III. The “Street Fighting Man” in Oakland

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Santa Rosa–Your raconteur finishes his narration on Tariq Ali’s visit to San Francisco Bay on the Prophet Issa (PBUH’s) birthday (Dec. 25th) in this overgrown farm town – like San Jose a hundred miles to its south with a burgeoning high tech concentration with the possibility of tremendous population growth, too – also, fifty miles north of San Francisco and gritty Oakland where the Anglo-Pakistani Tariq Ali spewed forth his vision on Palestine and so much more two months ago. 

“What do you say when the system stops working in the West?”

The Arab Revolution is similar to the French.  It is essentially about equality, but it will, further, create the space for future uprisings.  (Ali perceives the regime changes in the Maghreb and the rest of North Africa plus the Middle East as part of a political radicalization.  Your commentator believes his subject slights his human objects by missing their religious yearning expressed by the disenfranchised Arabs before the “Spring.”  Succinctly, Ali’s vision is an overly secular one.)

Ali deems a new Western Imperialism has arisen simultaneous with (the Israeli War) of 1967.  His perception is that of a weakened Washington.  Further, he predicts that the American Empire Will collapse from within.  (Seeing the Occupy Wall Street Movement so vehemently fought out on the streets of Oakland at that end of last October, and of the Christmastide of this writing, it is still in battle [Occupy Berkeley was just cleared out December 22nd], must have re-enforced his analysis of a crumbling Metropole.)   

Regarding a possible Chinese Imperium, it will be one based on trade like the current Anglo-American “Empire.”

Of the changes arising in North America, Europe and the Arabic realms, “The most important force are [and will be] the citizens” of their land themselves.

Tariq Ali is the man of the moment, but he only sees the political people power.  Yet he fails to acknowledge the spiritual craving of the Fellaheen (i.e., فَلَّاح فَلَّاح) themselves.  The Palestinian struggle and the larger Arab “Spring” go further than territory (the Koranic concept of the Ummah (أمة)). It supersedes this, but it goes to the very souls of the lands’ residents!

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Tariq Ali Comes to Oakland

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Alameda (Calif.)–It is a bit of a London urban legend that the 1960s legendary rock group “the Rolling Stones,” had written their (infamous) single, “Street-Fighting Man” after Tariq Ali, the Anglo-Pakistani, whom we talked about a fortnight ago, and of which this article is a continuation of the reportage of his October visit to Oakland (Calif.). 

When Ali came to the San Francisco Bay, the Occupy Oakland Movement was in full swing, and had taken “center stage” away from New York City’s Wall Street, and, as your reporter begins to write writes today (the 12th), demonstrators are shutting down the Port here as well as other major Western North American Seaports.  The situation has degenerated into a “Revolutionary”-style crisis very similar to what happened in the Middle East’s Arab “Spring.”

Last week we left at Ali’s statement that it was the Colonial British Office that had installed the Bahraini Sunni monarch against which the Shia majority is presently rebelling.   Tariq Ali demonstrated a sharp and witty sense of history at his Oakland presence of October 29th!

“The selective vigilantism by the West I resent!”  Further, by damning their Colonial masters, “The Israelis use the holocaust to blackmail the Occident!”

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) targets young (five to fourteen) year-old Palestinian Male youths.  For the Jews, one Hebrew is worth hundreds of Arab lives!  A Palestinian is denied his voice in his very homeland.   A former South African bureaucrat confided to Tariq that that their (S.A.’s) “Bantustans were much ‘better’ than the [present] Palestinian system.” 
Curiously, Ali, a Post- Colonial radical, did not have a good grasp on the essence of the Arab “Spring,” for he hoped it would revert to a Nasser-like Modernist revival over the Palestinian nation.  One of the chief elements of the “Spring” is to re-assert a place for Islam within the Body Politick.  The recent election in Tunisia and the ongoing one in Egypt show a preference for a democratic Islamism.  As your writer has remarked before, the Arab “Spring” has largely been a reaction to the corruption and repression of the second and third (degenerate) Nationalist generations.  Old fashioned Leftist ideas are not going to work in these times.  The religious or spiritual appears to be taking place as a central element in governance in the Arabic sphere.

The Palestinian Authority (P.A.’s) trip to the U.N. (United Nations) was no more than a charade for T. Ali.  What sort of State can be created by the G.A. (General Assembly)?  He does not think much of the 1967 boundaries.  In a sense I agree with him. For it would be wonderful if we could revert to the admirable multi-sectarian province that it was under the Ottomans and the Mandate under the British instead.  (Your writer in no way looks back nostalgically upon the alien repression that the Palestinians were subsumed under those Imperia, but rather the Civil Society they were able to build despite them  then.)  The only reason I still hold out for a two-State solution – and that is fading fast – Israel, unfortunately, is a reality that has to be dealt with for Palestinian Independence to finally be successful. 

Unfortunately, too, he doubts Israel (really) intends to leave the Occupied Territories.  Mr. Ali accused Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of being a fascist.  (Fascism is a charged word.   Fascism with a big “F” represents a very particular political philosophy; Lieberman is fascist-like in his secularism and vehement vicious anti- Arabism), but the West consents to recognize, and meet with him for political discussions!  Why?  (To be facetious, if you can answer this question, please send this scribe a memo!)

T. Ali favors a single State in what we term the Holy Land.  Everyone would be a citizen of a single admirable tri-Sectarian, Bi-ethnic State.  Succinctly, though, if a bi-State solution is not achieved under the Obama Administration; changing demographics there will make a Jewish State untenable!

The Arabs in and of themselves cannot destroy Israel.  It is a substantial nuclear-armed State with the sixth largest army in the world.  (Because its threats are nearby, its ability to wage war from a distance is limited, though.)  This makes Tel Aviv no more than a regional bully; thereby, its hegemony is limited, and, unless it can renounce its Settler Colonialism and integrate into the larger Middle East its days are numbered! 

Mr. Ali pointed out that many German Jews are now returning to their ancestral homes in Germany.  

(As for the biggest losers in displacement with the establishment of a Jewish State, it has not been so much the Muslims, but rather the Christians!)  Besides, “No one can push you [Israel] into the sea.”  Tariq Ali opines that “Israel is the last (Colonial) Imperial motherland in the twenty-first century!”

Positively, he deems that “The Arab uprising should resolve the Palestinian crisis.”  (It definitely will affect it positively, but whether it will be a bell weather of a solution is yet to be seen.) Further, a horrible propagandistic Islamophobia has ugly lifted its eyes over the culture of the Occident and in the West including America, too.  Strangely, what American Muslims have gone through during this last decade, is similar to what the Jewish immigrants of the first part of the Twentieth Century had to undergo. (All communes in North America have much to teach each other.)

It was a general article of belief that Arabs could not achieve democracy in and of themselves, but this “Spring” has changed the landscape. (America and the West must not continue their inane mantra that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East!)

Let us continue our discussion within the forthcoming time period ahead.

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Pakistan at War with Itself

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Berkeley–As your reporter beings his narrative, Europe and America are raging, and Cairo has once again erupted in violence.   In your author’s area of the world (Northern California), the focus has gone from the urban streets to the college campuses.  On those streets, one man was killed in Oakland and another (a student at the University of California) was gunned down under questionable circumstances here on the Berkeley campus while on his way to classes.   At U.C. Davis near Sacramento, there was a horrible incident of peaceful protestors being pepper sprayed with ensuing calls for the chancellor to resign. 

Both labor unions and military veterans have come into the picture.  Two of the protestors, who were badly injured by the Oakland police, belonged to the Iraq Veterans against the War.  Not all American soldiers were anti-Muslim, but were sicken by George W. Bush’s two Wars.  They should be accepted by all of us as true allies.  Nonetheless, there has been some talk of a 1932-type situation arising when the U.S.A.’s World War I veterans marched to Washington to demand bonuses promised them for their service only to be most violently ousted by General MacArthur with General Patten of World War II fame during Herbert Hoover’s Presidency.

The Unions have joined in on the fray — both the powerful Longshoremen’s Union on the Oakland Docks and the Union representing Professors and Lecturers on the California State Universities (C.S.U.’s).  Both at Hayward in the Bay Area (North California) and Dominguez Hills in Greater Los Angeles (Southern California) were chosen for a one-day strike over a promised wage increase a fortnight ago.  Muslims have been involved in many of these various protests.

Meanwhile, over the “pond” in Roman Catholic Italy, where Islam now is the second largest religion,  Rome herself is about to default, too, and, if she does, the Euro-zone will collapse along with her, and that Southern European republic ‘s economy is too big for Brussels to bail out like the EU (European Union) did with Greece.   It is as though we are entering a “Revolutionary” period?

Two months ago (September 20th) to the day of this writing, in calmer times, a foreign affairs editor and writer for the Washington Post with an expertise in  the Af-Pak region came to the Berkeley campus here with her new book  Playing with  Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself which is getting a bit of attention on the “circuit.” 

She started that the reaction within Pakistan itself at the assassination of Osama bin Laden at Abattobad by American Special Forces on their very soil, and the “ignorance” of high-ranking Pakistani military officers of his presence so close to Islamabad, the national capital, itself, and, also, with a military garrison nearby the event, the United States has deeply offended and embarrassed Pakistan’s Government and proud military. 

The two things with which that Government is obsessed are India and internal public opinion.   The U.S.-Pakistan relationship as allies is a long one, but 9/11 changed much of the inherent trust between the two traditional partners.  The average citizen there “Feels that the West is out to ‘get’ Islam.”  There is a sense of nationalism along with the raise in a belief of the centrality of Islam itself. 

The recent slaying of the Minorities Minister in the Punjab was committed due to his religion (Christianity).  The current Government is a liberal one by Pakistan’s standards, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the aforementioned Minister, represented that liberality.  Those Taliban south of the Durand Line claimed responsibility.  Further, the Government’s position is lax on the enforcement of the Blasphemy (especially perceived against the Prophet [PBUH]) Law which puts it at odds with the religious right – especially those in the Northwest Provinces where the rebellion against the Center emanates.  Unfortunately, for the Body Politick, there has been an outpouring of support for this dastardly murder (Bhatti was never accused of committing blasphemy, incidentally.)  Alarmingly, the argument that has been created by the religious conservatives was that homicide was enjoined by the Koran!  The Military did not make a statement, but followed the civilian Prime  Minster (P.M’s) order to arrest sundry supporters of the Blasphemy ordinance in response to the slaying.

That reporter claims that those on the fringes do not wish to come to power, but, at the same time, the State finds itself only a heartbeat away from the awakening in the Middle East.  Also, within twenty to thirty years the Pakistani nation will be the most populous Muslim one on earth!

At the same, times the people there do not trust the system they are under.  There is a sense that the appeal of the marginal political actors (i.e., the Taliban) is justified.  The historical result of the War against the Soviets is now “a plague upon the land.”  There is a different type of militant presently:  Homegrown! 

After the foray upon Osama’s compound upon Punjabi soil, terrorism within the country increased.  The West and other outsiders were blamed for all their domestic problems – especially for the terrorist attacks against the residents — within that Islamic Republic.  The relationship with the District of Columbia (D.C.’s) traditional ally has deteriorated drastically with the drone attacks above the Northwest Provinces.  These have churned up the residents’ resentment against Washington. 

Your author first found his love for Islam studying the traditional South Asian Muslim Sufic mysticism as a graduate student here thirty years ago.  Today the Taliban is waging a pogrom against that very domination within Islam and their sacred shrines.  This represents more of a Middle Eastern perception of by the fundamentalist Ulema followed by the Taliban and fellow-travelers than the traditional South Asian expression of the religion.  

The perception of Pakistan in the West is perceived (questionably) as a “weak” entity, yet it has the Bomb to defend itself against India.  The father of that Bomb, A.Q. Khan, though vilified by much of the world for spreading their nuclear technology to other Third World countries – mainly Muslim — is still a national hero in his homeland.  Ms. Constable felt that Islamic land “celebrated the wrong heroes in the name of freedom [independence].” 

“What we are doing is wrong,” also, for South Asian Islam has equated our (U.S.) democracy with alcoholism and irreligion.  We have to find a better relationship with Pakistan once again.  We must keep in mind that “Pakistan sees everything in relation to India.”  While the U.S.A. keeps lying about the drone assaults, civil society, the press and the judiciary are a very positive force there.   In fact, Pamela in her work as a journalist has “…met many unsung heroes!”

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1st Annual IONA Islam Conference

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Warren–January 2–IONA held its first annual Islam conference this past Saturday evening at IONA. 

Two speakers were invited to the event, Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, and Amir Abdul Malik Ali, a Muslim activist from Oakland California.

They both spoke on secularism and American democracy, Dawud Walif focusing on how American democracy and history includes elements of Islam, and Ali focusing instead on distinctions and points of conflict between the Islamic and Western worlds and world views.

Both focused on Islam as a non-religion, which may be a thesis that most people would disagree with.  The underlying argument is that Muslims must be involved in political life, because Islam is a “deen” which both speakers translated ast “way of life,” rather than as “religion.”

As a first such event from IONA, it was interesting that the underlying message echoed the previous speech at the center by a non-Muslim proponent of the thesis that Islam is not a religion, rather a kind of political awakening movement, Prof. Robert Shedinger (who spoke there on October 24th of 2009, reported on in TMO V11-I45).  Shedinger argues that Jesus was Muslim, as a corollary to his argument that Islam is not a religion. 

Shedinger’s companion argument is that the effort to define Islam as a religion rather than a way of life was imposed by non-Muslims in an effort to stem the efforts of Muslims to be politically involved, for example in combating colonialism.

It is surprising that the radical idea of Islam’s being just another worldly movement is gaining among Muslims, but apparently the IONA conference documents the spread of this idea.

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Southeast Michigan Community Events

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IONA Conference:

The modern western world has adopted and advocates the system of secularism or the concept of separation of Church and State. Is Islam compatible with such a system? Is one’s Ibadah complete by adhering to the pillars of Islam? What does the word Deen imply? The conference is organized to answer such questions and elaborate on the concept of deen in our faith.

Featured speakers: Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan; Amir Abdul Malik Ali, Islamic Activist, Oakland California; Mustapha Elturk, Ameer of IONA.
Saturday Januray 2, 2010, 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM; at IONA Masjid; 28630 Ryan Rd (S. of 12 Mile Rd.); Warren, MI 48092; Admission: FREE.

Pizza. (586) 558-6900, outreach@ionaonline.org.

BMUC Free Dinner on January 2nd, 2010

Dinner:  The Bloomfield Hills Muslim Unity Center will be holding a complimentary Dinner for the community on Saturday January 2nd, 2010 at 7:00 P.M.
Bring your family and enjoy the company of other Muslim Unity Center Families.

To reserve your spot, please call the office at 248 857 9200 Monday-Friday 10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.

Pre-registration is required.

BMUC Girls Group New Session January 8th, 2010

Youth Group–The New Girls Group Session registration is now open.

The Session will run from January 8th- March 12th at $100/child.

For more information &/or registration please contact Mie El Bohy or Besmah Asbahi.

You can also register at the Office.

BMUC Hojjaj Party January 10th, 2010

Hajj–If you know anybody who went to Hajj this year please contact the Unity  Center office at 248 857 9200 with his or her name & contact information so that we can invite them to the Hojjaj party.

The Hajj party will be held on January 10th.  Light appetizers and dessert will be served.

BMUC Spring Omrah Trip

* The week of April 5th, 2009
* Details will follow soon.
* For reservation, please call Br. Fadi at: 248 561 1291.

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French Secularism and Islam

July 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Oakland–On these pages of a fortnight ago was a report that the French President Nicolas Sazkozy pronounced a speech to both houses of his “parliament” condemning the use of the Burqa.  He denied it  was not a religious symbol, but “a sign of debasement” for women.  This is a curious statement made by a head of State of a major European power, for women’s rights are constantly used as an excuse by Imperial powers while it has been only been within the last hundred years that Western jurisprudence has caught up with Islamic protection of the family and the legal rights of the female!  Sarkozy continued in his terribly Islamophobic speech that “The Burqa is not welcomed on French territory.”  Further, he used the Feminist clichés that are too often engaged to oppress Islam in a Western context, “…we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen…from all social life…all identity.”

A small percentage of French civil society has been calling for the ban on the Burqa as happened with the hijab six years back leading to a law banning Islamic woman from wearing it.  As your author said in his article on that subject at the time, a potential controversy in America on this (as the Burqa) are non-issues because of these articulations of the Islamic customs are protect by the rights to Freedom of Speech (Expression) and Freedom of Religion in the U.S. first ten Amends to the American Constitution, but ,in France, because of the power of the Church in the ancien regime, the Church (Roman Catholic) buttressed the rule of the hated oppressing aristocracy and the King.  Therefore, their post-Revolutionary Constitution (theoretically) banned all religion, and was held up by the early Nineteenth Century Code Napoleon!  That means in France, with the largest Islamic population in Europe, external Muslim symbols have become constitutionally questionable even though Muslim lobby groups within that country have urged Paris to refrain from deliberations that would damage the Islamic community there vis-à-vis the mainstream French population.  Although the Burqa is a symbol/custom of the minority Salafi faction of Islam, most of them are Wahhabi, a conservative sect of Sunnism, who, produce, incidentally, most of the Jihads, and, thus, are anathema to most of the ummah.  Still, seventy-six Franco-Parliamentarians within the French Assembly advocate banning the public display outright.  They have called for a sanctified Commission leading for a “legal” basis under France ultra-secular basis for such a prejudicial ban under the support of the President himself!  After the law against the much milder Islamic symbol, the hijab, it is doubtful that legal action can be prevented under their Constitutional rulings!

Last fall, in the neighboring city here, Berkeley, Myanthi Fernando came to talk to us about her teaching experiences in a French public school that had majority Islamic children although they had become naturalized French citizens.  She taught mainly North African-heritage students in a high school.   Since she has gone through the academic training to become an anthropologist, with this new sensitivity, she noted a pronounced conflict between the students and the teachers.  “There is a conflict between religions and the authority of the Mosque and the Republic.”

Historically, the first generation who became Muslim citizens was recruited from the Colonies to rebuild France after World War II as Germany opened their doors to the Turks to do the same.  For their children and grandchildren, a generalized system of difference developed and that dissimilarity was based on religion. Many ordinary Frenchmen believe there is a fundamental conflict between Islam and themselves as an Islamic revival has emerged on Gallic soil at the same time.

As alluded to above, the State banned the hijab in 2004.   In essence La France believed that the hijab would re-enforce Islamic patriarchy. In actually, the hijab (as the Burqa) is worn by choice (if it is not, the State should step in, but it is part of the aforementioned Islamic regeneration in the West).  Islamic women “believe they decide – not the law or the State!”  The hijab (or the Burqa) must be an individual decision, and must not come from outside (either the family or the nation).  “It is the believer who decides, but… [It]… has … [its]…textual authority,” also.  Fernando claimed that secularism and religious submission are not at odds in France,” too.  Also, political choice and religiosity do not conflict.  France’s Muslims assert religious choice and accept civic obligation.  International law enunciates religious freedom according to conscience.  Performing religious duty is a matter of choice.

In 2003 there were demonstrations against proposed bans on Islamic lifestyles.  “One person’s freedom ends where another begins…”  It is (almost) impossible for Muslim women to live in the language of the secular State.  On the contrary, the secular State argued it didn’t violate [religious] freedom because [religious] adherents could still believe.”  Paris maintained that there was a difference between internal belief and external expression while the European Commission as a whole do not recognize the hijab as right (and it most definitely will not acknowledge the Burqa as acceptable).  On the other hand, most individual Islamic women believe it may be their right and duty as the hijab while the French public considers it no more than obfuscation of civic duty.

There is no argument that Christianity has seeped into European law which is at odds with Islamic customs.  Besides, French feminism, which is a very strong force within the Republique, looks at Islamic female dress as perverse with anti-sexuality.  La Republique de France’s concept of sexuality is challenged on all sides. The hijab is only one such challenge.

Public schools only recently began to enroll new citizens, and the hijab is a particularly troublesome object amongst the traditional educational system there.

With this history of the Islamic hijjib in France, it is doubtful that the Burqa will receive any more cultural sensitivity.

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The Muslims of Sri Lanka

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Oakland–It is scarcely known that there is an ample society of Muslims caught within the middle of Sri Lanka (Ceylon’s) recent tragically war-torn civil insular nation-State. 

There are three major groups of Muslims in that island’s nation – the “Moors,” Indian (originally from the Subcontinent) Muslims and the Malays.  The two Islamic non-South Asian subminoritities – one from the Middle East and other from Southeastern Asia, with the long-standing immigrants from India, make up about the same percentage as European descendant settlers, the Burghers at 8%.  The rest of the population is made up of the ultra-orthodox Hindus in the Tamil areas, and the majority 70% are Buddhists.  The total population of all main groupings within the island is between 19 through 21 million (2009) persons.  In 2005, the Islamic “Moors” represented 2 million of these souls.  The “Moors” were descended from a troupe of traders from the Arabian Peninsula, who came to Colombo’s island between the Eighteenth until the Fifteenth Century (CE) supposedly (by tradition) from the Arabian Peninsula.  In fact, one source I evaluated claimed that the “Moors were traversing the Indian Ocean between Lanka and Mecca before the Hijra (622 CE).  Nonetheless, the “Moors” had settled partially on Lanka bringing Islam to their ancient culture to the island.  Yet, the earliest came late in the Seventh Century as traders between the Middle East and South Asia.  Yet, most did not settle down on this Southern Asian Island, and took up the culture of the Tamils after they established a permanent residence upon the soil.  Although they first employed Tamil as their “Father” tongue — that parole (speech) used outside the house — (they soon devised Awi, which, in turn has become archaic, was a mixture of Tamil and Arabic.)   By marrying converted wives, they became a multi-lingual, multi-cultural people — Tamil, Sinhalese and English — while maintaining their religion inviolate:  They are largely Sunni Muslims of the Shafi School.  Although they can be described as a multi-ethnic, and religious alliance, they lack a linguistic cohesion, though, anthropologically (since they are tri-lingual).

The second group of Muslims, the Malays, came with the Dutch military during the period when Amsterdam controlled the island, and settled there over Ceylon’s Netherlandish period.  The Malays (originally from) Indonesia, and, thus from insular Southeast Asian origin (Ja Minissu), are some of the most orthodox of Muslims in the world today, but, unlike the “Moors,” they did not take up the surrounding Tamil culture, but they resolutely stuck to an adapted Malay cultural and religious norm.  They make up the smallest of minorities – 5% of the total Lankan Islamic citizenry only.

The third group was an alignment of mainly – although not exclusively — South Indian Muslim merchants, who emigrated southward over several centuries and naturally integrated well into the predominantly Tamil (Hindu) culture there on the other side of “Adam’s Bridge” from Tamil Nadu.

The Muslims were well assimilated and accepted into Ceylonese society, but, during the recent civil war, the Tamil Tigers systematized a process of ethnic cleansing that the once flourishing “Moorish” and other Muslim masses are not represented in the Northern Province anymore.  Most of those inhabitants have been forcibly cast largely into the Puttalam Region.  Also, a small Diaspora has been arising in the Middle East, Australia and even North America.  Now, that the Tigers have been defeated, will Islam be allowed back into their former (own) homes with full property rights restored?  Much of this depends upon us individually, and the pressure we can exert upon our own governments plus the Sri Lankan government, and, thereby, institutions of the International Communities – the U.N. et al., and especially Islamic groupings!

The pictures of those large numbers of noncombatants wretchedly entrapped between the Government and the Tigers’ forces during the former’s last stand last stand are staggering.  Amongst them is a significant number of Muslims, and the Islamic charities must especially address their needs, and become involved in their resettlement back to their ancestral homes with other (First World/Western) International NGOs.

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