Is Mideast Sleepwalking … into a War?

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

YOU may fool some people some of the time, counseled Abraham Lincoln, but not all the people all the time.

The earthy wisdom of the US president credited with uniting America and ending slavery has been repeatedly challenged by his own country. 

Seems you can’t just fool all the people all the time, you can get away with murder by lying through your teeth.

What happened in Iraq eight years ago appears all set to repeat itself as the Western powers gang up against Iran. And you thought the world has learned its lessons from the catastrophe of Iraq.

Savaged by the trillion dollar wars being waged by the US and its NATO allies, coupled with the open loot and corruption on the Wall Street, the world economy is battling for its life.  Look at the God-awful mess in Europe. Who would have thought a decade ago, or at the time of Western invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the rich European Union and its much-wanted euro would be faced with the calamity they are facing today? Even the “with-us-or-against-us” leader of the free world, who had persuaded himself he was on a divine mission to save Israel from its imagined enemies, seemed to have his share of doubts about the whole circus when he left the White House.

Of course, those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was supposed to have piled up to attack the peace-loving, democratic state of Israel are yet to be found, not to mention the million plus Iraqis who have paid with their lives for the Oedipal insecurities of the most powerful man on the planet.

Yet here we are back once again sleepwalking, eyes wide shut, toward yet another calamitous showdown. It’s déjà vu all over again as the Goebbelsian propaganda machine bombards us with the characteristically disingenuous fiction masquerading as “facts” and “expert opinion” about the clear and present danger the world faces from Iran.

Just as the UN and its numerous experts were used to build the case against Iraq, IAEA’s services are being employed today to corner Tehran. In its latest report, the UN nuclear watchdog suggests Iran may have developed necessary know-how and expertise to build a nuclear weapon after receiving “critical support from foreign scientists.”

Since when has knowledge become a crime? In doing so, the IAEA has trashed its own findings and numerous reports by its experts presented over the past decade following endless visits to Iran’s nuclear sites, ruling out the possibility Tehran is working on the bomb — a fact corroborated by America’s own intelligence agencies in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.

The latest IAEA report is based on the “evidence” provided by a Russian scientist, who is supposed to have helped the Iranians in building the detonation system for nuclear weapons, and data found on a stolen laptop! Russia, which has helped Iran with its nuclear power program over the years, has dismissed the claim and IAEA report with utmost contempt. Tehran has, of course, rejected the IAEA report as being stage-managed by the West. Considering the US contributes 26 percent of the IAEA’s annual budget and has many US officials serving in senior positions, the Iranian claim is hardly exaggerated, especially after the Russian “nuclear weapons expert” has turned out to be a specialist in the production of nanodiamonds!

The IAEA, instead of enforcing Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty and confronting big powers on their hoards of nukes, is increasingly acting like a US government outfit. Unlike Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan, Iran is a signatory to the NPT and has allowed regular international inspections of its nuclear sites.

But we have been here before, haven’t we? In the run up to the Iraq invasion, many such experts were produced out of Uncle Sam’s hat.  From the fiction of Iraq sourcing uranium from Niger to Blair’s claim of Saddam being within the 45-minute striking distance of a WMD attack on the UK, the history of colonial deceptions is endless. And thanks to the blessings of Internet, every blatant lie and every piece of the charade that passes for international diplomacy in the run-up to the Iraq 2003 has been preserved for posterity. Just Google and see for yourself. The resemblance with Iran 2011 is uncanny.

The same saga of subterfuge and plotting continues against Iran, notwithstanding the historical irony that it was the US and Israel that had helped Tehran build its nuclear program in 1970s, in an attempt to check the Arabs. Indeed, Israel was supposed to supply Reza Shah Pahlavi with missiles and nuclear warheads. The program was abandoned in haste when the people power threw the Shah out in 1979, forcing him to seek refuge with the very Arabs he loved to hate. His old friends in the West had spurned him, just as they recently abandoned Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali and Qaddafi.  The Shah died a broken man in Cairo in 1980, only a year after the Revolution.

What cruel irony of history that today the same Arabs are being hammered into believing that the Islamist Iran, and not Israel and its powerful partisans with a large nuclear arsenal and a long history of aggression, is their worst enemy!

For eight long years, George W. Bush and the fellow crusaders obsessed over Tehran dreaming of doing an Iraq to Iran. Not because the long sanctioned Iran with its archaic weaponry and crippled economy was a threat to world peace but because Israel said so. Indeed, but for the “shock and awe” that the empire faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran might have been the third front in America’s war.  And the irony of ironies, the man who as a senator voted against the Iraq invasion eight years ago, is now parroting and reading from the same hymn sheet that his predecessor did. The script of the Middle East’s theater of the absurd remains unchanged; only dramatis personae have changed. As Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who exposed his own government’s game on Iraq, puts it, it’s the same bull…. with a different president!

So as Israel steps up the beating of war drums on Iran with the politicians in the US competing with each other to woo the Zionists, can Obama afford to be left behind? So promising more “effective” sanctions against an already much punished country over the past 33 years, he thunders “all options are on the table,” reminding one of W’s rhetoric. So much for the audacity of hope!

The irony of it all may not be entirely lost on the Nobel laureate president. But with the reelection battle fast approaching and all Republican hopefuls, except Ron Paul and Herman Cain, promising to hit Tehran, how can Obama appear “weak on national security”? The rejection of the Palestinian state was part one of the strategy for the Jewish vote and money. An attack on Iran would seal the pact with the devil.

— Aijaz Zaka Syed is a commentator on the Middle East and South Asian affairs. Write him at aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

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Dubai Airport Flash Mob

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

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What looked to be an ordinary day in a bustling airport soon took an interesting turn as a crew of airline hostesses began to perform an elaborate dance routine as weary passengers looked on in delight. As they wiggled their and shimmied across an expanse of floor in the center of Dubai Airport, it soon became clear that some of the onlookers were in on it too. A bald man in an airport uniform, janitors and clerks from nearby stores also began performing the exact same dance routine. Of course, it was not by chance. Neither was it a happy accident when a couple of young children began to bust their moves in perfect sync. It was all an elaborate and diligently planned ‘flash mob’ attack. And it was one in a growing number to take place in the Middle East.

By definition a flash mob is, “A group of people who appear from out of nowhere, to perform predetermined actions, designed to amuse and confuse surrounding people. The group performs these actions for a short amount of time before quickly dispersing.” The duo behind the recent flash mob sensation are choreographers Scott and Lisa Marshall from Diverse Choreography, based in Dubai. This was not the first time that the married couple, and flash mob entrepreneurs, have startled and surprised unsuspecting members of the public with seemingly spur of the moment musical numbers. However, the most recent flash mob was one of the best if you believe what viewers are saying on You Tube. The video has gone viral and is racking up tens of thousands of views. One commentator wrote, “Good work Dubai. I never ever thought I’d see that in Dubai. Well done.” While another had this to say, “Dubai is sensationally diverse. People in this video really illustrate the city’s racial plurality.”

The Dubai Airport flash mob event was organized as part of a media blitz by Dubai Airport to announce its new DXB Connect Card, which is a prepaid card made expressly for airport travelers. Diverse Choreography has worked with some of the top companies in the UAE to provide unique marketing solutions. Part of Diverse Choreography’s website mission statement reads, “By utilizing our knowledge and passion for creating tailor made shows, our clients will achieve unique performances for each event.”

Both Scott and Lisa have had illustrious careers working in the entertainment industry, having worked with Hollywood heavyweights and other notable entertainers. However, running their very own performing arts school in the heart of the UAE is their current passion. Students learn a variety of dance genres and have the unique opportunity to work with trained choreographers who have already made a name for themselves in the industry. It won’t be long before their students are capable of delighting the masses with spontaneous entertainment in the most unexpected of places.

13-46

Take Time for Internal Reflection

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

It is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent attempting to follow the guidance of ALLAH that ensures success.  ALLAH says in Qur’an that “everything is a sign – for those who reflect.”  Each day, if we just take 10 minutes of quiet, quality time in carefully selected thought procedures, we can improve our life by achieving a greater measure of happiness, increased efficiency, and a feeling of spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

So many things whiz by us each day that it is virtually impossible to reflect while you are on the go.  You will possibly see these “signs of ALLAH”, but not will reflect on them to get the full benefit.  So many miraculous things occur during the course of our going about our daily activities.  They are happening whether you realize it or not.  The key is to first know that ALLAH is in the blessing business and then key in on your blessings by being one of those who “reflect” on the signs of ALLAH.

This 10 minute formula I am sharing with you has been proven scientifically over time and it is right in sync with the ALLAH’S word to “reflect.”  The plan is to spend the 10 minutes every day in quiet submission.  It must be regular.  To do it for a day or two and then skip a day or two will lessen the impact on the results.

ALLAH is real, and He will guide you as you submit your mind to His.  Don’t go into this process with the idea “I want to do this—or do that.  Instead, wait on an answer to enter your mind.  You have now made your mind susceptible to Divine wisdom.

This is in the same vein as the Istikara prayer Muslims say in the early reaches of the night.  The difference is, in the istakara prayer, we ask ALLAH to examine our particular situation.  It may be a particular relationship or maybe a career move or something similar.  We make two rakah and ask ALLAH to make it easy and possible to attain— if it is right for us.  If it is not right for us, we ask Him to remove it from us.  Istakara is a powerful tool of connection and help from ALLAH.

This time of reflection is also special because we stop what we are doing, go to a quiet place with no distractions and wait for thoughts to enter your mind.  They might not be what you expect or even what you want.  They may be far from what we are accustomed to thinking.  But if you are a believer and have submitted yourself to be an instrument of ALLAH, you will be on a higher wavelength of righteousness in which there is no error. The time can vary.  It may be before salat or after salat—or an hour or so after salat. It doesn’t matter.  The main thing is quietness, relaxation, and submission of your mind to ALLAH.

There are many tools and avenues to connect spiritually to our Creator.  This is only one.  Sometimes while offering salat, solutions and answers come to our minds.  I take it as ALLAH choosing a time to communicate with me.  Some people think they are sinning if your mind wanders during salat.  But it is not necessarily so.  It depends on what your mind is wandering to.

This human mind we have is special and it has a special way of communicating with its Maker.  Reflect on the “Signs” of ALLAH.  You will be richer for it.

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

12-20

Negotiating with the Taliban?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sleeping” with the Enemy”

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Differences Between the U.S., Afghani and Indian Governments

Point Isabel, Point Richmond (Calif.)–Your author is taking his subtitle from a less than notable American film of several years ago to finish up his report on the recent Indian Ambassador to Kabul’s comments , Gautam Mukhopadhaya.

At the moment your reporter finds himself at a lovely promontory pointing into San Francisco Bay, and it seems strange to be considering so many matters so far away that I begun two weeks ago from Berkeley.  At that time I decided to divide the presentation into two parts because of its length.

Mukhopadhaya continued on how the political position amongst the American voters regarding Afghanistan was shifting away from support to criticism of official military policy in the Hindu Kush.  Therefore, the District of Columbia had to change its tactics in response.

Pakistan operates in this War as it perceives to its own interests.  Thus, the Ambassador deems that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s) allies in the Hindu Kush consider Rawalpindi to be unreliable — which is far from the truth in your writer’s opinion. 

Both the U.S. and Pakistan are targeting the Taliban, (but Islamabad only considers one branch of the Taliban to be hostile to their interests.  The other four branches – which are within their territory, too – they do not consider a threat, and all these parties are comparatively accommodating to the other – including Pakistan.  Up to 80% of the Pakistani Taliban resides in the federally administered Northwest Provinces.)

The Americans and Pakistani Armies mutually oppose one “clan” of Taliban, and they are fully within Islamabad’s Federally Administered Territories.  Thus, Peshawar sees no threat to their survival from the Afghani Taliban. 

Further, Washington sees no alternative to the Karzai government that the District of Columbia (D.C.) perceives as militarily undependable.  At the same time, the U.S. Administration comprehends Kazai’s Presidency to be a corruptible one – an uneasy alliance to say the least! 

In the London Conference on the Afghani conflict last January (2010), the European and Canadian allies supported the “Afghanization” of the War and the “regularization” (normalization) of our relations with the Taliban!  This, hopefully, would lead to meaningful discussions and, eventually, peace within the Mountains!  These talks should be mutually respectful between each party – including the Taliban.

At same time, the Indian representative from New Delhi’s Department of External Affairs had to take a dig at their traditional competitors:  “We need leadership from the Pakistanis!”  (This struggle beyond the Khyber is an opportunity to bring these two South Asian nuclear neighbors closer together instead of tearing them further apart to the dangerous detriment to all!)  His Excellency accused D.C. of a failure of leadership during this international crisis.  To settle the military security, he urged U.S.-Pakistan operations.  (Of course, the loss of Islamabad’s national sovereignty would be totally unacceptable to its Muslim citizenry, and put the security of Pakistan’s topography under question for its Western and regional allies!)  Simultaneously, the Saudis close allies to both, are working with Islamabad and Washington to bring their policies closer together.

On the other hand, the Taliban itself is fed-up.  The London Conference approved the Taliban’s grasp of the countryside while NATO and the Afghani government would occupy the cities.  This is not the battle plan of these “Students.”  They wish to hold the total fasces within the dry, cold hills, and their mindset is far from compromise at this time.

Yet the Americans presume that they have an upper hand, and, correspondingly, are in the position of strength to negotiate with their adversaries.  Actually, it is the Pakistanis who are central for negotiating with the problem some Quetta branch of the Talibani. The Pakistani Army has already begun to begin dialogue in Baluchistan.  Rawalpindi considers it has made some progress, and the Generals at their Military Headquarters are encouraged by their discourse with the irregular tribesmen.

The U.S.A. has been following a contradictory policy in the Af-Pak itself.  While D.C. has been throwing development funds in Southern Afghanistan, it has been shoring up the military on the frontlines in Pakistan.

Ultimately, though, Ambassador Maukapadya does not discern a desire by the Taliban to parley.  In the late 1990s, the Taliban regime in Kabul led the U.S. on their intentions.  (Your essayist has some questions about this, and that is His Excellency is not separating the goals of a Nationalist Taliban and an Internationalist Al’Quaeda.)  Would the Taliban be willing to form a coalition government with Karzai or whoever may succeed him (them)?  (Whatever, a re-establishment of the regime of the 1990s is totally unacceptable to International Civil Society without the checks and balances of the partnership of all Afghani peoples and tribes!)  The Ambassador is “…not optimistic.” 

There is preparation for a major NATO assault upon the Taliban stronghold around the southern city of Kandahar, the center of Talibani power.  Maukapadya  does not feel the battle will turn the War around.

Concurrently, Europe and North America and their regional associates are employing dual strategies against the Taliban who are replying in kind.  This War is far from coming to a mutually acceptable denouement.

12-17

Keep Our Eyes Open for Justice

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The case of Brother Imam Kwame Teague

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Most of the time when we hear a person has been arrested we feel he must have done something or he or she wouldn’t have been arrested.  And when we hear someone has been convicted of a crime, our certainty of their guilt is strengthened.  After all there must have been overwhelming evidence that left no doubt of the guilt.  There was either a jury trial of 12 people that listened to evidence, weighed it in their minds and came to a unanimous decision; or a learned, educated judge who has sworn to uphold the law according to knowledge and investigation has rendered a decision.  Again, it must be right.

Then there is the case of a person who has been arrested, tried, convicted, and serving time in a penal institution.  Now this person HAS to be guilty.  Right?   Because appeals have been heard, and the evidence has been looked over for a second or third time, by different people, and they come to the same conclusion, the case is closed as far as we are concerned.  And we say they must be guilty.

Well, that may, or may not be the case.  With the advent of new technology, including DNA testing, we are finding there are many people who have been incarcerated for many years and we come to find out they were totally innocent.   Just think of the many people falsely accused and wrongly convicted who would still be in prison if not for the technological advances and/or persistence by legal experts, friends and family.

Of course, we also are aware that of the entire prison population, I would guess that 90% of them claim they are innocent.  And we also know that all of them that claim innocence are not innocent.  But because we have seen so many cases of wrongful imprisonment, it behooves us to take all available means to prove a person’s innocence.  This is especially true when there are major discrepancies and obvious omissions of evidence by the law enforcement and legal representatives.

One such case that may fall in a similar category is the case of Kwame Teague.    Brother Teague is a Muslim brother who has been incarcerated since February 1, 1994 in the North Carolina jail system.  His charge is Murder.  At the time of his arrest he offered an explanation of his whereabouts and gave the name of the person he was with.  This person was picked up and questioned but the statement was never allowed to be used in court.        

Other questionable  actions  was the appointment of a defense attorney who had been attorney for the opposition; not allowing testimony of people who  gave statements exonerating  Brother Kwame;  allowing the testimony of a person who was in prison, had a bad case of AIDS-related dementia, and a reason to implicate Brother Kwame, and many others.

Brother Kwame has been a model person since his incarceration.  He has served as imam at the institutions he has been imprisoned at with nothing but glowing remarks about his character Islamic spirit.  His father, Brother James C. Teague, of Newark, NJ, is a very well respected brother in the Muslim community and has done a magnificent job of instilling moral qualities and academic and professional excellence in all his children, two boys and two girls.  He says of them all he is most proud of Kwame because “he has overcome the profound barrier of incarceration to perform the same type of dedicated contributions from behind prison walls that his brother and sisters perform in free society.”

This article is by no means being written to try and establish the guilt or innocence of Brother Kwame.  It is being written to shed light on the many injustices that occur in our penal system and to encourage strong and persistent investigation of cases when proven facts may prove a person is being denied justice.  And because it LOOKS LIKE Kwame could be innocent, we owe our all.

There are many people like Kwame throughout the country and we encourage you to help in any way you can to present overlooked facts and omissions that could bring the truth to light.

We also encourage you to not automatically assume that when the authorities say someone did a crime that they must have done it.  Mistakes can and have been made.  No one is infallible except  Almighty ALLAH.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-17

Let There be Light!

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

2010-03-22T173449Z_169073373_GM1E63N040E01_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN

A boy bathes in a tube well reservoir in Hyderabad located in Sindh province March 22, 2010. The Earth is literally covered in water, but more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation as most water is salty or dirty. March 22 is World Water Day.    

REUTERS/Akram Shahid

Just recently I hired a maid, who would come every morning, clean the house and leave. She was a young girl of 14 or 15 not more than that. Every day she would get done with the work and come to me and ask me if there is something else she could do for me. I would tell her that she could leave once she was done cleaning but every day she would come and ask me if there was anything else. When I told her that was it, she would ask me if I wanted her to massage my feet, or if I wanted that drawer on my dresser cleaned out. I didn’t understand why she wanted to do extra work without being asked to do so. Being confused for a long time I finally asked a friend about this strange behavior. She simply said she must be looking for some extra money. She must be thinking that by doing your other small chores you might give her some extra money. But I had not given her any extra money and she had not even asked for it. I still was not satisfied. One day when she was fixing my shoe closet after I had told her she could go I asked her. I said, “Why do you insist on staying here even after I have told you that you can go home? Don’t you like it in your own house?”  Without even looking at me she said in a very matter of fact way that it was because I had fans working all the time. I am one of the lucky ones who have a UPS so even if the electricity goes the fans are still working. She did not want to go home because she did not have a way of even slightly comforting her self when the electricity was taken away in this scorching heat of Lahore.

I was taking a stroll in my neighborhood where I noticed 2 small boys playing who were not wearing anything. I looked around to see if I could find their mother. I saw a woman standing nearby I went up to her and asked her if she knew the boys. She said she was their big sister. She told me that they live in the street next to mine and the boys were playing here so she came to watch over them. I asked her why they were not wearing any clothes. She replied that they had developed rashes and hives because of the heat and the doctor had suggested to not let any fabric touch them and keep them cool so that’s why every day the sun goes down they let them play out for a while. I told her that this is probably not such a good idea since its still not cool enough and their rashes could get aggravated maybe keeping them inside under a fan is a better idea. She said yes that’s what we were doing until yesterday when the lights went out in the morning and came back at 8 in the evening. Today she said is a repeat of yesterday, as far as they were concerned this is the coolest it’s going to be for them today. 

There are many sides to this problem that we are facing and everyone is affected by it in their own way. It does not matter what class or section of the society one belongs to everyone is facing the problems and has their own issues to deal with when it comes to electricity. With that said it would be very correct to assume that the businesses and the marketplace must be suffering greatly because of this problem. I wanted to know how they deal with this problem. The day I visited to talk to a Bookstore they were facing an especially bad day. I was told that electricity had been shutting down every half hour. They said that their generator has been on for the whole day. The manager told me that the business is good but with the cost of generator it is becoming hard to make ends meet considering the growing prices of electricity as well. He said that it is so costly to keep the generator on all day that some times they think of closing early just to avoid the cost “but then its hard to do that when you are running a business and you know customers are counting on you”, adds the manager.

Another clothing store has the same story. Of course their store is well known and they have more customers so it is not such a big issue for them. Surprisingly most shops and stores I spoke to in Liberty market didn’t complain much about electricity problems in that area. They said that they had timed load shedding which they had generators for so it was working out fine. Most of them however shifted quiet quickly to the situation at their homes and their neighborhoods. They were quick to tell me that this electricity problem was a menace in their homes. Most of them told me that had no electricity for about 2 hours at a time in their homes. One cashier said that it’s terrible when his children come home from school all tired and sweating and they don’t even have a fan to rest under when they get home.

While I was talking to the cashier at a shoe store a lady who was standing line right behind me overheard our conversation about load shedding and chimed in saying that sometimes she leaves her house when there is no light because there is an AC in her car and the stores are usually more comfortable than her house under the circumstances. I asked her what about her kids and other members of the family. She laughed and said I don’t do it every day. “Do you know how much patrol costs these days?” of course I know how high those prices are too. But it is sad when people are looking for ways to find comfort and relief in any way possible. I had heard of driving the baby around the block in the car to put him/her to sleep but this was something new for me. Is this going too far? Under this circumstance who knows what is going too far and what is not we are all doing the best we can to survive these days.

A tailor who owns a small shop in the basement of a busy market told me that his business has been cut in half because of load shedding. Now he says he doesn’t take on too much work because he knows he will not be able to complete it. “I can’t afford a generator and when I don’t take enough work I don’t even make enough to feed my family. “When women come in here with a lot of clothes to get sown and tell me that they need it in a week I tell them its not possible. So, they take their clothes to a bigger shop that has a generator and can sew their clothes in less amount of time”.  This tailor is forced to take less work and even with that work he struggles to finish it in the time he has given his customers with the electricity playing hide and seek constantly. Just recently this tailor fired his assistant because he couldn’t afford to pay him any more. He says things don’t seem to be getting any better. Now he is working hard and trying to save up as much as possible. I asked him what he was saving up for…he said he wants to save up enough to be able to buy a generator. He thinks once he has a generator all his problems will be solved.

I guess there is something to be said about the power of generators. A student expressed his opinion when asked how he deals with not having electricity especially during exams by saying; “Generator Zindabad!” then he added that his neighbors keep the generators on all the time since it is convenient and they find it cheaper then electricity. Of course this was in Karachi where things are a bit more difficult in terms of electricity problems. I asked this young man what they do in school when there is no electricity. He said you just get used to it. When asked about how the learning process is in the heat he said, “I don’t think I learn anything in the heat. I mean the teachers are teaching but I don’t retain anything.” I asked him why and he said, “Because it’s HOT”.

Another student who is my relative messaged me one day out of the blue. I asked her what’s up and why she is messaging me she said she was bored and just wanted to see what was up with me. That was not a normal thing for her to do so but I was glad that she had thought of messaging an old person like me just to chit chat. After a while of massaging back and forth she abruptly said that she had to go. I asked her what the hurry was and she said “the electricity is back I gotta go study for my exams who knows how long we have this luxury for”. Basically she was killing time talking to me while she was waiting for the electricity to come back so she could get back to her studying. While it made me feel not so great about myself it made me think of how much time we waste because we have no way of utilizing it while the electricity is gone.

In Pakistan everything stops as the lights go out? Whatever people are doing they just drop it and start to look around waiting for the lights to come back on. If you are reading a book you will stop and spend at least a few minutes thinking about what you should do now. Very few times you will get an answer because there is very little that can be done in the dark. Even while taking an exam the lights go off and everyone stops. There is pin drop silence. And as soon as the lights are back even if it’s five minutes to turn on the generators the students start to ask for more time for the loss of time because of the electricity. I guess the point I am trying to make is that we are wasting collective time of our nation. Nothing gets done while there is no light. Even if there are generators and UPS there are minimal things running and very little that can be done. Children can’t get on the computer and research for their homework. Businesses can’t use credit cards. Schools and colleges have teachers leaving classroom without teaching because it’s too hot for them to bear.

All of this makes us miss time to do things. We take much longer to accomplish things now compared with before because of the shortage of electricity. Our productivity as a nation is going down because out of the 8 hours we barely have 1 or 2 in which the work can actually get done. The problem is that it may seem like that the whole world is on stand still while the electricity is gone, that’s really not the case. Only we are on stand still. While we are waiting for the lights to turn back on time and life is passing us by. We wait and then we start the work while someone somewhere else started the work without any waitt. Of course at the end of the day that person will take the fruits of the hard work we were not able to put in. Time goes on but we stay on a stand still by force. Does that seem fair at all?

People have turned this thing into a joke as well you will hear a person saying that well this is our government’s way of telling us to slow down. It is an automatic brake even if one doesn’t want it. We have lost so many hours of our lives to this terrible menace of our society and we have no idea how many more we still have to lose.

We have discussed what kind of problems are taking place in our Pakistan because of lack of electricity. Actually everything that I have mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that is going on that if we tried to put all of this in one piece of writing it would go on forever. So, we will leave the description of the problem at this point and try to invest the leftover energy in figuring out how we can get to a solution. The question is this is a nationwide problem so to get this solved who do we go to? Do we try to track down the government officials and ask them what should be done? But we have heard plenty of them on television saying that there is nothing that can be done because this shortage of resource is worldwide and everyone feels it. However, we don’t see the rest of the world complaining and suffering from the consequences as we are.

12-13

Talal Asad

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Camp Meeker (Calif.)–February 28th–This discussion was observed some time ago in Berkeley, but your essayist is only finding the time to write it up this Sunday afternoon.   

Asad’s father was an Austrian Jewish convert to Islam and his mother was a Muslim-born woman.  The philosophically-oriented Talal was born in the Saudi Kingdom, but raised in India and Pakistan.  The younger Asad was trained as an anthropologist, and now is a professor in New York City.  Your critic is mainly familiar with his compilations as an historian.

He began the exchange with “…I can give you a…location [of] where I am [stand] today.  I was much more confident [of] rational criticism” in the past than now.  “Working through certain materialists, [can be]…positive.”  In this way, he has transformed the Islamic tradition to respond to Western Secularism with an (Islamic) Modernism of its own uniqueness, “…a straight forward approach …” to problem solving (“reality testing”) is required according to our philosopher. 

“… [cultural] continuity is still relevant…for creativity.”  The question is “What can be continued and why,” but he still has much to work out for a comprehensive “critique…I don’t know what we can do…Thinking is good [positive], but what kind of thinking?”

Speaking especially of the Middle East, “Life is…entangled…The scope of the horror has tremendously increased” with the Afghani and Pakistani theaters, “We are in a new type of War…”  Unlike President Obama, he disagrees with the Just War theories (both Christian and Islamic).    There is a threat of a nuclear holocaust at present.  We are following a suicidal logic!

In the Occident, Classic Eighteenth Century “Liberalism has…evolved historically [into Neo-liberalism during our generation]…”  Sarcastically, he exclaimed “Let the market rule” although “…the State can intervene…”        “The…West… [‘s cultural] language’’ contains violence…”  He, personally, does not hold to a Culture of Death as he describes it. 

“…any texts we write can be interpreted in many ways…”  Curiously, therefore, he maintains he is not responsible for his writings.

Although he is fully conversant in European and American humanism, “…I am committed to… [the]…values of Islam…” constantly employing his religion within his philosophical doctrines.  Towards the end of the dialogue, he noted certain similarities between Eastern Christianity and Islam.  In this manner, he has emphasized the commonality between the roots of the West and the Islamic; and, thereby, a space for meeting.

12-10

Of India and Pakistan Talks Open Up Again

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

There are mixed feelings about the recent Pakistan India talks which were the first after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The foreign secretary of the 2 countries discussed the current situation in New Delhi last Thursday, 25th February 2010. These talks worse received with a lot of criticism from the public of Pakistan and India. No agenda was announced for the discussions. The Indaian Foreign Sectretary Ms. Nirupama Rao said that the talks would focus on the core issue of terrorism. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Mr. Salman Bashir said that he wanted to focus on the core issue of Kashmir.

Both sides entered the conversations with different ideas and in turn were expecting completely different results. Since the direction they wanted to take the discussions was so different the chances of this event being successful was a stretch.

Mr. Salman Bashir described his talks in Delhi as exploratory to reporters, “But unstructured talks for the sake of talks, though important, will not produce any long-term results. It is crucial that India agrees to restore Composite Dialogue to move forward,” he emphasized.

About the Kashmir Issue Bashir said: “Pakistan has made it clear to India that Kashmir is an international issue since the passage of the UN Security Council resolutions on it (in 1948) and international intervention is required for its settlement.

Ms. Rao said that in the discussion it was discussed that “the networks of terrorism in Pakistan be dismantled,”  “We have agreed to remain in touch,” Rao added.

While talking to the Pakistani press at the Pakistan High Commission in the evening Mr. Bashir said, the gap between Pakistan and India was widening and he did not see any substantial progress in the talks. He also added that there is no need for secretary level talks if India remains stuck to its stand on outstanding issues.
During these talks the water issue among others was brought up, which was discussed at the talks. According to Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Pakistan had informed the Indian side about the violations of Indus Basin Treaty, storage of water, Indian plan to build more dams, Kishenganaga hydel project, pollution in sources of water and the issue of glacier melting.

From the responses from both sides one cannot say for sure what issues were discussed and at what point the conversation was left but once can say for sure it doesn’t seem like nay significant results have come out of this venture. However it does not mean that talks were a complete failure and this act should not be repeatedly in the future. On the same token no time frame has been set for future discussions.

The issues that were discussed, including the Kashmir issue, are issues that have been under discussion and have been a problem for as long as the separate history of Pakistan and India has existed. From the reports that came in it looked like India and Pakitan had completely different agendas for this meeting and both sides are not really seeing eye to eye on what the real problem is.

India wants to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan and that is its only focus at this time. On the other hand Pakistan has many issues that it needs solved that have been put on the back burners for years for different reasons.

Every time the two countries start talks something takes place that halts the talks. The cold and hot history of the two nations makes it very hard for any peace or revolutionary discussions to take place. The recent halt in discussions came due to the Mumbai attacks because of which one can assume the Indian Foreign Secretary wants to focus on terrorism building within Pakistan according to India.

The Zardari government argued that peace with India would produce economic benefits that would strengthen Pakistan and allow the military to carry out its 15-year development plan.

In January 2007, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a comment to the similar affect when he said, “I dream of a day, while retaining our respective national identities, one can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul.”

No one can be sure if such time will ever come, however we do know that as of right now just thinking about traveling frm one country to another strikes fear in the hearts of many who know what is going on in all of these countries. It would be safe to say that our leaders have yet to give us a world in which what Mr. Singh said would be possible.

12-10

Flight 253: US Complicity?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Attorney Kurt Haskell discusses the events of Flight 253 and Underwear-Bomber Mutallab

By Adil James, MMNS

kurt haskell February 10—Farmington—The attempted Underwear Bombing has already taken on the aspect of a familiar tableau, with all involved taking their usual hackneyed positions—the gallant police and intelligence authorities, the heroic passengers, all duped by the diabolically wicked Muslim anti-hero, who despicably and cleverly circumvented all the hurdles in his path in order to do the unthinkable.

But there is another dimension to this story, which shows the extent to which, nearly 10 years after 9/11, there is apparently no thought-through system in place to deal with cases of attempted airline hijackings and bombings, where shadowy people who appear to be affiliated with government agencies interfere with the functioning of airport security, where other shadowy people who appear to be terrorists are allowed to slip through the cracks, and where government officials from top to bottom appear either to lie about events or to be simply incredibly misinformed, or inept.

Attorney Kurt Haskell was on Flight 253.  He is a vocal bankruptcy and divorce attorney who has a blog (haskellfamily.blogspot.com).  According to his law firm’s website, he graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a degree in Biology, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and Wayne State University Law School where he earned an LLM in Taxation.  He was a tax attorney for the IRS and opened the Haskell Law Firm in 2001 with his wife, Lori, who is also an attorney—she graduated from Davenport University and Wayne State University Law School.

Kurt and Lori Haskell were together on the eventful trip to and return from Africa; this trip to Africa led him through Amsterdam’s airport and onto flight 253, only a few rows away from a man who had come from Africa towards Detroit but with a very different purpose.

“I saw almost everything,” he explains, as he was sitting only 8 rows away from the bomber.  “He was in row 19, we were in row 27.”  “The whole thing took maybe a minute, it was really quick.” 

As he recounts the event, it happened in the final minutes of the flight to Detroit, “only five or ten minutes from landing.”  A female flight attendant walked past Mr. Haskell saying “it smells like smoke,” and a few moments later Haskell looked and saw a fire in what had been Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s row.  People were yelling “Fire! Fire!”  Someone was yelling “Terrorist!” A different flight attendant, who Haskell said was a black man named Dionne, put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.  Haskell saw two passengers escorting Mutallab, who was then wearing a blanket where his pants had been, towards first class. 

Mutallab has been described as in a “trance-like” state by one first class passenger who saw him after the event, but the word Haskell uses to describe Mutallab, after what must have been a terrifying and adrenaline-soaked event for all concerned, is “emotionless.”

But this was not the first time Haskell had seen Mutallab.  He had seen him before getting on the plane in Amsterdam—and it was this previous brief encounter which strikes the jarring note of discord between the generally accepted story and the truth of the events of Flight 253. 

“We had gone through the security checks,” he was sitting on the ground with his wife playing cards, very close to the ticketing agent who allows people to board the airplane, and he noticed what he described as an oddball pair approaching a ticket agent together.  What was striking about the pair was that they were together.  One was an “Indian-looking” man, dressed sharply, described in Haskell’s blog as the “sharp-dressed man.”  He looked about 50 years old, looked wealthy, was wearing a suit.  The other was Mutallab, looking maybe 15 years old, with “raggy jeans and a white T-shirt.” 

“They went to the ticket agent together,” explains Haskell, who said he overheard the sharp-dressed man say to the ticketing agent “This man needs to board the plane, he has no passport.”  “He’s from Sudan,” said the sharp-dressed man, “We do this all the time.”

At the time Haskell understood this to mean that the man (Mutallab) was a refugee.  Mutallab said nothing during the exchange.

The ticketing agent said the sharp-dressed man would have to go to the manager, and she pointed down the hallway, then the “oddballs together” walked down the hall towards where the manager had pointed.  “It meant so little to me at the time that I didn’t even mention it to my wife,” said Haskell.

It would only become significant in the light of the events that unfolded in the last few minutes of Flight 253.  Fast forward to a blanketed Mutallab being escorted to the front of the airplane.

The plane had nearly finished the flight when Mutallab attempted to ignite the explosive in his underwear… and the ensuing pandemonium only lasted about a minute.  The pilot requested emergency clearance to land, and it was only a short time before the passengers of the flight were all on land, however this is where Haskell witnessed “all [the] screwups” of security personnel in dealing with this attempted bombing.

First the plane spent about 20 to 30 minutes on the runway, explained Haskell.  “We taxied to the gate, which was a big mistake—we didn’t know if there were other bombs on board, or accomplices.”  “They could have blown up the entire terminal,” Haskell said. 

That seems unlikely, since if the terrorists wanted to bomb an airport terminal it seems unnecessary to fly several thousand miles after getting through airport security in Amsterdam. 

Haskell explained that the police got on the plane.  Haskell said he had expected an emergency evacuation. “We don’t know how dangerous the situation is,” he said.  The police said nobody could get off the plane.  Haskell was apprehensive that there was another bomb on board.

“The police never came out of first class,” he said, “they didn’t check on the welfare of the other passengers.”  “The police escorted Mutallab off the plane—he stood in the aisle for about 10 seconds, and I got a good look—he was wearing handcuffs.”  That was the first time that Haskell knew Mutallab was a terrorist, he said.

“Then we were allowed to get off the plane, they let us take all carry-ons off.  Big mistake.  Disturbing the crime scene.”  Mutallab had told the police, Haskell later learned (from news reports and from a client of his who works at the airport), that there was a bomb still on board the plane—but the police never searched the carry-on bags.

“We walked onto the runway, and were escorted to an evacuated baggage claim.  Nobody else was around.  We stood there for an hour.  There were bomb sniffing dogs, 3 of them.  One of them sniffed something in the bag of an Indian man, the ‘man in orange,’ who was wearing an orange shirt.  The dog sat down, which indicates he found an explosive.” 

“Immediately the man was taken away, but not handcuffed.”  He was interviewed in a room, “we couldn’t see inside the room but we could see the door.  Then he was taken out, handcuffed, and taken away.”

An officer came and moved the passengers to another area, saying it was “not safe here,” saying that everyone had seen what had happened earlier (with the man in orange) and could draw their own conclusions about why it wasn’t safe there.

The Flight 253 passengers were then moved, Haskell explained, to “a long narrow hallway, where we were held for four hours.  We couldn’t talk on cell phones, or text anybody.” They were not allowed to eat or drink.  “Mostly we were not allowed to use the bathroom,” he said.

Then, after several hours, a man came up to the passengers and said, “We believe we have those responsible in custody”—the passengers were then “free to go” after short interviews with the FBI.  Haskell did his interview with the FBI and went home.

Haskell emphasizes their use of the plural “those involved” rather than the singular “the one involved.”

The passengers of Flight 253 do not have any formal organization, however Haskell explains that many of the passengers have emailed him through his website, and being in contact with the other passengers he has found one woman who publicly said that she saw Mutallab during his security exam (during which she said he appeared nervous and sweated profusely and ran his hands through his hair) and learned of another passenger whose name has not been made public—who is said to have video-taped the entire terrorist incident on the airplane.

Haskell explains that the video recording was made by a Dutch man who bought a camcorder on his way to visit New York City, and was operating it during the incident because he wanted to learn how to use it, or test it.  According to Haskell’s sources this man’s video is now in the possession of government authorities, however the man has several photographs from the flight still in his possession, and Haskell believes there is a good chance those stills include at least one of the man in orange.

Haskell is astonished at the lack of interest in his story from mainstream media outlets.  Haskell’s eyewitness account strongly indicates government complicity in transporting Mutallab, and also strongly indicates at least one other bomber was on Flight 253. 

However, there is minimal interest in his story, and Haskell feels he has been maligned and his story undermined by official reports.  According to what Haskell saw, either there was another bomber involved, or there was a case of mistaken attribution of terrorist intent against the man in orange—and if so that man must have a motive to expose what has happened to him.  Haskell fully believes there was another terrorist whose involvement is being covered up by law enforcement authorities.

What does all this mean? Haskell discounts several popular theories, namely first that the government wanted the plane to be blown up to justify widespread body scanners and to justify making war on Yemen; second that the government wanted a failed bombing in order to justify the same two results above. 

However, Haskell does believe, based on what he saw and based on cryptic statements from government officials that intelligence officials sometimes let known terrorists into the country in order to track them and see who they contact, that the US government did fully intend to let Mutallab into the country in order to watch him, but did not know that Mutallab never intended to actually arrive at Detroit airport and had stuffed explosives in his underwear in order to kill everyone onboard his airplane before ever touching down in Detroit.

Haskell’s feeling about the incident seems to be primarily one of astonishment at the actions of his own government and the American press to the incident.
If Haskell’s story is wrong, he argues, why is it that no Dutch security video has been released of the events at Amsterdam airport?

“Why aren’t they releasing the video, if my story is not true? Why is the media totally ignoring what I have to say?”

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

Gentle, Friendly Face of Indonesia and Islam

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Greg Barton, Theage.com

ABDURRAHMAN ad-DAKHIL WAHID, FORMER INDONESIAN PRESIDENT

2009-12-31T131642Z_1627607473_GM1E5CV1N0R01_RTRMADP_3_INDONESIA-PRESIDENT WHEN the former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid succumbed to a long battle with kidney disease and diabetes, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for seven days of national mourning. For many millions of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens, the mourning is very personal.

Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, although a controversial president, was deeply loved and admired. Even before becoming Indonesia’s first democratically elected president in October 1999, he had built a towering reputation as a progressive Islamic intellectual and as a leading dissident. In fact, many feared that his unexpected entry into political office would tar his reputation as a social reformer and religious leader.

They were right to be afraid. He was never meant to be a president. It wasn’t just that his style was too unconventional, it was that he refused to play by the rules of the game and to do the sort of deals that politicians need to do. Ironically, however, it was this commitment to idealistically championing reform despite a lack of political backing for which he is currently being remembered, as much as for his contributions as an Islamic intellectual and Muslim community leader. He was the wrong man for the job but it was the right man for the time.

Born into one of Indonesia’s most prominent families of ulama, or Islamic scholars, Wahid went on to lead Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) for 15 years from 1984 until 1999. He succeeded in transforming the culture and orientation of this traditionalist Islamic association; with a membership of about 40 million people, it is the world’s largest Islamic organisation. Along with like-minded colleagues he helped ensure that the NU pesantren, Islamic boarding schools known elsewhere as madrassa, completed a transition to becoming modern schools offering the secular state curriculum alongside religious instruction. This ensured that their mostly poor rural students were able to enter fully into modern Indonesia society.

Wahid’s two grandfathers, Hasyim Asyari and Bisri Syansuri, had been instrumental in establishing NU in 1926, and his father, Wahid Hasyim, was minister of religious affairs under Sukarno and one of NU’s most prominent leaders up until his death in 1952, when the car in which he was travelling with his son, the future president, skidded on a mountain road. As the eldest of six children, Wahid felt a heavy responsibility to follow in his father’s footsteps. His solid pedigree gave him a commanding position to call for reform within NU and to challenge the Indonesian military, including president Suharto, on human rights abuses, corruption, nepotism and abuse of power. Gifted with a brilliant mind and near photographic recall, he blitzed through his pesantren studies as a teenager while sneaking off to the cinema as much as he could.

He also developed a love of literature. His mental gifts, if not his personal discipline, meant that when he arrived at Cairo’s famous al-Azhar University to study Islamic studies in 1963 he quickly found the sort of traditional rote learning in place there to be a disappointment. Neglecting his formal studies he spent his time in informal learning, extending his earlier studies to include French cinema and Western literature (read in the library of the American University) as well as hours of coffee shop debates in the cafes of Cairo.

Wahid was working at the Indonesian embassy in Cairo at the time of the 1965 coup that saw Sukarno toppled and hundreds of thousands of alleged communist sympathisers brutally murdered. He translated diplomatic cables and letters reporting events from back home and was all too aware of the culpability of NU members in aiding and abetting the violence. This led to a lifelong commitment to speaking out on human rights abuses, including those linked to his own community. As president, he sought to rehabilitate former political prisoners.

Bored with al-Azhar, he moved to Baghdad University in 1966, where he completed a degree in Arabic literature. Back home to Indonesia in the early 1970s, he threw himself into NGO activism. Like his father, he enjoyed broad friendships across all communities and was an early proponent of interreligious dialogue. He was also a champion of the rights of minority communities, including Indonesia’s Christians and Chinese, and later as president sought to advance their interests.
His leadership of NU positioned him to fearlessly critique Suharto and his regime, especially when beginning in the early 1990s Suharto sought the support of the radical Islamist elements that he previously persecuted.

To oppose this Wahid joined Djohan Effendi and others in establishing Forum Demokrasi to openly criticise the president’s use of sectarian sentiment for political purposes. In 1994, Wahid and Djohan accepted an invitation from Shimon Peres to visit Israel; they participated in the inauguration of the Peres Centre for Peace. Later, as president, he sought to open formal relations between Indonesia and Israel. Despite this bold move his popularity among his support base in NU remained undiminished and he declared that he was now prepared to run for a third five-year term as executive chairman. Suharto did all that he could to block his re-election but Wahid’s triumph established him as one of the few people who could take on Suharto and get away with it.

Nevertheless, he was forced to seek a rapprochement with Suharto following the latter’s ousting of Megawati Sukarnoputri from the leadership of her own party in 1996 and the violent suppression of her supporters. But when the Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia in the 1997, he was again at the head of the movement for reform.

A near fatal stroke in January 1998 robbed him of what was left of his failing eyesight and meant that he spent the first half of 1998 in physical rehabilitation rather than in leading the push against Suharto. Still, following Suharto’s resignation in May, Wahid was able to establish a new party designed to garner the support of members of NU but founded on principles of secularism. The success of this party, PKB, in the 1999 elections set him up for role in government. No one, however, really expected him to become president.

That occurred because Habibie, who wanted to turn his transitional presidency into a full term through election, was thwarted when he supported the referendum in East Timor and Islamist elements and others within parliament moved to block the ascension of Megawati Sukarnoputri. She eventually became president in July 2001 when parliament effectively voted Wahid out of office.

Wahid is remembered today largely for his role as a reformist president, but history is likely to also remember him as one of the 20th century’s leading Islamic intellectuals and as someone who demonstrated how a traditional Islamic scholar can also be modern, democratic and humanitarian.

Professor Greg Barton is Herb Feith Research Professor for the Study of Indonesia at Monash University, and acting director, Centre for Islam and the Modern World. He is also the author of Gus Dur: the Authorised Biography of Abdurrahman Wahid.

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Funerals Burden Omani Families

January 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

Sultan Qaboos mosque The Middle East region is world-renowned for the often lavish lifestyles of its citizens, as most wealthy Arab states boast all of the designer clothes, houses, yachts, cars and luxury items that anyone could ever shake a stick at. However, the sumptuous lifestyle often extends beyond the grave as funerals and the price tag of entertaining the ensuing mourners rivals that of any party amongst the living. 

No place is this reality more vivid than in Oman, where it is a tradition to have grand feasts fit for a king and his army following the departure of a loved one. Funeral expenses and the costs for providing food for those wanting to pay their respects are often astronomical, numbering in the thousands of dollars. It is not uncommon for a few hundred people to show up as a sign of respect for the deceased. The mourning period often lasts for three days and serving refreshments is expected. In a recent interview, Omani citizen Rahma Saif revealed that more than 200 people showed up at her home to mourn the death of her father, “It is draining both physically and mentally, not to mention the cost of the food. I cared for my father when he was ill for six months and did not sleep well during the time. Immediately after his death, I had to provide a feast for three consecutive days for 200 people each day,” Mourners often stay throughout the day well until the sun has set. Bereaved family members are often too exhausted from catering to the mourners that they do not have the time to mourn the very personal loss themselves.

The Omani government lends a helping hand in funeral costs for low-income families, however it is only a few hundred riyals, which barely covers the cost of the gravedigger and some Arabic coffee for the mourners. Poor families must dig deep into their savings or even sell off valuable possessions to provide a minimum of six square meals for the mourning guests.  In Saif’s case, she had to use all of her father’s savings to feed the mourners, which negated any possible inheritance for his family members.

Contrastingly, many rich Omanis have no problem in hosting a grand feast for mourners and relish in putting on a huge event. Unlike their low-income counterparts, wealthy Omani families have huge bankrolls to pay for the affair and a fleet of servants to tend to the mourners every whim. It’s not uncommon for a high-end funeral service to cost several thousands of dollars, as guests dine on 5-star meals from local upscale restaurants and drink only the finest beverages available.

Critics of the mourning period in Oman have accused our contemporary world of altering an age-old tradition meant to comfort the bereaved into simply an excuse to get a free meal. It’s not surprising that, with the current state of the global economic crisis, more and more people are attending funerals in Oman for the sole reason of getting their fill, turning the occasion into a festivity instead of a time of sadness and introspection. Many skeptics have called for the government to legally shorten the mourning period to one day and put a cap on funeral expenses. Others have called the practice unIslamic and a transgression against a fellow Muslim in his greatest hour of sorrow.

Unfortunately, societal norms might have the final word as many a man is judged, not by the deeds he committed in this world whether good or bad, but by the number of people who showed up at his funeral. And those he left behind cannot escape the rumor mills should they not provide a grand feast for mourners who might label them as miserly. 

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Unawareness—A Sly Threat

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuation

Unawareness, as briefly defined in the introduction, is the condition of those people who are either unaware of Allah’s existence and the Hereafter, or, if they are aware, do not have the requisite sense of responsibility. As a result, they are unaware and careless. Sometimes, believers can become temporarily unaware due to a transient forgetfulness or distraction. In the case of unbelievers or those who ascribe equals to Allah, this can be a life-long condition that affects every aspect of life.

Many people do not wonder why they were created; rather, they dally in the desires of their egos and therefore lead empty and useless lives. Following the logic of “living for the moment,” they seek to attain only the best and to enjoy as many of the world’s pleasures as they can. For them, what counts is making the best of their time, imagining that “we only have one life.” Thus, they try to fill their allotted days with as much pleasure and enjoyment as possible. They know they are going to die, and yet they are unaware of the eternal punishment awaiting them in Hell. And because they cannot conceive of Allah’s supreme power, they underestimate just how severe this punishment will be. (For details, see Harun Yahya’s Death, Resurrection, Hell). Some of the related verses areas follows:

If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, that truly all strength belongs to Allah , and that He is severe in punishment.

Al-Baqara: 165

That Day no one will punish as He punishes, and no one will shackle as He shackles.

Al-Fajr: 25-26

When they are flung into it (Hell), they will hear it gasping harshly as it seethes. It all but bursts with rage. Each time a group is flung into it, its custodians will ask them: “Did no warner come to you?”

Al-Mulk: 7-8

Hell will suffice as a Searing Blaze! As for those who reject Our Signs, We will roast them in a Fire. Every time their skins are burned off, We will replace them with new skins so that they can taste the punishment. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.

An-Nisa’: 55-56

Most unaware individuals know of Allah’s existence but do not have an accurate knowledge of Islam. Therefore, they do not submit to Him. As a result, their lack of absolute trust in Him causes them to experience deep pain and sorrow when confronted with difficult and distressing situations. The smallest anxiety is enough to upset their lives, and they are known for their pessimism, unhappiness, and depression.

They pass long periods doing useless and meaningless things, which they call “being busy.” But this “useless busyness,” which makes them feel so important and indispensable, is just an empty distraction that fans the flames of their unawareness. In the Qur’an, Allah describes these vain distractions:

It may be that those who are unbelievers will wish that they had been Muslims. Leave them to eat and enjoy themselves. Let false hope divert them. They will soon know.

Al-Hijr: 2-3

Unawareness is like an insidious disease that engulfs those who have forgotten Allah and the Hereafter, that anesthetizes the mind and shrouds the intelligence. This drowsy unawareness prevents them from understanding the realities that assail and await them. Despite their power to see and hear, such people can no longer accurately interpret and judge what they see and hear. In fact, it shrouds their minds to such an extent that they spend all of their time trying to satisfy the endless desires of their egos. They can think of nothing else, for they have already transformed their desires and passions into deities:

Have you seen him who has taken his whims and desires to be his deity? Will you, then, be his guardian? Do you suppose that most of them hear or understand? They are just like cattle. Indeed, they are even further astray!

Al-Furqan: 43-44

One important aspect of unawareness is its ability to alienate people from reality and cause them to live in a dream world. For example, young people always think of the future and may feel happy thinking that their dreams will come true. As they get older, their dreams become more restricted and they try to relive them through souvenirs and reminders. Older people can easily find many memories to share with their loved ones, and retelling their memories lets them relive the excitement or sorrow of that moment.

With their minds fully occupied by dreams and memories, they have no room for those realities that deserve their full attention: the Hereafter, the Garden, and Hell. They are not connected to Allah, either in what they think or feel, and conceive of reality as just an unwanted, indistinct, dark space between dreams and memories. When reality somehow finds its way into their minds, they immediately stop thinking about it and return to their daydreams.

Unawareness can be compared to how people with poor eyesight see the world through an indistinct haze. They cannot see anything clearly or in detail until they put on their glasses. Only after doing that will they become aware of how little they could see without their glasses. Perhaps they had not seen anything at all.

Unaware people also have a similar (but more serious) type of conception deficiency: they cannot properly appreciate Allah’s existence, splendor, and honor. But when they approach Him with a true heart, pray to Him, contemplate Him, and respect the boundaries He has set for humanity, He may remove this deficiency so that they can obtain a clear understanding of reality.

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Major Donor to Israel Causes Pleads Guilty…

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Philanthropist pleads guilty to bribes

JTA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conservative Christians Pray for God to Kill President Obama

November 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By The Cleveland Leader (adapted by TMO)

prayforobabma t shirt That’s not very Christian-like, now is it? Nevertheless, a few religious zealots have taken their dislike of U.S. President Barack Obama to a new level – bumper stickers and t-shirts which command viewers to pray for the president’s death. Of course they don’t come right out and print “Pray for our President to die”. Instead, the perpetrators take a far more cowardly approach, utilizing the slogan “Pray for Obama – Psalm 109:8”.

If you take the time to look up Psalm 109:8, you’ll notice right off that it is not a happy and cheerful passage. Psalm 109 is better known as “A Cry for Vengeance”. Psalm 109:8 specifically reads:

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

While that verse does not specifically mention death or harm to the leader in question, read on and you will see that Psalm 109 has a far more sinister message.

6 Appoint [a] an evil man [b] to oppose him; let an accuser [c] stand at his right hand.

7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.

8 May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.

9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven [d] from their ruined homes.

11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.

14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

In other words, referencing this passage when speaking about President Obama is secret Christian code for “Kill the President.” As sad or as crazy as it may be, this veiled death wish is not the first to have arisen since Barack Obama took office in January. Other examples include the classified ad that was placed in a Pennsylvania newspaper hoping that Obama follows in “the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy” – all of whom were assassinated. Then there’s also the gun totating teabagger from New Hampshire who waved a sign saying that it is time to “water the tree of liberty”, making reference to Thomas Jefferson’s reminder that the tree of liberty must from time to time be watered with the “blood of tyrants and patriots.”

If you too would like to be added to the Secret Service’s watchlist, have your phone calls tapped and emails read, by all means, buy one of the Psalm t-shirts or bumper stickers. It’s still a free country afterall. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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TMO Editor’s note:  This psalm is not directed at cruel leaders, but rather at cruel men who oppress pious men, and against people who curse others more than they bless them.  Therefore perhaps this psalm is more a friend to Obama than it is a friend to the extremists who attack him despite his overtures towards them.  Following are some later verses to illustrate this:

17 He loved to pronounce a curse—
       may it [e] come on him;
       he found no pleasure in blessing—
       may it be [f] far from him.

18 He wore cursing as his garment;
       it entered into his body like water,
       into his bones like oil.

19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
       like a belt tied forever around him.

20 May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
       to those who speak evil of me.

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

November 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

4. Not to Insist on Warning Them if They Refuse to Heed Advice

Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is the responsibility of every believer. Yet there is a limit to this. Allah states that if the person being given advice rejects it obdurately, then nothing further should be said to him:

Remind, then, if the reminder benefits. He who has fear will be reminded. But the most miserable will shun it.

al-A‘la: 9-11

In the event that hypocrites insist in their fanatic denial, further warnings will be of no avail. Believers should leave them to their own devices.

5. To Combat Them and Behave in a Stern, Deterrent Manner

O Prophet, strive against the disbelievers and hypocrites and be harsh with them. . . .

At-Tawba: 73

This is a very important piece of advice from Allah. A harsh and determined approach from believers towards hypocrites, who fail to keep their word to Allah, lie and harbor corruption and rebellion in their hearts, has a deterrent effect. Being on one’s guard against the strife they will cause, taking relevant precautions beforehand and identifying them in good time before they can wreak any harm are most important duties for believers. Believers have been charged with being on their guard at all times against the danger from hypocrites, exposing these people who harbor sickness in their hearts, and thereby causing others to avoid them. This is indeed what they do.

Taking all due precautionary measures and at the same time, never permitting them the opportunity to cause strife, acts as a warning to later generations of hypocrites.

6. Not to Allow Them to Struggle Alongside the Faithful

Hypocrites do not actually struggle alongside believers, because they fail to fear Allah as they ought, are devoted to worldly concerns and feel enormous admiration for deniers. Since they remain lagging behind and choose a life apart from that of believers, Allah commanded the Prophet (saas) never to permit hypocrites to struggle alongside the faithful:

If Allah returns you to a group of them, and they ask you for permission to go out, say, “You will never go out with me, nor will you ever fight an enemy with me. You were happy to stay behind the first time, so stay behind with those who are left behind.”

At-Tawba: 83

7. To Remove Them from the Community of the Faithful

He [Musa] said, “What do you think you were doing, Samaritan?” He [Samaritan] said, “I saw what they did not see. So I gathered up a handful from the messenger’s footprints and threw it in. That is what my inner self urged me to do.” He said, “Go! In this world you will have to say, ‘Untouchable!’ And you have an appointment which you will not fail to keep. Look at your deity to which you devoted so much time. We will burn it up and then scatter it as dust into the sea.”

Ta Ha: 95-97

The attitude regarding Samaritan, who cased strife among the people of the Prophet Musa (as), is a most effective precaution that should be recommended against all hypocrites, because hypocrites cause strife among believers and to turn them towards denial, in the same way that they themselves have turned in the direction of denial. Even if they fail, they seek to wear believers down psychologically. In such an event, the most rational course is to remove them from among sincere believers.

8. To Refuse to Heed Them

So call and go straight as you have been ordered to. Do not follow their whims and desires. . .

Ash-Shura: 15

Obeying or heeding a hypocrite will result in considerable harm. A person who abandons the behavior pleasing to Allah and goes along with hypocrites is actually following the path of satan. Those who go along with satan represent his army and can never attain salvation, either in this world nor in the next. For that reason, Allah warns believers against this danger and forbids them to engage in behavior such as agreeing with hypocrites’ suggestions.

9. To Pay no Heed to the Troubles and Woes They Inflict

Allah is believers’ Guardian and Protector. In times of difficulty and distress, they seek help from Him, and are patient and submissive. They also exhibit fortitude and submit to Allah in the face of difficulties stemming from hypocrites. They pray for the harm that hypocrites seek to inflict to be visited upon them instead. For that reason, Allah tells believers to pay no attention to hypocrites’ actions, since these are all ineffective and invalid:

But because of their breaking of their covenant, We have cursed them and made their hearts hard. They distort the true meaning of words and have forgotten a good portion of what they were reminded of. You will never cease to come upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. Yet pardon them, and overlook. Allah loves good-doers.

al-Ma’ida: 13

Turn from them and say, “Peace! You will soon come to know.”

Az-Zukhruf: 89

10. To Establish with Them no Ties of Affection or Friendship

As the friends of satan, hypocrites have adopted him as their guardian. Therefore, a believer will avoid hypocrites just as he avoids satan. Since they are the enemies of Allah and religion, believers are also hostile to them as well and feel great anger towards them in their hearts. Indeed, Allah forbids believers to take as friends those who war against them on the subject of religion:

Allah merely forbids you from taking as friends those who have fought you in the religion and driven you from your homes and who supported your expulsion. Any who take them as friends are wrongdoers.

At-Mumtahana: 9

11. To Avoid Them

Hypocrites engage in a constant struggle against believers, persisting in cunning activities against them so long as they remain in their midst. If they leave the community of the faithful, they carry out these activities from a distance. For believers’ security and peace of mind, therefore, it is of the greatest importance to avoid hypocrites as one would satan himself, and to stay as far away from them as one would from the flames.

Allah has promised that so long as believers avoid them, hypocrites will be able to do them no harm:

If something good happens to you, it galls them. If something bad strikes you, they rejoice at it. But if you are steadfast and guard against evil, their scheming will not harm you in any way. Allah encompasses what they do.

Ali ‘Imran: 120

Soldiers Often ‘Racialize’ to Cope

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Interview, Aaron Glantz

Editor’s Note: The horrific shooting Thursday at Fort Hood that claimed 13 lives and hospitalized another 30 people has set off a great deal of speculation as to why the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, did what he did.

NAM Editor Aaron Glantz spoke to former Marine Corps Cpl. Dave Hassan, who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Hassan, an Egyptian American, said that while he was in Iraq, racist language was so pervasive that he began to use it himself.

egyptian soldier guy from NAM article

When you heard that the shooter was an Arab-American major what was your reaction?

This is not going to end well. That was essentialy my first reaction. I don’t know if the guy did it or not but assuming that this guy did do it, somebody who shoots a whole bunch of people ought to get punished for it, but in a broader sense, it’s just going to fuel more of the anti-Arab racism that’s grown up in the past decade or so. It’s going to be fun for the rest of us. [laughs]

What about the fact that he was a psychiatrist?

He was probably treating guys with PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and there’s a lot more overt racism in that crowd than there is in the rest of the military.

Talk about that.

Well, your average service member is not particularly racist and not necessarily more racist than your average American. But in order to go be involved with killing large [numbers] of other human beings, you have to dehumanize the enemy, and the easiest way to dehumanize them is to racialize them. In my experience, they’re much more prone to talking about ‘f** hajji’s,” if only “these f** hajjis wouldn’t be here, this wouldn’t have happened.’

But after you were deployed to Iraq, you used that language even though your family is Egyptian.

Oh, absolutely. I absolutely used those words. I didn’t think anything of it. It was just a part of how you talked about the people who were in Iraq and it didn’t even register that I was even talking about my own ethnic community until I started thinking about it after I got home. That was a little hard for me.

But it’s just how you talk about Iraqis and Afghans. It’s a word that’s used for specific people in Arabic. It means someone who has completed a pilgrimage so it’s a term of respect in Arab cultures. Now it’s present at every level of the military chain of command, so everybody uses it. In the military, things stop because commanders want them to stop and that wasn’t the case for that kind of language.

They’re hajji’s and you don’t even think about the fact that it’s a pretty racist term to be using it the way that we used it. And he [Hasan] would have heard a lot of it, because he was treating a lot of pretty angry folks.

And how was that day-to-day for you?

For me, it never went beyond the use of language. People would say, ‘Why are hajjis wearing dresses all the time,’ [talking about traditional Iraqi dishdash]. One or two of the officers that I had contact with would call me over and say ‘Hassan, how come these hajjis want to be doing this?’

So thinking of all this were you surprised when Major Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood?

I was surprised that it was a psychiatrist that shot a lot of people. It’s no longer surprising to me that returning veterans would kill a bunch of people. But this guy was a psychiatrist who hadn’t been deployed, and he was also a major, which means he was in for a long time. If he had been at Walter Reed for a long time it was probably the first time that he had to think in detail about actually deploying to a foreign country and what that means. He would have been a lot closer to the ‘action’ there.

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As the Academic Year Opens in Israel:

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ayman Quader, www.peaceforgaza.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 – Once again, following the start of the academic year at many institutions of higher education around the world, some 838 Palestinian students are still waiting to leave Gaza to study abroad. The students cannot leave due to the Israeli-imposed closure of the Gaza Strip and the rigid criteria for exit via the Erez and Rafah border crossings.

According to figures provided to Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement – by the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza, 1,983 students who have been accepted into educational institutions abroad have registered for permits to exit via the Rafah crossing since the start of the year, but only 1,145 students have managed to pass through the crossing. 69 additional students have left via Erez crossing.

Overseas travel is no simple matter for Palestinian students because passage through Israel is extremely limited in accordance with a long list of criteria determined by Israel, which include the possession of a “recognized” academic scholarship and enrollment to study in a country which has a diplomatic presence in Israel. In addition, since June 2008 Israel has made the exit of students from Gaza to study abroad conditional on a physical diplomatic escort (see Gisha’s report: “Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit From Gaza”). The students also have difficulty leaving through Egypt via Rafah crossing due to the fact that it is closed most of the time. The rare openings of Rafah Crossing permit travel for only about 12% of people wishing to pass.

As a result, 838 students are still waiting in Gaza for permission to leave. An additional unknown number of students were not even eligible to register for a Rafah exit permit since they were unable to attend a visa interview in Jerusalem or the West Bank – a prerequisite for passing through the Rafah crossing. Below are three examples of students harmed by the infrequent opening of the Rafah crossing and the strict exit criteria set by Israel:

Mohammed AbuHajar, 29, was accepted into an MA program in Information Technology and Communications at the Center for Information Technologies in Athens in July 2009, and was even awarded a full scholarship by the Center. Since Israel does not consider this to be a “recognized university” or a “recognized scholarship,” and despite requests by Greek officials on his behalf, all of AbuHajar’s attempts to leave Gaza have so far led nowhere. He only just managed to register with the Palestinian Interior Ministry, but it is not known when the next opening of the Rafah crossing will take place or whether AbuHajar will be able to get through the crossing at all.

Ihab Naser, 38, who holds a graduate degree in Biochemistry, was accepted into doctoral studies in Community Nutrition at a Malaysian university in May 2009, but he has not yet managed to leave Gaza. Since Malaysia has no diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, so long as Israel continues to insist on the diplomatic escort requirement, Naser has no chance of getting out of Gaza via Israel to study abroad. Despite the fact that Naser has been on the list of students with a permit to exit via the Rafah crossing for a long time already, due to the huge crowd of hopeful travelers that converges on the crossing every time it opens, his exit has been delayed time and again.

Wesam Kuhail, 28, who holds a BA in Business Administration, was accepted into an MBA program in the USA, but has been forced this year – for the third time – to renew his application for the program. This is because Kuhail has not yet managed to get an exit permit from Gaza in order to attend a visa interview at the US Consulate in Jerusalem: “I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to the consulate under these circumstances. This wait has prevented me from making important life decisions… All I am doing is waiting for my entry permit to be approved by the Israelis.”

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On Being a Muslim

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

Villa Park, IL (USA)–“On Being a Muslim”

ansariSince becoming a Muslim many years ago, I have been compelled to strive for the potential I was born with, but up until that time did not use. My connection with God, through the teachings of Islam, has given me gifts of character and spirituality that I still find surprising.

Islam has made me smarter. God gave me a brain, but Islam gave me the reason to use it. For instance, being a Muslim woman has demanded that I grow intellectually. The Quran tells us over and over, “these are words for those who think.” Islam is a religion of thinking, questioning, revising our opinions, and considering the world from different perspectives. Over the years, I have listened to Muslim thinkers, scholars, and teachers who have changed, moderated, and enhanced their understanding of Islam as they themselves changed, moderated, and grew older and wiser. Islam has room for this. The message in the Quran is so layered and rich with meaning that it begs the reader to dive into the words over and over, only to surface each time at different places in its sea, leaving us gasping for breath from the complexity and simplicity that coexist simultaneously.

Being a Muslim has broadened my worldview. Being a Muslim in America means that I am part of a faith group that encompasses people of wildly different cultures and ethnicities. I have made friends and have worked with people from virtually all corners of the world. Since becoming a Muslim, I no longer view people through the lens of a television or movie camera, edited for my sensibilities; instead, I get to learn about them firsthand. I have friends who have transported me to their native land with a simple cup of tea and a little conversation. As an American Muslim, I have learned that the world is full of warm people who would give you their last meal, simply because that’s the way they have always lived.

Islam has taught me true empathy. I grew up in America’s safe neighborhoods, attending excellent public schools. With this advantage, I never experienced discrimination or disrespect from others until after I embraced Islam and wore the hijab, the Muslim headscarf. By taking on this visible identifier, I learned what it feels like to be the “other.” When someone spit on the street as I passed, just after the 9/11 tragedy, I experienced a little of what Catholics and Jews and other religious minorities in America went through in decades and centuries past. When my husband, a native of India, and I were swiftly refused a previously promised lease on a house after we faxed in our driver’s license photos to the out-of-town owner, I understood the resentment and frustration felt by those who suffer insidious bigotry. When I was made to stand with my arms and legs spread like a criminal for a physical pat down in plain view of other air travelers, I understood the humiliation of being profiled simply because of my faith. However, I consider these experiences a privilege, as they have taught me empathy for those who have suffered simply for being.

Islam has made me a stronger feminist. Contrary to common perceptions, being a Muslim woman demands that I become educated, one who questions authority and the status quo. The women who lived during the time of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad were constantly questioning the meaning of the revelations; they wanted to know where their place in society lay, and they asserted their intelligence in defining themselves. They asked the Prophet questions about their lives. They did not ask by means of their husbands or fathers; they spoke directly to the Prophet. Islamic teachings elevate women to equal status with men — the only qualifier of merit is one’s conviction of faith and actions. Islam leaves room for women to assert themselves in all aspects of community life, and while Musli ms in America are struggling against the misogyny brought from overseas, Islam gives us the strength and framework to claim equal standing with men in the mosque and in the greater society.

Islam has taught me real humility. Muslims are taught to perform each prayer as if we are in the presence of God — whose magnificence is more than any of us can fathom. Muslims must pray in a prescribed manner, and the most intimate position of the prayer is called sajud, where one kneels down and places the forehead and nose on the floor. In the very beginning for me, an American raised with a large amount of pride, it was difficult to pray in this position. I thought to myself, “This is humiliating,” but was told that this is the purpose of sajud. I performed the prayer as taught, but was disheartened when I did not find the solace promised. A wise Muslim woman told me to continue with the ritual, regardless of whether it felt hollow or not. So I persisted. Weeks passed, and I went through the motions of the daily prayers, until one day — all in an instant — I felt myself in the presence of God while in sajud. During those brief moments I gained everything I would ever need in this world — the eternal longing for that most intimate connection with my Creator.

My husband and I named our son Sajid, which means one who prostrates to God.

This article first appeared on American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith feature, Expressions of Muslim Identity.

Troy Daze Festival 2009 Dawah Booth – Request for Volunteers

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslim institution seeking volunteers to make da’wah at the Troy Daze Festival (http://ci.troy.mi.us/TroyDaze/) on 9/17/09. 

For each time slot, 2 Volunteers (1 brother and 1 sister ideally) are needed at the booth.

You will be engaging the visitors and answering their questions on Islam and Muslims.

The following 3 hour slots are available :  (1) Thursday Sept 17th, 2009:  3-6 pm / 6-9 pm; (2)  Friday Sept 18th, 2009: 10am-1 pm / 1- 4 pm / 4-7pm / 7-10pm; (3) Saturday Sept 19th, 2009 : 11am-2pm / 1-4pm / 4-7pm / 7-10pm; (4) Sunday Sept 20th, 2009:11am-2pm / 1-4pm / 4-7pm

・Please respond early with your time slot preference and contact info if you can spare some time. Time slots will be filled on a first-come-first served basis. If you are flexible, that would be great. Every effort will be made to allocate your first preference.

・Please donate generously for buying the Dawah materials and making the arrangements for the booth. Snacks will be provided to attract visitors.

Shafeeq Bandagi, sbandagi@yahoo.com; tel: (248)-338-6661; home/Cell: (248)-943-2611

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