The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

By Naomi Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian (UK)

13-49

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

By Naomi Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian (UK)

13-49

LifeLock CEO’s Identity Stolen 13 Times

May 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kim Zetter, Wired

screen-shot-2010-03-09-at-120841-pm

Apparently, when you publish your Social Security number prominently on your website and billboards, people take it as an invitation to steal your identity.

LifeLock CEO Todd Davis, whose number is displayed in the company’s ubiquitous advertisements, has by now learned that lesson. He’s been a victim of identity theft at least 13 times, according to the Phoenix New Times.

That’s 12 more times than has previously been known.

In June 2007, Threat Level reported that Davis had been the victim of identity theft after someone used his identity to obtain a $500 loan from a check-cashing company. Davis discovered the crime only after the company called his wife’s cellphone to recover the unpaid debt.

About four months after that story published, Davis’ identity was stolen again by someone in Albany, Georgia, who opened an AT&T/Cingular wireless account using his Social Security number (.pdf), according to a police report obtained by the New Times. The perpetrator racked up $2,390 in charges on the account, which remained unpaid. Davis, whose real name according to police reports is Richard Todd Davis, only learned a year later that his identity had been stolen again after AT&T handed off the debt to a collection agency and a note appeared on his credit report.

Then last year, Davis discovered seven more fraudulent accounts on his credit report that were opened with his personal information and have outstanding debt, according to the police report.

Someone opened a Verizon account in New York, leaving an unpaid bill of at least $186. An account at Centerpoint Energy, a Texas utility, was delinquent $122. Credit One Bank was owed $573, and Swiss Colony, a gift-basket company, was seeking $312.

In addition to these amounts, Davis’s credit report showed five collection agencies were seeking other sums from accounts opened in his name: Bay Area Credit was pursuing $265; Associated Credit Services was seeking two debts in the amount of $207 and $213; Enhanced Recovery Corporation was chasing $250 and $381.

A spokeswoman for the Albany police, who investigated the AT&T/Cingular account but never made any arrest, told the New Times that Davis’ publication of his Social Security number created more victims than just himself.

“It’s unfortunate he chose to conduct business in that way,” spokeswoman Phyllis Banks said. “It’s not fair to [AT&T] because they’re losing a pretty substantial amount of money.”

LifeLock refused to discuss the issue with the New Times. The company did not respond to a request for comment from Threat Level.

The company was fined $12 million in March by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising.

Lifelock promised in ads that its $10 monthly service would protect consumers from identity theft. The company also offered a $1 million guarantee to compensate customers for losses incurred if they became a victim after signing up for the service. The FTC called the claims bogus and accused LifeLock of operating a scam.

“In truth, the protection they provided left such a large hole … that you could drive that truck through it,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, referring to a LifeLock TV ad showing a truck painted with Davis’s Social Security number driving around city streets.

Davis’ history as an identity-theft victim would seem to call into question the company’s ability to protect consumers from a similar fate.

US Warns Pakistan over NY Bomb Plot

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The US secretary of state says Islamabad would face “very severe consequences,” if a terrorist attack on US soil was traced to Pakistan.

“We’ve made it very clear that if — heaven-forbid — an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences,” Hillary Clinton told CBS TV during an interview on Saturday.

However, she acknowledged that Pakistan’s attitude toward fighting terrorists had changed remarkably, but emphasized that US President Barack Obama’s administration “expects more.”

The remarks followed the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the suspect behind a failed bombing in New York’s Time Square.

US investigators believe the bomb plot was formulated by more than just one person and US media suggested that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was linked with the attempt.

However, TTP, a pro-Taliban militant group, has denied any connection with Shahzad.

The Obama Administration officials have said that “their top priority was to nail down Shahzad’s links to militant groups, and then to press Pakistan to act against the groups.”

12-20

Obama Fights ‘Otherization’

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

of Muslims, through Envoy Rashad Hussain

By Josh Gerstein, Politico

2010-05-05T172601Z_01_BTRE6441CFM00_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-USA-COURT
 

President Barack Obama’s aggressive outreach to the Muslim American community is reducing its sense of isolation, President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Muslim world told a conference in Washington Wednesday evening.

“We’ve really started to knock down that sense of otherization,” said Rashad Hussain, a White House lawyer who also serves as liaison to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Hussain defined the rather esoteric term “otherization” as a sense that many Muslims had during the Bush years that their value or danger to society was viewed solely through the prism of terrorism.

“Muslims … sometimes feel like they don’t have as much of a stake or a role in the future of the country,” Hussain told the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy conference. “That’s something that all of the engagement that the United States has done on these issues both internationally and domestically has helped to counter.”

Hussain was the keynote speaker at the session, which marked one year since Obama’s historic speech in Cairo last April, where he attempted to reset America’s relationship with Muslims around the globe.

In many ways, the most remarkable thing about Hussain’s speech was the context in which it took place: a conference that featured explicitly “Islamist” political leaders from Algeria, Bahrain and Morocco, as well as a provocative Oxford scholar whom the Bush administration effectively banned from the U.S., Tariq Ramadan. Many Republicans, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, continue to use the term “Islamist” to describe enemies of the U.S. The GOP politicians also fault Obama for failing to recognize the threat such an ideology poses to the U.S.

Giuliani’s view is pretty much 180 degrees from the prevailing sentiment at Wednesday’s conference. “There doesn’t really seem to be much of a debate about whether engagement with Islamists should happen,” Professor Peter Mandeville of George Mason University declared. “There really is no other alternative. The question now is about the nature of that engagement … rather than the question of whether this is something the United States should do.”

In his 20-minute speech and a subsequent Q & A session, Hussain generally stuck to Obama’s rhetorical formulation of using the term “violent extremism” for what the Bush folks — and just about everyone else — used to call “terrorism.” However, Hussain did use the T-word a couple of times. He touted the U.S. commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to a diplomatic resolution of tensions with Iran, to avoiding religious- and nationality-based profiling in airport security screening and to freedom for Muslims around the world to wear Islamic garb.

In response to a question about the U.S. willingness to deal with Taliban members who are prepared to renounce violence, Hussain said, “The U.S. will engage those groups that are lawfully elected and are lawfully part of the political process and don’t engage in violence, and that is a commitment that is demonstrated over a set period of time.”

Pressed by a questioner urging U.S. action against Israel over its refusal to end settlement-building activity, Hussain didn’t offer much to satisfy the pro-Palestinian audience. “The best way to address that issue is to get negotiations between the parties back on track again. … It’s not something that you will see this administration walk away from,” he said.

Hussain did seem a tad exasperated by complaints that, despite the vaunted Muslim outreach campaign, Obama has failed to visit a mosque in the U.S. as president. “If there is this silver bullet people are looking for, that the president visit a religious center in the United States, I’m sure there will be an appropriate time for that as well,” Hussain said.

Shortly after his appointment as the OIC envoy earlier this year, Hussain grabbed some headlines for a flap over comments he made in 2004 describing the Bush administration’s actions against some terror suspects as “politically motivated persecutions.” He initially said he had no recollection of making the remarks, but after POLITICO obtained a recording of the presentation he conceded he’d made the comments and called them “ill-conceived or not well-formulated.”

12-19

US Muslims Condemn Times Square Attack

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By KWTX

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2010)–In separate statements, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, pledged their loyal citizenship and support for law enforcement and condemned the botched attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square.

CAIR’s National Executive Director Nihad Awad said, “In no way, shape or form does this attack represent the American Muslim community and what we stand for as a faith community.”

Authorities in New York have brought terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges against Faisal Shahzad, who’s a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan.

A criminal complaint says Shahzad confessed to buying an SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it Saturday night into Times Square, where he tried to detonate it.

12-19

ISNA Commends Efforts of Law Enforcement, Condemns Attempted Bombing at Times Square, and Lauds Alert Citizens

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“(Plainfield, IN 05/04/2010) – The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) joins the Muslim American community and the rest of our fellow citizens in expressing its appreciation of the outstanding work done by the various law enforcement agencies in investigating and apprehending the alleged perpetrator(s) of the botched attack on New York and its residents.

“At the same time, ISNA condemns in the strongest terms the planned attack on innocent city-dwellers of every race and creed. The attack, described by the alleged sponsors as a sort of “pay-back” or “revenge”, is “inexcusable and without any justification in Islam or authentic Muslim tradition”, said Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA. “Even the murder of a single innocent person is abhorrent and in direct contradiction to the clear and unequivocal teachings of our faith (Quran Chapter 5,Verse 32), let alone the mass murder of unsuspecting innocent bystanders in a crowded square”, she added.

“ISNA is thankful to the vigilance of alert and loyal residents of New York city including Senegalese Muslim Aliou Niasse, who first noticed and pointed out the suspicious smoke coming from the vehicle, Lance Orton, who called the police, and Officers Wayne Rhatigan and Pam Duffy for acting swiftly and courageously to contain the damage and prevent the loss of life and limb of fellow Americans.

“ISNA asks Muslim Americans to stay true to their faith in rejecting any ideas or actions that tolerate or attempt to justify the use of terrorism for any purpose or by any group. ISNA also calls on them to stand with their fellow Americans in securing the homeland against any terrorist acts.”

12-19

A Terrorist by Any Other Name

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jon Pahl

(April 16, 2010) – When is a terrorist not considered a terrorist? When the US media identifies him or her as a “Christian”. And when is a terrorist group not considered a terrorist group? When the US media calls it an “anti-government militia”.

Exceptionalism is alive and well when it comes to reporting on violence in the name of religion, as evidenced in the recent case of the Michigan-based Hutaree, a group that the media has labeled a militia following recent FBI raids that uncovered stockpiles of illegal weapons, and a plot to kill law enforcement officers and “levy war” against the United States.

The leader of the group, 45-year-old David Brian Stone, pulled no punches about who he was, coining the term “Hutaree” which his website translates as “Christian warrior” for his group. His motto is the biblical passage John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The behavior of this group seems very similar to that of those termed terrorists by the media.

Yet Joshua Rhett Miller of Fox News described the Hutaree in a 29 March story as a “purportedly Christian-based militia group.” In a similar vein, Nick Bunkley and Charlie Savage of The New York Times identified Stone and the Hutaree somewhat apologetically as “apocalyptic Christian militants” in their 29 March report. This, despite the fact that the group not only stockpiled weapons and engaged in training identical to Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, but even planned improvised explosive devices based on those used by terrorists in Iraq.

In its “Times Topics” section, The New York Times positively contorts itself to avoid using the word “terrorist”. It describes the Hutaree as a “Michigan-based Christian militia group” and, mirroring the language of US Attorney General Eric Holder, as “anti-government extremists.”

Are we reserving the term “terrorist” only for Muslims these days? In coverage of stories like the thwarted plan to bomb synagogues in New York in May 2009 or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit, the mainstream media has no qualms about discussing “foiled terror plots.” Such a reservation stokes indiscriminate fear of Muslim “others”. It also constructs an implicit “us versus them” dualism between a broadly “Christian America” and an allegedly monolithic “Muslim world”, as American political scientist Samuel Huntington most notoriously opined in his “Clash of Civilisations” theory.

Religion is all too often seen as the root of terrorist violence, rather than as one of its most effective tools. As Scott Shane argued in the 4 April New York Times article “Dropping the word bomb”, we need a robust debate about what terms to use across cases. Journalists can help by practicing consistency, and by pointing out attempts to scapegoat one group and exempt another from the opprobrium associated with terms like “terrorist.”

Mainstream Christians like me cringe when a group like the Hutaree is identified as “Christian”. Perhaps this incident can help other Americans empathise with what close to 1.5 billion Muslims might have felt every time in the last few years they have heard the words “Muslim terrorists” or, far worse, “Islamic terrorists”.
A good rule to follow, for journalists and for all of us, might be to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.

And that means calling a terrorist – of whatever background – exactly that.

Jon Pahl (jpahl@ltsp.edu) is Professor of History of Christianity in North America at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and author of Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence. This article first appeared in The Colorado Daily and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) www.commongroundnews.org

12-17

The Arabs and the Holocaust

April 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands, by Robert Satloff.
New York: Public Affairs, 2006, 204 pages. Notes to 227.
Bibl. to p. 239. Index to p. 251. $26.00.

Reviewed by Joseph V. Montville

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, Robert Satloff was walking in the middle of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue which was devoid of traffic in a city stunned by the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers that morning. The question came into his mind: “Did any Arabs save any Jews during the Holocaust?” He judged, as did this writer after the second tower was hit, that Arabs were behind the deed. He wanted to teach Arabs about the Holocaust and the depths of its meaning for Israeli and Diaspora Jews. Satloff decided to answer his question, and this book is the result.

What establishes the nobility of Among the Righteous…is the conviction of its author, a historian, an Arabist and an American Jew, that there is much more to Arab and Muslim humanity than the destructive, suicidal rage that the 9/11 hijackers displayed that momentous day. While he had never heard of “righteous” Arabs—people who took great risks to protect Jews from the Nazis and their underlings–Satloff felt in his bones that he could find some. He did not believe that the apparent absence of knowledge or discussion about the Holocaust among Arabs was the complete picture.

The author thought that if he could prove that Arabs had saved Jewish lives during World War II, they might be induced to face the Holocaust squarely and understand its power in the final thrust to establish the Jewish state in Palestine. He hoped that the shared prosocial values of Islam and Judaism could induce Arab cooperation in his research and generate pride in Arab heroes. He cites Muslim and Jewish sacred literature to make his point. “‘Whoever saves one life saves the entire world,’ says the Qur’an, an echo of the Talmud’s injunction ‘If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world.’” (p. 6.) In the process of searching for “righteous” Arabs in North Africa, Israel and Europe, Satloff has filled an important gap in the history of World War II, and he has also reflected the best traditions of Jewish humanism. It is not insignificant that Satloff is also executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which the Jewish weekly, Forward, calls “a think tank known for its pro-Israel views and for its predominantly Jewish board.”1

The narrative concentrates on the North African states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya under French—the first three—and Italian and therefore fascist colonial rule during the Vichy and Mussolini regimes. Half a million Jews lived in these countries, and the Nazi policy of degradation and ultimately destruction was meant to apply also to these trans-Mediterranean people. There were also 30,000 Libyan Jews who faced danger and abuse.

12-16

Iranian Student With $750 Turns Billionaire — Made by Islamic Art

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By William Green, Bloomberg

stoneHead_plate March 30 (Bloomberg) — Nasser David Khalili stands in an exhibition hall in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, gazing at an 18th-century painted enamel of flowers that’s one of 25,000 works of art he owns. “I’d have paid anything for it,” he says, appraising this miniature by Frenchman Philippe Parpette. “There’s no way I’d have let anybody else buy it.”

Khalili, 64, an Iranian-born billionaire who lives in London, has come to Russia to unveil his fifth art collection: On this overcast December afternoon, 320 of his 1,200 enamel treasures will go on display at the State Hermitage Museum, home to the collection of Catherine the Great, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its May issue.

Having flown in on a chartered plane, Khalili is relishing a private preview, peering through tinted eyeglasses at such possessions as a gilded clock with matching candelabras that once adorned the home of U.S. railroad tycoon William Vanderbilt. Khalili, who says he has a photographic memory, recalls paying $16,500 for these three pieces 34 years ago. He estimates that they’d now cost $600,000.

In all, Khalili says the enamels he has lent the museum are insured for more than 100 million pounds ($150 million). Even so, they are a trifle compared with the obsession that’s consumed him for four decades: his 20,000 pieces of Islamic art. “His collection is certainly the best in private hands,” says Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s London-based head of Middle Eastern art. “He is the man who has everything. He’s come to define the market.”

Khalili is revealing his latest collection just as the $43 billion global art market is showing signs of reviving — with an Alberto Giacometti sculpture selling for a record 65 million pounds in February to a buyer later identified by dealers as London-based billionaire Lily Safra. In the Islamic art world, prices for the best pieces have been buoyed by a new generation of Middle Eastern buyers, including museums in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

“There’s fierce competition for anything unique, rare, beautiful or important,” Gibbs says, noting that an Islamic textile Sotheby’s estimated would fetch $250,000 to $350,000 in a March 2009 auction went to Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art for $3.4 million.

The limited supply in this niche within the art market has made Khalili’s collection all the more precious, says Claire Penhallurick, an Islamic art consultant for Bonhams auction house. She says it’s impossible to guess what his entire collection is worth.

“How could you value something that’s unique and irreplaceable?” Penhallurick says. “If you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t assemble his collection now.”

When an exhibition of 471 of Khalili’s Islamic pieces opened at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in October, they alone were insured for almost 600 million pounds.

The story behind how Khalili built his fortune has long been shrouded in secrets. As a property developer, he shunned publicity and didn’t slap his name on buildings or the company that is his main investment vehicle. He has also operated under the radar when buying art.

“During the collecting, I don’t say anything,” Khalili says. “When it’s done, then I speak.”

His elusiveness has fueled much speculation, often revolving around how he financed his collecting. Khalili, who left Iran in 1967 with $750, says he’s since spent $650 million on art. London’s Sunday Times, which estimated his fortune at 5.8 billion pounds in 2007, gave up guessing his worth the following year and removed him from its annual rich list.

Khalili, whose works are held in a family trust, says he used subterfuge to amass his Islamic collection, pretending for several years to be an art dealer so he could acquire pieces at wholesale prices. While his stealth has often obscured the scale of his buying, the magazine ARTnews says Khalili is one of Britain’s top collectors, along with Safra and private museum owner Charles Saatchi.

The Iranian says he’s aware of whispers within the art trade that he grew rich buying Islamic works for Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Sitting in his office in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, where the treasures on display include an 8th- century bronze camel and a 7,000-year-old stone sculpture, Khalili beats his chest with his hand when asked about the rumors.

“I didn’t buy anything for anybody. Nobody, right?” he says. “I bought for myself. This is all bulls—, all right?”

The questions surrounding Khalili stem in part from his emergence in the 1980s as a trailblazer in Islamic collecting.

“There was this sudden transformation,” says William Robinson, director of Islamic art at Christie’s International. “In the late 1980s he was the No. 1 buyer.” Robinson and others thought he was buying as the exclusive agent for a powerful client. “It was assumed that the Sultan of Brunei was behind it,” Robinson says. “I really don’t know.”

Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Britain’s press also fueled speculation about the source of Khalili’s riches. “He spends on a scale no art collector has done before,” London’s Independent wrote in 1994. “Yet no one knows where his money comes from. … (Khalili) vehemently denies the suggestion that he has been secretly investing the sultan’s money rather than his own.”

Khalili says he met the Sultan of Brunei around 1984, after the U.K.’s Foreign Office asked him to advise the monarch on creating an Islamic gallery at the Brunei Museum.

“He had about 10,000 pieces,” Khalili says. “I chose about 1,000 pieces and said, ‘Throw the rest away. They’re junk.’”

As a favor, he says, he selected several items for the Sultan to buy at auction and the Khalili family trust sold him a dozen pieces from its Islamic collection, including Qurans, metalwork and textiles, for about 4 million pounds.

Khalili dismisses rumors that he sold art to the Sultan at inflated prices, pointing out that he later convinced him to donate 10 million pounds to the University of London for an Islamic gallery.

“If you rip somebody off, would they turn around and give you 10 million pounds to build a gallery?” he asks.

It’s now obvious he was buying for himself, Khalili says, since his Islamic collection is cataloged in 19 books written by an army of scholars he has hired to document its provenance and authenticity.

Khalili, who has also built collections of Japanese Meiji art, Spanish metalwork and Swedish textiles since 1975, says the value of his artworks is irrelevant, because he will never sell them.

“All five collections are priceless: 2 billion pounds, 3 billion pounds, 4 billion pounds, it doesn’t make any difference,” he says. “These collections cannot be replaced.”

His Islamic treasures include a 14th-century Iranian world history by Rashid al-Din Fadlallah, which he says cost him 12 million pounds in 1990. “It’s one of the greatest illustrated manuscripts in the world,” says Tim Stanley, senior curator for the Middle East at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

Khalili, who holds both U.S. and U.K. passports, offered to lend his Islamic collection to the British nation in 1992 if the government provided a museum to house it. Khalili says he stipulated that the loan would become a gift after 15 years if the collection was exhibited to his satisfaction; if not, he could take it back.

Outsider in London

“The offer to the British government was a really terrible one,” says Anna Somers Cocks, editor-in-chief of the London- based monthly Art Newspaper, because of this risk. After months with no response, Khalili abandoned the plan. Still lacking a permanent home, most of his artworks are stored in warehouses in London and Geneva.

Michael Franses, a U.K.-based retired dealer in rare carpets who’s known Khalili since the 1970s, says this rebuff reflected Khalili’s outsider status in his adopted country.

“The British establishment was very closed,” Franses says. “I don’t think people trusted him because he was Iranian and strange and different.”

That setback is a distant memory as Khalili strides through the Hermitage, musing on how far he’s come since leaving Iran. His artworks have been showcased by 40 museums, including the Victoria & Albert and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Khalili also prides himself on the honors he has won for his philanthropy. An observant Jew who says he avoids discussions of politics, Khalili co-founded the Maimonides Foundation in 1995 to foster dialogue between Jews and Muslims through sports, cultural events and education. He also endowed a research center for Middle Eastern culture at the University of Oxford.

In recognition of Khalili’s interfaith work, Pope Benedict XVI anointed him last year as a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester.
“I’m self-made. I’ve done it all on my own,” says Khalili, whose 14-page resume is headlined: “Scholar, Benefactor and Collector.”

Khalili sees no contradiction in being Jewish and owning an Islamic collection.

“I fell in love with it because it was the most beautiful and diverse art,” he says.

In 2005, at the launch party for Khalili’s book The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture, Iran’s then- ambassador to London, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, hailed him as “an ambassador for the culture of Islam.”

First Treasure

Khalili’s journey to the top of the art world began in Iran on Dec. 18, 1945. The fourth of five children, he grew up in Tehran. His mother counseled divorced women. His father — like his father before him — visited homes to acquire artworks he could sell for a few dollars profit.

As a child, Khalili tagged along when his father traded art, once joining him at the home of a former education minister with a collection of pen boxes. The 12-year-old yeshiva student was enraptured by a lacquer pen box painted with 800 men and horses, each one different. Khalili recalls that when he rhapsodized about the box, the owner’s eyes filled with tears.

“He turned round to my dad and said, ‘I’m not selling this to you. I’m giving this to your son,’” Khalili says. He still has the pen box in his Islamic collection. “So the first piece I didn’t buy; I was given,” he says.

Art Mentor

After high school, Khalili did national service, training as an army medic. At 22, he left Iran for New York, where he worked at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant while studying at Queens College, part of New York’s public education system. One evening, as Khalili sipped cream to soothe an ulcer, the restaurant manager scolded him for taking it without permission. Khalili threw his waiter’s jacket at his boss and decided he’d trade art to pay his school fees.

At an auction of Russian enamels months later, Khalili noticed the main bidder was Alan Hartman, whose family ran a Manhattan antiques store. Khalili borrowed several enamels from Hartman on consignment. He says he sold them that evening for a $26,000 profit to Iranian collectors he knew on Long Island, where many wealthy Iranians were settling. (Khalili’s four siblings have since moved there.)

Hartman, now 80, says he wanted to help because Khalili was a Jewish immigrant struggling to build a new life. “We felt sorry for him,” he says.

“Alan and I did a hell of a lot after that,” Khalili says. “In two years, I was a millionaire.”

Friends say it was typical of Khalili that he’d launched himself by charming a stranger into lending him art.

“He has a way of winning people over,” says Sotheby’s Gibbs.

Tactile Billionaire

In person, Khalili exudes warmth: Meeting someone for the first time, he’s liable to introduce himself with a hug. He stands close to people, resting his hand on their arm, shoulder or back.

Before graduating from Queens in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences, Khalili was already amassing his own collection.

“I used to buy a group of objects — let’s say, 10 objects for $100,000 — keep 3 or 4 of the best aside and sell the rest for $250,000,” he says. “I used my knowledge to create money to finance my dream.”

In 1978, Khalili married Marion Easton, an Englishwoman he’d met while buying jewelry from her in a London antique store, and they settled in the U.K. capital. They have three sons: Daniel, 28, a jewelry designer, and twins Benjamin and Raphael, 25, who invest family money in startups such as PlayPit Games Ltd., an online entertainment company.

Decoy Shop

In addition to dealing art, Khalili says he began in the late 1970s to buy commercial properties in the U.K., France, Portugal and Spain.

“As he made money with property, he put it into art,” says Franses, the retired carpet dealer. “He was only ever interested in the art.”

Khalili approached him whenever he had cash to spare, buying such rarities as two 16th-century rugs that Franses says would now cost 2 million pounds each.

Khalili deployed misdirection to his advantage when he opened an Islamic art store in London in 1978. For three years, Khalili says he used the shop as a ruse to obtain dealers’ prices.

“I never sold anything there; I used that place as a decoy and bought unbelievable stuff,” he says.

“His timing was impeccable,” says Penhallurick. Islamic art was such a backwater that dedicated Islamic auctions didn’t begin until the 1970s. Khalili — whose main rivals at the time included the Kuwaiti royal family and the David Collection, owned by a Danish foundation — says many pieces he acquired then would now cost 10 to 50 times more.

Beautiful and Overlooked

“Anything that is beautiful and was overlooked, I bought,” says Khalili, who received a Ph.D. in Islamic lacquer at the University of London in 1988.

By the mid-1980s, Khalili says, his purchases were partly funded by venture capital investments that he declines to name. He says he made 30 times his money off shares he had bought in the late 1970s in a company developing technology to treat tumors. In 1987, he says he pocketed $15 million from the sale of a private company that made indigestion pills.

Khalili says he stopped trading art around 1980 and bankrolled his collecting primarily with profits from property. In a typical deal, he says, he paid 32.5 million pounds in 1992 for Cameron Toll, an Edinburgh shopping mall, selling it two years later for 55 million pounds as the market revived. Public records show Khalili has owned various private property companies.

Property Development

His main vehicle, Favermead Ltd., was incorporated in the U.K. in 1992 and sold 97 million pounds of property in 1995 alone, according to the company’s financial statements.

“Business is the least of my pride,” Khalili says. “Compared to collecting, it’s a piece of cake.”

Still, he currently owns a 60,000-square-foot (5,574- square-meter) business park in Exeter, England; a 32,000-square- foot building in Mayfair; and a site in central London where he plans to build a 320,000-square-foot, 13-story office tower when the real estate market recovers.

“If he starts building in the next 12 months, it’ll be very good timing as there’s very little available in the market,” says Gerald Ronson, CEO of London-based developer Heron International, which also bid for the central London site.

Mayfair Mansion

One personal property venture proved more problematic.

In 1993, Khalili began combining two buildings in Kensington that once housed the Russian and Egyptian embassies into a 55,000-square-foot home. Khalili says he spent 90 million pounds on the house, including 45 million pounds on the refurbishment. He employed 400 craftsmen for 4 years, installing 3,200 square meters of marble, a Turkish bath and underground parking for 20 cars. Marion Khalili says she refused to move in, deeming the house too palatial.

In 2001, Khalili unloaded the property for 50 million pounds to Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, who sold it to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for 57 million pounds in 2004, according to public records. Khalili now lives instead in a seven-story Edwardian mansion in Mayfair.

These days, Khalili says, his buying of Islamic art has slowed. With competition intensifying, he’s turned his attention elsewhere. One afternoon in late February, he reveals that he’s already begun his sixth collection. This time, Khalili says, he’s acquired an existing trove of nearly 200 pieces, to which he’ll add more treasures.

And the collection’s theme?

“I’m not telling you,” Khalili says with a smile. With that, he draws a veil on the next chapter in the improbable story of the Iranian yeshiva student who became the world’s leading private collector of Islamic art.

–Editors: David Ellis, Jonathan Neumann

Thoughts on Aafia Siddiqui’s Conviction

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Barrister Jafree’s Open Letter

By Barrister Jafree

I have been dismayed to read the article by Ms.  Rafia Zakaria  from Ohio (otherwise, one of the very few Indic-diaspora lawyer-columnists I have admired and praised) in the Dawn [February 17]. Since July 2008 I had kept her informed about the suffering, dilemmas and predicaments of Dr. Aafia  Siddiqui who was actually brutally kidnapped and ruthlessly-illegally Renditioned (along with her three perfectly innocent infant children) from  Karachi (she was proceeding by taxi to the Saddar  Railway Station on way to Islamabad due to horrendous harassment/ untold persecution from  her former husband as well as  the CIA functionaries and indigenous Khufia, and in the capitol-city of Pakistan she intended to take up employment at The Al-Shifa Hospital, and raise her three children) in 2003; and not arrested from Ghazni in 2008 as has been scurrilously and systemically  claimed by CIA/FBI functionaries and aficionados/bounty-hunters.

Aafia’s  helpless family consists of an elder  sister, a brother, and an old, God-fearing  mother. For six calendar years the  unfortunate, law-abiding Family  could not  even have a First Information Report  (F.I.R.) registered because of the Outreach and overreaction of the Powers That Be (read Unjustified Enrichment wonderboys) in Pakistan.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Finally, only late in 2009 a wishy-washy FIR was registered (without mentioning who  had kidnapped Aafia and under whose patronage/sponsorship). That FIR  is being investigated ahista-ahista by SSP Investigator Alhajj Niaz Khosa of Karachi while water has virtually crossed over the heads. This is no cause for applause except for the  Made-in-America Military Industrial Complex!

Mid-July 2008 while  visiting Islamabad  (in connection with my Habeas Writs regarding outrageously wrongful confinement of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan by General Pervez Musharraf) I was shocked to learn from a mysterious,trembling  phonecall  that Aafia was being detained/abused  in a dungeon jail in Kabul (“and was likely to be shot dead”). Immediately I made the best inquiries I could muster, and  I filed a hand-written  Writ Habeas Corpus in the Islamabad High Court . I did, for example,  ask U.S. Ambassador , Miss Ann Patterson if she denied that the Embassy remained  curiously (and coyly/smugly)  silent so did our  then Interior Secretary, Alhaj Syed Kamal Shah (who was Inspector General of Sindh in 2003). and our Minitry of Law, Justice  and Human Rights. Such silence (indifference+apathy) is deafening, disgraceful and dreadful nonsense of arrogance. 

Concerning my Habeas Writs, the Interior/ Foreign Affairs Ministries and Attorneys-General for Pakistan, (Qayyum and Khosa) wasted time of the Court and showed no concern for a fellow-citizen and human being. I made desperate efforts that the Attorney-General for Pakistan write a letter to United States District Judge Richard Berman (copying it to the United States Attorney  in New York, 20005) that Aafia was illicitly kidnapped from Karachi in 2003. This was not done, sinisterly so,  in spite of  helpful directions from the Lahore High Court which have been openly flouted.

The reprehensible maltreatment of Aafia is a felony of  designer Bait ‘N Switch. The most pressing question here  is  simply not  concerning what is happening  (regretably so!) in Pakistan to other oppressed women and repressed men.  More immediately relevant is the fact that Rafia Zakaria who is on the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union never protested the gravely  ill-treatment that has been accorded to Aafia who was transferred without any cause or judicial/extradition proceeding to the Death-penalty jurisdiction of New York.

The Afghan Government as well as the United States Officialdom violated, inter alia, the Geneva/Vienna Conventions and Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between Pakistan and USA [1959] by not immediately  informing Pakistan Embassy in Kabul (his would have been the case had she been arrested  actually in Ghazni); rather the  Pakistani Embassy in Washington was intimated MUCH  AFTER  my Writ and  only after Aafia had been cruelly lodged in  a New York’s Brooklyn  Detention Center where she has been  violated, physically harmed and variously humiliated and is being  grossly inhumanly maltreated.  Her son, Ahmed has told our illustrious  Interior Minister (Government of Pakistan)  that he never saw nor encountered  his mother after being grabbed and separated from his nuclear family in 2003. in  Karachi. This should make some lice to crawl over the ears of our Establishment! 

I do ask why is  Miss Rafia Zakaria silent about the violence and inhumanity accorded by   the U.S. officialdom to Aafia within United States of America itself. The truth of the matter is that CIA needed some highly-educated person to  ‘credibly’ blame for  the consequences of 9-11; they catapulted  (and are victimizing) America-educated Aafia to fit that  Negative Sum Mentality Purpose. Then, to add/ ‘justify’ insidious  insult to injury (to Aafia as well as  the Occidental image of Islam)  finding no evidence for six  long years  artfully arranged  A-to-Z,

Aafia’s predetermined trial in God-forsaken New York where no civilized country even allows proper Extradition. This is  a crying shame! Aafia was regretably denied  threshold access to  even choose her own lawyers or defend herself of her own. This mischievous misconduct offends all notions of process that was due  and is now Overdue!!
By the way, Dr Aafia Siddiqui never re-married anyone as was wrongfully touted and spinned globally  by FBI. Aafia is victim of that fascist syndromme: “Call a person a dog and then shoot her” . The Neo-Improvisation and Restatement of that Syndrome is that before-predetermined-shooting-an-innocent-lady – – just  have three or four  heavy-weight American soldiers  falsely claim that the chosen victim-to-be-blamed shot at them first by grabbing their gun which was lying on the floor of their overseas dungeon. As a former Assistant Attorney-General in the USA, I know that laying-down the heavy-gun on the floor is never  dared and never done in  suchlike circumstances. Additionally,  no DNA or other physical evidence was discovered to that  alleged-effect. The Jury returned the verdict of “Guilty” based on verbal evidence of Aafia versus four  bought (and brought) witnesses. Law will accept the impossible but not the improbable and unreasonable. Let us not be somnobulant about that.  I spent quater of a century in the USA learning and not-earning dollars.

In a nutshell,  I must  respectfully and  conscientiously ask American bureaucrats  that they should stop maltreating minorities and try to understand Islam in the proper light so that past wrongs and blunders can be rectified and only thus the Day Shall Dawn.

It is a long shot! But where there is will there is a way.

Yours sincerely,

SYED MOHAMMED JAWAID IQBAL JAFREE OF PACIFIC PASLISADES,

MA Illinois LLM Harvard PhD Read  FRSA London  SASC PC, ATTORNEY AT LAW, ADMITTED IN PAKISTAN AND USA

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Community News (V12-I9)

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Duke’s Muslim chaplain to give opening prayers at US house

4E90 DURHAM –- Duke University’s Muslim chaplain, Abdullah T. Antepli, will deliver the opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. March 3.

Antepli is serving as guest chaplain at the invitation of U.S. Rep. David Price.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to be asked to give this opening prayer. It is a great honor for me and for Duke University,” Antepli said in a news release. “It’s wonderful that Congress, through their invitation, is acknowledging Duke’s commitment to diversity and a pluralistic society.”

Antepli, who joined Duke in July 2008, is one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. He is the founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association and a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and Duke Islamic Studies Center, where he teaches courses on Islam.

The guest chaplain program is sponsored by the Office of the Chaplain of the House of Representatives. Guest chaplains must be recommended by current members of Congress, and each member is allowed to recommend only one religious leader per session. Opening the House of Representatives in prayer is a tradition that began in 1789 with the first Continental Congress.

Columbia MSA discusses Sunni-Shia unity

NEW YORK, NY–The Muslim Student Association of Columbia University held a lecture by Imam Ammar Nakshawani on the importance of uniting Sunni and Shia Muslims.

“There needs to be dialogue in order to bridge the gap,” Nakshawani said in his lecture on Thursday. The word “dialogue,” he added, stems from the Greek word “dia,” which means “to see through the lens of another person.” “For so many years, when Shiites and Sunnis tried to bridge the gap, the Shiite would look through his lens. The Sunni would look through his.”

In his address, Nakshawani asked the audience to put aside political and theological differences between Sunnis and Shiites and focus on the group’s shared fundamental beliefs, such as the oneness of Allah, Muhammad’s (s) role as the prophet of Allah, and the five pillars of Islam.

“Take off your lenses and see through the eyes of someone else,” Nakshawani said.

He criticized he speeches of Sunni and Shiite clerics who use negative phrases, such as “atheist sinners” and “infidels,” to incite hatred of the other sects.

Muslim cemetery proposed in Connecticut

CANTERBURY,CT–The Connecticut Council of Masajid is planning to establish a Muslim cemetery in Canterbury. They have identified a 11 acre site which was recently toured by the area residents and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission.

Abdul Hamid, president of Council of Masajid, has been in Connecticut since 1966 and lives in Hampton. He said he has always found a friendly mix of people in the state.

“This is an opportunity to get to know people,’’ he said of the walk through the woods.

The group has an option to purchase the Canterbury property for $300,000 from Daniel M. Cymkow. According to the wetlands application, a 12- to 15-foot wide driveway would wind through the land. The first and second phases of the cemetery would be four acres each, and the third phase would be 17 acres. The land would not be clear cut, Hamid said.

If a wetlands permit is approved, the group would still need a special exception permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission.

First Halal Meals on Wheels Program Introduced in US

DETROIT, MI–The Arabic Community Center for Economic and Social Services has launched what is the first Halal  Meals on Wheels program in the US. The program delivers hot Halal meals to seniors who require care and was launched last month in Dearborn.

Amne Darwish Talab of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services told the Detroit News that  there has been a need for this type of service for a long time.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have the same living conditions as they did before this economic crisis,” said Talab, ACCESS’s social services. “A lot of seniors have no family or no kids or their kids are in another state.”

The program currently has about 20 recipients and is expected to grow.

Muslim students help the homeless in Orlando

ORLANDO, FL–The Muslim Student Association at the University of Central Florida has launched a program which not only provides food for the homeless but also gives then clean , new socks.

Project Downtown is a part of MSA National that was started by students in Miami who wanted to give the homeless more than food, the Central Florida Future reported.

The project is founded on the idea that people should not only give food but also whatever modest, unconditional gifts they can offer, according to Project Downtown’s Web site.

Huma Khan, a mechanical engineering major and the Director of Project Downtown, Orlando, said that the sock donation was one way to give more to the community.

“It’s just a random thing we picked out that homeless people do need,” she said. “Socks, underwear, stuff like that. Just little things that we look over that people in the streets actually do need and that they appreciate a lot more than we do.”

Khan added that the members of Project Downtown, Orlando give the homeless someone to talk to.

“Us being here kind of just gives them something to look forward to,” she said. “I build relationships with people. I know who they are, I know them by face…if you have a good conversation with someone one week, it’ll kind of make your day a little bit better and you’ll look forward to speaking to that person again.”

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Dubai Now Seeking 26 Suspects in Hamas Killing

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Johnston

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai is hunting for at least 26 people over the killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel in a suspected Israeli operation that has caused a diplomatic furor.

Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are near certain was a hit by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Dubai police added 15 new names on Wednesday to a list of suspects wanted over the killing. Six carried British passports, three held Irish documents, three were Australian, and three French, the Dubai government said in a statement.

Israeli media reported on Wednesday the new list could involve further cases of identity theft.

Dubai authorities had earlier named 11 suspects, who they said travelled on fraudulent British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh. Six were Britons living in Israel who deny involvement and say their identities were stolen.

“Dubai investigators are not ruling out the possibility of involvement of other people in the murder,” the statement said.

The suspected killers’ use of passports from countries including Britain and France has drawn criticism from the European Union. Some of the governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

“We will not be silent on this matter. It is a matter of deep concern. It really goes to the integrity and fabric of the use of state documents, which passports are, for other purposes,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, as his government summoned Israel’s ambassador.

The Dubai statement said: “Friendly governments (which) have been assisting in this investigation have indicated to the police in Dubai that the passports were issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner.”

It said pictures on the passports did not correspond to their original owners.

In a statement on Monday that European diplomats said was intended as a rebuke to Israel, EU foreign ministers said that the assassination was “profoundly disturbing.”

Israel has not denied or confirmed it played any role but its foreign minister said there was nothing to link it to the killing. The United States, Israel’s main ally, has kept silent about the affair.

Mabhouh, born in the Gaza Strip, had lived in Syria since 1989 and Israeli and Palestinian sources have said he played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in Gaza.

A Hamas official and Israel have also said he masterminded the capture and killing of two Israeli soldiers during a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s.

Like last week, Dubai police released passport photos and closed-circuit television footage of the new suspects, who police said arrived from cities including Zurich, Paris, Rome, Milan and Hong Kong.

“This was to take the camouflage and deception to its utmost level and to guarantee the avoidance of any security supervision or observation of their movements,” the statement said.

Once their part in the operation was completed, the suspects again dispersed to different parts of the world, with two suspects leaving Dubai by boat for Iran, it said.

Dubai police also released credit card details of some of the suspects. At least 13 credit cards used to book hotel rooms and pay for air travel were issued by the same small U.S. lender, MetaBank. The bank declined comment.

“MetaBank is declining comment pending a factual review of this matter,” it said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Israel’s Ynet news website said it had tracked down a person with the same name as one of the suspects living in Tel Aviv.

“I am in shock from what I just heard. This is an identity theft. I cannot believe it,” Adam Marcus Korman, an Australian-born Israeli, told the website.

Several other names listed as suspects by Dubai police were similar to those of people listed in the Israeli telephone directory, including two named as British passport holders. Reuters was not immediately able to contact any of those people.

Two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support were in detention and Dubai’s police chief has said he believes the operation could not have been carried out without information from inside Hamas on Mabhouh’s travel details.

An official from the movement was quoted as saying last week that Hamas had launched an investigation to try to discover “how the Mossad was able to carry out the operation.

Mossad is believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as well as Iran’s nuclear project.

Mabhouh’s killing was the third high profile murder in less than two years in trade and tourism hub Dubai, one of seven emirates in the UAE federation, where violent crime is rare.

(Additional reporting by Rania Oteify in Dubai, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Alastair Macdonald in Jerusalem, Daniel Wilchins in New York and Rob Taylor in Canberra, Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Matthew Jones)

12-9

American Justice?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yvonne Ridley

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Many of us are still in a state of shock over the guilty verdict returned on Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

The response from the people of Pakistan was predictable and overwhelming and I salute their spontaneous actions. From Peshawar to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and beyond they marched in their thousands demanding the return of Aafia.

Even some of the US media expressed discomfort over the verdict returned by the jurors … there was a general feeling that something was not right. Everyone had something to say, everyone that is except the usually verbose US Ambassador Anne Patterson who has spent the last two years briefing against Dr Aafia and her supporters.

This is the same woman who claimed I was a fantasist when I gave a press conference with Tehreek e Insaf leader Imran Khan back in July 2008 revealing the plight of a female prisoner in Bagram called the Grey Lady.

She said I was talking nonsense and stated categorically that the prisoner I referred to as “650” did not exist. By the end of the month she changed her story and said there had been a female prisoner but that she was most definitely not Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

By that time Aafia had been gunned down at virtually point blank range in an Afghan prison cell jammed full of more than a dozen US soldiers, FBI agents and Afghan police.

Her Excellency briefed the media that the prisoner had wrested an M4 gun from one soldier and fired off two rounds and had to be subdued. The fact these bullets failed to hit a single person in the cell and simply disappeared did not resonate with the diplomat.

In a letter dripping in untruths on August 16 2008 she decried the “erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of Ms Aafia Siddiqui”. She went on to say: “Unfortunately, there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion. The truth is never served by sensationalism…”

When Jamaat Islami invited me on a national tour of Pakistan to address people about the continued abuse of Dr Aafia and the truth about her incarceration in Bagram, the US Ambassador continued to issue rebuttals.

She assured us all that Dr Aafia was being treated humanely had been given consular access as set out in international law … hmm. Well I have a challenge for Ms Patterson today. I challenge her to repeat every single word she said back then and swear it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial got underway, the US Ambassador and some of her stooges from the intelligence world laid on a lavish party at the US Embassy in Islamabad for some hand-picked journalists where I’ve no doubt in between the dancing, drinks and music they were carefully briefed about the so-called facts of the case.

Interesting that some of the potentially incriminating pictures taken at the private party managed to find the Ambassador was probably hoping to minimize the impact the trial would have on the streets of Pakistan proving that, for the years she has been holed up and barricaded behind concrete bunkers and barbed wire, she has learned nothing about this great country of Pakistan or its people.

One astute Pakistani columnist wrote about her: “The respected lady seems to have forgotten the words of her own country’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

And the people of Pakistan proved they are nobody’s fool and responded to the guilty verdict in New York in an appropriate way.

When injustice is the law it is the duty of everyone to rise up and challenge that injustice in any way possible. The response – so far – has been restrained and measured but it is just the start. A sentence has yet to be delivered by Judge Richard Berman in May.

Of course there has been a great deal of finger pointing and blame towards the jury in New York who found Dr Aafia guilty of attempted murder.

Observers asked how they could ignore the science and the irrefutable facts … there was absolutely no evidence linking Dr Aafia to the gun, no bullets, no residue from firing it.

But I really don’t think we can blame the jurors for the verdict – you see the jury simply could not handle the truth. Had they taken the logical route and gone for the science and the hard, cold, clinical facts it would have meant two things. It would have meant around eight US soldiers took the oath and lied in court to save their own skins and careers or it would have meant that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was telling the truth.

And, as I said before, the jury couldn’t handle the truth. Because that would have meant that the defendant really had been kidnapped, abused, tortured and held in dark, secret prisons by the US before being shot and put on a rendition flight to New York. It would have meant that her three children – two of them US citizens – would also have been kidnapped, abused and tortured by the US.

They say ignorance is bliss and this jury so desperately wanted not to believe that the US could have had a hand in the kidnapping of a five-month -old baby boy, a five-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother.

They couldn’t handle the truth … it is as simple as that.

Well I, and many others across the world like me, can’t handle any more lies. America’s reputation is lying in the lowest gutters in Pakistan at the moment and it can’t sink any lower.

The trust has gone, there is only a burning hatred and resentment towards a superpower which sends unmanned drones into villages to slaughter innocents.
It is fair to say that America’s goodwill and credibility is all but washed up with most honest, decent citizens of Pakistan.

And I think even Her Excellency Anne Patterson recognizes that fact which is why she is now keeping her mouth shut.

If she has any integrity and any self respect left she should stand before the Pakistan people and ask for their forgiveness for the drone murders, the extra judicial killings, the black operations, the kidnapping, torture and rendition of its citizens, the water-boarding, the bribery, the corruption and, not least of all, the injustice handed out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her family.

She should then pick up the phone to the US President and tell him to release Aafia and return Pakistan’s most loved, respected and famous daughter and reunite her with the two children who are still missing.

Then she should re-read her letter of August 16, 2008 and write another … one of resignation.

Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners which first brought the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui to the world’s attention shortly after her kidnap in March 2003. The award-winning, investigative journalist also co-produced the documentary In Search of Prisoner 650 with film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani which concluded that the Grey Lady of Bagram was Dr Aafia Siddiqui

12-7

Pakistan’s Border War Grows Murkier

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adnan R. Khan, AOL News

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Feb. 7) — Last week’s suicide attack in Pakistan’s volatile Lower Dir region, the site of Pakistani military operations against the Pakistani Taliban, has added fuel to an already raging wildfire of conspiracy theories in the country. The attack killed not only its presumed American targets but also two schoolgirls, and injured more than 100 others. But what caused the Pakistani government special discomfort was the spotlight it shone on the American military presence here.

For Pakistanis, that presence is only part of a larger and increasingly murky game being played out in the war-torn Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and the adjoining Tribal Areas. Even as operations against militants continue, rumors of meetings between militants and the Pakistani army have clouded perceptions of the government’s strategy to confront Pakistan’s growing insurgency.

Anti-American sentiment has surged in recent days with the conviction in New York of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui on terrorism charges, a judgment the Pakistani government and the Taliban alike have condemned as proof of U.S. prejudice against Muslims.

If that weren’t enough, American intelligence sources claimed this week that a drone attack last month killed Hakimullah Mehsud, a key Pakistani Taliban leader. Officials in Pakistan, where drone attacks are another daily unwanted reminder of Islamabad’s highly unpopular cooperation with U.S., have pointedly not confirmed the death.

That disconnect highlights what has become a deadly public relations exercise, pitting a nervous U.S. administration keen to win over Pakistani public opinion against a Pakistan army that is trying both to maintain its links with shady militant groups it considers useful and at the same time appease U.S. demands that it crack down on them.

For years, Pakistan has refused to let go of its links to the militants while Washington has turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s duplicity, fearful of losing a crucial ally in its war on Islamic extremism. The net result has been confusion and chaos. Even beneath that U.S.-Pakistani tension, the war in NWFP, on the Afghanistan border, is treacherous and bewildering even to those in its midst.

“No one knows what exactly is going on,” says Faheem Urrahman, the 42-year-old mayor of Bazi Khel, a dusty town just south of Peshawar, capital of NWFP, and bordering the Khyber tribal agency. “I don’t know who exactly I’m supposed to be fighting anymore.”

Urrahman has seen first-hand how the game is played and how men like him can turn suddenly from favored ally to expendable pawn. A few short months ago, he was the darling of the Pakistani military, which lavished him with praise for raising a small army to take on Taliban-linked militants in his war-torn region of Khyber. Today, Urrahman fears for his life, and he blames not just the Taliban, but also the Pakistani Army.

A few miles from his heavily guarded compound, his sworn enemies, the Lashkar-i-Islam (LiI), an Islamist group now considered part of the Pakistani Taliban, are re-grouping. A military operation against them that began in August last year has done little to weaken their presence. The leader, Mangal Bagh, one of the most wanted men in Pakistan, remains at large, yet that operation appears to be winding down.

“I don’t understand it,” Urrahman says. “If the Pakistani army made a sincere effort to get rid of these guys, it could be over in a month.”

The abortive operation in Khyber suggests to him and others that Pakistan’s war against Islamic militancy is sometimes more a public relations exercise than a legitimate push to cleanse the country of its fundamentalist threat.

According to one senior agent with Pakistani Inter-services Intelligence, or ISI, Bagh, an illiterate former bus conductor, is only the latest in a long line of Pakistani militants groomed by ISI agents. As Taliban influence rises throughout Pakistan’s tribal areas, the ISI has struggled to maintain its influence over an ever more complex array of militant groups formed in the wake of the war in Afghanistan. “Mangal Bagh was supposed to be our man in Khyber,” says the ISI source. “But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. “

That is putting it mildly. Since Bagh took control in Khyber, Taliban influence there has skyrocketed, with violence spilling over into Peshawar itself. In August last year, the Pakistani army began a major operation, listing Bagh as one of Pakistan’s most-wanted militants and promising to rid Khyber Agency of the LiI. Months earlier, Faheem had set up his own anti-Bagh militia, after attacks against his men in Bazi Khel forced his hand. “We had the support of the military then,” he says. “I’d like to think we still have the support of the military now.”

But that appears less and less likely. The Pakistani military recently announced a moratorium on military operations and has strongly backed an initiative by Afghan President Hamid Karzai seeking reconciliation with low- to mid-level Taliban commanders. Al Jazeera recently reported that meetings were under way between the United Nations and the Quetta Council, the Afghan Taliban’s central authority, including Mullah Omar, which has been operating out of the Pakistani city Quetta bordering Afghanistan’s restive Kandahar province.

“This Khyber operation has been a game,” says one officer of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. “I can tell you from what I saw: there is no operation. Not in Khyber and not in other places the military claims it is taking on the Taliban.”

In fact, the officer says the army is still on speaking terms with Bagh, even as it claims publicly to be hunting him down.

“I saw [Bagh] meet with senior generals at Bala Hisar in the middle of December,” he says, referring to the British-era fort in Peshawar’s old city . “I don’t know what the meeting was about but I saw him come in with a convoy of military officers.”

The Pakistani military could not be reached for comment, but a former senior officer with Inter-services Public Relations, the army’s media wing, told AOL News that no one there would “ever confirm such a meeting took place.”

So where does that leave Urrahman , so recently hailed as an anti-Taliban patriot? Nervously glancing around his compound, he admits he is uneasy. Two attempts on his life in recent months have left him on edge. He never stays at the same place for more than one night. On November 8 last year, Haji Abdul Malik, another anti-Taliban militia commander operating just a few miles south, was assassinated by a suicide bomber. Urrahman senses he might be next.

“Of course I have reservations,” he says, blaming the government for not doing enough to protect him. “How can I trust the authorities after all that has happened? They haven’t arrested a single person linked to the attacks on me, even though they know who was behind them.”

12-7

Open Letter to Islamophobe Dutch MP Geert Wilders

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Dear Mr Wilders,

They say you can only take a horse to the water, you cant make it drink. But human beings are not horses. Unlike animals, they can be reasoned with. I offer these few remarks in the faint hope you are amenable to reason.

It is about your recent speech to the Alliance of Patriots in New York. In which you paint an apocalyptic picture of the Islamization of Europe. You describe some European cities with Muslim neighborhoods in lurid terms. It is a world where women walk around in figureless tents. Their husbands, or slave holders, if you prefer, walk three steps ahead. Mr Wilders, I live bang near one of those areas in West London. I often visit Whitechapel and Edgware Road parts of our colorful Londonistan I have never seen a Muslim woman walking behind her husband. Rather, the mothers stroll about in a proud, dignified manner, alongside the men. Nothing in their behavior suggests a subordinate role, let alone slavery. And there are tons of lively, even feisty Muslim girls wearing all sorts of gear. True, they may not, as a rule, behave like permissive, liberated females, baring the flesh, hugging and kissing partners in public, no. I would even guess most of them don’t sleep with boys before marriage. But since when are chastity, modesty and self-restraint so bad? The traditional, Christian mores of the Western civilization which you claim to uphold used to prize such things, no?

25 per cent of the population of Europe will be Muslim just 12 years from now. Lies, damned lies and statistics, someone said. But if you want native Europeans to stay numerically supreme, how about encouraging them to have more children? To urge them not to use contraceptives, the pills? To give up abortion? To bolster family values? Stop bashing Islam. Embrace the Christian religion in its conservative, sound traditions and all will be kosher.

Thousands of mosques across Europe. With larger congregations than churches, you notice. Well, whose fault is that? Do perhaps Muslims stand at church doors, stopping the eager faithful from worshipping the Lord? Methinks you should rather address yourself to Christians. Look at Muslims you should say. Look at how many regularly pray. How keen they are on the observances of their religion. You should do the same. Exactly. The flourishing of mosques across Europe should serve as a stimulus to Christians. A window of opportunity. As an urgent reminder to get back to their vital, life-giving roots the worship of the One True God. Why blame pious Muslims for the faults of lukewarm or nominal Christians, eh?

In Amsterdam gays are beaten up almost exclusively by Muslims. Awful, if true. Funnily enough, I recall the words of Pym Fortuyn, the gay right-wing politician murdered by a fanatic. I have nothing against Moroccans I have slept with so many of them. From Andre Gide to William Burroughs, the Arab world has been one of artistic gays favorite fun destinations. Tangiers nickname was Sodom on Sea. Homophobia cant be all that endemic amongst Arabs, I should imagine.

The history of the Holocaust can no longer be taught because of Muslim sensitivity. How bizarre. First, a godson of mine has been to Auschwitz, on a school trip. Part of a program to learn about wartime horrors. School curricula in Britain do in fact include projects about WWII and persecutions of Jews and other people. London’s Imperial War Museum has a holocaust section, which I viewed just the other day. What’s more, TV channels force-feed viewers with a daily, obsessive dose of films and programs about the war and Germanys crimes. If anybody should complain about this state of affairs, it should be Germans. It fuels Germanophobia, the lurking, masochistic English vice. Do todays Germans deserve such constant pilloring? After all, isn’t Germany amongst the strongest supporters of your beloved state of Israel?

Ok, you don’t like Muslims. Yet they are not going to go away. Your case is analogous to that of the man whose garden was infested by ladybirds. They were everywhere. He didn’’t like them. He tried several methods to get rid of them. Sprays, insecticides, this and that. Nothing worked. The ladybirds kept being around. Indeed, they multiplied. The guy was getting obsessed with them, growing paranoid, bitter, haunted. Eventually, he sent an e-mail to a wise old friend, an experienced gardener: What should I do about the damned ladybirds?

The reply came: I suggest you learn to love them.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli

12-7

Another Week in the Aafia Siddiqui Trial

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By ondelette, seminal.firedoglake.com

kangaroo_court It’s been a long week in the “terrorism” trial in Manhattan. A week which ended with first Mayor Bloomberg then President Obama backing away from trying any more terrorists there. Which is what the commentators wanted all along, Michelle Malkin and her supporters, that is. Aafia Siddiqui, about whom very few people cared for years, has suddenly become the cause célèbre for those who want suspects waterboarded, new courts formed, military tribunals held, and prisoners kept indefinitely for the duration of a conflict they will never end. Never mind that nobody knows for sure how indefinitely she’s been held already. Or that her accusers are looking more and more like the guilty parties. She may just be convicted on fear or is it hate?

As always, Petra Bartosiewicz is doing an excellent job of blogging the trial. Her daily blogs are at CagePrisoners.

I wrote already about Monday, when the nameless but very sympathy evoking injured Chief Warrant Officer testified. And the medic testified and was questioned about a statement given to the FBI five days after the incident in which she reported being told that the Captain would get “fried” if anyone found out it was his gun, but the Chief Warrant Officer wouldn’t. Ms. Siddiqui also, in one of her increasingly perceptive “outbursts” claimed she was shot by somebody else. Hustle her out again.

The defense began their case, thus, with the prosecution having failed to substantiate that the M-4 was ever fired, and with conflicting testimony about how she supposedly fired it, and with testimony about two alleged holes in the wall from the M-4 bullets, but no casings or bullet pieces, and the prosecution’s own forensics expert saying there was no proof an M-4 was ever fired in the room.

So they brought on a forensics expert who has examined hundreds of such gunfire scenes and testified on behalf of the government about them. He testified that in his judgment the holes were not from M-4 bullets and that he doubted they were from gunfire at all. Remember that, because it isn’t clear the jury did.

The defense’s other witness testified by video, meaning a video tape of testimony from Ghazni. He was the Afghan counterterrorism chief, and he was at the scene, and he was there before the Americans arrived, and he clearly testified that Ms. Siddiqui did not pick up a gun or shoot at anyone, rather the Americans went behind the curtain where she was, three shots were fired, and Ms. Siddiqui went down with gunshot wounds, and was suddenly being whisked away by the Americans, Hamid Karzai on his way notwithstanding.

The defense sent letters to the judge to prevent their client from testifying on grounds that her mental state was degenerated, and that she would likely talk about negotiating with the Taliban which would work against her with the jury. The prosecution insisted on giving her her constitutional rights to take the stand. Probably the first time since she was arrested in Ghazni, but not the only time this week, that the government cared about rights of the accused. They held a hearing with the jury sequestered, and the judge asked Aafia Siddiqui if she could remain on the subject and understood the proceedings. Probably the first time since Judge Berman got on the trial that he cared enough to ask her if she understood the proceedings, since he pointedly didn’t during her competency hearings which were all about — whether she understood the proceedings.

But wait, there is another issue, and this one was so glaring during the competency hearings as to make one hang one’s head in shame at the state of American rule of law. It regards the FBI transcripts, two page write-ups by the day of her interrogation while in the Craig Field Hospital in Bagram, starting with the day she got there, apparently. The timeline for her transportation came out in the prosecution’s testimony, she was operated on in the field at 1am on July 19th, and then transported to Bagram and placed in a room with 24/7 lights and three cameras, on a four-point restraint bed. The interrogation logs begin with that morning which was — when she arrived?

So the judge and the defense team asked Aafia Siddiqui about those interrogations. She (the defense must have been thanking their stars) reported, and later also testified with the jury present, that she was dizzy the whole time, that she was on morphine and percocet the whole time, that she was denied sleep the whole time, that she was worried about her daughter and other children the whole time, that the male interrogator threatened her that she told them everything or she would be handed over to “the really bad guys” and watched when they opened her clothing to change her dressings, that she was dependent on her interrogators for food, water, to use the toilet, that she had no idea they were agents because everybody had their badges turned backwards that entered her room, and that she was not Mirandized until she got to New York and saw no consulate representatives (the “equivalent right” to Miranda when not in the United States), and that she thought she was headed back to the secret prison the prosecution so dearly wants expunged from her “outbursts”. They so dearly want to admit the FBI notes that “prove” she was never held incommunicado, that she was in Karachi the whole time. They who have their own problems with FBI transcripts which seem to indicate that the soldiers and FBI agents in the room in Ghazni are covering up a cold-blooded shooting or a panic shooting of a prisoner who, in terms of the military who shot her, was a civilian and a prisoner and hors de combat regardless.

So, upon hearing that the defendant was drugged, deprived of sleep, in a stress position, and threatened and believed her children threatened, ruled that her comments in such a situation were “voluntary and knowing”, and the FBI transcripts could be used to impugn her testimony. After all, the Supreme Court declined to review an opinion about prisoner abuse not on American soil, the jury is so petrified that jurors who are pointed to or spoken to are in fear for their lives, and the family’s advocate, International Justice Network’s Tina Foster, has said that regardless of how weak the prosecution’s case, which currently looks like a flea circus, it all comes down to whether an American jury can acquit a woman with a scarf covering her face.

Aafia Siddiqui’s testimony was by all accounts lucid and to the point. She preliminarily testified about her childhood and education, and when she got to the matter of the trial, mentioned that she had moral objections to the trial but testified anyway. [For those new to the case, her moral objections include that $2 million in Pakistani money is being spent on her even though she believes she will be convicted anyway, which she believes should go to the poor, and that she believes it is her accusers who should be on trial — for shooting her.] She testified that she peaked through the curtain with the thought of trying to escape because she was sure they would take her back to “the secret prison”, and then she was shot, she says, by two people, and hit twice. She heard them say, “We’re taking this bitch with us,” passed out and went in and out on the way to Bagram, but heard someone say that a couple of people would lose their jobs if she died.

The prosecution tried to impugn her testimony by asking about the contents of her bag, she said it wasn’t her bag, and the notes were things she was ordered to copy from a magazine in the “secret prison”. And when they asked about her shooting ability, and simultaneously put up a slide of a picture of a gun from her “notes” for effect, I guess, she asked that the slide be taken down, that she never drew it, and told the prosecuting attorney Jenna Dabbs, “You can’t build a case on hate, you should build it on fact.” Needless to say, the line was carried in much of the press as an incoherent outburst. To my mind, it was the most lucid comment since this whole sorry detention of people as information units, torture, incommunicado enforced disappearance solitary confinement sleep deprivation, drugging, threatening, enhanced interrogation, child torture, desecration of the Constitution and international treaties began.

Lamely, the prosecution put another witness on the stand, this one a gun range instructor from Braintree, Mass, whom the FBI found apparently two weeks ago by asking if he recognized a picture of her, and he did. He testified that she took a 12 hour NRA sanctioned course on pistol shooting and fired “400 to 1200 rounds” during the course (she says she never took that course, but took one in physical conditioning). He has no records of her taking it, supposedly in 1990, no certificates issued, no record of it at the NRA, nothing, he just recognizes one student, out of all of them, after 20 years and seems to have just remembered it. Not sure why that’s supposed to prove that nothing Aafia Siddiqui says can be trusted, maybe it’s the “white guy who’s a member of the NRA” v. “brown woman in a chadoor” thingy. I’m so confused. Apparently, when the prosecution presents its case, the prosecution calls witnesses to the stand, and when the defense presents its case, the prosecution calls witnesses to the stand. Or something.

But Michelle Malkin’s rantings that this trial proved you couldn’t try terrorists in New York City got amplified all over the internet and in newspapers and television stations around the country last week, until Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama pulled the plug and will move the trials. Is it just me, or should a brown girl like her worry just a leeetle bit more about convicting brown girls for nothing at all but being different?

Of course, all of this has played in the foreign press, and to the Pakistanis, this is confirmation both of her innocence and of her incarceration and torture. You see, if the events in the room in Ghazni are not as the Americans say, and few in Pakistan believed they were anyway, and if Pakistani journalists are denied access to the trial and have to watch it in another room on video, and if Pakistanis have been put on a list in the last month of people who require special searching by the TSA at American airports, and if now the prosecution looks like it is covering up a cowardly shooting by a room full of American soldiers of an unarmed 100lb woman who disappeared during a time when their president bragged about making money selling Pakistanis to the Americans, what’s not to believe? If there is a guilty verdict in the courtroom in Manhattan after what’s transpired there, the world, at least for the few billion in Asia, will see that Americans no longer believe in human rights and the rule of law. It’s as simple as that.

So it was no surprise on Friday, when Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudry of the Lahore High Court ordered the barrister handling the Aafia Siddiqui case there on behalf of her family (which is related to a Senate inquiry to press charges against the former president and head of the national police for kidnapping and rendition into torture — to wit, to the Americans), to send any and all evidence he has on her disappearance, to her defense attorneys in the United States, and that after 7 years, police investigators returned to the scene of the abduction with Ahmed Siddiqui, the New York defendant’s eldest son.

In the eyes of the U.S. Department of Justice, Aafia Siddiqui, the dangerous terrorist “Lady al Qaeda”, is on trial for attempted murder. In the eyes of the world, the United States of America is on trial for abduction, black sites, torture, and attempted murder to cover it up.

You can’t build a case on hate, you should build it on fact.

Maybe that’s why she thought she could change things by talking to President Obama.

12-6

The Muslim Population in Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

CNN

2010-01-27T190252Z_394306782_GM1E61S08FL01_RTRMADP_3_QUAKE-HAITI-CANADA

Pallbearers carry Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Doug Coates in Ottawa January 27. Coates died in the Haiti earthquake.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) — Tucked away on a corner of the Haitian capital’s dusty, congested Delmas Road, a modest white building bears a curious sign, painstakingly stenciled in green Western and Arabic script.

“Mosquee Al-Fatiha,” it reads. “Communaute Musulmane d’Haiti.”

An attendant splashing water on the ground greets a visitor who approaches the gate. “As-salaam aleikum [peace be upon you],” he says, breaking into a smile. “Welcome to the mosque.”

Haiti, the Caribbean nation closely associated with the African-derived faith of voodoo, is home to a small but growing community of Muslims. Two Islamic centers in the capital of Port-au-Prince are among nearly a dozen around the country started by those who have converted to the faith.

Officials with the major Islamic groups estimate there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Muslims in Haiti, a nation of about 8 million people.

In the lanes of the historic Carrefour-Feuilles quarter, a neighborhood that snakes up the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince, a plangent, timeless sound echoes.

Among the market women haggling over prices while portable radios blare popular Haitian “compas” music, the muezzin’s call to prayer goes forth from a new Islamic masjeed, or prayer center.

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaha ila Allah,” — “God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God.”

Haiti is about 80 percent Catholic and 20 percent Protestant, according to State Department figures, while some 85 percent of its people regularly practice voodoo.

Muslims noticeable in cities

But followers of Islam have recently stepped into the public eye. Muslim men distinctive in their kufi headwear and finely groomed beards, and women in traditional scarves, are now seen on the streets of several cities.

Nawoon Marcellus, who comes from the northern city of San Raphael, recently became the first Muslim elected to the Chamber of Deputies, Haiti’s lower house of parliament.

“I returned to Haiti in 1985 just to preach Islam,” said Abdul Al-Ali, the Delmas mosque’s white-bearded, commanding imam, or spiritual leader. “I converted while I was in Canada and we bought the space for the mosque in 1993.”

“Haitians would like to have the truth and Islam will bring it to them. If we follow Allah, peace be upon him, I think things can change.”

In impoverished Haiti, beset by a faltering economy, malnutrition, political violence and a two-year-old electoral dispute that has led to a freeze on $500 million of international aid, some converts find the attention Islam devotes to charity and social justice particularly appealing.

“If you see someone who is in need, the ones who need help, whether it’s education, money or what have you, we Haitians as a whole tend to be very generous in helping with one another,” said Racin Ganga, the imam of the Carrefour Feuilles center, who attended college and was introduced to Islam in New York.

“Those who don’t have anything tend to help out. It is in some way inborn to us as Haitians, as well as Muslims, to help out. So that principle of responsibility, of helping those less fortunate, resonated very well.”

Yacine Khelladi, an Algerian economist who has conducted an informal survey of the religion in Haiti, said in its idealized form, Islam could address many of Haiti’s needs, including social justice, literacy and a sense of community.

“It even regulates business, land disputes, banking and other things — all of which could be perceived as attractive in Haiti as an alternative model,” Khelladi said.
Inspiring revisionist history.

The study of Islam has also resulted in some provocative new theories about Haitian history, including a revisionist view of Boukman, a rebel slave who inspired other slaves to rise up against their colonial masters.

“Boukman was never a voodoo priest, like they say; he was a Muslim,” said Samaki Foussoyni, a worshiper at the Delmas mosque.

“When they describe his name, Boukman, in English, as he was from Jamaica, they are really describing ‘book man,’ because of the book he was always reading, which the French here in Haiti always referred to as an “upside-down” book,” Foussoyni said.

“They described it as such because it was the Koran, which you read left to right. When they say they had a voodoo ceremony at Bois Cayman, where Boukman lived, it was in fact ‘Bwa Kay Imam,’ or ‘the woods of the house of the imam’ in Creole.”

Although the mosques are locally maintained and receive no assistance from Islamic charities abroad, the nascent faith got an international boost from the U.S.-led military force that entered Haiti in 1994 to restore exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

“The Pakistani and Bangladeshi soldiers came to our mosque to pray and enjoy our faith and they encouraged us with this belief,” Al-Ali said.

Conscious of their status as outsiders in overtly voodoo and Catholic Haiti, a nation that endured decades of dictatorship and brutal military repression, Muslims are quick to stress the peaceful nature of their faith and to distance themselves from the September 11 attacks on the United States.

“Allah says that if a man kills another man it is as if he has killed all humanity,” said Racin Ganga. “The people who did what they did in New York, they are not even human. Islamic people should use the weapon of their love, because violence, as we’ve seen here in Haiti, will not take us anywhere.”

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Martin Luther Kings’ Mountain Top

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Every year in the month of January I am reminded of the powerful persona and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He was such a deep and prolific speaker that the gist of his speeches is still being felt today.  The “I Have a Dream” speech with its powerful message of hope, is so imbedded in our minds that for many of us, it the only speech we remember that he made.  Those of us who have faith and belief in ALLAH are constantly amazed at His revelations of His works.

On the eve of the assassination of Dr. King, he made a speech at a Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee that many people believe foretold his eminent death.  He talked a lot about death that night.  He started with the story of the plane that bought him to Memphis and how the pilot delayed the flight because Dr. King was on it so it could be checked for bombs.

He also talked about a brush with death he had in New York when a crazed woman stabbed him with some sort of ice pick.  That assault brought the woman’s weapon dangerously close to Dr. King’s aorta (main blood vessel).  The doctor at the hospital told him the knife was so close that if Dr. King had sneezed he would have died because the pick would have pricked his aorta and he would have drowned in his own blood.  He used this incident to tell about a little white girl that wrote to him expressing her sorrow at his unfortunate incident.  She said she admired him so much and was so happy that he didn’t sneeze.   

Then he said he wasn’t afraid of death now because he had been to the mountain top.  He said God had allowed him to go up to the mountain top and he looked over, and saw the “Promised Land.”  He said he might not get there with us be he wanted us to know that we as a people would get to the Promised Land.  He said his eyes had seen the glory of the coming of the lord.

This became very personal to me in 1991 when I made the pilgrimage to Mecca.  I was on the plains of Mt. Arafat when I decided to climb the mountain.  When I reached the top, the only thing going through my mind was Dr. Martin Luther King and him telling us that he had been to the mountain top.

As I stood on my mountain top I look out over the plains of Arafat and saw the Promised Land. I say the Promised Land because Dr. King, in his most famous speech, said he dreamed of a land where his four little children would live in a land where they were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.   That is the vision I saw on Arafat where people of every ethnicity, every culture, every color; men, women, and children, were gathered in unity to worship the One God of us all.

I believed then, and I believe now that the mountain top Martin Luther King saw was Mt Arafat.  Islam is the only religion that has more true brotherhood and sisterhood than any other group of people whether it is a religion, a fraternity, or whatever.

Sure, there is bigotry and racism among Muslims but there is less of it than any other religion.  If you travel to any part of the world and you see a Muslim, there is instant recognition and greeting.  No one else can make that claim.  This is something we must hold on to and nurture.  It is one of the things that make this religion the greatest religion in the world.

More of Dr. Kings philosophy needs to be adapted by Muslims the world over.  Muslims must take the bold step necessary to shift world sympathy to our side.  Currently, we are looked on as aggressive barbarians and we get no sympathy from anybody.  However, people will stand up with us and protect us if they don’t look like weak fools for doing so.

The legacy of Dr. King is so important to future generations, and especially important to future generations of Muslims.  We can, and must win the battle by mental and spiritual strength – not by physical means….because we can’t.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Case Against Aafia Siddiqui Begins to Unravel

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

PressTV

The case against Pakistani citizen Aafia Siddiqui, who is charged with attempted murder of FBI agents and US military personnel, is beginning to unravel as witnesses have offered conflicting accounts in testimony delivered at her trial.

The long-awaited trial of Siddiqui began in a federal courtroom in New York on Tuesday.

On January 21, which was the second day of the trial, Assistant US Attorney Jenna Dabbs showed jurors numerous photographs of the room of the Afghan police station where the shooting allegedly took place, and a photo of the cell where Siddiqui was held when she was first brought to the station on July 17, 2008, the independent online news network Mathaba reported.

But Carlo Rosati, an FBI firearms expert who testified in the federal court on Friday, expressed doubts whether the M-4 rifle, which was allegedly grabbed by Aafia Siddiqui to attack US interrogators in Ghazni, Afghanistan, was ever fired at the crime scene, the Associated Press of Pakistan said.

In addition, on the third of the trial, an FBI agent testified that the FBI did not find Aafia Siddiqui’s fingerprints on the rifle.

No Pakistanis reporters were granted press credentials when opening statements began on Tuesday.

The MIT-educated neuroscientist is currently on trial, facing charges of trying to kill US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008 and connections with Al-Qaeda operatives.

She insisted on the first day of the trial that she knew nothing about a plan to carry out terrorist attacks on targets in New York, The New York Daily News reported.

“Give me a little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York,” she said. “I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”

Siddiqui told jurors at her trial on Tuesday that she was held in a secret prison in Afghanistan, her children were tortured, and the case against her is a sham.

She was ejected from the federal court on the first day of here trial after her shouting outburst.

Siddiqui vanished in Karachi, Pakistan with her three children on March 30, 2003. The next day it was reported in local newspapers that she had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.

US officials allege Aafia Siddiqui was seized on July 17, 2008 by Afghan security forces in Ghazni province and claim that documents, including formulas for explosives and chemical weapons, were found in her handbag.

They say that while she was being interrogated, she grabbed a US warrant officer’s M-4 rifle and fired two shots at FBI agents and military personnel but missed and that the warrant officer then fired back, hitting her in the torso.

She was then brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder and assault. Siddiqui faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

However, human rights organizations have cast doubt on the accuracy of the US account of the event.

Many political activists believe she was Prisoner 650 of the US detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, where they say she was tortured for five years until one day US authorities announced that they had found her in Afghanistan.

JR/HGL

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