Three Million Could Lose Jobless Pay in Impasse

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Robert Pear, The New York Times News Service

2011-12-21T002027Z_1_BTRE7BK00YB00_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-USA-CONGRESS-BOEHNER

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pauses as he speaks to the media after the House vote on the Senate version of the payroll tax cut extension on Capitol Hill in Washington December 20, 2011.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Washington – More than three million people stand to lose unemployment insurance benefits in the near future because of an impasse in Congress over how to extend the aid and how to offset the cost.

Jobless benefits have been overshadowed by debate on a payroll tax cut, but have become a huge sticking point in negotiations on a bill that deals with both issues.

Republicans would continue aid for some of the unemployed, but would sharply reduce the maximum duration of benefits and impose strict new requirements on people seeking or receiving aid.

Democrats said these changes made no sense at a time when 45 percent of jobless workers had been unemployed for more than half a year and the average duration of unemployment — 41 weeks — was higher than at any time in 60 years.

Jon D. Grandstaff, 50, who lives in a suburb of Tulsa, Okla., said Tuesday that he had been watching the debate in Congress with trepidation, worried that his jobless benefits would be exhausted on Jan. 9.

“This mess in Congress is so upsetting,” Mr. Grandstaff said in an interview. “I don’t know who to blame — House, Senate, Republicans, Democrats. They are toying with people’s lives. I’m getting really scared and nervous.”

Mr. Grandstaff said he was making $43,000 a year when he was laid off in March from the collections department of a major cellphone company. Now he is working at a part-time job for $8 an hour and hoping the position will lead to full-time work.

Brenda G. Crosier, 52, of Northglenn, Colo., outside Denver, is also at risk of losing extended unemployment benefits. She said she applied for five to eight jobs a week but rarely received responses, and in a telephone interview Tuesday she had this question for Congress:

“Why are you leaving for Christmas vacation? If you worked for a company and you did not have your work done, you would not be walking out the door. You have no business leaving until your work is finished.”

Major provisions of the federal unemployment insurance program begin expiring in the first week of January, and people would begin to feel the effects over the next several months. By mid-February, the Labor Department estimates, 2.2 million workers would have lost jobless benefits, and by the end of March, 3.6 million will be affected.

People in states with the highest unemployment rates would be among the hardest hit.

The cornerstone of the program, regular unemployment insurance benefits, provides up to 26 weeks of assistance financed by the states. In states with high unemployment, jobless workers may be able to get up to 73 weeks of additional benefits, financed by the federal government, for a total of 99 weeks of aid. House Republicans would reduce the maximum to 59 weeks.

“This reflects a more normal level of benefits typically available after recessions,” said Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said: “I don’t see why you have to go more than 59 weeks. In fact, we need some incentives for people to get back to work. A lot of these people don’t want to work unless they get really high-paying jobs, and they’re not going to get them ever. So they just stay home and watch television. I don’t mean to malign people, but far too many are doing that.”

The Senate version of the payroll tax bill, passed with bipartisan support on Saturday, would continue paying jobless benefits under current law for two months, while lawmakers tried to figure out a longer-term solution.

House Republicans said they wanted a full-year extension, with additional requirements to prevent abuse of the program. They would require most recipients of jobless benefits to search for work and to pursue G.E.D. certificates if they had not completed high school.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, said the Republican proposals amounted to “the most drastic attack on the unemployment system” in 75 years.

House Republicans would also allow states to require drug testing as a condition of getting benefits. Democrats said such tests were an insult to the unemployed, because they implied that many were lazy drug abusers.

“I don’t see anyone in the Republican majority demanding drug testing for folks who receive oil and gas subsidies,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina.

But Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, said, “People who are unemployed should be looking for a job and should not become voluntarily ineligible by taking illegal drugs.”

Democrats say the program has reduced poverty and helped stabilize the economy, reducing the depth of the last recession. Republicans say the benefits have led some people to reduce their efforts to find new jobs.

Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, said: “The problem is not a lack of effort for those seeking a job. The problem is a lack of jobs.”

House Republicans said they had borrowed ideas from the jobs bill [4] that President Obama sent Congress in September. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the president’s proposal would probably reduce the maximum length of unemployment benefits to 79 weeks, from the current 99, in many states.

Republicans would allow states to get waivers from many federal standards and requirements, including one stipulating that money from state unemployment taxes must be spent on jobless benefits.
Democrats see the waivers as a threat to the fabric of the unemployment insurance system. But Republicans said that, instead of just writing benefit checks, federal and state officials must do more to help people get back to work.

“In this uncertain economy, using unemployment dollars to subsidize the training of a new employee to re-enter the work force is just good public policy,” said Representative James B. Renacci, Republican of Ohio.

This article, “Three Million Could Lose Jobless Pay in Impasse,” originally appeared at The New York Times News Service.

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Interfaith Statement: “Don’t Cut Programs that Will Cost Lives, Harm America”

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Nation’s faithful down to the wire with Super Committee, Congress:

By Church World Service

Washington, November 21, 2011 — While members of the Congressional Super Committee all but acknowledged their failure to reach an agreement on the federal budget, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches and representatives of Church World Service joined with people of faith in cities across the United States on Sunday to warn that cuts to programs for the most at risk families and children in the United States and abroad would cost lives and harm America.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary, said NCC member communions agree on one message for U.S. political leaders: “Do not try to solve America’s budget problems by taking away from those who have least to give.

“That’s why we are part of the Faithful Budget Campaign, and why we are taking part in Sunday’s interfaith Super Vigil, asking God to move the hearts of policy makers in order that fairness and compassion will guide their decisions,” Kinnamon said.

As part of a nationwide Super Vigil, people of diverse faith communities united in prayer at public rallies in cities across the country. At a rally in Washington across the street from the White House, the crowd heard national leaders representing Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths speak to the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Church World Service (CWS) Advocacy Director Martin Shupack was among the Washington faith leaders calling on members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to not reduce the deficit by placing an undue burden on the poor while shielding the wealthiest from additional sacrifice.

Shupack, one of four faith leaders who led the rally in a Litany for a Faithful National Budget, said, “We live in a world that is intensely interconnected. Loving our neighbors requires that we promote the global common good. Yet, programs may be severely cut that respond to HIV and AIDS, extreme poverty, food insecurity, overwhelming debt, violence against women, natural disasters and other urgent needs.” The rally group responded, praying “for a just and compassionate budget” for those “who live on the margins of our world.”

“Members of Congress are listening to the top 1 percent of Americans who take home 25 percent of all household income. They’re listening to Wall Street bankers and the Tea Party, bankrolled by billionaires, who want their tax cuts,” Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, told the ralliers. “Like Old Testament prophets, we stand here today to say that any political leader or system that pursues profits and power at the expense of the common good stands under divine judgment.

“God will not be mocked. Greed will not go unpunished. Justice for the common man is our cry,” he said. “Let’s fund not tax cuts for the wealthy but our nation’s future competitiveness. That means funding programs that build skills and productivity.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, Director of Public Policy, The Rabbinical Assembly, told ralliers and Congress, “When the Torah tells us that the poor will never cease from the land, we are not to read those words as an excuse for neglect.”

Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, told the assembly, “As a pastor I cannot stand idly by as more and more families struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. And I cannot remain silent as misguided politicians push an immoral agenda that punishes these people to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director for Interfaith and Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America, said, “The federal budget reflects the moral conscience of the American people and so it must reflect our moral commitment to protect those who are poor and vulnerable here in America and around the world.”

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Director of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said, “We are witnessing through the Faithful Budget Campaign growing numbers of persons of faith who declare that our Creator has something to say about political leaders using people in poverty as political pawns in their fight over the federal budget. . . . God’s truth will not be silenced in this federal budget debate.”

In addition to the D.C. prayer rally, religious Americans gathered this weekend for prayer demonstrations and other acts of religious activism in Richmond, Va.; Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., Dallas and Midland, Texas, Phoenix, Ariz., Cincinnati, Ohio, Seattle, Wash. and Sarasota, Fla. In Los Angeles, the Sisters of Social Service are celebrating their 85th anniversary as a congregation featuring a Super Vigil as part of their basic mission to respond to the social needs of society.

Following Sunday’s Washington rally, CWS’s Shupack said, “If no acceptable agreement is reached by the Super Committee in the short time before the deadline, Congress will now have an immediate need to vote to continue payroll tax relief and unemployment insurance for the sake of working Americans and the unemployed, and for the sake of an economy that needs this money circulating.
“During the months ahead, Congress will have to make decisions that are going to be fair and just before January 2013 when automatic deep cuts come in,” he said. “Congress will have to find a way to fiscal health by putting people back to work, increasing revenues and instituting only cuts that don’t harm the poor here and abroad.”

Shupack and the Interfaith leaders presenting at the Washington vigil are among those spearheading a Faithful Budget Campaign in recent months.

In July, the campaign organized high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of top religious leaders, daily prayer vigils near the U.S. Capitol Building and a peaceful demonstration in the Capitol Rotunda just days before Congress passed the debt ceiling compromise that culminated with the arrest of CWS’s Shupack and 10 other faith leaders for refusing to stop praying for the nation’s most vulnerable.

Over the past six weeks, the Faithful Budget Campaign and its network of religious worshipers have flooded congressional offices with telephone calls and letters encouraging them to preserve vital funding for the most vulnerable at home and worldwide.

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Wall Street and Islamophobia

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Oakland–October 31st–I lived in this curious city across from San Francisco for most of my thirty-one years here in the East Bay.  Unlike that City across the Bay, which is more of a dreamland where one goes when one is young, but Oakland is a gutsy –mainly Black – working class city.  It is, also, the third largest port on the West Coast.  Most of the Muslims here, too, are native born Afro-American converts with a considerable number of Eritrean refugees and a noticeable contingent Yemeni with Palestinian and other miscellaneous groupings.

What created Oakland in the Nineteenth Century was the fact that the trans-Continental railway ended here and its passengers would get off, and be put on ferries to the City on the Golden Gate.

Curiously, in the recent “Occupy Wall Street” Movement, more than New York or even the Western financial hub across San Francisco Bay, the seemingly provincial and small (400,000) peripheral urban space of Oakland has become a center of the battle against the financial collapse of “free” enterprise that the George W. Bush Administration accelerated through his anti-Islamic Colonial Wars.  As evil as that was, the administration of those Wars, were managed so incompetently that they failed to finance their martial adventures – contrary to the history of Foreign adventurism which usually leads to a stimulation of a national economy temporarily – in that the Bush Regime gave financially unsound tax-breaks to the upper 1% of the population – the economy shrank instead — as the national debt plummeted.  (Now, let it be noted, that I do not advocate preventative War in any way!)  

Many in the Muslim community here have suffered even more than the general citizenry.  Homes have been foreclosed, jobs have been lost and not regained, lifetime savings have slithered away, and, yes, despite residency in this land of plenty, there is even hunger.

Notwithstanding, President Barrack Hussein Obama’s attempted to prod a budget through Congress earlier this year that would begin to alleviate the suffering of the grand majority of Americans, which was obfuscated by the largely anti-Muslim “Tea Party.”  The latter have hindered relief to suffering American citizens / residents including those who attend the Mosques. 

Under Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was largely instituted as one of the Reconstruction Amendments, to prevent any future attempts to reverse the Thirteenth Amendment passed during the U.S. Civil War (1860s) to irradiate the deplorable institution of slavery, also, raises the question of what monetary powers Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment gives to the President.  “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned…”  Therefore, it is argued that Section 4 gives the President unilateral authority to raise or ignore the national debt ceiling (like in a national such as World War II, the Great Depression or the current financial crisis).

President Obama made a grave error in not invoking Section 4, and regulating by decree last February, and, hopefully, when the budget comes up again, and (economic) Keynesian solutions are called for, the Administration will block the reactionaries of the Lower house, for, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, an upcoming worldwide economic collapse is brewing due to the Euro-zone National Debt Crisis and the “Tea Party” fiscal interference in the States.  Therefore, to avoid this, drastic measures are indicated.

To counter this, a populist movement has arisen in America in protest against the corruption of the American system deregulated over the past several decades by interspersed right-wing governments.  In a letter, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim in Congress sarcastically writes, “…if you exercise your right to free speech against the excessive power and greed of Wall Street…they say you’re ‘dangerous’ and engaging in ‘class warfare.’”

The disproportionate importance of the Oakland demonstrations to the national movement is the reaction by incompetent elite who essentially stole an election by a conspiratorial manipulation of rank-choice voting.  (This minor city’s last two mayors had remarkable resumes – one a former Governor and the last a leading former Congressman.  It was expected that the last President Pro Temp of the California [State] Senate in Sacramento who represented Alameda County of which Oakland is the seat, who won a plurality of the first round vote, would be the next Mayor, but lost because three of the other candidates campaigned to have their supporters list two of the others as their second and third choices; thus, thwarting democracy with incompetency.  The result of which is that the current Mayor represents only one small ethnic element of the city; therefore, Muslims, who largely belong to the ethnic plurality, are denied political recognition here.)

Be that as it may, this Op-Ed is to state that the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement is related to Islamophobia because the same crisis that created hatred against Muslims in the States gave reign to the greed in America’s financial structure.  In a way, maybe Islam’s non-usury system has a lot to teach the West which, by the way, renounced a similar system in the Renaissance.

Some commentators have equated the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement to America’s version of the Arab “Spring.”  It is true that Islam and democracy can find a compatible form, but – like the case with Soviet Socialism – it may not be able to co-exist with American Capitalism as “written.”   I believe that the Koran and Hadith have much to teach the West in ways to reform its financial institutions and dealings.

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Who is Rupert Murdoch?

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A Word Or Two on What Isn’t Being Said

By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor, Veterans Today

NEWSCORP/

A man wearing a mask depicting News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch protests during a parliamentary committee on phone hacking at Portcullis House in London July 19, 2011. Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a protester on Tuesday while giving evidence to a parliamentary committee at which he defended his son and his company over a scandal that has rocked the British establishment.

REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Today the British papers not owned by Rupert Murdoch “rumored” that he might be jailed.  Americans, even Brits, have little or no idea  what is at risk here.  There is simply no one who can report it when the individual who, not only controls the world’s largest news organization turns out to be, well, what?

Who is Rupert Murdoch?

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has played a significant role in the elections of three U.S. presidents, as well as some of the events that have happened during their administrations including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic meltdown,  Gordon Duff, senior editor and writer for Veterans Today told Press TV.

What he is not is an Australian “right wing” billionaire.  Murdoch, though born in Australia is an Israeli citizen and Jewish.  Why is this important?

Murdoch is now admitted to have controlled the political systems in Britain and America for two decades.  He has had the power to choose national leaders, make policy, pass laws at will.  Where did the power come from?

We now know it came from spying, blackmail, bribery and propaganda.

What is his agenda?  Ah, there’s the rub.

Was it about selling newspapers using scandals or spying in the name of Israel to push Britain and the United States into wars for Israel?  There is a simple answer.

Murdoch’s primary motivation isn’t even that he is “for Israel.”  Murdoch is, perhaps, the most influential Israeli, more powerful than Netanyahu.  The problem with that is that his beliefs are what we call “ultra-nationalist.”

This makes him a threat.  Ultra-nationalists are known to support wars, plan terrorist acts, manipulate populations into strife and racism, foster fear and panic, even financial ruin.

What are we describing here?

If you aren’t totally brain dead, you realize I am describing Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Murdoch owns Fox News and so much else you may not have a time to look at the list.  If he doesn’t own it he doesn’t want it.

Fox is a network and Murdoch, owning so many newspapers across America and being a foreigner shouldn’t be able to control such a thing.  How did he do it?

Reagan “appointed” Murdoch an American citizen.  Murdoch promised to have Fox News support Republicans and say whatever was needed, no matter how false, how stupid or, as we  have seen now for decades, how genuinely evil.

What he really did, however, was use Fox as a base to allow Israel to run spy operations.

These went two ways:

1.  Israel got lots of military technology and secrets they could sell to America’s enemies for money.  This is good “Murdoch” business sense, as we all see now.

2.  Murdoch helped Israel gain control of congress.  They literally run the United States.  The tools?  As in Britain, bribery and blackmail, police, military and congress.

No surprises for anyone.

Murdoch has, in fact, engineered the last 20 plus years of American history, picking politicians, throwing elections, establishing policies.  Were the decisions his own?

I don’t think so.  I think Murdoch represents a group, mostly financial, making up the Rothschild family, the Federal Reserve Banks and organized crime.

There is an Israeli or Jewish aspect to some of this but not in the sense of being “pro” or “anti” Semitic.  The Murdoch empire, married to the “lily white” “no Jews allowed” Republican Party simply put their own very powerful spin on the good old “New World Order,” pushing it into drug running, arms and human trafficking, manipulated international currencies and debt on a massive scale, ran America and the European Union into economic collapse, worked with oil companies to set up price fixing schemes…

This is what Murdoch and his friends have done, all the while pointing their fingers at Osama bin Laden and the evil “liberals.”

They divided Britain, starting at first as “conservatives” and then changed to “liberals.”  What they did in Britain is undermine legal government, destroy the nation and the public’s trust in the government, Blair, Cameron, it doesn’t matter, Murdoch chose both and ran and runs both like hand puppets as he did with Bush and his friends.

The ideas are simple.  Bilk the countries out of every last cent, use a portion to bribe or blackmail politicians, buy police and get even more money.

Then you lie to the people, give them enemies to hate, arrange wars for them to fight and stand back and watch them destroy themselves.

Are there people really this evil?

Yes there are, Murdoch, the gang at his companies, the gang at Fox News, the folks in the US called “neocons,” the Israeli lobby in the US, the ADL, AIPAC and the Likudist faction in Israel run by Netanyahu.

These folks hate the United States.

A similar group hate Britain.  Australia has their own, he runs that place entirely, right into the ground.  He also runs Germany, Canada, he runs much of what was once the “free world.”

Am I describing Satan?

Pretty much.

His strongest advocates, those who have stood with his thieves and liars against all that is decent, all that is good, all that is right is the Evangelical and “Zionist” communities in the United States.  They were and are the “fertile ground” for his message of hate and deceit.

Who does Murdoch claim to hate?

Muslims for sure, they are all bad.  Everything he touches in his hundreds of publications and TV shows or the phony news his gang of cutthroats create, hate of Muslims is always on top.  This pleases his Israeli friends.  If things keep going as they are, he may need to hide out there and Israel will always protect him, maybe plow down a few Palestinian homes to give him a grand estate.  After all, Muslims are an easy target, living in petty dictatorships run by thieves who we have now learned have always run to Washington and Tel Aviv for orders.

Take out a second.  Think the word “Palestinian.”  Do you also think “terrorist?”  Do you see a child being killed by an Israeli helicopter or innocent people killed by a TV villain, almost invariably played by Jewish actors, perhaps a sick “inside joke” of Murdoch’s.

Even the “revolutionary types” did the same.  The Islamic people of the world have been played, exploited and crushed since 1919.  History will show it carefully planned and financed by a certain European banking family, one that 6 years earlier had established an illegal banking system in the US.

Learn about the real Balfour Declaration and how it was gotten through blackmail, learn who wrote it and to whom it was sent.

The story reads exactly like the things that are coming out in Britain day after day.

Murdoch tells his followers to hate “smart people.”  There has to be fear of the educated, the “elites.”  You can’t have rampant racism and blind ignorance until you destroy public trust in the natural leaders, until you destroy real culture and replace it with mechanized music, scandal mongering, dirty sex and endless conspiracies.

Murdoch is the real king of conspiracy theories.

Look at the endless list of wild accusations that came from Fox alone.  Then look at the others, the accusations, the wild and insane things that were written into history but likely planned by Murdoch.
9/11 probably had Murdoch’s hand in it as did the London bombings on 7/7.

There could be no great conspiracy without control of the news.

Now we find the news itself controlled the governments and may well have written the scripts to the wars, the rigged elections, the acts of terror and the misdirection that sent America into a decade of cruel and useless bloodletting after terror groups that never existed in the first place.

Now, today, as our British cousins are reeling in the revelations that their government for decades has not been their own, a diseased hybrid of crazy old man, Israeli spies and the paid stooges that the people thought were serving them….

And it goes on in America, full blast, Murdoch and his creatures, planning the future of America.

One of his creatures is Boehner.

Another is Palin.

Then there is Gingrich.

There was the entire Bush administration.

But, to get to the dark heart of evil, first you look at Fox News.

Gordon Duff is a Marine Vietnam veteran.  A 100% disabled vet.  He has been a featured commentator on TV and radio including Al Jazeera and his articles have been carried by news services around the world. He has been a UN Diplomat, defense contractor and is a widely published expert on military and defense issues.  Duff is Senior Editor at one of  the most widely read Veterans Online publications Veterans Today.

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ISNA Unites with Interfaith Leaders to Protect Federal Funding for Poverty Assistance Programs

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

July 14, 2011 – Representing a growing movement of Americans concerned that the Administration and Congress are enacting a budget deal that will place an undue burden on the poor “while shielding the wealthiest  from any additional sacrifice,” ISNA leadership and other leaders representing Christian and Jewish faiths today launched a new campaign to encourage policymakers to maintain a robust U.S. commitment to domestic and international poverty programs.

More than 25 heads of communion and national religious organizations are spearheading an 18-month faith-based public policy campaign to urge Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the U.S. and abroad from budget cuts.  The campaign will consist of high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders and daily prayer vigils among other actions.

The daily prayer vigils are being held on the front lawn of the United Methodist Building (100 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington, DC) near the U.S. Capitol Building.  Led by a different religious organization each day at 12:30 p.m. EDT, the prayer vigils will continue throughout the White House led budget negotiations.  ISNA led a prayer vigil for the leaders on Tuesday, July 12.

More than 25 heads of communion and national religious organizations are spearheading an 18-month faith-based public policy campaign to urge Congress and the Administration to exempt programs that assist at-risk families and children in the U.S. and abroad from budget cuts.  The campaign will consist of high-level meetings with policymakers, a Washington fly-in of religious leaders and daily prayer vigils among other actions.

In their letters to President Obama and Congress, the religious leaders stated, “People who are served by government program – those who are poor, sick, and hungry, older adults, children, and people with disabilities – should not bear the brunt of the budget-cutting burden.”

They further explained that “Houses of worship and communities of faith cannot meet the current need, much less the increased hardship that would result from severe cuts in federal, and consequently, state programs.  We need the public-private partnership that has for decades enabled us as a nation to respond to desperate need, both human and environmental.”
During the briefing, Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, ISNA National Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances, spoke first about our responsibility to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
He said, “It is our religious duty as part of the faith communities to convey our concerns about the problems of the budget cuts that will directly impact low income individuals and the dispossessed. We are asking for a budget that should be just and equitable.  It is our Islamic duty because this is one of the pillars of Islam.”

Christian, Jewish and Muslim institutions and faith-based organizations, united by shared beliefs to lift up the nation’s most vulnerable, are mobilizing across the country to impact the national budget dialogue by demonstrating that America is a better nation when we follow our faiths’ imperative to promote the general welfare of all individuals.

Contact: Adam Muhlendorf, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications adam@rabinowitz-dorf.com; (202) 265-3000

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Reservation & Indian Muslims

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: How serious are the politicians and other leaders who have recently started voicing their concern about the need of reservation for Indian Muslims? Describing Muslims as socially and economically backward, they are demanding reservation to help them progress. Though some importance is being given to these demands, prospects of their being implemented remain fairly dim. This demands an analysis of the Reservation-issue for Muslims from several angles. What has prompted several leaders to start talking about it now in louder than before tones? Why are chances of it being implemented bleak? What has prompted “concerned” politicians to assure aggrieved sections that the issue is being considered?

Seriously speaking, greater importance is being accorded to making political noise about reservation for Muslims than actually assuring that their socio-economic grievances are dealt with constructively. With Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections scheduled for next year and the national parliamentary elections in 2014, electoral preparations are gaining political heat. The Congress is hopeful that by assuring Muslims a reservation quota in government jobs and education, it is likely to win their support in UP assembly elections. The UP assembly polls are also viewed as a “dress rehearsal” to national elections. Political victory in UP is expected to play a crucial role in helping Congress consolidate prospects of electoral gains in the subsequent parliamentary polls.

Against this backdrop, the timing is just perfect for Muslim leaders and various organizations to gain some political mileage by voicing their concern on the reservation-issue. This is one side of the political-hype made over reservation for Indian Muslims.

India is home to second largest population of Muslims in the world. Muslims constitute the largest minority in India. Twenty-five percent of UP’s population are Muslims. Statistically, thus, the Congress cannot afford to ignore the electoral importance of the Muslim vote-bank in UP as well as the whole country.

Not surprisingly, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said recently that the home ministry is expected to submit a “concrete proposal” for minority reservation soon. With the necessary formalities, including consultations, having been completed, he said: “The home ministry will now take it forward. There is a sense of urgency.”

The Congress-led coalition government is likely to push for a proposal on lines of the model adopted by the southern states, which have provided reservation for Muslims – out of the existing OBC (Other Backward Classes) quota. Suggesting this, Khurshid said: “We believe the OBC element of affirmative action must be rationalised and fine- tuned in the manner in which it is being done in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.”

But this is not an easy job. Questions have already begun being asked on the sudden sympathy being displayed by Congress to a commitment it made in 2004. The 2004-Congress-election manifesto said: “The Congress is committed to adopting this policy for socially and educationally backward sections among Muslims and other religious minorities on a national scale.”

Besides, while several leaders are not opposed to reservation for Muslims, they are against it being offered out of the OBC-quota. They fear that this political-card will create divisions in their OBC vote-bank. Janata Dal-United leader, Sharad Yadav, who is also a activist of OBC, said: “The government is trying to create divisions in the backward society.” Criticizing the government for not implementing the current OBC quota, he asked: “The rate at which the government fills the existing OBC quota is just two to three percent. The backlog is huge. With nothing on your plate, what will you offer the Muslims?”

“There should be a separate provision for Muslims if we are seriously interested in uplifting the backward sections of the community. It would be ideal, in my opinion, if a separate component of reservation is made for the Muslims to bring them on par with other sections of society,” according to Ram Kripal Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal Legislator in Upper House).

It maybe noted, the Ranganath Mishra commission recommended reservation for Muslims and Christians from within the 15 per cent quota for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the 27 per cent OBC quota. Set up in 2005, the commission submitted its report in 2007. The commission pointed out that caste system was prevalent among Muslims too. The commission recommended that Muslim Dalit groups, whose counterparts exist among Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, should also be included in the central or state SC lists.

Several years have passed since reservation for Muslims was recommended by the Mishra commission and since the Congress committed itself to do so. The Indian Muslims have yet to benefit from the reservation-proposal. The manner in which the Congress has raised the issue at this juncture suggests that it is trying to play two cards at one go. The party is optimistic that this issue will help Congress win support from Muslims, particularly in UP. The Congress is also hopeful that the divisions created in OBC-vote bank will help it politically. Against this backdrop, politicking is more strongly linked with noise being made over reservation for Muslims than concern for their actual socio-economic progress!

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IV. End Game!

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Ashland (Ore.)–Your raconteur has found himself in the Siskiyou (Mountains) of Southern Oregon (about ten miles north from the California border).

This charming small city has been short-listed as one of the best “urban” areas in America with the right mix of (nearby) nature (Crater Lake National Park et al. is close) in balance with (Euro-American) culture.  This municipality is home to the highest acclaimed Shakespeare Festival in the United States along with other festivals and individual events.  Provided one is not working against a deadline, one does not have to be bored here – with Allah (SWT’s) awe-inspiring natural landscape during the day, and His arousing beauty of the human mind’s creations during the evening!
In the Middle East the vocabulary is stalemate.  Libya, Syria and Yemen are in all-out civil war with no end in sight although Colonel Khadafy is “testing the waters” for an amnesty from prosecution if he steps down and to allow polls to determine the will of the people to conclude this status of civil war.  It was reported Sunday (the 19th) a horrible bungled NATO (North Atlantic Treaty organization) sortie over the city of Tripoli missed its target slaughtering a large number of human souls.  Although your author had originally supported the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty organization’s) intervention at the behest of Islamic organizations pressing for the end to these repressive regimes, I must question its methods at this time, for it is doing further damage to the Muslims there who have suffered so much.

On the 15th, the Lower House of the (U.S.) Congress passed a vote of “no confidence” for their support of the Executive’s activities in Libya; and, thus, also, of our orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan as well.  Curiously, on Saturday (the eighteenth), (U.S.) Secretary of State Robert Gates admitted that the District of Columbia had recently had face-to-face negotiation with the Taliban, too, which is a positive sign towards solving an intractable confusion between the West and a less than attractive faction within Islam itself.

Let it be noted that Barrack Hussein Obama has been the most sensitive of American Chief Executives to Dar al-Islam.  He has nearly rectified the mess George W. Bush had created through his criminal aggression and War Crimes against Humanity (especially torture) in Iraq; the Obama Administration has fashioned a reasonable policy for Afghanistan, which mêlée was dumped upon him by the previous Administration when it refused to neutralize a legitimate threat to the Columbian Commonweal (Al-Qaeda) – because it violently and maliciously crashed into the heart of North American Metropolis, and, instead, “W” began to chase imaginary “goblins” elsewhere in the Islamic world (i.e., Iraq). 

The current regime in Washington has shown a much greater restraint compared to France and Britain over the  Tripolian desert, and the U.S. has served officially in more of a supportive than leadership role.  The criticism of Obama in and out of Congress is from the Tea Partyers (“No Nothings”), and disgruntled Leftists who are unable to cope with the real-world; and, therefore, criticize almost anything practical. 

(For the American populace of Islam, the bell-weather Representative Keith Ellis should be listened to determine a correct course for those of the faith, for he is a Muslim who has chosen to work within the highest levels of the System, and can guide all of us well!)

In Islamic South Asia, the ill-falling out between the District (Center) and Rawalpindi over the Punjab-related incident of the bin-Laden raid is inanely claimed by ill-trained (U.S.A.) J-School (Journalism School) graduates that the two uneasy long-phased allies—the U.S. and Pakistan – now against the Taliban – and even  before the U.S.S.R. (Union of Socialist Soviet Republic) invaded the Afghans — are almost at the point of pugilism is pure rubbish…although the unannounced commando attack next to an Army base near Rawalpindi (and, thereby, Islamabad) against bin-Laden himself has provoked tension that will not go away quickly!

Let us continue, and move to the denouement of the view of what is happening within the Middle Eastern Hebrew  State from the perspective of a dissident retired IDF General and a Ministry of “Justice” lawyer with the comments of the Director of a liberal American pro-Israeli group, J-Street, who are seeking a realistically striving  for an  acceptable peace with justice between our mutual Holy Land’s inhabitants (from where Prophet Muhammad (s) made his Night Right from the Spire of Solomon’s Temple). 

Just this afternoon (the twentieth) the journal, Foreign Affairs, reported that there was a great uneasiness between the Tel Aviv establishment and their military (IDF) over the actual security situation over the Jewish State and their Islamic neighbors – including the “Occupied Territories.”  General Sharoni

Our discussants, who acknowledged the Palestinians just entitlements, were noticeably at odds with their Prime Minister (Netanyahu’s) positions.  It was interesting to hear a high-ranking Israeli military officer’s comments regarding the defensibility of the pre-1967 borders from the perspective of his homeland.  In his estimation, they are eminently defendable from his military view:  “Formerly, we were threatened by the surrounding nation-States.  Now that is not the case [they’ve made peace and/or understanding with their neighbors].  Today, the threat is terrorism, and having unsecured borders makes it hard for us to defend ourselves!”  In the end, this interpretation of their security counters his government’s claim that the Obama proposed borders are indefensible, and forces Tel Aviv to continue their policy of “unending War” which in the end is unsustainable.  (It, also, demonstrates that the contemporaneous rightist establishment is more concerned with founding a “greater” Israel which is a dangerous policy both to their dominantly Islamic neighbors.)

Ms. Hassan of Justice; therefore, urges all of us (Jews, Muslims and Christians, etc. alike) to request (our governments) to support the Two-State Solution as the only workable resolution! 

The American-Jewish leader on the call, Jeremy Ben-Ami, rejoined his recommendation that the American Jewish Community support this resolution within the Halls of Congress, and to explain their assessment to their co-religionist landzmen!  (Your critic behind the computer has advocated the best allies for American Muslims are progressive American Jews, for they have had to go through many of the same things American Islamic citizens/residents to become accepted on this Continent, and you must get to know each other better to build avenues for communication between each of your communities if you, personally, are willing to do so.  Liberal American Jews and Muslims can do much to walk together to change things around in Washington for all of us born from Abraham’s seed!  That is, we, personally, must resolve to be part of the resolution.  We have agency!

There is still one more section to go before the final analysis and conclusions can be made from this rich experience your reporter stumbled upon.  Hopefully, it will provide one of many possible scenarios for discussion.

13-26

Forbesganj-Case: Politicians’ Secular Image At Stake

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: While the Forbesganj incident is proving to be a major embarrassment for Bihar government’s “secular” image, it has made the state’s opposition parties extra-conscious about their “secular” image. Taking the lead are Congress leaders in Bihar. Four Muslims were killed from police firing at Forbesganj in Araria district on June 3. A “clash” between the police and locals also caused injuries to several people, including some policemen. Demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)-probe into the incident, Bihar Congress leader Mehboob Ali Qaiser has blamed the state’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi for the incident. Qaiser alleged that during his visit to Forbesganj on May 29, Modi had apparently pressurized the administration to settle a local dispute over a link road that passed through plot of land allotted to an upcoming starch factory. The agitated mob was apparently against the upcoming factory blocking the only road to their village, which they have been using for the past 50 years. In protest, they had demolished a part of wall constructed by the management of this starch factory. The director of this industrial unit is the son of local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashok Kumar Aggarwal.

Qaiser’s implication is that primary purpose of Modi’s Forbesganj-visit was to ensure that local people’s agitation was silenced and the starch factory’s construction was not disturbed. The developments have certainly proved politically more costly than perhaps Modi and his supporters envisaged. The opposition parties are using the opportunity to question the secular and “pro-Muslim” image won by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Television footage of the incident and comments made by certain celebrities are helping the Bihar’s opposition leaders further. There is footage of an officer stomping on body of a person injured in the police officer. Questioning the incident, Bollywood filmmaker and social activist Mahesh Bhatt deliberated at a press conference in Patna: “Will chief minister Nitish Kumar allow Bihar to go the Gujarat way?”

Bhatt has raised a valid point as the manner in which police firing took place in Forbesganj is hardly suggestive of an unruly mob having been targeted. If the intention of police was to disperse people agitating against the “wall,” they could have used tear-gas shells, fired in the air or below the agitators’ knees.  The upper parts of victims’ bodies were hit by 15 of 16 bullets, according to post-mortem report. Prospects of the victims being agitators are ruled out by local reports. Eighteen-year-old Mushtaq Ansari, who ran a betel shop to support family, was going to offer Friday prayers when the police picked him and fired four bullets into his torso. When he fell down, the police kicked him brutally. Infant Naushad, was being carried by his mother, when he was killed by two bullets in his back. Six bullets killed Shazmin Khatoon (27), who was pregnant. Mukhtar Ansari (22) succumbed to four police bullets, three in his head.

It may be recalled that despite BJP and his party (Janata Dal-United) being allies, Nitish Kumar did not allow entry of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi during campaign for Bihar assembly elections. Kumar apparently did not want to lose votes of Muslims in Bihar. Against this backdrop, the Forbesganj-incident has provided opposition parties ample political ammunition to question secular credentials of Kumar’s government.

Led by Congress leaders, Ranjit Ranjan and Lalan Kumar, several party activists observed a day-long fast at Kargil Chowk in Patna (June 12). They also held a demonstration there. “We want a judicial probe or an inquiry by CBI within a stipulated period of six months, besides registration of criminal cases against the local administration and policemen,” Kumar told media persons. Besides, he said: “The state government should also dismiss all the officials and policemen involved in the incident.” In addition, the state government must ensure compensation of ten lakh (one million) rupees to bereaved families of each of the deceased, Ranjan said.

The state Congress leaders want Bihar government to ensure a speedy trial and punishment to guilty policemen and officials responsible for firing. They want registration of a case under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code against the police officials. They have also demanded registration of a case against local BJP leader Ashok Aggarwal and his arrest.  “Congress workers will protest till the state government registers a case and removes Araria police superintendent of police,” Ranjan said.

Though Kumar ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident soon after its occurrence on June 6, he took more than a week to take other steps. He ordered removal of removal of Forbesganj sub-divisional police officer R.K. Sharma for “dereliction” of duty on June 12. He announced compensation of three hundred thousand rupees to family of seven-month-old boy killed in the police firing. He made these announcements before leaving for China. There was no word on compensation for families of three other victims. He stated: “As a judicial inquiry has been put in place, we will go by its findings and recommendations. Let me make it clear that the guilty will not be spared.”

The opposition leaders and activists, however, are not satisfied with this response of Bihar chief minister. Bihar’s main opposition party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has decided to conduct a probe into the Forbesganj-case and send its report to National Human Rights Commission, the central government and the Bihar Governor. Strongly criticizing the state government, RJD leader Ramchandra Purve said: “Four innocent poor people were killed by police when they were protesting silently… and it is a barbaric act by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He is more sensitive and concerned about anything happening outside the state… The RJD will expose his double face over the issue.”

Other opposition parties, including the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and left parties have also demanded stern action against those involved in Forbesganj-case. They have threatened to protest if the state government fails to take necessary action.

13-25

Communal Violence Bill Incites Heated Debate

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13-23

Mohammed Bin Hammam Withdraws from FIFA Election

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

2011-05-30T144724Z_2134548283_GM1E75U1REF01_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-FIFA-BINHAMAM

President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Mohamed bin Hammam speaks during an interview in Doha in this January 5, 2011 file photograph. Mohamed bin Hammam will appeal against his provisional suspension from FIFA in the hope of taking part in the governing body’s congress this week.

Picture taken January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad/Files

Qatari soccer official Mohammed Bin Hammam withdrew from the race for presidency of international soccer’s top post of president of FIFA in the midst of corruption charges. The withdrawal of the only challenger paved the way for the re-election of a man who has been swimming in controversy since he set foot in office, current FIFA president Sepp Blatter. And that re-election is now official. Bin Hammam was subsequently suspended even before any investigation was undertaken. It has been alleged that he offered $1 million in bribes to Caribbean football officials.

Bin Hammam released a statement regarding his suspension. “I was punished before I was found guilty,” he said. “In a letter to Fifa sent this morning, Mohamed Bin Hammam protested against the unfair way he is treated by the Fifa Ethics Committee and the Fifa administration. Despite his explicit written request, he was not provided with the motivated decision of his suspension in due course and he was not able to file his appeal and was denied his last opportunity to get access to the Fifa congress.

“In his letter, Mohamed Bin Hammam stated 10 points which demonstrate very clearly that he is not getting a fair proceeding. “Most importantly, there is absolutely no justification for a suspension. The suspension is not necessary to conduct the investigation but constituted a grave violation of his reputation and created substantial damage without any necessity. Mohamed Bin Hammam repeated: “I was punished before I was found guilty. There are reasons to believe that the suspension was a solitary decision of the Chairman and not the Ethics Committee. A solitary decision of the Chairman is only possible in emergency situations, which was absolutely not the case here. The panel of the Ethics Committee was fully present.

“Mohamed Bin Hammam does not understand why the Ethics Committee found the statements of the sole eyewitness truthful when it came to the allegations made against him but disregarded the written statements of 12 CFU officials in his favour. The behaviour of the Fifa General Secretary at the media conference on Sunday evening was absolutely unacceptable and against all principles of justice. Sitting next to the Chairman of the independent Ethics Committee, he abused the event to voice his personal opinions and to comment on the results.”

“Because of this very unfair treatment, Mohamed Bin Hammam reserves all his rights, against this unprofessional and one-sided attitude, with the judicial bodies of Fifa and beyond. I am very sad and disappointed over what has happened in the last days. I will never accept how my name and my reputation have been damaged. I will fight for my rights. I thank all the people who have supported me during the last weeks and will support me further. Good days bring you happiness, bad days bring you experience.’”

13-23

The Fake Outrage of the Israel Firsters

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By MJ Rosenberg

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/NETANAYHU

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man walks past mannequins on a street in Jerusalem’s Old City May 25, 2011. Palestinians and Israelis alike saw little prospect of a fresh start to Middle East peace talks on Wednesday after Israeli PM Netanyahu’s keynote speech to Congress. 

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

There was absolutely nothing about President Barack Obama’s Middle East speech to get excited about (and even less in his statement following Friday’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu). The president did not even attempt to set out an action plan; he offered broad principles, ones that have been offered before by five previous presidents.

He delivered the speech in an effort to get the jump on Netanyahu who is in town to address Congress and AIPAC. Bibi’s goal is to mobilize his followers against any U.S. efforts to promote an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Netanyahu, who grew up in the United States, is a de facto Republican and, as in 1998 when President Clinton was in office, he wants to strengthen the GOP vis a vis the Democrats.

Delivering the speech was probably a mistake. But Obama felt that he had to deliver it — to preempt Netanyahu’s war-mongering with some good pro-Israel boilerplate and to neutralize some of the opposition to U.S. policies toward Israel that is weakening our standing with the evolving Arab democracies.

For obvious national security reasons, the United States cannot afford to have a new generation of Arab democrats in nations as significant as Egypt hating us because they view America as being in Israel’s pocket. A strong rhetorical endorsement of peace would both help neutralize Netanyahu’s demagoguery and defuse opposition to both America and Israel in the Muslim world. Meanwhile, it would please Netanyahu’s followers.

In the end, it didn’t turn out that way. As the Wall Street Journal reported in an article called “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel,” a tiny (but incredibly well-heeled) group of donors told Obama in advance that any deviation from the line laid down by Netanyahu would cost Obama campaign contributions. The article quotes a bunch of fat cats, unknown to most Jewish Americans who essentially threatened Obama.

It’s crazy. In 2008 78% of Jews voted for Obama. According to the definitive American Jewish Committee poll, Israel ranks 7th on the list of issues on which Jews cast their votes with 3% citing it as the top concern. 54% mentioned the economy, and many more cited health care, energy and a host of other issues.

But the self-appointed fat cat representatives of the Jewish community tell the White House that our #1 concern is Israel. And, for the AIPAC directed donors, it probably is.

And that is why President Obama delivered a speech on Thursday that was utterly innocuous. There was nothing in it that has not been said before by a host of previous presidents. Virtually all his empathy was directed at Israel while he offered a little sympathy, and nothing else, to the Palestinians. He did what he thought he had to do: appease AIPAC and Netanyahu while pleasing Arab democrats too.

But he failed. Arabs saw the speech as a bunch of empty words. And the Israeli firsters went ballistic. Why? Because of one paragraph.

The president said:

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

And suddenly all hell broke loose. But not immediately. Initially, the right-wing of the “pro-Israel” claque praised Obama for not saying anything that challenged Netanyahu but then Netanyahu, said that he was outraged by the reference to the 1967 lines.

But then the robotic Israel-firsters switched their line as quickly as Red 1930s folk singers changed their lyrics when Moscow complained of deviation. (Stop bashing Nazi Germany; we just signed a pact with it).

This is beyond ridiculous. Obama did not say that Israel would have to go back to the 1967 borders; he said that the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines…”
That means that Israelis and Palestinians would sit down with a map that dated back to 1967 and decide what would be Israel and what would be Palestine. What other “lines” could a deal be based on? The border between China and Russia?

As far back as the 1967 United Nations Resolution 242, which Israel signed, it has been the stated policy of the entire world (including Israel) that Israel would return to the ‘67 borders, with alterations made, as necessary, to guard Israel’s security. Every American president has said that and every Israeli government has accepted it. Even AIPAC supports the “two-state solution,” which means a Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in 1967. Where else?

So what are these people up to when they suddenly decide to descend into faux-rage when Obama says what they have been saying all along?

The answer is simple. The Israel-first crowd has decided on two things: (1) They do not want Israeli-Palestinian peace, period. They want Israel to keep all the land. And (2) they want to see President Obama defeated in the next election, hoping against hope that they can drive the Obama Jewish vote, and especially campaign contributions, way below 2008 levels. They don’t trust him. They suspect (hopefully, rightly) that in his heart he does not believe the status quo loving nonsense Dennis Ross is feeding him.

Obama’s mistake is to think he can appease these people by going to AIPAC (as he will do next week) or to Israel (as he probably will this summer) and trying to explain himself. Unless he is prepared to tell AIPAC and right-wing Israelis that he supports both settlements and the permanent disenfranchisement of Palestinians, he will not win over these people. They are not potential friends, not of him or of U.S. interests. Or, frankly, of Israel’s. (They seem to prefer the West Bank over Israel itself).

Instead, he should mobilize Americans, pro-Israel Jews and non-Jews, like those of J Street who support the two-state solution and territorial compromise. He should reach out to Palestinians who are prepared to live in peace with Israel (including Hamas, if it will permanently end violence against Israel). And he should support moderate Israelis (still a sizable percentage of the population) who hate the occupation and are desperate to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Trying to appease Netanyahu and AIPAC empowers the right and cuts moderates off at the knees. It’s time for Obama to treat these people as what they are: enemies of everything he aspires to do. Why would the president think he can possibly find friends on the right? He can’t.

13-22

Electoral Verdict & Muslims’ Success!

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Declaration of results to the five state assembly elections has certainly ended political suspense regarding the fate of candidates and parties engaged in the political battle. It is now imperative to analyse the results particularly in context of electoral success of Indian Muslims. Before elaborating on Muslims’ standing in this political phase, it is relevant to evaluate the overall performance of major parties in the race. Undeniably, the success of Trinamool Congress in alliance with Congress in ousting the Left bloc from power in West Bengal stands out. The Left has been pushed out of power after having headed the state government for 34 years. Trinamool Chief Mamata Bannerjee, popularly known as Didi, has been hailed in most quarters for having succeeded in this mission. Having won 184 seats in polls held in 294 constituencies, the Trinamool has emerged as a major political force in West Bengal, as it has the needed the strength to form the government with or without support from its allies, including the Congress. The Congress has won 42 seats. Credit must be given to both the Trinamool and Congress parties for having fought the elections as allies. It was sensible of Congress not to have insisted on testing its political strength in all the constituencies without reaching any political understanding with Trinamool. The Congress tried this experiment earlier in Bihar assembly elections to only fail and make it easier for its rivals – National Democratic Alliance- to return to power in state with greater success than expected.

In contrast, Congress and its key ally- Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have failed miserably in Tamil Nadu. In polls held to 234 seats, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), led by J. Jayalalitha has won 150 seats. The DMK has secured only 23 and the Congress – five seats.

The Congress has fared well in Assam by winning 78 out of 126 seats. It is a hat trick for Congress leader Tarun Gogoi to return to power as Assam Chief Minister for the third term. Kerala has also spelt success for Congress but only with the support of its ally, Muslim League. Here, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has been pushed out of power with the Congress-coalition that is the United Democratic Front (UDF) winning 72 seats in the battle for 140. The LDF managed only 68. While the Congress has won 38 seats, the 20 secured by Muslim League have played a major role in helping UDF form the new Kerala government. The elections to 30 constituencies in Pondicherry have witnessed victory for Congress in seven, AIADMK- five, DMK – two and others – 16.

Apart from stunning defeat faced by Left in West Bengal as well as its failure in Kerala to return to power, the political loss suffered by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cannot be sidelined. The BJP has won only one seat in West Bengal, five in Assam and none in South India. The five seats won in Assam are only half of the 10 BJP had in the preceding assembly. The BJP contested more than 800 seats in the five states’ assembly elections. Undeniably, the Congress has performed better, but it cannot be missed that except for in Assam, the party has not fared too well on its own strength. The Congress has won less than 50 percent of the seats it contested. The party has tasted success in only 170 of the 359 seats it contested. 

The assembly elections are also a crucial indicator of the increasing political importance of Muslim votes as well as Muslim parties. As mentioned earlier, the UDF’s success in Kerala would not have been possible without the state Muslim League as a key ally. The reverse is the case in Assam, where Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) – led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal Qasmi – has emerged as the leading party in the opposition. The BJP and its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have lost their position as the main opposition group to AUDF, which has won 18 seats. Though, nominally, unlike Kerala’s Muslim League, AUDF has not included any religious term in its label, the party is known as a Muslim party. Despite being in the political race only for the second term, AUDF has increased in its tally from 10 in the last assembly to 18 in the new one. What is more amazing is its emergence as the leading opposition party, the second most important party (after Congress) in the Assam assembly.
The percentage of Muslims in Assam is around 31 percent. Against 25 Muslim members in the last Assam assembly, there are 28 in the new one, with 16 from AUDF. West Bengal, with Muslims constituting 28 percent of the state’s population, has elected 59 Muslims, 13 more than in the earlier assembly. Twenty-five percent of Kerala’s population are Muslims. The state has elected 36 Muslims, 11 more than earlier, to the new assembly. Muslims constitute less than 13 percent of the population in both Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. The two states have lesser Muslim members than they had in the outgoing assemblies. While Tamil Nadu has elected six members, Pondicherry has elected one, against the seven and two, both the states respectively had in the previous assemblies.
There is no denying that representation of Muslims in the five state assemblies remains below the mark it should be in keeping with their population. Nevertheless, the assembly elections indicate that their political importance and strength have definitely displayed a decisive increase in states where their population is more than 25 percent, which are West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. Interestingly, BJP’s political card has failed miserably in all the five states against the electoral verdict won by Muslim candidates as well as Muslim parties!

13-21

Congressmen Almost Unanimously Vote Against Freedom of the Press

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yusra Alvi

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

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

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

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

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

12-19

Gujarat Carnage: Modi Summoned!

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is in news again, but not for the reasons he or his party associates appreciate. Eight years after Gujarat-carnage, in which of thousands of Muslims in the state were killed and/or injured, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has summoned Modi. Created by Supreme Court in March 2008 to probe into 2002-Gujarat riots, the SIT has summoned Modi to appear before it on March 21. Modi, if he appears before the SIT, is expected to face questions over the murder of Congress legislator Ehsan Jaffrey. He and more than 50 other Muslims were killed by extremist Hindu rioters in Gulbarg Society, a residential complex in Ahmedabad (February 28, 2002). Modi and at least 60 others have been blamed and criticized for not doing enough to check the communal violence and protect the state’s Muslim citizens.  

“Yes, we have summoned Mr. Modi,” R.K. Raghavan, SIT head said. “On 21 March, we will ask him a few questions. Then we will send a report to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Supreme Court is taking action on a petition filed by Jaffrey’s widow, Zakia. In her petition, she named Modi and 62 others, alleging that they conspired to “let Hindus vent their anger” after the Godhra-incident. The Godhra-incident refers to fire on Sabarmati Express, in which around 60 Hindus died. While fire’s cause was said to be an accident, extremist Hindu groups alleged that it was started by Muslim protestors because of which they reacted leading to Gujarat-carnage, with Hindu rioters targeting Muslims.

Following Zakia’s petition, the Supreme Court directed SIT to probe the alleged role of persons she had named as responsible for the riots, including Modi and 62 others. Though it is not clear, whether summoning of Modi will lead to any judicial action against him or not, according to Zakia: “I have not slept properly ever since the incident. Now, he (Modi) will also have sleepless nights.” “I hope justice will be given to us. It has been a long journey. I am very happy that Modi has been summoned,” she said.

Elaborating on the petition filed against Modi, Zakia’s son Tanveer Jaffrey said: “This is a step to file an FIR (First Information Report) against Modi. Until an FIR is filed you cannot say where the investigation will lead to.” Tanveer is hopeful, that “this will open up other cases too.”

“The summoning should have happened long ago as the chief minister of Gujarat and his government presided over the worst ‘pogram’ against minorities in independent India,” Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari said in New Delhi. The Congress felt that it would be appropriate for Modi to resign as chief minister.

The Congress in Gujarat has not yet too made too much noise about Modi facing summons. Justifying the cautious stand taken by his party, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Arjun Modhvadiya said: “The SIT must have strong evidence to issue a summon. We hope that the team carries out further investigations in right earnest and bring him to justice.” Modhvadiya, former leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, also voiced demand for Modi’s resignation inside and outside the House.  Modi should tender his resignation on “moral grounds,” he said as the summons were based on Supreme Court’s directives and on the basis of evidence collected by SIT.

Dismissing Congress demand for Modi’s resignation, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The summons to Modi by SIT are a part of the legal process which shall be dealt with as per the process of law.”

The BJP is considering legal options to save Modi from facing a tough legal battle. “What our strategy is something that we don’t want to discuss on camera. But it takes long term planning in such cases,” Gujarat government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said. The Congress was “day dreaming,” by thinking that Modi would resign following the summons, Vyas said. “The party may wish for anything but there is no reason for Mr. Modi to quit,” he said.

Survivors of Gujarat-carnage are fairly pessimistic on whether summoning of Modi would spell any major development in speeding action against the rioters. “What we are going to witness on March 21 is a high-voltage drama when the chief minister appears before the SIT to respond to allegations leveled against him by various witnesses. That is it. It is going to be an eyewash,” according to Mukhat Ahmad, a riot victim-turned-rights activist.

Dismissing the summons as a “hype,” a senior officer said: “What can deposition achieve? The SIT is not in a position to interrogate, grill anyone or Modi. Can it force him or anyone to say something that one chooses to hide? So what will this achieve except create a hype?” Asserting that Zakia’s petition cannot force legal action against Modi, analysts said: “There is no direct evidence against Modi.” A chief minister cannot be held as directly responsible as, they said: “There are no constitutional or legal liabilities on the CM or the political head of the state in a riot-like situation. The direct-action duty lies on the police head and local officers of the disturbed area.”

Nevertheless, all are waiting for March 21. Will Modi face the summons? If he does, what will be developments? Or will he seek a change in the date, citing some prior engagement, and thus evade the March 21 summons! 

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Wardere to Vie for Senate

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kay Fate, Faribault Daily News

washington-dc-us-capitol-s Mahamoud Wardere knows his story is interesting.

“Can you imagine?” he asks. “An anti-war GOP candidate who is an immigrant from Somalia, an African-American, too, and Muslim.”

Wardere describes his candidacy as one that will be “different, with fresh ideas and a world class of understanding.”

He plans to run for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s Second District, a seat held by Republican John Kline.

The six years he spent working as a community liaison for former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman were invaluable, Wardere, 42, said.

“One thing I learned is how the system works, and at what level,” he said. “You have to know what Congress can do and what it can’t do. You have to know what your constituents expect from you.”

His goal is to develop long-term ideas.

“There are things that today may be politically helpful, but in the long run may not help,” Wardere said.

His campaign slogan sums it up, he added: Uniting the country and passing peace and prosperity to our children and grandchildren.

“I’m running because I’m very much aware of the challenges the residents of the Second District face every day,” he said, “and I believe I can do a better job.”

Wardere’s four priorities for the Second District are to tackle a poverty level that has risen 7 percent in one year; unemployment; the suffering of small businesses; and more benefits for the men and women in uniform, as well as their caregivers.

He is just as determined to make change at the national level.

He’d like to see GOP Chairman Michael Steele resign.

“He failed miserably to lead our party and explain who the GOP leaders are,” Wardere said. “He failed to reach out to Latinos and even African Americans. He must resign.”

Wardere is hardly alone in his desire to make change within the GOP.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is considered by some to be the father of the Tea Party movement, faces three opponents in the March Republican primary.

Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain, too, will have a challenger in J.D. Hayworth, a conservative talk radio host.

Closer to home, Kline has yet to formally announce he will seek a fifth term.

Still, said Troy Young, his communications director, “Congressman Kline fully intends to run for re-election.”

DFLer Dan Powers will also seek Kline’s seat, said Mary Breitenstein, Powers’ campaign manager.

She had no comment on Wardere’s decision to run, but believes it’s time for Kline to go.

“As we say, we’re focused like a laser beam on winning the DFL endorsement,” Breitenstein said. “We do know that Kline’s been in Congress for a while, and has not been listening to his constituents. Dan wants to listen.”

Also in the DFL Congressional race is Shelley Madore, a former state representative from District 37A.

“I won’t shy away from criticizing the establishment,” Wardere said. “I believe our Congress has a constitutional responsibility to oversee federal agencies and must take part in the checks and balances… We need to elect competent Congressmen and women who can understand world issues. It’s the responsibility of our congressional delegates to understand the world issues and keep America safe.”

Diversity is power, Wardere said.

“When we were fighting against Germany and Hitler, what language did we use?” he asked. “We used the language of the Native Americans. That worked.”

Of his 12 national priorities, nearly half of them include passing resolutions to recognize those who work for peace.

“Anybody who brings peace, you have to praise,” Wardere said. “We must worry about passing insecurity to our children and grandchildren the same way we worry about passing the deficit to them. We must pass them many friends, not many enemies.”

He would also work on legislation that defines the goal of the war on terror, clarifies the U.S.’s position and expedites ending wars.

“Washington has sent many conflicting broad and vague messages to the world, and some of them are self-defeating,” he said. “Our message should be simple and clear: we have been attacked, and we will attack anyone who wants to harm us and we will defend our people, period.”

So, has Wardere discussed his plans with Coleman, his former boss?

“No,” he smiled. “This is my decision. I don’t know what he’d say.”

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Buffett: US Debt Threatens Economy

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON–Investor Warren Buffett said the US economy has avoided a meltdown and appears on a slow path to recovery, but Congress must deal with enormous debt that might erode US purchasing power.

In an opinion column published Wednesday by the New York Times, Buffett wrote that he “resoundingly applauds” actions by the Federal Reserve and the Bush and Obama administrations to pump trillions of dollars into the financial system.

But the “gusher of federal money” has run up a high level of debt that could fuel inflation, he said.

“The United States economy is now out of the emergency room and appears to be on a slow path to recovery,” Buffett wrote.

“But enormous dosages of monetary medicine continue to be administered and, before long, we will need to deal with their side effects. For now, most of those effects are invisible and could indeed remain latent for a long time. Still, their threat may be as ominous as that posed by the financial crisis itself.”

Buffett, who runs insurance and investment company Berkshire Hathaway Inc, likened the economic threat of “greenback emissions” to the environmental threat of greenhouse gas emissions, leaving the United States with a deficit of $1.8 trillion or 13 percent of gross domestic product this year.

In July, the government posted a $180.68 billion monthly budget deficit, a record for July, marking only the third time in the past 30 years that the government ran a deficit for 11 months in a row.

Buffett said a revived economy will not be able to generate enough revenues to bridge the gap between outlays and receipts, so changes in taxes and spending will be required.

Politicians will not likely have the will to raise taxes or slow spending, so they may opt to quietly let inflation increase, a move that will “confiscate” wealth and allow the United States to evolve into a “banana republic economy”, he said.

“Our immediate problem is to get our country back on its feet and flourishing — ‘whatever it takes’ still makes sense,” Buffet said in the paper.

But once recovery is gained, Congress must end the rise in the debt-to-GDP ratio and keep its growth in obligations in line with its growth in resources, he wrote.

“Unchecked carbon emissions will likely cause icebergs to melt. Unchecked greenback emissions will certainly cause the purchasing power of currency to melt. The dollar’s destiny lies with Congress,” he said.

Last month, in a newspaper column of his own, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, said the huge amounts of money the U.S. central bank has pumped into the economy will not undercut its ability to push borrowing costs higher when the time is ripe.

Stressing that the weak U.S. economy will likely warrant exceptionally easy monetary policies for a long time to come, Bernanke outlined in a Wall Street Journal opinion article how the Fed could raise interest rates even with cash flooding the financial system.

“At some point, however, as economic recovery takes hold, we will need to tighten monetary policy to prevent the emergence of an inflation problem down the road,” Bernanke wrote.

The outline of the Fed’s “exit strategy” from the extraordinary monetary policy easing it has undertaken in the past two years to deal with the global financial crisis was the subject of testimony to Congress by Bernanke in his twice-a-year economic report on July 21.

Reuters

Indian Voters’ Shrewd & Stunning Verdict

May 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-05-20T124442Z_01_DEL200_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-ELECTION-SUPPORT

PM-elect Manmohan Singh (R) addresses the media next to Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi (L) after their meeting with President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi May 20, 2009.  India’s Congress party-led coalition has the support of 322 lawmakers, Singh said Wednesday, giving it a clear majority in a new government.     

Reuters/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI:  Definitely, the average Indian voter has proved to be far more intelligent than sharp political analysts and key political parties probably envisaged him/her to be. The electoral verdict spells a return to power of not just the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) but also a defeat of controversial as well as highly sensitive communal issues raised by certain politicians. Besides, the poll verdict also indicates the major role that can be played by average Indian voter’s decision of not being taken for a ride by the tall promises spelt out by politicians in the fray. Not surprisingly, while the Congress leaders are celebrating their return to power with a massive lead over their rivals, the others are pondering are what could be responsible for their dismal performance. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has won 261 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, with it being only a few seats short of the magic number-272 needed to claim majority. National Democratic Alliance trails behind with 157 seats, the Third Front – 59 and Fourth Front securing only 27. While the Congress in UPA has bagged 205 seats, the BJP has managed only 116. The left front bloc in Third Front has won just 24. In the Fourth Front, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has failed to win a single seat, with its own leader Ram Vilas Paswan suffering defeat, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s score has fallen to four, while Samajwadi Party (SP) has managed to win only 23.

Compared to 2004 results, while Congress has gained more seats, most parties have fallen significantly short of what they gained earlier. In 2004, Congress won 148, the SP-30, RJD-23 and the left bloc – 61. The BJP has gained marginally as it won 110 seats in 2004. The performance of Congress in Uttar Pradesh has been phenomenal, where while in 2004 it could not win even 10 seats, this time it has bagged 21. Crediting party leader Rahul Gandhi for improving the Congress’ score in UP, Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “All credit goes to Rahul Gandhi for single handedly reviving the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. What worked was the combination of Manmohan Singh’s policies and Rahul Gandhi’s thrust on party cadres and youth.”

It is also held that SP lost Muslim votes to Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) by having aligned with Kalyan Singh, who as the then UP chief minister is held responsible for demolition of Babari Masjid in Ayodhya (December 6, 1992). There is also the view that by reaching out to Kalyan, SP managed to attract votes of Dalits and Yadavs and thus could win 23 in UP. Revival of Congress together with SP’s political strategy prevented a substantial chunk of votes from Brahmins, Muslims as well as Dalits going to BSP. The BSP leader, UP Chief Minister Mayawati was apparently banking on winning around 50 percent of seats from UP, which sends 80 legislators to Lok Sabha.  It has won 20, increasing its 2004-score by just four seats.

Congress has also gained, with its Trinamool Congress (TC) winning 19 seats in West Bengal. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress has won 33, Maharashtra- 17, Rajasthan-20, Kerala-13, Madhya Pradesh –12, Gujarat- 11 and Delhi- 7. The BJP has managed to win 19 in Karnataka, Gujarat -15, Madhya Pradesh- 16, UP-10, Maharashtra – 9 Rajasthan- 4, and 12 in Bihar, where its key ally Janata Dal-United has won 20 seats.

Interestingly, neither Congress nor of any its old allies have fared well in Bihar. Differences over seat sharing with Congress in Bihar, prompted RJD, SP and LJP to float the Fourth Front, that has secured only four seats. There is a view, that common Biharis, including the Muslims, have been “taken for a ride for too long by tall promises made RJD and LJP leaders. So they decided to teach them a hard lesson in these elections.” With RJD’s own score confined to four, that of LJP – zero, in addition to this being a hard hit for their political image, both the parties have lost the numerical importance they earlier held for UPA.

Conceding defeat, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said: “We accept voters’ mandate with full respect. If we have an overall view of the trends, then we see that we have performed below our expectations as we had expected our tally to improve from the last elections.”

Accepting that Congress has performed better than expected, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The CPI-M and left parties have suffered a major setback in these elections. This necessitates a serious examination of the reasons for the party’s poor performance.” “The Congress and its allies have succeeded all over the country. They have done well on the platform they provided to the voters,” he said. Ruling out the option of left supporting the Congress-led UPA, Karat said that they would sit in the opposition.

“Our expectations have not been fulfilled, we admit. Congress is in a position to form the government. Let them form it,” Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan said. On prospects of left supporting the Congress, Bardhan said: “Why should they need our support? They don’t need our support. We will sit in the opposition and fight for the cause of the poor.”

Poor performance of BJP and the left bloc is also attributed to both groups suffering from a leadership-crisis. During these elections, while BJP was devoid of its chief campaigner – former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the left bloc had to manage without Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) comrade Jyoti Basu. Both have retired from politics due to health reasons. In West Bengal, unlike in 2004, when CPI-M won more than 20 seats, this time it has got only 9, while its rival TC’s score has increased from one to 19.

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav holds BJP-candidate Varun Gandhi’s “hate speeches” and projection of Modi as future prime minister responsible for NDA’s dismal performance. “It may be right or wrong or he (Varun’s) might have denied, but his statement has caused immense damage. His statement was unconstitutional. It was against the country’s unity and must have affected the polls,” Yadav said. Terming projection of Modi as prime minister as a political mistake, Yadav said: “It was a factor. When the issue had come up, it created confusion among the people’s mind. Since the NDA had already declared a Prime Ministerial candidate (L K Advani) unanimously, the issue should have been dismissed immediately.”

Yadav’s comments suggest that in addition to its own campaign, Congress has fared well because of wrong strategies pursued by rivals in the fray. While politicians have yet to figure out causes of their defeat, the voter has shrewdly declared his verdict- giving all in the race to ponder over where did they fail. Undeniably, had Congress checked the seats won by BJP and its NDA-allies in states like Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, it may have been able to form a single-party government. Though the Congress has fared well, it still has to deliberate on what prevented voters from extending it greater support!

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Muslims Lose Trust In Congress Party

October 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2008-10-17T080525Z_01_DEL35_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) arrives with security personnel to attend the opening day of the second-leg of the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi October 17, 2008.

REUTERS/B Mathur

NEW DELHI: Ironically, the questions raised over the role of the government, media and the police in the so-called “Batla House encounter” has pushed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh into an unenviable position. Cutting across religious differences, while Muslims have questioned his “silence,” many Hindus have wondered at how the Prime Minister who had threatened to quit office over the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal has chosen to remain quiet over innocent Muslims being targeted as “suspect” terrorists. Alarmed at Muslims being disillusioned with him and his party, Singh tried assuring them last week that his government was looking into every possible way of restoring confidence of minorities (October 18). He said this in context of the Batla House encounter as well as the series of attacks on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka. Considering that he gave this assurance to a delegation of Muslim leaders from his own party, the move was apparently deliberately planned to try and convince the Muslim community at large that they should not lose hope in his government. With assembly elections due in six states in the coming weeks and less than a year left for national elections, political parties in the race are trying their best to prop up their image among the voters.

The delegation had earlier called on Congress chief, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chief Sonia Gandhi. Among others, the members included Salman Khurshid, K. Rahman Khan, Mohsina Kidwai, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, Imran Kidwai (Congress minority department chief) and Anees Durrani (minority department secretary).

“The Prime Minister expressed concern over the incidents and said that he would look seriously into every possible way to restore the confidence of the minorities and that he will take a decision soon on the issue,” Khurshid said. Singh, however, did not give any commitment on whether he would pursue the demand made by several other Muslim delegations for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter.

Despite there being limited prospects of Singh’s “assurance” finding much favor among the Muslim voters, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have not refrained from blaming his party and its allies from indulging in the game of vote-bank politics. While addressing a party rally in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), senior BJP leader L.K. Advani said: “The Congress and its allies are engaged in the dirty game of vote bank politics. This has turned out to be a greater evil for the country than the issue of terrorism” (October 18). The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate also said that the UPA government had no right to continue in power as it had “failed miserably” in checking terrorism. Asserting that as it is possible only for BJP to combat this menace, the country needs a government headed by it. “The country has seen enough of terror attacks. Now, it needs a party that can not only combat this, but also root out the menace,” Advani said.

The Indian Muslims at large along with regional parties, with a secular bent, particularly the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP), as developments suggest, have no inclination to give either Congress or BJP a chance to assume power in 2009 polls. The Batla House encounter followed by failure of the Congress-led government to take any constructive action in response to appeals and memorandums submitted by several leaders appears to have completely disillusioned the Muslim community. While they have lost trust in the Congress, they cannot afford to turn to BJP – which has played anti-Muslim card time and again.  ”Our youngsters have been killed in the name of terrorism. We had been associated with the Congress for decades, but now the same party has ditched us,” Akram (34), a resident of Okhla (Delhi), said. “We don’t want the Congress, but we don’t want the BJP either,” is the common comment made by Muslims of the area.

Lashing at the government for targeting only minorities, in its anti-terrorism drive, at a meeting of Muslim leaders, clerics and heads of Muslim organizations, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari said: “The government should proclaim the definition of terrorism. Is fake encounter not terrorism? Is it not an act of terrorism to burn alive Muslims in Gujarat,” he asked. “Is it not the act of terrorism to burn villages, mosques and churches in different parts of the country? And if it is the act of terrorism, then what is the meaning of alertness of the government and its security agencies only on bomb blasts whereas it overlooks other incidents of terrorism?” (October 14).

Not surprisingly, amid this backdrop, the SP and BSP members are trying their best to cash on the opportunity and turn the Muslims in their favor. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, BSP-chief, Mayawati called an all-India convention to discuss problems faced by Muslims (Lucknow, October 13). She blamed the Congress for having failed to combat terrorism and also for not taking sufficient steps for development of Muslims. “After independence, the Congress has ruled the country for nearly 48 years. During this long span, it never implemented any of the welfare schemes it announced for Muslims or other minority communities,” she said. At the gathering, Mayawati announced allocation of financial schemes to help raise educational standards of Muslims, from school to the university level. “An Arabic-Persian university will be set up in Lucknow. Several primary schools, junior high-schools and government secondary schools will be established in Muslim-dominated areas,” she said.

Not to be left behind, SP leaders have kept reiterating their demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter. The SP plans to reserve as many as 40 percent of its seats for Muslim candidates for Delhi assembly elections. Since the Batla House encounter, SP leader Amar Singh has visited Okhla several times and addressed gatherings there to convince the Muslim populace that they should support his party. In his opinion, “The Muslim community is realizing how depending on any other party is a suicide. Congress has only used them to come to power and during Mayawati rule Muslim youth have been arrested from her state.” The latter point refers to police having made several arrests in Azamgarh, after the Batla House encounter.

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NSG-Waiver: Historic Or Black Day For India!

September 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

2008-09-06T180730Z_01_DEL23-_RTRMDNP_3_NUCLEAR-INDIA-SUPPLIERS

Supporters of India’s ruling Congress Party celebrate the approval of U.S.-Indian atomic energy deal in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad September 6, 2008. Forty-five nations approved a U.S. proposal on Saturday to lift a global ban on nuclear trade with India in a breakthrough towards sealing a U.S.-Indian atomic energy deal.

REUTERS/Amit Dave

NEW DELHI: The waiver granted to India by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for nuclear commerce with it, ending 34 years of the country’s nuclear isolation definitely marks a major diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (September 6). While it spells celebration for Congress and its allies, the waiver has given opposition parties and the left bloc a serious issue to strongly criticize the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Mixed reactions to India having secured the NSG waiver suggest beginning of a major political battle at home for the Congress, which is going to be a fiery one with national elections less than a year away.

Welcoming the waiver, Singh described it as “forward-looking and momentous decision.” “It is a recognition of India’s impeccable non-proliferation credentials and its status as a state with advanced nuclear technology. It will give an impetus to India’s pursuit of environmentally sustainable economic growth,” he said. Thanking United States and NSG members for “ensuring this outcome,” Singh said: “We look forward to establishing a mutually beneficial partnership with friendly countries in an area, which is important for both global energy security as well as to meet the challenge of climate change.”

Singh also spoke to President George Bush on telephone thanking him. Besides, “The two leaders expressed their belief that mutually beneficial relations between India and the United States were in the interest of their peoples, and were on a path of steady consolidation and multifaceted expansion, to which both leaders reiterated their commitment,” official sources said.

The NSG-waiver will “enable India to resume full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community to meet its energy and development requirements,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said. “We welcome this decision,” which “constitutes a major landmark in our quest for energy security,” he said. It “will open a new chapter in India’s cooperation with other countries in peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he pointed out.

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi congratulated Singh and Mukherjee for the NSG-waiver. Describing the waiver as a historic moment, Gandhi said it “marks the culmination of enormous efforts and skilful negotiations by our diplomats and nuclear scientists. Three decades of isolation have ended.” In a press statement, Gandhi congratulated the Prime Minister for his “conviction and commitment to pursue with determination India’s integration with global mainstream to meet requirements of our energy security.”

“This is a triumphant day for India. The NSG consensus … (is) culmination of years of hard work and cooperation between India and the US to bring India into the global nuclear mainstream,” US envoy in India David C. Mulford said.

Hailing NSG waiver as “historic” and significant victory for not just the government but for all Indians, Congress party spokesman Manish Tiwari said: “It is a historic day for India. It is a red letter day.”

Describing the waiver as a great victory for India, which will help in the country’s development, Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Amar Singh said: “India needs development and not nuclear bombs.” He also criticized the Indo-US deals’ opponents for “beating around the bush.”

While the NSG-waiver has spelt “victory” for Congress party and its allies, the opposition parties and the left bloc who have opposed the Indo-US nuclear deal think otherwise. Describing the waiver as a “stage-managed show,” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi blamed the PM for having “compromised on national interests.” “In spite of winning the vote at the NSG meeting, the prime minister has lost the battle at home. The deal, in its present state, is going to have long-term consequences,” he said.

Senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said: “The Congress is saying that this will end India’s nuclear isolation. We believe this does not hold any ground.”  “India has walked into a non-proliferation trap. It has lost its right to conduct nuclear tests forever. NSG guidelines are tougher than the Hyde Act,” Sinha said.

“This is an injustice done to the generation next to come. The Manmohan Singh government has taken an unfortunate decision by submitting our authority before the United States,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader A. Vijayaraghavan said.

Indian politicians opposed to the deal have been further enraged on contents of a “secret” letter published in The Washington Post, just ahead of NSG meeting in Vienna. The controversial contents made public by Republican Howard L. Berman, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs committee, are viewed as at variance with the stand maintained by India so far. The 26-page letter states that the United States would help India deal only with “disruptions in supply to India that may result through no fault of its own,” such as trade war or market disruptions. “The fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of nonproliferation commitments,” the letter says.  The Indian government is expected to take “letter”-issue with the Bush administration, sources said.

The letter has provoked the deal’s opponents to blame the government for “misleading” the Parliament, “hiding facts” and “lying” to the people over the nature of the deal. CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The only option left to them (UPA) is that the Prime Minister should quit. But neither will they convene Parliament session nor will they quit. It is a shameless government.” Describing the waiver as a step in direction of total surrender of country’s nuclear rights, Karat said that the US orchestrated the NSG waiver as it wants the 123 Agreement to be operationalized. The waiver is in conformity with the Hyde Act. “Any new government that comes to power after next elections other than Congress should get the Indo-US nuclear deal terminated,” Karat said. The left would continue its struggle in this regard, he asserted. India has now become part of the “non-proliferation regime, which we have always found to be discriminatory and resisted so far,” Karat said.

“We continue to be opposed to 123 agreement. It’s a surrender of all our sovereign right,” Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary D. Raja said. In a statement, the CPI said that it is “not a historic day but a black day for India as far as our nuclear program is concerned. This waiver will kill our efforts to develop nuclear technology based on thorium.” Another strong opponent of the Indo-US nuke deal, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, who is also Uttar Pradesh chief minister, described the development in Vienna as a “black day” for India.

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