Got the Christmas Blues?

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

For many of us, the holidays are the saddest time. There are some biological reasons for this – the Solstice on December 21st is the darkest day of the year and there is a lot of depression associated with lack of sunlight.

For this reason, the Romans came up with the Festival of Lights to help dispel the gloom of darkness and the fear of death that comes with freezing weather, which in today’s world means electronic lights displayed on Christmas trees, candlelit Hanukkah menorahs, and an enduring tradition of attempting to be especially kind to one another. Science reports that American suicide rates are 30% lower during the holiday season, so apparently the effect of “good cheer and good will towards all men” is not just a theory.

Muslim families face a challenge during these special times, because we do not celebrate Christmas. We don’t even have a counter-holiday. A hilarious youtube video entitled, “Christmas Sucks for Desis” clearly explains our children’s tender emotions:

“We will get a mix of a bunch of feelings on this day – No Rudolphs, no horse-drawn sleigh – All we get is a closed Safeway!”

Americans who have converted to Islam may feel especially sensitive at this time, because we have beautiful childhood memories associated with Christmas that are deeply connected to our cultural traditions. It is hard to explain how depressing it can be to find yourself sitting alone on Christmas Eve, simply due to a conscious choice not to celebrate that holiday. No more late night prayers singing carols praising the birth of our Savior. No more angels, no more shepherds, no more Blessed Virgin Mary and her adorable baby. No more hanging warm socks and mittens on a tree to donate to charity.
Hey wait! Is all of this so bad? The whole point of adoring a newborn baby is that we are in a state of total awe at what God alone can accomplish – the birth of hope in the future of humanity.

The Prophethood of Jesus marked a very important milestone in the history of spiritual philosophy. Before that, in the Old Testament, it was “my God is better than your god.” Jesus brought a message that changed life on earth forever. The ancient Germans used to burn widows on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands, but after they learned about Christ’s teachings, they completely changed their way of life to one that involved fighting for the security of widows! The Aztek American Indians used to engage in ritual sacrifice of virgin girls. Now they revere the Virgin Mary. We have come a long way.

If you were to pick up a Quran, knowing nothing, you would think this is a book primarily about Jesus (pbuh). We have holidays to remember Abraham, Moses and Mohammad, while the Shias retell the tale of Hussain’s martyrdom every year at Ashura. Yet we don’t always take the time to retell the story of the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

When my five year old daughter started whining about why we don’t have a Christmas tree, I decided to teach her the true meaning of Christmas. I then realized how important it is for someone who wants to truly understand the Quran to read the Bible too. The stories about Jesus are told in the Bible in such detail that we do not find in the Quran, yet the Quran references these old stories in such a way that if we did not know the old stories, we cannot fully grasp the meaning of the Quran. The Quran serves in many ways as a commentary on the older books, which Jesus came to Earth to interpret for us. The Quran states that Jesus said:

“ And (I come as) a verifier of that which is before me of the Torah… I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah and obey me.” (Al-Imran:50)

We are ordered to obey Christ, yet we know precious little about how to obey Christ UNLESS we familiarize ourselves with the older books. Since Muslims have nothing else to do on Christmas, why not spend some time with our children studying about our Messiah? I read to my daughter from the Quran:

“… Allah said: O Jesus, I am going to terminate the period of your stay (on earth) and cause you to ascend unto Me and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the Day of Resurrection…” (Al-Imran: 55)

I explained to her that the message of Jesus (pbuh) apart from the mythology is clear: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” If someone did not do that, he did not follow God’s prophet.

What matters is that we are going to die, and if we did not be kind to other people, God will punish us. But if we followed Christ’s teachings, God will be merciful to us.

Humanity is in a state of darkness. There is absolutely no hope for us. We are a bunch of hopeless sinners and losers. We keep fighting for ourselves, and all we do is just keep dragging each other down. We are hardly human anymore, as a species. We are in a complete state of loss: except those who have faith, and who do good deeds, and remind one another to be righteous, and not to give up hope. I think that is the true meaning that we need to find in this darkest hour.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. Karinfriedemann.blogspot.com.

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Occupy Boston Dismantled

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

ScreenShot001At 5am, Saturday, December 10, 2011, police swept through Occupy Boston’s encampment at Dewey Square. Protesters first erected the encampment on September 30. As the officers moved in, about two dozen demonstrators linked arms and sat down in nonviolent protest and police soon began arresting them, according to the Boston Globe. The protesters were “very accommodating” to the officers, Police Chief Driscoll said. Forty-six people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, but no injuries were reported. Protesters estimate that 100 to 150 activists lived in the Boston encampment. Boston is the latest in a string of cities where officials have moved to oust protesters demonstrating against corporate greed and economic injustice. Demonstrators were also forcibly removed from similar encampments in New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“A few days back, Boston Mayor Menino told the media/public (and indirectly the court considering an injunction) that he had no immediate plans to evict the Occupy Boston folks from Dewey Park. He just wanted the ability to do so if necessary for health/safety reasons. He was lying, of course, or we’ve just witnessed the fastest landscape planning and permitting exercise in the history of Boston,” comments local blogger Scarecrow.

By 10am, a large crew employed by the City arrived with dump trucks and new soil, a back hoe with grader and air-driven soil aerators to re-do the landscaping at the former protest site.

The main role of this parkway is to separate the dual auto expressways. Dewey Square has never been a park where people normally walk. Once the protesters set up camp in the middle of the Financial District in this island between expressways, many hopeless and homeless people joined them.

Scarecrow explains: “So it was no surprise that the mostly young, idealistic and courageous occupiers were forced from day 1 to recreate government, to develop mechanisms to deal, face to face with drug abuse, violent/uncontrolled behavior, unemployment, homelessness, hunger and poor health. It wasn’t all just marches and demonstrations and rallies and teach-ins; it was also a daily struggle for human and humane survival.”

Even though this public strip of grass is now “cleaned up,” the problem of poverty has not gone away. Reports indicate that the homeless people were crying as the police cleared out the area.
Acacia Brewer from the Occupy Boston movement told Iran’s Press TV, “A few days ago we were at the Dewey Square encampment, and since then we’ve been having general assemblies down at the Boston Common which was where we first started.”

Just hours after a 5 am police raid cleared Dewey’s tent city, Occupiers braved the cold at Boston Common to plan a new strategy: Occupy Everywhere. Occupy Boston even has its own live radio link now.

Meanwhile, onlookers nationwide have been rethinking their positions regarding the use of public space. Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City says there is already evidence that chronically homeless people are finding great inspiration in the Occupy Kitchen and work.

“We clergy were all somewhat skeptical of the demand for public space… But the occupiers edged toward the theological as they articulated a need for communal, inspirational, face-to-face contact in which they could “appear” to one another…

“…they spoke of a new monasticism, in which people have given up everything to jump to a future they can only imagine. In the most recent newsletter posted by Occupy Theory, occupiers describe how sad they were about their lives, both present and future, until they found each other. If you were worried about “young people today” before, you will be terrified after you read about the emptiness, the bought-and-soldness, the futility, the lack of any place to be or person to be.”

Will all this community result in a just economy?

Some skepticism is warranted, given the past three decades of American politics. Anyone demonstrating for any cause has typically been marginalized and isolated. It has been the norm for there to be only a handful of protesters, sometimes even only only one lone protester, against any serious issue such as AIPAC lobbying, imprisonment of random Muslims, or escalation of US wars. So why, all of a sudden, is there a nationwide movement of protest? And why is the TV News even mentioning them? It’s unusual.

Michel Chossudovsky states in his article, Occupy Wall Street and “The American Autumn”: Is It a “Colored Revolution”? that “the elites will promote a ‘ritual of dissent’ with a high media profile, with the support of network TV, the corporate news as well as the internet.”

According to Chossudovsky, several key organizations currently involved in The Occupy Wall Street movement played a significant role in “The Arab Spring”.

The involvement of corporate funding of the anti-capitalist movement probably cannot be denied. TV News stations such as FOX have not indulged in such around-the-clock coverage since the Gulf War, even though typically, any meaningful protest would be ignored by the media.

Yet, the atmosphere of the Occupy movement has been described by participants as “electrifying.” Real human concerns are being addressed here. Only time will tell if this protest movement was just orchestrated to let off steam, or if it will result in any improvements in the political system.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. See karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Good Morning, Occupy Boston!

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Boston

On December 8, Judge Frances McIntyre lifted the restraining order protecting Occupy Boston from being shut down. McIntyre said that while the protesters are exercising their rights to freedom of expression, the occupation of state land is neither speech “nor is it immune from criminal prosecution for trespass or other crimes.” This does not mean eviction is imminent, but the restraining order against the police no longer applies. Throughout the day, occupiers were handed a notice warning them that they would be subject to criminal trespass if they remained in the park. The ACLU of Massachusetts was actively involved in informing occupiers of their rights.

While some protesters packed up and went home on Thursday, others decided to stand their ground. A few even moved their tents to the middle of Atlantic Avenue just before 2am on Friday. Two protesters were arrested for blocking traffic, but there were no other police confrontations with the demonstrators who gathered at the site as the deadline loomed.

Expecting a possible police crackdown, thousands of supporters from nearby areas flooded into the campsite awaiting the midnight deadline, yet midnight came and went with no response from police officers, as they stood around the perimeter looking into the swelling crowd.

Occupy Boston’s newswire reports that the protesters “rallied at midnight, making circles two deep around tents, as the Veterans for Peace stood guard, white flags snapping in the wind.”

Police blocked off the streets surrounding Dewey Square just before 1am on Friday as hundreds of Occupiers and Occupy supporters packed the encampment. Boston Police Superintendent William Evans said that the police would not be moving in on Dewey Square early Friday morning. He stated that even though Mayor Thomas Menino set the deadline, he did not specify when the camp would be shut down.

As the news came in that no raid was coming, and no was eviction imminent, protesters danced in the streets to celebrate.

“I have no intention of leaving,” said 20-year-old Brandon Cloran of Lynn, Massachusetts, who has lived at the camp for the past six weeks.

FOX News reported that “the encampment site in Dewey Square in the city’s financial district looked noticeably smaller Friday than it had since the protesters first began occupying the site on Sept. 30. Only about 40 protesters and 35 tents remained, covering less than half the area the protest once did…

“Hours later, as dawn approached, the scene was markedly quieter, with only a handful of police officers keeping eye on the remaining protesters, a few of whom were still packing up tents and gathering belongings. One protester was raking part of the greenway that had been vacated by other members of the movement.”

While there is no obvious victory for the protesters as they continue their standoff with the City of Boston, it is clear that the voices of the many are influencing current events. Two weeks ago, a federal judge blocked a settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup, saying that he could not be sure that it was “fair, adequate, or in the public interest,” while last week, a District Attorney announced she was suing the banks for fraudulent foreclosure practices.

MoveOn reports: “Senate Democrats are proposing an extension of small but helpful tax cuts for the 99%—paid for by a surcharge on millionaires… With votes on unemployment benefits, Medicare payments, and a Wall Street tax likely before the end of the year, this final month of 2011 will force every member of Congress to show who they really represent.”

The very next day after their feared eviction, on December 9, Boston Occupiers amassed against the Department of Housing and Community Development to demonstrate against the lack of affordable housing and ongoing evictions of homeowners, connecting it with the plight of their tent city, citing such statistics:

Each year, 600,000 families with 1.35 million children experience homelessness in the United States, making up about 30% of the homeless population over the course of a year

In any given day, researchers estimate that more than 200,000 children have no place to live

A full time worker earning minimum wage cannot afford a one bedroom unit priced at Fair Market Rent anywhere in the United Stated.

Federal Support for low income housing has fallen by 40% from 1980-2003

15% of all American families and 32% of single parent families live below the poverty line

During a visit to the site 8am Friday, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis wouldn’t say what the city plans to do about the remaining protesters.

“We have learned over the past ten weeks just how powerful the people can be,” stated a spokesperson for Occupy Boston. “Unproductive wealth struggles to justify its inefficiency, and deceit grows helpless before a truth that has found its people.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. See karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Boston Police Confiscate Sink From Protest Camp

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

After a four day court battle, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre ruled to extend a restraining order blocking the City of Boston from clearing out the tent city at Dewey Square. She will make a final ruling by Dec. 15. Until then, city officials can’t kick out the Occupy Boston protesters.

Occupy Boston started in Dewey Square on September 30, 2011. It was directly inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York City. The continued occupation of Dewey Square—located in the heart of Boston’s Financial District—is one of more than 120 Occupy encampments in cities across the nation.

The protesters want elected officials to address the economic needs of the people and want to end the influence of corporate lobbyists. Mayor Thomas Menino states that he essentially agrees with these viewpoints, but feels that the park should be available for everyone, and that these issues would be best brought up with Washington. Fire Marshalls say the protest site is a fire hazard, while the Board of Health has pointed out health hazards related to lack of sanitation.

Occupy Boston attempted to address some of these concerns by bringing in a donated sink that was equipped for both hand-washing and dish-washing using bottled water. They also tried to bring in fireproof, winterized tents as well as wooden pallets to make the walkways safer. All these items have been confiscated by the police, who labeled them “contraband.”
On December 1, a struggle took place between protesters and police hauling away the donated sink from the food tent, which resulted in three arrests as people blocked the streets to prevent removal of the sink. The Occupy Boston website reads:

“Since the restraining order from Judge McIntyre prevents the Boston Police from dismantling our camp except in the case of a fire, violence, or other emergency, we are puzzled by this police action.”
Authorities have banned protesters from bringing material that could be used to convert the encampment into a permanent dwelling. Mayor Menino stated: “We’re not going to have them build a new town there.”

The City of Boston finds itself in a contradictory position. On one hand, the Mayor has frequently supported the right of protesters to voice their opinions while expressing concerns about safety, but on the other hand, the City is removing items essential for improving the health and safety of the protesters.

Protesters insist: “You cannot evict an idea. Occupy Boston will continue to improve our community in Dewey Square. We ask that the BPD uphold their stated commitment to protecting public safety by allowing Occupy Boston to properly maintain and equip our encampment for the cold weather.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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The Importance of Breastfeeding to the Muslim Child

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms…If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (her) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do.” (Quran 2:233)

mother-and-child-1a

Given the importance of breastfeeding in the Islamic religion, the relatively low rates of compliance among Muslim women in North America are puzzling. There are small pockets of “fundamentalist” Muslim women who are well educated and adamant about nursing their children under their chadors, and who often practice natural childbirth. However, those mothers who nurse their babies past the age of one year are the exception rather than the rule. There seems to be a lighthearted attitude among the general Muslim populace towards the bottle-feeding of infants. It is sometimes even thought of as more modest to bottle-feed! Perhaps it is a lack of education about the benefits of breastfeeding, combined with an absence of a support network to assist the new mother.

Transferring the child to animal and vegetable foods before he even had any teeth was not done by the early Muslims. The most likely option, if a mother declined to breastfeed her infant, was the employment of a wet-nurse for the child. For the newborn Muslim child, the intimate breastfeeding relationship is a right. It is beyond dispute that two full years of breast-milk provide a baby with long-term health benefits such as the prevention of ear infections and allergies, as well as providing a foundation of trust between mother and child. Scientific studies show that a bottle-fed baby will be a weaker child.

“Weaning” is the gradual transfer from feeding the baby exclusively breast-milk to table foods only. This happens sometime during the toddler period of life, usually between the ages of 1 and 3.

In Islamic terms, weaning is a process that is administered by mutual consent between parents. But in my conversations with sisters in various states who had given up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding, there is a sense of powerlessness over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child. But somehow, they lost their chance. This tragedy is largely caused by a hospital system that does little to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. In most hospitals, the new mothers receive free samples of formula to take home, as a result of multi-million dollar deals with pharmaceutical companies who pay the doctors to promote their products. This practice is highly unethical because little or no education about the dangers of bottle-feeding the infant is given to the new mothers. Many Muslim mothers, especially those who don’t speak English well, come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Although at this point, all is not yet beyond hope, coaxing a small baby to breastfeed, after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice, can be a big struggle. It may not succeed without the aid of a lactation counselor, because unfortunately, even the older generation of mothers and mothers-in-law often lack the knowledge of how to breastfeed. Thus, the likelihood of bottle-feeding is very high among immigrant and minority women in the U.S.

When women have given up nursing out of a feeling of powerlessness to get the baby to nurse, this is not a mutual parental decision to wean, but rather the result of lack of adequate help. Something is terribly wrong when Muslim women are giving up breastfeeding due to lack of education, counseling, and support. It reveals a stripping away at the postnatal rights of the Muslim woman to be in a state of rest for 40 days after childbirth.

If the child is rejecting the breast, the most common reaction is to try for a while, and then give up and give him a bottle, but this teaches him that all he has to do is fuss and refuse to nurse, and he will be rewarded by a free-flowing bottle of formula. The only solution to this power struggle is for the mother to refuse to give the baby a bottle, even if it takes several days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, he can take water with a cup or medicine dropper). My eldest son was a sleepy baby, born a couple weeks early. I had to set my alarm for every three hours, take off his clothes and wipe him down with water to get him screaming mad, in order for him to just stay awake for a couple minutes to nurse before he would blissfully fall asleep in my arms. The first few days were terrifying and the emotional pressure was intense. After two weeks he finally opened his eyes, and he and I enjoyed a nursing relationship that lasted over two years. Nursing can be a strenuous effort that truly requires the full support and help of the father, neighbors and other family members, to allow the mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible for the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Help is available. The ability to feed your child the best that nature has to offer is your choice. Only after a successful and long-lasting breastfeeding relationship can weaning the baby truly be done by mutual and conscious consent.

To locate a free breastfeeding consultant in your area, call 1-800-LA-LECHE

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Overcoming Negativity

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

There is a saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean somebody isn’t out to get you.”

emotions

Sometimes when we feel deeply uncomfortable, or even subtly uncomfortable, instead of trying to push these feelings away, it might help to look at them in the light of day. God gave us feelings for a reason. A peaceful person cannot be ruled by emotions, but also cannot ignore them.

Recently I complained to my doctor of panic attacks and she prescribed me Xanex. I found that it didn’t do anything for my panic, but just made me feel sluggish. I wondered if this sluggishness might actually inhibit me from an appropriate reaction to a real and present danger. I did some research about Xanex and found that it is a medication for the treatment of unpredictable and inexplicable panic attacks. It occurred to me that this was not an accurate description of my condition. I have every reason to feel anxious! I’m a woman with four children going through the last stages of my second divorce. Of course I’m a nervous wreck! I got rid of the Xanex and started making some new friends. A lot of times the negativity in our lives is best cured by finding some new positive things to do:

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junaadah, and Abu ‘Abd-ir-Rahmaan Mu’aadh bin Jabal (r) that the Messenger of Allaah (s) said:

“Have Taqwa (Fear) of Allah wherever you may be, and follow up a bad deed with a good deed which will wipe it out, and behave well towards the people.”

(related by at-Tirmidhee)

Another feeling that sometimes rules me is rage, even though I know the Prophet (s) said, “Do not become angry.” But when you think about US drones killing children in Pakistan, or the Black American political activists from the 70’s dying in prison one by one, or you think about someone who borrowed money from you and refused to pay you back, how can you not be angry?

I once heard a wise Jewish criminal defense lawyer say, “If I analyzed other people’s actions judging by what I would do, I would go crazy.” We may not agree with injustice, but we do have to develop a certain emotional detachment in order to effectively fight the injustices day after day, decade after decade. We have to develop strategies for getting the results that we want. Sometimes that requires making a clear statement. Other times the goal requires keeping silent and letting the other party come to the conclusion you want. You don’t always have to tell people everything that you are thinking.

One thing that I have learned from reading pop psychology books is that whatever condition you are ruled by on a conscious level is usually not the true issue. Especially if you are obsessing within a certain mental state, most likely this is a cover-up of your true emotion. For example, grief is a genuine emotion but depression is a mental condition. Fear can be a legitimate emotion, but anxiety is a mental condition. Usually we cling to a mental condition to avoid confronting our true emotion. Very often, the truth is exactly the opposite of our mental condition! It is useful to meditate occasionally when we are feeling overpowered by a mental condition, to determine the actual emotion we are afraid of respecting.

It’s easy to find examples of this from everyday life: a juvenile delinquent sets fires out of a constant feeling of anger, but in therapy he admits that he is in truth deeply sad that his father abandoned him. In order to heal, he may need to go through a grieving period where he could mourn his loss and forgive his father.

A housewife is debilitated by depression to the extent that she can no longer eat. But deep down she is truly angry at her husband for not desiring her, and she is doing this hunger strike to see if he would notice or care. She is suppressing her desires because she is unable to own her personal anger at feeling rejected. By remaining depressed, she mutes the healthy part of her brain that wants and desires good for herself. Whether it’s a sandwich or a man’s affection, she will eventually have to learn how to visualize what she wants and then learn to do what she has to do to attain her goals.

“…Allah guides him who seeks His good pleasure to paths of peace and safety. He brings them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guides them unto a straight path.”

(Quran 5:016)

A lot of the Muslim world as well as a greater part of the entire world seems to be trapped in various negative mental conditions that are paralyzing progress. There is a tendency to react predictably, protesting each affront as it occurs, rather than addressing patterns of events effectively. Albert Einstein said that you can never solve a problem on the same level as it occurs. Problem solving requires some intuitive leaps. On a global level, Muslims and all people who care about promoting the Good in this world probably need to work through a psychological process of coming to terms with grief, anger, depression, low self-esteem and anxiety, before they can truly succeed in righting wrongs. We need to learn a sense of detachment to worldly affairs that will enable us to have a vision. Once we have a vision, other things start will start falling into place and our path will become clear.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Book Review: Rounded Up

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Entrapment After 9/11
By Shamshad Ahmad, PhD
Troy Book Makers: 2009.
www.thetroybookmakers.com

Book Review by Karin Friedemann, MMNS

Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, was thrust into the media spotlight with claims that his name was allegedly discovered in an address book found in the pocket of a “terrorist” killed by US soldiers in Iraq. At the time, Aref was working as an imam at an Islamic center in Albany, NY. After it was exposed that the entire case against him was a fraud based on a mistranslation, the US government resorted to “secret evidence” to continue Aref’s prosecution.

“How can a trial be called fair if a defendant, or even a defendant’s attorney, cannot challenge the evidence of the accusation against him?” asks the author.

Step by step this book details the injustices suffered by Aref and the local community.

The legal atrocity starts when the FBI raided the mosque in the culmination of a sting operation. An accused felon serving as a cooperating witness hoped to avoid prosecution in return for fingering Aref and local pizzeria owner Mohammed Hossain as dangerous Islamic terrorists. Such sting operations have been part of a larger strategy on the part of the Neocon-corrupted FBI and DOJ to justify selective surveillance and prosecution of Muslim Americans. A show trial based on secret evidence ended with a guilty verdict and an extremely harsh sentence handed down in 2007.

Dr. Ahmad describes how improper prosecutorial psychological tactics, US government manipulation or miscategorization of the evidence, and judicial misconduct gave the false impression the defendant was involved with terrorism when the actual albeit false charges pertained to money laundering.

Meanwhile, many supportive community members, media journalists, and cartoonists actively demonstrated their belief in Aref’s innocence. These American patriots bridged the gap between immigrant Muslims and the local community in order to preserve the freedom of an innocent man and to save what is left of America’s political integrity.

This book is an extremely painful and frustrating journey through the perversion of US law enforcement, which smears innocent people as terrorists in order for the government to save face for its failure to catch any real terrorists in the post-9/11 era.

It is too bad that every falsely accused person doesn’t have a friend like Dr. Ahmad to tell his story step by step, point by point. It is my hope that the evidence presented in this book will help win Aref’s freedom in his ongoing legal battle.

Those interested in learning more about the life and travails of Yassin Aref may wish to also read his book “Son of Mountains,” available at http://www.yassinaref.com/.

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Asperger’s Syndrome Wives Need Understanding

November 12, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

By Karin Friedemann, MMNS

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder considered as high-functioning autism. Individuals with this syndrome have difficulty with social aspects of intelligence. This manifests itself as a notable lack of “common sense.” The presence of Asperger in children is getting more attention now, but the undiagnosed adult is not yet well recognized. Because these types of brain disorders seem to be more common in men, many times wives have trouble getting the support they need.

The shortcomings of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have been camouflaged beneath layers of coping strategies and defense mechanisms. Their behavior often gives the impression of someone perhaps a little eccentric or odd – but passable because of their high or gift in an area or career, such as engineering.

Life with an AS spouse is very isolating. Since the AS person in public often appears normal, others do not understand the spouse’s suffering. Spouses of people with Asperger Syndrome play an abnormally large caregiver role. Even when AS people are successful professionals, their families cannot rely on them to participate fully in family life since they typically don’t do their share of chores or provide emotional support to other family members.

Although people with Asperger’s Syndrome do feel affection towards others, relationships are not a priority for them in the same way that it is for people who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome. People with Asperger’s Syndrome generally seem to be more focused on a particular interest, project or task than on the people around them.

Because the person with Asperger’s Syndrome does not have the same relational needs as the non-Asperger partner, he or she is mostly unable to recognize instinctively or to meet the emotional needs of his or her partner. Marriages can thus form seriously dysfunctional relationship patterns. The denial, the complex and multi-layered coping mechanisms and defensive strategies make it difficult to live successfully in a relationship with someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Often the afflicted will deny there is a problem, since one of the disorder’s main characteristics is the lack of ability to imagine someone else’s point of view.

People who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome enter a marriage with the normal expectation that the priority of a marriage relationship will be about togetherness, mutual terms and meeting of needs, but in reality the relationship ends up being more one of practicality and convenience for the person with Asperger’s Syndrome than for the loving and meeting of emotional needs of the marital partner.

In many cases, the Asperger partner analyzed the partner prior to marriage and assessed them as being capable of filling a compensatory role for his own deficits. The non-Asperger partner then unwittingly fills the role of personal assistant. In the privacy of their relationship, the spouse who does not have Asperger’s Syndrome will more than likely be physically and emotionally drained, working overtime to keep life on track for both of them. Perhaps the relationship has taken on more of the characteristics of a business partnership or arrangement.

For those who had normal expectations of the mutuality of marriage, there will be a sense of betrayal and a feeling of being used and trapped. Instinctively they know that their partner needs them, but feelings develop that the relationship is about the needs and interests of the person with Asperger’s Syndrome and that there is not even room for their own voice. Many partners feel that they are daily sacrificing their own sense of self to help fulfill the priorities of the partner who has Asperger’s Syndrome. They begin to feel that they are entirely defined by the role they fill for their Asperger partner. There’s a sense that there is no mutuality, no equality, no justice.

People married to someone with Asperger’s Syndrome continue to hope for the mutual meeting of emotional needs within the marriage and resent the reality of living on terms dictated by the needs and priorities of the partner with Asperger’s Syndrome. In effect, their flexibility is exploited by the inflexibility of the person with Asperger’s Syndrome. This prompts an extremely manipulative behavior pattern, with the neurologically typical spouse going overboard to prevent stress. Living with someone who sees only his or her own viewpoint cannot help but damage a spouse’s self-esteem.

The neurotypical spouse must thoroughly evaluate all the issues before deciding if there is enough of value to make continuing the relationship worthwhile. Those who stay in a relationship with an Asperger’s-afflicted mate should do everything possible to be independent socially and financially. In most cases, the afflicted spouse will not be able to make substantial changes, so the neurotypical spouse must be able to accept that. Knowing what to expect will make the marriage more predictable and manageable, if not easier.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

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Disengaging America from the Israel Lobby

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

No taxation by a foreign government without representation” is a basic American principle. Yet, the taxation currently endured by US taxpayers because of the Israel Lobby far exceeds the level of taxation by the British that led to the American Revolution. Pro-Israel organisations do everything possible to prevent Americans from openly discussing the fact that they are being taxed without consent.

Through subversion Israel advocates have orchestrated passage of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security abuses, and other erosions of civil liberties. Pro-Israel organisations file lawsuits to keep the question of Israel investments off local ballots. Jewish communal organisations bribe elected public officials with free trips to Israel to gain their support — even against the will of the majority of their constituents!

Financing Israel at the expense of basic American values victimises every citizen to benefit a very small sub-group of the population and also creates worldwide anti-US hostility, which puts all Americans at risk of terrorist retaliation. Obeying the Israel lobby goes against all logical American self-interest. Obeying Zionist pressure to invade several countries at once means watching America commit suicide, economically and politically, for the sake of Israel. Zionist activists are a real and present danger to the USA. They should be stripped of their US citizenship and sent to Guantanamo for interrogation.

America’s free press, justice system, and democracy are dependent upon the separation of American from Israeli interests. To survive, America must disentangle itself from the Zionist web of control. The common Zionist argument that Jews should get to keep what they stole just because they’ve been sitting on other people’s property for so many years is not a valid legal argument. International law as defined by the post-WW2 Nuremburg Tribunals does not confer upon occupiers any entitlement to “security.” Zionism is nothing less than a criminal ideology that completely rejects the fundamental American principle of sacred property rights.

America stands for equal rights, which applies to property and residency rights and other legal norms such as use of public transportation and voting. The US has acknowledged the injustice involved in colonising America at the expense of the native population. Even though economic disparities still remain, Native Americans have US citizenship and are allowed to rent, buy and sell property just like other citizens. This is not true for millions of Palestinian refugees who are denied any passports while they live under Israeli curfews and martial law. It is even against Israeli law for sympathetic Jews voluntarily to reconvey stolen property that they currently hold without legitimate title to the original, rightful owners. In general, Jews cannot even sell homes to Arabs. Yet Germany returned homes stolen from the Jews in World War II to their descendants.

Many Americans are aware that the subsidisation of the Israeli military at the expense of the US taxpayer puts all Americans at risk of retaliation. Yet the criminal acts begin right under our noses here in America by bankers and real estate agents. With the deep enmeshment of Israeli agents in the United States political spectrum, the Israel Lobby acts as a mafia facilitating the looting of billions of dollars via US military acquisitions from Jewish-owned defense corporations like General Dynamics and via capital transfers including ongoing complex beneficiary-obscuring transactions. In addition to ongoing US foreign aid for weapons purchase, the USA buys billions of dollars of weapons, declares the weaponry to be obsolete and then consigns it to Israel at practically no charge. Using full-scale militarised equipment supplied and paid for by the United States, the Israeli government uses US tax money to pay the IDF to force the non-Jewish Palestinian rightful owners to vacate their own property so that subsidised real-estate magnates can bulldoze the place to build suburban-style condos for foreigners outfitted with supplies from Home Depot and JCPenney.

As the Israeli government orchestrates increasing demand for Palestinian property, ordinary American Jews wishing to escape their credit card debts buy up stolen Palestinian property by means of mortgages that roll in existing indebtedness at subsidised interest rates. American Jewish purchasers can then resell the stolen properties at a profit and return debt-free to the USA with cash in their pockets. This outrageous criminal conspiracy takes place in broad-daylight generally under the aegis of taxpayer subsidised Zionist “charities” that encourage “Aliyah” (Jewish ascension to Israel).

Are American law enforcement officials investigating this racist organised crime network operating in full daylight? The Jews who move into this stolen property are participating in an international crime. The FBI should be attending all the Pro-Israel training workshops that take place on US soil and that promote both the subversion of all our basic national beliefs and also the looting of the US economy. The United States has no choice but to start investigating, arresting, charging, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating American citizens participating in the Zionist settlement process.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

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Myths and Facts about al-Qaeda

September 3, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

al_qaeda The media myth of a global Islamic conspiracy never got much traction in America before 2001 because the minority Muslim American population simply did not seem like much of a threat, because Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States are loyal US allies, and because Americans generally have a positive attitude toward wealthy investors. After 9/11 pro-Israel propagandists exploited public ignorance and created a nightmarish fantasy of al-Qaeda in order to put the US and allies into conflict with the entire Islamic world. What is al-Qaeda? What do they believe? What do they actually do?

Osama bin Laden first used the term “al-Qaeda” in an interview in 1998, probably in reference to a 1988 article written by Palestinian activist Abdullah Azzam entitled “al-Qa`ida al-Sulba” (the Solid Foundation). In it, Azzam elaborates upon the ideas of the Egyptian scholar Sayed Qutb to explain modern jihadi principles. Qutb, author of Social Justice in Islam, is viewed as the founder of modern Arab-Islamic political religious thought. Qutb is comparable to John Locke in Western political development. Both Azzam and Qutb were serious men of exceptional integrity and honor.

While Qutb was visiting the USA in 1949, he and several friends were turned away from a movie theater because the owner thought they were black. ‘But we’re Egyptians,’ one of the group explained. The owner apologized and offered to let them in, but Qutb refused, galled by the fact that black Egyptians could be admitted but black Americans could not,” recounts Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower. Qutb predicted that the struggle between Islam and materialism would define the modern world. He embraced martyrdom in 1966 in rejection of Arab socialist politics.

Azzam similarly rejected secular Palestinian nationalist politics as an impediment to moral virtue. He opposed terrorist attacks on civilians and had strong reservations about ideas like offensive jihad, or preventive war. He also hesitated to designate any Muslim leader as an apostate and preferred to allow God to make such judgments. Inspired by the courage and piety of Afghan Muslims struggling against the Soviets, Azzam reinterpreted Qutb’s concept of individual and collective obligation of Muslims in his fatwa entitled “Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Iman (Faith).” Qutb would have prioritized the struggle of Egyptian Muslims to transform Egypt into a virtuous Islamic state while Azzam argued that every individual Muslim had an obligation to come to the aid of oppressed Muslims everywhere, whether they are Afghan, Kosovar, Bosnian, Thai, Filipino, or Chechen.

John Calvert of Creighton University writes, “This ideology… would soon energize the most significant jihad movement of modern times.”

At Azzam’s call, Arabs from many countries joined America’s fight against Communism in Afghanistan. No Arab jihadi attack was considered terrorism when Azzam led the group, or later when bin Laden ran the group. Because the global Islamic movement overlapped with the goals of the US government, Arab jihadis worked and traveled frictionlessly throughout the world between Asia, Arabia and America. Azzam was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, but legends of the courageous sacrifices of the noble Arab Afghans energized the whole Islamic world.

After the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden relocated to Sudan in 1992. At the time he was probably undisputed commander of nothing more than a small group, which became even smaller after he lost practically all his money on Sudan investments. He returned to Afghanistan in 1996, where the younger Afghans, the Taliban welcomed him on account of his reputation as a veteran war hero.

There is no real evidence that bin Laden or al-Qaeda had any connection to the Ugandan and Tanzanian embassy attacks or any of the numerous attacks for which they have been blamed. Pro-Israel propagandists like Daniel Pipes or Matthew Levitt needed an enemy for their war against Muslim influence on American culture more than random explosions in various places needed a central commander. By the time the World Trade Center was destroyed, the Arab fighters surrounding Osama bin Laden were just a dwindling remnant living on past glories of Afghanistan’s struggle against Communism. Al-Qaeda has never been and certainly is not today an immensely powerful terror organization controlling Islamic banks and charities throughout the world.

Al-Qaeda maintained training camps in Afghanistan like Camp Faruq, where Muslims could receive basic training just as American Jews go to Israel for military training with the IDF. There they learned to disassemble, clean and reassemble weapons, and got to associate with old warriors, who engaged in great heroism against the Soviets but did not do much since. Many al-Qaeda trainees went on to serve US interests in Central Asia (e.g. Xinjiang) in the 1990s but from recent descriptions the camps seem to currently provide a form of adventure tourism with no future enlistment obligations.

Although western media treats al-Qaeda as synonymous with Absolute Evil, much of the world reveres the Arab Afghans as martyr saints. Hundreds of pilgrims visit Kandahar’s Arab cemetery daily, believing that the graves of those massacred in the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan possess miraculous healing powers.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

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Breastfeeding Rates too Low Despite Global Education Programs

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

mother-and-child Despite widespread awareness of the importance of breastfeeding to the human child, mothers in developed countries demonstrate low rates of compliance with global recommendations. Nursing past six months is the exception rather than the rule. Bottle-feeding infants has become normal. Exclusive and extensive breastfeeding has become a pastime primarily for the rich with some interesting exceptions. Nordic countries exhibit the overall highest European breastfeeding rate with England ranking lowest. UAE ruling class mothers exclusively breastfeed the longest among Arabs while Iraq suffers the lowest breastfeeding rates. US Whites and Native Americans are most likely to breastfeed while Blacks and Hispanics are the least likely.

Class plays a large role in decision to breastfeed, for far fewer women belonging to the routine and manual labor socio-economic group nurse beyond six weeks than is typical of professional women and full time mothers. Yet, religion and philosophy also affect women’s decision to breastfeed. In Singapore non-Malay Muslim women are 6.7 times more likely to breastfeed than Buddhist women although Malays have the lowest rate. Urban babies receive half the breast milk of rural babies. The youngest mothers tend to supplement with bottles from birth.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF work hard to promote breastfeeding worldwide, but their success is undermined by factors such as free infant formula distribution, hospital practices and lack of personal support. Breastfeeding is a learned skill requiring effort and focus. Good intentions are not always enough to establish lactation. “Baby-friendly hospital” initiatives in many countries have significantly increased breastfeeding but rates are still well below optimum health guidelines.

Almost all new mothers attempt breastfeeding but few continue for the recommended period. According to UNICEF the early introduction of bottle-feeding and complementary food leads to premature weaning, the primary cause of malnutrition in children under age two worldwide.

Many women give up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding out of a sense of powerless over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child, but they lost their chance. Hospitals fail to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. Most new mothers receive free samples of formula because of multi-million dollar deals between hospitals and pharmaceutical companies and come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Coaxing a newborn child to breastfeed after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice can be a big struggle. Success may be impossible without the aid of a midwife or lactation counselor because unfortunately even the older generation of mothers lack sufficient knowledge.

When newborns reject the breast, mothers typically try for a while, then give up and supply a bottle. This teaches the baby that refusing to nurse will be rewarded. Parents must exercise “tough love” by declining to give the baby a bottle even if it takes several hours or even days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, do give him water with a cup or medicine dropper, but introducing a bottle creates “nipple confusion” which is disastrous for the mother-child relationship).

Some women give up on breastfeeding because the husband insists. This tragedy reveals a stripping away at women’s postnatal rights and sets a dangerous precedent. Nursing a baby is an exhausting and time-consuming job requiring family help, encouragement, and support especially from the father to enable mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible particularly during the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Many women manage to make it through those hardest days in the beginning and then stop breastfeeding after a few weeks out of fear of insufficient milk supply. These mothers need to increase their consumption of calories and to get adequate rest. Under no circumstances should they give their baby a bottle because this will only decrease the supply of breastmilk. Sometimes it is actually the doctor’s advice to start feeding their babies solids before 6 months that leads to premature weaning. A mother needs to weigh the fun of spoon-feeding her infant against the risk of premature rejection of the breast.

Thus bottle-feeding rates remain high despite awareness that breastmilk alone contains all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones and immune factors that a baby needs.

“Encouraging exclusive breastfeeding has to become a high priority in all sectors of society,” said Dr. Mahendra Sheth, UNICEF Regional Health and Nutrition Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months followed by complementary feeding between 6-9 months with continued breastfeeding through the first year could save an estimated 1.5 million lives annually. 

Women receiving adequate advice can often prolong nursing even after returning to work outside the home. Premature or weak infants in particular need breast milk for the best odds in life.

Pregnant women should read books on how to breastfeed and understand fully the necessary commitment to avoid making a tragic mistake to be remembered with regret.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

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The CMU Black Hole

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims Isolated in special US prisons

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

polit prisoners Not much is known about the new federal prisons called Communications Management Units (CMUs), that house primarily Muslims and political activists, except that they are located in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois. Although the US government refuses to disclose the list of prisoners to the public, inmates include Enaam Arnaout, founder of Islamic charity Benevolence International Foundation, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, physician and founder of Iraqi charity Help the Needy, Ghassan Elashi, founder of Holy Land Foundation and CAIR Dallas, Randall Royer, Muslim civil rights activist, Yassin Aref, imam and Kurdish refugee, Sabri Benkahla, an American who was abducted the day before his wedding while studying in Saudi Arabia, and John Walker Lindh, an American convert to Islam who was captured in Afghanistan, plus some non-Muslim political activists. Most of these prisoners were falsely accused of terrorist offenses and then imprisoned for lesser charges but given sentences meant for serious terrorism-related crimes.

Carmen Hernandez, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said, “The primary problem with the opening of (the CMU) is that no one knows the criteria used to send the person imprisoned to that unit.” What the prisoners have in common is that they were well disciplined, studious, and often religious compared to those in the general prison population, they maintain strong commitments to various causes, and for some reason the government wants to keep them separate, to restrict their communication with the outside world.

Prison officials claim, “By concentrating resources in this fashion, it will greatly enhance the agency’s capabilities for language translation, content analysis and intelligence sharing.”

Attorney Paul Hetznecker stated, “These Communication Management Units are an expansion of a continued war on dissent in this country… of using that word “terrorism” to push a political agenda and to really dominate and to control–attempt to control these social movements.”

Andy Stepanian, an animal rights activist who is the first to be released from a CMU, called it “a prison within the actual prison.” He said that the prisoners “are not there because they harmed anyone. They’re not there because they approach anything that most reasonable people would consider even close to being terrorism.”

He further stated, “From what I observed, about 70 percent of the men that were there were Muslim and had questionable cases that were labeled as either extremist or terrorist cases. But when I grew to meet them, I realized that the cases were, in fact, very different…  what it appears to be is that they don’t want people that are either considered to be fundamentalist in Islam or more devout than your average American in Islam to be circulating amidst the regular prison populace in the Bureau of Prisons. Whatever their objective in doing so, I mean, that would have to come from the Bureau of Prisons. But one can surmise it’s because they don’t want the spread of Islam in the prisons or that they’re trying to silence communications from these individuals, because perhaps their cases are in question themselves, and they don’t want to allow them access to the media.”

He concluded, “At the end of this prison sentence, … I’ll look back on the fact that I had a tremendous opportunity to meet people from different cultures, to be exposed to the Islamic world and understand that it’s not something to be feared, it’s not something to be vilified.”

Daniel McGowan, a non-Muslim political activist in “Little Guantanamo” wrote: “The most painful aspect of this unit, to me, is how the CMU restricts my contact with the world beyond these walls. It is difficult for those who have not known prison to understand what a lifeline contact with our family and friends is to us. It is our link to the world — and our future (for those of us who are fortunate enough to have release dates).”

The US houses 2.3 million domestic prisoners. Conditions are far worse in some of the other prisons. Within the CMU, Muslim prisoners are at least safe from violence.

However, the discrimination against prisoners at CMUs, in addition to the severe limitations on visits, phone calls and letters, includes a lack of access to vocational training and paying jobs that are available to other prisoners. More than half of the men face deportation after their release, and the difficulty in obtaining law books makes it difficult to prepare for an immigration hearing.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed lawsuits on behalf of several prisoners challenging the CMUs’ “violation of federal laws requiring public scrutiny” as well as the prison’s restrictions of Islamic group prayer. This legal struggle must be supported by increased activism on the outside to demand the release of the innocent either falsely convicted or intimidated into pleading guilty to bogus charges.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

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