U.S. Bangladeshis Track Climate Changes Back Home

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By New America Media, Ngoc Nguyen

Mohammed Khan was a child when the deadliest cyclone ever recorded struck Bangladesh (at the time East Pakistan) in 1970. The cyclone brought torrential rains and winds stronger than those seen during Hurricane Katrina. As many as half a million people were killed. Then river waters rose and claimed the land.

“My family lives on an island called Bhola,” Khan recalls. “They have some land, but a lot of the land was taken by the river during a great flood.”

Khan, 51, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a daughter and more than 200 family members in Bangladesh. He’s worried about how his large extended family will fare when the next cyclone strikes, and he fears climate change will worsen such disasters.

“As the water levels rise in the next few years, much of southern Bangladesh will go into the womb of the river,” he says.

Concern about climate change among the public has waned, but the issue is foremost among many Bangladeshi Americans, because of the vulnerability of Bangladesh to climate change. Some community members are organizing seminars to learn about how rising seas and extreme weather will play out in their home country, and they’re making their voices heard on the political front.

Bangladesh is often considered ground zero for climate change. Crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers, much of the country is a massive flat delta, extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. As global warming pushes sea levels higher, Bangladesh would have the most land inundated among its South Asian neighbors, according to the World Bank. If sea levels rise by one meter, as much as a fifth of the country could be submerged, displacing about 20 million people.

In the last few years, awareness about climate change has grown among Bangladeshi Americans.

Hasan Rahim, a software engineering consultant based in San Jose, says Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was a wake-up call for him and many Bangladeshis in Silicon Valley. Rahim, who also teaches math and statistics at San Jose City College, says he organized screenings of the film in his community.

Rahim connected the film’s dire predictions about climate change to his homeland. “We live here, but we have roots there,” he says. “We are connected and we have got to become more aware of [climate change impacts].”

More than a dozen rivers, including the mighty Ganges, Brahmaputra, Jamuna and Meghna, flow across Bangladesh, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The southern part of the country is a massive delta, with its fertile land known as the country’s rice bowl.

“It’s really a concern. We’re a small country with 150 million people, so lots of people would lose their houses, land, and become homeless,” says Abu Taher, editor of the newspaper Bangla Patrik, in New York. He says people want to know the future consequences of climate change on the country so they can tell family members to take precautions.

When he travels to Bangladesh, Khan says he notices changes in the environment. There used to be three crop seasons, he says, but now there’s one. “Normally, we would have floods during the rainy season, but now there is no one season for floods anymore,” Khan adds.

A construction worker, Khan also heads up a group made up of immigrants from Barisal, a southern province that is frequently hard hit by cyclones and flooding. The group has organized seminars to learn more about how climate change will affect Bangladesh. From the United States, Khan says he sometimes feels powerless to help his family back home.

“There’s nowhere for them to go. Bangladesh is a small country,” he says. “Where would they get the land? Who will give us the money? I can just advise them to use the deep tube wells to get clean water.”

Khan says his group wants to share the information with U.S. elected officials, and tell them they want the United States to curb its own pollution and help vulnerable nations.

“America as a leader should help all the poor and affected countries, including Bangladesh,” Khan says. “Affected families are dying without food, without a roof over their heads. We should provide financial assistance and even bring them here.”

In the last two decades, Bangladesh suffered the most deaths and greatest economic losses as a result of extreme weather events, according to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2010.

At the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, the United States and other developed nations pledged $100 billion in aid to countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“It would make all the difference in the world if the aid were used not to buy finished products like solar panels, but to develop local indigenous talent,” says Rahim.

Bangladeshis have already had to adapt to higher sea levels, Rahim says.

“People who raised chickens are now raising ducks,” he says, and farmers are experimenting with “floating seed beds” to save crops during floods.

Until more funds are directed to helping people adapt to climate change, more frequent and more intense storms and floods will create more environmental refugees.

Queens resident Sheikh Islam says refugees have already poured into the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, which the World Wildlife Federation ranked as the city most vulnerable to climate change impacts out of 11 Asian coastal cities.

Islam says there’s more recognition now that climate change is causing the refugee surge into the city.

“They thought the migrants who came to the city were just jobless and landless. Now, the government is mentioning that they are jobless and landless because of climate change,” he says.

Islam says there’s also a growing perception that Western developed countries bear more responsibility for the problem because they contribute the most to carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

“Now, people know about climate change and they are talking about it,” Islam says. “Three to five years ago they don’t talk about it. They thought it was our problem. Now they think it is a global problem.”

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Two Standards of Detention

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amy Goodman, Truthdig

Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion zealot charged with killing Dr. George Tiller, has been busy. He called the Associated Press from the Sedgwick County Jail in Kansas, saying, “I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal.” Charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault, he is expected to be arraigned July 28. AP recently reported that Roeder has been proclaiming from his jail cell that the killing of abortion providers is justified. According to the report, the Rev. Donald Spitz of the Virginia-based Army of God sent Roeder seven pamphlets defending “defensive action,” or killing of abortion clinic workers.

Spitz’s militant Army of God Web site calls Roeder an “American hero,” proclaiming, “George Tiller would normally murder between 10 and 30 children … each day … when he was stopped by Scott Roeder.”

The site, with biblical quotes suggesting killing is justified, hosts writings by Paul Hill, who killed Dr. John Britton and his security escort in Pensacola, Fla., and by Eric Rudolph, who bombed a Birmingham, Ala., women’s health clinic, killing its part-time security guard.

On Spitz’s Web site, Rudolph continues to write about abortion: “I believe that deadly force is indeed justified in an attempt to stop it.”

Juxtapose Roeder’s advocacy from jail with the conditions of Fahad Hashmi.

Hashmi is a U.S. citizen who grew up in Queens, N.Y., and went to Brooklyn College. He went to graduate school in Britain and was arrested there in 2006 for allegedly allowing an acquaintance to stay with him for two weeks. That acquaintance, Junaid Babar, allegedly kept at Hashmi’s apartment a bag containing ponchos and socks, which Babar later delivered to an al-Qaida operative. Babar was arrested and agreed to cooperate with the authorities in exchange for leniency.

While the evidence against Hashmi is secret, it probably stems from the claims of the informant Babar.

Fahad Hashmi was extradited to New York, where he has been held in pretrial detention for more than two years. His brother Faisal described the conditions: “He is kept in solitary confinement for two straight years, 23- to 24-hours lockdown. … Within his own cell, he’s restricted in the movements he’s allowed to do. He’s not allowed to talk out loud within his own cell. … He is being videotaped and monitored at all times. He can be punished … denied family visits, if they say his certain movements are martial arts … that they deem as incorrect. He has Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) … against him.”

Hashmi cannot contact the media, and even his lawyers have to be extremely cautious when discussing his case, for fear of imprisonment themselves. His attorney Sean Maher told me: “This issue of the SAMs … of keeping people in solitary confinement when they’re presumed innocent, is before the European Court of Human Rights. They are deciding whether they will prevent any European country from extraditing anyone to the United States if there is a possibility that they will be placed under SAMs … because they see it as a violation … to hold someone in solitary confinement with sensory deprivation, months before trial.”

Similarly, animal rights and environmental activists, prosecuted as “eco-terrorists,” have been shipped to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ new “communication management units” (CMUs). Andrew Stepanian was recently released and described for me the CMU as “a prison within the actual prison. … The unit doesn’t have normal telephone communication to your family … normal visits are denied … you have to make an appointment to make one phone call a week, and that needs to be done with the oversight of … a live monitor.”

Stepanian observed that up to 70 percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim—hence CMU’s nickname, “Little Guantanamo.” As with Hashmi, it seems that the U.S. government seeks to strip terrorism suspects of legal due process and access to the media—whether in Guantanamo or in the secretive new CMUs. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Bureau of Prisons over the CMUs.

Nonviolent activists like Stepanian, and Muslims like Hashmi, secretly and dubiously charged, are held in draconian conditions, while Roeder trumpets from jail the extreme anti-abortion movement’s decades-long campaign of intimidation, vandalism, arson and murder.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times,” recently released in paperback.

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Community News, Vol. 8 Iss. 43

October 19, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims speak out on global warming

PHILADELPHIA, PA–Dr. Syed Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was one of the keynote speakers at the Sacred Seasons, Sacred Earth Interfaith Celebration, organized by the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. The event marked the coinciding of Ramadan, the sacred Jewish month that includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. October 1 was Worldwide (Protestant/ Orthodox) Communion Sunday. October 2 is Gandhi’s birthday. October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. This confluence will occur again in 2007. Thereafter, it will not recur for thirty years.

The event in Philadelphia called for urgent action to fight global warming.

“Many of the resources are vanishing and that is not what God intended for us,” said Dr. Mohammed Almashhadani, of Al-Aqsa Mosque and former imam of the Albanian American Muslim Society mosque, both in North Philadelphia.

Participants observed the Jewish tradition of building a Sukkah, a hut that brings the community into close with the earth and listened to meditations offered by Buddhists. They later joined together for Iftar.

Cavium Networks Receives 2006 Excellence in Technology Alignment Award

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA–Cavium Networks, a world leader in networking, security and embedded processor solutions, has received the Excellence in Technology Alignment award from Cisco Systems, Inc. Cavium Networks was selected based on its currently shipping products. This prestigious award recognized significant Cavium technology that has met Cisco’s product requirements and positively impacted the satisfaction level of Cisco’s customers. The award presentation was done at the Cisco 15th annual supplier appreciation event keynoted by Cisco’s President and Chief Executive Officer, John Chambers.

“Cavium Networks is honored to receive top recognition from Cisco,” said Syed Ali, CEO and President of Cavium Networks. “This recognition reinforces Cavium’s solid commitment and dedication to developing market-leading technologies and exceeding our customers’ requirements.”

Syed Ali has over 23 years of management and engineering experience in the semiconductor area. Prior to Cavium Networks, Syed Ali was a founding management team member and VP Marketing/Sales at Malleable Technologies , a communication chip company focused on developing Voice over Packet processors. Malleable was acquired by PMC-Sierra in June 2000. Earlier, he served as Vice President, Marketing at I-Cube which developed switch fabrics and chipsets for networking. He also spent 4 years as Executive Director, Samsung Electronics, where he started the Flash memory and CPU businesses and put together the business plans and strategies that drove sales in each line to over a $100M in less than two years. Syed also spent over 10 years at WSI/SGS-Thompson, and Tandem where he was involved with product line management and product design. He earned a MSEE from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1981 and BSEE from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India in 1980.

LA Muslims reach out to the homeless

LOS ANGELES,CA– Muslims in Los Angeles reached out to the homless by distributing food, clothing, books, toys and other items to around 3000 people. The drive was organized by the Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity, which is comprised of more than 40 mosques and Muslim organizations.

More than 300 volunteers had helped feed several hundered people by mid-day. Free HIV and diabetes tests were also made available.

Other branches of the group were holding similar outreach efforts in 14 U-S cities.

Islamic Relief, an international aid organization, and I-L-M Foundation, an L.A.-based group, were coordinating the efforts.

Obstetrician/gynecologist joins Caritas Norwood Hospital medical staff

BOSTON–Caritas Norwood Hospital has added a new obstetrician gynecologist to its medical staff.

Amna H. Khan, MD, of Dover has a special clinical interest in treating adolescents, and before coming to Caritas Norwood Hospital was administrative chief resident in the OB/GYN department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y.

Dr. Khan also completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where she was executive member of the advisory committee on medical education and a member of the graduate medical education committee.

She received Rochester’s 2004 Berlex Teaching Award and Medical Student Teaching Award and has served as co-president of the American Medical Women’s Association and research assistant to the Women’s Health Project, both at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.

Dr. Khan received her medical degree at the Medical University of South Carolina and her bachelor’s degree in biology and economics from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley.

She is accepting new patients. Her practice is located at Caritas Foxboro, 70 Walnut St., Foxboro, 781-698-2229.

The 264-bed Caritas Norwood Hospital provides emergency, cardiology, advanced surgical, endoscopic, ob/gyn and Children’s Hospital Boston pediatric services and is a member of Caritas Christi Health Care, the second largest health care system in New England.

Books for Baghdad Announces Second Drive

JACKSONVILLE,AL– Jacksonville State University’s Books for Baghdad project (www.booksforbaghdad.org) has announced a new drive for books, supplies, and cash donations to help rebuild the war-torn library at Baghdad University.

Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani, JSU biology professor and founder of the project, said, “Our objective includes collecting recent editions of textbooks in math, science, medicine and technology to be sent to war ravished Iraq. Books are being accepted now and may be dropped off at JSU. We can also make arrangements to pick up large contributions. In addition, we are planning to collect computers and refurbish them. They will be sent to the Baghdad Library to be used by the students.”

“Jeff Spurr from Harvard University and Dr. Anwar Diab of Baghdad University will be involved in this project,” said Al-Hamdani. “Furthermore, a committee was established in western Massachusetts by a group of librarians to help in accomplishing the same objective. If all comes about as I expect it, we will have enough material to be shipped from Massachusetts to Baghdad in the near future. We should do what we can to help and I can not emphasize the tremendous need for the books and computers in Iraq.”

Anyone who would like to contribute books and other gifts should contact Dr. Al-Hamdani (256-782-5801; sah@jsu.edu). Cash contributions can be made to the JSU Foundation, 700 Pelham Road North, Jacksonville AL 36265.

Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani and a small group of faculty volunteers established the Books for Baghdad project in 2004 as an international humanitarian effort to help reestablish the war-torn Baghdad University library. Local volunteers were soon joined by faculty and students from throughout the U.S. Thanks in part to international media coverage, including special reports on CNN, the project far exceeded its goal of 5,000 books with a total collection of more than 11,000 textbooks and $6,500 in school supplies.

Statement from State Senator Peter Roskam on the Holy Month of Ramadan

“I would like to wish the Muslim Community in the 6th Congressional District and across the nation the very best during this holiest time of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan. This important holiday is a time for family and friends to come together to express their faith.

Muslims across our nation continue to enrich our communities and our nation and we value their contribution to our society.” Senator Peter Roskam, Congressional Candidate for the 6th District of Illinois

Recently, State Senator and Republican Congressional candidate Peter Roskam attended an Iftaar event at the residence of Moon Khan, York Township Trustee and Founding President of Asian American Caucus of DuPage, where a large number of American Muslims of the 6th Congressional District attended it.

Yusuf Islam still faces difficulties coming to US

Yusuf Islam still faces difficulties entering the United States–two years after being refused entry into the country because of national security fears. In 2004, after flying to the United States from London, the Muslim convert, formerly known as Cat Stevens,was barred from entering after US security officials said his name was on list of banned individuals. Now plans to tour America promoting his comeback album AN OTHER CUP could be in jeopardy for the same reason. ANN DAVIS, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Agency, told the New York Daily News, “The TSA does not confirm whether any name is on or not on the ‘no-fly’ list. But Mr Islam was a positive match on numerous watch lists when Customs and Borders Protection agents interviewed him in Maine. “They refused him admission to the United States based on national security grounds.” However, SHEILA RICHMAN, spokeswoman for Islam’s US record label Atlantic, remains optimistic: “We don’t yet have firm touring plans for Yusuf. We hope he will be coming here in mid-November.”

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