As I See it

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Azher Quader

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As the Muslim world wrestles with dictatorial rulers to remove them from power and establish popular democracies, allowing for greater freedoms and greater choices, here in America an aging Muslim community of first generation immigrants are facing their own struggles, as they try to transition power at their mosques. Next to the zoning battles no other issue excites the emotions of the mosque goers more than the issue of choosing its new leaders.

Here in Chicago arguably one of the most mature Muslim communities in the country, the transition of power within our mosques is increasingly threatened with conflict. At the Muslim Community Center (MCC), perhaps the oldest mosque in the country run by an elected board of directors, the electoral decisions had sometimes to be litigated and settled in a court of law. The path for succession is no less controversial in those centers where the transition of leadership is without election. There too the inevitability of the moment and the inadequacy of the system to meet the expectations of the majority is coming to light.

Is it then appropriate to pause and ponder on where we are and whither we are going?  Is it right to win an argument within a core group of supporters or in front of a judge and claim victory over the people? Is it right to amend the rules to protect the turf and believe we have secured our future?  Is it right to concoct a system where choice is removed to eradicate dissent?

If we are serious about building institutions of trust and leaving a legacy of goodwill, we cannot be happy with these small wins. If we are committed to passing on the baton to the young, we cannot be scared to let go the reigns of power in the twilight of our lives. If we are committed to serving the welfare of the people we cannot be worried about the preservation of our selves. If we are the vicegerents of Him who gave us the freedom to choose in life, we cannot deny to others the same freedoms including the freedom to choose their leaders. Neither institutions nor nations are strengthened when choices are controlled and freedoms are abridged.

A nomination process which delivers no choices is no better than the Egyptian model of Mubarak against which the people ultimately revolted.

It is time we took a harder look at the way we are setting up systems to assure not only the smooth transition of power within our mosques but  also maintain  the highest traditions of freedom and choice.

May Allah guide us to be humble and fearless in the pursuit of right.

Azer Quader is Executive Director of Community Builders Chicago. ww.mycommunitybuilders.com.

13-45

Open Letter to Pres. Obama

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By  Charles Cecil

us_ambassador_chuck_cecil

A retired U.S. ambassador, sent this excellent letter to President Obama.

Dear Mr. President:

Just think for a minute—what would happen if the United States abstained when the Palestinian question comes before the UN Security Council in the next week or two?

The resolution would pass. The world would be stunned. The United States would enter an entirely new era in our relations with the Muslim countries of the world. The vision you outlined in Cairo for better relations with the Islamic world would take the largest step forward of your presidency. The United States would once again have regained the high moral ground we so often claim to occupy. The energies loosed by the “Arab spring” would continue to be devoted to their own domestic affairs rather than being diverted into condemning the United States.

We are hypocrites when we claim to want justice for the Palestinians but we do nothing meaningful to help achieve this.

On the other hand, if the United States vetoes the Palestinian request for statehood, we will damage our position in the Islamic world—not merely the Arab World—for untold years to come.  We will become the object of retribution throughout the Muslim world, and will give new energy to the lagging efforts of al-Qaida to retaliate against us. I served my country 36 years in the Foreign Service of the United States, ten assignments in ten Muslim countries. I know the power of this issue. Why would we want to give new impetus to anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world?

Mr. Netanyahu’s office has issued a statement saying “Peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations with Israel.” You know, and I know, that Mr. Netanyahu has no intention of concluding a just and fair peace with the Palestinian Authority.  His only concern is to continue the inexorable construction of more settlements, creating more “facts on the ground” until the idea of an independent Palestinian state becomes a mere memory of a bygone era. When Israel declared its independence in 1948 it did not do so after direct negotiations with Palestine. If Israel really wants to negotiate with the Palestinians, why would negotiating with an independent Palestinian government, on an equal footing, deter it from engaging in these negotiations?

The Reagan administration launched an international information campaign under the slogan “Let Poland be Poland.” It’s time we let Palestine be Palestine.

Abstain from this upcoming vote. Just think about it.

Sincerely yours,
Charles O. Cecil
U.S. Ambassador, retired

13-39

The Eternal Jihad is Doable

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karima Friedemann

Modern psychology seems to agree with Islam that there are two kinds of people in this world, ultimately: Power Over and Power Within people. Marriages and nations have been destroyed because of the conflict between these two human philosophies. It seems completely impossible that they could ever live in peace, because one viewpoint says that in order for me to win, you must lose. This is the viewpoint of Jahiliyyah. The other viewpoint says, “I can never win unless you win also.” In Islam we have learned that if even just a small part of your body hurts, the entire body cannot sleep. It is the classic domination vs. cooperation framework conflict. It is as old as time. It would take a philosopher to really delve into it, but basically, the Prophet (s) told us this struggle will go on until the end of time! This is the eternal inner jihad.

When the medieval Christian world came into contact with the Arabian and African Muslim world, they did not have a complete code of honor. Because Christ’s teachings involved turning the other cheek, there was no actual Christian law to govern war. Therefore, there were no boundaries. It is very similar to India’s meat industry today. Because eating meat according to Hinduism is a sin, there are no laws or ethics governing the treatment of cows in India. They treat it like an all or nothing situation.

As a result of Europe’s dance with the Muslims during the Anglo-Saxon period, Christians absorbed what they learned from their Islamic enemies and interpreted things in their peculiar ways. Europeans had never before seen women on or near the battlefield. The Muslim women who accompanied their husband “Saracens” on long journeys were described as promiscuous witches in traditional English literature. Yet curiously, indirectly, the Islamic hadith got indirectly written into the tales of King Arthur, who is the fictional equivalent in literature of our Imam Ali.

Ali (sa) is best known for refusing to kill the pagan enemy simply because he didn’t want to kill out of anger or ego, he would only kill for the sake of Allah. The man had spit on Ali’s face. Ali just let him go! Ali is the ultimate historical character across all nations that defined righteous behavior on the battlefield. The Anglo-Saxons after their experience with the Muslim world adopted the creed that war was supposed to be about freeing prisoners, feeding widows and orphans and helping the needy and oppressed, and this wisdom was spread throughout Europe through the tales of King Arthur. Before Christians came into contact with Islam, they thought war was just about killing people for power and commercial products. They didn’t accept Islam directly but they rewrote their own teachings to include the Islamic wisdom indirectly.

There are even earlier teachings in Islam that involve this basic human conflict between ignorance and reason. The Prophet Sulayman (as) when approaching the Queen of Sheba in marriage made it clear that the pagan system of her empire was going to have to submit to Islam if she wanted peace with her neighbors. There truly cannot be any compromise between hedonistic materialism and the prophetic way. They are like night and day.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D writes in an article about Good Self Esteem, “Our society often confuses personal power – “power within” – with “power over,” which is about controlling others. There is a vast difference between personal power and control. Personal power comes from an inner sense of security, from knowing who you are in your soul, from having defined your own intrinsic worth. It is the power that flows through you when you are connected to and feel your oneness with a spiritual source of guidance. It is the power that is the eventual result of doing deep inner emotional and spiritual work to heal the fears and false beliefs acquired in childhood.”

All people on earth are obligated by the promise that they made before time with Adam (as) in front of God to do this work of inner searching towards guidance and ultimate truth, including banishing the false teachings of our childhoods. There are no excuses. According to Islam, nobody has the right to say they didn’t realize they were supposed to do this in their lifetime. We made that promise to God before birth.

Dr. M. Paul continues: “Even if you do manage to have some control through anger, criticism, judgment, or money, this will never give you personal power – When the soul has dominion over the body, you have the power to manifest your dreams, to stay centered in the face of attack, to remain loving in the face of fear. When the soul has dominion over the body, you have tremendous personal power.”

Every person who is serious about their role on this earth is going to have to learn how to control their animalistic impulses especially when feeling wronged. We cannot make rational decisions about how to deal with a situation until we let go of our attachment to knowing we were wronged.

The animal instincts of fight or flight – the instincts of the body – often have dominion over our choices, but these reactions are largely caused by adrenaline. After prolonged periods of adrenaline stimulation without any change in the situation, the immune system begins to shut down. It is a huge journey to learn how to stand up to injustice without losing your center of control within.

13-37

Another Theocracy in the Muslim World

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Uri Avnery

I am fed up with all this nonsense about recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

It is based on a collection of hollow phrases and vague definitions, devoid of any real content. It serves many different purposes, almost all of them malign.

Benjamin Netanyahu uses it as a trick to obstruct the establishment of the Palestinian state. This week he declared that the conflict just has no solution. Why? Because the Palestinians do not agree to recognize, etc., etc.

Four rightist members of the Knesset have just submitted a bill empowering the government to refuse to register new NGOs and to dissolve existing ones if they deny the Jewish character of the state.
This new bill is only one of a series designed to curtail the civil rights of Arab citizens, as well as those of leftists.

If the late Dr. Samuel Johnson were living in present-day Israel, he would phrase his famous dictum about patriotism differently: Recognition of the Jewish character of the state is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

In Israeli parlance, denying the Jewish character of the state is tantamount to the worst of all political felonies: to claim that Israel is a state of all its citizens.

To a foreigner, this may sound a bit weird. In a democracy, the state clearly belongs to all its citizens. Mention this in the United States, and you are stating the obvious. Mention this in Israel, and you are treading dangerously close to treason. (So much for our much-vaunted common values.)

As a matter of fact, Israel is indeed a state of all its citizens. All adult Israeli citizens-and only they-have the right to vote for the Knesset. The Knesset appoints the government and determines the laws.

It has enacted many laws declaring that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. In ten or in a hundred years, the Knesset could hoist the flag of Catholicism, Buddhism, or Islam. In a democracy, it is the citizens who are sovereign, not a verbal formula.

What formula? one may well ask.

The courts favor the words Jewish and democratic state. But that is far from being the only definition around.

The most widely used is just Jewish state. But that is not enough for Netanyahu and Co., who speak about the nation-state of the Jewish people, which has a nice 19th-century ring. The state of the Jewish people is also quite popular.

The one thing that all these brand -names have in common is that they are perfectly imprecise. What does Jewish mean? A nationality, a religion, a tribe? Who are the Jewish people? Or, even more vague, the Jewish nation? Does this include the congressmen who enact the laws of the United States? Or the cohorts of Jews who are in charge of U.S. Middle East policy? Which country does the Jewish ambassador of the UK in Tel Aviv represent?

The courts have been wrestling with the question: where is the border between Jewish and democratic? What does democratic mean in this context? Can a Jewish state really be democratic, or, for that matter, can a democratic state really be Jewish? All the answers given by learned judges and renowned professors are contrived, or, as we say in Hebrew, they stand on chickens legs.

Lets go back to the beginning: the book written in German by Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, and published in 1896. He called it Der Judenstaat.

Unfortunately, this is a typical German word that is untranslatable. It is generally rendered in English as The Jewish State or The State of the Jews. Both are quite false. The nearest approximation would be The Jewstate.

If this sounds slightly anti-Semitic, this is not by accident. It may come as a shock to many, but the word was not invented by Herzl. It was first used by a Prussian nobleman with an impressive name Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitzwho died 23 years before Herzl was even born. He was a dedicated anti-Semite long before another German invented the term anti-Semitism as an expression of the healthy German spirit.

Marwitz, an ultra-conservative general, objected to the liberal reforms proposed at the time. In 1811 he warned that these reforms would turn Prussia into a Judenstaat, a Jewstate. He did not mean that Jews were about to become a majority in Prussia, God forbid, but that moneylenders and other shady Jewish dealers would corrupt the character of the country and wipe out the good old Prussian virtues.

Herzl himself did not dream of a state that belongs to all the Jews in the world. Quite the contrary-his vision was that all real Jews would go to the Judenstaat (whether in Argentina or Palestine, he had not yet decided). They-and only they-would thenceforth remain Jews. All the others would become assimilated in their host nations and cease altogether to be Jews.

Far, far indeed from the notion of a nation-state of the Jewish people as envisioned by many of today’s Zionists, including those millions who do not dream of immigrating to Israel.

When I was a boy, I took part in dozens of demonstrations against the British government of Palestine. In all of them, we chanted in unison Free immigration! Hebrew state! I dont remember a single demonstration with the slogan Jewish state.

That was quite natural. Without anyone decreeing it, we made a clear distinction between us Hebrew-speaking people in Palestine and the Jews in the Diaspora. Some of us turned this into an ideology, but for most people it was just a natural expression of reality: Hebrew agriculture and Jewish tradition, Hebrew underground and Jewish religion, Hebrew kibbutz and Jewish shtetl. Hebrew Yishuv (the new community in the country) and Jewish Diaspora. To be called a Diaspora Jew was the ultimate insult.

For us this was not anti-Zionist by any means. Quite the contrary:

Zionism wanted to create an old-new nation in Eretz Israel (as Palestine is called in Hebrew), and this nation was of course quite distinct from the Jews elsewhere. It was only the Holocaust, with its huge emotional impact, that changed the verbal rules.

So how did the formula Jewish state creep in? In 1917, in the middle of World War I, the British government issued the so-called Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed that His Majestys Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

Every word was carefully chosen, after months of negotiations with Zionist leaders. One of the main British objects was to win American and Russian Jews for the Allied cause. Revolutionary Russia was about to get out of the war, and the entry of isolationist America was essential.

(By the way, the British rejected the words the turning of Palestine into a national home for the Jewish people, insisting on in Palestine-thus foreshadowing the partition of the country.)

In 1947 the UN did decide to partition Palestine between its Arab and Jewish populations. This said nothing about the character of the two future states-it just used the current definitions of the two warring parties. About 40 percent of the population in the territory allocated to the Jewish state was Arab.

The advocates of the Jewish state make much of the sentence in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (generally called the Declaration of Independence) which indeed includes the words Jewish state. After quoting the UN resolution which called for a Jewish and an Arab state, the declaration continues: Accordingly we on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.

This sentence says nothing at all about the character of the new state, and the context is purely formal.

One of the paragraphs of the declaration (in its original Hebrew version) speaks about the Hebrew people: We extend our hands to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the independent Hebrew people in its land. This sentence is blatantly falsified in the official English translation, which changed the last words into the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.

As a matter of fact, it would have been quite impossible to reach agreement on any ideological formula, since the declaration was signed by the leaders of all factions, from the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to the Moscow-oriented Communist Party.

Any talk about the Jewish state leads inevitably to the question: What are the Jews-a nation or a religion?

Official Israeli doctrine says that Jewish is both a national and a religious definition. The Jewish collective, unlike any other, is both national and religious. With us, nation and religion are one and the same.

The only door of entry to this collective is religious. There is no national door.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russian immigrants have come to Israel under the Law of Return with their Jewish relatives. This law is very broad. In order to attract the Jews, it allows even distant non-Jewish relatives to come with them, including the spouse of the grandchild of a Jew. Many of these non-Jews want to be Jews in order to be considered full Israelis, but have tried in vain to be accepted.

Under Israeli law, a Jew is a person born to a Jewish mother or converted, who has not adopted another religion. This is a purely religious definition. Jewish religious law says that for this purpose, only the mother, not the father, counts.

It is extremely difficult to be converted in Israel. The rabbis demand that the convert fulfill all 613 commandments of the Jewish religion-which only very few recognized Israelis do. But one cannot become an official member of the stipulated Jewish nation by any other door. One becomes a part of the American nation by accepting U.S. citizenship. Nothing like that exists here.

We have an ongoing battle about this in Israel. Some of us want Israel to be an Israeli state, belonging to the Israeli people, indeed a state of all its citizens. Some want to impose on us the religious law supposedly fixed by God for all times on Mount Sinai some 3,200 years ago and abolish all contrary laws of the democratically elected Knesset. Many don’t want any change at all.

But how, in Gods name (sorry), does this concern the Palestinians? Or the Icelanders, for that matter?

The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state or as the nation-state of the Jewish people is preposterous.

As the British would put it, its none of their bloody business. It would be tantamount to an intervention in the internal affairs of another country.

But a friend of mine has suggested a simple way out: the Knesset can simply resolve to change the name of the state into something like The Jewish Republic of Israel, so that any peace agreement between Israel and the Arab State of Palestine will automatically include the demanded recognition.

This would also bring Israel into line with the state it most resembles: The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which came into being almost at the same time, after the partition of India, after a gruesome mutual massacre, after the creation of a huge refugee problem, and with a perpetual border war in Kashmir. And the nuclear bomb, of course.

Many Israelis would be shocked by the comparison. What, us? Similar to a theocratic state? Are we getting closer to the Pakistani model and further from the American one?

What the hell, lets simply deny it!

13-27

Azizah al-Hibri Appointed

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

White House Press Release

Azizah al-Hibri, Appointee for Member, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Azizah al-Hibri

Azizah al-Hibri is a professor of law at the T. C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond. She is the founding editor of Hypatia: a Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and founder of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.  Professor al-Hibri has written extensively on issues of Islam and democracy, Muslim women’s rights, and human rights in Islam.  Professor al-Hibri has traveled extensively throughout the Muslim world in support of Muslim women’s rights and acted as a consultant to the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Qatar in the development of that country’s personal status code.  She has also guest edited a special volume on Islam by the Journal of Law and Religion and is currently completing a book on the Islamic marriage contract in American courts.  Professor al-Hibri received a B.A. from the American University of Beirut, a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.

13-24

The Fake Outrage of the Israel Firsters

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By MJ Rosenberg

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/NETANAYHU

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man walks past mannequins on a street in Jerusalem’s Old City May 25, 2011. Palestinians and Israelis alike saw little prospect of a fresh start to Middle East peace talks on Wednesday after Israeli PM Netanyahu’s keynote speech to Congress. 

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

There was absolutely nothing about President Barack Obama’s Middle East speech to get excited about (and even less in his statement following Friday’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu). The president did not even attempt to set out an action plan; he offered broad principles, ones that have been offered before by five previous presidents.

He delivered the speech in an effort to get the jump on Netanyahu who is in town to address Congress and AIPAC. Bibi’s goal is to mobilize his followers against any U.S. efforts to promote an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Netanyahu, who grew up in the United States, is a de facto Republican and, as in 1998 when President Clinton was in office, he wants to strengthen the GOP vis a vis the Democrats.

Delivering the speech was probably a mistake. But Obama felt that he had to deliver it — to preempt Netanyahu’s war-mongering with some good pro-Israel boilerplate and to neutralize some of the opposition to U.S. policies toward Israel that is weakening our standing with the evolving Arab democracies.

For obvious national security reasons, the United States cannot afford to have a new generation of Arab democrats in nations as significant as Egypt hating us because they view America as being in Israel’s pocket. A strong rhetorical endorsement of peace would both help neutralize Netanyahu’s demagoguery and defuse opposition to both America and Israel in the Muslim world. Meanwhile, it would please Netanyahu’s followers.

In the end, it didn’t turn out that way. As the Wall Street Journal reported in an article called “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel,” a tiny (but incredibly well-heeled) group of donors told Obama in advance that any deviation from the line laid down by Netanyahu would cost Obama campaign contributions. The article quotes a bunch of fat cats, unknown to most Jewish Americans who essentially threatened Obama.

It’s crazy. In 2008 78% of Jews voted for Obama. According to the definitive American Jewish Committee poll, Israel ranks 7th on the list of issues on which Jews cast their votes with 3% citing it as the top concern. 54% mentioned the economy, and many more cited health care, energy and a host of other issues.

But the self-appointed fat cat representatives of the Jewish community tell the White House that our #1 concern is Israel. And, for the AIPAC directed donors, it probably is.

And that is why President Obama delivered a speech on Thursday that was utterly innocuous. There was nothing in it that has not been said before by a host of previous presidents. Virtually all his empathy was directed at Israel while he offered a little sympathy, and nothing else, to the Palestinians. He did what he thought he had to do: appease AIPAC and Netanyahu while pleasing Arab democrats too.

But he failed. Arabs saw the speech as a bunch of empty words. And the Israeli firsters went ballistic. Why? Because of one paragraph.

The president said:

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

And suddenly all hell broke loose. But not immediately. Initially, the right-wing of the “pro-Israel” claque praised Obama for not saying anything that challenged Netanyahu but then Netanyahu, said that he was outraged by the reference to the 1967 lines.

But then the robotic Israel-firsters switched their line as quickly as Red 1930s folk singers changed their lyrics when Moscow complained of deviation. (Stop bashing Nazi Germany; we just signed a pact with it).

This is beyond ridiculous. Obama did not say that Israel would have to go back to the 1967 borders; he said that the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines…”
That means that Israelis and Palestinians would sit down with a map that dated back to 1967 and decide what would be Israel and what would be Palestine. What other “lines” could a deal be based on? The border between China and Russia?

As far back as the 1967 United Nations Resolution 242, which Israel signed, it has been the stated policy of the entire world (including Israel) that Israel would return to the ‘67 borders, with alterations made, as necessary, to guard Israel’s security. Every American president has said that and every Israeli government has accepted it. Even AIPAC supports the “two-state solution,” which means a Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in 1967. Where else?

So what are these people up to when they suddenly decide to descend into faux-rage when Obama says what they have been saying all along?

The answer is simple. The Israel-first crowd has decided on two things: (1) They do not want Israeli-Palestinian peace, period. They want Israel to keep all the land. And (2) they want to see President Obama defeated in the next election, hoping against hope that they can drive the Obama Jewish vote, and especially campaign contributions, way below 2008 levels. They don’t trust him. They suspect (hopefully, rightly) that in his heart he does not believe the status quo loving nonsense Dennis Ross is feeding him.

Obama’s mistake is to think he can appease these people by going to AIPAC (as he will do next week) or to Israel (as he probably will this summer) and trying to explain himself. Unless he is prepared to tell AIPAC and right-wing Israelis that he supports both settlements and the permanent disenfranchisement of Palestinians, he will not win over these people. They are not potential friends, not of him or of U.S. interests. Or, frankly, of Israel’s. (They seem to prefer the West Bank over Israel itself).

Instead, he should mobilize Americans, pro-Israel Jews and non-Jews, like those of J Street who support the two-state solution and territorial compromise. He should reach out to Palestinians who are prepared to live in peace with Israel (including Hamas, if it will permanently end violence against Israel). And he should support moderate Israelis (still a sizable percentage of the population) who hate the occupation and are desperate to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Trying to appease Netanyahu and AIPAC empowers the right and cuts moderates off at the knees. It’s time for Obama to treat these people as what they are: enemies of everything he aspires to do. Why would the president think he can possibly find friends on the right? He can’t.

13-22

Syrian Singer Abu Ratib Pleads “Not Guilty”

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Islamic Examiner/Heather Laird

Abu Ratib January 26, 2010. In a Federal court hearing in Detroit on Monday January 25, 2010, singer Abu Raitb pleaded not guilty to the charges of making false statements to the FBI, false oath in a matter relating to naturalization and attempted unlawful procurement of naturalization.

Abu Ratib also known as Mohammed Masfaka is a beloved singer of Islamic songs. He has millions of fans throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and is respected by not only the common person but by government diplomats as well. He is considered by some Michigan residents to be one of the leading Islamic singers of all times, and is believed to have written more songs than the also popular Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Sami Yusuf.  He is the Chair of the International Union for Islamic Art.

After reading the nine-page indictment put forth by the FBI, one wonders what this case is really concerned with achieving. The document states questions asked and answered and some discrepancies in the answers. More specifically, the case mentions that Abu Ratib left off of his immigration papers a low-level job that he held for a short period of time. How many people in the United States everyday leave off previous employment on job applications. His other offense was not mentioning or mentioning incorrectly compensation. I am quite confident this happens everyday in the US as well. In fact, can everyone say Treasury Secretary?

All sarcasm aside, this is serious when it comes to immigration, and I would be on the first line of defense for my Country if you told me an immigrant left off their application that they were affiliated with some group that would harm United States citizens. But, this is not the case here. The government is saying that they knew he worked for an entity that was approved a 501(c)3 status – meaning an organization that already had some governmental scrutiny.  And, he did so here in the United States, so it was not covert or anything. How would or could he know that the government, because of its policies with Israel would change their opinion about their foreign policy? Holy Land Foundation was prosecuted and the first trial was declared a mistrial, the second received a conviction and now it is currently on appeal. So, we are prosecuting an individual because of guilt by association with a group that may or may not be considered affiliated with terrorism, but that the US Courts have not yet decided on, and not because we think “he” was a terrorist, but because he left off information from an application.

Why would we do this? The immigrant story is one that most of us are familiar with in folklore. People come to America to build a better life. They believe the will have certain unalienable rights that they do not have elsewhere. I am positive that the Masfaka family believed they would have in America what they could not find elsewhere. But, the reality for some immigrants is of another nature. Some immigrants are targeted as assets for the government. And because they are immigrants or of immigrant status can be intimidated or coerced into becoming informants or spies for the United States or have their citizenship revoked. They trust their new government. Aren’t we all raised to trust the authority in our midst – our police officers, our government. If you are a minority in the United States, a different reality exists. However, the majority is taught to trust government.

So, if you are an immigrant likely your first language is not English. You come to America wanting to be an American, and fill out your paperwork and then you are a citizen. The process is only not that simple. If the government at any time deems it necessary to use you, then they can very meticulously scrutinize every piece of paper and every conversation you have had to find a small detail left out here, a mistranslation there, etc., until an error is found or omission which to the government translates as a lie and you have now become a defendant.

What Masfaka seems to really be guilty of is not having legal representation with him at critical junctures in his immigration process. But, how many immigrants do not, and are not being prosecuted? We can presume many. This man was targeted, because of an Islamaphobic attitude that has been allowed to prevail in the United States. It is forbidden for Muslims to spy. For a man to take the stance of refusing to commit a sin in his faith is to stand for his freedom of religion. This is one of the positive rights that Americans are supposed to enjoy. It seems in this case, Masfaka may have taken that stand and is now being punished for it.

The result of this case has two very negative implications for the United States. First, it seems to tear at and shred our Constitution a little more. Not providing that blanket of freedoms that we promote as being unique to us. Second, this particular Defendant is Internationally known and beloved. And here we are again, post the Obama Cairo speech being seen as double-speak on the International scene. You say you want peace, but your actions appear to be targeting  and punishing people who do not fit the bill of terrorist.

Muslims will help their Country. No one wants corruption in the Muslim community. Why can’t we ask American Muslims to help in cleansing this Country of corruption instead of thinking the only way to do so is through seeming coercion and intimidation.

The Muslim community is praying for the Masfaka family that these charges are dropped. The American Muslim community prays for its Country in hopes that America can find a new approach and fight for all its citizens.

12-6

Convincing the Soul of the Muslim world: A New Drive for ‘Common Sense’

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ruby Amatulla

It has taken a long bloody history to convince many parts of humanity that it is only through constructive engagements and integrated efforts– and not through wars, conflicts and exploiting others – that a win-win situation is possible in human affairs.

After hundreds of years of incessant bloodshed and violence, Europe finally came to grips with this truth. Seeing the enormous effects of the integration and cooperation of the diverse community of the 50 states across the Atlantic – Europe, after World War II and its massive death and destruction — started to pursue constructive engagement and integration in its own affairs.

Today, another vital part of humanity – containing 1.5 billion Muslims — appears not to take heed of this truth. A mosaic of different tribes, sects, ethnicities and groups of Muslims remain deeply divided, unstable and conflict-prone.

Despite controlling 76% of the world’s oil reserves, this huge community has failed to assert itself as a legitimate power-broker or a significant partner in the affairs of the world. The state of affairs of many key areas of the Muslim world remains degrading and disturbing.

The cause of the grim reality in the Muslim world is its failure to unite, integrate and engage constructively, both among its own populace and with others. And this failure is largely, if not entirely, due to the absence or lack of an ‘impartial’ and balanced rule of law.

We often talk about equality and freedom as being essential factors of democratic rule, but we fail to recognize its paramount influence in stabilizing and integrating a nation. With the existence of an ‘impartial’ rule of law that prohibits destructive ways of resolving issues in society and that does not allow any group to take undue advantage over others by virtue of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc., the people ultimately accept and build a culture of coexistence and constructive engagement.

This is the key to integrating a nation on the fundamental ideas of equality and liberty.

I am convinced that America, by providing the most forceful and impartial system of due process, has become the superpower in our time. By providing the most progressive program of integration to the most diverse community in the world it has tapped a treasure that is unparalleled in its importance and impact in leading a nation towards prosperity.

This is the secret of America’s enormous success.

Good governance is the solution for a dysfunctional state. An accountable, transparent and representative government stabilizes a society. Serious grievances and the possibility of turmoil are less likely, as the citizens hold the ultimate power. The legitimacy of that governance increasingly builds up trust and confidence among its people and institutions to participate and help sustain a stable and consistent pattern of rule. The broad decision making process and the balance of power in a democratically managed society work as shields against tendencies of tyranny and/or domination of one group by another.  Self-rule offers important incentives for a society to become stable and progressive.

Importantly for the deeply-religious Muslim world, a democratic system does not need to be ‘secular,’ if secularism is defined as a system discouraging religion. A good governing system should not be averse to religion — as religions and religious institutions play a vital and profoundly important role in society — but it must be impartial as to a specific religion and/or a specific interpretation of a religion. ‘Impartial’ rule of law and avoiding endorsing a religion is how the conflict-prone Thirteen Colonies were saved from disintegration.

Democracy provides a secure environment for all its citizens to practice their respective faiths. If a government maintains neutrality in its rule of law and enforces the resolution of conflicts only through constructive engagements among its citizens, it builds a stable society with a mindset of coexistence, integration and collective welfare.

The Quran is unequivocal in commanding that: ‘There is no compulsion or imposition in religion.’ [2:256]. A faith or conviction must be the outcome of the exercise of free will, for which an individual is responsible only to God and to no one else in the society.  

Therefore a state that enforces a religious injunction, or an interpretation [denominations or sects] thereof, violates this fundamental tenet of Islam by enforcing on those who do not believe or accept that interpretation of faith.

A democratic spirit was exemplified in the very first Muslim community under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (s) in Medina fourteen centuries ago. The Charter of Medina has amazing similarities with the constitution drafted more than eleven hundred years later among the Thirteen Colonies who united to form the United States of America.

The similarities among these documents are to be found in their establishment of federalism, impartiality, consultative decision-making processes and the use of constructive engagement to resolve disputes. 

These structures allowed the society to maintain security and functionality, as well as to provide freedom of religion. They also allowed diverse groups of people – in the case of Medina then, the Muslims, Jews, and Pagans – to manage their own community affairs and maintain their own lifestyles within the greater legal framework of society . This paramount example of the Prophet (s) has largely gone unnoticed by the Muslim world.

More than two hundred years ago a small pamphlet called “Common Sense” made a huge impact among the people of the Thirteen Colonies and their leaders.  It allowed them to come together and fight against the British, the most formidable power then, to establish self-rule. How powerful and constructive this self-rule has been to integrate the most diverse community in the world and to create a superpower!

More than two hundred years later, a Muslim citizen of the nation that ‘Common Sense’ helped to establish is wondering what degree of human welfare could flow out of a new drive for common sense in one of the most vital parts of humanity: the Muslim world with which the interest and welfare of the world is intricately and profoundly connected! Facing the enormous challenges of our time, how badly needed is that drive!

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