Successful Convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

MPAC-initials-white-on-blkWith the phenomenon of Islamophobia on the rise and now the province of Presidential candidates, thoughtful Americans welcome organizations which confront this problem and work toward solutions. The United States cannot truly fulfill its democratic destiny until the issue of Islamophobia is consigned to the dustbin of history. In addition, many other problems – perhaps trumping Islamophobia in impact – call out for Islamic participation with the concurrent application of Islamic values. The Arab Spring and what America’s role should be, and the Islamic movements outside of the United States are but two. 

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) successfully examined these issues during its 11th Annual Conference, rising once again to the challenge inherent in its founding principles. The Convention took place this past Saturday in Los Angeles and was titled: “Spring Forward: America’s Role in A Changing World”. The Convention consisted of two parts: three work sessions and an evening banquet with speakers.

During the welcome by MPAC President Salaam Al Marayati, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca spoke about Islamophobia and praised the Los Angeles Muslim community in general and MPAC in particular for their cooperation with law enforcement. His presentation might well have been the prologue to the second workshop session. In a direct approach, Sheriff Baca reminded his audience that the United States Constitution grants religious liberty. There should be no interference in the construction of a church, synagogue or mosque. He said that he, like all law enforcement officers, took an oath to defend the Constitution. If there are officers who for reasons of deep seated bigotry are unable to reconcile their positions with their oath, they should leave the office. He received a standing ovation.

The first session,  Plenary I ,  featured Dr. Nayyer Ali, a member of the MPAC Board, as moderator and was titled: “US Foreign Policy: Potentials and Pitfalls”. A diverse panel considered the question of US foreign policy towards the nations of the Arab Spring. While there were answers as diverse as the participants, the results were a mixture of optimism, pessimism, and a wait and see attitude. There was consensus that an American Muslim role is imperative. D Ali gave a summary that perhaps best describes the work of the session.

He said that what we see in the Arab world is the end of the post colonial slumber period much like 1989 was for East Europe. Pay attention to the input of Islam, he continued. It will play a large role and will be integrated into democratic governments.The message of the Koran is a perfect guide as it calls for justice, religious and political freedom, and consensus. Injustice is un Islamic. While the Koran is not a political document, it lays the framework for a just society. The concept of Shura intrinsically prevents dictatorship. “The Arab spring will evolve into something we find admirable”. 
“I feel as if I have attended a graduate level political seminar” said one young woman.

A second session followed a luncheon break. This session was titled: “The Industry of Hate in the Public Square”. Edina Lekovic, MPAC’s Director of Policy and Programing, was the moderator.  She described a whirlwind of activity with emphasis currently on Lowe’s stores withdrawal of sponsorship for the TLC show All American Muslim.

Before the session began, each attendee was given a publication by the Center for American Progress. The book is titled: “Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America”.
One of the authors, Wajahat Ali, was the first presenter. Mr. Ali is also a playwright, journalist, attorney, humorist, and blogger. “Congratulations. The Muslim agenda is in place”. He cited, facetiously, a Muslim beauty queen and stealth halal turkeys. Mr. Ali spoke of the recent decision of Lowe’s stores to remove their sponsorship of the widely acclaimed television series, All American Muslim. He surprised his audience by telling them that the pressure on Lowe’s to withdraw its support was initiated by the work of one man. He identified this man as David Canton, virtually the lone member of the highly touted Florida Family Association, and a man with a history of bothering corporations. He continued by saying that even Mr. Canton’s web site was poorly done. Yet, like the effect of a megaphone,  the efforts of one man was presented as a large group effort.

“Its like watching a balloon deflate” whispered one audience member.

He cited bloggers Pamela Geller and David Horowitz for their role in taking this issue and publicizing it. He referenced the book he co authored and told his audience to read about the money trails, the donors and the amounts they have contributed, the beneficiaries with their organizations and/or web sites.  The book is truly encyclopedic and a valuable weapon in confronting and defeating Islamophobia.

Attendees were given an opportunity to fill out sign up sheets indicating their willingness to work with MPAC in this crucial venture.

Steven Rohde, a well known civil rights attorney and activist, spoke next. He recited a poem which he had written which paraphrased the famous work of the Reverend Martin Niemoller about the German intellectuals’ reluctance to speak up against injustice because they were not not initially targeted. In this version, the Muslims were the miner’s canary.

Mr. Rohde expressed his willingness to stand with Muslims and fight with them against any injustice turned their way. The audience gave him a standing ovation.

Aziza Hasan was the last presenter. She is MPAC’s Director of Southern California Government Relations. She said that we are commanded by the Koran to stand up for truth and to speak up against injustice. She told her audience to anticipate and to build. We can reasonably expect that Islamophobia will get worse by the election of 2012. We can prepare for that battle. We will build alliances and work with those already in place.

The final session, Plenary II, was titled: “Islamic Movements: Help or Hindrance”.  Haris Tarin who is the Executive Director of MPAC’s Washington, D. C. office was the moderator. Will political movements, suppressed for decades, be able to lead the people in a government that is democratic and pluralistic?

Salaam Al Marayati introduced Haris Tarin and complimented him on bringing the MPAC Washington, D. C. office to new levels of influence. In the Arab world, he noted, Islamic groups were able to organize against the dictators in power.

The Muslim world entered modernity through colonialism and therefore entered it as subjects, said panelist Haroon Mogdul, an Associate Editor at Religion Dispatches, a Senior Editor for The Islamic Monthly, and a Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Dr. Jasser Auda said that the landscape is complex. For example, the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood is closer to liberal youth than to the senior leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Auda is an Associate Professor at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies. He continued by saying that the Salafist youth are separate from their Imams. Youth are developing the idea of a civil state with an Islamic reference.

Invited guests for the evening banquet were Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the author of “Race Matters” and Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the United States.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council has worked since 1988 to promote an American Muslim community which will enrich American society through the application of Islamic principles. These principles are Mercy, Justice, Peace, Human Dignity, Freedom and Equality. MPAC has become the go to group for media and government officials. American Muslims have come to accept it as a spokesgroup on their behalf.

MPAC’s programs include: an Anti-terrorism campaign; a Hollywood Bureau; Government Relations; Countering Islamophobia; Young Leaders Development, and Interfaith Outreach.      

The foregoing is but a small portion of the work of MPAC. To learn more about the group, to contribute, and to volunteer, please access their web site at: www.mpac.org.

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One Ummah

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The 15th Annual Western Regional Convention of MAS

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

maslogoThe United States faces serious problems, both domestically and internationally, problems that at a glance seem insurmountable.  Ignorance of Islam and Islamophobia are rampant. Muslim organizations are needed to combat the latter two and to offer Muslim solutions based on Muslim values to provide answers to our crises at home and abroad. Our culture is moving from R rated to X rated: What to do?

Many Islamic groups are active in offering such aid. One in particular the Muslim American Society (MAS), deserves special mention.

The Muslim American Society held a highly successful annual Western Regional Convention, the organization’s fifteenth, this past weekend in Los Angeles. The title of the event and its theme was: “One: One Ummah, One Brotherhood, One Pulse”.

More than two thousand people were in attendance in an event that began on Thanksgiving Day and ran through the following Saturday. The Muslim American Society of Greater Los Angeles (MAS GLA) was the host.

The majority of the three day convention was devoted to workshops, many intended for youth. The titles of the work sessions mirrored the theme of the convention. They included, but were not limited to: “The Believers are But a Single Brotherhood”; “One Ummah, One Body”, “The Fiqh of Priorities”, and “Our Means to a Beautiful End”.

Each session was conducted by learned speakers who were available to answer questions and expand on their presentations at the end of each session.

In one particularly timely session,  students from the original Irvine 11 spoke about their legal ordeal which grew out of their collective exercise of free speech at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in February 2010. At that time the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, addressed a student audience and was confronted by a group of young Muslims vis a vis the illegal actions of the state of Israel.

Their subsequent arrest and indictment – almost a year to the date after the original incident and days before the statute of limitations would expire – angered civil libertarians. The students became a symbol of the limitations on free speech imposed on Muslims.

In a session titled: “I Don’t Plead the Fifth: Irvine 11 Speak out”, the students received a standing ovation, and many in the audience sought their autographs after the session ended. Each of the students stated unequivocally that he was glad of his actions and, given the opportunity, would do it again.

“What brave people” said one young woman in the audience. “It makes me feel  so proud”.

During a session titled: “A Quilt to Cover the Nation: Shaping the American Society by Applying the Fabric of Islamic Family Values”, two young Muslims introduced the Islamic Speaker’s Bureau.That organization will send Muslim speakers to address schools and law enforcement officers, to name but a few potential audiences, in an effort to explain Islam to non-Muslims and to counter act Islamophobia. Farhan Simjee and Shaista Azad invited the attendees and others who are interested to contact them at: isbsocal@gmail.com.

In one of the final sessions of the convention, the topic could not have been more timely. “One Ummah, One Pulse: Education and Mobilization to Help our Syrian Brothers and Sister” featured three speakers who gave the history of Syria, both ancient and modern, and offered practical actions that might be taken on Syria’s behalf.

One of the speakers,  Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the greater Los Angeles area spoke movingly on behalf of the aspirations of the Syrian people. “We have a common bond as human beings and as Muslims”.

He called for the following actions. Be outspoken, use Facebook and e mail; talk to the media, and take part in protests; Get the DVDs sold at the booth of the Syrian American Council (SAC) in the bazaar, stay in contact with the activists (syrianetLA@gmail.com); wear buttons and T shirts to advertise your cause; donate money to help the victims in Syria.

“The right to freedom is a human right”.

A bazaar was held in the lobby during the convention. Attendees could purchase Islamic clothing, books, jewelry, and DVDs, and they could learn of different community organizations.

The booths included, but were not limited to: CAIR (http://ca.cair.com), ACCESS (www.accesscal.org ), InFOCUS News (www.infocusnews,net), One Legacy Radio (www.onelegacyradio.com),and the Institute or Arabic and Islamic Studies (IAIS) (www.islamic-study.org) and (www.legacyofpeace.net).

The Muslim American Society began in 1993 as a charitable, religious, social, cultural and educational  organization. It has grown since then to its present strength of fifty chapters across the United States. It is a go-to group for information and commentary, held in high esteem by the media and government officials on all levels. MAS emphasizes proactive community involvement such as community service, interfaith dialogue, youth programs, and civic engagement. It seeks to build strong Muslims with strong faith and a deep knowledge of Islam.

The recent roots of MAS can be traced to the Islamic Revival Movement that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Its ancient roots, of course, can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The recent convention lived easily up to the standards of the Muslim American Society – to fulfill its mission for God consciousness, liberty and justice through the conveyance of Islamic values.

For more information on the Muslim American Society, please use the following email address: http://www.mascalifornia.org.

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Community News (V12-I20)

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Karan Johar, others receive MPAC award

LOS ANGELES–Bollywood director Karan Johar and four other media personalities received the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Awards at a glittering ceremony held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.

The recipients in the categories were as follows:

* Director KARAN JOHAR for the groundbreaking Bollywood film “My Name is Khan”, blending of love story with the harsh realities of being a South Asian Muslim in the U.S. post-9/11

* Pulitzer-nominated author DAVE EGGERS for his bestseller “Zeitoun” about a Muslim American family facing the fallout of Hurricane Katrina

* First-time writer/director CHERIEN DABIS for her award-winning independent film “Amreeka” about a family of Palestinian immigrants grappling with intolerance and identity against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War

* ABC TELEVISION for a touching episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” called “Give Peace a Chance” featuring a Muslim character in a positive role.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize these talented and inspirational voices for bringing humanizing and multi-dimensional portrayals of Muslims to millions of television and film viewers,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati.

Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan obtains fellowship American Society of Hypertension

NEW YORK–Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan, MD, FACP, FASH, has been granted the prestigious fellowship of the American Society of Hypertension. There are only 113 Fellows of American Society of Hypertension in the US.

The Hyderabad, India, born Dr. Khan is a Diplomate American Board of Internal Medicine, Diplomate American Board of Clinical Lipidology and Fellow of American College of Physicians.

He has published several articles in leading medical journals.

He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Medical College and has a private practice in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Board recommends approval for Sheboygan mosque

SHEBOYGAN, WI–The Town of Wilson Plan Commission in Wisconsin unanimously recommended approval for a conditional use permit to allow to convert a former health food store into the county’s first mosque.

Commission Vice Chairman June Spoerl, who chaired Monday night’s meeting in the absence of commission Chairman Doug Fuller, said Mansoor Mirza, the owner of the building at 9110 Sauk Trail Road had satisfied “quite a few of the concerns we had,” including well, septic, fire code and occupancy issues.

The building’s 25 parking spaces also are adequate, officials said, but stipulated that no on-street parking be allowed and that if the parking lot is to be expanded, there would be no runoff onto neighboring property.

No public comment was allowed before the Plan Commission but will be taken when the Town Board meets at 6 p.m., on Monday, May 17, to consider final approval of the mosque.

If approved, the permit would be for two years at which time the mosque would have to apply for permit renewal.

Florida mosque firebombing condemned

JACKSONVILLE, FL–Political and religious leaders in Jacksonville have condemned the firebombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

In a statement issued to the press Florida. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said, “I strongly condemn the alleged Monday night attack at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. No one in this country should ever be concerned for their safety when they practice their chosen faith. The free exercise of religion is one of our most cherished rights as citizens of this great nation. Ironically those targeted were exercising that right while gathered in prayer inside the Islamic Center as this act of hatred was carried out.  

I have full confidence that federal, state and local law enforcement authorities will conduct a thorough investigation and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this crime.”

The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville issued the following statement, “The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville deplores and condemns the attempt to bomb the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, one of our most faithful member communities. The attempted bombing on Monday night was a cowardly andmorally reprehensible act. Such an act besmirches the good name of our city and exposes how much work there is yet to do in teaching the values of religious tolerance and brotherhood. There is no more place in our city for this sort of religious intolerance and hatred than there is for racial bigotry. The IFCJ calls on all responsible citizens of our community to bear witness that this sort of violence will not be tolerated in our midst.”

12-20

War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

12-20

Rasheed Wallace the Lone Muslim Remaining in NBA Playoffs

May 6, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

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By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

And then there was one.

A handful of Muslim players had brought their teams to the National Basketball Association playoffs. But, Nazr Muhammad and DeSagana Diop could not get their Charlotte Bobcats out of the first round. And while Mehmet Okur’s Utah Jazz team is still alive, battling the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, Okur himself is out for the remainder of the playoffs due an Achilles tendon injury incurred in the first round. So, Rasheed Wallace now stands alone as the only Muslim still playing.

Rasheed Wallace is in his first year with the Boston Celtics, but he has achieved success at every step of his career. The 6 foot 11 inch Wallace had spent the previous 5 ½ seasons with the Detroit Pistons, having led them to an NBA title in 2004 and an NBA runner-up spot in 2005. Prior to that, he starred for the Portland Trailblazers, and took them to the Western Conference finals in 1999 and 2000. He has been a four time NBA all star. And, in college, he led the University of North Carolina to the Final Four in his sophomore season.

Wallace and the Celtics currently have their hands full with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. But, Rasheed has seen all situations at this point in his illustrious career. There is no reason not to expect continued success.

12-19

sheed

The Pakistani (Acting) Consul General For the West Coast of the United States

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Muhammad Khalid Ejaz

Los Angeles–April 10th–My last two articles came out of a discussion with the Indian (former) Ambassador to Afghanistan.  I was fortunate to hear a speech of the (Acting) Consul-General of Pakistan to the Western United State at the South Asian Studies Association (S.A.S.A) banquet here at U.S.C. (the University of Southern California).  His comments balanced those of Ambassador Maukapadya in Berkeley a month before.

Dr. Ejaz stated that Pakistan was the fifth most populous country in the world, but because of political disruptions over the land, (there has not been an accurate census since 1991, but it is safe to say that in early 1994, the inhabitants of Pakistan were appropriately estimated at 126 million, making it the ninth most populous country in the world although its land area, however, ranks thirty-second among nations.  Thus, Pakistan, then, had about 2 percent of the world’s population living on less than 0.7 percent of the world’s land. The population growth rate is among the world’s highest, officially assessed at 3.1 percent per annum, but privately considered to be closer to 3.3 percent for each year. Pakistan is assumed to have reached 150 million citizens ten years ago, and to have contributed to 4 percent of the world’s growth which is predicted to double by 2022.)  All this past paragraph demonstrates is that the  Consul-General’s approximation of Pakistan’s place in population today in relation to the demographics of the world probably is close to correct.

Strategically, his nation is at the intersection of four vital locales to the U.S. and to the developing world.  That is both Central and South Asia, and the Middle East and with China on its border connected by the Karkoram Highway.  Several of these regions are either oil/gas rich, or require Pakistan’s help to transport this energy to their ever-expanding economies.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rawapindi was America’s most allied of (trusted) allies.  Now, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) fulfills that function for Washington. 

In the 1980s, the two countries joined forces to help defeat the Russians in Afghanistan, but the District of Columbia deserted not only the Pakistanis, (but the Afghani and foreign fighters in the Hindu Kush Mountains. With the retreat of the Russians, and the collapse of their empire [the U.S.S.R, or [the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic], and [the whole “Second World” with it]), a five-way Civil War developed in Afghanistan, and eventually the rise of Taliban.) 

Thus, (your author consigns the blame the roots of 9/11 on the Reagan Administration ill-advised policy of not providing development aid and skills to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This, in turn, has lead to our current War in the Pakistani-Afghanistani Mountains.  That is why your writer designates Reagan to have been one of the worst of American Presidents instead of one of the best which the vulgar declare him to be in the Metropole [the Center of Empire] here.  Besides Washington’s airport being named after, there is a movement to put his face on the fifty dollar bill!).

After the ninth of 9th of September 2001 Islamabad was (forced) to become a front line State once again.  Ejaz asserted our allied relationship with the U.S.A. should evolve into a more equitable one.  We should have a “normalized” relationship with both those in the West, (and with the Taliban)!

We (Pakistan) are, also, under the threat of terrorism whose roots reside along the Durand Line.  It is a porous border that dives a subnationality (the Pashtoons) that should have a right to regularly cross that frontier to visit their relatives on the other side!  We cannot seal the borderland where the tribes exist in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It is true, though, many things that happen on the Afghani side of the border deeply impact the Northwest Frontier Provinces.

With this porous borderland, there are fighters who cross into our country for sanctuary.  Thus, despite the West’s accusations, Rawalpindi has suffered high casualties!  Muhammad Khalid Ejaz called on the U.S.A. to become more involved with development in the Af-Pak territories.  There is a serious problem between Pakistan and India, too, over water rights; the great powers could help negotiate this.  Still, Pakistan, as a nuclear power, has issues with nuclear India.  He affirmed that Kashmir can be settled!

He concluded that the U.S.A. has a role in the Afghan conflict, but the tribes have to have their traditional rights of cross-border movement.

12-19

Simon Cowell to Become Muslim?

April 15, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Adapted by TMO from a report in Sabili, an Indonesian newspaper

simon New news from America, that artist and tycoon Simon Cowell might convert to Islam.

The rumor is that before marrying his girlfriend Mezhgan Hussainy he wants to convert to Islam according to a report.

The Hussainy family is reportedly very Westernized, but nobody in their families ever married a non-Muslim – and they do not want their youngest daughter to be the first to do that, as quoted from ‘digitalspy.co.uk from sources Hussainy parents, Mary and Sayed. Hussainy’s sister-in-law, a woman named Erlene Garcia, also converted to Islam before marrying Mezhgan’s brother Zahid.

According to friends, ‘Mezhgan was very reluctant to ask Simon to Islam … because she knows how to be a controversial news will be.

“Simon may be a great man in England, but there are other people in the Afghan community living in Los Angeles whose parents are more afraid to offend. This will bring shame on their families and their communities if Simon does not respect their beliefs with Islam, “says a friend of Mezhgan’s. (voai / SBL)

12-16

Muslim Observer Writer Takes Part in Conference

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The Muslim Observer’s Dr. Geoffrey Cook took part in a conference sponsored by the South Asia Studies Association this past weekend. The two day event was titled: “South Asia and the West: Entwined, Entangled, and Engaged” and took place on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
Dr, Veena Howard of the University of Oregon was the other presenter. Professor Dean McHenry of the Claremont Graduate school was the moderator.

Both scholars spoke on India’s M K Gandhi, his philosophy and his teachings and influence. Dr. Howard was the first speaker.

Dr. Howard’s specialities are comparative religion and Hindu thought. She is associated with the University of Oregon and Lane Community College in Eugene. She has delivered papers at other symposia including the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Darma Association of North America.

She began by describing the eclectic sources of the philosophy of M K Gandhi. Yet, the philosophy he espoused and taught was his own. His passive resistance or satyagraha can be easily misunderstood if examined through the filter of Western values. Here it would imply a do nothing approach even in the face of injustice and oppression. Quite the contrary, Gandhi mobilized the masses including groups within India that were normally marginalized. He did this with “soul force”

His call to vows of chastity, simplicity and fearlessness resounded within the religious traditions of his country. They empowered rather than deprived his followers.He believed that Truth was the only perfect description of God.

“The soul is supreme”, said Gandhi and compared the soul to a to a superior steel sword. He appealed to the Indian collective and urged the people to pit their strength against evil through inner force.

Dr. Cook told his audience that Gandhi was as concerned with the welfare of Muslims in India as he was with Hindus. He wrote about Palestine from the 1920’s through the 1940’s. He also favored a caliphate in Turkey.

Gandhi’s opposition was not to Jews living in Palestine. He believed that friendship between Jews and Arab Muslims was possible – indeed the perfect solution -, and history would seem to support it. He opposed the assertion by Zionists of sovereign rights and the imposition of governance by them. His opposition was to Zionism as a political branch of Judaism and supported only by a small percentage of Jews. Making allowances for the time in which he lived, his bias was toward a one state solution (though the term was not in popular use then).

Dr. Cook spoke of his meeting with Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur for the (Israeli) Occupied Territories. Dr. Falk was denied entry into Israel despite his standing. He favors a one state solution for the Israeli conflict, a point which Dr. Cook disputes. Dr. Cook suggested to Dr. Falk that he read Gandhi’s central essay

Dr, Cook described M K Gandhi as having a mind that was “a curious mixture of the practical and the impractical”. He developed his methodologies on non violence in South Africa. His commitment to truth and to justice would permeate his thoughts and his proposals.

Gandhi sympathized with Jews, but his devotion to truth and justice would not permit him to sanction Zionist entry into Palestine under “British bayonets”. He regarded Palestine as a British possession in the same way that his own country of India was a British possession.

Dr. Cook spoke of how much different the world might be today had we listened to Gandhi; how much freer from the conflicts that seem to be endless, in South East Asia and in the oPt particularly.

A question and answer session followed the two presentations.

12-16

Thousands Take to the Streets to Demand: U.S. out of Afghanistan and Iraq now…

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

On Saturday, thousands of people converged at the White House for the March 20 March on Washington—the largest anti-war demonstration since the announcement of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. By the time the march started at 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled up to 10,000 protesters.

Transportation to Washington, D.C., was organized from over 50 cities in 20 states. Demonstrators rallied and marched shoulder to shoulder to demand “U.S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now,” “Free Palestine,” “Reparations for Haiti” and “No sanctions against Iran” as well as “Money for jobs, education and health care!”

Speakers at the Washington rally represented a broad cross section of the anti-war movement, including veterans and military families, labor, youth and students, immigrant right groups, and the Muslim and Arab American community.

Following the rally, a militant march led by veterans, active-duty service members and military families made its way through the streets of D.C. carrying coffins draped in Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Somali, Yemeni, Haitian and U.S. flags, among those of other countries, as a symbol of the human cost of war and occupation. Coffins were dropped off along the way at Halliburton, the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and other institutions connected to the war profiteering, propaganda, and human suffering. The final coffin drop-off was at the White House—the decision-making center of U.S. imperialism.

The demonstration received substantial media coverage. It was featured in a major story on page A3 on the Sunday Washington Post (click here to read it). An Associated Press article on the March on Washington was picked up by a large number of newspapers and media outlets in the United States and abroad.

Joint demonstrations in San Francisco and Los Angeles drew 5,000 protesters each.

In San Francisco, the demonstration included the participation of UNITE HERE Local 2 hotel workers, who are presently fighting for a contract; students, teachers and parents who have been organizing against education budget cutbacks; and community members and activists who have been engaged in a struggle to stop fare hikes and service cuts.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched through the streets of Hollywood carrying not only coffins but also large tombstones that read “R.I.P. Health care / Jobs / Public Education / Housing,” to draw attention to the economic war being waged against working-class people at home in order to fund the wars abroad. Essential social services are being slashed to pay for the largest defense budget in history.

The March 20 demonstrations mark a new phase for the anti-war movement. A new layer of activists joined these actions in large numbers, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. A sharp connection was drawn between the wars abroad and the war against working people at home. Though smaller than the demonstrations of 2007, this mobilization was larger than the demonstration last year—the first major anti-war action under the Obama administration. The real-life experience of the past year has shown that what we need is not a change in the presidency, but a change in the system that thrives on war, militarism and profits.

These demonstrations were a success thanks to the committed work of thousands of organizers and volunteers around the country. They raised funds, spread the word through posters and flyers, organized buses and other transportation, and carried out all the work that was needed on the day of the demonstration. We took to the streets in force even as the government tried to silence us with tens of thousands of dollars in illegal fines for postering in Washington, D.C., and felony charges against activists for postering in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

We want to especially thank all those who made generous donations for this mobilization. Without those contributions, we could not have carried out this work.
March 20 was an important step forward for the anti-war movement. We must continue to build on this momentum in the months ahead. Your donation will help us recover much-needed funds that helped pay for this weekend’s successful demonstration, as well as prepare for the actions to come.

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Suit by Alleged Informant Says FBI Endangered His Life

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Craig Monteilh, who says he worked undercover in Orange County as part of anti-terrorism efforts, accuses the bureau of abandoning him after mishandling a case. Action also names the Irvine Police Dept.

An Irvine man who says he worked as an undercover informant for the FBI, most notably as a Muslim convert in an anti-terrorism case, filed a lawsuit Friday accusing his law enforcement handlers of violating his civil rights and endangering his life.

Craig Monteilh, 47, says he worked as an informant for the FBI from 2004 through 2008, providing information and assistance in narcotics, bank robbery and murder for hire investigations before being asked to go undercover as part of an anti-terrorist effort in Orange County, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Monteilh alleges that the FBI essentially cut him loose after a supervisor bungled an operation that would have led to the discovery of “bomb making materials” in a Tustin mosque. Afterward, the lawsuit alleges, his FBI handlers reneged on a promise to implement an “exit strategy” that was to include back pay and severance pay and help with beginning a life with a new identity.

Monteilh also accused the FBI of breaking a promise to clear up a grand theft conviction he says was the result of his work as an informant in a 2006 steroids distribution case. His suit also names the Irvine Police Department and the detective who investigated the case. “The government will have the opportunity to defend the lawsuit in court,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a prepared statement. “However, the accusations appear to be desperate attempts by Mr. Monteilh to personally benefit at the expense of law enforcement officers and the Muslim American community.”

Monteilh says in his lawsuit that his work for the bureau at times placed his life in jeopardy. At one point after his cover was blown, he said, Muslim extremists “ordered a `fatwa’ “ against him and the Romania Mafia, Mexican Mafia and a white supremacist group all wanted him dead.

Monteilh said he warned the FBI of the threats against him and asked to be placed in protective custody while serving a 16-month state prison sentence for the grand theft conviction, but that his request was ignored and he was left in the general population of Wasco State Prison. He said he was attacked several times while in prison, including an April 2008 incident in which he was allegedly stabbed multiple times in the legs by members of a white supremacist group called Public Enemy Number One. The assault, he said, left him with permanent scars and reduced mobility.

Monteilh said the FBI recruited him to infiltrate drug trafficking groups shortly after his 2004 release from prison, where he was serving a sentence for forgery. That led to stints with the bank robbery and murder for hire squads, according to his lawsuit. His most sensitive assignment began in 2006, when he said he was approached to work under a program called “Operation Flex,” in which he assumed the identify of a Muslim convert and went undercover to identify extremists and gather intelligence.

Under the direction of his FBI handlers, Monteilh assumed the identify of Farouk Al-Aziz and claimed to be a new Muslim convert of French and Syrian descent, his suit alleges. Monteilh said he was given the code name “Oracle” and instructed to spy on the Islamic community.

To support his cover, Monteilh said he learned to read, write and speak Arabic, became well versed in the pillars of the Islamic faith and began dating Muslim women. After his successful immersion in the Muslim community, particularly at the Islamic Center of Irvine, Monteilh said he was approached by extremists who attempted to “radicalize” him. He says the information he provided led to the indictment of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi last February. According to an FBI agent who testified at Niazi’s bail hearing last year, Niazi was secretly recorded by an informant while initiating jihadist rhetoric and threatening to blow up abandoned buildings. Monteilh says he was the informant who made the recording — a claim the FBI will neither confirm nor deny.

Niazi, who was born in Afghanistan, has not been charged with terrorism. Rather, he was charged with lying on his citizenship and passport applications for failing to disclose that his brother-in-law is a close associate of Osama bin Laden. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Monteilh first went public with his charges in February, upsetting members of the Muslim community and some civil libertarians who were critical of the practice of informants being placed undercover in mosques. Those concerns were inflamed in April when Monteilh told The Times that he also lured Muslim men to Orange County gyms, where agents allegedly seized video of them coming and going as part of their probe.

Monteilh’s claims of working for the bureau in some capacity were confirmed in December when he persuaded a judge in West Covina to unseal court records showing that his probation in a theft case was terminated early at the behest of the FBI in 2007.

A transcript of a hearing in the case revealed that a prosecutor told the judge that Monteilh had provided “very, very valuable information” that had proven “essential” to a federal prosecution.

scott.glover@latimes.com

12-5

Muslim American Convention

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS Southern California Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Convention

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

With the twin scourges of Islamophobia and racism prevalent in the United States and with the media acting as an echo chamber, a great burden is placed on individuals and groups who seek to speak the truth about Islam and the nature of the crises that effect us domestically and internationally.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), created in 1988, is one such organization. MPAC was formed to work for the civil rights of Muslim Americans and to facilitate their entry into American pluralism. MPAC works at the national as well as the grassroots level and has won the trust and respect of the Muslim and non Muslim community. MPAC has become an information source for those seeking to understand Islam and seeking also to put current events in their proper perspective.

MPAC held its ninth annual convention in Long Beach, Ca. this past Saturday. The event brought a capacity audience to attend workshops and listen to speakers, expert in their fields, and who provided insight and education into topics taken from today’s headlines. The title of the convention was: “With Change come Challenges.”

After thought provoking and informative workshops, the event ended with a banquet featuring Congressman Andre Carson (D,IN), awards, and entertainment.

Among the presenters (but not limited to) were Dr. Maher Hathout, a retired physician celebrated in the Muslim and non Muslim community for his dedication to peace and human rights and for his interfaith work. Dr. Hathout is the MPAC Senior Advisor, an author, and a sought after speaker.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the Editor-in Chief of The Muslim Observer, a weekly English language Muslim newspaper. He was recently elected vice president of the Muslim Council of America, a new organization which serves Muslims in the arena of policy and political affairs. Dr. Abdullah is active in Islamic affairs in Nevada which activity also includes being secretary of the Interfaith Council of Nevada.

Dr. Laila Al Marayati is a physician and the Chairperson of KinderUSA, an organization dedicated to the well being of children, focusing in particular on the children of Palestine. Dr. Al Marayati is also the spokesperson for the Muslim Women’s League, a Los Angeles group which seeks to strengthen the role of Muslim women.

Haris Tarin of MPAC is that group’s Community Development Director. Mr Tarin has traveled extensively and has spoken at various symposia on the topic of Islam and the Muslim community.

“Fort Hood: A Defining Moment” was the topic of an afternoon panel. Most of the audience spoke among themselves before the event began and indicated thoughtful interest in how the matter would be handled.

“I am so glad this is being discussed” said one young man to his companion.

“I know there is more than what the media say” said his companion.

When asked by panel moderator, Salaam Al Marayati, MPAC’s Executive Director, whether Muslims should respond to this event, Dr. Maher Hathout declared that Muslims should not be apologetic because of the deranged acts of one man who happened to be Muslim. He reminded his audience that Major Nidal Hasan shouted  “Allahu Akbar” before he began his killing spree.  He said that if he used those two words now, every non Muslim would run out of the room.Yet Muslims use the same two words forty two times a day during their prayers. It is wrong to tar Muslims with a broad brush as the media have been wont to do. Non Muslims, most of whom do not understand the phrase, and its meaning, “God is Greater”, automatically fear it. Muslims are an essential part of the solution to the problem of Muslim extremists. They are essential to the education of non Muslims about Islam and the only ones truly qualified to ascertain when there is extremism and to propose effective solutions.

Dr. Connie Rice, an attorney and activist and a second panel member, said that this incident indicates more than ever the essential role that MPAC and other moderate Muslim groups must play in partnering with law enforcement. This places a terrible burden on MPAC, she said,  but one which they will willingly and efficiently carry out. She seconded the presentation of Dr. Hathout in presenting the necessity for groups such as MPAC to educate the community about Islam and to partner with law enforcement.

After the panel MPAC received an award from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Dr. Maher Hathout accepted the award.

During a particularly timely panel on “”Rebuilding US-Muslim World Relations”, a State Department official, Jonathan Morgenstein of the Department of Defense, commented that in Iraq and Afghanistan American soldiers were interacting with the local population. Dr. Laila Al Marayati commented that it would be so much better if these men and women were doing so in the capacity of peace corps volunteers and not as occupiers.

A bazaar was held in the main room and featured booths representing different Islamic groups. These booths include (the list is incomplete): CAIR; Islamic Relief; the Muslim Women’s League; ACCESS; American Medical Overseas Relief (AMOR); the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) Youth Programs, and Al-Madinah School. AMOR is dedicated to helping the medically needy in the Middle East with emphasis on children in Afghanistan. It may be accessed at: <www.AMORelief.org>.  The Al-Madinah school in Los Angeles is currently engaged in building projects that will be in the heart of urban Los Angeles.

Those wishing to learn more about MPAC and/or to make a contribution may access it at: www.mpac.org.

11-51

Major Donor to Israel Causes Pleads Guilty…

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Philanthropist pleads guilty to bribes

JTA

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Elliott Broidy, a leading investor in the Israeli economy and major donor and activist in the Los Angeles Jewish community, pleaded guilty Thursday to the felony charge of rewarding official misconduct.

According to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Broidy admitted that he made nearly $1 million in payoffs to four senior New York state officials as he pursued an investment from the state public pension fund. He has agreed to forfeit $18 million in management fees and a judge may impose a sentence of up to four years in prison following Broidy’s guilty plea, the Wall Street Journal reported. The development is part of Cuomo’s wide-ranging pay-to-play probe on whether decisions about how to invest retirees’ money in the giant pension fund were wrongly influenced by money and politics.

Cuomo said that Broidy has acknowledged paying at least $75,000 for high-price luxury trips to Italy and Israel for a top official in the New York State Comptroller and his relatives. Several media sources quoted unnamed sources identifying the official as the former comptroller Alan Hevesi; his lawyer reportedly declined to comment.

By raising $800 million, Broidy turned his Markstone Capital Group into the largest private equity fund in Israel, at a time when the intifada was at its height and most investors were shunning the Jewish state. In Los Angeles, Broidy has been a major donor to the United Jewish Fund and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a trustee of the University of Southern California and USC Hillel, and has served on the Hebrew Union College board of governors and as a trustee of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

He is credited with revitalizing the dormant California-Israel Chamber of Commerce in the mid-1990s, together with Stanley Gold and Stanley Chais. Gold is president and CEO of Shamrock Holdings and outgoing president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Chais, a large contributor to Israeli and Jewish causes, faces three legal actions as an alleged middleman for Bernard Madoff.

Broidy has also been a GOP heavy hitter, serving as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a top fund raiser for the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush in 2004 Sen. John McCain in 2008.

Gold said that he has known Broidy for some 20 years and worked with him on behalf of the local Jewish federation and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, as well as the California-Israel Chamber of Commerce. “Elliott has given freely of his time and energy to the community, of which he has been an outstanding member,” Gold said. “Our hearts go out to him and his family at this difficult time.”

Gold added, “Elliott is a decent and good man. It is not my style to desert a friend in his hour of need.”

Broidy’s New York attorney Christopher Clark issued a statement saying that his client “regrets the actions that brought about this course of events, but is pleased to have resolved this matter with the New York Attorney General and will be cooperating in the ongoing investigation.”

Clark also said that Broidy has “resigned from all operational, supervisory, and other roles at the firm of Markstone Partners in order to focus his attention on legal matters.”

11-51

Successful CAIR Banquet/Fundraiser

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

cair_logo-california
In the current atmosphere of Islamophobia – an Islamophobia that has reached epidemic proportions -organizations that educate about Islam and work tirelessly for the civil rights of Muslims, play a crucial role in American life. One such organization is the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Greater Los Angeles CAIR held a highly successful banquet/fundraiser in Anaheim as two thousand people gathered to help this Muslim advocacy group celebrate its 13th annual event. Nearly half a million dollars – CAIR’s goal – was raised during the evening to support CAIR in its essential work.

State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) gave the opening remarks. He encouraged Muslims to become active on the political scene.

Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca, thanked the Muslim community for its prayers on behalf of the victims of the Fort Hood tragedy. Representatives from government at the local, state and federal level were also in attendance.

Twin keynote addresses by CAIR National Chair Larry Shaw and former Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) were warmly received by the audience.

Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of Greater Los Angeles CAIR, spoke on the need for Muslims to become engaged in public life.

“Today our work is not about merely protecting your right to work, travel, and worship, although this is still a critical part of our mission. It is to a great extent, about carving our place in society, ensuring our seat at the table, even if a tiny minority wants us out.”

The attendees saw a film detailing the work of CAIR with particular emphasis on CAIR’s work with youth.

During the evening three awards were given out. The 2009 Courage in Media Award was presented to David Eggers, the author of “Zeitoun”, a non fiction account of Muslim American Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina struck and his subsequent jailing and humiliation.

The 2009 Bridge Builder Award was presented to Kathy and Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a couple whose story was presented in the above referenced work “Zeitoun.”

The 2009 Excellence in Leadership Award was presented to Atif Moon, a resident of Ranch Palos Verde. His physical limitations have not prevented him from serving his community and being an inspiration to young Muslims.

CAIR was founded in 1994 to work on behalf of the civil rights of Muslims and to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America.

The Greater Los Angeles area CAIR may be accessed on the Internet at: info@losangeles.cair.com.

11-49

Profiles in Courage: Atif Moon

November 17, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

595DAtif M. Moon of California was recently honored as one of the top ten outstanding Americans by the United States Chamber of Commerce. His story is one of courage and determine to overcome all odds.

Born with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the spinal cord, Atif M. Moon, 24, was given no chance of survival. After three surgeries at the age of one month, he was left paralyzed from the waist down and became wheelchair bound. Moon had three more surgeries at ages 13, 15, and 16 to stabilize his spinal cord, but has not allowed his physical condition to restrict him from living a full life.

Moon currently works for Bertech Industries, an Electronic Distribution company, doing Online Marketing and will be pursuing a Masters degree in Sport Management in Spring 2010. After graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Business Economics in 2007, he went on to work for NBC at the Tonight Show as well as in Marketing and Product Development. While in school, he served as an intern for Fox Sports TV as well as the Los Angeles Kings. In the Fall of 2006, Moon had the wonderful opportunity to work on behalf of the President by being selected as a White House Intern.

Moon has been involved in sports from his early childhood, participating in a 5K-wheelchair race in 1990 at the age of 5 and then going on to actively participate in wheelchair tennis tournaments around the country. He won his first major tournament in 1998, and since then has been ranked among the top Junior Wheelchair Tennis players in the nation.

Atif_with_JohnWeber_President_USJuniorChamber

As a Co-Founder of the Center for Global Understanding (CFGU), a non-advocacy, non-religious organization to encourage the Muslim American youth to participate in civic engagement, Moons focus has been to provide scholarships for college-level students to intern in Washington, D.C., to understand and learn about America’s institutions of democracy. With the ultimate goal of providing a way to bring people together and help Muslim Americans get engaged in public policy, poverty, health, and education issues, Moon feels that Muslim Americans should play a significant role to make this world a better place.

Moon resides in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

The Ten Outstanding Young Americans program (TOYA) is one of the oldest and most prestigious recognition programs in America. Annually since 1938, The United States Jaycees has sought out the ten young men and women who best exemplify the finest attributes of Americas youthful achievers.

Many notables have been honored as Outstanding Young Americans in the past including Presidents John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton, and Vice Presidents Al Gore, Dan Quayle, and Richard Cheney. Also honored were Howard Hughes, Orson Wells, Elvis Presley, Nelson Rockefeller, Ted Kennedy, dogsled champion Susan Butcher, and actors Christopher Reeve, and Shannon Reed.

11-48

Mass Killers and Media

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

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

Who is in right mind will commit an act attributed to Major Nidal Malik Hasan? Why did he commit such an act when the alleged shooter had sought discharge from the army? Who in his right mind will condone such a criminal act? Regardless of what the motives were, the insane killing of soldiers at Fort Hood is rightly condemned by all Muslim organizations unanimously. Not every act of violence committed by KKK is condemned by people of white skin. Not every act of killing by blacks is condemned by organizations such as NAACP. Not every murder committed in a free society like us is condemned by organizations promoting democracy and freedom. If we as a country with billions of dollars resources spent on law enforcement agencies have failed to prevent groups such as KKK or gun violence or mass murderers, why does any body except 1.6 billion Muslims to be responsible of the behavior of their insane, and crazy people.

But somehow the impression that is being created by the media and propagated by the right wing Christian extremists is that 1.6 billion Muslims are responsible for what was done by Nidal Malik Hasan, as their holy book is the main reason for his behavoior. Well, why donot they also attribute to Islam and the Quran the act of kindness, mercy and forgiveness offered by Muslims to the people regardless of their ethnic or religious background? Look at how Islam and Muslims were demonized by the media.

* Suspected mass murderer Nidal Malik Hasan: Identified as a Muslim American of Jordanian or Palestinian Descend, a sympathizer of suicide bombing, a convert to Islam, a Jihadist, a true believer in the Quran, a practicing Muslim, a promoter of Al-Qaida ideology, a member of a terrorist sleeper cell and so on so forth.

Look at the pattern of news reporting about mass killers in our national and local media listed below and then tell me who is distorting facts? Tell me who is misleading the public? Tell me who is sowing the seeds of hatred. Some of them will say, Aslam Abdullah, because he is a Muslim American, a Middle Eastern by ethnicity and a covert terrorist. Can any sensible American accept their claim? Yes, only those who see Muslims and Islam as their new enemy. These are people who are trapped in the history of the past and refuse to look at Islam and Muslims from an objective, balanced and fair perspective.

Let’s start with another shooting incident that follows on the heels of the Fort Hood incident:

* November 06, 2009, Florida police have arrested a suspect believed to have opened fire Friday in the offices of an engineering firm where he was let go more than two years ago. Authorities have identified the alleged gunman as Jason Rodriguez, 40, a former employee at the office building. Did any news media identify him as an American of Hispanic decent?

* On March 10, 2009, Michael McLendon set fire to the rural south Alabama home he shared with his mother with her body inside. He then set off on a 24-mile shooting spree during which he fired more than 200 rounds and killed 10 more people, including himself. Was he ever described by the media or officials as an American Protestant?

* On April 3, 2009, a Vietnam immigrant killed 13 people and then himself in a shooting spree at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York. Did anyone call him a Vietcong terrorist?

* In the year of 1989, in two separate incidents, Westley Allen Dodd sexually assaulted and killed three boys ages 11, 10 and four. His methods were so heinous, forensic psychologists dubbed him one of the most evil killers in history. Did anyone call him Christian killer?

* Jeffrey Dahmer was responsible for a series of gruesome murders of seventeen young men in Ohio and Milwaukee. Who called him a Christian murderer? No one!

* Why Ray and Faye Copeland, both in their 70s, went from being loving grandparents to serial killers who used the clothing of their victims to make a warm winter quilt to snuggle under is a story both morbid and perplexing. Did anyone describe them American terrorists?

* Dean Corll was a 33-year-old electrician living in Houston, Texas, who, with two teen accomplices, was responsible for kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering at least 27 young boys in Houston in the early 1970s. – No one called him an evangelical terrorist?

* Accompanied by his girlfriend Debra Brown, Alton Coleman went on a six-state raping and killing spree in 1984. – He was not described as a Christian rapist?

* Angelo Buono, Jr. was, along with his cousin Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers who went on a two month rape, torture and murder spree in 1977, in California. – Was he identified with his religion and ethnicity?

* Jerry Brudos was a shoe fetishist, serial killer, rapist, torturer and necrophiliac who stalked women around Portland, Oregon in 1968 and 1969. – Should we blame the people of Oregon and call him an Oregonian rapist?

* In 1984, at age 21, Debra Brown became involved in a master/slave relationship with habitual killer and rapist Alton Coleman and the two went on a massive killing, raping and torture spree across the Midwest. – No one ever mentioned his race or religion.

* William Bonin was a habitual sex offender turned serial killer, suspected of sexually assaulting, torturing and killing at least 21 boys and young men in California. He was convicted and executed for 14 of the 21 murders. – No one talked about his affiliation to his local Church.

* Herbert Richard “Herb” Baumeister (April 7, 1947 – July 3, 1996) was the founder of the thrift store chain Sav-a-Lot and an alleged serial killer from suburban Westfield, Indiana. – His conservative background never came into discussion.

* Ronald Dominique of Houma, Louisiana confessed to murdering 23 men over the past nine years and dumping their bodies in sugarcane fields, ditches and small bayous in six southeast Louisiana parishes. – Yet, his Christian religious identity never came into discussion.

* Kristen Gilbert was a bright, attractive, well-trained nurse who, in 2001 was found guilty of killing her patients at a Veterans Administration medical center. – Did the media release footage of his visit to his place of worship? No

* Eagle Scout turned serial killer, Richard Angelo, killed patients in order to make himself out to be a hero.- Did anyone raise doubts about Scouting? No one!

* Helmuth Schmidt killed innocent women he lured through personal ads. – Did anyone blame the media for being an accomplice of the crime.

* The Lewington brothers were one of Ohio’s most deadly brutal serial killers of all time. – Did anyone bring about their Church affiliation? No one!

* Albert Fish is known for being one of the most vile pedophiles and killers of all time. After his capture he admitted to molesting over 400 children and tortured and killed several others. – Did the media talk about his religious pastor discussing his personal life?

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* Tedd Bundy was attractive, smart, and had a future in politics. He was also one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history. Bundy screamed his innocence until his death in the electric chair was imminent. Then he told just enough to show the true evil inside him.- Yet no one in the media talked about his race or religion.

* Richard Ramirez, was named The Night Stalker, after terrorizing Los Angeles during a year long killing and rape spree that resulted in his conviction of 43 counts, including 13 murders and other charges including burglary, sodomy, and rape. – Yet no one talked about Satanism he was preaching and practicing.

* John Wayne Gacy was convicted of the torture, rape and murder of 33 men between 1972 until his arrest in 1978. He was dubbed the “Killer Clown” because he entertained kids at parties as “Pogo The Clown.” – Did anyone blame all the clowns for his behavior.

* Gaskins confessed to several murders during the last days of his life. How much truth was in his confessions was never confirmed. Many believed he did not want to be known in history as a tiny man, but rather as a prolific killer. – He was a devout Christian but we never heard of his religious convictions.

* David Berkowitz, better known as Son of Sam, is an infamous 1970s New York City serial killer who killed six people and wounded several others because a demon dog told him to do it. – Should we assume from his last name that he was of Jewish origin?

* The Plainfield, Wisconsin police department had no idea of the grotesque world they were about to enter when they went to Ed Gein’s farm home to investigate the disappearance of a local woman. Gein’s crimes went down in history as some of the most disgusting ever uncovered that encompassed murder, grave robbing and cannibalism. – Yet, no one ever mentioned that he was a Church goer.

* Juan Corona was a labor contractor who hired migrant workers for produce fields in California. In a murder spree lasting six weeks, he raped and murdered 25 men and buried their machete-hacked bodies in the orchards owned by local farmers. – No one blamed hedonism or homosexuality for his crimes.

* In late October 1979, California authorities were busy hunting down and capturing The Hillside Strangler, Angelo Buono. In the meantime, two more equally barbaric killers had teamed up to fulfill a prison time fantasy – to kidnap, rape, torture and kill a girl for each teenage year. – Yet, we did not hear of their worshipping habits.

* On October 26, 2005, Jeremy Bryan Jones was convicted of the rape, burglary, sexual abuse, kidnapping and capital murder of Lisa Nichols. He now faces prosecution for the murder of Katherine Collins of Georgia and Amanda Greenwell of Douglas County, Ga. Police suspect Jones is a serial killer who may be linked to at least 10 other murders across the country. – No one discussed his faith and ethnicity.

* For month authorities from Utah, Washington, and Colorado worked together to find the serial killer named “Ted” who was brutally killing women everywhere he went, using their kindness to lead them into his trap. – Yet no one blamed Christianity for impacting the mind of the killer.

* Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins was the most prolific serial killer in South Carolina history. Once his brutality was unleashed, he knew no boundaries, torturing, killing, cannibalizing victims, both male and female. – No one talked about those verses in the Old Testament that degrades women, even though several versions of the Bible were found in his custody.

* Pedro Alonzo Lopez, known as the ‘The Monster of the Andes,’ was one of history’s most horrific serial killers. He responsible for the brutal murders of over 350 children. He bragged of his crimes and promised to do it again if ever released from prison. – Yet in the middle of the night he was taken from prison to a van then driven to the Columbia border and set free. We never heard of his Catholic affiliation.

* Turner is the most prolific serial killer in the history of Los Angeles but was finally identified through DNA technology. – But no one identified his religion.

* No one could believe that the child-like face of John Eric Armstrong, nicknamed ‘Opie’ by his navy friends, was really the face of a cold and calculating serial killer. – But no one talked about his religious practices.

* Jack the Ripper, a serial killer murdered and mutilated at least five prostitutes in the East End of London in 1888 and because no one was ever, arrested or tried for the murders, crime buffs are still fascinated with the case more than 115 years later. – His religious background is unknown.

* It is estimated Shipman was responsible for 236 murders over 24 years, finally ending in 1998.- Yet, we never heard of his affiliation to Judaism or any other faith.

“Most of the time I killed them the first time I met them, and I do not have a good memory of their faces.” This is just one of many cold statements made by Gary Ridgway, when he pled guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the Green River killing cases. – Yet little is known about his faith and Church.

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Community News (V11-I45)

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Kentucky Christians, Muslims unite to knock out crime

LOUISVILLE–Muslim and Christian leaders in Louisville and Lexington are putting up a united front against crime in the two cities.

The group held a meeting on Tuesday night aimed at “stopping the killing and accept responsibility.”

One minister said that starts with every resident accepting responsibility for the condition of the community and working together to make a positive impact.

He said it’s important to hold everyone accountable including politicians and average citizens.

The group hopes to start a plan called “manhood training,” which seeks to reach out to drug dealers and gang members.

Decision on Naperville mosque delayed

NAPERVILLE, IL–The DuPage County Board has delayed its decision on the Irshad Learning Center for two weeks. The latter had requested for a conditional use permit on unincorporated land.

The mosque project has been delayed ever since was placed before the county last year. It was turned down twice by the Zoning Board of Appeal. It was then approved in a unanimous decision by the board’s development committee last week.

According to committee chairman Tony Michelassi, District 5 representative from Aurora, the legal counsel wants any permit issued by the county to specify that the center would be allowed to use only the structures that already exist on the three-acre parcel. Without that limitation spelled out, the center could add on as it wishes.

The County Board’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 on the third floor of the Jack T. Knuepfer Administration Building, 421 County Farm Road, Wheaton.

Lodi parents concerned about food choices

LODI, CA –Parents of children at Lodi’s Heritage Primary Elementary have voiced their concerns over the menu choices at the school. They have asked the school authorities to allow them to accompany their children to the state-operated pre-school program so that they can help their children avoid haram foods.

The parent’s request was made to the Lodi Unified school board meeting.

According to Lodi News 12 percent of the school’s population is Muslim. At present the school doesn’t have any halal meat options on its menu.

The school authorities say that they are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

Journalist Alison Weir visits University of Michigan-Flint

FLINT, MI–Journalist Alison Weir, who is also the creator of ifAmericansknew.org, gave a presentation on the plight of Palestinians at the University of Michigan-Flint campus. The event was hosted by the Muslim Students Association, reported the Michigan Times.

“MSA’s focus in this event was to educate students about the Palestine-Israel conflict as well as the media’s skewed approach to the issue,” said Leila Tarakji, senior honors biology and English major and president of MSA. “We encourage our members as well as all students on campus to be aware of injustices that take place both domestically and internationally. We also urge students to seek more information and draw their own conclusions as opposed to absorbing the media without reservation.”

If AmericansKnew.org is advertised as an educational tool for people who want to go beyond the headlines.

California Muslims join rally against Neo-Nazis

ANAHEIM, CA–The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), along with members of the Riverside Muslim community, joined a rally on Saturday against neo-Nazis who had gathered to protest undocumented day laborers.

The organizers of the counter-protest said more than 600 members of diverse faiths and backgrounds joined the rally to speak out against the hatred and bigotry espoused by the neo-Nazis.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, who attended the rally with his children, said:

“It’s important for all Americans — whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Asian,, African-American, or other — to strongly and vehemently speak out against the hatred and bigotry of those who seek to dehumanize others.

“I brought my teenage children with me to the counter-protest to make sure they never take for granted the sacrifices of early civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez.

“With the continued economic downturn, anti-immigrant and racist groups are increasingly promoting anti-immigrant sentiment by unfairly blaming immigrants — documented or otherwise — for ‘stealing’ American jobs.

“CAIR-LA rejects such scapegoating and calls for immigration reforms that preserve the dignity and respect of immigrants and their families.

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KinderUSA Event for Gaza

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

The deteriorating situation in Gaza is of primary concern to humanitarians throughout the world. Unfortunately the Israeli dominated media have done little to present to the public the true picture of present life in Gaza, often and correctly labeled “the world’s largest outdoor prison.”

A number of charitable organizations have been on the ground in Gaza doing humanitarian work, though such work constitutes only a fraction of what is needed. None of the much vaunted aid pledged to Gaza has been received. KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief) is one such organization.

KinderUSA held a successful Ramadan Iftar and fund raiser at Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque in Los Angeles this past weekend.

Titled: “Working Together, Rebuilding Lives”, the event filled the mosque’s Abu Dawood Hall as attendees listened to KinderUSA Chair, Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, and keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley describe the dire situation in Gaza. The scope of the presentations focused on  Gaza’s continuing deterioration begun by Israel’s deliberate isolation of Gaza following the successful election of Hamas and exacerbated by Operation Cast Lead. The latter was a month long siege which began in late December of last year.

Dr. Al-Marayati, speaking in front of a video screen, gave some background on KinderUSA and its accomplishments since its founding in 2002. She emphasized the low overhead – 20% – of most projects. With respect to Ramadan projects, 100% of monies collected is used for charitable work. Contributions to KinderUSA qualify as Zakat.

KinderUSA is unique in that instead of goods and services, vouchers are given. These vouchers give greater choice to the recipients, and they can tailor the purchases to their particular needs. Since purchases are made from local merchants, this system also strengthens local communities.

KinderUSA also supports projects for women who are heads of households. Women who are pregnant are provided with special meals, and baked goods are delivered to impoverished families. More than 80% of Gazans are dependent on outside aid.

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel attacked mosques, residential areas, and schools. The infrastructure was destroyed, and Gaza residents were left to live in tents.

Dr. Al-Marayati introduced Dr. Hatem Bazian. Dr. Bazian is the founder of the Berkeley Center for the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia and a Senior lecturer for Near Eastern and Asian American Studies.

Dr. Bazian expressed his admiration for KinderUSA and told of his support for the organization since its founding. He spoke of the Palestinian Diaspora and mentioned in particular the number of Palestinians in South America. He remarked ironically that “Palestinians have been forced to conduct most of their politicking outside of Palestine.”

Dr. Bazian referenced former President and peace activist Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter has said that there is no question that Israel is responsible for the bloodshed in Gaza.

The audience gasped as Dr. Bazian told of the destruction of Gaza’s electrical plant six months before Operation Cast Lead, which destruction has made Gaza totally dependent of Israel for electricity.

“I didn’t know that.” said one young woman to her table mate. “You don’t read that in the newspaper or see it on TV” replied the other woman.

There has been a lack of courage to take Israel to task, Dr. Bazian continued. The Palestinians do not have control in Gaza, the Israelis do. The speaker referenced Israel’s dismay over Hamas’  electoral victory – their justification for continuing control. He brought laughter from his audience when he postulated an analogous situation vis a vis other nations who may have disapproved of former President George Bush’s victory at the polls. But Israel, of course, plays by its own rules.

Israel, the speaker asserted, wants to starve Gaza into submission. Israel has violated numerous codes of International law. Yet they are not called to answer for these violations. He urged people to speak up. Silence will only help Israel retain the status quo.

Successful fundraising took place. The attendees enjoyed an excellent Middle Eastern meal and were actively engaged in discussion at the end of the event.

KinderUSA is a 501 (c) (3) organization. To learn more of KinderUSA’s work, please access them at: www.kinderusa.org

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California Dodges Bullet with Budget Deal–for Now

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Henderson and Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California’s state budget deal is a bet its economy, the world’s eighth-largest, will rebound — but that’s not likely to happen soon.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and top lawmakers agreed Monday to close a $26 billion budget gap, largely with $15 billion in spending cuts, with many pushed into future years.

“They are waiting for the economy to bail them out,” said Chris Ryon, a fund manager at Thornburg Investment who sees “a lot of risk” for investors in California debt.

The budget deal would let the state start traditional borrowing again, although state officials were waiting for the legislature to pass the deal before saying when they will tap the debt market.

Meanwhile, the state is still paying its way with IOUs and must contend with the financial effects of double-digit unemployment and foreclosures dominating its housing market.

“Unemployment, unfortunately, probably hasn’t peaked yet,” said Nuveen Investments fund manager Paul Brennan, who views the budget as a bet that better times are around the corner.

California’s revenues rely heavily on personal income taxes and tend to swing strongly. Google Inc’s initial public offering helped fuel a bumper year for taxes, so if the state economy recovers, revenue could grow quickly.

But economist Steve Levy says California’s economy likely will remain weak for some time and the state government’s main problem will persist — that its citizens and government can not agree on the level of public services to provide.

“We are a state in gridlock, in disagreement,” said Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Lawsuits Ready

Around the state, uncertainty greeted the budget agreement. Its details were sparse while rank-and-file lawmakers reviewed the deal for potential votes in the state Assembly and Senate by Thursday.

But opposition formed quickly to some of the plan’s proposals, such as taking roughly $4 billion from cities and counties for state needs. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, for instance, voted Tuesday to sue the state to stop proposed cuts to the county’s share of the state highway tax and community redevelopment funds.

The California State Association of Counties said it would mull a lawsuit as well and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed told Reuters that his city, the 10th-largest in the nation, also is “committed to participating in a lawsuit” to keep the state from grabbing its money.

“They are probably in violation of the (state) Constitution in taking our redevelopment funds, in violation of the law in taking our highway users tax,” Reed said.

In addition to concerns about losing money to the state, county officials fear losing state aid for health and human service programs they must provide.

“Make no mistake, under this budget scenario counties cannot uniformly ensure the delivery of critical health, public safety and other vital local services,” said Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California State Association of Counties.

To Buy or Not

Once a budget is signed, state finance officials will decide on the kind of short-term debt the state will need to sell to raise money for cash-flow purposes.

Until then, plans for selling either revenue anticipation notes or revenue anticipation warrants are on hold, said State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

Nevertheless, the budget deal came just in time, Lockyer told Reuters, and he sees lawmakers endorsing it. “Most of them understand we’re getting real close to the edge of the cliff here and we’d better wrap it up quickly.”

Standard & Poor’s analyst Gabriel Petek said the deal averted a certain downgrade next month by his rating agency, which has the state’s general obligation debt at A and CreditWatch with negative implications. “That was the trajectory it was on,” Petek said.

Investment analysts were split over the budget agreement and whether to buy California’s existing or new debt.

Dick Larkin, director of credit rating analysis at Herbert J. Sims Co Inc, said he suspects the agreement will end up deferring hard decisions about the state’s finances and a budget deficit will reemerge. “This is a pretty crappy budget to try to make the case to borrow billions of dollars over the next three months,” Larkin said.

Tom Tarabicos, a financial adviser at Wells Fargo Financial Advisors, said the deal failed to sway him from his dim view of California’s finances and their effect on the state’s bonds.

“This appears to me to be just a short-term reprieve,” Tarabicos said. “We’re going to maintain our distance.”

By contrast, Ken Naehu, head of fixed income at Bel Air Investment Advisors in Los Angeles, said the agreement should end speculation over whether California would not make payments on its debt service to bondholders.

Naehu said debt service payments were never in doubt as they are the state’s No. 2 payment priority as required by law and because the state’s revenues, albeit weak compared with a year earlier, were strong enough to support them.

“Why in the world would you cut your arm off and not make debt service payment when it’s such a small part of the budget?” Naehu said.

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China’s Rodney King Riots

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Vivian Po, New America Media

New America Media Editor’s Note: Tensions between Muslim Uighurs and majority Han Chinese escalated July 5 when a peaceful protest over the deaths of two Uighur workers in Southern China turned into riots, leaving at least 156 dead and more than 1,000 injured. China expert Dru C. Gladney, Ph.D., says the riots reflect longtime ethnic tensions caused by unequal resource distribution and employment. Gladney is president of the Pacific Basin Institute and professor of anthropology at Pomona College. His most recent book is “Dislocating China: Muslims, Minorities, and Other Subaltern Subjects” (2004). He was interviewed by NAM reporter Vivian Po.

2009-07-06T151310Z_01_DBG205_RTRMDNP_3_CHINA-XINJIANG

What was your first reaction when you learned about the riots in Xin Jiang?

I think it is quite remarkable. Mostly, incidents have taken place in the south of the province, so this is quite extraordinary to have such a high number of people involved in this many casualties, in the downtown district of Urumqi. This place has really a small Uighur population, about 11 to12 percent of the entire city population. Urumqi has never been a Uighur city. It is just one small district. I understand there is a sympathy riot in support of them in Kashgar, so it is interesting to see whether it will spread to the rest of the region.

What really caused the riot?

Clearly, there is a lot of tension underneath the surface. Though a lot of people make references to the uprising in Tibet, I think a better analogy is what happened in the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. There was a terrible beating of Rodney King, but there were so many other tensions in the city, racial tensions that were ignited by this incident. I think the Tibetan situation is different. It was much more internationally focused, monks were involved, and religion was a factor.

Is religion playing a part in this riot?

It is not. In the past, the problems of the region have been attributed to Islam and to complaints about religious freedom, independence, separatism and even jihad. But none of them seems to be an issue here. There are many complaints from the Uighurs about wanting more roles in government, and more freedom to practice religion, but that is not what prompted this riot.

The Uighurs organized the protest as a response to a fight that took place at a factory in Guangdong, after a Han Chinese man who used to work there accused Uighur men of raping two Han Chinese girls. How did relations between the Han and the Uighurs in China’s labor market contribute to this riot?

Labor is a very important issue in this whole situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Han Chinese man who accused the Uighurs of rape did it because he was angry over losing his job. Uighurs from Xin Jiang had jobs but he couldn’t get a job, so he made these allegations about rape that are totally unsubstantiated.

And Uighurs in Xin Jiang have complained that they get squeezed from both ends of the labor market, as both the skilled jobs go to the Han and then the unskilled and low-wage jobs go to the Han migrants, so Uighurs are really stuck in the middle. And when they go outside of the region to look for work, they are discriminated against and are not protected by the government. That was what a lot of the protests in Urumqi were about.

What is the Chinese government’s approach to ethnic minorities in China?

The policy and constitution in China are extremely enlightened and have some very positive policies for minorities, but the reality is that there is discontent. It is clear that these people have some legitimate concerns. You do not get that many people out on the streets if they are satisfied with their situations. So there are real problems.

How did technology play a role in the riot?

The role of the Internet in fostering Uighur national consciousness is very important. Now, Twitter and cell phones, YouTube and Youku, all this technology has made the region much more accessible. In the past, the region was very cut off and in some ways less accessible than Tibet because Tibet was a place people were interested in and people knew the history. Uighurs have always been isolated, and nobody really knew or cared about them. Now through technology, international organizations of exiled Uighur groups, as well as the media attention that the Uighur detainees in Guantanamo Bay have gotten, it has become a global issue.

The Chinese government claims political activist Rebiya Kadeer masterminded the riots. What do you think?

I think it is true that several international organizations, not just Rebiya’s, were engaged in this issue, but to suggest that any one of them has masterminded the event in Xin Jiang is very difficult to prove. I think the Chinese government is taking a cue from the Iranian situation, where they blamed the Americans for inciting people to go into the streets.

How would you compare the ethnic conflicts in China and those in the United States?

The Rodney King riots were an example of these extraordinary racial tensions. Hopefully we won’t have to wait for a Uighur to become president or premier of China before racial tensions improve. They run very deep. We also have the issue of the indigenous people here, like the Native Americans and their concerns, and many have similar problems such as joblessness and high mobility.

Is there any solution to the ethnic conflicts?

Uighurs are demanding a greater voice in their own affairs and greater representation. There are Uighurs in the government but they are handpicked by the party, so their real concerns aren’t being addressed. There are some policy issues the government could address, such as limiting Han migration, ensuring that Uighurs are given equal opportunities or even greater compensation for the mineral wealth that is extracted from their province. Residents of Xin Jiang should get some special privileges. Also, the Chinese have the “hukou” (household) residential privilege system where residents get certain benefits, such as education, and Uighurs do not feel they are getting those benefits in their autonomous region.

What do you think about the way China’s state-sanctioned media has approached covering the riots?

I find it quite striking that they immediately reported the uprising in the region. I think they’ve recognized the fact that they can’t keep a lid on the news anymore because of cell phones and easy access to media outlets. But you also see their bias. It is really extraordinary that the level of animosity between the Uighur and the Han population exhibits itself so clearly, so you can actually see Uighur men kicking a Han Chinese girl on TV. I am concerned that the reason this was shown on Chinese television, as opposed to a policeman beating protesters, was deliberate and can be very counterproductive.

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