is not a monolith. “There is only one Islam,” he said. “But, there are multiple versions. Islam has many adjectives.”

The religion of Islam consists of different types of Muslims ranging from classical, traditional, Salafi, Sufi, Hanafi, Malaki and many more eclectic backgrounds. “The first and strongest strengths of Islam is Unity among diversity,” said Yusuf. “When you try to box people in narrow definitions, you are not acknowledging the depth of human beings.”

Yusuf also focuses on the difficulties that loom amongst Muslim Americans. “We are not recognizing that unity is not uniformity. That is the real problem of our community.”

Yusuf also spoke about western Muslim family and financial life.

“American Muslims have high levels of educations, with the average Muslim bringing in $70,000 [annually.]”

The Pew Research Center managed more than 55,000 interviews that were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu. This information allowed the Pew to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims, which assessed Muslim backgrounds, educational levels, and views on the western world. “We have potential to reinvigorate,” said Yusuf.

“What is driving us as a community? Where are we going?” Yusuf informs the crowd that the community has a lack of professionalism and strategy. “This is the purpose of think tanks like ISPU- to provide strategy and professionalism.”

Lastly, Yusuf directs the audience to avoid getting constricted in plots and conspiracies. Muslims know more about the conspiracies of September 11 than they do about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s). “The Prophet never complained or played the victim card. The question is what are you doing, not what are they doing.”

Yusuf advises the 750 attendees to stick to the truth. “Truth is such an extraordinary rare,” he said. In addition, he recommends that American Muslims should not be judgmental and need to take advantage of the opportunities placed for them. “We have our own nutcases. We don’t like to be judged, so don’t judge others.”

“I don’t care what the enemy did to us, cause we wont be asked about that. What we will be asked about is how we responded,” concluded Yusuf.

Among local residents, dignitaries, such as Charlene Elder, the first Arab-American female judge on Michigan’s Third Circuit Court and Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko were in attendance.

The guests were given the opportunity to meet the speakers and take part in the book signing with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Dr. Juan Cole, and Dr. Farid Senzai.
The event raised $250,000, reaching ISPU’s goal Saturday night. ISPU tackles social challenges with the support of donations. To learn more about ISPU and its upcoming events, please visit www.ispu.org.

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Community News (V11-I45)

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Kentucky Christians, Muslims unite to knock out crime

LOUISVILLE–Muslim and Christian leaders in Louisville and Lexington are putting up a united front against crime in the two cities.

The group held a meeting on Tuesday night aimed at “stopping the killing and accept responsibility.”

One minister said that starts with every resident accepting responsibility for the condition of the community and working together to make a positive impact.

He said it’s important to hold everyone accountable including politicians and average citizens.

The group hopes to start a plan called “manhood training,” which seeks to reach out to drug dealers and gang members.

Decision on Naperville mosque delayed

NAPERVILLE, IL–The DuPage County Board has delayed its decision on the Irshad Learning Center for two weeks. The latter had requested for a conditional use permit on unincorporated land.

The mosque project has been delayed ever since was placed before the county last year. It was turned down twice by the Zoning Board of Appeal. It was then approved in a unanimous decision by the board’s development committee last week.

According to committee chairman Tony Michelassi, District 5 representative from Aurora, the legal counsel wants any permit issued by the county to specify that the center would be allowed to use only the structures that already exist on the three-acre parcel. Without that limitation spelled out, the center could add on as it wishes.

The County Board’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 on the third floor of the Jack T. Knuepfer Administration Building, 421 County Farm Road, Wheaton.

Lodi parents concerned about food choices

LODI, CA –Parents of children at Lodi’s Heritage Primary Elementary have voiced their concerns over the menu choices at the school. They have asked the school authorities to allow them to accompany their children to the state-operated pre-school program so that they can help their children avoid haram foods.

The parent’s request was made to the Lodi Unified school board meeting.

According to Lodi News 12 percent of the school’s population is Muslim. At present the school doesn’t have any halal meat options on its menu.

The school authorities say that they are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

Journalist Alison Weir visits University of Michigan-Flint

FLINT, MI–Journalist Alison Weir, who is also the creator of ifAmericansknew.org, gave a presentation on the plight of Palestinians at the University of Michigan-Flint campus. The event was hosted by the Muslim Students Association, reported the Michigan Times.

“MSA’s focus in this event was to educate students about the Palestine-Israel conflict as well as the media’s skewed approach to the issue,” said Leila Tarakji, senior honors biology and English major and president of MSA. “We encourage our members as well as all students on campus to be aware of injustices that take place both domestically and internationally. We also urge students to seek more information and draw their own conclusions as opposed to absorbing the media without reservation.”

If AmericansKnew.org is advertised as an educational tool for people who want to go beyond the headlines.

California Muslims join rally against Neo-Nazis

ANAHEIM, CA–The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), along with members of the Riverside Muslim community, joined a rally on Saturday against neo-Nazis who had gathered to protest undocumented day laborers.

The organizers of the counter-protest said more than 600 members of diverse faiths and backgrounds joined the rally to speak out against the hatred and bigotry espoused by the neo-Nazis.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, who attended the rally with his children, said:

“It’s important for all Americans — whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Asian,, African-American, or other — to strongly and vehemently speak out against the hatred and bigotry of those who seek to dehumanize others.

“I brought my teenage children with me to the counter-protest to make sure they never take for granted the sacrifices of early civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez.

“With the continued economic downturn, anti-immigrant and racist groups are increasingly promoting anti-immigrant sentiment by unfairly blaming immigrants — documented or otherwise — for ‘stealing’ American jobs.

“CAIR-LA rejects such scapegoating and calls for immigration reforms that preserve the dignity and respect of immigrants and their families.

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Saudi to Launch Elite Science, Tech University

October 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tarek El-Tablawy

Capture9-30-2009-12.20.22 PM Cairo–Saudi Arabia has dug into its oil-fueled coffers to set up a new research university, a multibillion dollar coed venture built on the promise of scientific freedom in a region where a conservative interpretation of Islam has often been blamed for stifling innovation.

The King Abdullah Science and Technology University — complete with state-of-the-art labs, the world’s 14th fastest supercomputer and one of the biggest endowments worldwide — is poised to officially open its doors Wednesday on a sprawling campus nestled along the Red Sea coast about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the commercial center of Jeddah.

Saudi officials have envisaged the postgraduate institution as a key part of the kingdom’s plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub — the latest effort in the oil-rich Gulf region to diversify its economic base.

But KAUST, whether its founders intend it or not, has the potential to represent one of the clearest fault lines in a battle between conservatives and modernizers in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is the most religiously strict country in the Middle East with total segregation of the sexes and practices Wahhabi Islam — a byword for conservatism around the region. But the new university will not require women to wear veils or cover their faces, and they will be able to mix freely with men.

They will also be allowed to drive, a taboo in a country where women must literally take a back seat to their male drivers.

With KAUST’s inauguration, “we see the beginning of a community that is unique” in Saudi Arabia, the university’s president, Choon Fong Shih told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“We recruit the very best in the world …. and we give them the freedom to pursue their scientific interests,” said Shih, a mechanical engineer by training who headed the National University of Singapore for nine years.

While it takes decades to develop world class institutions like what KAUST hopes to become, the university’s breakneck inception in many ways reflects Saudi Arabia’s rise to wealth and power in the global political and economic arena.

The inaugural ceremony is to be headed by its namesake, the Saudi monarch, as well as several world leaders, dignitaries and officials who will stand on what three years ago was just a sweeping acreage of sand, but is now a 36 square kilometer (13.9 square mile) campus with its beach on the Red Sea.

In a region where Internet access can often be lackluster, KAUSTS boasts Shaheen, a 222 teraflops supercomputer which officials says is the fastest in the Middle East and 14th fastest in the world. The computer is named after the Arab Peregrine falcon, believed to be the fastest animal on earth.

It also boasts a fully immersive, six-sided virtual reality facility called CORNEA that officials say, for example, can allow researchers to visualize earthquakes on a planetary scale.

Among the other equipment and facilities are 10 advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, a coastal and marine resources laboratory and bioengineering facilities with labs needs to study cell molecules for DNA sequencing.

The English curriculum is focused on the sciences, with masters and doctoral degrees offered in nine fields including computer science, bioscience and various engineering specialties. The university is also focused on collaborative work with the private sector, as well as other research institutions.

KAUST has enrolled 817 students representing 61 different countries, of whom 314 begin classes this month while the rest are scheduled to enroll in the beginning of 2010. The aim is to expand to 2,000 students within eight to 10 years.

Of that total, 15 percent are Saudi, say university officials.

With research institutions, cash is king, and KAUST, thanks to Saudi’s oil wealth, has plenty.

It has tossed generous salary packages to prospective hires from around the world, an offer made more tempting by a multibillion dollar endowment that Shih says is “one of the biggest in the world.”

The 71 faculty members include 14 from the U.S., seven from Germany and six from Canada.

Shih did not provide a specific figure, but the funding allows all the students to receive full scholarships covering their tuition plus a stipend.

He says without that aid, students would have to pay about $60,000 to $70,000 per year — roughly comparable to the cost of attending elite U.S. schools like California’s Stanford University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The university is being launched at a time when the OPEC powerhouse has been upping its push to focus on education and development programs aimed at boosting economic growth.

Saudi officials have said they are committed to spending $400 billion over the next five years on various development and infrastructure projects, and the kingdom set a 2009 budget that ran a deficit for the first time in years specifically to sustain spending on such ventures.

But more than a projected research juggernaut in a region where other oil-rich nations are also embracing similar initiatives — albeit on a much smaller scale — KAUST may indirectly challenge the brand of conservatism that critics say has stifled progress in the Muslim world.

“We do not restrict how they wish to work among themselves,” Shih said, referring to whether men and women can freely intermingle on campus. “It’s a research environment …. driven by scientific agenda.”

In many ways, the campus is similar to other Western-style compounds in Saudi where residents are often allowed more flexibility in embracing liberal Western values shunned outside the confines of their community in the kingdom.

But the university also could also be seen as a return to Islam’s golden age — an era centuries ago when Muslim scholars took up the mantle of the Greeks and were pioneers in the fields of medicine, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, among others.

This tolerant and inquiring period was snuffed out under pressure from invasions by Crusaders, Mongols and nomadic desert hordes in the Middle Ages and was replaced by an age where faith superseded reason amid unstable times.

In the modern era, bureaucratic bungling, a lack funds, and a general stifling of freedoms has left much of the Arab Middle East in a state of academic and scientific atrophy.

Officials say KAUST’s embrace of scientific freedom marks Saudi Arabia’s determination to not be left behind as technology increasingly drives global development.

“In a way, we are paving the way,” said Shih, referring to the university’s focus on pure science. But if “KAUST is leading the way, it has to meet global standards of excellence, otherwise how else can we be a global player.”

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kaust graphic

All-American

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Berkeley–September 10th–The “Season” has begun and authors are trampling through Northern California – Muslims and non-Muslims, knowledgeable about the Ummah and its people – hawking their books.  Jonathan Curriel, author of Al’America:  Travels Through Arab and Islamic America visited my city the week after Labor Day.  Curiel is no scholar, but was trained as a journalist.  Although employed by the San Francisco Chronicle, he was partially educated in and reported from the Middle East.

The book under discussion was published by The New Press in November of 2008, and details the historic influence of Arab and Muslim culture on America — from the time of Columbus to 9/11 — with the ramifications of the latter event.  This is a book that concentrates on the historical and Pop Cultural aspects of Islamic influence upon America, but it does a great service by exposing the underpinning of Islam at the Grassroots of North American culture.  The author too often degenerates into uncomfortable insensitivity to your reviewers’ target audience. 

Reading the press release composed for his tour, I notice a “slickness” that makes your reporter feel ill at ease. His publishers are not presenting J. Curriel humbly forcing his readers to concentrate on his credentials rather than his work!  Still, that did not prevent the book from translation into Arabic by Arab Scientific Publishers, the Beirut print house that, also, has exposed several important European and American writers to an Arabic-speaking audience.

In 2005, his Newspaper was honored by Columbia University (the dominant) U.S. J-School (of Journalism) in New York City for Jonathan Curiel’s exceptional articles on race and ethnicity!  Your Observer commentator — does not know about bragging rights — but he should be proud of this!  This is something that he attempts to bring to this study, but he is honest enough to note where he fails.

For him – even after September 11th 2001 – denying Islamic civilization is not being part of the American fabric is wrong.  “Muslims not only belong…but are part of [the American] culture in so many ways!”

In fact, Christopher Columbus reached out to the Muslim “Moors.”  The Admiral of the Ocean Seas was substantially influenced by the Arabs to the point he could not have reached the New World in 1492 without his North African designed sails.  While Arab culture was waning in Southwestern Europe by the late 16th Century (CE), Columbus’ voyages notably brought subtle Arab influences to the Spanish colonies and later the Portuguese colony in the Americas – including those parts in the United States that Washington (D.C.) seized in the Mexican-American and the Spanish-American War plus the Louisiana Purchase!

Although Madrid prohibited Muslims from the Americas, the Alamo now in Texas is a classic example of Arabic Architecture!  New Orleans was a city shunted back and forth between the Iberians and the French.  Finally, President Thomas Jefferson bought it from the Emperor Napoleon.  When the Spanish possessed that famous city, they imported Islamic ironwork for which the Metropolis near mouth of the Mississippi — plus the renowned Muslim-styled courtyards within the Big Easy — migrated from the Middle East via the Iberian Peninsula.   

The date palm was brought to the Western Hemisphere — including the California of yours truly — from the Middle East, also, via Hispania. 

In the United States, a Muslim slave actually wrote a book in Arabic while being held in South Carolina.  Until the Twentieth Century most American Muslims came from West Africa (since they were victims of that ugly Slave Trade).  Jonathan Curriel, as well as a few eminent musicologists, believe that the American “Blues” musical sub-structure comes from Islam’s call to prayer.  

No less than the extremely important American thinker of the Nineteenth Century, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was profoundly influenced by Muslim culture.  Many important American intellectuals have been influenced by Islam, too, throughout the history of the American Republic (and even before –Thomas Jefferson, of course, comes to your reporter’s mind most quickly) up into the contemporary period.  There has been a long-standing cultural interaction between the Potomac and the Islamic nations according to Curriel. 

Of course, some of this interaction was not fully comprehensible to the Americans; and, thereby, can be considered in bad taste.  The Shriners and the Masons adopted pseudo-clothing accoutrement and symbols of the Muslims.  At its most forgiving was mere mimicry, but at its worst was insulting and in bad taste.  (Your scribe must point out that Jonathan Curriel did make these issues transparent, and did not cringe from describing it for what it was.)  Yet, since the immigration reforms under the late President Lyndon Johnson, highly prominent Muslim immigrants have been attracted to, and have joined the aforementioned organizations.  They have pressured these groups to give a form of Zakat and to make them even more service-oriented. 

The iconic Los Angeles rock(-n-roll) band of the 1960s, the Doors, were highly influenced by Arab music while the ultimate Rock star (of the 1950s), Elvis Presley, was a great admirer of Khalil Gibran, a Christian Lebanese immigrant to America.  His best known work was a sequence of inspirational essays, The Prophet.  They were pitifully greeted by the critics when they were published in 1923.  It definitely belongs to the opus of Arabic-language literature, but not Islamic literature.  Having read the book as a young man, when it was still a best-selling “underground” rage, your reviewer considered it to be  overly simplistic.  How much of it might be based on Mohammed (PUBH) is hard to say because of the elevated ambiguity of its poetic language.

Curriel maintained Presley somehow turned this book into his Bible.  Also, along religious lines, the Christian Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II had instructed that his casket placed on a Persian Carpet to demonstrate the unity of all religions.

Back to Pop Culture, the movie cycle and “cult” television series, Stars Wars borrowed motifs respectfully from the religion from Mecca.  Jonathan Curriel concluded, “Cultures go back and forth, and always borrow from each other,” continuing, “Muslims have contributed from the inception of the American nations,” and they are still highly visible and contributing members of our society.  Their contributions are no longer seen as insignificant within North American society.  

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