Obama, the Anti-Churchill?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

winston_churchill_01 If you take out just one sentence, Barack Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week was all about focusing and limiting the scope of the U.S. mission in that country. The objectives he detailed were exclusively military: to deny al-Qaeda a haven, reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Kabul government’s security forces. The nation that he was interested in building, he explained, was this one.

And then there was that one line: “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” Here lies the tension in Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge — send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down — is his answer to this dilemma.

This first year of his presidency has been a window into Obama’s worldview. Once most presidents get hold of the bully pulpit, they cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate toward grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama is a realist by temperament, learning and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing resources to achieve them and keeping his eyes on the prize.

“In the end,” the president said last Tuesday, “our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.” He explained that America’s economic and technological vigor underpinned its ability to play a world role. At a small lunch with a group of columnists before his speech last week, he made clear to us that he did not want to run two wars. He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America’s long-term security. He explained that challenges at home — economic growth, technological innovation, education reform — were at the heart of maintaining America’s status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

It is clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious — to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial. That begins with narrowing the “war on terrorism”; scaling back the conflict with the Islamic world to those groups and countries that pose serious, direct threats to the United States; and reaching out to the rest. He has also tried to develop a better working relationship with major powers such as Russia and China, setting aside smaller issues in hopes of cooperation on bigger ones. This means departing from a bipartisan approach in which Washington’s role was to direct and hector the rest of the world, pushing regimes large and small to accept American ideas, and publicly chastising them when they refused. Obama is trying to break the dynamic that says that when an American president negotiates with the Chinese or Russians, he must return with rewards or concessions — or else he is guilty of appeasement.

For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.

Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

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U.S., Turkey Launch New Trade, Investment Forum

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and NATO ally Turkey launched an initiative Monday aimed at boosting trade and investment ties, but said there were no plans for the two countries to negotiate a free trade agreement.

“We can … build on what is a good trade and commercial relationship and make it a much more robust one,’’ U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at a press conference with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

The initiative creates a new Cabinet-level forum to discuss ways to expand bilateral trade and investment flows and to try to resolve disputes when they arise, similar to one the United States has with China.

“This framework … will be an important vehicle for expanding trade and investment and creating new jobs for the workers and the people’’ of both countries, said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

The announcement followed a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. plans to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama told reporters he believed Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country and long-time U.S. ally, could be an “important player’’ in moving Iran toward resolving its dispute with the West over its nuclear program.

Erdogan said Turkey stands ready to do whatever it can to achieve a diplomatic solution on the nuclear issue.

Turkey, which has applied for membership of the European Union, is the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner in the Muslim world and 27th overall.

U.S-Turkey trade has dropped from a record of nearly $15 billion in 2008, but there is every reason to expect the two countries can surpass that “when the world economy gets back on its feet,’’ Locke said.

Babacan said the two countries would seek suggestions from business on how to increase trade in areas ranging from energy to agriculture to military equipment.
He downplayed the chances of Ankara using the forum to press Washington to reduce high U.S. tariffs that Turkey faces on textiles and some other exports.

Kirk said the initiative was not intended as a stepping stone to talks with Turkey on a free trade agreement. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Chris Wilson)

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Iran: Time To Leave The NPT?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nader Bagherzadeh & Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledges the “inalienable right” of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) to research, develop, and use nuclear energy for non-weapons purposes. The NPT also supports the “fullest possible exchange” of such nuclear-related information and technology between nuclear weapons states (P5) and non-nuclear weapons states. Iran, a NNWS has been denied its “inalienable rights” while support and the exchange of nuclear-related information has been withheld. This begs the question why Iran should continue to honor the NPT?

Indications are that Tehran did not believe that in the international arena, its biggest foe would be injustice. When former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton was busy engineering completely illegal sanctions against Iran, it was with the goal of testing Tehran’s patience in the hope of having it exit the NPT so that he could muster up support for yet another war against an Islamic country in the Middle East. But Iran remained steadfast and in sharp contrast to the United States, it continued to respect international laws in the firm belief that justice would prevail. It did not.

Since 2003, the IAEA has consistently failed its obligations towards Iran as defined by the 1974 Safeguards Agreement. It has failed to facilitate refueling of a small reactor in Tehran, used mostly for short-lived medical isotopes. It has cancelled several key technical assistance programs with Iran, some of them related to nuclear safety issues, under pressure from the US. At America’s behest, the IAEA has become a conventional weapon inspector agency, seeking information about national secrets of Iran related to missiles and conventional bomb making capabilities; which is completely outside of its jurisdiction, as spelled out in the 1974 agreement. In violation of Article 9 of the 1974 Agreement, the IAEA has shared Iran’s sensitive nuclear technology with member nations, as well as outside nuclear experts with dubious connections to Iran’s enemies. And most importantly, the Agency with tremendous pressure from US, has elevated a technical non-compliance matter to the level Chapter 7 UNSC sanctions, which should have been used when there is a clear indication of a nuclear weapons program.

The Agency’s clear violation of Iran’s rights under the NPT leads one to wonder if the IAEA is ever going to clear Iran’s file and revert it back to the normal status while the US is exerting pressure. It is unrealistic for Iran’s leadership to assume that by fully engaging the IAEA, sometime in the near future, this agency, working against the wishes of Obama’s administration, will clear Iran’s path to have nascent enrichment capability. After all, the so called “laptop” filled with mostly fabricated information against Iran’s nuclear programs did not show up until it was clear that the IAEA was going to declare 6 outstanding concerns on Iran’s past nuclear activities were no longer valid.

Although Obama has extended his hand towards Iran, the policy of “zero-enrichment” has not changed an iota from Bush’s policy. When Obama chose Gary Samore and Dennis Ross to handle Iran’s nuclear case, it was obvious that Obama did not have any major changes in mind, and the goal was to use a softer approach to gather more support for putting pressure, or as Ross calls it “bigger sticks.” Moreover, a recent trip by Ross to Beijing to convince Chinese leadership to sign up for more sanctions against Iran on behalf of Obama, shows that not only Ross was not marginalized after he was transferred from the State Department to the White House, but he is practically in the driver’s seat for Obama’s Iran policy.

In addition to the West’s shaping of IAEA’s illegitimate position on Iran’s nuclear file, relentless fabricated attacks by the western media has finally resulted in portraying Iran as an outlaw when it comes to the nuclear activities. The propaganda machine led by the likes of Fred Hiatt of Washington Post and Nicolas Goldberg of Los Angeles Times, have helped create such an environment that a recent Pew poll showed that more than 50% of Americans support a US military strike against Iran while the U.S. is in a quagmire in the graveyard of the empires – Afghanistan, and continues to be engaged in its sixth year war in Iraq.

The latest IAEA’s report which continued its demands from Iran to go beyond its obligations under the NPT safeguards and Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 is another misrepresentation of the truth by the Agency. Iran’s Majlis (parliament) never approved this code which requires reporting any nuclear project at the point of inception. It is ironic that a major NPT member (i.e. US) is allowed to threaten Iran’s nuclear facilities with military strikes, but when Iran rightfully wants to prevent that from happening by using passive defensive majors, she is censured by the Board.

Iran’s continued cooperation with the IAEA may be a call for equality. Their security in pursuing their goal stems from the justness of their cause, itself a compelling reason to delay a war with the US. However, this cooperation is not serving the development of peaceful nuclear energy in Iran. The Agency has been a tool in the hands of major powers and it does not seem that the status will change anytime soon. The way Obama is pushing the chess pieces against Iran by seeking an oil embargo and crippling sanctions, he may be boxed into a war, even if he is ostensibly against it. Perhaps it is time for Iran to reconsider her membership and leave the NPT.

Dr. Nader Bagherzadeh is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Irvine, California.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Master’s in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg. She is an independent researcher and writer.

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Surprising Results of CFR Survey

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

What the U.S. Elite Really Thinks About Israel

By Jeffrey Blankfort, Counterpunch

The Council on Foreign Relations is always near the top of the Left’s list of bogeymen that stand accused of pulling the strings of US foreign policy. It is right up there with the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, right? Wrong. If that was the case,  those arguing that US support for Israel is based on it being a “strategic asset”  will have a hard time explaining a Pew Research Center survey on America’s Place in the World, taken of 642 CFR members between October 2 and November 16. The Pew poll  not only reveals that the overwhelming majority, two-thirds of the members of this elite foreign policy institution, believes that the United States has gone overboard in favoring Israel, it doesn’t consider Israel to have much importance to the US in the first place.

What can be concluded from the answers to questions that dealt with the Israel-Palestine conflict is that the general public forms its opinions from what it hears and reads in the mainstream media which are largely biased towards Israel while CFR members have greater access to as well as interest in obtaining more accurate information and are less susceptible to pro-Israel propaganda. That apparently not a single US newspaper saw fit to report on the opinions of CFR members, under those circumstances, is not surprising. The evidence:

(1) That on a list of countries that will be the “more important as Americas allies and partners” in the future, just 4 per cent included Israel which placed it in a tie with South Korea and far behind China, 58 per cent, India, 55 per cent, Brazil, 37 per cent, the EU, 19 per cent, Russia, 17 per cent, Japan, 16 per cent, the UK and Turkey, 10 per cent, Germany, 9 per cent, Mexico, 8 per cent, Canada, Indonesia, Australia and France at 5 per cent. CFR voters were allowed to make up to seven selections.(Q19)

(2) When asked which countries would be less important to the US, Israel, at 9 per cent  was behind 22 countries including Canada and Mexico and in the region Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.(Q20)

(3) What was particularly revealing is that “in the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” only 26 per cent of the CFR sided with Israel, compared with 51 per cent of 2000 members of the general public who were polled over the same period. While but 16 per cent of CFR members sided with the Palestinians compared to 12 per cent of the public, 41 per cent of the CFRers sided with “both equally” as opposed to 4 per cent of the public. Supporting neither was 12 per cent of the CFR and 14 per cent of the public. (Q33)

(4) That the CFR has not had a major hand in making US Israel-Palestine policy nor is it in agreement with those who did is strikingly revealed by the response of its members when asked their opinion of US Middle East policies. The problem, according to 67 per cent of CFR members (as compared to 30 per cent of the public) is that the US favored Israeli too much, while only 2 per cent (as opposed to 15 per cent of the public) believed that US policy overly favored the Palestinians.. Twenty-four percent of the CFR believed US policy “struck the right balance” as did 29 per cent of the public. (Q34)

(5) The overwhelming majority of CFR members, 69 per cent, think that Pres.Obama is “striking the right balance” between the Israelis and Palestinians as compared with a slim majority, 51 per cent of the public. Thirteen percent of the CFR believes that Obama is “favoring Israel too much,” as compared with 7 per cent of the public, while 12 per cent thinks he is siding with the Palestinians, a position taken by 16 per cent of the public. (Q35)

Regarding Iran, one detects the same gap between the CFR and the public. Whereas a 64 per cent-34 per cent majority of the polled CFR members see Iran as a major threat to US interests, compared with a 72-20 per cent per cent  majority of the public, only 33 per cent of the CFR  would support an attack on Iran should it get a nuclear weapon as contrasted  with 63 per cent of the public. (Q7)

The percentages are almost reversed when it comes  to Pakistan with 63 per cent of the CFR supporting US military action were “extremists…poised to take over Pakistan,” whereas only 51 per cent of the public would approve such a move. (Q24). This is another indication of the success of Israel’s  porte-paroles in the mainstream media  in  building up the Iran threat while downplaying the potential threats to the stabilty of nuclear-armed Pakistan. The entire Pew survey can be viewed here: http://people-press.org/reports/questionnaires/569.pdf

[Jeffrey Blankfort is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist and a contributor to The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He an be contacted at jblankfort@earthlink.net]

Mideast Firms Ramp Up in Iraq, Western Firms Trail

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Deepa Babington

2009-11-27T155315Z_1505821627_GM1E5BR1TSO01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-OIL

Workers dig a new oil well at South Rumaila oil field, in southern Iraq November 26, 2009. Britain’s BP and China’s CNPC have clinched a final agreement to operate Iraq’s biggest field, Rumaila, and groups led by Italy’s Eni and U.S. major Exxon Mobil have secured initial deals over Zubair and West Qurna Phase One. Picture taken November 26, 2009. 

REUTERS/Atef Hassan

BAGHDAD, Nov 30 (Reuters) – While Western firms notch up high-profile energy deals in Iraq, smaller regional firms from Iran to Turkey are quietly building a broader Iraqi presence by pumping billions of dollars into housing and other projects.

Pledges by companies to invest in Iraq are suddenly taking off as violence falls sharply and the government seeks help to rebuild after years of war, sanctions and bloodshed.

Investors have announced $156.7 billion worth of projects in Iraq this year, not all of which are likely to bear fruit, Dunia Frontier Consultants said in a report.
Much of the spotlight has fallen on mega-deals by Big Oil firms like Exxon Mobil <XOM.N> and BP <BP.L> for oilfields, but high security costs — 26 percent of total costs according to one estimate — have deterred Westerners from other sectors.

Meanwhile, Iranian investors have been piling into the Shi’ite Muslim tourism business, Turkish companies have cornered the market in the Kurdish north and Gulf companies, some run by Iraqi expatriates, are nailing construction deals.

Middle East firms are perhaps more accustomed to operating in difficult environments, and have an easier time navigating Iraqi red tape and corruption, analysts said.

“It is easier for Gulf and regional companies to operate here because they know the mentality here,” said Munther al Fattal, director of investment promotion at the U.S. agency for international development’s Tijara project.

“Security has greatly improved but there still are a lot of impediments such as bureaucracy and lack of transparency.”

While most investment projects announced in Iraq never seem to get off the ground, the growing business clout of regional firms is increasingly obvious.

Turkish firms have been investing in projects in the north and plan an $8 billion mixed development project in the south, while Iranian firms have catered to tourism supporting Shi’ite pilgrimages to the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala as well as industrial projects in Basra in the south, Dunia says.

Lebanese investors have opened up a bank and plan to set up a $500 million residential city and dairy factory in Diwaniya, while investors from the United Arab Emirates have been eyeing residential complexes and infrastructure projects.

US is Small Fry Outside Energy

The United Arab Emirates has emerged as the top foreign investor in Iraq this year with pledges of $37.7 billion, followed by South Korea and the United States, Dunia said.

But South Korea owes its number two spot almost entirely to a planned $20 billion investment in a new industrial city in Anbar province’s untapped gas fields, which appears to be little more than a pipedream or at the very least, aspirational.

The U.S. position in the rankings is almost entirely due to Exxon’s $25 billion contract for the West Qurna oilfield, which has yet to be ratified by the Iraqi cabinet. U.S. investment into Iraq accounts for less than 1 percent of the total if government contracts and oil are excluded.

A look at smaller deals offers a more revealing picture of the players with a wider presence in Iraq.

Lebanon tops the list of investment deals below $1 billion, followed by South Korea, Iran, the UAE and Turkey, Dunia said.

Once again, South Korea’s position in the list is misleading, exaggerated due to a single energy project.

“Once the major energy deals are stripped away, it is largely regional players that dominate,” the Dunia report said.

Some analysts say the dominance of Middle East players is likely to continue.

“Most of the investment will come from Gulf States and Jordan — with a significant contribution from Iran,” said Gavin Jones of Upper Quartile, an Edinburgh-based research firm.

He said repatriation of wealth by Iraqis living in Jordan or the Gulf could account for a sizeable chunk.

(Editing by Michael Christie; Editing by Victoria Main) ((deepa.babington@thomsonreuters.com, Baghdad newsroom, +964 7901 917 023, deepa.babington.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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Why the U.S. Kneels

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Philip Weiss

Gideon Levy in Haaretz tells America to stop sucking up to Israel. He leaves out the root cause. You can’t just tell the Americans to make better policy without dealing with the Israel lobby and, barring wider outrage among Americans, issues of Jewish identity.

Levy: Before no other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?

But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.

Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched.

It is true that unlike all the world’s other troublemakers, Israel is viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose language is force. Anwar Sadat may have been the last leader to win our hearts with optimistic, hope-igniting speeches. If he were to visit Israel today, he would be jeered off the stage. The Syrian president pleads for peace and Israel callously dismisses him, the United States begs for a settlement freeze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what happens when there are no consequences for Israel’s inaction.

When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope, promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer Israel’s language. For something to change, Israel must understand that perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.

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Journey of a Lifetime

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

2009-11-24T065219Z_497529973_GM1E5BO15BZ01_RTRMADP_3_HAJJ The journey to attend the Hajj pilgrimage is an essential pillar of Islam that all Muslims of means must perform at least once in a lifetime. Pilgrims from all over the world began to pour into the holy city of Makkah weeks ago with an estimated 2.5 million Muslims expected to perform the Hajj rituals this year.

The Hajj season has, for years, presented a host of difficulties for Muslims performing the sacred journey, which reveals the fleeting nature of the material world we live in. However, this year has revealed even more trials that pilgrims will have to cope with. The primary concern is, of course, the H1N1 virus. Before the pilgrimage has even commenced, 20 pilgrims have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus while 4 people had died. Many of the pilgrims have been inoculated against the deadly H1N1 virus, however many have not. And recent scenes coming out of Makkah via satellite television show that only a handful of the masses are donning the infamous white surgical masks as a means of prevention. More than 20,000 medical personnel have been dispatched throughout the city and in the city of Medina to cope with H1N1 virus as well as other maladies that pilgrims may become afflicted with. Pilgrims arriving at the airport are being screened for H1N1 symptoms before they enter the Kingdom and the government has ordered a veritable army of doctors to be on duty around the clock.

This Hajj season also sees renewed tensions erupting between the Saudi Arabian government and the Iranian government over the way the latter perceives its pilgrims have been discriminated against during past pilgrimages. The war of words between both governments exploded recently when Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Such acts are against the unity of Muslims and contribute to the goals and wishes of the US and foreign intelligence services. The Saudi government should fulfill its duty in confronting these acts.” To which the Saudi Arabian government retorted, “The kingdom does not permit any party to disrupt the security of the pilgrims or to attempt to divide the ranks of Muslims.” It is a very really concern this hajj season that sectarian violence could break out during Islam’s most holy occasion. More than 100,000 security personnel have been dispatched to maintain order and keep the pilgrims safe.

The current hajj season also marks the unveiling of a newly built bridge that will help diversify the traffic at one of the most important areas of the Hajj – the Jamarat or ritual ‘Stoning of the Devil’. This area is the most highly congested and where stampedes have occurred in the past killing pilgrims. The most horrific stampede occurred in 2006 when 364 pilgrims were crushed to death and scores more were maimed or injured. The 5-storey walkway is over 3,000 feet long and over 260 feet wide. It was built at a cost of over $1 billion and the Saudi government hopes that it will facilitate pilgrims as a safe passageway while simultaneously assisting them in fulfilling a Hajj rite.

And as if the dark cloud looming over this year’s hajj could not get any bigger, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of a coup by extremists who seized the Grand Mosque in a stunning act of aggression that sent shockwaves reverberating around the world. Saudi Arabian and French security personnel eventually stormed the mosque in a bloody battle that cost hundreds of lives.

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Saudi Arabia Improves Hajj Security, Bans Protests

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Louisville Democrat Examiner, Timothy Morgan

2009-11-21T171100Z_1597266078_GM1E5BM032701_RTRMADP_3_FLU-SAUDI-PILGRIMS

A security official wearing a protective mask keeps an eye on cars at a checkpoint between Jeddah and Mecca before the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage November 21, 2009.  Saudi Arabia said on Saturday four pilgrims had died of the new H1N1 flu virus three days before the massive Muslim haj is due to begin, al-Hayat newspaper said.

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

On November 25-29, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca of the Hajj begins in the Islamic world.  The Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and a moral obligation under the religion for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey must do so at least once in their lifetime.

The Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, with 2.5 million Muslims expected to make the trip this year.

With such a large movement of people, the Saudi government has issued warnings that all protesting during the Hajj is banned.  The government has also stepped-up security, with more than 100,000 Saudi military deployed during the pilgrimage.

While the Saudi Arabian security forces assert that they do not expect any troubles, the interior ministry official in charge of security, Gen Mansour al-Turki, said that “We will not allow any actions that might disturb any other pilgrims, or affect their safety.”

In 1987, 402 people were killed when troops broke up a protest by Shia pilgrims.  This year is also the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the Great Mosque in Mecca, home of the Kaaba and Islam’s holiest site, by Sunni extremists.

The Kaaba is a cuboidal building in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca that pre-dates Islam and is the holiest site in all of Islam.  Muslim beliefs say that the original building on the site was built by Abraham.  Thus, a mosque was built around the site and all Muslims, regardless of their location, must face the Kaaba during daily prayers, as well as take part in the Hajj if able.

Last month Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that it would take “appropriate measures” if its citizens faced restrictions.  Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, called for the Shia to show that they were dealing with challenges to their unity.

Thus, the Saudi government has responded by both warning Iran not to abuse the Hajj for political purposes, and by the ban on protests.

Authorities are also hoping to prevent a repeat of the deadly stampedes, such as in 2006 when 364 people were killed, that have afflicted the Hajj.  In response, the Saudi Government has recently finished the rebuilding of the Jamarat Bridge at Mina, the 950m (3,135ft) long, 80m (260ft) wide five-story pedestrian walkway, which cost $1.2bn, and that authorities hope will prevent overcrowding.

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US Moves to Seize Four Mosques, Claiming Secret Iranian Control

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jason Ditz

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

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

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

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

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

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Muslim 500 – A Listing of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World

November 17, 2009 by · 12 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

mabda500cover-v2 A fascinating new book has just been issued by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center (in Jordan) in concert with Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

The book lists the 500 most influential people in the Muslim world, breaking the people into several distinct categories, scholarly, political, administrative, lineage, preachers, women, youth, philanthropy, development, science and technology, arts and culture, media, and radicals.

Before this breakdown begins however, the absolute most influential 50 people are listed, starting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The top 50 fit into 6 broad categories as follows:  12 are political leaders (kings, generals, presidents), 4 are spiritual leaders (Sufi shaykhs), 14 are national or international religious authorities, 3 are “preachers,” 6 are high-level scholars, 11 are leaders of movements or organizations.

The 500 appear to have been chosen largely in terms of their overt influence, however the top 50 have been chosen and perhaps listed in a “politically correct” order designed not to cause offense.  For example, the first person listed is the Sunni political leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.  The second person listed is the head of the largest Shi’a power, Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.  As these are not the two Muslim countries with the largest populations, and do not even represent the two countries with the most spiritual or religious relevance (Saudi Arabia yes, Iran no) therefore clearly the decision of spots one or two appears to have been motivated by a sense of political correctness.

In total 72 Americans are among the 500 most influential Muslims, a disproportionately strong showing, but only one among the top 50.  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson of Zaytuna Institute is listed surprisingly at number 38.  The world leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi order, however, Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani, with millions of followers worldwide, spiritual adviser to kings, presidents, doctors, lawyers, professors and others across the spectrum of profession, race, and ethnicity on seven continents, is listed at number 49.  While Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has successfully built the Zaytuna Institute, his influence is confined mostly to American academia, scholars and students.  Surprisingly, Khaled Mashaal, leader of Hamas, (at number 34) is listed before any American Muslim. 

It seems strange that Yusuf is the only American listed in the top 50. Especially when Rep. Keith Ellison (D-5-MN), Tariq Ramadan and Ingrid Mattson are listed among the “honorable mentions” in the book (“honorable mentions” were almost among the top 50 but not quite—they are still listed among the 500).  Ingrid Mattson alone is likely more influential than Hamza Yusuf Hanson, for instance.  Not to mention Rep. Keith Ellison.  Even the Nobel prize winner Mohammad Yunus is listed only among the honorable mentions.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani in the USA is listed among the most influential scholars in the Muslim world, and his relative Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon and its leading Sunni scholar, is also among the most influential scholars.  The Shi’a marja Ayatullah Sayeed Mohammad Fadlallah is the other listed scholar for Lebanon. 

The 18 prominent American Muslims in the Scholars section of the book also include Yusuf Estes, Sulayman Nyang, Muzammil Siddiqui, Sherman Jackson, Zaid Shakir, and Nuh Keller.  Two Americans are listed as Political figures in North America.  Nine Americans are listed as Administrative leaders, including Siraj Wahhaj—surprising to list him as an administrative leader rather than a preacher.  One Canadian is listed under the Lineage section, namely Jamal Badawi, but no Americans.  Under the Women heading appear six very recognizable names, perhaps most recognizable among them Ingrid Mattson, the controversial Amina Wadud, and the extremely influential Dalia Mogahed (who wrote the perhaps watershed work Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.)  Two Americans are listed in the Youth category.  Under the Philanthropy category is listed one person, Dr. Tariq Cheema, co-founder of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists.  13 Americans are listed under Development, including strangely the boxer Mohammad Ali.  Four Americans are listed under Science and Technology, perhaps most recognizably Dr. Mehmed Oz, who frequently appears on morning television to help explain medical situations to people, and who shows an interest in the overlap between traditional medicine and spirituality.  Seven Americans are listed under Arts and Culture, including the notable actors Mos Def and Dave Chappelle, also the calligrapher Mohammad Zakaria.  Nine Americans are listed in the Media section, including Fareed Zakaria and the filmmaker Michael Wolfe.

The book’s appendices comprehensively list populations of Muslims in nations worldwide, and its introduction gives a snapshot view of different ideological movements within the Muslim world, breaking down clearly distinctions between traditional Islam and recent radical innovations.

People who are themselves prominent scholars contributed to or edited the book, including of course Georgetown University’s Professor John Esposito and Professor Ibrahim Kalin.  Ed Marques and Usra Ghazi also edited and prepared the book.  The book lists as consultants Dr. Hamza Abed al Karim Hammad, and Siti Sarah Muwahidah, with thanks to other contributors.

The entire book is available online (here:  http://www.rissc.jo/muslim500v-1L.pdf) and we hope that it will be available for sale soon inside the United States.  Currently it is not available.

To encourage the printing and release of the book in the United States you can contact Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at cmcu@georgetown.edu, or by phone at 202-687-8375.

11-47

Christian Scholar: Was Jesus a Muslim?

November 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

PA248508 Warren–October 24–Jesus’ being Muslim is a foundational belief of Islam, but not for Christians.  All of the prophets were teachers of the one true religion, although each taught different aspects of it.  But for Christians to think that Jesus (as) is Muslim is a very radical idea.

So true is this that the author and professor Robert F. Shedinger faced, predictably, some opposition when he published his book with the name Was Jesus a Muslim.

The author spoke about his book this past Saturday at the IONA mosque in Warren.

The essence of Mr. Shedinger’s argument is that Islam is not a religion but rather a system of pursuing social justice.  He argued that actually the reason non-Muslims call it a religion is in order to classify it in a way that has no relevance to social justice–in order to exclude religious people from involvement in controversies in the public square.

The underlying purpose of Western attempts to classify Islam as a religion, he argues, is to subvert the religious organizing principle and preempt a religious backlash against attempts to dominate or colonize a culture.

In fact, while it may sound offensive to think that Islam is not a religion, the professor couched this argument in very complimentary terms, arguing that in fact the idea of a religion being just a religion is a particularly Western concept that would have been foreign even to early Christians, let alone to the other peoples of the world and the other religions of the world.

Perhaps another way to state this argument would be to say that Islam is a complete system of life, not just a devotional practice restricted to certain days.
In accordance with his argument that Islam is not a religion, he argues that Christianity is also analogously not a religion, and he argues that Jesus (as) was in a sense a revolutionary and politically dynamic person, therefore not “just” a religious figure.

Shedinger argues that diverse Muslim scholars such as Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and South Africa’s Fareed Ishaq have argued along similar lines that Islam should not be separated from social justice.  Shedinger quoted Tariq Ramadan also and his frequent calls to political justice of various sorts.

A different view might be that Islam is a religion the practice of which should be divorced from politics, except that it is a complete religion with implications in every avenue of life, including leadership.  Beyond this, Jesus (as) was actually Muslim in submission to God’s will, who will be Muslim when he returns.

11-45

Israel Lost Ally Turkey

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

World Tribune

2009-10-22T080428Z_902822751_GM1E5AM18O201_RTRMADP_3_TURKEY-KAZAKHSTAN TEL AVIV — Turkey was said to have suspended up to $1 billion in proposed Israeli defense projects after canceling a major air exercise with Israel.

A leading Israeli defense analyst said the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has decided to end defense and military cooperation with Israel. Analyst Ron Ben-Yishai said the Turkish Defense Ministry has shelved a range of proposed Israeli projects.

“New deals worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars offered by Israel’s defense industries to the Turkish Army, as well as cooperation with Turkish colleagues, are being put on hold or cancelled altogether,” Ben-Yishai said in a report.

The report warned that Israel has lost Turkey as a strategic ally. Ben-Yishai said the government and military were seeking a substitute for Ankara, a task that would prove difficult.

[In Ankara, Turkish industry sources said Ankara has ruled out awarding Israel any major defense contracts. The sources said the Defense Industry Undersecretariat was expected to significantly reduce Israel’s presence after at least one key contract was scheduled to conclude in 2010.]

In many cases, Ben-Yishai said, Turkey has selected inferior and more expensive systems than those offered by Israel. He cited an Italian reconnaissance satellite, which was chosen over an offer of Israel’s Ofeq-class spy satellite.

“Only recently, officials in Ankara preferred to purchase a spy satellite from Italy, even though it is inferior in quality and more expensive than the Israeli product offered to Turkey,” Ben-Yishai said.

“Israel has indeed embarked on a process of seeking substitutes to the strategic advantages offered by the relationship with Turkey,” Ben-Yishai said on Oct. 14. “However, this process is difficult and complex, and it is doubtful whether it will compensate us for the lost ties with Ankara.”

The report said the loss of Turkey as a strategic ally has harmed Israel’s deterrence, particularly toward Iran and Syria. But Ben-Yishai said the Israel Air Force would not be significantly affected by Turkey’s decision to ban the Jewish state from the Anatolian Eagle exercise.

“Turkey is not the only region where the IAF can hold drills simulating various combat scenarios — long-range missions, operations in unknown territory, and cooperation with foreign forces,” the report said.

“Nonetheless, the decision to cancel Israel’s participation in NATO’s aerial drill in Turkey must serve as a glowing warning sign in respect to the strategic and economic implications that may follow our growing diplomatic isolation.”

11-45

America Pulls Strings in Afghan Elections

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun

Henry Kissinger once observed that being America’s ally can be more dangerous than being its enemy.

Take poor Hamid Karzai, the amiable former business consultant and CIA “asset” installed by Washington as Afghanistan’s president. As the U.S. increasingly gets its backside kicked in Afghanistan, it has blamed the powerless Karzai for its woes and bumbling.

You can almost hear Washington rebuking, “bad puppet! Bad puppet!”

The U.S. Congressional Research service just revealed it costs a staggering $1.3 million per annum to keep an American soldier in Afghanistan. Costs for Canadian troops are likely similar. This huge expense can’t go on forever.

The U.S. government has wanted to dump Karzai, but could not find an equally obedient but more effective replacement. There was talk of imposing an American “chief executive officer” on him. Or, in the lexicon of the old British Raj, an Imperial Viceroy.

Washington finally decided to try to shore up Karzai’s regime and give it some legitimacy by staging national elections in August. The UN, which has increasingly become an arm of U.S. foreign policy, was brought in to make the vote kosher. Canada eagerly joined this charade.

No political parties were allowed to run. Only individuals supporting the West’s occupation of Afghanistan were allowed on the ballot.

Occupation army

The vote was conducted under the guns of a foreign occupation army — a clear violation of international law. The U.S. funded the election commission and guarded polling places from a discreet distance. The Soviets were much more subtle when they rigged Afghan elections.

As I wrote before the election, it was all a great big fraud within a larger fraud designed to fool American, Canadian and European voters into believing democracy had flowered in Afghanistan. Cynical Afghans knew the vote would be rigged. Most Pashtun, the nation’s ethnic majority, didn’t vote. The “election” was an embarrassing fiasco.

To no surprise, Washington’s man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, won. But his supporters went overboard in stuffing ballot boxes to avoid a possible runoff with rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, another American ally. The Karzai and Abdullah camps were bitterly feuding over division of U.S. aid and drug money that has totally corrupted Afghanistan.

The vote was discredited, thwarting the Obama administration’s plans to use the election as justification for sending more troops to Afghanistan. The White House’s Plan B: Forcing its two feuding “assets,” Karzai and Abdullah, into a coalition. But two puppets on a string are no better than one.

Washington just arm-twisted Karzai into agreeing to a run-off vote that will likely be as bogus as the last one. In Afghanistan, ethnicity and tribe trump everything else. Karzai is a Pashtun, but has almost no roots in tribal politics.

The suave Abdullah, who is also in Washington’s pocket, is half Pashtun, half Tajik. But he is seen as a Tajik who speaks for this ethnic minority which detests and scorns the majority Pashtun. Tajiks will vote for Abdullah, Pashtun will not. If the U.S. manages to force Abdullah into a coalition with Karzai, Pashtun — 55% of the population — won’t back the new regime which many Afghans will see as western yes-men and Tajik-dominated.

Abdullah also has some very unsavoury friends from the north: Former Afghan Communist Party bigwigs Mohammed Fahim and Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostam — both major war criminals. Behind them stand the Tajik Northern Alliance and resurrected Afghan Communist Party, both funded by Russia and backed by Iran and India.

Ironically, the U.S. is now closely allied with the Afghan Communists and fighting its former Pashtun allies from the 1980s anti-Soviet struggle. Most North Americans have no idea they are now backing Afghan Communists and the men who control most of Afghanistan’s booming drug trade.

If Hamid Karzai really wants to establish himself as an authentic national leader, he should demand the U.S. and NATO withdraw their occupation forces and let Afghans settle their own disputes in traditional ways.

11-45

ISPU Banquet Grosses $250,000

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Neda Farooqi, MMNS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yusuf also spoke about western Muslim family and financial life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11-45

Official: Iran to “Blow up Heart” of Israel if Attacked

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran would “blow up the heart” of Israel if it was attacked by the Jewish state or the United States, a Revolutionary Guards official was quoted Friday as saying.

“Even if one American or Zionist missile hits our country, before the dust settles, Iranian missiles will blow up the heart of Israel,” Mojtaba Zolnour said, according to IRNA news agency.

Zolnour is a deputy representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the elite Guards force. Iranian officials have previously said Tehran would retaliate in event of an Israeli or U.S. attack.

Earlier this year, a senior commander said Iranian missiles could reach Israeli nuclear sites. Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed Middle East state.

Israel has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to end a dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, echoing U.S. policy, although Washington is engaged in a drive to resolve the issue through direct talks with Tehran.

The West suspects the Islamic state is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

“The Zionist regime and the United States cannot risk attacking Iran,” Zolnour said in the holy Shi’ite city of Qom on Thursday, citing Iranian military and technological advances, IRNA reported. Iran refers to Israel as the “Zionist regime.”

At talks in Geneva on October 1, Iran agreed with six world powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — to give U.N. experts access to a newly-disclosed uranium enrichment plant south of Tehran.

Iran and Western powers described talks as constructive and a step forward. However, underlying tension was highlighted before the meeting when Iran test-fired missiles with ranges that could put Israel and regional U.S. bases within reach.

The Geneva talks are expected to win Iran a reprieve from tougher U.N. sanctions, although Western powers are likely to be wary of any attempt by Tehran to buy time to develop its nuclear program.

Senior cleric Ahmad Khatami, leading Friday prayers in Tehran, said the meeting represented a “victory” for Iran.

“The Geneva conference was a very successful one and amounted to a victory for the Islamic Republic,” he told worshippers.

“Up until the conference they were constantly talking about sanctions and suspension, but when the conference was held there was no talk of either sanctions or suspension,” he said.

11-44

Mothers of Captured Young Hikers Encouraged

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Mary Ambrose

 

Shane_Bauer_25
Reporter Shane Bauer

The wait for the release of three young Americans arrested on July 31 for allegedly crossing the border illegally into Iran continues, but their families hope they have made some progress towards bringing them home.

On Friday, Nora Shroud, Laura Fattal and Cindy Hickey, the mothers of Sarah Shroud, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer, met in New York City to deliver a petition to the Iranian trade mission. The 2,500 signatures and appeals were collected at the families’ site, Free The Hikers, and at vigils held across the country. They all want the same thing: release the hikers from jail and allow them to leave Iran.

The trade mission accepted the petition, which the women viewed as a good sign, as were encouraging noises from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but they want action.

About a month ago, a Swiss diplomat was granted the first consular access visit to the hikers. Switzerland represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Tehran, since the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. The diplomat phoned the parents and reported that their children were in good shape. The diplomat gave them chocolate and assured each of them that their companions were well. It’s assumed they are not being held together.

It’s been three weeks since Ahmadinejad said that the hikers entered the country illegally, which he noted was “considered a crime everywhere,” and despite insisting he has no control over the judiciary or the case, he told the Associated Press that he could ask that “the judiciary expedite the process and give it its full attention … and basically look at the case with maximum leniency.” The families want him to deliver on that promise.

Laura Fattal said they see this as a humanitarian issue and on CNN said she thinks that as a father, Ahmadinejad can “easily imagine how difficult it is for the families of the hikers.”

11-44

Israel May Have Planted Spy Gear in Lebanon: U.N.

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

2009-10-18T211529Z_01_BTRE59H1N2100_RTROPTP_3_NEWS-US-LEBANON-ISRAEL

U.N. peacekeepers inspect the site of an explosion between the villages of Meis al-Jabal and Houla in south Lebanon, October 18, 2009.

REUTERS/ Ali Hashisho 

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A U.N. investigation into explosions in south Lebanon indicated on Sunday that Israel had planted spy devices on Lebanese land in what a senior U.N. official said would be a violation of a ceasefire agreement.

The UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon said its preliminary probe into two explosions in the south showed they had been caused by the detonation of underground sensor devices.

The units were apparently buried by Israeli forces during the 2006 war with the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, it said.

“These do look like some sort of espionage device,” Michael Williams, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, told Reuters.

If confirmed, the devices would represent violations of Security Council resolution 1701 which halted the 34-day war.

A first explosion was reported on Saturday evening and a second on Sunday morning. No injuries were reported. The devices had been placed some 2 km inside Lebanese territory between the villages of Houla and Meiss al-Jabal.

“Preliminary indications are that these explosions were caused by explosive charges contained in unattended underground sensors which were placed in this area by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) apparently during the 2006 war,” UNIFIL said in a statement.

UNIFIL was investigating what had caused the devices to blow up. A Lebanese security official said they appeared to have been detonated by remote control from Israel after their discovery by Lebanese security forces.

Israel did not respond specifically to the Lebanese assertion. But an Israeli military statement said Sunday’s incident proved Hezbollah’s military presence in south Lebanon, especially in rural Shi’ite areas along the border with Israel.

UNIFIL said it had protested to the Israeli military about overflights by drones while the Lebanese army and the peacekeepers were investigating on the ground. Lebanese army troops opened fire on the drones with machine gun and small arms fire, the UNIFIL statement said.

Williams said the use of drones was an obvious violation of Lebanese sovereignty and resolution 1701 “and not particularly helpful at a time of obvious tension in the south.”

UNIFIL is also investigating another incident in south Lebanon last week at the village of Tayr Filsi, a UNIFIL spokesman said. The Lebanese army and Hezbollah said one person was wounded when a shell exploded in the garage of a Hezbollah member in the village on Monday.

Israel has said the blast showed munitions were being stockpiled in violation of resolution 1701 and has complained to the United Nations about the incident.

The next report on Security Council resolution 1701 is due to be filed later this month.

The 2006 war broke out after Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli Shi’ite group backed by Iran, launched a raid into Israel, capturing two soldiers. More than 1,000 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed before the United Nations brokered a ceasefire.

11-44

Iraqi Mujahideen

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Iraqi Resistance Responds to President Obama

Press Release, The Political Committee / Baghdad / The Republic of Iraq, Official English Transcript

Editor’s note:  We are printing this March 2009 announcement because it is absolutely newsworthy and even essential to consider in order to understand Iraq, and absolutely not as an endorsement of the insurgency in Iraq.  Also due to the length of the statement only part of it is here, for the rest please see our website.

Statement in Response to President Obama’s Remarks made on the 27th or February 2009 regarding the proclaimed ending to the occupation of The Republic of Iraq.

Good Evening, 

In Respect to the remarks of President Barak Hussain Obama, The president of the United States of America. The Political Committee of a number of factions in the Iraqi Resistance, mainly the factions present in our front, respond with our point of view on the contents of his speech.

Over the last four months, as the battle of our people continues to free Iraq of all foreign occupation. We have been studying the movements on the ground as well as analyzing the intelligence in order to assess the next strategy that the US administration will take under the leadership of the new presidency. 

We had formulated our own plan of action based on the above mentioned, but have chosen to give the new president enough time to gather his thoughts and have a suitable amount of reports & briefings that would give him also a good picture of the daily developments on the ground. 

President Obama, After listening to your speech on the 27th of February 2009, in which you declared your general and public understanding of the ongoing war against our people, and gave your military and the honorable people of the United States brief points on your intentions in our country, we felt the spirit of the speech that your predecessor President JFK gave on the 20th of January 1961, on his inaugural address. In this speech, he offered a turbulent world, a way out of tensions and paid with his own blood for challenging the interests of those in your consecutive governments who hold the true keys to power. Those who would do anything to preserve their interests, wealth, & power to create wars & conflict.  

We mention this with great honesty in hope to spread awareness and remembrance that a new Caesar may be betrayed, by his own, if he chooses to follow a different path. We do believe, on the other hand, that the spirit of the speech was well chosen. 

We have listened well to your economic plans for your country released before this speech as well, and as ambitious as it may seem, we believe that if intentions are genuine within your congress, a considerable number of  what you seek will eventually be fulfilled, but in case of failure, the republicans will be looking for a scapegoat to relate all their failures to. In this case it would be your administration. This will guarantee them a fast comeback. 

You have inherited a nation at war, a failed economy, and a desperate people who are bearing the full brunt of an economic crisis that was not of their making. As well as thousands of young men dead and handicapped. 

We have inherited a foreign occupation, endless counts of innocent dead, injured, and handicapped, millions of refugees, in essence, Mr. President, the complete and planned disintegration of our nation and people. 

We believe that the funds wasted in this war would have been more useful if it were spent on research to develop alternative energy, which no doubt would have reduced energy conflicts, cures for cancer, agricultural solutions to prevent worldwide poverty, advancements to develop Africa, where people still die of starvation and intentional neglect. Endless causes, all in need of immediate attention.

By the will of God almighty, the resilience of our men, and the patience of our humble people, we have so far managed to halt and render useless all imperialist agendas set for Iraq and the region in whole. Simply by choosing to resist occupation, a right guaranteed by God first and then by international conventions to all men. A right your country’s policies continue to disrespect and dishonor, in clear example to state sponsored Terrorism. 

You have spoken to our people in part of your speech, and we thank you for these words, you have displayed a far better understanding our nation, than your predecessor, who preferred to dive deep into the oceans of illiteracy and ignorance. Despite the fact that you did not mention the Iraqi resistance in your speech, and chose to label us as terrorists along with those who arrived with your troops, we will set that aside for now, and mention a few facts for the record.

1-     The people of Iraq whom you addressed, in all their sects colors and religions, refuse your occupation, and those who accept it, are those who benefit from it.

2-     The Iraqis you addressed, as we truly hope, are not the ones who bathe in the riches of treason, behind your walls of the green zone, nor are they the likes of Ahmed Al Chalabi, whom your previous government conspired with and his likes from the dark alleys of 5 star hotels in the US and Europe prior to your occupation.

3-     The Iraqi people you talked to, are those who never invited your occupation, and were trying their best to survive on what was possible, under the criminal sanctions that went on for 13 years only to be crowned with a foreign occupation, unmatched in criminal acts, in today’s modern world.

President Obama, The suffering, that our people had to go through is beyond comprehension. And the endless crimes of your troops as well as that of neighboring countries, cannot simply be undone or dismissed, nor can they be brushed under the carpet. Your troops still occupy the land and kill the innocent, that is why we can only address you as the president of an occupying nation.  

The Iraqi People are disappointed in your plan. They expect your troops to leave our country in full and not in part. Our people, seek a complete end of occupation and not the fulfillment of a strategic treaty that was rushed against the will of our people, in the last few days of your predecessor. 

Our people, as well as the majority of people around the world, and in your country, want to see the last president be presented to an international war crime tribunal for all the crimes he has committed in the name of your country, only to benefit those who brought him to power in the first place.

We have never invited your occupation, nor have we asked your country to steal our country’s resources to benefit your corporations and to those neighboring states which historically fall under your influence. We have never asked you for your precious blood or ours, to us, all blood is precious even that of the your soldiers sent by your government to die not knowing what they were truly fighting for. This has to be addressed to the man who started this war, and is hiding now in Texas, while you try to undo his damage. 

We the Iraqi People and their resistance demand the following:

1-     The fulfillment of all the conditions presented to your government through the mediators you sent in 2006.

2-     The hand over of all the traitors & Collaborators in the green zone to the Iraqi people where they will be dealt with as any nation would do with in cases of high treason. 

3-     The full & just compensation for our people for the losses they have suffered.

4-     The halting of all compensations paid to those who fall under your umbrella in the region from the resources of our people.

5-     The return of all land stolen from our country.

6-     The departure of all foreign corporations mainly in the sectors of energy, communication, & infrastructure rebuilding, specifically those linked to Neocon interests. Our people are more than qualified to rebuild and operate our institutions.

7-     The hand over of all mercenaries accused of killing innocent civilians mainly security contractors in Black Water and their CEO to be tried for murder.

8-     All foreign advisors are to leave Iraq with your troops.

9-     The dismantling of all militias equipped by your country and Iran together to shift the nature of battle towards the sectarian nature in order to allow your troops to concentrate on the major resistance activities in the central region of Iraq.

10-  The halting of all support to the sectarian government elected in the orchestrated elections in the green zone.

11-  The reduction of the influence of your Persian allies in Iraq which your previous government worked with in close conjunction and who continue to fund Al Qaeda on behalf of  your intelligence agency’s behalf.

12-  The return to the old constitution of a unified Iraq. And the Upholding of new elections Within 6 months of the resistance taking power of the nation, this will be supervised, by must be conducted in the presence of a number of credible international monitors. Not the ones sponsored by the CIA.

13-  Cities and provinces are to be handed over one by one starting with the four main cities and airports of  Baghdad, Basra, then Mosul and Kirkuk in the same order. The rest will fall immediately in our hands. The borders will have other arrangements. 

The list goes on, but the intention is to give you an idea of what we pledged our people to achieve. In return for our people’s demands, we will cease to attack all occupation forces withdrawing to the south and beyond the border post of Safwan.  

Without these straightforward moves on your part, we regret to inform you that the resistance of the people of Iraq will continue until that last boot of US/British/Persian occupation is thrown across the borders of our country. 

If you choose change as you claim, then you must have reached the conclusion that to continue dealing with the same people your predecessor appointed to fulfill his dirty work, will fail to deliver positive results for both our people. It is not the thieves of the green zone who brought the defeat of your military. 

You must search further for the honest Iraqis and from the ranks of our people and not those of your collaborators to achieve a  just solution. You can also recognize the right for the Iraqi people to resist and publicly ask for our advice and representation. The Iraqi people intend to be masters of their own house as they always have, and by following the plan you have declared, you have not yet fully understood Iraq well.

There are those who will claim, that a quick  withdrawal from Iraq will cause civil war, and that is a possibility, but we would also like to clarify that the forces of the puppet government which has been equipped to defeat the resistance will not stand ground, nor will they block our efforts to liberate our cities one by one if we had to, and all the efforts of your collaborators to move to the north and south of the country and create their own federal states have been studied well for their weaknesses and will be crushed within a short period. This is a more realistic scenario. True there will be still the Persian occupation which will offer it’s militias support, but we know that the US cannot leave the oil rich south to be occupied by Iran, and they would rather see it fall in our hands instead. As it would be giving too much to a close yet not so trust worthy ally, and would deprive your military necessary funds that would support long-term military presence necessary in Iraq and throughout the region. Funds that  some in your government think they can still rely on. Funds that your economy can no longer bear in the midst of the turmoil in the globalized economy of your nation, to control the world.  

The Iraqi resistance understands well that the US could not continue to sell oil at a high price of 120 USD/Barrel to cover the costs of it’s war, as this strengthens old adversaries. And it would be only a matter of time before this tactic backfires on the US foreign policy. But it also understands that the US cannot fund foreign occupation any more without depending on local resources and revenues to cover the expenses. This is the true cause of the change of “Strategy” as you named it President Obama.

With oil prices falling to their true realistic market values, & the winter ending in the consuming economies, the oil prices should fall to 30 USD plus mark, which is also effecting the local economies of your allies in the region, as anything below 55 USD per barrel, is already becoming a burden on these economies, which in turn can no longer assist to their full potential in funding and supporting the costs of US aggression in the Region. 

The Declining of oil revenues, which we truly thank you for mentioning in your speech, will make it more difficult to fund your military’s operations in Iraq, and that is why the numbers of your troops is to be reduced. To match the income predicted from the oil projects sponsored by your corporations in the south and the oil theft operations run by your agent, Hamid Jaffar in the north of Iraq in collaboration with NGO oil of Norway, is what your strategists think is possible. 

Yes President Obama, we do agree with you, that the US needs a smarter, more sustainable & comprehensive approach, but rest assured, that what your predecessor has failed to achieve with all the military might at his disposal, we will make sure that you will fail to achieve the same goals through the soft hand of the Democratic party. 

In fact, it is more logical and practical to follow the alternative energy programs that you have set wisely, to ensure the non reliance of your economy on oil as well as the utilization of  advancements and added fruits of R&D to employ the unemployed, and support a new and young market for the shift in energy dependence, and in turn end the monopolization of energy, practiced by the corporations that control it and control world political and social stability, than to merely dream of  expecting the Iraqi People to hand you over their resources. 

We on the other hand intend to nationalize and use our resources to build an alternative energy base our selves and offer our people a life of prosperity, & stability, as well as supporting the energy transition of other nations that are oil dependant, a task we truly believe is noble and worthwhile. 

The Iraqi Resistance will not accept any short term or long term energy contracts with the US until we ensure that the rights of our people are properly addressed. And within the parameters of relations based on mutual respect first and mutual interests second. 

President Obama, It is time that people in Washington understand that there are no shared interest between an occupying tyrant and an oppressed victim of occupation. 

Your government would have stayed forever in Iraq if the traitors who conspired with your consecutive administrations had their way in starving the Iraqi people into submission and force them to welcome your occupying troops with flowers as Chalabi promised you. But after three wars and over a decade of sanctions, there were enough honest men to defeat the world’s most powerful army & play a major role in destroying the most imperialistic Globalized economy ever developed by expansionary capitalism. 

These are the type of people you are speaking to Mr. Obama. And if you were not presented with this reality throughout the briefings that occurred, and understood the true scale of the economic disaster with all the social and geopolitical  implications of your military defeat in Iraq, then please allow us to mention a few of the major achievements that the Iraqi Resistance have promised it’s people and the free people of the world and has delivered:

1-     We promised to pin down your troops in Iraq and drain your economy until you admit defeat and withdraw your troops. And this we fulfilled.

2-     We promised to halt the US plan for Middle East in full, and prevent the loss of other innocent lives in other neighboring countries, and that we fulfilled.  

3-     We embraced the war and continue the fight on behalf of all the oppressed world, which not only stood still and watched the massacre of our people and the illegal occupation of our nation, but many of it’s leaders participated and continue in harming our people inside and outside Iraq and assist in the theft of our resources. This, apart from the support of honest people all around the world,

4-     including citizens of your country, who marched day and night to support the cause of Iraq’s right to resist, marches that defied the weather, and weathered criminal defiance and ignorance of world politicians. Marches that we will ever be indebt to, and in gratitude & in appreciation for. May God bless those people wherever they are.  And this we fulfilled and continue to do so.

5-     We have understood the nature of international balances of power and most importantly predicted the primitive mind of the occupation and played a major role in forcing the US to increase oil prices in clear desperation for cash. And use that to allow other powers to recover. And the numbers never lied, this we also fulfilled.

6-     The Iraqi People wrote a new chapter in Urban warfare, and invented the art of remote combat, and in turn gave the world lessons and set a new standard in how to defeat the world’s most powerful army. In this, the most dangerous achievement that threatens US global influence is that all the oppressed people who suffer from negative US influence, can use this experience to free themselves as well. This also has been delivered. 

7-     The Resistance has already drafted its 2, 5 and 10 year plan to engage Iraq in rebuilding programs that will set a new standard for development in the Region and restore Iraq to it’s rightfully earned place in world politics and positive human development. This while maintaining Iraq’s isolation from harmful neighboring countries at the same time, these plans was prepared and drafted in the early months of 2007 and are ready to implement once we see the end of your occupation.  

8-     The resistance created a new battle field and utilized every tool available to break free of the corporate media and tell, inform, and educate the world of the true nature of the struggle, and present every curious man and woman daily reports and videos of your military’s defeat and in every language possible. People from all over the world, chose out of their own free will and time, people of different religions and backgrounds chose to be soldiers  of the cyber wars and translated all what we had to tell, asking nothing in return but the truth. The true casualties of your war are yet to be declared. (We refer to the green card soldiers) 

9-     The resistance has sparked not only the collapse of the US economy, but also caused the domino effect and the destruction of your fine tuned and delicate Globalized economy, and forced the return to national economic protection, and the rights of local and regional economies to grow and ensure a decent life and practice their right to develop as well.  All your efforts to restore the globalized economy  will deliver nothing of value, and puppet governments that maintain your oversight of world resources will eventually fall, one after the other, as their faults will be more evident to their average citizens, and that is why you are now receiving daily reports, from the CIA about the world economy. 

ALL THE ABOVE, AND YOU STILL CHOOSE TO IGNORE THE RESISTANCE OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE AND THE RESISTANCE OF THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE OF THE FREE, WHICH WE INTENT TO PROPOSE TO THE WORLD AS THE NEXT STAGE OF FREEING THE PLANET FROM YOUR DOMINENCE WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT. 

ALL THIS SAID, AND THE GLOBAL MEDIA WHICH YOU STILL MAINTAIN CONTROL OVER STILL LABELS FREE PEOPLE AS TERRORISTS AND EQUALS THE RESISTANCE OF OCCUPATION WITH CRIMINAL ACTS OF STRIKING CIVILIANS IN BUILDING AND TERRORISING THE LIVES OF THE INNOCENT. 

TRULY IRONIC !! Nevertheless represents the true state of shock you policy makers have reached. But all can be reversed if you truly believe in Change Mr. President. 

The resistance along with the votes of the peace loving people in your country and choice of the world

Who brought you to power, are more than capable to pull you down and defeat your new strategy, if you choose to lie to them and follow the plans of your predecessor.  

You must understand that the time when your foreign policy bullied and bribed people into submission is over and for a considerable time. And your politicians and strategists have to understand that to be accepted as a superpower you must first learn to speak to the world with modesty and respect that others in this planet, also have the right to provide for their families a decent life, the right to food and water, the right to education and knowledge, the right to industry and employment, and free from your corporate despotism. 

We in the Iraqi resistance, renew our pledge to our people and to our brothers and sisters in the global family, to continue the fight and struggle to free Iraq and give our allies the chance to follow suite. 

While you were preparing your new strategy in leaving the streets and highways of Iraq to your collaborators, and hiding your troops behind the walls of the castles and green zones you have prepared for your minimized long term presence, we have been preparing to address your new tactics and will deal with them in the proper manner.

Remember, that hiding behind and holding castles is no longer sustainable in modern warfare!  

Your finest fighting force as you name it, is up against the most witty, resilient & innovative self-propelled resistance honorable humanity has ever presented. Rest assured that we are not impressed with your plan and will follow your movements on the ground and cross examine them to your declared intentions and daily economic reports. There is no such thing as friendly occupation, and we advise you to revise your plans to vacate Iraq at a time suitable for our people and not suitable for your agents in the green zone. 

And if you need to talk to honest Iraqis, then you know very well, where to find them. John F Kennedy also said “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate” 

You choose to negotiate with all the parties that worked for your predecessor and have caused all this harm, yet you choose to ignore the only true party that can offer you a decent outcome.

Good Luck President Obama! 

Shoot Israeli Jets?

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Zbig Brzezinski

Obama Administration Should Tell Israel U.S. Will Attack Israeli Jets if They Try to Attack Iran

The national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, gave an interview to The Daily Beast in which he suggested President Obama should make it clear to Israel that if they attempt to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons sites the U.S. Air Force will stop them.

“We are not exactly impotent little babies,” Brzezinski said. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? … We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a ‘Liberty’ in reverse.”

The USS Liberty was a U.S. Navy technical research ship that the Israeli Air Force mistakenly attacked during the Six Day War in 1967.

Brzezinski endorsed then-Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign in August 2007, which at the time was portrayed in the media as a boost to Obama’s foreign policy cred. The Washington Post reported: “Barack Obama, combating the perception that he is too young and inexperienced to handle a dangerous world, got a boost yesterday from a paragon of foreign policy eminence, Zbigniew Brzezinski.”

Brzezinski was never an official campaign adviser, but Republicans jumped on the endorsement to push the meme that Obama wouldn’t be a friend to Israel, as Brzezinski’s views of Israel attracted criticism from some quarters in the American Jewish community.

“Brzezinski is not an adviser to the campaign,” former Ambassador Dennis Ross, then a senior adviser on Middle East affairs to the Obama campaign, said at the time. “There is a lot of disinformation that is being pushed, but he is not an adviser to the campaign. Brzezinski came out and supported Obama early because of the war in Iraq. A year or so ago they talked a couple of times. That’s the extent of it, and Sen. Obama has made it clear that on other Middle Eastern issues, Brzezinski is not who he looks to. They don’t have the same views.”

Brzezinski plays no role in the Obama administration; the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brzezinski’s comments come within the same week that the White House distanced itself from comments made by former President Carter, who said he thinks “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.”

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Community News (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adnan Zulfiqar hired as UPenn Interfaith fellow

adnan zulfiqar

The University of Pennsylvania has hired a Muslim scholar as its interfaith fellow.Adnan Zulfiqar – a 2008 graduate of Penn Law and a “brilliant scholar,” according to University Chaplain Chaz Howard – will serve as an Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim community.

“The concept was that our office wanted to provide a fellowship where the campus religious groups who do not have full-time dedicated staff could have that,” Howard told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

So far, Zulfiqar has received a warm welcome.

“Adnan is fantastic not only because he’s very knowledgeable about everything that has to do with Islam, but also because he has tried everything you would want to do after finishing your undergraduate degree,” said Muslim Student Association communications chairwoman and College junior Roxana Moussavian.

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Zulfiqar is currently completing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University and a Masters from Georgetown University.

His research focuses primarily on Islamic law and history, politics and governance in the Middle East and South Asia, and law in the developing world.  He previously helped draft the Penal Code of the Maldives, serving as a Team Leader helping to synthesis multiplelegal systems into one comprehensive code.  Zulfiqar also served as a legislative staffer and personal aide to U.S. Senator Max Cleland(D-GA) advising him on immigration, education and foreign policy matters.  In addition, he has been an associate at the Legal Resources Center in Pretoria, South Africa, a visiting scholar at the Center for Excellence in Public Law and Human Rights in Tehran, Iran and a presidential fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar. 

Zulfiqar  serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Arcadia University.  He received his B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University, M.L.S. in International Affairs (thesispending) from Georgetown University and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from theUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School.  Zulfiqar has spent over 11 years residing inthe Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and is proficient in 5 languages including Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.

Class, June 2009

MD Muslims celebrate ‘Eid at Six Flags

ICNA organized a national Muslim day at amusement parks, participated in by several thousand Muslims at six different parks, with halal food, prayer tents, and naats broadcast over the PA speakers. Following is the account of one such event:

UPPER MARLBRO, MD–For the first time, Maryland Muslims were able to reserve the Six Flags in Upper Marlbro for exclusive use. To make the experience even more interesting the day coincided with Eid ul Fitr.

The day, designated Muslim Family Day 2009, featured a bazaar with local vendors and a prayer pavilion and halal food.

“The purpose is to gather Muslims in one place for some good, clean, Islamic fun,” said volunteer organizer Salman Sheikh. “It will bring communities together and you usually you don’t get that chance, so it’s great for the kids.”

New York: Halal food vendor fight

NEW YORK–Halal food business is a lucrative one and the competition can be cut throat. The demand being not only limited to Muslim consumers but also to people of other faith. While the opportunities are vast so is the potential for the competition to get ugly.

The New York Post reported last week that a dispute over sharing territory between two halal hot dog vendors in New York resulted in a slashing of a arm. The story as reported by NBC goes like this”

Walid Osman sold hot dogs out of his cart outside Kings County Hospital until sometime in August; then he thought it would be wise to add chicken to his offerings, reports The New York Post.

Mohamed Hanafi and Abdelrao Akl Hamdy, who had always sold poultry out of the cart on the same corner – Clarkson and E. 37th Street – were miffed that Osman, 32, was luring away their customers with the scent of succulent chicken.

So they did what any New Yorker would do – they relocated their cart right next to Osman’s and slashed their prices in half, reports the Post.

The simmering food fight boiled over on Wednesday, when Hamdy and one of his workers, Farajat Yehiak, allegedly took a butcher knife to Osman’s arm, reports the Post.

The two foodies were charged with assault, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, and were released without bail after arraignment in Brooklyn court, according to the paper.

Osman, an Egyptian immigrant with two daughters, was treated at the scene for non life-threatening injuries, reports the Post. But that may not be the last he hears from Hanafi.

“He said, ‘If you don’t move your cart to another area, I will kill you,’” Osman told the Post. “He wants to kill my business. I have kids and a family.”

The alleged menacing won’t keep Osman from doing what he has to do to provide for his family, however; he plans to be back at his cart today, reports the Post.

Hanafi argues that Osman is to blame for the feud. The vendor says Osman used to work for him and signed a non-compete agreement of sorts – promising not to manage a chicken cart – and alleged Osman slashed himself and he had nothing to do with it, reports the Post.

The above incident is unfortunate. There is enough room for all to grow in the Halal market. Instead of feuding over territories the halal vendors of New York should venture out for new areas. They should also honor their contracts and respect the rights of others.

Buffalo Muslim women to hold seminar on domestic violence

BUFFALO, NY–Muslim women leaders of Buffalo area are holding a seminar to provide a deeper understanding of the roles and rights of Muslim women.

The event to be held on Sunday September 27, will feature presentations by some of the most accomplished Muslim women in the United States.

The first annual seminar, “Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s),” will be held on Sunday, September 27, from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga. It’s free, but reservations are requested. To register or for more information contact Tahmina Rehman by email at tahminarehman@yahoo.com

NHK Labs, Inc. Recertified ISO 9001

NHK Laboratories, Inc. announced that it has been recertified ISO 9001:2008 by NSF International Strategic Registrations. The ISO 9001:2008 standard is an internationally recognized quality management system. The certification process required a multi-day independent audit of the company’s facilities, personnel, and procedures.

M. Amirul Karim, Chief Executive Officer of NHK Laboratories, Inc. said, “Our continued compliance with the ISO 9000 guidelines is a testament to our commitment to an internationally recognized quality management system.”  Mr. Karim added, “Our private label clients can be rest assured that we have super-adequate procedures and protocols in place designed to manufacture quality into the product, instead of solely relying on post-production testing.”

NHK Laboratories, Inc. is an NPA/NSF/FDA CGMP, ISO 9001:2008, CCOF & QAI Organic, and ISNA Halal certified custom formulator, contract manufacturer, and contract packager of private label dietary supplements, functional foods, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Established in 1987, the company operates two state-of-the-art facilities in Santa Fe Springs, California on more than 90,000 square-fee and also has an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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