AMP Dinner as a Community Gathering

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Silicon Valley–Your reporter’s commentary on Lauren Booth’s stirring observations on Palestine during Ramadan was part of a community Ramadan Iftar banquet presented by the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) as a fund-rising dinner.

Now, shortly, after Eid al-Adha, as your writer writes, the nearby Occupy Oakland encampment is being brutally removed.  This week (last for you) Professors (several of your reporter’s friends are  Muslims employed within the organization)  plan to have a one day strike against the California State University (ies) system brought on by the collapse of this State’s finances.  Also, related to Sacramento’s woes was the violent repression of the student demonstration at U.C. Berkeley within the fortnight.   (Your correspondent has just heard an announcement of occupy-type campus actions across he American land.)  Curiously, the  American issues your Scribe has been mentioning do relate to the Arab “Spring” where the success of the Tunisian elections is one of the bright spots!
The Islamophobic repression of the Gaza show at the Children’s Museum in Oakland has been blunted by the placement of the Gazan child depictions of Operation Cast Lead gallery in that very same city whose owner, fortunately, was sympathetic to the Palestinian plight.  Thus, the report below:

Yours truly originally drafted this piece as part of his concentration on our Holy Land of the  Night Ride going to the United Nations (U.N.) to demand her right to be an independent entity within the world’s sovereign nation-states.  Well, that has happened but, as your reported predicted, it was referred to Committee as a delaying tactic, and now that it has emerged from that Committee with a mixed report-back.  Now, its chances of succeeding in the Security Council are being obfuscated.  President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) would accept nothing less than the status of full Statehood; therefore, the option of partial recognition with all its benefits is, at this time, rejected by the Arabs of the trans-Jordan.

Simultaneously, UNESCO (the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), an important sub-section of the U.N., has recognized Ramallah as an autonomous member.  This has encouraged Tel Aviv to punish Palestine by approving 2,000 new Settlements on Arab-speaking traditional land, and to refuse to reimburse the “Occupied” Territories the taxes they collected on their behalf to finance the P.A. itself!   In essence the Jews have stolen from their neighbors their rightful wealth!  At the same time, a Bill is going through the American Congress to punish the Levant’s oppressed even further.  Please, our readers, who are U.S. citizens or residents, ask your Representatives and Senators to oppose these moves, and the President, if it should appear on his desk, to veto it!

With the recent outrageous jet attacks upon (Palestinian) Gaza with Israel, further, killing five Egyptian soldiers as “collateral damage” leading to riots in Cairo’s streets.  Bi-lateral relations between the two nations (Egypt-Israel) have never been worse since the Camp David Accords  –  besides, it was not Hamas (the unfairly vilified rulers of Gaza) who were involved, but the most likely combatants were the Islamic Jihad (org).

Dr. Hatem Bazian was the spokesman at the AMP (American Muslims for Palestine) at the Banquet that night.  Bazian is the co-founder and primary chief organizer for that night’s Iftar fund-raising dinner. 

Further, he is the co-founder of Zaytuna College of Berkeley, the only accredited Islamic institute of higher education in the United States.   He is now serving as an Academic Chair there and at U.C. Berkeley.

Bazian’s doctoral training is in Philosophy and Islamic Studies at the University of California there in Berkeley.  For five years (2002-2007) he was an Adjunct Professor of Law at U.C.’s Boalt Hall (Law School).  Presently, he is a Lecturer in both the Departments of Near Eastern Studies Lecturer and in the Ethnic Studies

His central academic interests include Islamophobia and its de-constructing and the Othering of Islam – especially in the U.S. and secondarily in the West in general.

He has, also, served as a Visiting Professor at Saint Mary’s College (directly across the East Bay hills in the town of Moraga in Contra Costa County in what is known as the Outer Bay) in Religious Studies plus he is an advisor to the University of California’s Center on Religion, Politics and Globalization.

At Berkeley, he founded the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia, too.

Dr. Bazian, a Muslim Palestinian-American, has been a player in several local (S.F. Bay Area) human rights agendas including the defense of the Americans for Disability Act (ADA), the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Anti-Globalization uprising, which, curiously, has influenced the current “Occupy Wall Street” Movement that has recently  sprung up not only here but all over the U.S.A. and elsewhere.

Bazian began his talk by stating that Muslim students within the community should be encouraged to move away from the traditional engineering and medical doctor’s degrees into broader liberal arts and other professions of direct visibility and leadership within American society.  (This is something this paper has advocated – especially in journalism.  To achieve agency, i.e., self-determination, Islam requires prominence within the greater society and a voice in public policy and politics and elsewhere in the U.S.)

One of the central goals of the AMP is to donate books to public libraries on Islam and especially Palestine to show that “I am Palestinian, and I love freedom, too!”  The AMP is attempting to put a human face on Palestine. They wish to “Bring awareness on Palestine from a Muslim perspective.”

The “Palestinian cause is a civil rights struggle.”  Hatem continues that “The Palestinian cause is a civil rights campaign!” (Your author ascertains at this point in the resistance in the Occupied Territories within the Fertile Crescent, it is a battle for Human Rights.  There is a difference between Civil Rights and Human Right that is often blurred, and your narrator would like to delineate it in greater detail at a future time.) Nonetheless, we are talking about Human Rights here, and it is much more pungently serious! 

Further, Hatem states, “Homo Sapiens are suffering by human hand…the AMP is educating Americans [on]what our (U.S.) government is doing [that] it doesn’t want us to know…You are changing one American at a time!”

Dr. Hatem Bazian got to his business of the night.  The AMP requires money for its upcoming grandiose plans for placards within buses in every major city in the United States to tell the story of the Palestinian plight et al.

In the following week, your author received a Facebook communication from the American Muslims for Palestine that it was changing its primary emphasis from an educational group to an organization to raise money to finance their educational efforts. 

(To be quite honest, your author cannot perceive the difference.  Their end goal is to educate Americans on the plight of Palestine.  They previously have depended upon the Zakat to finance their educational efforts.  This is what this dinner was about, and it was most certainly educational, too, with Lauren Booth’s witness upon which your columnist reported in a past issue.  Your writer believes what Hatem’s post was that the AMP would be making more of an effort to finance their very ambitious projects on education on the Palestine-Israel imbroglio to change “the hearts and minds” of Americans away from the prevalent Israeli propaganda.)

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Remarks By The President During Iftar Dinner

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Everyone, please have a seat, have a seat.

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President Obama welcomes guests at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House, August 10, 2011.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the White House. Tonight is part of a rich tradition here at the White House of celebrating the holy days of many faiths and the diversity that define us as a nation. So these are quintessentially American celebrations — people of different faiths coming together, with humility before our maker, to reaffirm our obligations to one another, because no matter who we are, or how we pray, we’re all children of a loving God.

Now, this year, Ramadan is entirely in August. That means the days are long, the weather is hot, and you are hungry. So I will be brief.

I want to welcome the members of the diplomatic corps who are here; the members of Congress, including two Muslim American members of Congress — Keith Ellison and Andre Carson; and leaders and officials from across my administration. Thank you all for being here. Please give them a big round of applause.

To the millions of Muslim Americans across the United States and more– the more than one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion. It’s an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings. So to you and your families, Ramadan Kareem.
This evening reminds us of both the timeless teachings of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation. Like so many faiths, Islam has always been part of our American family, and Muslim Americans have long contributed to the strength and character of our country, in all walks of life. This has been especially true over the past 10 years.

In one month, we will mark the 10th anniversary of those awful attacks that brought so much pain to our hearts. It will be a time to honor all those that we’ve lost, the families who carry on their legacy, the heroes who rushed to help that day and all who have served to keep us safe during a difficult decade. And tonight, it’s worth remembering that these Americans were of many faiths and backgrounds, including proud and patriotic Muslim Americans.

Muslim Americans were innocent passengers on those planes, including a young married couple looking forward to the birth of their first child.

They were workers in the Twin Towers — Americans by birth and Americans by choice, immigrants who crossed the oceans to give their children a better life. They were cooks and waiters, but also analysts and executives.

There, in the towers where they worked, they came together for daily prayers and meals at Iftar. They were looking to the future — getting married, sending their kids to college, enjoying a well-deserved retirement. And they were taken from us much too soon. And today, they live on in the love of their families and a nation that will never forget. And tonight, we’re deeply humbled to be joined by some of these 9/11 families, and I would ask them to stand and be recognized, please.

Muslim Americans were first responders — the former police cadet who raced to the scene to help and then was lost when the towers collapsed around him; the EMTs who evacuated so many to safety; the nurse who tended to so many victims; the naval officer at the Pentagon who rushed into the flames and pulled the injured to safety. On this 10th anniversary, we honor these men and women for what they are — American heroes.

Nor let us forget that every day for these past 10 years Muslim Americans have helped to protect our communities as police and firefighters, including some who join us tonight. Across our federal government, they keep our homeland secure, they guide our intelligence and counterterrorism efforts and they uphold the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans. So make no mistake, Muslim Americans help to keep us safe.

We see this in the brave service of our men and women in uniform, including thousands of Muslim Americans. In a time of war, they volunteered, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way. Our troops come from every corner of our country, with different backgrounds and different beliefs. But every day they come together and succeed together, as one American team.

During the 10 hard years of war, our troops have served with excellence and with honor. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice, among them Army Spec. Kareem Khan. Galvanized by 9/11 to serve his country, he gave his life in Iraq and now rests with his fellow heroes at Arlington. And we thank Kareem’s mother, Elsheba, for being here again tonight. Like Kareem, this generation has earned its place in history, and I would ask all of our service members here tonight — members of the 9/11 Generation — to stand and accept the thanks of our fellow Americans.

This year and every year, we must ask ourselves: How do we honor these patriots — those who died and those who served? In this season of remembrance, the answer is the same as it was 10 Septembers ago. We must be the America they lived for and the America they died for, the America they sacrificed for.

An America that doesn’t simply tolerate people of different backgrounds and beliefs, but an America where we are enriched by our diversity. An America where we treat one another with respect and with dignity, remembering that here in the United States there is no “them” or “us;” it’s just us. An America where our fundamental freedoms and inalienable rights are not simply preserved, but continually renewed and refreshed — among them the right of every person to worship as they choose. An America that stands up for dignity and the rights of people around the world, whether a young person demanding his or her freedom in the Middle East or North Africa, or a hungry child in the Horn of Africa, where we are working to save lives.

Put simply, we must be the America that goes forward as one family, like generations before us, pulling together in times of trial, staying true to our core values and emerging even stronger. This is who we are and this is who we must always be.

Tonight, as we near a solemn anniversary, I cannot imagine a more fitting wish for our nation. So God bless you all and God bless the United States of America. Thank you

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Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar: 1805

August 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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Thomas Jefferson’s Qur`an

“Ramadan,” said President Obama at a White House iftar dinner in 2010, “is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.”

The dinner to which the president referred took place on December 9, 1805, and Jefferson’s guest was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey (chieftain) of Tunis who spent six months in Washington. The context of Mellimelli’s visit to the United States was a tense dispute over piracy on American merchant vessels by the Barbary states and the capture of Tunisian vessels trying to run an American blockade of Tripoli.

Mellimelli arrived during Ramadan, and Jefferson, when he invited the envoy to the president’s house, changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” in deference to the man’s religious obligation.

Jefferson’s knowledge of Islam likely came from his legal studies of natural law. In 1765, Jefferson purchased a two-volume English translation of the Quran for his personal library, a collection that became, in 1815, the basis of the modern Library of Congress.

This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html

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The Business of Iftar

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

iftar tablebwMuslims from around the world forge onward with the Ramadan fast in hopes of being successful this holy month and reaping all the benefits. Year in and year out, the rites of Ramadan remain primarily the same. Fasting, performing the daily and nightly prayers, reciting from the holy Quran and rejoicing in the season are the activities that most Muslims find themselves engaged in during the auspicious occasion.

However, while most things stay the same from one Ramadan to the next, there is one thing that always changes. The Iftar meal, which follows the breaking of the daily fast, is as diverse as the leaves adorning a lush green tree. Muslims in the Middle East, most of which continue to thrive despite the economic turmoil affecting the rest of the world, are renowned for the Iftar spreads offered on their tables. Surplus oil wealth and heavily subsidized governmental social services ensure that cups runneth over and plates are filled to capacity during Ramadan as well as the rest of the year.

Yet Ramadan provides a unique opportunity for savvy businessmen in the region looking to cash in on the Holy Month. And it does not hurt that this Ramadan features a minimum of 14 fasting hours per day and in scorching day time temperatures. Why bother slaving over a hot stove when you can be feted like a king? Hotels and restaurants in wealthy Middle Eastern countries, like Qatar and Kuwait, cater to the fancies of Muslims fasting in Ramadan. Social-networking sites, like Facebook, are utilized to attract fasting Muslims with sleek ads featuring delectable dishes. Print media, such as newspapers and magazines, are also used to advertise sumptuous buffets offering international cuisine as well as local delicacies.

Some of the most sumptuous Iftar buffets can be found in the Dubai Mall located in the municipality of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. One of the most popular restaurants, Na3Na3, features live cooking stations during Ramadan and the Eid festivities.  Guests dine on traditional Arabic fare and sip freshly prepared beverages that compliment the meal. A traditional ‘Oud’, or Arabic stringed instruments, player keeps everyone entertained during the meal. Al Bahou restaurant, also located in Dubai, offers fasting Muslims a lavish menu featuring roasted lamb and freshly wrapped shwarma sandwiches.

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