Of Black Magic and Witchcraft

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

40865

The case of Lebanese citizen Ali Hussain Sibat, who has been incarcerated for the past two years in a Saudi Arabian prison on charges of being a sorcerer, has brought the dark world of ‘black magic’ and witchcraft that exists in many countries of the Middle East into the limelight. Sibat has been sentenced to death by beheading for hosting a television show called, “The Hidden” in Lebanon in which he engaged in acts of sorcery on camera. Saudi officials also claim that he confessed while in custody to selling potions to his clients that supposedly fulfill their greatest desire.

Sorcery, voodoo, soothsaying and all sorts of witchcraft are strictly forbidden in the Islamic faith and laws against the evil practices are firmly upheld by most Islamic countries. Despite the severe penalties, which are sometimes lethal, many people claiming to have special powers continue to prey on the public. And in many cases, the soothsayers are sought out by people suffering from hardships ranging from issues of the heart to more worldly issues like financial struggles. There is a tangible market in the Middle East for sorcery as there is a plethora of people seeking to get a hold of, what they perceive to be, the unattainable.

However, personal gain is not the only reason why witchcraft has found a comfortable niche in the Gulf region. Jealousy, hatred and just plain loathing are often the driving forces behind the use of witchcraft or sorcery. In a recent cover story in the newspaper Saudi Gazette, a pair of Indonesian housemaids was arrested for committing acts of sorcery against their sponsor families. Both were duped into confessing to their crimes in exchange for a large amount of money, which was bogus and meant only to extract their confessions. The housemaids admitted to placing at least 55 ‘charms’ in various parts of each of the family homes. Just prior to their confessions, family members had become suspicious after several other members of the family fell ill mysteriously. According to the article the charms, some consisting of broken glass and nails, were found and ‘undone’ by religious authorities.

The problem of sorcery has become so widespread in the Gulf that many countries are taking preemptive actions to dissuade the practice. Bahrain is just one government that is trying to root out witchcraft from within its borders. The Bahraini government is set to pass a new appendix to the law that already exists on the books which forbids anyone in the country from performing sorcery on the behalf of others or even privately in the home. However, unlike in Saudi Arabia, anyone convicted of sorcery in Bahrain does not stand to lose his or her head. The penalty for sorcery in Bahrain is a stiff fine and possibly a prison stint followed by deportation.

Human rights groups are swift to criticize Middle East governments for taking a hard line when it comes to witchcraft and sorcery. Most recently Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Saudi government for turning Sibat’s case into a capital crime when in other countries it would be most likely be classified as a mere case of fraud.

12-20

UPSC Topper Faesal Creates History For Kashmir

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI:  Kashmir is in news again, with its resident Dr. Shah Faesal (27) having topped the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Examination. With Faesal being the first Kashmiri to have topped the all-India elite services examination, the state is delighted – celebrating his success as their own. Enthusiastic Kashmiris burst crackers, beat drums and shouted slogans welcoming Faesal when he returned to Srinagar on Friday (May 7), a day after the results were declared. “Kashmir ka sitara, Faesal hamara (Kashmir’s star, our Faisal),” hailed the delighted Kashmiris. Faesal ranks first among the 875 candidates declared successful in the civil services examination. He reached the top in his maiden attempt, putting behind him around 409,110 candidates who had applied for the examination in 2009.

Crediting his success to God and his family’s support, Faesal said: “I am humbled. I had faith in my hard work, Allah’s grace and the blessings of my family. My mother, brother and sister equally share the honor as they supported me like a rock when I decided to sit for the most coveted exams in the country.”

Faesal’s father Ghulam Rasool Shah was killed by militants in 2002. But rather than be cowed down or feel defeated, Faesal and his family moved on to face the challenges lying ahead. Within days of his father’s murder, the first test that Faesal appeared for was the professional entrance examination for MBBS. He cleared it. But he was not satisfied by being just a medical doctor and decided to take the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examination. “I saw patients who had no money to purchase medicines, a large number of them. I wanted to make differences for them. I thought IAS will help me to contribute in a different way,” he said.

Crediting his late father, a respected schoolteacher, for his success, Faesal said: “Many things that my father taught me for my class XI helped me in the exams.” If only his father were also around to share his joy, as Faesal said: “I am missing him today.”

Faesal hails from a remote village in frontier Kupwara district, more than 90 km from Srinagar. Soon after his father’s death, sense of insecurity gripped his family. “Such was the level of fear that I had not visited my home for eight years,” Faesal said. His mother Mubeena Begum migrated to Srinagar with her three children. She worked here as a schoolteacher to help her children live a better life. For her, Faesal’s success is “like a new birth.”

Though he has always been an achiever, his mother and Faesal himself had not imagined his being a topper. Faesal had expected to be in the first 50. Jubilant at being the topper, Faesal said: “There was nothing in my background that would make anybody think that I can achieve this. But I did it. So can thousands of other students with similar difficult backgrounds.” Faesal feels that his “success” is not just his “own.” “I feel I have broken the jinx that Kashmiri students cannot reach the top. I am the first from Jammu and Kashmir to top this examination and I am sure my story will become a model for our students who fear to dream big. I am an orphan with a scarred childhood. There was a tragedy in my family, my father was killed. I was raised by my mother who is a schoolteacher. I belong to a far-flung village and I studied in a government school.”

Faesal prepared for the examinations “normally.” “I did not find it difficult. I studied normally and passed my prelims without coaching. It was after qualifying for the mains that I decided to go for coaching,” Faesal said. The three-phase examination requires passing the preliminary test. Those who clear the prelims have to appear for the main written examinations, after passing which they face the final stage – the interview. Faesal selected Public Administration and Urdu Literature for the mains. He opted for Urdu as he is “emotionally attached to the language.” He received coaching at the Jamia Hamdard Study Center, New Delhi. Among the first to congratulate him in Delhi on his success were senior officers, including the Jamia Chancellor and many students.

Endless streams of people continued streaming in at his residence in Srinagar and the phone there did not stop ringing. J&K Governor N.N. Vohra congratulated Faesal and invited him and his mother to Raj Bhawan for felicitation. Among others, who congratulated Faesal were J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and leader of opposition in State Assembly, Mehbooba Mufti.

Back home, his villagers burst crackers and began preparations to celebrate Faesal’s success. Describing it as a great event for the entire Kashmir Valley, Mir Fayaz, a lecturer said: “We are proud of his success. He will be a role model for the youngsters and a source of inspiration too.”

Faesal’s success proves that Kashmiri talent was “unmatched,” according to Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “Wherever Kashmiris have worked, they have excelled. I am proud of Faesal, who hails from a remote village. He has worked so hard and made us real proud,” he said.

Faesal is confident that his success will “change the mindset of ordinary Kashmiris.” If they work hard enough, “nothing is impossible,” Faesal said. Though he is ready to be posted anywhere, Faesal is keen to serve his community. “I want to contribute in my small way to peace of Kashmir,” he said. “If Kashmiris need anything – it is peace, since the people have lot of expectations from the government as an agent of change and guarantor of peace, and myself being a part of the government, I’ll definitely be trying my bit on that regard,” he said.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act is another area that is extremely close to Faesal’s heart. He has been an RTI activist since his college days. In his opinion: “The RTI act is a harbinger of change. We can make a difference if we know how to use it.”

Two other Kashmiris have succeeded in civil services examination. They are Rayees Mohammad Bhat (rank 124) and Showkat Ahmad Parray (256). Faesal, Bhat and Parray are three of the 20 Muslims who have passed this competitive examination. Headlines are focused on Kashmir for a change on news that has nothing to do with conflict. Faesal has created history by bringing Kashmir in limelight by being the UPSC topper! 

12-20

Sania & Shoaib’s Marriage

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2010-04-12T135448Z_616342459_GM1E64C1OVD01_RTRMADP_3_INDIA-PAKISTAN-WEDDING

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: Though theirs is a love marriage, with full support of their family members, it certainly has not been an easy “game” for either the Indian tennis star Sania Mirza (23) or Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Iqbal (28). Beating even Bollywood movies and Indo-Pak diplomatic “feuds” over the drama staged from day one, the “news” generated has had the media and public across the sub-continent “united” at least in being totally interested in developments regarding this wedding.

Soon after their engagement was formally announced, in addition to the media coverage and congratulations the couple received, strong objections were raised from several quarters. The primary one being from Ayesha Siddiqui, claiming to be Shoaib’s first wife. She is also said to have furnished substantial evidence of being married to him through the telephone. Though Shoaib claimed to have been tricked into having married Ayesha, over telephone, the matter continued to hit headlines, till the former finally signed the divorce papers.

Interestingly, while most politicians across the sub-continent have described the Sania-Shoaib wedding as their “personal” decision, a few with an anti-Pakistan attitude have gone overboard in criticizing it. These include Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray who expressed apprehension over Sania’s marrying a Pakistani. Despite Sania having clarified that she would continue playing for India, the likes of Thackeray said that after her marriage she would cease being an Indian.  

Of course, Sania-Shoaib’s wedding is not the first instance of a marital bond between families from India and Pakistan. Numerous marriages between Indian and Pakistani Muslims have continued to take place, even though Indo-Pak ties have often been fairly tense. Nevertheless, theirs is one of the few weddings between celebrities and one that has had people with the media keeping a track of developments taking place. 

Credit must be given to Sania and her family for having virtually remained unfazed by hue and cry raised over Ayesha’s claims and objections to her marrying a Pakistani. Defending Shoaib, Sania even said that her family had been aware of Ayesha’s stand from the beginning.

Sania and Shoaib’s wedding is also one of the few ones that has kept the Indian Ulema (Muslim clerics) fairly busy. When Ayesha’s claims were in the news, clerics were busy answering questions on whether her nikah with Shoaib was valid or not. Interestingly, even though Shoaib has signed the divorce papers, doubts prevail over the authenticity of “evidence” provided by Ayesha. The intriguing questions raised are regarding identity of witnesses from the two sides at the time of nikah over phone in 2002; what prevented the two from living together since then and so forth. In general, it was held, irrespective of whether Ayesha’s claims were correct or not, Sania and Shoaib’s wedding could not be prevented by them. This is because, Shoaib can have two, three, even four wives at one time, as per the Muslim law. In this context, rather than encourage speculations about Sania being his “second” wife, by signing the divorce papers on April 7, Shoaib clearly laid out that she would be his only wife. Besides, as Ayesha had also filed an FIR against Shoaib, blaming him for fraud and criminal intimidation, he apparently was against the case getting more complicated and controversial.

Explaining his decision to finally sign the divorce papers, even though earlier he had claimed that Ayesha had tricked him into nikah over phone, Shoaid stated: “I am no one to judge what is wrong or what is right as the one above knows the truth. I have done what was the best amicable thing to do as it was getting beyond reasoning as each day unfolded.” “I have realized that media is part of my family, and request all of you to pray for me and Sania as we are embarking on a beautiful journey of marriage,” Shoaib said.

Seldom has any wedding created furor over fatwas, as that of Sania and Shoaib. It may be noted, in secular India, while the respected clerics have their right to issue fatwas on what they view as important, individuals are not bound to follow the same. A few clerics voiced objections to Sania and Shoaib appearing together for press conferences, before their wedding. They also objected to Shoaib staying at Sania’s residence. Describing these activities as “forbidden” in Islam, a Sunni Ulema board issued a fatwa against these and even asked Muslims to stay away from their wedding.

Sania’s family promptly responded to this fatwa, by issuing a statement: “We would like to clarify that there has been a misunderstanding in some quarters. The groom has not been staying in the Mirza residence for the last few days.” Shoaib had been staying there since his arrival from Pakistan on April 2. His family members, however, remained there while Shoaib moved out in keeping with traditional customs.

Meanwhile, when questioned on this fatwa, All India Sunni Ulema Board (AISUB) stated: “We have nothing to do with this outfit. Such fatwas cannot be issued.”
The date of the wedding also kept all wondering as to when would it take place. At one point, “reports” floated of their getting married on April 9, later the actual date was said to be April 15, while “news” also circulated about it taking place on April 13. These speculations were settled with their finally getting married on April 12.

Now finally wed, how far will the two succeed in easing tension between India and Pakistan, is the diplomatic angle being accorded to Sania-Shoaib’s “love-match.”

12-16

Muslim Family Services Fundraiser

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

P3138750 P3138746 P3138747 P3138748 P3138749

Livonia–March 13—American Muslims have made inroads institutionally, with established mosques, advocacy groups, and media.  There are also fledgling efforts to build funeral services and graveyards and other necessary forms of care.  But the next level of institution building is to create self-sufficiency in medical and other care. 

One group which has begun the work of providing community and social and medical services to Muslims is Muslim Family Services, a devision of ICNA Relief.

Muslim Family Services held a fundraiser on Saturday night at the Radisson Hotel in Livonia, hosting about 250 people for an evening which celebrated the accomplishments and looked at the future goals of the organization.

Muslim Family Services is led most prominently by Dr. Ali Suleiman, Ph.D, who studied at the University of Michigan and at the University of Madina Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Asim Hussain (not to be confused with keynote speaker Altaf Husain), professor of Wayne State University, is also involved. Mr. Yousuf Vaid is also prominently involved. The organization focuses largely on providing social services, mainly specializing in marriage counseling, but also providing many other services including subsidizing funeral payments and providing food and other emergency care to Muslims in need.

The fundraising dinner began with Maghrib prayer, followed by a welcome by the MC Yousuf Vaid, followed by recitation of Qur`an by a young man, Nadeem Gulam, then dinner. Then there was a slide presentation by Steve Hernandez on the accomplishments of Muslim Family Services, followed by a keynote speech by Harvard Professor, Dr. Altaf Husain. Finally there was a fundraiser and a closing du’a.

Mr. Hernandez spoke movingly of the accomplishments of Muslim Family Services, pointing out its cooperation with other groups, and its work to support the community’s education, activities to minimize family violence (in coordination with ACCESS and the State of Michigan and Wayne County), counseling of individuals, families, pre-marital and marital counseling, psychological counseling, anger management, and substance abuse counseling.

He spoke movingly about MFS’s Janaza fund, which provides about seven funerals per year, at a cost of $3,000 each.

Dr. Altaf Husain also spoke movingly, focusing more on the future of Muslim healthcare in the United States, pointing out that the Muslim community faces similar challenges to those faced before by Catholics and Jews (such as dietary restrictions, discrimination, refused treatment, predatory missionary work by those who see vulnerable people of a different religion, and cultural conflicts)–who in the 1850s responded by building their own hospitals which exist to this day.  Husain emphasized one such hospital, Mt. Sinai, which had its origins in the need of Jews to respond to the above challenges, but which now serves the wider community.

Muslim Family Services emphasized that they provide services in a professional and confidential manner, and invited all Muslims facing issues to come to them for assistance.

Contact Muslim Family Services at 734-678-0435, or at www.muslimfamilyservices.org.

12-12
See pictures from this event at www.muslimobserver.com.

Banning the Burqa

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Reuven Firestone

While on sabbatical as a family in Egypt a couple of years ago, we quickly became accustomed to seeing women wearing head coverings on the street. Nearly every single Muslim woman over the age of 12 wore one. The general word for these is hijab, which is a quranic term meaning “barrier” or “screen.” In a famous verse (33:53) it refers to a partition in the home of the prophet Muhammad to separate the women of his family from the eyes of the many people who would come to Muhammad’s home seeking an audience with him. Its meaning is basically the same as the Hebrew word mechitzah, the barrier that separates the women’s section from the men’s section in traditional synagogues.

The intent of the Quranic verse was to protect the women of Muhammad’s family from the intrusion of strangers and the possible embarrassment that could result. Because of the egalitarian nature of Arabian society in general, religious interpreters applied the notion not only to the family of the prophet, but to all Muslim families, and soon the term was applied to a common form of modesty practiced also among Christian and Jewish and Zoroastrian women at the time — covering the hair. The purpose was to encourage modest dress and protect women from the prying eyes of men.

We found the issue of modest dress curious in Egypt. Modesty in Cairo today means covering every inch of skin aside from the face, hands and feet, and that includes covering the hair. But at the same time, teenage girls and young women often wear tight tops and jeans that reveal every bump and wrinkle of their bodies. It is rare to see a niqab in Egypt, the full-face covering or veil.

Burqa is an Arabic term that refers to any face covering with eye openings. It is common today to use burqa to refer to the Afghan garment that envelops a woman’s entire face and body except for a small square area around the eyes that is covered by a concealing net or grille. The more accurate term for that is actually chadri.

In any case, niqab or burqa refers to a piece of clothing that covers the entire face, or all the face except the eyes. The issue of covering has been a point of contention for Muslim religious scholars for many centuries. While all consider modest dress required, some scholars also consider covering the face obligatory. Others consider it highly recommended but not required. Still others actually consider it forbidden, and the issue continues to arouse debate in the Muslim world.

Surprising as it may seem, France has decided to weigh in on the issue and has begun the process to issue its own version of a fatwa on the matter. Already in 2004, Parliament passed a law banning the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in French government-operated schools. This outlawed not only the Muslim headscarf, but also kippot and outward wearing of the crucifix.

Last July, President Nicolas Sarkozy targeted the burqa as an affront to human and civil rights. “The burqa is not a religious problem,” he told the French Parliament. “It’s a problem of freedom and the dignity of women.” Later that same day, while visiting Muslim graves at a WWI cemetery, he said, “Islam is today the religion of many French people…. France can’t allow French Muslims to be stigmatized.”

Those are astonishing words. I don’t understand how banning religious expression is not a religious problem, and I cannot for the life of me understand how banning a garment indicative of Muslim modesty is not an act of stigmatization.

I do understand, however, why people might consider banning the burqa to be supportive of Muslim women’s dignity. We naturally want to help people who we imagine are being persecuted. But condemning the burqa is imposing one set of culturally and religiously defined values or an aesthetic standard onto people who may not agree. How do we know that wearing a burqa is a humiliation? How is it shameful? How do you or I know how a woman wearing a full-face veil feels about it? Personally, I find many outfits that are worn in Beverly Hills among a variety of men and women to be humiliating. Why not pass a law banning the wearing of miniskirts and low-cut tops among sagging, aging women? Or black toupees on graying old men?

Here’s an example closer to home. I personally find the practice of shaving a beautiful young woman’s head, even if intended for modesty, to be an act of chillul haShem. We were created in God’s image. We desecrate God’s image whenever we purposefully disfigure our bodies. And halachah does not require shaving married Jewish women’s heads. It is only custom, and only within some communities, yet it would be a terrible and unethical act of interference on the religious and cultural rights of Jews for any government to ban the practice.

Two weeks ago, a government commission in France recommended banning the burqa in public buildings such as schools and hospitals, but not on the streets. Jean-Francois Copé, leader of Sarkozy’s majority party in Parliament (the UMP) explained, “The two reasons why we have to implement legislation is to respect the rights of women and, second, it’s a question of security. Who can imagine that in a country like ours, people can walk everywhere in the country and also in our cities with a burqa, without the possibility to recognize their face?”

Banning someone from wearing a veil is not respecting a woman’s rights. It is exactly the opposite: It is a blatant act of disrespecting her right to choose what to wear. Security may be another matter, but if wearing a full-body burqa is forbidden in public buildings but allowed in the streets, how is that increasing security when a terrorist could walk anywhere on the streets of Paris wearing a burqa packed with explosives? I admit that I would make a terrible suicide bomber, but it seems to me that if I wanted to smuggle body explosives into a public place, I would wear a trench coat rather than traditional Islamic or Arab dress. Why invite scrutiny in the current climate?

These new developments in France remind me of a similar move almost exactly two centuries ago when Napoleon called a Grand Sanhedrin in 1807. That was when an assemblage of Jewish notables was put under intense government pressure to change thousands of years of Jewish tradition in order to conform to French sensibilities. The Jewish leaders were asked 12 questions that were intended to determine whether Jews were worthy of French citizenship. They included such questions as whether it was acceptable in Jewish law for Jews to marry Christians or whether Jews were allowed to be usurious toward non-Jews. The Jewish leaders fudged their answers, wrote in vague language and were not entirely forthcoming (to say the least). Their answers nevertheless passed muster, but “passing” required, among other stipulations, that the Jewish leaders condemn all “false interpretations of their religious laws.” How would that be determined? Who would rule on the so-called “false interpretations?” The trade-off for citizenship was the denial of the unique value of our religious culture and the vibrant nature of Jewish religious discourse. The result was, among other things, a huge wave of assimilation and loss of Jewish identity.

No, banning the burqa is not an attempt to protect the dignity of women or to increase security. It is an attempt to make “ethnics” conform to a flat and unimaginative sense of what it means to be French. It is legal enforcement of an outdated and oppressive ideology that does not respect the fundamental freedom to express one’s religious identity in public.

Reuven Firestone is a professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.

12-10

Thoughts on Aafia Siddiqui’s Conviction

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Barrister Jafree’s Open Letter

By Barrister Jafree

I have been dismayed to read the article by Ms.  Rafia Zakaria  from Ohio (otherwise, one of the very few Indic-diaspora lawyer-columnists I have admired and praised) in the Dawn [February 17]. Since July 2008 I had kept her informed about the suffering, dilemmas and predicaments of Dr. Aafia  Siddiqui who was actually brutally kidnapped and ruthlessly-illegally Renditioned (along with her three perfectly innocent infant children) from  Karachi (she was proceeding by taxi to the Saddar  Railway Station on way to Islamabad due to horrendous harassment/ untold persecution from  her former husband as well as  the CIA functionaries and indigenous Khufia, and in the capitol-city of Pakistan she intended to take up employment at The Al-Shifa Hospital, and raise her three children) in 2003; and not arrested from Ghazni in 2008 as has been scurrilously and systemically  claimed by CIA/FBI functionaries and aficionados/bounty-hunters.

Aafia’s  helpless family consists of an elder  sister, a brother, and an old, God-fearing  mother. For six calendar years the  unfortunate, law-abiding Family  could not  even have a First Information Report  (F.I.R.) registered because of the Outreach and overreaction of the Powers That Be (read Unjustified Enrichment wonderboys) in Pakistan.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Finally, only late in 2009 a wishy-washy FIR was registered (without mentioning who  had kidnapped Aafia and under whose patronage/sponsorship). That FIR  is being investigated ahista-ahista by SSP Investigator Alhajj Niaz Khosa of Karachi while water has virtually crossed over the heads. This is no cause for applause except for the  Made-in-America Military Industrial Complex!

Mid-July 2008 while  visiting Islamabad  (in connection with my Habeas Writs regarding outrageously wrongful confinement of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan by General Pervez Musharraf) I was shocked to learn from a mysterious,trembling  phonecall  that Aafia was being detained/abused  in a dungeon jail in Kabul (“and was likely to be shot dead”). Immediately I made the best inquiries I could muster, and  I filed a hand-written  Writ Habeas Corpus in the Islamabad High Court . I did, for example,  ask U.S. Ambassador , Miss Ann Patterson if she denied that the Embassy remained  curiously (and coyly/smugly)  silent so did our  then Interior Secretary, Alhaj Syed Kamal Shah (who was Inspector General of Sindh in 2003). and our Minitry of Law, Justice  and Human Rights. Such silence (indifference+apathy) is deafening, disgraceful and dreadful nonsense of arrogance. 

Concerning my Habeas Writs, the Interior/ Foreign Affairs Ministries and Attorneys-General for Pakistan, (Qayyum and Khosa) wasted time of the Court and showed no concern for a fellow-citizen and human being. I made desperate efforts that the Attorney-General for Pakistan write a letter to United States District Judge Richard Berman (copying it to the United States Attorney  in New York, 20005) that Aafia was illicitly kidnapped from Karachi in 2003. This was not done, sinisterly so,  in spite of  helpful directions from the Lahore High Court which have been openly flouted.

The reprehensible maltreatment of Aafia is a felony of  designer Bait ‘N Switch. The most pressing question here  is  simply not  concerning what is happening  (regretably so!) in Pakistan to other oppressed women and repressed men.  More immediately relevant is the fact that Rafia Zakaria who is on the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union never protested the gravely  ill-treatment that has been accorded to Aafia who was transferred without any cause or judicial/extradition proceeding to the Death-penalty jurisdiction of New York.

The Afghan Government as well as the United States Officialdom violated, inter alia, the Geneva/Vienna Conventions and Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between Pakistan and USA [1959] by not immediately  informing Pakistan Embassy in Kabul (his would have been the case had she been arrested  actually in Ghazni); rather the  Pakistani Embassy in Washington was intimated MUCH  AFTER  my Writ and  only after Aafia had been cruelly lodged in  a New York’s Brooklyn  Detention Center where she has been  violated, physically harmed and variously humiliated and is being  grossly inhumanly maltreated.  Her son, Ahmed has told our illustrious  Interior Minister (Government of Pakistan)  that he never saw nor encountered  his mother after being grabbed and separated from his nuclear family in 2003. in  Karachi. This should make some lice to crawl over the ears of our Establishment! 

I do ask why is  Miss Rafia Zakaria silent about the violence and inhumanity accorded by   the U.S. officialdom to Aafia within United States of America itself. The truth of the matter is that CIA needed some highly-educated person to  ‘credibly’ blame for  the consequences of 9-11; they catapulted  (and are victimizing) America-educated Aafia to fit that  Negative Sum Mentality Purpose. Then, to add/ ‘justify’ insidious  insult to injury (to Aafia as well as  the Occidental image of Islam)  finding no evidence for six  long years  artfully arranged  A-to-Z,

Aafia’s predetermined trial in God-forsaken New York where no civilized country even allows proper Extradition. This is  a crying shame! Aafia was regretably denied  threshold access to  even choose her own lawyers or defend herself of her own. This mischievous misconduct offends all notions of process that was due  and is now Overdue!!
By the way, Dr Aafia Siddiqui never re-married anyone as was wrongfully touted and spinned globally  by FBI. Aafia is victim of that fascist syndromme: “Call a person a dog and then shoot her” . The Neo-Improvisation and Restatement of that Syndrome is that before-predetermined-shooting-an-innocent-lady – - just  have three or four  heavy-weight American soldiers  falsely claim that the chosen victim-to-be-blamed shot at them first by grabbing their gun which was lying on the floor of their overseas dungeon. As a former Assistant Attorney-General in the USA, I know that laying-down the heavy-gun on the floor is never  dared and never done in  suchlike circumstances. Additionally,  no DNA or other physical evidence was discovered to that  alleged-effect. The Jury returned the verdict of “Guilty” based on verbal evidence of Aafia versus four  bought (and brought) witnesses. Law will accept the impossible but not the improbable and unreasonable. Let us not be somnobulant about that.  I spent quater of a century in the USA learning and not-earning dollars.

In a nutshell,  I must  respectfully and  conscientiously ask American bureaucrats  that they should stop maltreating minorities and try to understand Islam in the proper light so that past wrongs and blunders can be rectified and only thus the Day Shall Dawn.

It is a long shot! But where there is will there is a way.

Yours sincerely,

SYED MOHAMMED JAWAID IQBAL JAFREE OF PACIFIC PASLISADES,

MA Illinois LLM Harvard PhD Read  FRSA London  SASC PC, ATTORNEY AT LAW, ADMITTED IN PAKISTAN AND USA

12-9

Taliban to Execute US Soldier if Aafia Not Released

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mushtaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban on Thursday demanded the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist who has been convicted by the US court on charges of her alleged attempt to murder US soldiers in Afghanistan, and threatened to execute an American soldier they were holding currently. They claimed Aafia Siddiqui’s family had approached the Taliban network through a Jirga of notables, seeking their assistance to put pressure on the US to provide her justice.

“Being Muslims, it becomes our religious and moral obligation to help the distressed Pakistani woman convicted by the US court on false charges,” said a senior Afghan Taliban commander. The commander, whose militant network is holding the US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, called The News from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan and threatened to execute the American trooper if their demand was not met. He claimed AafiaSiddiqui’s family had approached the Taliban network through a Jirga of notables, seeking their assistance to put pressure on the US to provide her justice.

“We tried our best to make the family understand that our role may create more troubles for the hapless woman, who was already in trouble. On their persistent requests, we have now decided to include Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s name in the list of our prisoners in US custody that we delivered to Americans in Afghanistan for swap of their soldier in our custody,” explained the militant commander.

He claimed family members of Dr Aafia told the Taliban leadership that they had lost all hopes in the Pakistan government and now Allah Almighty and the Taliban were their only hope. Later, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also called The News from somewhere in Afghanistan and owned a statement given by the Taliban commander.

The militant commander alleged that the US soldier, whom his fighters kidnapped from Afghanistan’s Paktika province near the border with Pakistan’s troubled South Waziristan in June 2009, had admitted his involvement in several raids in Afghanistan. “Since he has confessed to all charges against him, our Islamic court had announced death sentence for him,” the Taliban leader claimed.

The same Taliban faction released a video of the captive US soldier on Christmas Day. Taliban said they had been shifting the soldier all the time due to the search operations by the US and Afghan forces. He said the only way Americans could save life of their soldier was to release 21 Afghan prisoners and the “innocent” Pakistani lady.

Most of their prisoners, he claimed, were being held at the Guantanamo prison. “We believe that like the Israelis, the Americans would be ready soon to do any deal for taking possession of the remains of their soldier, but it would be late by then,” he stressed. Dr Aafia’s family could not be approached for comments on the Taliban claim.

12-7

Assassination of Martin Luther King

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

www.ratical.com

martin-luther-king-and-malcolm-x1 The story of Martin Luther King’s assassination, and the 1999 trial where the truth of this event was finally revealed in a court of law is now encapsulated in Dr. William F. Pepper’s new book, released by Verso this month: An Act of State – The Execution of Martin Luther King. The dust jacket summarizes what many have intuitively known for more than thirty years:

“William Pepper, attorney and friend of Dr. King and the King family, became convinced after years of investigation that not only was Ray not the shooter, but that King had been targeted as part of a larger conspiracy to stop the anti-war movement, and to prevent King from gaining momentum in his promising Poor People’s Campaign. Ten years into his investigation, in 1988, Pepper agreed to represent Ray.

While he was never able to successfully appeal the sentence before Ray’s death, he was able to build an air-tight case against the real perpetrators. In 1999, Loyd Jowers and co-conspirators were brought to trial in a wrongful death civil action suit on behalf of the King family. Seventy witnesses set out the details of the conspiracy in a plot to murder King that involved J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Richard Helms and the CIA, the military, the local Memphis police, and organized crime figures from New Orleans and Memphis. The evidence was unimpeachable. The jury took an hour to find for the King family. But the silence following these shocking revelations was deafening. Like the pattern during all the investigations of the assassination throughout the years, no major media outlet would cover the story. It was effectively buried.

“Until now, the details, evidence, and personalities of all these nefarious characters have gone unreported. In An Act of State, you finally have the truth before you — how the United States government effectively shut down one of the most galvanizing movements for social change by stopping its leader dead in his tracks.”

12-5

U.S. Bangladeshis Track Climate Changes Back Home

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By New America Media, Ngoc Nguyen

Mohammed Khan was a child when the deadliest cyclone ever recorded struck Bangladesh (at the time East Pakistan) in 1970. The cyclone brought torrential rains and winds stronger than those seen during Hurricane Katrina. As many as half a million people were killed. Then river waters rose and claimed the land.

“My family lives on an island called Bhola,” Khan recalls. “They have some land, but a lot of the land was taken by the river during a great flood.”

Khan, 51, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a daughter and more than 200 family members in Bangladesh. He’s worried about how his large extended family will fare when the next cyclone strikes, and he fears climate change will worsen such disasters.

“As the water levels rise in the next few years, much of southern Bangladesh will go into the womb of the river,” he says.

Concern about climate change among the public has waned, but the issue is foremost among many Bangladeshi Americans, because of the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change. Some community members are organizing seminars to learn about how rising seas and extreme weather will play out in their home country, and they’re making their voices heard on the political front.

Bangladesh is often considered ground zero for climate change. Crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers, much of the country is a massive flat delta, extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. As global warming pushes sea levels higher, Bangladesh would have the most land inundated among its South Asian neighbors, according to the World Bank. If sea levels rise by one meter, as much as a fifth of the country could be submerged, displacing about 20 million people.

In the last few years, awareness about climate change has grown among Bangladeshi Americans.

Hasan Rahim, a software engineering consultant based in San Jose, says Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was a wake-up call for him and many Bangladeshis in Silicon Valley. Rahim, who also teaches math and statistics at San Jose City College, says he organized screenings of the film in his community.

Rahim connected the film’s dire predictions about climate change to his homeland. “We live here, but we have roots there,” he says. “We are connected and we have got to become more aware of [climate change impacts].”

More than a dozen rivers, including the mighty Ganges, Brahmaputra, Jamuna and Meghna, flow across Bangladesh, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The southern part of the country is a massive delta, with its fertile land known as the country’s rice bowl.

“It’s really a concern. We’re a small country with 150 million people, so lots of people would lose their houses, land, and become homeless,” says Abu Taher, editor of the newspaper Bangla Patrik, in New York. He says people want to know the future consequences of climate change on the country so they can tell family members to take precautions.

When he travels to Bangladesh, Khan says he notices changes in the environment. There used to be three crop seasons, he says, but now there’s one. “Normally, we would have floods during the rainy season, but now there is no one season for floods anymore,” Khan adds.

A construction worker, Khan also heads up a group made up of immigrants from Barisal, a southern province that is frequently hard hit by cyclones and flooding. The group has organized seminars to learn more about how climate change will affect Bangladesh. From the United States, Khan says he sometimes feels powerless to help his family back home.

“There’s nowhere for them to go. Bangladesh is a small country,” he says. “Where would they get the land? Who will give us the money? I can just advise them to use the deep tube wells to get clean water.”

Khan says his group wants to share the information with U.S. elected officials, and tell them they want the United States to curb its own pollution and help vulnerable nations.

“America as a leader should help all the poor and affected countries, including Bangladesh,” Khan says. “Affected families are dying without food, without a roof over their heads. We should provide financial assistance and even bring them here.”

In the last two decades, Bangladesh suffered the most deaths and greatest economic losses as a result of extreme weather events, according to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2010.

At the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, the United States and other developed nations pledged $100 billion in aid to countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“It would make all the difference in the world if the aid were used not to buy finished products like solar panels, but to develop local indigenous talent,” says Rahim.

Bangladeshis have already had to adapt to higher sea levels, Rahim says.

“People who raised chickens are now raising ducks,” he says, and farmers are experimenting with “floating seed beds” to save crops during floods.

Until more funds are directed to helping people adapt to climate change, more frequent and more intense storms and floods will create more environmental refugees.

Queens resident Sheikh Islam says refugees have already poured into the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, which the World Wildlife Federation ranked as the city most vulnerable to climate change impacts out of 11 Asian coastal cities.

Islam says there’s more recognition now that climate change is causing the refugee surge into the city.

“They thought the migrants who came to the city were just jobless and landless. Now, the government is mentioning that they are jobless and landless because of climate change,” he says.

Islam says there’s also a growing perception that Western developed countries bear more responsibility for the problem because they contribute the most to carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

“Now, people know about climate change and they are talking about it,” Islam says. “Three to five years ago they don’t talk about it. They thought it was our problem. Now they think it is a global problem.”

12-4

Houstonian Corner V12-I3

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Bereavement for the Khan Family

We announce with immense pain and sorrow that Yasmeen Khan (Parro), wife of President of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) Shaukat Khan and sister of former City of Houston Councilperson Masrur Javed Khan, passed away after bravely battling with cancer for almost two years. Her funeral prayers were held at Hamza Masjid.

A special program of prayers was held for her on Saturday, January 16th, 2010 at 12:30pm. at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) Main Center located at 3110 East Side Street, Houston, Texas 77098. For more information, one can call 832-867-2522 / 713-398-4829.

Staff members and their families of our media institute would like to extend our heartiest condolences’ to the whole Khan Family, pray for the departed soul to enter into the highest paradise and that God gives strength to the whole family to bear this immense loss (Aameen).

Public Service Does Not Need Any Portfolio: M. J. Khan

Picture AO

Picture AN

Friends of Former City of Houston District “F” Councilperson M. J. Khan arranged a dinner to recognize and appreciate the services rendered by termed-out Councilman. Special congressional recognition was given by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on this occasion. Also present and who gave tremendous tributes to M. J. included Congressman AL Green, Former Mayor of Houston Bill White, City of Houston Councilperson District “A” Brenda Stardig; Harris County Judge Candidate Gordon Quan, Azam Akhtar; Ghulam Chisti; Ghulam Bombaywala, Ali Riza Candir (Turkish Community); Dr. Asaf Qadeer; Shamshad Wali; Haroon Shaikh; Dr. Yaqoob Sheikh; Attorney Nomi Hussain; Ahmad El-Yaseen; Mohammad Zaheer; Attorney Neiyyar Izfar; and others. Everyone said that people will soon see M. J. Khan at a high public service post.

M. J. Khan with heavy heart informed everybody that doctors have given up hope for his sister to recover from cancer, which she had been daringly fighting for 2 years and then proudly informed that God has given him a grandson Yousuf only two weeks ago. He said these are real life struggles and then joyous stories: Winning or losing elections have no meaning in front of the real life.

He said he never ever imagined that a stadium full of people like 70,000 would ever vote for him in his life. Masrur Khan informed about a saying of Gordon Quan: “A stadium full of people voted for me. But just as information, my opponent also got a stadium full of voters balloting in his favor.”

He said although he did not win City Controller Elections, it does not mean he has lost or he will sit on the sidelines. “One does not need a portfolio to serve fellow human being,” added M.J.

Talking generally to the Muslim Community, M. J. Khan said history is a proof that wherever Muslims went, they left beautiful legacy of human service and that is what the community needs to do in USA: We need to serve everyone without any discrimination.

M.J. mentioned about one internal challenge the Muslim Community is facing and that is the Youth in the community need good guidance and should not fall to misinformation of the extremists, who have capability of sending their message inside USA using various new technology and media. “Muslim Youth need to follow the middle path specified by God and His Messenger Mohammad and avoid any extremist inclinations. Allah SWT in Quran clearly has stipulated that if someone saves a life, it is as if he or she has saved the whole humanity; while if someone kills one innocent person, it is as if he or she has killed the whole humanity.”

At the same time, M. J. Khan mentioned that one of the biggest external challenges the Muslim Community has to face is the false propaganda of few that wrongly attribute violence with Islam. “If Muslim Community is openly involved in what Islam has asked us to do and that is we have to be at the forefront of the public service, we can take care of this tirade of propaganda. We may be students in schools & colleges; entrepreneurs; professionals; politicians; and so on: Our main task in life is to serve the humanity,” said M. J. Khan.

12-3

Muslim American Convention

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS Southern California Correspondent

The issues of family values, of the expectations of family members and even of what constitutes a family and what its place in society is, involves all human beings. This popular subject was addressed by the Muslim America Society in its recent convention.

The Muslim American Society (MAS) held its 13th Annual Regional Convention this past weekend in Los Angeles, Ca. Titled: “Portrait of a Family” the well attended event featured timely and informative issues presented by Muslim leaders and scholars.

A bazaar within the convention area provided an opportunity for attendees to purchase Islamic goods and to learn about Islamic organizations. It also provided an opportunity for people to fraternize and to discuss sessions they had attended.

The convention featured Main Sessions and Parallel sessions with some presentations intended for Muslim youth.

The panels dealt with such topics as: “Empty Nest, Not Empty Life”; “Family: The Heart of the Muslim Ummah”, and “Get Involved: Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP)”.

“I feel that many of my questions about family situations have been answered” said one young woman after the early morning session.

The invited presenters were truly a cross section of respected and informed Muslim leaders. These included Dr. Maher Hathout, Hussam Ayloush, Reem Salahi, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Shakeel Syed, and Sheik Safwat Morsy.

A secondary topic of the Convention, one that was truly a logical segue from the concept of family that dominated the Convention, was the Palestinian cause. In the words of one presenter “Our Ummah is like one body. When one part aches, the entire body aches”. These three presentations introduced a group called Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP), a Muslim American Society youth based project which began in August 2009. MAP has three primary objectives for the Palestinian cause: 1)To inform the public of the true story – the true history – of Palestine; 2)To empower the Muslim community to revive and recognize the Islamic value of Palestine, and 3)To preserve the glorious Islamic heritage of Palestine.

There were three panels that covered the subject of Palestine and MAP. During the first panel Reem Salahi, an attorney who has twice visited Gaza in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, told of her experiences. Ms Salahi speaks Arabic and showed pictures that she had taken, so her experiences were truly first hand and not filtered. In February 2009 Ms Salahi went to Gaza in the immediate days following Israel’s attack as part of a National Lawyers Guild (NLG) delegation to investigate possible Israeli war crimes and violations of the basic norms of accepted international behavior. The delegation found Israel in total non compliance. Ms Salahi spoke of “white flag murders”, that is the murder by Israelis of innocent civilians whom they had ordered out of their homes and who had complied and exited waving white flags. In at least six incidents the Israelis shot them in cold blood.

Toward the end of the panel Ms Salahi placed an overseas telephone call to Dr. Nafiz Abu Shaaban at his office in a Gaza hospital. Over a Speakerphone Dr. Shaaban told of chilling experiences that he and other Gazan medical personal had been privy to. He told of people who entered the hospital with White Phosphorus burns and of how these burns, rather than being extinguished, continued to burn as long a there was flesh to destroy. Finally medical personnel called in from Lebanon were able to treat these patients, the Israelis having introduced White Phosphorus to Lebanon during their recent war.

As the convention ended, people who had attend one or more of these sessions spoke enthusiastically about working with MAP and taking back Palestine.

“I never realized how bad things were. I am glad these sessions brought the truth home” said one young man of apparent high school age.

Participants at the bazaar included, but were not limited to: CAIR, ACCESS, Islamic Relief, and Helping Hand. Helping Hand is a humanitarian organization that sends relief teams to all parts of the world when a crisis ensues. Their motto is: No Borders, No Boundaries. They may be accessed at: www.helpinghandonline.org.

The Muslim American Society may be traced to its ancestral roots to the call of the Prophet Mohammed (s). Its modern roots are traceable to the Islamic revival movement at the turn of the 20th century. The revival was intended to re-establish Islam as a total way of life.

The Muslim American Society may be accessed at: www.masnet.org. The local Los Angeles chapter may be accessed at:: www.mas-la.org.

Muslim Americans for Palestine may be accessed at: www.mapalestine.org.

12-1

Houstonian Corner (V12-I1)

December 31, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

AMJA Seminar: “Muslim Family in USA”

Houston, Texas: Several hundred Muslim families this past Saturday attended the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) Free One-Day Educational Seminar on “Muslim Family in USA” at the recently constructed beautiful Norris Conference Center in Town Center (I-10 and BW 8).

Program was divided into four parts: Adults, Adolescents, Youngsters, and Children. Various contemporary issues related to family values, marriage, youth, etc. were discussed in details. Topics included: “Organized Konfusion”; “The Hollywood Effect”; “Choosing One’s Spouse”; Goals, Purpose and Definition of Marriage”; Spouses’ Rights and Duties; Marital Discord and Establishing a Happy Family; “Nominal Marriage and Nominal Divorce”; and others.

Some of the famous scholars present on the occasion were: Dr. Salah AL-Sawi, Secretary General of AMJA & President of Shariah Academy of America; Dr. Main Al-Qudah, Imam MAS Katy Center & Assistant Professor Shariah Academy; Dr. Mwafak Ghalayeny, Imam the Islamic Center of Grand Blank City Michigan & Faculty Member of Islamic American University; Dr. Hatem AL-Haj, Board Certified Pediatrician & Dean of Shariah Academy; Dr. Waleed Edrees Meneese, Vice-Chairman of North American Imams Federation & Vice-President of Islamic University of Minnesota; Dr. Waleed Basyouni, Imam Clear Lake Islamic Center; Dr. Mohamed Na’em Saey, Professor of Jurisprudence; Shaikh Moustafa Mahmoud Imam ISGH; Michael Fjetland of Islam in Spanish; Imam Yahya Gant of ISGH; Shaikh Abdul Aziz Aboulhassan Imam ISGH; and many others.

For getting more information including DVD of the various presentations, one can visit www.AMJAOnline.Org

Houston Helping Hand to Send Container for Needy Pakistanis

Houston, Texas: With the dedicated & constant help and support of International Courier Services, and Volunteers of Dr. Saleha Khumawala, the Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), is ready to send a Container for the Needy to Pakistan from Houston. HHRD has sent the following appeal:

You can donate new or used household items like kitchenware, bed sheets, comforters, blankets, leather jackets, sweaters, towels, bikes, toys, wheel chairs, crutches, pots and pans, dishes, rugs, carpet, computers, printers, clothes, shoes, accessories, basically everything that’s in good useable condition. No junk or unusable items please!!! We need to maximize the valuable shipping space. Since the task is such an enormous one we need your cooperation in sorting and packing the items you donate in the following way:

1) Separate winter and summer clothing;
2) Use separate boxes for clothing for women and children. NO western suits for women;
3) Tie shoes/sandals pairs to ensure that they stay together;
4) For sets of shalwar-kameez tightly fold and secure the set;
5) Fitted/flat sheets, comforters, quilts, towels etc. should be tightly rolled and secured;
6) All household items in separate boxes from clothes etc.;
7) In addition please make a donation of any amount ($50-$100) you can to help cover shipping, port clearing and distribution costs.

The check should be made payable to: Helping Hand For Relief & Development (tax-deductible receipt will be issued): Checks can be mailed to: 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099.

Please sort everything as instructed and pack in separate boxes and mark the contents on the outside with a marker (DONOT seal /tape the boxes).

HHRD cannot accept any appliances or food.

Please take all your stuff in boxes and DROP off on: Saturday and Sunday – January 16 & 17, 2010 – Between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the following location.
ICS Shipping Co.; 6160 Westview Dr.; Houston, Texas 77055; (713) 688-4599

DIRECTIONS to ICS Shipping:  From Inside the 610 loop; Go on I-10 west; Exit Silber Street; Make a right turn on Silber; Make a right on Westview, go about ¼ mile; 6160 Westview is on the left; (281) 793-8455 cell  Khurram Iqbal.

We need at least 30 Volunteers on January 16 and 17, 2010. Please call us and let us know which day you can help. For any other questions please call: Maaz Adil (281) 468-2238- Rana Farooqui (713) 453-8388 (after 4 p.m.).

12-1

Obama to Investment Guru Buffett: Hi Cuz

December 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, who won political support and has sought advice from investment guru Warren Buffett, may now feel even closer to the world’s second richest man.

According to their family trees, the two men who at times shared the stage together during the 2008 presidential campaign are seventh cousins three times removed.

Genealogists at ancestry.com announced Tuesday that Obama and Buffett are related through a 17th century Frenchman named Mareen Duvall.

According to the online genealogists, Duvall — who immigrated to Maryland from France in the 1650s — is Obama’s 9th great grandfather and Buffett’s 6th great grandfather.

The discovery was made by accident when the same team of genealogists who had researched Obama’s family tree went on to investigate details about Buffett’s relatives.

“We recognized the name Duvall and it made us wonder if this was a connection,” said Anastasia Tyler, the lead researcher on the project. “So we started focusing on Duvall.”

“We’re always looking for a way to show how interesting family history is. Like this, when you start finding similarities in family trees,” Tyler said in an interview. “The tree leads you in directions you don’t expect.”

The family tree shows Obama related to Duvall through his mother Stanley Ann Dunham while Buffett is linked to Duvall through his father Howard Buffett.

Tyler called Duvall’s life a “rags-to-riches” story. He arrived in America as an indentured servant but by 1659 he had bought property in Maryland and became a planter and merchant and was considered a “country gentleman.”

“It’s quite an achievement,” Tyler said of Duvall’s rise in society. “You can see similarities to him in both (Obama’s and Buffett’s) lives.”

During the presidential campaign, Lynne Cheney said she found while tracing her family roots that her husband, then Vice President Dick Cheney, was a distant cousin of Obama’s.

Obama has also been found to have had German roots through his sixth great grandfather, and a connection to Ireland through his third great grandfather.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

A Victim of Israeli Military Action

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Farah 3 The horrors and injustice of Israel’s occupation of Gaza has outraged the humanitarian world. Often the story of suffering is best writ small. The impact of occupation on one person can limn the entire situation in the sharpest light.

Gaza has been called the world’s largest outdoor prison. Here is the story of one of its prisoners.

Farah Abu Halima was a pretty and smiling three year old girl with a smile as big as she was and a head of curly hair. Before Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in late December of last year, Farah enjoyed her family and friends and enjoyed life despite the occupation. She had the resilience that all Palestinians have plus the added resilience that is a part of childhood.

During Operation Cast Lead Farah was severely burned around her mouth, her abdomen, and her right leg when she was struck by White Phosphorus used by the Israelis. The use of White Phosphorus against civilians is in clear and direct violation of international law. It is permissible only when used as a smoke screen against advancing armies. White Phosphorus is a metal, and it reacts aggressively with moisture in the body. It then uses that moisture as a path through the victim. It does not merely burn: it destroys the tissue and bone in its path.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) sent a fact finding expedition to Gaza earlier this year to investigate Israel’s use of White Phosphorus against civilians. They found that the use White Phosphorus was a widespread policy. Israel’s denials have run afoul of the facts.

During the attack her home was destroyed and her family, with the exception of her grandmother, were killed.

Farah has finally arrived in the United States with her grandmother for medical treatment. This has been accomplished through the auspices of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), and the two are now with their host family in San Diego where the doctor’s visits and probable surgery will take place.

Even her departure from Rafah in Gaza was fraught with delays. She and her grandmother had an earlier departure scheduled but were thwarted by the Egyptians.

Farah has made her initial doctor’s visits. Their chief concern – and the site of the probable surgery – is her lower abdomen and part of her leg. Farah’s small stature makes total skin grafting as a solution impossible. The surgeons will use a procedure known as tissue expansion.

A spokesperson for the PCRF San Diego Chapter has told the following to The Muslim Observer:

“Three-year old Farah has endured the unimaginable, both physically and emotionally, due to the Israeli bombing of her home in Gaza last January. She lost her mother, several aunts and uncles and her grandfather. She also suffered severe burns to her lower abdomen, upper thighs, and chin and chest from the white phosphorous bombs. She is fortunate to be here through the efforts of the PCRF to undergo medical treatment, and she will hopefully continue to develop normally as a result of the efforts of the surgeon, doctor Batra, and her host family Suha and David Gazal. Considering what this little girl has endured, Farah is very playful, personable, and is in high-spirits.”

Readers may follow Farah’s progress by accessing the PCRF site at: www.pcrf.net.

11-50

Mich Woman Imprisoned by Israel following settler takeover of Palestinian home

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

alethonews.blogspot.com

Imprisoned American citizen and Michigan resident Ahlam Mohsen to be deported to the US after being arrested in a Palestinian home taken over by Israeli settlers in Occupied East Jerusalem.

Ahlam was a guest of the al-Kurd family when on the morning of 3 November 2009 Israeli settlers burst in and seized part of the building. Contrary to eyewitness accounts, the police claim the 21-year-old attacked them.

>From the Givon prison in Ramle where Ms. Mohsen is currently awaiting deportation she reported that: “The Israeli police were violently pushing an elderly Palestinian woman. So I stepped in front of them. They told me to move and when I refused they started forcefully pushing me. Then they grabbed me and carried me into a police van. While I was waiting at the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the police officers kept telling each other that I was a `dirty Arab’ and introducing me as ‘Osama Bin Laden’s sister’. One of them, threatened to `break my head’. None of the other non-violent demonstrators were targeted; the way they treated me, it’s obvious that I was arrested because I’m of Arab descent.”

The 40 settlers, accompanied by private armed security and Israeli police forces, entered a section of the home, threw out the family’s belongings and locked themselves in.

The take-over came after an appeal submitted by the family’s lawyer was rejected by the District Court. In their appeal, the Palestinian family was challenging an earlier court decision that deemed a section of the house illegal and ordered that the keys be given to settlers. The settlers proceeded to enter the house, while the court did not grant them the right to enter the property.

The al-Kurd home was built in 1956. An addition to the house was built 10 years ago, but the family was not allowed to inhabit the section because the municipality refused to grant them a building permit. Visibly unequal laws are used to make it possible for settlers to move into a home where it was declared illegal for Palestinian residents to inhabit. The Israeli authorities exercise their abilities to demolish and evict Palestinian residents, while ignoring building violations from the Israeli population in East Jerusalem.

The al-Kurds have become the fourth Sheikh Jarrah family whose house has been occupied by settlers in the last year. So far, 60 people have been left homeless. In total, 28 families living in the Karm Al- Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, located directly north of the Old City, face imminent eviction from their homes.

Ahlam is imprisoned in the Givon prison in Ramle.

She is available for interviews.

Video: edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/11/03/hancocks.fight.for.jerusalem.cnn

11-47

Community News (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Airmen & families celebrate Ramadan

By 1st Lt. Joe Kreidel

18th Wing Public Affairs

8/24/2009 – KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  — “It’s like planning for Christmas while everyone else is going about their business,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Errahimi, a combat communications chief with the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, about preparing for Ramadan here. This same sense of dislocation is no doubt shared by many military members celebrating Ramadan in places like Okinawa where Islam is by far a minority religion.

Ramadan, which began Aug. 22, is a 30-day fast during which devout Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is the preeminent ritual in a faith that gives particular importance to its ritual observances.

“Islam was something I was looking for – the mosque was so quiet and peaceful,” said Sergeant Errahimi of her conversion six years ago. After meeting her now-husband, who is from Morocco, she studied at a mosque for one year prior to making her “shahada” or witness of faith.

It was Islam’s structure and emphasis on community that first appealed to Staff Sgt. Marvin Morris, an X-ray technician and the assistant NCOIC of radiology at the 18th Medical Operations Squadron. He called the daily regimen of five scheduled prayers “the military version of prayer.”

“The first few days of fasting are hard,” said Sergeant Morris. At Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where he was previously stationed, several non-Muslim friends attempted to join him in the fast; one friend made it one whole day. For Sergeant Morris, it’s in large part the hardship of fasting that makes Ramadan so special: “That’s what it’s about. It’s a cleansing process, a chance to focus inward and renew your commitment to Allah.”

The day’s perseverance is rewarded come sunset, as “Iftar” – the evening meal at which each day’s fast is broken – tends to be an extravagant affair. For a week leading up to Ramadan, Sergeant Errahimi and her husband, who have four children at home, prepared various dishes and pastries so as to have a stockpile once Ramadan actually began. Food preparation, too, is more difficult and requires more planning in Okinawa than in Washington, D.C., where the Errahimis lived previously. “Halal” meats are especially hard to come by.

Ramadan will conclude Sept. 19 with “Eid,” a major festival that traditionally involves a special public prayer, feasting, gift-giving, and visiting with family and friends. This communal, festive aspect of Ramadan may be somewhat lacking for Sgt. Morris this year, as he’s new to the island and hasn’t yet made many friends amongst the on-island Muslim community, miniscule compared to the one in northern California.

In 2007, Sergeant Morris celebrated Ramadan at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. While there he worked the night shift, convenient because it allowed him to sleep during the day when he couldn’t eat or drink. On multiple occasions he was able take “Iftar” with a group of Egyptian Muslims working in Afghanistan. “I loved it,” he said, “It’s a different culture, but we’re connected by our shared faith. It’s like a family away from family.”

NC Mosque hit by hate crime

TAYLOR, NC– A mosque in Taylors has been victim of a hate crime. The words ‘Death to Muslims’ were carved in a concrete outside the Islamic Center.

The anti-religious message was written sometime in the early morning hours last Saturday.  For members like Miriam Abbad, it’s hard to see.  She’s worshipped for 10 years at the center.  “When they say death to Muslims, that means me, my young children, my husband, my whole family.  What did we do wrong to deserve such mean words to come out?”

The FBI is investigating the case.

Delaware Muslim prof. network

A new service-based organization has formed with the goal of inviting Muslims to participate in activities that benefit the community.

The Muslim Professionals of Delaware began last month and is working on its first project, a drive to collect school supplies for disadvantaged children.

Group founders Semab Chaudhry and Ahmed Sharkawy, said they want to work with interfaith groups to help the needy, foster greater cultural understanding and hold career and college development workshops.

Anyone interested in joining or working with the group can visit www.mpod.us.com or e-mail info@mpod.us.com.

11-36

Somali Woman’s Illness and A Family’s Quest for Healing

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Joel Grostephan, New America Media

NAM Editor’s Note: A 31-year-old Somali woman goes missing after she’s diagnosed with psychosis, and her family is baffled when the county won’t tell them where she is so they could begin the spiritual healing treatment they believe will help her, writes NAM contributor, Joel Grostephan.

ST.CLOUD, Minn. — Samira Iman was missing for nearly two years. The 31-year-old Somali didn’t run away. She wasn’t kidnapped. She didn’t go to Africa to fight in Somalia’s decades-old civil war. She was living in St. Cloud, Minn., in a group home for the mentally ill. But Samira’s family lost track of her, and mental health officials did not help them locate her.

One day in the fall of 2007, Samira fainted at the poultry processing plant where she had begun working. She was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with mental illness, according to her family. After she was discharged, she was either sent to a group home or released on to the street, but not to her family. When her younger brother, Yahya Iman, tried to find out where she was, Stearns County Human Services cited government privacy laws and would give no information.

Then, earlier this month, Samira reappeared as mysteriously as she disappeared. Now she’s living with her family. But in the two years she was away, she got herself into trouble. Samira faces felony assault charges for allegedly hitting staff members at the group home last fall. Given her mental state and the nature of the crime, she is likely to be convicted of a less serious offense. She missed her court hearing scheduled for February 2009, so Judge Paul Midwick issued a warrant for her arrest. Yahya doesn’t understand that.

“It don’t make sense how they would charge someone who is mentally ill with something,” he said.

Since the family arrived in the United States in 2001, many things haven’t made sense to them. They still are trying to figure out why the county didn’t allow the family to care for Samira for two years. Why would they not let them know where she was so she could be taken to an Islamic priest to treat her mental illness? Why would the county let Samira make decisions for herself when she wasn’t well?

The Imans are among 30,000 refugees from the civil war who have settled down in Minnesota. It wasn’t long after they came here that they realized that freedom from persecution comes with a price. Many have found that their culture and values don’t have a place in the United States. In Somalia, family takes care of family. Not being able to take care of them is considered shameful. Samira’s family is upset that for the past two years, they could not use traditional Islamic healing practices to help her.

“It’s a huge stigma when a family is unable to take care of one’s own,” said Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali community activist and former interpreter at Hennepin County Medical Center. “People in the community will feel that the family abandoned its own, and the family will feel it’s been robbed,” he said.

When Samira was in a county hospital in Willmar last fall, she was diagnosed with psychosis, and her doctor noted she was delusional. Psychosis is a broad diagnosis that could include anything from post-traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia. In discharge papers obtained by New America Media, Dr. Richard Kokkila wrote about Samira’s violent outbursts at the facility, including throwing hot coffee at staff.

“She has been mocking staff, staring at staff, laughing hysterically at times,” his report stated. He also noted that “she doesn’t want anyone involved in her life,” including her social worker, group home providers or her family, who she believed tried to poison her food.

The emphasis on individual rights, including privacy, is a foreign concept for Somalis, said Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed, a Somali-born family doctor in Minneapolis, who treats mental illness. Somali culture is still communal, he said, and no one would decline help from family. “Her interest to be left alone doesn’t supersede the interest of the family’s need to help,” Mohamed said.

Health officials do not have statistics on the rate of mental illness in Minnesota’s Somali community, but a 2004 study of 1,134 Eritreans and Somalis in the state found that as many as 47 percent of Somali women and 25 percent of men had been tortured before they arrived in the United States. Many Somalis could therefore be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Few Somalis want to follow up with treatment because they are wary of authorities.

“You don’t share your problems with professionals,” said Dr. James Jaranson, a psychiatrist and author of the study. “You talk to family or religious leaders or traditional healers.”

Jaranson said if problems are severe enough, Somalis utilize both western and traditional medicine.

Since the 1990s, when Somalis started to arrive in Minneapolis, some mental health professionals have tailored treatment to fit with Somali culture, said therapist David McGraw Schuchman.

“What family means in the Somali community is different,” Schuchman said. “It is a source of identity, strength, comfort, and protection.”

Doctors and therapists describe patients are routinely accompanied by their family members — sometimes four or five of them.

Then there are other cultural beliefs in the community. About 90 percent of them believe spirit possession, or jinn, causes mental illness, according to Mohamed.
Mary Bradmiller, a psychologist who works with refugees at Hennepin County Medical Center, said being comfortable talking about religion is critical for health providers. She frequently hears about jinn possession, which her Somali patients insist can be treated by a priest.

“Reading the Koran might bring symptom reduction for a period of months,” Bradmiller said.

Samira’s family believes she is suffering from jinn possession. In the past, the family used a number of different priests to read the Koran over her. Samira would be fine for about six months after that, Yahya maintained.

Hassan Mohamud, head priest of the Dawa Center in St. Paul said jinn are invisible to humans. Some of them are neutral – they don’t mean any harm — but some of them are evil. Mohamud acknowledges that western medicine can help treat mental illness, but he believes Islamic traditional medicine should be tried first.

A priest’s exorcism of jinn involves reading certain prayers and verses from the Koran. “We ask the jinn: ‘Who are you? What’s your name? Where are you from? And, why are you harming this person?’” Mohamud said. That generally sends the jinn away.

The religious support may also encourage patients to take their medication.

When Samira joined her family in the United States in 2005, she refused to eat for nearly a month, her brother, Yahya, said. Sometimes Samira would get angry and have fainting spells, but her condition was remedied through prayer, her brother recalled.

When she was gone, contact with her was sporadic. In the fall of 2008 her younger sister, Bisharo Iman, said she met with Samira at a motel where she was staying temporarily. At that time, her sister didn’t want to come home to the family and declined their offer to rent an apartment for her.

For the Iman family, language and cultural barriers made it even more difficult in dealing with the bureaucratic challenges many families face in caring for a loved one with mental illness.

About a month before Samira returned home, Yahya spent the day trying to find his sister at her last known address: a church-run shelter. A worker there told him Samira’s social worker placed her in a group home for the mentally ill. He went downtown to find her. But like other trips to Stearns County Human Services, he came up empty. He said that he was told by Stearns County Human Services officials that privacy laws prevented them from discussing her case with the family. His mother had been there the day before and was told the same thing.

Sue Abderholden, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, said releasing some information against the client’s wishes is not against the law. She said many counties believe it is, but even so, they could still help the family. But on the other hand, if someone has dementia, the hospital will make efforts to contact the family.

It is unclear what steps the county took over the past two years to put Samira in touch with her family. When asked about this, Stearns County Human Services Community Support Division Director Janet Reigstad said she was “unable to give any information on this case due to restrictions of government data privacy act.”

After Samira returned home, her mother, Mano Dhuhul, began the process of getting legal guardianship of her. That would give her a say in her daughter’s life when dealing with social workers and health providers. Dhuhul speaks a little English, but relies on her kids to interpret for her. She sometimes regrets coming to the United States. “Back home, we had the power to do something,” Dhuhul said.

Dhuhul knows her daughter is not well. She paces around and around and laughs inappropriately. She doesn’t eat “normally,” the family says. In some ways, her condition seems worse than before she went missing, Dhuhul said. Despite all this, Dhuhul is hopeful that she will recover and be able to work again.

Yahya visits his sister regularly. The family hasn’t taken her to a priest yet, but everyday Samira listens to a CD of an priest reading the Koran.

“I feel good now, she’s safe in our hands,” he said.

11-27

Profile: Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini

February 22, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dana Inayah Cann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

His mission was to follow in his forefather’s footsteps and become a scholar and religious leader.

What Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini didn’t realize is that his goals in life would take him to the other side of the world, to America, and captivate the minds of people from all walks of life. Whether for political leaders or for Christians, Al-Qazwini has given a better understanding of Islam in hopes of defeating the widespread misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. Al-Qazwini was born in Karbala, Iraq, in 1964, during the time of the Ba’athist regime, which was gradually brainwashing the people of Iraq.

Al-Qazwini’s family, well known in Iraq and in the Muslim community for their scholarship, leadership and community service, were against the Ba’athist regime.

Al-Qazwini’s father Ayahtollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini was one of the religious scholars who not only spread the word of Islam to the people of Iraq, but also opened Islamic schools and other institutions.

Since Al-Qazwini’s father migrated to the United States in 1984, he has opened Islamic schools, mosques and other institutions in Los Angeles, California.

Because the Al-Qazwini family refused to side with Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist regime, they fled Iraq and moved to Kuwait after Al-Qazwini’s grandfather, Ayatollah Sayid Mohammed Sadiq Al-Qazwini, was arrested and never heard from again. During his time in Kuwait, Al-Qazwini decided to fulfill his goal as a religious leader and scholar.

As the Al-Qazwini family migrated from Kuwait to Qum, Iran, to escape Hussein’s hunger for more power in his regime, Al-Qazwini joined the Islamic Seminary in 1980 and graduated in 1992.

Towards the end of 1992, Al-Qazwini moved his family to the United States where he directed the Azzahra Islamic Center founded by his father in Los Angeles, California. He also taught several Islamic fiqh and other Islamic courses during his four-year stay.

A year into his migration to America, Al-Qazwini was invited to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan to speak during the upcoming holy month of Ramadhan.

Having a positive effect on the Muslim community in Dearborn, Al-Qazwini was invited to return a year later.

The Islamic Center, established in 1963, is the oldest Shi’a mosque in the United States.

Wanting to reach out to the younger generations of American Muslims, Al-Qazwini felt that it would be best to speak their language: English. Committed to reach his goal, Al-Qazwini devoted himself and quickly learned English and began to successfully communicate with the youth and cater to their needs.

By 1997, Al-Qazwini moved his family to Dearborn after accepting the role of scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America. A year into his position, Al-Qazwini founded the Young Muslims Association (YMA), which is affiliated with the Islamic Center. The goal of the organization is to educate, promote leadership and create a place where young Muslims can actively support Islam.

Since 9/11, Al-Qazwini has been one of the most influential American Shi’a Muslim religious leaders. He has visited numerous churches, colleges and the White House. He has been invited by the State Department, the Defense Department and has conducted interviews on NPR, BBC, CNN, VOA, The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, and The New York Times, among others.

While speaking to the American public, political and religious leaders, Al-Qazwini discusses issues relating to Muslims and he also speaks out against those religious leaders who commence attacks on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (s).

When asked about the biggest hurdle facing American Muslims, Al-Qazwini believes that the major hurdle is misconceptions that non-Muslims have about Islam. Part of the problem is the American media.

”No doubt, there is bias in the media,” said Al-Qazwini, describing how the media gives a negative view with images of car bombings, beheadings and the war in Iraq. “The biased media here in this country is playing a major role in promoting and pushing these misconceptions in the minds of Americans.”

Al-Qazwini blames CNN for having a show with Glenn Beck who spoke negatively about Muslims, along with Fox News and the O’Reilly Factor. He also blames religious leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham for “once in a while inciting hatred against Islam and Muslims in this country.”

”We’re dealing with, I would say, a ruthless enemy that is aimed at discrediting us, at labeling all Muslims as extreme Muslims,” Al-Qazwini said as he mentioned that there are also hundreds of ant-Islamic websites on the internet promoting hatred against Islam. “They brand us all as extremists so they can coax this fear and paranoia in the minds of Americans so they do not get to know us.”

Al-Qazwini said that the other part of the problem for the misconceptions that non-Muslims have about Islam is Muslims themselves.

”We have not done enough to let others know us and learn more of our religion,” said Al-Qazwini. “Our job is to deliver the message of Islam, to show the example of what kind of people we are. We are a people of peace. Therefore, we need to emphasize the concept of peace.”

Al-Qazwini went on to say “I can challenge any person by saying that Islam is the first divine and monotheistical religion that can publicly invite the Jews and Christians to have a dialogue. It is in the Qur`an where God says:

Say: Oh people of the book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him, nor set up any human beings as lords beside God.

If they turn away, say “Bear witness that we are submitters.”

Ali-Imran:64

To spread the word, promote peace, and lessen the misconceptions of Islam, Al-Qazwini says that Muslims should reach out to non-Muslims who want to know about Islam. The mosques are always open for all to attend to seek education about Islam, not motivated conversion. Al-Qazwini says that it is up to Allah to convert people.

”If people don’t want to go to the mosque, we can go to them,” said Al-Qazwini. “In classrooms, with colleagues, or at people’s homes,” Muslims can teach those who want to understand Islam.

When asked if the younger generation is prepared to become religious Islamic leaders in the future, Al-Qazwini doesn’t think so.

Al-Qazwini takes part of the blame with other Islamic centers that “have not done enough in preparing the new generation.”

Al-Qazwini says that if the younger generation is convinced to go to the Middle East, study Islam and come back to America, people will be able to relate to them better because they were born in the same place and speaking the same language. He is willing to work for a sponsor to help a young Muslim to go to the Middle East to study Islam.

”We need to have more English-speaking imams who not only speak the language, but they understand it,” said Al-Qazwini. “And, they can educate in a more adequate way with the American society.”

9-9

Escape from Bint Jebail

August 3, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO Staff reporter
A Muslim Observer exclusive report

Hussein Khalil looks like a man who spent all night watching a ghost. His face is pale and ashen, with a few days’ growth of beard on his cheeks. His face is young, but his manners show the sincerity that usually results from a close experience of the fragility and beauty of human life. He still sees pictures of the dead people he saw only last week in the south of Lebanon. He still doesn’t sleep quietly through the night, and nor do his children. When airplanes fly overhead, his 3 and a half year old son screams at him to run for shelter before the Israelis kill them.

Mr. Khalil just returned from Lebanon, crossing through a harrowing and miserable odyssey to save his wife and children. On June 6th, his wife and children had left happily for a vacation with her parents in Ainetta, the town immediately neighboring Bint Jebail. They expected to return at the end of the summer, on September 6th.

As the political situation melted down after Hezbollah’s July 12th abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, he kept in constant contact with his family by phone. The phone calls got worse and worse. Through some of the phone calls, he could hear distant bombs and other sounds of war. The bombardment affected his children—they started to become annoyed, hysterical, crying frantically. His infant daughter Muna cried to him on the phone, “Please come and get us—why are they trying to kill us?” His wife told him, “Don’t even try to come,” because of the fierce bombardment. Terrified of the rumored death traps waiting for fleeing refugees on the roads out of southern Lebanon, the family hunkered down in the house. The pressure affected Khalil—at night, he could not sleep; in the day, he could not work; he could not drink, he could not eat.

Friday July 14th was the worst day. That day, he was talking to his wife during an artillery bombardment when he heard a loud explosion, somebody screaming, and the phone line went dead. Although he would not find out until he arrived there days later, the artillery shell had hit the house, destroying the top floor but (through apparently miraculous intervention) not injuring his family members in the house. But that Friday, he knew no such thing. Frantic, he went to the airport. He flew to Jordan; a flight delay gave him an expected wait of 13 hours, which was too much for him at that point. He found a car and traveled to Syria. Explaining his situation, he was allowed to cross the border.

A friend in Damascus prepared a car for his use and made travel plans for him, giving him contact numbers of other people who might help him in Lebanon. Everyone else in Damascus told him not to go, that Beirut was a war zone.

His heart burning for his family, Mr. Khalil continued on, driving to Beirut. He arrived in Beirut on Tuesday. Then he went to the American embassy; after waiting in line, he spoke to an embassy official, telling him that at least 10 US citizens were in a house close to Bint Jebail under heavy bombardment, including his wife and children and in-laws. The American official told him, “We cannot stop the war for your family.” They told him to let them stay where they were, and asked Mr. Khalil for his phone number [which, not surprisingly, they never called].

Then he went to the Red Cross. They said the same thing, that “It is hostile there—we are not allowed to go there, we are not permitted to go.” They told him to try the UN.

He went to the UN, where no one actually met with him, other than to make a generalized announcement that they were trying to obtain a cease-fire there.

Desperate to help his family, he began to contact taxi drivers. He offered some of them $10,000 to drive him to Bint Jebail. No one would take the money—“it’s not an issue of money,” they said, “it is impossible.”

Exhausting all of his friend’s contacts, he turned to an old friend from years ago, whose number he still had. That friend agreed to drive him to Tyre, without ever mentioning money. Their plan was to leave after fajr on Wednesday morning. That night the Israeli air force bombed the Beirut airport. After fajr they left for Tyre.

Lebanon is small, and travel is a minor act relative to what it is in America—if a driver could drive 60mph in a straight line from the south to the north, he could travel the length of Lebanon in less than two hours. When the Israeli army invaded Lebanon in 1982, they waltzed to Beirut in four hours. Tyre is normally a 45 minute drive from Beirut (from Tyre, Khalil planned to hitchhike or walk the 25 miles to Bint Jebail). Against all the advice of those in Lebanon, they drove a van—and it is for this reason that they would be able to save so many of their relatives in Bint Jebail.

The Israelis had bombed the normal roads going south from Beirut, so only someone with knowledge of the back roads could succeed in going south to Tyre. Fortunately the driver knew the back roads through the mountains, and after four hours they began to approach Tyre. Refugees going away from Tyre tried to flag them down, telling them not to go forward.

The driver wanted to turn around, but Khalil begged him, “Just get me to Tyre.”

Asking for directions through the remnants of the devastated roads of southern Lebanon, they tried dead end after dead end. Finally, two people having just come out of Tyre directed them to pass through a nearby orchard, which they did, to find their way.

That was when they found the bodies. They passed at least four cars and one van, full of people, most of whom were dead but some of whom were still alive and moving in agony in those burnt-out shells of cars, all of which still had white flags; body parts and luggage was strewn across the ground. All of the cars had been hit where the heat of the engine provided a signature for missiles to hone in on—this fire was targeted by Israeli helicopters or jets, and was not the result of errant artillery. The smell of burnt human flesh still haunts Mr. Khalil. One man had tried to escape his doomed vehicle, but not in time. The door hung open, and the man’s headless body still leaned out of the car when they passed.

Desperate to save his family, with no medical training and himself on a mission which would save tens of people, Mr. Khalil and his friend continued on. Warned of the danger they faced, Khalil kept his eyes glued to the sky, his hand attached to the door handle, while the driver focused on driving. At a moment’s notice they were prepared to jump out of the van and run away.

He prayed continuously and sincerely, accepting that if he died on this journey at least it would be in the course of doing a good deed, as a martyr, trying to save lives and serve his family.

For some reason, as they left Tyre, the driver continued on and never asked Mr. Khalil to continue on by himself on foot.

They passed through Tibneen. Tens of people waited next to the Tibneen hospital on the road, desperate for food. If Mr. Khalil had stopped here, it would have been impossible to continue on. Many people would have crushed the car. They pushed the bread through the windows to the starving people, about 30 bags of bread, and continued on. Mr. Khalil estimates there are about 15,000 refugees in Tibneen, close to the hospital.

After journeying, they arrived at the split in the road between Bint Jebail and Aineta. To the right there is a valley, from which they saw the white streaks of Hezbollah missiles streaking south towards Israel—the only evidence they ever saw of the presence of Hezbollah in Bint Jebail—“I never even saw one man holding a Kalashnikov,” said Mr. Khalil.

Jet fighters banked and turned in the sky, immediately directing their fire downwards at the source of those plumes of smoke. Artillery flew into the valley, and into Ainetta, the rocket attack providing a focal point for the Israeli military. This barrage affected the travelers as well—they flew down the road past destroyed buildings. One top story of a building was blown up as they passed. They heard and saw an Israeli drone patrolling above. Smoke was everywhere, missiles were flying down, artillery was bombing everywhere.

When he saw his family’s destroyed house Mr. Khalil’s heart sank to his knees. The artillery shell had blown off the top of his roof, he sprinted from the van, through the bombardment, to the house, wrenching open the door, to find his wife and children sitting on the floor, crying under the merciless Israeli bombardment. In a short time, he crowded his entire family into the van; neighbors ran to him, giving him their children to put into the van with him, not caring about themselves but only caring that he save their children. In their minivan, they stacked 32 people, mostly women and children, of several different families.

Later, Khalil learned, only 3 hours after he left the house in which his family had sheltered was splintered by an Israeli attack, killing three people who had been sheltering there—so if he had only waited a day, or had been delayed by only a few hours, his entire family would have been killed.

Thus began their escape. They careened through the streets of Ainetta and towards Tibneen, artillery pounding so close to them that one 155 mm howitzer round blew out the back window of the van. He begged his family, “Do not look outside the van—do not look left or right,” not wanting his children to see the dead people in the road. “Allah Allah please help us,” he prayed fervently. Some in the van read Qur`an, some did other zikr, begging for safety from above. And so, miraculously, 32 people crowded into a minivan did the unthinkable—escaping a merciless Israeli barrage that explicitly targeted all vans and pickup trucks.

When he got to Tibneen, Mr. Khalil felt better, less pressure from the Israelis. When he got to Sida, he got out of the minivan and kissed the earth, thanking God for having brought him out safely. From Beirut, the family was evacuated via the USS Nashville to Cyprus, then by military transport to New Jersey, then via a surreal rental car ride from New Jersey home to Dearborn, Michigan.

When he returned home, he learned that the driver that saved him and his family was later blinded by an Israeli attack while making a second attempt to pass the gantlet and save more people.

Speaking of the state of Lebanon today, Khalil says it is “three times worse than it was during the civil war. They are targeting the infrastructure.” The roads, the gas stations, the small and large factories, the electricity and phone switchboards are all catastrophically devastated. Prices for travel, he says, are astronomically inflated—it now costs about $1,000 or $1,500 to take a taxi from Beirut to Syria.

The tragedy of this past two weeks was not the first of Hussein Khalil’s life. His background reflects the terrible history of Lebanon. His father, a baker, never himself involved in any fighting, was brutally murdered when Mr. Khalil was only 6 years old for the crime of being a Muslim who lived in a Christian neighborhood. Mr. Khalil’s mother first brought him to the United States in 1982, when he was 12 years old, to escape the Lebanese civil war. And we hope that he and his family have finally escaped war for good.

8-32

BJP Leader Battles for Life

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

BJP Leader Battles For Life
By Nilofar Suhrawardy,
Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
MUMBAI—Sadly, though at the face of it, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pramod Mahajan (57) being shot at by his own younger brother Pravin Mahajan (45) requires almost no investigation, the incident demands deliberation on quite a few issues. This Saturday April 22nd, Pravin shot point blank at Pramod’s residence and later surrendered himself and the weapon to the police. Though repentant of his action, Pravin told the police that he had been angry at Pramod as he was “ill treating” and “ignoring” him. “I have been seeking appointment of Pramod for the last 15 days but in vain—I therefore, decided to visit him early in the morning to accost him for his behavior,” Pravin said in a statement recorded by Worli Police Station, where he surrendered.
“I shot at my brother intentionally. Yes, I wanted to kill him, because he was of no use to me… I went to my brother’s place early in the morning. I wanted him to support me in getting some contracts. He is politically well connected, but he did not help me. I had lost a few big contracts due to Pramod’s non-cooperation,” Pravin stated. During interrogation, Pravin revealed that he had decided to kill Pramod three weeks ago, senior police officials said. Pravin had been tracking Pramod’s whereabouts for fifteen days.
The two brothers were apparently alone in a room for a while when the shots were fired. Before Pramod’s wife could react, Pravin walked down the stairs from the 15th floor flat and drove to the police station.
Seriously injured, Pramod was rushed to Hinduja hospital by his brother-in-law and BJP Legislative Party leader Gopinath Munde, who is also his neighbor. With the bullets having perforated Pramod’s liver, pancreas and intestines, having caused a lot of blood loss, he was admitted into an intensive care unit in critical condition. Pramod’s case was viewed as complicated on account of his being diabetic. Leaving nothing to chance, while liver and pancreas expert Dr Mohammed Rela was invited from London, ortho trauma specialist Dr Steven Dean was rushed from Australia. Besides, among others, the hospital authorities consulted army doctors also. By Monday evening, Mahajan had undergone two surgeries as his vital parameters had become unstable. Due to poor functioning of his kidneys, Pramod was put on dialysis.
As the media kept the nation abreast about Pramod’s condition, the hospital was thronged by celebrities pouring in to display their wishes and sympathy for him and his family members. While at one level this was reflective of the Indian tendency, cutting across political, social and religious barriers to display their support for Pramod and his family members, on another, critics viewed it as a strain on the hospital staff and on Pramod’s security officers. Pramod’s family members include his wife Rekha and children, Poonam and Rahul.
Among the dignitaries who visited the hospital were former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and BJP leaders- including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh and Arun Jaitley. Bollywood personalities Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Dharmendra and Poonam Dhillon were also there.
Expressing anguish and shock at the incident, President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wished Pramod a quick recovery and offered moral support to his family members. Congress President Sonia Gandhi wished the same in a letter addressed to Pramod’s wife Rekha Mahajan.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to apparently save Pravin, his lawyer and his wife Sarangi said that of late he had seemed to be mentally “disturbed.” According to his lawyer, Nandkumar Rajukar, Pravin had been suffering from “some mental disorder” in recent months. However, as per the medical report of J.J. Hospital, Pravin is mentally stable.
Whatever reasons may have provoked Pravin to shoot at his own brother, several factors cannot be ignored. Whether a person is mentally sound or not, greater attention needs to be paid at his possession of a weapon. Sibling rivalry is not uncommon but perhaps if Pravin did not possess the gun, he might not have even planned the incident. After securing the gun license in 1996, Pravin apparently bought the Belgian-made .32-bore Browning pistol at a throwaway price through family contacts. Pravin was able to get the gun license also with the help of his brother-in-law Munde, who was Maharashtra Home Minister in 1996.
Speculations are also being raised at the apparently weak security infrastructure maintained at Pramod’s Worli residence, Poornima Apartments. While it is understood, that Pravin being a brother would not have been refused entry, it is astonishing that he reached Pramod’s flat without passing through any security check. That armed men can easily enter even posh residential areas does ring an alarm bell. The only saving grace is that rather than splitting the nation along religious, regional or political lines, the incident has prompted one and all to hope and pray for Pramod’s recovery. This Monday evening, thanking the doctors for doing an “excellent” job, his son Rahul told reporters: “At this testing time, only prayers come to one’s help.”