My Tortured Journey With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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David Hicks, author of “Guantanamo: My Journey.” (Image: Random House Australia)

I’ve been struggling these past few weeks.

I read a book written by a former Guantanamo detainee named David Hicks titled “Guantanamo: My Journey.” It’s a powerful and heartbreaking memoir and it made a profound impact on me emotionally.

I interviewed Hicks after I read his book. We spoke about a half-dozen times over the past two months. This is the first interview he’s granted since he was released from the “least worst place” in 2007.

Hicks is the Australian drifter who converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Dawood and ended up at training camps in Afghanistan the US government said was linked to al-Qaeda, one of which was visited by Osama bin Laden several times. Hicks was picked up at a taxi stand by the Northern Alliance in November 2001 and sold to US forces for about $1,500. Hicks was detainee 002, the second person processed into Guantanamo on January 11, 2002, the day the facility opened.

Hicks was brutally tortured. Psychologically and physically for four years, maybe longer. He was injected in the back of his neck with unknown drugs. He was sodomized with a foreign object. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement. He was beaten once for ten hours. He was threatened with death. He was placed in painful stress positions. He was subjected to sleep deprivation. He was exposed to extremely cold temperatures, loud music and strobe lights designed to disorient his senses. He was interrogated on a near daily basis.

I’ve been obsessed with the torture and rendition program since details of it first surfaced nearly a decade ago. I’m not exactly sure why I’m so fascinated and outraged by every tiny detail, every new document dump or why I chase every new lead as if I were paparazzi trying to get a shot of Lindsay Lohan. What I do know is that there’s something about the crimes committed by the Bush administration in our name that haunts me.

I have never spoken to a former detainee before I phoned Hicks at his home in Sydney, Australia, a few days before the New Year. There was something surreal about listening to Hicks’ voice as he described his suffering in painstaking detail. Maybe it was the fact that there was a real person on the other end of the receiver and not just a name on a charge sheet. I found it incredibly difficult to separate the reporter from the human being once Hicks stopped speaking. Before I hung up the phone after our first conversation, I told Hicks I was sorry.

“I’m sorry my government tortured you, David,” I said.

“Thanks, mate,” Hicks said, his voice cracking.

What I’ve been grappling with was how to tell Hicks’ story. I’ve truly been at a loss for words. I had to dig deep to figure out why I felt it was too painful to sit in front of a blank computer screen to think about what I wanted to write. Here’s what I discovered: I empathized with Hicks and, perhaps more than anyone, I understood how the then-26-year-old ended up in Afghanistan associating with jihadists a decade ago.

Five years ago, I published my memoir, “News Junkie,” and, like Hicks, I too was brutally honest about my own feelings of alienation, my battle with drug and alcohol addiction, a desire for attention, a desperate need to belong and a terrible choice I made in my early 20s to ingratiate myself with a couple of made members of a New York City crime family.

Admitting that I share some things in common with Hicks scares me. It’s another reason I believe I felt paralyzed.

I wanted to approach this as a straight news story and simply report that Hicks was tortured, that he was abandoned by his country, used as a political pawn by Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard in his bid for reelection and forced to plead guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism in order to finally be freed from Guantanamo. But I’ve written so many of those reports and all of them end with a shrug here, some outrage there and no one being held accountable.

So, I’ve made the decision that I would expose my own vulnerability and tell you how my interview with the man dubbed the “Australian Taliban” has weighed heavily on my mind. I still cannot comprehend what could drive a human being to torture another human being. Hicks said he knew the answer. At Guantanamo, “torture was driven by anger and frustration.”

“It seemed like a mad fruitless quest to pin crimes on detainees, to extract false confessions and produce so-called intelligence of value,” Hicks told me. “The guards were desensitized and detainees dehumanized. Soldiers were not allowed to engage us in conversation. They were told to address us by number only and not by name. They were constantly drilled with propaganda about how much we supposedly hated them and wanted them dead and how much they needed to hate us. On occasion, when some groups of soldiers jogged around the camp perimeters I heard them sing lyrics such as, ‘you hate us and we hate you.’ One time in the privacy of Camp Echo a male soldier broke down when we were alone repeating, ‘what have I become’ after having arrived from an interrogation of a detainee in another camp.”

Brandon Neely, a former Guantanamo Military Policeman (MP), who escorted Hicks off the bus at Camp X-Ray the day Guantanamo opened, said some soldiers tortured detainees because they wanted revenge for 9/11. He said that’s the message that was passed down from above.

“We were told (by superior officers) all of the detainees, including Hicks, were the ones who planned 9/11 or had something to do with it,” Neely said in an interview. “We were told over and over and over that all these guys were caught fighting Americans on the front lines and at any given time if we turned our back on them they would kill us in a heartbeat. We were told that everyday before we went to work inside the camps. After a while, the attitude was ‘who cares how we treated the detainees.’”

A day before he left Fort Hood, Texas, for Guantanamo, Neely said his unit was told “by the company commander, the colonel and platoon sergeant that these people were not Prisoners of War. They were detainees and the Geneva Conventions would not be in effect.”

George W. Bush did not formally rescind Geneva Conventions protections for “war on terror” detainees until February 7, 2002.

Neely told me a remarkable story about the hours before Hicks arrived at Camp X-Ray that underscores how impressionable he and his fellow soldiers were and how the US government conditioned its military personnel to view detainees as animals.

“When Hicks’ bus got to Camp X-Ray we were told this guy was a mercenary, he was fighting Americans and we had to be real careful around him, Neely said. “We were actually told Hicks tried to bite through the hydraulic cables on the C-130 en route to Guantanamo. So everyone was on edge.”

Neely was 21 when he was sent to Guantanamo. On June 2, 2002, his 22nd birthday, Neely received an “achievement medal” for “exceptional meritorious service while serving as a Military Policeman (MP) in support of Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

Nearly seven years later, Neely went public and revealed details about the abuses he witnessed and one that he participated in while he was at Guantanamo. Like Hicks, who Neely said reminded him “of a guy I would have just gone out and have a beer with,” he has been suffering all of these years. It was as if he was being tortured every time he saw or heard about a detainee being beaten or worse during the six months he worked at the prison facility. I can feel his pain.

Neely’s a cop in Houston now. He’s got a wife and three kids. He told me, “there has not been a day that goes by that I have not re-lived what I did or saw in Guantanamo.” Hicks reached out to Neely last year after he saw him on a BBC special. Neely had flown to London to meet a couple of former British detainees he used to guard and to apologize for the way they were treated. He and Hicks are pretty close now.

I asked Hicks if he could describe the facial expressions of his tormentors while he was being tortured and if he recalled how they reacted to his pain.

“Usually the guards seemed cold and indifferent,” Hicks said. “They deployed a just doing my job attitude, such as when they chained me to the floor in stress positions or made me sleep directly on a metal or concrete floor in a very cold air-conditioned room in only a pair of shorts. However some soldiers displayed discomfort and embarrassment. Usually guards were only used to restrain detainees, move them about, or help in the background with equipment. It was the interrogators who did the dirty work, expressing, hatred and frustration. At times soldiers did participate directly in beatings however, such the beatings I received before I arrived in GTMO (in Afghanistan, in transit, or when I was rendered to the two naval ships before being sent to Guantanamo). These soldiers made a sport of it.

“I was beaten by US forces the first time I saw them and realized straight away that torture was going to be a reality. It was very scary. As I say in my book, I could not help thinking of the saying, ‘like trying to get blood from a stone and I was afraid of becoming that stone.’”

There’s a harrowing section in Hicks’ book where he describes how he had given up all hope after years of detention and abuse and planned to commit suicide.

“I was desperate; there was no other way out,” Hicks wrote.

Those words. I’ve uttered them before. I’ve written them. I know what that kind of desperation feels like. I ask Hicks if we could talk about it, but there’s silence on the other end of the receiver.

“Hello? You still there, David?” I said.

“Yeah mate.”

I didn’t press him. Maybe he was having a flashback. Perhaps he didn’t want to talk about it. I decided to end our conversation.

“Let’s catch up later in the week. We covered a lot of ground.”

“Cheers, mate,” David said and hung up.

I had a knot in my stomach. I had a hard time sleeping for the next few nights. I could not focus on anything but the images in my mind of a helpless Hicks being tormented. It made me realize that one can never comprehend the extent of someone’s pain and suffering until we hear about it first hand. I would get out of bed during those sleepless nights and walk into my son’s room and just stare at him sleeping in his crib. There was something about that image of pure innocence that was soothing to me.

One afternoon, a couple of hours after another session on the phone with Hicks, I took my son to school. As I stood in the background and watched him interact with about 30 other two-year-old boys and girls, tears began streaming down my cheeks. I had not expected to be overcome with so much emotion. I’m embarrassed admitting that I was. Unsure of what was happening at first, I touched my eyes thinking that perhaps something else was coming out of the tear ducts. I didn’t spend much time thinking about what I was feeling at that moment. But, in hindsight, I believe I was coming to terms with how we all eventually lose our innocence. Something about that seems tragic to me. It reminds me of a passage in another memoir, “The Ticking Is the Bomb,” by Nick Flynn, who wrote about his own obsession with the Bush administration’s torture program.

“Here’s a secret: Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point. You will lose your way, you will wake up one morning and find yourself lost. This is a hard, simple truth.”

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon has vehemently denied Hicks’ torture claims. In 2007, as a condition of his guilty plea and release from Guantanamo, the US government forced him to sign a document stating that he had “never been treated illegally.” Hicks, who was the first detainee sentenced under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, said he is also “not allowed to challenge or collaterally attack my conviction, seek compensation or other remedies, or sue anyone for my illegal imprisonment and treatment.”

What makes Hicks’ story all the more tragic is how badly he’s been vilified by Australian media since his book was published. Reporters doubt he’s being truthful and they have questioned the veracity of his claims about being tortured. But those same outfits treat Howard’s characterization of Hicks as gospel and refuse to acknowledge that their former prime minister actually urged the Bush administration to charge Hicks with a war crime, despite a lack of evidence, because Hicks “had unexpectedly become a political threat,” according [7] to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman,

Gellman, author of a book on Dick Cheney titled “Angler,” wrote that Howard, “under pressure from home,” met with Cheney during the vice president’s trip to Sydney in February 2007, where the two discussed Iraq, and told Cheney, “there must be a trial ‘with no further delay’ for David Hicks who was beginning his sixth year at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

“Five days later, Hicks was indicted as a war criminal,” Gellman wrote. “On March 26 [2007], he pleaded guilty to providing ‘material support’ for terrorism. Shortly after Cheney returned from Australia, the Hicks case died with a whimper. The U.S. government abruptly shifted its stance in plea negotiations, dropping the sentence it offered from 20 years in prison to nine months if Hicks would say that he was guilty.”

“Only the dramatic shift to lenience, said Joshua Dratel, one of three defense lawyers, resolved the case in time to return Hicks to Australia before Howard” faced re-election in 2007, Gellman reported.

Hicks’ plea deal prohibited him from speaking to the media for a year. That’s how Howard dealt with this “political threat.” But justice was poetic when Howard lost his bid for another term in office.
Hicks’ plea deal, “negotiated without the knowledge of the chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, was supervised by Susan J. Crawford, the convening authority over military commissions. Crawford received her three previous government jobs from then-Defense Secretary Cheney – she was appointed as his special adviser, Pentagon inspector general and then judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.”

Political interference in Hicks’ case, however, began even earlier. Davis, who resigned as chief prosecutor from military commissions at Guantanamo over the government’s handling of terrorism cases, revealed that a day after US officials met with the Australian ambassador to the United States in early January 2007, Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes called him up and asked, ‘how quickly can you charge David Hicks?’ even though at the time he had no regulations for trial by military commissions.”

Davis would later say that Hicks should not have been charged. Stephen Kenny, one of Hicks’ former attorneys, said that “it has always been my position that [Hicks] never committed any crime.”

“We looked at Australian law, international law and Afghani law and we were unable to identify any breach of those laws, Kenny said. The law that he eventually pleaded guilty to [material support for terrorism] was not actually an international war crime at all. In fact it was a crime that didn’t exist.”

Recently, the Australian government entered into a secret financial settlement with Mahmoud Habib, another Australian citizen abandoned by the Howard administration. Habib was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and rendered to Egypt where he said he was brutally tortured for seven months before being he ended up at Guantanamo. Habib was released in 2005 and was never charged with a crime, but he sued the Australian government after he got out, claiming it was complicit in his torture.

Hicks said if he were offered a similar financial settlement he wouldn’t turn it down. But what he really wants is the Australian government “to formally recognize that the 2006 Military Commissions Act was unfair” and designed simply to obtain guilty pleas.

“The Australian government has acknowledged that I have never hurt anyone or committed a crime under Australian law, so the least they can do is formally recognize my conviction as null and void,” Hicks said.

Although the Pentagon and the Australian government continue to deny Hicks was tortured, at least one former Guantanamo military guard said he was.

“David Hicks was tortured, no doubt,” said Albert Melise, who has never spoken publicly before, in several video chats we had via Skype. “Solitary confinement is torture and I think what it did to David’s mind is torture. Would you want to be in a windowless room 23 hours a day?”

But Melise said he didn’t witness any of Hicks’ physical torture or his interrogations. He only knows what Hicks told him. But, “being a cop and having experience separating what’s true and false,” he believes Hicks was being truthful.

“His [physcial] torture did not happen when I reached his camp,” Melise said. “He cut deals so [the torture] would stop. David is one of those people who was easily manipulated [into making false confessions]. He was an easy target for the interrogators. They knew they could break him mentally and physically and they did.”

Melise, 40, was a housing officer in the city of Boston when his Army reserve unit was activated and he was shipped off to Guantanamo to work as an MP.

Melise’s job duties called for him to escort detainees held in Camp Delta to their interrogations where he would “chain them down” to the floor or chair “knowing what [the detainees were] going to go through.”

The detainees sat there for hours in stressful positions while Melise stood behind a one-way mirror and watched their interrogations and waited for it to come to an end. He was present when detainees were slapped, when the temperature in the interrogation room was turned down real low and the volume on the music was turned up to excruciatingly loud levels and when the strobe lights were flicked on, part of the standard operating procedure designed to break the detainees and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible.

“That’s torture,” Melise said.

But I wanted Melise to tell me what happened in those rooms after the interrogators started questioning the detainees.

“Please don’t ask me about those things,” Melise said. “I saw a lot and I still have nightmares over it. I’ve seen these guys cry.”

I wondered if Melise bore witness to any of the horrific pictures my mind created during that split-second gap in our conversation.

“O.K. I understand,” I told Melise “I won’t go there. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m a good soul and I was put in a horrible place,” Albert said.

“I know you are,” I told him. “Well, how about this. Can you tell me what you saw in the detainees’ eyes?

“Sadness,” Melise said. “Like they could not believe the Americans are putting them through that. It was an emotional look. I’ll never forget it.”

Melise hated his job. He started drinking.

“Baccardi 151,” he said. “Two bottles a night.”

He said, “when you see people broken down so much you tend to drink a little to cope with what you’re seeing. I couldn’t deal with what they were putting me through.”

Melise said “fake” detainees were planted at Camp Delta to try and gather intelligence from the “real” detainees. He said he knew they were “fake” because they were “placed in cells for two or three months and then they would pretend to be going to another camp for interrogations.” But, “I would see them shopping, dancing or ordering a sandwich or hanging out at McDonald’s during that time.” Then the “fake” detainees would return to their cells.

He said detainees were also bribed with prostitutes as incentive to get them to work as agents for the US government. He said there was a camp at Guantanamo that just housed children, some of who were as “young as 12 and over 8” years old, called Camp Iguana.

“One of my buddies worked there,” Melise said. “Sick.”

There was also a camp where CIA interrogators worked out of called Secret Squirrel.

Eventually, Melise asked for a transfer.

“I begged them to get me out of there,” Melise said. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Albert, do you know what would make a human being torture another human being?” I asked him.

“I don’t have the answer,” he said, shaking his head. “It takes a really disturbed individual to torture someone. That’s not me. I didn’t sign up for that. I couldn’t live with myself and I couldn’t drink it away.”

So, Melise was transferred to Camp 4 for a few weeks and in December 2003 landed at Camp Echo. That’s where he met Hicks, who was being held in complete isolation, and detainees from the UK who have since been released like Mozaam Begg or “Mo,” which is how Melise referred to him.

“Mo once cried in front of me and said he should become Christian,” said Melise, who has frequent Skype chats with Begg now and said the ex-detainee taught him how to play chess. “I told him to tighten up and stay with your heart. Fuck what’s happening now. You’ll pull through. I said ‘don’t question your faith. Don’t think you need to change.’ He once told me I was not like the other soldiers, something shined in me that he could not explain.”

At Camp Echo, Melise said he “redeemed” himself.

“I let [the detainees] out of their cells and just let them talk and hang out,” he said. “I knew it would help them mentally. I knew it would help them cope with many things they had gone through. I also gave up what I had. I gave them normal food from my lunch to eat, cigarettes, protein bars, whatever was mine was theirs. I could have gone to prison myself for doing that, believe me. But I know I did the right thing.”

“Why did you do that?” I asked.

“For sympathetic reasons,” he said. “Because I sat in on interrogations. I wanted to give them a sense of humanity. Nobody deserves to be treated like that. They were not the ‘worst of the worst,’” a description placed upon the detainees by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I’m an ex-cop and I can tell whose a criminal and who isn’t and a lot of these detainees I met were not terrorists.”

Melise told me he “likes getting this stuff off my chest” and I wanted to tell him that listening to him gave me a sense of hope and made me feel like maybe the dearth of compassion is not as widespread as I originally thought. But I held back.

Melise wanted Hicks to feel like he was back home in Australia, so he would sneak his handheld DVD player into Hicks’ cell, lock the door, and watch movies with him, such as “Mad Max,” which starred Mel Gibson. For Begg and the other British detainees Melise played “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels,” directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie.

“I figured if [Hicks] heard Mel Gibson’s accent he would feel like he was back in Australia,” Melise said. “And if Mo heard a British accent he would feel like he was home too.”

Melise kept that up for six months. Until June 2004.

I sent an email to Hicks asking him if he remembered Melise.

“I remember him well because he did what he could in that controlled high security environment to help slow the deterioration of my sanity for the few months I spent with him,” Hicks said. “I hope to gather enough funds so I can fly [Melise and Neely] to Australia to thank them personally and show my gratitude for their friendship and trust. I would like to show them my hospitality and my country and to show them how much I appreciate their past kindness and current bravery.”

Melise, who is married with a wife and son, is now studying to be a nurse “so I can really help people in the future.” He recently re-enlisted in the Army reserves for another three years.

I was about to end my interview with Melise, but I had one last question.

“Do you think David is a terrorist?”

“No,” Melise said. “I don’t think he’s a terrorist. I plan on visiting him one day. Why would I do that if I thought he was a terrorist?”

Melise got up from his chair and walked out of sight. He shouted, “Sit tight!” He said he wanted to show me something. It was a letter. He held it up to the video camera on his computer so I could read it.

“I took this with me when I left Guantanamo in ‘04,” Melise said. “It’s a letter David wrote that he asked me to send to his father.”

Melise never sent it. It was too risky, he said.

“I was worried that if someone found out I mailed it I would have been arrested,” Melise said.

Melise faxed a copy of the letter to me. Letters to and from detainees were reviewed by military personnel and were often redacted to remove, for example, emotional phrases such as a “I love you” and any other information the military deemed “sensitive.”

But this six-page letter, written in April 2004 as Hicks’ legal team was challenging the legality of the military commissions, is clean. It clearly shows the psychological torture Hicks had endured and how he was being coerced into pleading guilty to crimes the US government knew he did not commit. The letter is addressed to Hicks’ father, Terry Hicks, who waged a campaign in Australia and the US to raise awareness about his son’s plight.

Hicks wrote that he owed his life to Melise. He said the letter he sent to his father “is very important because it’s the first and probably only time I will be able to tell you the truth of my situation.”

“Before I start I want you to know that the negative things I am going to say has nothing to do with the MP’s that are watching me,” Hicks wrote. “Some of them are marvelous people who have taken risks to help improve my day to day living. It’s because of such people that I have kept my sanity and still have some strength left. In the early days before I made it to Cuba I received some harsh treatment in transportation including mild beatings (about 4). One lasted for 10 hours. I have always cooperated with interrogators. For two years they had control of my life in the camps. If you talk and just agree with what their saying they give you real food, books and other special privileges. If not they can make your life hell. I’m angry these days at myself for being so weak during these last two years. But I’ve always been so desperate to get out and to try to live the best I can while I’m here …”

Hicks wrote that he was being pressured into pleading guilty to a wide-range of war crimes charges and he feared that if he didn’t comply he would be sent to “camp 5,” a “very bad place with complete isolation.”

“They know that this is my worst nightmare,” Hicks wrote about the threat of being transferred to camp 5. “If I end up in there I will probably lose my sanity or crack” and plead guilty. “That’s what they want … Being in my current situation the deal is tempting but only in the last week I’ve decided I’m going to call their bluff and say that I’m gonna fight them. Only know [sic] do I feel like being strong and standing up for myself … I’m sick of writing you letters saying how good it is here. I’ve always done that because I’m afraid of what the authority’s [sic] may do to me. If I told you the reality they wouldn’t give you the information. I want to be able to make as much noise as possible. To let people know of what’s really happening here.”

Hicks then predicted his own future.

“Know that if I make a deal it will be against my will,” he wrote. “I just couldn’t handle it any longer. I’m disappointed in our government. I’m an Australian citizen. If I’ve committed a crime I can be man enough to accept the consequences but I shouldn’t have to admit to things I haven’t done or listen to people falsely accuse me. We can’t let them get away with it.”

I sent Hicks the letter. He said he doesn’t recall what he wrote. But he intends on giving it to his father.

“How were you able to survive?” I asked Hicks.

“I survived because I had no choice, as many of us may unfortunately experience at some time in our lives,” he said. “It was a psychological battle, a serious and dangerous one. It was a constant struggle not to lose my sanity and go mad. It would have been so easy just to let go: it offered the only escape.”

Like Melise, however, Hicks said he, too, still suffers from nightmares.

“I see myself having to begin the long process of imprisonment again accompanied with vivid feelings of hopelessness and no knowledge of the future or how long it will last,” Hicks said, describing his dreams. “The other dreams consist of gruesome medical experimentations too horrible to describe. Losing my personality, my identity, memories and self is much more frightening to me than any physical harm. It is these dreams that are the most common and terrifying.”

Hicks isn’t a practicing Muslim anymore. A couple of years ago, he got married – to a human rights activist named Aloysia. He also has a job working as a landscaper.

He said counseling has helped him, “but the passing of time has been just as helpful.”

“Being exposed to such a consuming environment for five and a half years leaves a stain that cannot be removed overnight,” Hicks said. “It will take longer to reverse the consequences but even so, some experiences, especially one so prolonged, can never be entirely forgotten.”

I had no idea how this story would end or what I would discover when I finally sat down at the computer and started to type. I now know that torture not only permanently scars the torture victim, but it also leaves its mark on everyone who comes in contact with that person.

Editor’s Note: Hicks’ book is not available for sale in the US. However, it can be ordered from online bookshops in Australia.

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The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding.

Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first.

Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”.

Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.

Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting  from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Guardian (UK)

13-49

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding.

Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first.

Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”.

Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.

Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting  from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Guardian (UK)

13-49

Indian Secularism’s Litmus Test: Malegaon & Sadarpur

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Litmus test faced almost continuously by Indian secularism is far from over. From the legal, political and social perspective of Indian Muslims, the test shall continue till they are denied their due share politically and cease being subject to prejudice prevalent against them in the country’s law & order system. The judicial decisions pronounced recently, regarding Malegaon blasts of 2006 and Sadarpur riots (2002) give the impression that the Indian Muslims are finally being ensured a fair judicial trial. But a close analysis highlights the hard reality they have been subject to.

Seven Muslims were released on bail last month as there was lack of evidence for being responsible for Malegaon blasts. It may be recalled, these seven were among the ones picked up by Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (MTS) within a few days after the blast. Despite their being no constructive proof of their being the guilty party, legally they are still viewed as suspects. They have been released on bail, paid on their behalf by an organization. If the bail had not been paid and had certain secular Indians as well as organizations not been pursuing action on their behalf, they may still have remained arrested.

Ironically, it did not take long for MTS to pick the seven individuals along with several others as responsible for Malegaon (2006)-blasts. Equally perplexing is the fact that the legal procedure has taken several years to accept that they were arrested without substantial proof convicting them of having committed the crime. Now, does that imply that they were picked up, without any proof, but only because they happened to be Muslims? Also, if it became clear that there was practically no evidence against them, why were they kept in prisons for several years? Who and/or what should be held responsible for not paying due respect to law and order that is meant to take action against law breakers and not hold innocent persons as the guilty?

Incidentally, whenever blast incidents take place, usually Muslims are picked up almost instantly as suspect “terrorists.” Little importance is given to conducting appropriate investigation and collecting substantial evidence to arrest the actual culprits. In blast cases, unless the criminals are suicide bombers, there remains the strong possibility of there being little or no proof at the affected site. This also limits the prospects of almost immediately rounding up the suspect persons. In other words, the Indian secularism is still affected by a certain bias which instantly prompts concerned authorities to arrest Muslims, even if there is no evidence of their being responsible for the blast incidents.

Against the Malegaon-backdrop, Sadarpur-case presents a different picture from several aspects but one. The aggrieved party in this case too were the Muslims. Last month was witness to sentence given to 31 people for rioting in Sadarpur village, Gujarat in 2002. They have been held guilty for rioting in which 33 Muslims were burnt alive in Sadarpur, one of the many cases during which Muslims were brutally targeted in the Gujarat-carnage. Undeniably, the Sadarpur-sentence is hardly reflective of those guilty of rioting against Muslims during Gujarat-carnage being behind bars. It is an open secret that a significant percentage of rioters and those responsible for provoking the same may never even have any case filed against them. Regarding Sadarpur, it may also be noted that charges were framed in 2009, around seven years after the Gujarat-carnage, against 73 for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and arson. On these grounds, 21 persons were arrested. Besides, nearly a decade has passed since the Gujarat-carnage and also for a judicial decision announcing punishment against 31 held guilty of Sadarpur riots.

When riots take place, particularly if they are of the nature of Gujarat-carnage, with rioters present at the site, those responsible for security of the people and ensuring law and order are naturally expected not to spend too much time in picking up the guilty persons. In fact, if this action had been taken, brutal rioting could have been checked and Muslims may not have fallen victim to the Gujarat-carnage. But as is well known, due to certain political pressure, the concerned officers turned a blind eye to the carnage. In other words, they let the rioters target the Muslims. The hard fact that ten years have been spend in taking action against a few of the guilty is also reflective of a certain bias against Muslims being responsible for this delay.

Without doubt, whether it is the case of Malegaon or Sadarpur, Muslims have fallen victim to a bias entertained against them at certain levels. In Malegaon, it led to their being framed as suspect terrorists and in Sadarpur, it led the rioters target Muslims and remain free for several years till recently when a few of them received sentences. Undeniably, had secular organizations and activists not pursued these cases, neither Malegaon nor Sadarpur may have witnessed what seems to be “fair” and “just” trials. Certainly, the judicial decisions in both cases have led many people heave a sigh of relief that at least the judicial system has not displayed a bias against the Muslims. But this also indicates that till a bias prevails against Muslims at several levels, Indian secularism as well as judicial system shall continue facing a litmus test on whether Muslims have been denied justice or not.

13-49

US Firm’s Teargas Used at Tahrir Square

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Egypt’s military junta fired CS gas cartridges made by Combined Systems Inc of Pennsylvania, say demonstrators

By Jack Shenker in Cairo and Luke Harding

The teargas used by interior ministry troops in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is supplied by a US company. Demonstrators say cartridges retrieved from the scene are branded with the name and address of Combined Systems Inc (CSI).

The firm is located in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. It specialises in supplying what it calls “crowd control devices” to armies and “homeland security agencies” around the world. It also manufactures lethal military equipment.

Protesters say the CS gas seems more powerful than that used by Egyptian police during the country’s last popular uprising in February. “It’s stronger, it burns your face, it makes you feel like your whole body is seizing up,” one witness said. He added: “It doesn’t seem to be combated by Coke or vinegar.”

Experts told the Guardian the gas was likely to be standard CS gas, but the effects could be exacerbated by physical exertion.

As well as the effects of the teargas, protesters have suffered grave injuries to their heads and faces from rubber bullets. There are also reports of live ammunition being used. Dozens of people have been taken to makeshift hospitals after inhaling the choking gas fired by the Central Security Forces.

The export of teargas to foreign law enforcement agencies is not prohibited. CSI has also sold teargas to the Israeli police, where it has been deployed against Palestinian demonstrators, as well as, reportedly, to the regime of Tunisia’s ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Nevertheless, the revelation that people are being gassed and hurt by US-manufactured projectiles is embarrassing for the Obama administration.

“We have seen the illegitimate and indiscriminate use of teargas,” Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Cairo, said, of Egypt’s most recent street protests, as well as the original revolution in February. “There are a few cartridges from Italy but the vast majority are from the USA.”

She said teargas did not constitute direct military aid, since it was sold to the interior ministry rather than the army. But she added: “Ideally governments should be verifying who they are selling teargas to.”

Morayef said the gas was having a devastating effect on its victims, with everyone left choking, and hundreds forced to seek medical treatment. Protesters have also retrieved 12mm rubber bullet cartridges made in Italy. “One person I know ended up coughing up blood,” she said. Human Rights Watch intended to examine the canisters to discover exactly what kind of gas was being used, she added.

Alastair Hay, professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said police in Cairo were almost certainly using conventional CS gas. “It’s a standard riot control agent which has been around for a very long time,” he said.

Hay said its effects were extremely unpleasant. “It’s an eye and respiratory tract irritant, largely. It will also cause skin irritation.”

The chemical compound used in CS gas – 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile – was “perfectly legitimate”, with many commercial companies involved in selling it, and domestic governments willing to make use of it in riot situations, he added.

US army trials showed CS gas had a far more serious effect on people taking part in physical activity than those sitting passively, sometimes leaving its victims needing intensive care afterwards. The way to get rid of it was “constant irrigation” to wash away the affected areas, Hay said.

There was no immediate comment from CSI.

The company’s website says it was founded in 1981. It adds: “Combined Systems Inc (CSI) is a US-based firm that supports military forces and law enforcement agencies around the world. CSI is a premier engineering, manufacturing and supply company of tactical munitions and crowd control devices globally to armed forces, law enforcement, corrections and homeland security agencies.

“[…] In addition to its military products, CSI markets its innovative line of less lethal munitions, tactical munitions and crowd-control products to domestic law enforcement agencies under its law enforcement brand name, CTS. CSI also supports its wide base of international military and law enforcement customers with its line of non-lethal munitions.”

guardian.co.uk

13-48

When Is a Bet not a Bet? A Day at Iran’s Races

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mitra Amiri

2011-11-02T141330Z_641412934_GM1E7B21PW301_RTRMADP_3_IRAN-HORSERACING

Jockeys whip their horses during the final stretch of the race during the summer races at the Norouzabad Equestrian center on the outskirts of Tehran September 16, 2011. Under Islamic sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are “predicting” through official channels. Picture taken September 16, 2011.        

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

NOWRUZABAD, Iran, Nov 2 (Reuters) – As Rio Collection galloped across the finishing line, Sardar hooted with joy and high-fived his friends.

He had just won 200,000 rials (almost $20). Not by “betting” on the horse, he insisted — betting is illegal under Iran’s Islamic law — but by “predicting” Rio Collection would win.

“I knew he would win. I predicted correctly,” said the 18-year-old.

Under Islamic Sharia law, gambling is generally seen as illegal and Sardar’s wager, made with a friend, was actually not permitted. But thanks to certain religious rulings, many race-goers are permitted to put money on the horses legally as long as they are “predicting” through official channels.

The Koran describes gambling as “evil, unclean and Satanic” and people found guilty of illegal gambling in the Islamic Republic can be sentenced to flogging and jail.

However, three forms of gambling are permitted under Islam, said a cleric consulted on the matter by Reuters.

“All forms of gambling are haram (forbidden by Islam) except for horse racing, camel racing and archery,” said Mohsen Mahmoudi, a cleric at a north Tehran mosque, adding that those manly, warrior sports were all encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad (s).

But technically, he added, only the archery contestants and riders of the horses or camels in the races are permitted to bet.

To make it possible for spectators to take part, the Equestrian Federation of Iran sought permission from senior clerics known as “sources of emulation”, to whom Shi’ite Muslims turn for guidance on moral issues.

“In negotiations with some sources of emulation , we finally managed to receive permission to bet on horses under certain conditions,” said Ebrahim Mohammdzadeh, an official at Tehran’s horse-racing committee.

The way it works is that jockeys authorise the horse-racing committee to place bets for other people on their behalf.

MASS APPEAL

In pre-revolutionary Iran, horse riding was considered an elite sport. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — the last shah who was overthrown in the 1979 uprising led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — was a keen horseman and aimed to expand racing.

After the revolution the idea fell out of favour and today there are only four racetracks in the country. Camel racing — popular in some Arab countries across the Gulf — is not a significant sport in Iran and archery has no great popular following.

The 2,000-capacity Nowruzabad track off a major highway to the west of Tehran is the only track easily accessible to the population of the capital. It hold races over a 10-week season each year.

Despite its limited availability, people from many walks of life crowd the “predictions” office next to the track in Nowruzabad where legal betting takes place inside a building where an electronic screen advertises: “Make a prediction, win a prize”.

Inside, a dozen women, wearing obligatory headscarves, sit behind windows, taking predictions and paying out winnings. As well as a computer screen with race details, each has a basket into which they toss the takings.

Prediction tickets can be bought for as little as 10,000 rials (around $1) with no official upper limit, although large bets are rare. Odds are not given before the race and returns are calculated afterwards.

People can also place bets on horses through the federation’s website, but that misses out on the spectacle.

As the horses pass the finishing line, the spectators — including dozens of women — jump up from their seats near the track and rush to the predictions office to see how much they have won and place money on the next one.

“I just paid 50,000 rials. I hope I can win something,” said Erfan, 15.

“I always buy prediction tickets from this office but my dad bets directly with others,” he said. “He once won 30 million rials.”

Betting among individuals is not legal but still goes on.

Wearing loose black trousers and speaking with a strong local accent, Sardar, a carpenter, said he chose not to buy prediction tickets as winnings were limited.

“People are reluctant to place big bets with the prediction office,” he said . “Big bets take place unofficially and the winnings are exchanged from hand-to-hand.”

The really big bets happen at bigger tracks, particularly at the 10-000 capacity Gonbad-e Kavoos hippodrome in northern Iran.

“Last year someone won $75,000 there in a bet,” a race official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cleric Mahmoudi warned of the dangers of gambling.

“The bettor makes gains easily, without working and this causes others to lose money with consequent dissatisfaction and grief,” he said, pointing out one reason Islam regards gambling as “haram”.

Most of the people buying prediction tickets legally from the racetrack office did not seem concerned, however.

“I just lost 30,000 rials but I had a lot of fun,” said fine arts student Tamanna, 30, showing her ticket printed with a line that says cash spent buying the ticket goes to support the horse races, rather than in the hope of winning.

Of the total money coming into the official betting office, some 70 percent is given out as winnings with the remaining 30 percent going to cover the costs of racing.

“I had a great time,” Tamanna said. “In a way we are donating this money to help develop the races.”

13-48

British Columbia Supreme Court Rules Against Polygamy

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

In a 270 page decision that seems to provide a detailed look into polygamy from the perspectives of law, sociology, and the personal experiences of witnesses, Justice Bauman of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that there is a conflict between Canada’s law against polygamy and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that the conflict is legally justified by the harms that the law is meant to avoid.  Secondly, the Justice ruled that the application of Section 293 can be applied to adult polygamous marriages.

Therefore the Justice ruled against polygamy in Canada.

On deeper inspection, Bauman’s opinion appears to be a carefully crafted argument in support of Western law curtailing polygamy, which fails to consider important facts which militate against such laws.

The decision is noteworthy because it is a detailed exploration of the field of polygamy.  It touches on Islam, respectfully, and explores the involvement of Muslims today in polygamy.  The opinion shows the solicited opinions of people providing social services to Muslim families on polygamy. The opinion even refers to Prophet Muhammad (s), and respectfully.

For months Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman has been considering and preparing this judgment in a case to decide whether Canada’s law regarding polygamy is limited by its law regarding freedom of religious practice.

Although today’s ruling is not the final ruling on the matter (the result certainly may be appealed to Canada’s Supreme Court from the provincial Supreme Court), today’s ruling will necessarily be a a reference point for future discussion of polygamy in Canada and the US, despite its bias and failure to consider facts inconsistent with its conclusion, because it touches on many tangent issues, especially a deep exploration of Canadian historical law and the Canadian constitutional machinery in relation to polygamy and Section 293. 

The case at hand revolved around members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which continues to espouse polygamy despite the mainstream Mormon church’s having turned away from the practice. Throughout a corridor of Western states and up into Canada (especially Bountiful, BC), many Mormons continue the practice despite the certain illegality in the US and the illegality until now of the practice in Canada.

The judgment is a measured look at many issues surrounding polygamy, but it does show some bias against polygamy from the beginning, by exploring the harms of polygamy over many pages—likely half the pages in the judgment either mention harms from polygamy or are in support of sections that explore the harm from polygamy.  The opinion does not explore an issue directly impacted by the law which is not enforced, namely sexual relations outside of marriage.  Bauman does not discuss whether it is fair to enforce s. 293 against polygamists but then fail to enforce the law against adulterers, or whether it is fair to enforce a law against adulterers while failing to consider the polyamorous activities of people who never marry.  He does not consider the evolving notions of what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior, for instance in the past in Western societies it was unacceptable for men and women to cohabit without marriage, and yet now many do so, and bear children without the benefit of legitimacy.  He failed to consider polygamy in relation to non-traditional marriages that are now legal in Western countries, such as same sex marriages.  While polygamy may be connected to harms in the specific fact pattern Bauman analyzed, it is very unclear that restrictions on polygamy can be enforced without hypocrisy by men, judges and politicians, who engage in affairs outside their marriages, or who otherwise engage in behavior that their ancestors would have had them imprisoned for.

Bauman looks at length at the harms he traces to the FLDS practice of polygamy, but does not consider alternative modes of polygamy, fact patterns that are different.  He argues that the majority of nations do not allow polygamy, but he does not delve very deeply into the figures concerning this—other writers have argued that the majority of the world’s people live in societies where polygamy is allowed.  Important nations allow polygamy, such as Malaysia, India, Egypt, and others.  Bauman does not contrast the harms of polygamy as FLDS practices it with the benefits of it in other contexts. 

Bauman in his opinion also explores Western historical bases for monogamous marriage.  He discusses the harmful effects on children groomed for and coaxed unwillingly into marriages with men many years their senior, who marry multiple women and girls without limits.  The judgment explored the fact that some men become an underclass of unattached bachelors for whom no wives are available.

He makes it clear that s. 293 is meant to apply without exception, not allowing any polygamy at all, and he discusses at great length the harms that he connects to polygamy.

Justice Bauman relates these harms as the basis for Section 293; he does conclude that there is a conflict between Section 293 and the Charter, (page 211 of the opinion), “I will hereby express my conclusion:  I accept the Amicus’ submissions that s. 293 violates the religious liberty of those persons I have described in a manner that is non-trivial and not insubstantial,” however in Canadian law as in US law there is a balance that must be performed between the “violation of religious liberty” and the harm such violation is meant to address. Since the facts before Bauman involved abuse and exploitation of minors on a large scale, and since his opinion focused on those harms, it is natural that his resulting opinion found that the Canadian criminal against polygamy justifiably violated those religious liberties.

The judge ruled that Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada (which outlaws polygamy) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the conflict is “a law that is substantially constitutional and peripherally problematic,” the peripheral problem involving the application of Section 293 against people between 12 and 18 who are involved in polygamous marriages, until they turn 18 (a peripheral issue).

The implications of this court case to date are (1) that Canada will not be the sole Western state to endorse polygamy legally, (2) that Muslims are also constrained by Section 293—the application of 293 is not limited to the current facts of FLDS’s wholesale exploitation of minors, (3) the case will likely be appealed and will likely be affirmed, (4) the In the Matter of:  Constitutional Question Act, RSBC 1986, Docket S097767, is likely required reading for anyone interested in the Western legality of polygamy, and will likely be required reading for some time.

13-48

How India Alienated Kashmir

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aijaz Zaka Syed, Arab News

Kashmir_mapAN unjust law is no law, warned Martin Luther King, the celebrated US human rights icon. The Kashmiris have been living with such laws for decades. At least one in every five Kashmiris has at some point or another in his/her life suffered violence, humiliation, torture and old-fashioned abuse at the hands of security forces without any recourse to justice or a distant promise of retribution.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been a license to abuse, torture and kill the Kashmiris in their own land. A law that confers “special powers” on men in uniform to do as they please and get away with it; a law that the UN says violates “contemporary international human rights standards” and a law that cannot be challenged in any court of law no matter how grave the crime.  

Following the division of the subcontinent in 1947 when India and Pakistan actively courted the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was promised a “special status” and special treatment by New Delhi. The Article 370 of Indian Constitution was supposed to protect that “special status” of Kashmir.  We made a lot of other promises as well that are too familiar to revisit here.      

And we have ensured and protected that “special status” of Kashmir by gifting them the AFSPA that offers sweeping powers to the security forces while ensuring their total immunity. This special law has turned the Vale of Kashmir that the Moguls believed was paradise on earth into a beautiful hell.

Is it any wonder then the Kashmiris today find themselves hopelessly alienated and persecuted even as our politicians never tire of pronouncing the state an “integral and inseparable” part of India?
How did we end up here? Who lost the paradise? The answer is out there and everyone knows it. In our desperation and determination to keep Kashmir with us and away from our neighbor, we have ended up losing the Kashmiri people.

Of course, the role played by Pakistani agencies, not to mention groups such as the one led by Hafiz Saeed, who have made a business enterprise of jihad, in adding to the woes of Kashmiris isn’t in anyway insignificant.

But if an entire generation of Kashmiris has grown up loathing all things Indian it is because of the excessive presence of the security forces in the Valley and their heavy-handed approach to the local population. And if there is one thing that epitomizes all that has gone wrong with India’s Kashmir affair, it is the AFSPA. This black law has created a dangerous, ever deepening disconnect and gulf between the Kashmiris and the rest of India. A draconian law that belongs in a police state, not in the world’s largest democracy.

Thanks to these “special powers”, just about anybody could be picked up from anywhere any time, kicked, abused, raped, killed in broad daylight or simply disappeared and no one including the state government can do anything about it.

Security forces are a law unto themselves. And you see their power in full display all across the state including in capital Srinagar. There are more soldiers than tourists or even locals constantly reminding the Kashmiris of the original sin of being born in this land of incredible beauty. Peaceful protests last year saw scores of young people, some of them as young as nine, felled by the bullets of the forces that are supposed to protect them. In the course of fighting terrorists and cross-border infiltrators, we have turned this beautiful land into a permanent war zone and its proud people a hostage in this never-ending conflict with the neighbor. This war has claimed more than a hundred thousand Kashmiris over the past two decades, not to mention the tens of thousands who have gone “missing.”

If the 2,730 unmarked mass graves recently discovered across the state had been found elsewhere they could have shaken the world, as they did in Srebrenica, in Iraq and Rwanda. But they were met with stony silence in the ever-shrill Indian media and its self-righteous Western counterparts.

Human rights groups including the State Human Rights Commission that finally acted on the complaints of thousands of families of “disappeared persons” unearthing graves with hundreds of bullet riddled bodies fear this may be a tip of the iceberg. The dead in Kashmir have finally begun to speak up, as Arundhati Roy so evocatively puts it.  But justice may still elude the victims as long as the AFSPA reigns in Jammu and Kashmir.  And India’s powerful security and defense establishment, including the army, are determined to retain it. And why wouldn’t they? It’s this law that allows the security forces to rule and treat Kashmir as their fiefdom without anyone, including the elected government, questioning their authority and excesses. Despite being a fine and vibrant democracy with robust democratic institutions and judiciary that we can justifiably be proud of, we are yet to realize that no people can be governed at gunpoint. Not in this age and time. Not with black laws like the AFSPA and not by constantly waving half a million guns that have contributed to the alienation of Kashmiri society and radicalization of its youth.  If India is to win Kashmiri hearts and minds, it could do so only with love, compassion, respect and justice.

— Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Middle East-based commentator and can be reached at aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

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On Losing Legal Legend Derrick Bell

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nadia Ahmed

derrickbellOn October 5th, the law lost a monumental American, NYU Visiting Professor Derrick A. Bell. He was 80 years old when carcinoid cancer seized him. While news of his death may have been lost in the headlines because of the demise of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs the same day, Bell’s life deserves commemoration especially among Muslim Americans.

Bell was to social justice and constitutional law what Jobs was to Silicon Valley’s high tech industry and computer innovation. Bell was a rebel before the American Bar Association (ABA) ever began honoring recipients with the distinction of “Legal Rebel.” He was well-known for being the first African-American law professor with full tenure at Harvard Law School, but resigned in protest because of the lack of hiring of women of color. The New York Times reported that at a rally while a student at Harvard Law Barack Obama compared Professor Bell to the civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

At the beginning of his career, Thurgood Marshall recruited Bell to join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund after he left his position with U.S. Department of Justice because of his refusal to end his ties with the NAACP.  In 1966, Bell was named deputy director of civil rights at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Afterwards, he would start teaching law. 

I had the great fortune of being able to meet Derrick Bell in 2001 as a result of a series of emails back and forth between us. I was supposed to be studying for the LSAT in the summer of 2001, instead I started reading Bell’s books which I saw sitting on the same shelf of the Seminole County Public Library’s Casselberry branch as the LSAT materials: Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protestor and Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. For someone who is naturally reticent, I resort to writing as a preferred mode of communication. Bell had also taken the time to contribute to my 9/11 anthology, Unveiling the Real Terrorist Mind. He helped me feel comfortable in my own skin.

Looking back to 9/11, Muslims were scared and some even afraid to even leave their homes. Muslim leaders were issuing fatwas for women to remove their headscarves in public out of fear for their safety. I was more astounded and confused by the North American Muslim community’s reaction. This was not the first time our community had come under attack and it surely would not have been the last. For me, 9/11 was a time more than any other to reassert our identities as Muslims.

In Professor Bell, I found someone who had walked the walk. He was also one of the most spiritual persons I had ever known, who had a deep commitment to religious value, an anomaly in higher education, especially within the law.

Initially, when I heard of his death, I was saddened, but at the same time I felt reawakened and reenergized. I remembered one of those occasions when I had to the chance to sit in on his class. On the blistering cold afternoon of February 4, 2002, I trotted up to the NYU Law school building and was told that I could not enter the building because my name was not on the list of approved visitors for that day. From my days in journalism, I knew how to slip by security. I walked slowly toward the side exit door and when the guard was distracted by other visitors, I darted up the stairs to find the Secret Service central because unknown to me President Bill Clinton was giving a talk at NYU Law that afternoon. The speech had just concluded so I stood on the side of the hallway as President Clinton walked by and greeted students. When I finally got to Professor Bell’s class, I heard some of the students joking that they had “gotten their tuition’s worth” because they “got to meet President Clinton.” I laughed inside that I, too, had been able to meet the President without the exorbitant cost of paying NYU Law tuition.

When I was accepted to the University of Florida Levin College of Law a few months later and somewhat hesitant to attend, Professor Bell encouraged me by saying that the battlegrounds for social justice and civil rights are in the South, but warned me that the racism only worsens the further I progress in my life in the law. My law school days and the year or so after I was admitted to the Florida Bar were pure and utter whatever.

In 2007, Professor Bell had mailed me a copy of his book, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth.  And it is that book that serves as my blueprint for surmounting obstacles and advancing where life leads.

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“Arrest Bush” — Amnesty International Asks Canada

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Michel Comte

October 13, 2011 “AFP” – Amnesty International called on Canadian authorities Wednesday to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush, saying the former US president authorized “torture” when he directed the US-led war on terror.

Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada’s westernmost British Columbia province on October 20.

In a memorandum submitted last month to Canada’s attorney general but only now released to the media, the London-based group charged that Bush has legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

“Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former president Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” Amnesty’s Susan Lee said in a statement.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights,” Lee said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blasted Amnesty for “cherry picking cases to publicize, based on ideology.”

“This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International,” he said.

Kenney said it will be up to Canadian border officials to decide independently whether to allow Bush into the country.

Bush canceled a visit to Switzerland in February, after facing similar public calls for his arrest.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International’s Canadian branch, told a press conference the rights group will pursue its case against the former US president with the governments of other countries he might visit.

“Torturers must face justice and their crimes are so egregious that the responsibility for ensuring justice is shared by all nations,” Neve said.

“Friend or foe, extraordinary or very ordinary times, most or least powerful nation, faced with concerns about terrorism or any other threat, torture must be stopped.

“Bringing to justice the people responsible for torture is central to that goal. It is the law… And no one, including the man who served as president of the world’s most powerful nation for eight years can be allowed to stand above that law.”

Amnesty, backed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, claims Bush authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “waterboarding” on detainees held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency between 2002 and 2009.

The detention program included “torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (such as being forced to stay for hours in painful positions and sleep deprivation), and enforced disappearances,” it alleged.

Amnesty’s case, outlined in its 1,000-page memorandum, relies on the public record, US documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush’s own memoir and a Red Cross report critical of the US’s war on terror policies.

Amnesty cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military.

The cases include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn (known as Abu Zubaydah) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty.

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Ten Lashes

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

cane

“Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.” 

~ Ellen Key

You hop in the car, fumble with the keys, start the engine and prepare to take that first sip of coffee as you back out of the driveway. This is the way that many Americans start their morning as they set out to work for the day. For most people, getting on the road safely and reaching your destination on time are the primary concerns. However, for the women of Saudi Arabia, there is a new concern to be considered before getting behind the wheel.

This past week Saudi Arabian national Shaima Ghassaniya was found guilty of driving without the permission of her government. Her punishment, which would be a mere slap on the wrist in America for the same “crime,” is flogging. By definition the word flogging means, “To beat severely with a whip or rod.” Ghassaniya is to be flogged a total of ten times with her punishment to undoubtedly serve as an example for other women in the kingdom that dare to drive.

There is no law on the books in Saudi Arabia that says women are legally barred from driving. However, there is a law that states anyone driving on the roads of Saudi Arabia must have license. The catch is that women are not issued drivers license. Denying a woman the right to drive means that she must rely on a male relative, or sometimes even a male chauffer, in order to travel. For women who are single, getting around without a car is often a nightmare.

The driving laws seem archaic compared to the full driving rights that women enjoy in neighboring Arab countries, like Kuwait and Oman. “I would be lost without my car,” laments Raina Ahmed who is a schoolteacher in Kuwait, “I have to drive myself to and from work every day. I also use my car to take my children for all of their doctor’s appointments.” Female drivers in other Arab countries share the roadways with their male counterparts and are often safer drivers.

The news of the Ghassaniya’s flogging punishment comes on the heels of another announcement that could have been promising for the women in the region. King Abdullah recently announced on state-run television that Saudi Arabian women have been granted the right to vote and run in local elections. However, they will have to wait until the year 2015 to exercise these newly given rights. Perhaps, by then, they will be able to drive themselves to the ballot box.

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Elasticity

September 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

tufailIn physics, elasticity (or stretchiness) is the physical property of a material that returns to its original shape after the stress (e.g. external forces) that made it deform or distort is removed. The relative amount of deformation is called the strain.

The elastic regime is characterized by a linear relationship between stress and strain, denoted linear elasticity. The classic example is a metal spring. This idea was first stated by Robert Hooke in 1675 as a Latin anagram “ceiiinossssttuu” whose solution he published in 1678 as “Ut tensio, sic vis” which means “As the extension, so the force.”

This linear relationship is called Hooke’s law. The classic model of linear elasticity is the perfect spring. Although the general proportionality constant between stress and strain in three dimensions is a 4th order tensor, when considering simple situations of higher symmetry such as a rod in one dimensional loading, the relationship may often be reduced to applications of Hooke’s law.

Because most materials are elastic only under relatively small deformations, several assumptions are used to linearize the theory. Most importantly, higher order terms are generally discarded based on the small deformation assumption. In certain special cases, such as when considering a rubbery material, these assumptions may not be permissible. However, in general, elasticity refers to the linearized theory of the continuum stresses and strains.

Above a certain stress known as the elastic limit or the yield strength of an elastic material, the relationship between stress and strain becomes nonlinear. Beyond this limit, the solid may deform irreversibly, exhibiting plasticity. A stress-strain curve is one tool for visualizing this transition.

Furthermore, not only solids exhibit elasticity. Some non-Newtonian fluids, such as viscoelastic fluids, will also exhibit elasticity in certain conditions. In response to a small, rapidly applied and removed strain, these fluids may deform and then return to their original shape. Under larger strains, or strains applied for longer periods of time, these fluids may start to flow like a liquid, with some viscosity.

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Ladybird Deeds

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq. 

house_deedAvoiding probate is (or should be) a main objective of all estate plans.  By avoiding probate (a systematic distribution of assets, which is beyond our clients’ control) our clients have the power to determine how their assets will be distributed upon their death.  There are many tools available to accomplish this aim; one such tool is the ladybird deed.  It should be noted that ladybird deeds by themselves are insufficient to avoid probate; however, if used in conjunction with other probate avoiding tools, such as trusts and pour-over wills, our clients can successfully avoid probate.

What is a ladybird deed? 

To understand what a ladybird deed is, it is essential to know what a deed is.  A deed is a legal instrument that transfers an interest in real estate.  The most common type of deed is a “fee simple” deed.  A fee simple deed conveys property from Person A to Person B.  Once signed and delivered, Person B immediately becomes the owner of the real estate.  Unlike a fee simple deed, a ladybird deed does not immediately convey the property.  A ladybird deed conveys the property to another person but reserves ownership to the grantor (the person who conveys the property) for so long as the grantor is living.  For example, if Person A executed a ladybird deed to Person B, Person A would still own the property until Person A dies; at which point, Person B becomes the owner of the property. 

In addition to remaining the owner of the property until death, the grantor of a ladybird deed reserves the right to sell, mortgage, or transfer the property during their life.  So if Person A executed a ladybird deed to Person B, Person A could still sell the property or give it to someone else.  Ladybird deeds thus avoid probate by designating the person to whom the property will be distributed upon the grantor’s death.  If a ladybird deed (or other deed) is not in place, the property would be subject to probate. 

Ladybird deeds are not always the appropriate solution to avoid probate.  Choosing the wrong deed or using it at an inappropriate time may have significant negative consequences.  Moreover, there are many tax, Medicaid, and other implications associated with deeds; as such, qualified attorneys create each estate plan on a case-by-case basis based on the specific facts and situations of each client. 

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

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The Father of Invention

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mohannad Al-Haj Ali

APPLE/

Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds an iPad in this January 27, 2010 file photo. Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, the company announced August 24, 2011.    

REUTERS/Kimberly White

Steve Jobs is routinely voted one of the most influential and powerful people in the world.WHEN the world awoke to the iPod revolution and the innovations that followed such as the iPhone and the iPad, it turned its attention to the creative mind behind them, the founder and chief executive of Apple, Steve Jobs, and his life story as the adopted child of a modest American family.

The Observer newspaper in Britain, Fortune magazine in the US, and other media outlets published lengthy articles on his life in which his biological father of Syrian origin, Abdul Fattah “John” Jandali, emigrated to the United States in the early 1950s to pursue his university studies.

The western media did not give great mention to Jandali other than to say he was an outstanding professor of political science, that he married his girlfriend (Steve’s mother) and by whom he also had a daughter, and that he slipped from view following his separation from his wife.

An American historian, however, has now stirred controversy over the role of genes and their superiority over nurture in the case of Steve Jobs, by describing Jandali in a detailed critical article published briefly on the Internet before it was suddenly removed, as “the father of invention”, given that Jandali’s daughter Mona (Simpson) – Steve’s sister – is also one of the most famous contemporary American novelists and a professor at the renowned University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

The 79-year-old Jandali has deliberately kept his distance from the media.What is known about him lacks detail, and is both one-sided and a source of curiosity at the same time. Here is his story as Jandali himself told it to Al-Hayat.

Jandali in Syria

Abdul Fattah Jandali was born in 1931 to a traditional family in Homs, Syria. His father did not reach university, but was a self-made millionaire who owned “several entire villages”, according to his son. His father held complete authority over his children, authority not shared by his traditional and “obedient” wife.

“My father was a self-made millionaire who owned extensive areas of land which included entire villages,” Jandali said. “He had a strong personality and, in contrast to other parents in our country, my father did not reveal his feelings towards us, but I knew that he loved me because he loved his children and wanted them to get the best university education possible to live a life of better opportunities than he had, because he didn’t have an education. My mother was a traditional Muslim woman who took care of the house and me and my four sisters, but she was conservative, obedient, and a housewife. She didn’t have as important a part in our upbringing and education as my father. Women from my generation had a secondary role in the family structure, and the male was in control.”

The American University

Jandali did not stay long in Syria. “I left for Beirut when I was 18 to study at the American University, and I spent the best years of my life there,” he said.

He was a pan-Arabism activist, and his star soon began to shine. He headed an intellectual and literary society which had a nationalist bent and counted among its members symbols of the Arab nationalists’ movements such as George Habash, Constantine Zareeq, Shafiq Al-Hout and others.

“I was an activist in the student nationalist movement at that time,” he said. “We demonstrated for the independence of Algeria and spent three days in prison. I wasn’t a member of any particular party but I was a supporter of Arab unity and Arab independence. The three and a half years I spent at the American University in Beirut were the best days of my life. The university campus was fantastic and I made lots of friends, some of whom I am still in contact with. I had excellent professors, and it’s where I first got interested in law and political science.”

The university’s Campus Gate magazine published in its 2007 spring issue an article by Tousef Shabal in which he says: “The Al-Urwa Al-Wuthqa Association was founded in 1918 and dedicated to cultural and political activities. Between 1951 and 1954 the society was headed by Abdul Fattah Jandali, the now deceased Eli Bouri, Thabit Mahayni and Maurice Tabari. The decision to disband the society was taken after the events of March 1954…” a reference to the violent demonstrations that took place on the university campus against the Baghdad Pact.

According to Shabal, the society consisted of “diverse political groups such as Arab nationalists and communists, and competition for the managing positions was red hot, but in the end went in favor of the Arab nationalists.”

When Jandali graduated from the American University in Beirut, Syria was going through troubled political and economic times, according to Jandali, and although he wanted to study law at Damascus University and become a lawyer, his father did not agree, saying that there were “too many lawyers in Syria”.

He continued: “Then I decided to continue my higher studies in economy and political sciences at the United States where a relative of mine, Najm Al-Deen Al-Rifa’i, was working as a delegate of Syria to the United Nations in New York. I studied for a year at Columbia University and then went to Wisconsin University where I obtained grants that enabled me to earn my master’s and doctorate. I was interested in studying the philosophy of law and analysis of law and political sciences, and I focused in my studies at the American University on international law and the economy.”

The birth of Steve and Mona

While studying in Wisconsin, Jandali met Joanne Carole Sciebele by whom he had a boy while they were both still students, but Sciebele’s father was conservative and wouldn’t agree to them getting married, so she gave her baby boy – Steve Jobs – up for adoption.

Initially, a lawyer and his wife approached, but did not proceed with adoption when they found out the child was a boy and not a girl as they wanted. Another couple came forward, neither of whom had gone through university education, and adopted the newborn baby after agreeing to the mother’s condition that the child be given a university education later in life.

Abdul Fattah (who added “John” to his name) returned and married Sciebele, and they had a daughter and named her Mona, but he then traveled to Syria – part of the United Arab Republic at the time – intending to enter the diplomatic corps.

The United Arab Republic

“I had two basic paths open to me after graduating,” Jandali said. “Either go back to my home country and work with the Syrian government, or stay in the United States and in university education, and that is what I did for a while. I went back to Syria when I got my doctorate, and I thought I’d be able to find work in the government, but that didn’t happen. I worked as a manager at a refinery plant in my hometown of Homs for a year, during which Syria was part of the United Arab Republic and run by the Egyptians. Egyptian engineers, for example, ran the Ministry of Energy in Syria, and the situation wasn’t right for me, so I went back to the United States to rejoin education there.”

According to Jandali, his wife decided to break up with him while he was away in Syria, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his academic work.

“I enjoyed university education very much, it was a rewarding profession, but unfortunately during the sixties and seventies in the United States the pay was very poor for academics, and in general they did not enjoy great respect due to the prevailing belief that professors only taught because they couldn’t do anything else. That is stupid and wrong, of course. I was an assistant professor at Michigan University then at Nevada University. I purchased a restaurant and became interested in making money, and I gave up academic work to run the business. After the restaurant I was a manager at companies and organizations in Las Vegas, and then I opened two restaurants in Reno and joined the organization that I manage today.”

Jandali describes himself as an “idealist”. “Any job I want to do, I try my utmost to see it through completely or not do it at all. Academically, I was very successful. In business management, after a couple of difficult years, I improved. For example, now I run the organization I work in. Success in the world of business requires you to be interested in your assistants and staff and to have a clear vision.”

80 years: No to retirement

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In the tumult following Steve Jobs’ resignation, the media have been digging up interviews with Steve Jobs’ biological father, Abdulfattah John Jandali, who is a Syrian-born vice president of a casino in Reno.

Jandali is that rare case of a person continuing work beyond the age of retirement, and it is something he is proud of.

“Next March I’ll be in my eighties, but to look at me you’d think I was only in my sixties because I’ve taken care of myself, looked after my health, and I love work. I think retirement is the worst of western societies’ institutions. When people retire they become detached, grow old and stop looking after themselves. Enthusiasm for life dies out and energy levels drop, and they effectively kill themselves, even though they’re still alive. I’m not planning to retire even if I leave my position here after a year or two. I’ll dedicate myself to writing, I might write a book or two. My daughter is a very successful novelist with five books, and I plan to move on from my work, and I’m thinking of writing about the Arab World, perhaps a historical narrative with analysis for the future.”

But even so, Jandali has not been to Syria for over 35 years. “Not because I don’t want to, but because of the worry which affects an emigrant when he wants to go back to his home country after so many years, and over what might await him there. I’m thinking of visiting Lebanon and Abu Dhabi next summer to see relatives,” he said.

He doesn’t hide his nostalgia. “I miss my family in Syria. When I left, my closest relatives were still alive. I miss my culture and society and the tight social bonds between relatives as well as the standard of living. Here in the United States there is technological advancement and abundant opportunities for growth and work, but it’s not life itself, and while one appreciates the individual freedoms in western societies, there are times when you really feel that you are alone, that you don’t have the moral family support that you have in the east. I’m not talking about one’s mother or father, but the wider family, relatives, that entity that makes you feel you are part of it, that’s what I miss most about my home country. Of course I miss the social life and wonderful food, but the most important thing is the outstanding cultural attributes which in general you don’t find in the West.

“If I had the chance to go back in time, I wouldn’t leave Syria or Lebanon at all. I would stay in my home country my whole life. I don’t say that out of emotion but out of common sense. I think I’ve wasted my energies and talents in the wrong place and in the wrong society. But that’s just theoretical talk, and what’s happened has happened.” So what remains of his Syrian identity and Arabic culture after nearly 60 years in America?

“I’m a non-practicing Muslim and I haven’t been on the Haj, but I believe in Islam in doctrine and culture, and I believe in the family. I have never experienced any problem or discrimination in the United States because of my religion or race. Other than my accent which might sometimes suggest that I’m from another country, I have completely integrated in society here. I advise young Arabs coming here, however, to get a university degree and not prolong their stay, as there are lots of opportunities in the Arab World today, particularly in the Gulf. The good minds of the Arab world must stay there, as they might be able to help their countries there more than they can here.

Father of invention

Responding to his being called the “father of invention”, Jandali says: “My daughter Mona is a famous writer, and my biological son is Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple. The reason he was put up for adoption was because my girlfriend’s father was extremely conservative and wouldn’t let her marry me, and she decided to give him up for adoption. Steve is my biological son, but I didn’t bring him up, and he has a family that adopted him. So if it’s said that I’m the ‘father of invention’, then that’s because my biological son is a genius and my daughter a brilliant writer. I thank God for my success in life, but I’m no inventor.

“I think that if my son Steve had been brought up with a Syrian name he would have achieved the same success. He has a brilliant mind. And he didn’t finish his university studies. That’s why I think he would have succeeded whatever his background. I don’t have a close relationship with him. I send him a message on his birthday, but neither of us has made overtures to come closer to the other. I tend to think that if he wants to spend time with me he knows where I am and how to get hold of me.

“I also bear the responsibility for being away from my daughter when she was four years old, as her mother divorced me when I went to Syria, but we got back in touch after 10 years. We lost touch again when her mother moved and I didn’t know where she was, but since 10 years ago we’ve been in constant contact and I see her three times a year. I organized a trip for her last year to visit Syria and Lebanon and she went with a relative from Florida. I always take the side of the mother because the son will always be happiest with his mother.

I’m proud of my son and his accomplishments, and of my work. Of course I made mistakes, and if I could go back in time I would have put some things right. I would have been closer to my son, but all’s well that ends well. Steve Jobs is one of the most successful people in America, and Mona is a successful academic and novelist.”

On the likelihood of Steve Jobs being regarded as an “American-Arab”, Jandali says: “I don’t think he pays much attention to these gene-related things. People know that he has Syrian origins and that his father is Syrian, that’s all well-known. But he doesn’t pay attention to these things. He has his own distinctive personality and he’s highly-strung. People who are geniuses can do what they want.”

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If Islam is Foreign, so is Christianity and Judaism

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief

Dr.Aslam AbdullahA Jewish attorney supported by a few pro-Republican Christian religious fanatics and fueled mainly by some top notch neo-con hawks are behind the movement to stop the so called Islamic Sharia being applied in the United States. In several states the anti-Sharia bill has been introduced as anti-foreign law. In other words, when someone talks of foreign law, he or she is referring to Islam.

There is so much venom against anything that is related with Islam, specially after our withdrawal from Iraq, that not many have bothered to explain or understand the Sharia as defined in Islam’s main source of guidance, the Quran as Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet (s)), which is often described as the second source of the Islamic guidance is based on and controlled by the Quran.  Many Muslims are defensive, often apologetic on this issue and the opponent of Islamic Sharia are deceptive and provocative. Politicians find in it a vote-grabbing opportunity without any relevance or sense to what they are saying and talking about.

Often labelled anti-foreign law, the so called anti-sharia bill, inadvertently claims that Islam is foreign to the US, hence, laws rooted in Islam are also foreign. However, they do not realize that ant-foreign law bills (anti-Sharia bill) goes against Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and almost every religion with the exception of the religion followed by the native Indians before Christianity imposed itself on America and Mormonism. Christianity or Judaism were not born in Washington or Kansas, not even in Europe. They have their origins in what we now call the Arab lands such as Iraq, Egypt and Hijaz (known as Saudi Arabia).

Thus, under what is defined anti-foreign law, family laws having their roots in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism or any other religion may fall under its preview. The oath of allegiance to the Pope that Catholic nuns and priests take can be considered its part. The allegiance to the state of Israel expressed strongly by over 6 million Jewish American population can be described a practice based on foreign laws. Not only Eid ul Fitr or Eid ul Adha, but Christmas, Hanuka, Diwali or Buddha Jayanti can be termed as foreign. Circumcision based on Semitic religious laws can also be a foreign law as well as the practice of non-circumcision. There is no limitation in describing what is foreign.

A Hindu wearing a sacred thread around his waist can be described a foreign practice. A Jew wearing a cap can be considered a foreign tradition. A Christian baptizing a child can also be described as foreign. A husband having legitimate physical intimacy after the wedding in a Hindu or Buddhist temple can be considered violating the anti-foreign law. Perhaps, the Mormons may qualify to be one of the few indigenous religions as Joseph Smith seems to have initiated this tradition in America. Perhaps, the practice of polygamy by a few of them can be considered real patriotic as it is based on ideas that were evolved endogenously. But the irony is that Mormonism is not even considered a religion by many mainstream Christian churches.

To save the nation from such crazy people specially insane politicians and Christian and Jewish fanatics, the founding fathers specially had the first amendment saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Fearing that states governed by fanatics who through political manipulation may capture the power, the founding fathers also passed the 10th amendment saying that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Matters pertaining to freedom of religion, definition of religion and foreign and native religions do not fall under the jurisdiction of states. Hence any state law related to religions that overrides the constitutional guarantees can and must be thrown out.

What is happening in Michigan as well as other states is anti-constitution and anti-people. It is happening because a few religious wolves wearing the garb of patriotism are inciting people who do not share their religion. The struggle against such people is no different than the struggle for freedom and civil rights.

These legislation must be challenged by those who take their pledge of allegiance seriously. Besides political action, one must be prepared to challenge these legislative initiatives legally. A movement against anti-Sharia bill is not Muslim, it is American and national.

For Muslims the debate about Sharia is yet another opportunity to explain to the country what the Sharia is about. However, this is an alley, which is not very illuminated. Most Muslims naively feel that the answers to all the issues that Muslims and non-Muslims have been facing in modern world, have already been answered by scholars born in 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. They do not find any room for any new ideas or arguments in understanding the divine guidance.

Seemingly, those Muslims who have spoken on the media on behalf of Islam have often come up with half cooked explanations based on their understanding of the stagnant jurisprudence of medieval Muslim states and outdated historical anecdotes promoted by a sectarian understanding of Islam.

Even though most Muslim leaders and groups continuously speak about Sharia, few attempts have been made in our modern times to develop an understanding that can be understood not only Muslims but by non-Muslims too. As usual, the Sharia issue has become a fund collecting means on behalf of those who want to present the Sharia opponents as yet another danger to Islam and Muslims.

The opportunity presented by hate mongers should be used by thinking Muslims to develop a better understanding of Sharia through discourses among all sections of educated Muslim American community. Since the Sharia is mainly be defined by the Quran and since this last and lasting divine book of guidance is meant to give guidance to all Muslims, everyone who can contribute to this debate should be involved to ensure that no viewpoint is missed. If the divine message is dynamic in its essence so is be the definition of sharia. If the divine guidance is applicable in all times, so is its sharia.

(A separate article as to how the Quran defines the sharia will follow)

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Peace Eludes Kashmir: Who Is At Fault?

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The brief phase of apparent peace in Jammu and Kashmir has been shattered once again by what has been described by critics as “state-terrorism.” The recent weeks have been marked by several suspect-terrorists having been killed in what have been labelled as “fake encounters” and the custodial death of Nasin Rashid (28) in Sopore district, Baramulla district. Rashid’s death provoked Kashmiris to take to streets demanding justice and prompted several Kashmiri leaders to strongly voice their protest against it. 

The Indian troops claimed to have killed five suspect militants, three of whom were killed at Rajwar in Handwara and two in Surankote area of Poonch. They were, according to Indian troops, killed as they tried to cross the Line-of-Control. The Kashmiri leaders have, however, blamed the troops for having “martyred” the five in an act of “state-terrorism.” Even before this issue has settled down, an actual “fake-encounter” has raised questions on credibility of the earlier claims made by Indian troops. A preliminary probe has reportedly revealed that a man killed in an alleged 12-hour gun battle with an army unit was not a suspect militant, but a mentally unstable civilian.

Initially, a high-ranking officer had briefed the media (Aug 7) that the “militant” killed was Abdu Usman, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s “divisional commander.” The officer also claimed recovery of a pistol and other materials from his possession. Ironically, before this “news” had created any waves, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah accepted that the “encounter” in which the individual was killed may not have been real.

“We are still enquiring into the exact circumstances as to what happened. Preliminary information suggests to us that a local Territorial Army fellow and an SPO (Special Police Officer) had conspired to inform the local army unit about the presence of the foreign militant in Pooch,” Abdullah said. “Subsequently, information came to light that that the person is not who (that is a ‘suspect militant’) the Territorial Army and the SPO claimed him to be,” he said.

The “accused,” according to Abdullah, “have been charged under section 302 amounting to murder and we will ensure that the law follows its own course.” The accused, include SPO Abdul Majid and Territorial Army soldier Noor Hussain. While the SPO’s intention, through this “encounter,” was to be regularized as a constable, the soldier wanted a cash reward of Rs 200,000.

Amazingly, this is one of the rarest of rare “fake encounters,” which on the basis of a preliminary probe has been promptly acknowledged as one, with the state chief minister himself saying so. Over the past three years, at least 14 cases of fake encounter in Kashmir have been reported and registered by India’s National Human Rights Commission. And this raises the pertinent question: Who is to be blamed for grievances afflicting Indian Kashmiris?

Speaking at a seminar in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra said: “A major problem facing the country today is the nexus between political hierarchy, mafia and bureaucracy. All elements of government are tainted and now fingers are being pointed towards the armed forces.” Taking note that the Police Act was 150 years old, Vohra said: “We need to reform every part and parcel of the government including police for providing justice to the people.”

Vohra’s tacit acceptance that people were being denied justice was referred to from a different angle by former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court Justice Bilal Nazki at the seminar (Aug 8). He raised the question: “In Kashmir there are many cases of alleged excesses committed by the police and at the same time police is investigating them. How can anybody expect fair investigation from the accused?” “Once the crime takes place there should be no business of police to meddle in investigations. Police cannot handle everything from law and order to security to the investigation,” Nazki said.

Undeniably, Kashmiris have suffered for long at the hands of law and order system in their terrain. The army and police are expected to ensure security for the Kashmiris. But instead, they have been trigger-free while targeting Kashmiris, particularly Muslims. In recent years, thanks to communication revolution, “reports” on fake encounters accusing Kashmiris (particularly Muslims) as “terrorists” have started hitting headlines. The Indian media has also woken up to not easily accepting claims made by officers about several “terrorists” being killed in certain encounters. Earlier, their prevailed the tendency to virtually accept whatever was said at press conferences, after such “encounters” as the final word, without examining the credibility of such claims and not considering the option of giving “suspect terrorists” a chance to prove their innocence.

Despite the media and people having woken up to the hard reality that “peace” and “security” continues to elude Kashmiris as innocent persons are still being targeted by state-controlled bullets, the concerned authorities have not yet taken any major step to solve this problem. Irrespective of whatever claims that India makes about its commitment to the Kashmir-issue, peace shall elude problem-ridden region, till adequate attention is paid to address grievances faced by Kashmiris!

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New Jersey Gets Its First Muslim American Judge

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sunita Sohrabji   

sohailconfirmed_72211The state of New Jersey got its first Muslim American Superior Court judge June 30, as Sohail Mohammed, a former engineer from Hyderabad, took his oath of office.

Following contentious confirmation hearings in the New Jersey State Senate, Mohammed, 47, who became interested in law after serving jury duty, began working July 1 in Passaic County Superior Court’s Family Division.

“I am deeply, deeply honored to be representing the two greatest democracies in the world: India and the U.S.,” Mohammed said, adding that he hoped to create a process in his courtroom that left people’s dignity intact, regardless of whether they had won or lost.

Mohammed, who earned his law degree in night school at Seton Hall University while working for GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems, said he has already ruled on a number of adoption cases.

“You see the kids in court, and there are such smiles on their faces. They are already saying, ‘This is my mommy; this is my daddy,’” related Mohammed, who emigrated from India with his parents when he was 10.

“One kid asked to touch the gavel. I lifted him up and he gave the gavel a loud bang. It was such a moving experience,” he said.

Mohammed refused to comment on his combative confirmation hearings, saying only, “It was a process.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had nominated Mohammed for the post Jan. 14, and the attorney had told India-West in an earlier interview that he expected his nomination to be fast-tracked through the confirmation process.

At his confirmation hearing June 29, Mohammed was grilled extensively about his ties to radical Islamist groups, and his opinion of Sharia law. Republican state Senator Gerald Cardinale, asked Mohammed about the organization Hamas – defined by the U.S. as a terrorist group – and also asked him to define the term jihad.

Cardinale also asked Mohammed if he had ever objected to the term “Islamo terrorist.”

Republican state Senator Joseph Kyrillos asked Mohammed why there was not more condemnation from Muslims about terrorism.

In an editorial, local columnist Bruce Lowry likened Mohammed’s confirmation hearings to a “witch hunt.”

Jolsna John, president of the North American South Asian Bar Association, said the accusations levied against Mohammed were ridiculous.

“Just because your name is Mohammed does not mean you’re a terrorist,” she said.

“Sohail has done some really great work for our community,” said John, noting that Mohammed, post 9-11, had worked to build bridges between law enforcement and the Muslim American community.

NASABA reached out to Mohammed during his confirmation process, said John, who encouraged other South Asian Americans to apply for judgeships, adding that her organization could provide help and resources.

Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager of the Council on American-Islamic Relations New York chapter, told India-West that the New Jersey state Senate had created a double standard during Mohammed’s confirmation process.

“This tells Muslim Americans that their service, their acts of patriotism, aren’t as valuable as those of other Americans,” stated McGoldrick.

“Muslims are being told on the one hand ‘acculturate within your larger community,’ yet our institutions and our people are being shut out,” he said.

Mohammed is a board member of the American Muslim Union and an executive board member of the New Jersey Bar Association. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mohammed represented more than 30 undocumented immigrants who were not affiliated with the attacks, but caught up in sweeps by federal agents. The father of three boys has trained the FBI on Islamic culture and arranged a job fair in New Jersey where young Muslims could apply for jobs with law enforcement agencies.

Mohammed, who formerly practiced immigration law in Clifton, New Jersey, told India-West he has disbanded his solo practice, handing his clients off to other attorneys.

“It was really sad for me,” he said. “But there’s a greater good to be done out there.”

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Shariah 101

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Enver Masud

Shariah-Council-Logo-green-star-with-logo-copy2-1-300x300The definition of justice, according to Dr. Robert D. Crane, founder of the Center for Civilizational Renewal, is respect for human rights, which were formulated six centuries ago by Islamic scholars. These rights, says Dr. Crane, are: “the right to life and personal integrity (haqq al haya), to family and community existence and cohesion at all levels of human society (haqq al nasi), to equal opportunities in accessing ownership of the means of economic production (haqq al mal), to political freedom for self-determination both within and among nations (haqq al hurriyah), to human dignity (haqq al karama, including freedom of religion and gender equity), and to education, knowledge, and freedom of expression (haqq al ilm).”

Regarding separation of Church and State, according to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of Islam, a Sacred Law, Islamic jurists recognized this concept centuries before the Europeans, and divided the body of Shariah rules into two categories: religious observances and worldly matters. The first they observed to be beyond the scope of modification. The second, subject to interpretation, cover the following:

1. Criminal Law: This includes crimes such as murder, larceny, fornication, drinking alcohol, libel. 2. Family Law: This . . . covers marriage, divorce, alimony, child custody, inheritance. 3. Transactions: This covers property rights, contracts, rules of sale, hire, gift, loans and debts, deposits, partnerships, and damages.

“One of the most sensible definitions of the purposes of the Shariah,” according to Imam Feisal, was given by Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah who said:

“The foundation of the Shariah is wisdom and the safeguarding of people’s interests in this world and the next. In its entirety it is justice, mercy and wisdom. Every rule which transcends justice to tyranny, mercy to its opposite, the good to the evil, and wisdom to triviality does not belong to the Shariah . . .”

According to Imam Feisal the sources of Shariah are, in order:   1. The Quran – God’s Word revealed to Prophet Muhammad (s); 2. The Sunnah – practice and teachings of the Prophet; 3. Ijma – consensus of those in authority; 4. Qiyas – reason, logic, and opinion based upon analogy.

Imam Feisal describes seven other methods for deriving Islamic laws. These seven, plus ijma and qiyas, are collectively known as ijtihad or interpretation, and/or opinion based upon reason and logic.
Several schools of Shariah have evolved: Shafii, Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki – the orthodox schools, and Jafari – the Shiite school. The Zaydis and Ibadis also have their own schools.

“Classical international law, reputedly invented by the Spaniards Vittorio and Suarez, borrowed the concept of inalienable human rights from Islamic law,” according to Dr. Crane.

Wisely implemented, Shariah can better nurture and protect society than does Western law which is subject to the whims of lawmakers.

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Tax Dollars Used Against Islam and Muslims

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO

A few weeks ago, a former Palestinian Muslim, who is now an ultra conservative Christian equated Islam with terrorism describing the two inseparable. There is nothing new in what the so called former PLO terrorist said or says on a regular basis. In the last 10 years, several individuals claiming to speak on behalf of Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism have spoken openly against Islam and Muslim Americans in particular. Expressing one’s opinion is everyone’s right and that right must be preserved even if it is based on misconception or lies.

What is problematic is that the Homeland Security invited the so called terrorist-turned Christian to an official event attended by more than 300 law enforcement officials in South Dakota. This is a violation of our constitution that clearly indicates that the people’s tax dollars would not be spent in either promoting or targeting a particular religion. The so called expert was paid 5,000 plus other expenses.  In other word, the our tax dollars were spent on supporting someone whose anti-Islam agenda is well known. If the Homeland Security had invited a Muslim American to counter his argument, one could have argued that the purpose of the event was to have a balanced perspective. However, by giving money and podium to an avid anti-Islam fanatic, the Homeland Security has revealed its hatred of Islam, a crime which is in breach of the constitution and which deserves to be thoroughly investigated.

Ten after the September 11 attack, Muslim Americans are still deemed unfit by many law enforcement agencies or agents to be partners in the country’s fight against terrorism. This policy or attitude is hurting the country and wasting its tax dollars money. Seemingly, the Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies have wasted millions of dollars in rewarding anti-Muslim and anti-Islam experts on terrorism by giving them legitimacy and authenticity through invitation to officially organized events for state and federal agents.

Most of the so called experts on Islam belong to several religious groups who anti-Islam position is well known. They use the Tax payers money and resources to promote their religious agenda and to make money for themselves. The country does not benefit from their expertise.

One is entitled to his or her opinion on Islam or any other faith but when that opinion is given legitimacy by agencies that are meant to uphold the constitution and the citizens, then it deserves the attention of all those who are serious about the sanctity and supremacy of the constitution. As far as opinions against Islam are concerned, we Muslims must be aware of the task that we have at hand, i.e. challenging the misconception and informing the country and the world that there is another side of the explanation that can be offered only by those practice this faith and who understands its in and out better than those so called experts who have found a new opportunity to mint money from the new venture that we can term as “Islamic Threat to the West.”

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Stand Up to Herman Cain

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Eugene Robinson

It is time to stop giving Herman Cain’s unapologetic bigotry a free pass. The man and his poison need to be seen clearly and taken seriously.

Imagine the reaction if a major-party presidential candidate — one who, like Cain, shows actual support in the polls — said he “wouldn’t be comfortable” appointing a Jew to a Cabinet position. Imagine the outrage if this same candidate loudly supported a community’s efforts to block Mormons from building a house of worship.

But Cain’s prejudice isn’t against Mormons or Jews, it’s against Muslims. Open religious prejudice is usually enough to disqualify a candidate for national office—but not, apparently, when the religion in question is Islam.

Sunday, Cain took the position that any community in the nation has the right to prohibit Muslims from building a mosque. The sound you hear is the collective hum of the Founding Fathers whirring like turbines in their graves.

Freedom of religion is, of course, guaranteed by the Constitution. There’s no asterisk or footnote exempting Muslims from this protection.

Cain says he knows this. Obviously, he doesn’t care.

Cain’s remarks came as “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace was grilling him about his obsession with the attempt by some citizens of Murfreesboro  to halt construction of a mosque. Wallace noted that the mosque has operated at a nearby site for more than 20 years, and asked, sensibly, what the big deal is.

Cain launched into an elaborate conspiratorial fantasy about how the proposed place of worship is “not just a mosque for religious purposes” and how there are “other things going on.”

This imagined nefarious activity, it turns out, is a campaign to subject the nation and the world to Islamic religious law. Anti-mosque activists in Murfreesboro are “objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, sharia law,” Cain said. “That’s the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes.”

Let’s return to the real world for a moment and see how bogus this argument is. Presumably, Cain would include Roman Catholicism among the “traditional religions” that deserve constitutional protection. It happens that our legal system recognizes divorce, but the Catholic Church does not. This, by Cain’s logic, must constitute an attempt to impose “Vatican law” on an unsuspecting nation.

Similarly, Jewish congregations that observe kosher dietary laws must be part of a sinister plot to deprive America of its God-given bacon.

Wallace was admirably persistent in pressing Cain to either own up to his prejudice or take it back. “But couldn’t any community then say we don’t want a mosque in our community?” Wallace asked.
“They could say that,” Cain replied.

“So you’re saying any community, if they want to ban a mosque. . .,”

Wallace began.

“Yes, they have the right to do that,” Cain said.

For the record, they don’t. For the record, there is no attempt to impose sharia law; Cain is taking arms against a threat that exists only in his own imagination. It makes as much sense to worry that the Amish will force us all to commute by horse and buggy.

This demonization of Muslims is not without precedent. In the early years of the 20th century, throughout the South, white racists used a similar “threat” — the notion of black men as sexual predators who threatened white women — to justify an elaborate legal framework of segregation and repression that endured for decades.

As Wallace pointed out, Cain is an African American who is old enough to remember Jim Crow segregation. “As someone who, I’m sure, faced prejudice growing up in the ’50s and the ’60s, how do you respond to those who say you are doing the same thing?”

Cain’s response was predictable: “I tell them that’s absolutely not true, because it is absolutely, totally different. . . . We had some laws that were restricting people because of their color and because of their color only.”

Wallace asked, “But aren’t you willing to restrict people because of their religion?”

Said Cain: “I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists.”

Generations of bigots made the same argument about black people.

They’re irredeemably different. Many of them may be all right, but some are a threat. Therefore, it’s necessary to keep all of them under scrutiny and control.

Bull Connor and Lester Maddox would be proud.

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