III. The “Street Fighting Man” in Oakland

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ringing in the New Year

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

happy_New_Year_s_hat_5The time has come to bid adieu to yet another year. Countries around the world, from Russia to Japan, will ring in 2012 with the pomp and pageantry befitting of a new year. However, for many, bidding farewell to a passing year and welcoming in another one is mere ritual. For others, saying goodbye to 2011 gives reason to pause and reflect on the past twelve months. Nowhere is this truer than the Middle East where the “Arab Spring” was born and continues to take baby steps to freedom and democracy. Albeit through infinite tears and immense bloodshed.

Countries in the region ring in the New Year differently. In Kuwait, the celebration is limited to private parties and the odd buffet meal at a five-start restaurant. In Saudi Arabia, it is largely ignored since following the Islamic calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian one, takes precedent. And in countries like Egypt and Syria, there will be little reason to celebrate given the tumultuous political environment that rages on with little end in sight. There is one country, however, that always has a New Year’s Eve celebration that rivals even the grandest of celebrations in the West. And that’s Dubai.

The tiny United Arab Emirate’s municipality of Dubai holds one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the region each year without exception. And this year, event organizers have promised a bash bigger and better than ever. The tallest building in the world, Burj Al-Khalifa will take center stage as a larger than life pyrotechnical display with shake it to its very core and illuminate the skies in a sea of colors. The nearby building Burj Al Arab will also have its own fireworks display at the stroke of midnight.

Resorts, hotels and nightclubs in Dubai have a host of activities that start well before midnight and will last well into the morning hours of New Year’s Day. One of the most unique celebrations will be held at the Fairmont Hotel where an acrobatic performance of “Charlie and the Cirque Factory” will be held. Guests will be treated to dessert and candy at the stroke of midnight. Another notable celebration will be held aboard the QE2 ocean liner, however the black-tie affair is by invite only and is being touted as the most exclusive New Year’s Eve event in the entire world.

A slew of celebrities have descended upon Dubai this past week to ring in the New Year with their entourages. Indian mega-star Shah Rukh Khan and British actress Amy Childs are just two personalities that plan to welcome 2012 in Dubai. American actresses Lindsay Lohan and Pamela Anderson are also confirmed to be participating in the QE2 festivities.

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Occupy Boston Dismantled

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

ScreenShot001At 5am, Saturday, December 10, 2011, police swept through Occupy Boston’s encampment at Dewey Square. Protesters first erected the encampment on September 30. As the officers moved in, about two dozen demonstrators linked arms and sat down in nonviolent protest and police soon began arresting them, according to the Boston Globe. The protesters were “very accommodating” to the officers, Police Chief Driscoll said. Forty-six people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, but no injuries were reported. Protesters estimate that 100 to 150 activists lived in the Boston encampment. Boston is the latest in a string of cities where officials have moved to oust protesters demonstrating against corporate greed and economic injustice. Demonstrators were also forcibly removed from similar encampments in New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“A few days back, Boston Mayor Menino told the media/public (and indirectly the court considering an injunction) that he had no immediate plans to evict the Occupy Boston folks from Dewey Park. He just wanted the ability to do so if necessary for health/safety reasons. He was lying, of course, or we’ve just witnessed the fastest landscape planning and permitting exercise in the history of Boston,” comments local blogger Scarecrow.

By 10am, a large crew employed by the City arrived with dump trucks and new soil, a back hoe with grader and air-driven soil aerators to re-do the landscaping at the former protest site.

The main role of this parkway is to separate the dual auto expressways. Dewey Square has never been a park where people normally walk. Once the protesters set up camp in the middle of the Financial District in this island between expressways, many hopeless and homeless people joined them.

Scarecrow explains: “So it was no surprise that the mostly young, idealistic and courageous occupiers were forced from day 1 to recreate government, to develop mechanisms to deal, face to face with drug abuse, violent/uncontrolled behavior, unemployment, homelessness, hunger and poor health. It wasn’t all just marches and demonstrations and rallies and teach-ins; it was also a daily struggle for human and humane survival.”

Even though this public strip of grass is now “cleaned up,” the problem of poverty has not gone away. Reports indicate that the homeless people were crying as the police cleared out the area.
Acacia Brewer from the Occupy Boston movement told Iran’s Press TV, “A few days ago we were at the Dewey Square encampment, and since then we’ve been having general assemblies down at the Boston Common which was where we first started.”

Just hours after a 5 am police raid cleared Dewey’s tent city, Occupiers braved the cold at Boston Common to plan a new strategy: Occupy Everywhere. Occupy Boston even has its own live radio link now.

Meanwhile, onlookers nationwide have been rethinking their positions regarding the use of public space. Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City says there is already evidence that chronically homeless people are finding great inspiration in the Occupy Kitchen and work.

“We clergy were all somewhat skeptical of the demand for public space… But the occupiers edged toward the theological as they articulated a need for communal, inspirational, face-to-face contact in which they could “appear” to one another…

“…they spoke of a new monasticism, in which people have given up everything to jump to a future they can only imagine. In the most recent newsletter posted by Occupy Theory, occupiers describe how sad they were about their lives, both present and future, until they found each other. If you were worried about “young people today” before, you will be terrified after you read about the emptiness, the bought-and-soldness, the futility, the lack of any place to be or person to be.”

Will all this community result in a just economy?

Some skepticism is warranted, given the past three decades of American politics. Anyone demonstrating for any cause has typically been marginalized and isolated. It has been the norm for there to be only a handful of protesters, sometimes even only only one lone protester, against any serious issue such as AIPAC lobbying, imprisonment of random Muslims, or escalation of US wars. So why, all of a sudden, is there a nationwide movement of protest? And why is the TV News even mentioning them? It’s unusual.

Michel Chossudovsky states in his article, Occupy Wall Street and “The American Autumn”: Is It a “Colored Revolution”? that “the elites will promote a ‘ritual of dissent’ with a high media profile, with the support of network TV, the corporate news as well as the internet.”

According to Chossudovsky, several key organizations currently involved in The Occupy Wall Street movement played a significant role in “The Arab Spring”.

The involvement of corporate funding of the anti-capitalist movement probably cannot be denied. TV News stations such as FOX have not indulged in such around-the-clock coverage since the Gulf War, even though typically, any meaningful protest would be ignored by the media.

Yet, the atmosphere of the Occupy movement has been described by participants as “electrifying.” Real human concerns are being addressed here. Only time will tell if this protest movement was just orchestrated to let off steam, or if it will result in any improvements in the political system.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. See karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Sound Vision Event for Shariah Education

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

A fundraiser was held Saturday evening at the Dearborn Hyatt to counter the “anti-Shariah” legislation that is sweeping the nation.

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Abdul Malik Mujahid speaks at his fundraiser

The voices from the extreme right that vilify Muslims and Islam have made an important strategy shift in recent years, aiming to promulgate their hatred into the law of the land.  That difference has come in the form of plainly unconstitutional legislation that despite its illegality in relation to the religious protections of our nation has been passed as “anti-Sharia” legislation in 5 states to date, with ongoing battles to enact such legislation in other states.

Sound Vision pioneer Abdul Malik Mujahid is therefore planning an intelligent response to the shrill anti-Shariah efforts.  He has begun to assemble a team of knowledgeable people from relevant walks of life including lawyers and professors, and a website (called Sharia101.org) and more, all designed to fill the void on the internet of people knowledgeable about Islam who can respond to the “anti-Shariah” distortions of Christian bigots.

Mr. Mujahid has successfully built Sound Vision, and is prominent for his other contributions as well, in fact he was given the honor of being listed in the “Muslim 500” book of most influential Muslims.

Saturday, approximately 100 influential Southeast Michigan Muslims attended Mr. Mujahid’s fundraiser, one stop on Mr. Mujahid’s tour of several fundraisers, to raise money in support of his vision of educating people on what Shariah is.

Mujahid spoke eloquently on the importance of Shariah legislation, the danger it poses to Muslim investing, the danger to Muslim family arbitration, the danger to the existing multibillion dollar halal investment funds, the danger to the halal industry.

Mujahid also pointed out the profound implications of anti-Shariah legislation for similarly distinct religious groups which apply their religious laws within the American legal system, for example Jews, Catholics, the Amish, and Mormons. 

Mujahid gave one of the first good explanations of the nature of Shariah as being our way of life–something that is not at all fairly represented by sometimes hideous abuses done in foreign countries under the banner “Shariah.”

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Robo-Parking

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

roboparkYou know the feeling. The sheer exuberance experienced when a sweet parking spot opens up right before your eyes. It’s probably near the entrance of the place you are visiting and the perfect size to ensure your car won’t get dinged by the doors of your parking neighbors. Contrastingly, you might have experienced sheer disappointment after a stealthy driver swiped your parking spot right out from under your nose. Fights, shouting matches and even fatal attacks often occur over a parking space. This past summer, in Kuwait, a man stabbed another one to death over a parking space. Whether you live in New York City, London or Riyadh “parking space rage” is a very real occurrence.

The East & West Robotics Company located in Sharjah, which is a municipality of the United Arab Emirates, has seemingly come up with a surefire solution to parking woes for some citizens in Sharjah. According to the company website, “East and West Robotics was established by the Al Marwan Group to bring technological advancements and innovative ideas within the Middle East region and to give a new philosophy to industrial operations.” The company has created an automated parking garage in the heart of the city called The Robot Park Tower that features an automated parking system that makes parking a cinch.

The 31-floor parking garage is comprised of individual parking spaces to accommodate 200 vehicles. The garage features an intricate computer system that identifies empty spaces and fills each with a car. It is very user-friendly. Parking, and even retrieving, the car requires the user to send a “missed” call to a special telephone number. The system can park or retrieve a car in 45 seconds flat. While it is automated, human workers do keep an eye on it to ensure that it runs smoothly.

East & West Robotic predicts that more residential and commercial areas will soon rely on automated parking facilities, as parking in the country has been problematic for years. However, parking in such a state-of-the-art facility is not free. Those wishing to have their cars parked robotically pay in upwards of $1300 per annum. The hefty price tag will force many drivers to continue their battle-weary plight to find the perfect parking space in the least amount of time. Other drivers will gladly fork over the cash to enjoy stress-free parking, for at least part of the day.

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Muslim Spelling Bee

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

ScreenShot006Spelling Bees were made famous by the 2006 movie Aqeelah and the Bee, about a young girl from a bad neighborhood with a talent for spelling, who works hard, finds a teacher to prep her for spelling competitions, and becomes a champion speller.

Tausif Malik, a Chicago entrepreneur from India, perceived a need for a platform of competition in which children could engage from around the world, and chose spelling.  He has planned a 10-city national competition in spelling which he eventually hopes will become an international spelling competition open to Muslim students.

“Muslims are not aware of spelling bees because they are focused on” getting their children into engineering or medicine, he said in a recent interview with TMO.

The purpose, he says, of the program is “to get Muslim children into the mainstream.”  His competition will be held in each city at a Muslim private school, however it will be open to students from private schools, public schools, or home schools, children up to 14 years old.

Mr. Malik expects 500 children per city to compete in the competition, and as yet he has not announced the prizes.

The competition is scheduled to begin in March – May of 2012, it will be a weekend affair in each city.

The competition regions are to include Washington DC, New York City, New Jersey, Orange County California, Chicago, Tampa Florida, Atlanta Georgia, Phoenix Arizona, and Houston Texas.
The entry fee per student will be $50–each student will have to fill out an application and pay the $50 fee online or via check.  Once they are registered they will receive a word list, and then on a set day they will arrive at the testing location and take a written test (to screen the applicants and winnow the best of them) and then an oral competition.

Mr. Malik explains that there will be a cash prize, scholarships, college sponsorships, companies giving holiday gifts.

His scheme is to begin with a spelling bee but to expand into other areas, with science competitions, geography bees, math bees–”an Olympiad.”

“Muslims have lost education,” Mr. Malik argues.  “They are getting into stuff that is not worth it–Muslims were creators, innovators.”  Malik believes his program of competitions will move the Muslim community towards that.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Muslim spelling bee, please visit www.muslimspellingbee.com.

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Boston Police Confiscate Sink From Protest Camp

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

After a four day court battle, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre ruled to extend a restraining order blocking the City of Boston from clearing out the tent city at Dewey Square. She will make a final ruling by Dec. 15. Until then, city officials can’t kick out the Occupy Boston protesters.

Occupy Boston started in Dewey Square on September 30, 2011. It was directly inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York City. The continued occupation of Dewey Square—located in the heart of Boston’s Financial District—is one of more than 120 Occupy encampments in cities across the nation.

The protesters want elected officials to address the economic needs of the people and want to end the influence of corporate lobbyists. Mayor Thomas Menino states that he essentially agrees with these viewpoints, but feels that the park should be available for everyone, and that these issues would be best brought up with Washington. Fire Marshalls say the protest site is a fire hazard, while the Board of Health has pointed out health hazards related to lack of sanitation.

Occupy Boston attempted to address some of these concerns by bringing in a donated sink that was equipped for both hand-washing and dish-washing using bottled water. They also tried to bring in fireproof, winterized tents as well as wooden pallets to make the walkways safer. All these items have been confiscated by the police, who labeled them “contraband.”
On December 1, a struggle took place between protesters and police hauling away the donated sink from the food tent, which resulted in three arrests as people blocked the streets to prevent removal of the sink. The Occupy Boston website reads:

“Since the restraining order from Judge McIntyre prevents the Boston Police from dismantling our camp except in the case of a fire, violence, or other emergency, we are puzzled by this police action.”
Authorities have banned protesters from bringing material that could be used to convert the encampment into a permanent dwelling. Mayor Menino stated: “We’re not going to have them build a new town there.”

The City of Boston finds itself in a contradictory position. On one hand, the Mayor has frequently supported the right of protesters to voice their opinions while expressing concerns about safety, but on the other hand, the City is removing items essential for improving the health and safety of the protesters.

Protesters insist: “You cannot evict an idea. Occupy Boston will continue to improve our community in Dewey Square. We ask that the BPD uphold their stated commitment to protecting public safety by allowing Occupy Boston to properly maintain and equip our encampment for the cold weather.”

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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A Little Birdie Told Me

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

birdIt’s no secret that social-networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, have changed the political landscape of the Middle East forever. However, it’s the latter that has really been a welcome surprise to the global social activist movement. Who would have ever considered that a mere 140 characters would be enough space to give someone a voice? It took only 110 characters for Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim to unite his fellow Egytpians under the same rallying cry this past January when he tweeted, “I said one year ago that the Internet will change the political scene in Egypt and some friends made fun of me.”

With one single sentence, propelled into the great abyss of the Internet, Ghonim changed the course of his country’s history. The morning after the tweet he was arrested and his unlawful detention was the catalyst that drove hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters to overtake Tahrir Square, which eventually led to the toppling of Hosni Mubarak and his cabinet. The event was so significant that Twitter included it in its recently revealed top ten tweets list for 2011.

Egyptians were not the only people in the Middle East to benefit from the micro-blogging platform. The people of Libya, Tunisia and Bahrain have all benefited from tweets that served various purposes during the tumultuous “Arab Spring” that continues to grip the region. Twitter was painstakingly and exhaustively used to organize rallies, report abuses from the police or military and attract a global audience to witness it all. As Ghonim rightfully said upon his release from prison, “If you want to liberate a government, give them the Internet.”

The tiny Gulf state of Kuwait has recently found itself a hot topic in the “Twittersphere” as recently as this week.  Last week Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah resigned in a bid to quell protests in the oil-rich country and restore stability. Kuwait has remained primarily unscathed in the Arab Spring protests, however there is a credible sense of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” as a spattering of protests in the country have become frequent and the most recent resulted in the parliamentary building being broken into.

The anonymity of Twitter is giving those, who might otherwise be fearful of engaging in political dialogue in public, a voice. However, it remains to be seen just how ambiguous Twitter will prove to be. A handful of tweeting activists in Kuwait have been successfully soused out by authorities, following their tweets, in the past. These days, politicians in Kuwait are capitalizing on the power of Twitter to announce campaign events, issues they support and to lure voters to the polls well ahead of the impending parliamentary elections. However, only time will tell how Twitter will influence politics in Kuwait.

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Just Fake It

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

abibas-counterfeit-adidasDesigner clothing brands like Gucci, Prada, Chanel and DKNY are high-end brands that most women would love to have in their closet. However, the huge price tag that most designer items carry is a huge deterrent for “fashionistas” on a budget. Ever since the global economic downturn gripped most nations around the world, many designer labels have suffered a hit to their bottom line. The demand for luxury products has severely dropped around the world as people struggle to feed their families. Having a designer dress or handbag does not seem that important when trying to pay bills on time.

In the Middle East, however, business is booming for knock-offs of famous designer brands. Although most governments pay lip service to enforcing international copyright laws, little is done to police shop owners who import designer knock-offs from China. Countries like Dubai, Bahrain and Kuwait are a feeding ground for the knock-off designer goods market. Just about everywhere you turn someone is wearing a knock off, whether it is a Dolce & Gabbana t-shirt or a Louis Vuitton purse.

Depending on where you shop, designer knock-offs look almost identical to the real thing give or take the misplacement of the odd button. A fake Chanel watch costs less than $100 compared to the thousand-dollar price tag that the original carries. Some shops offer even lower priced knock-offs but the poor craftsmanship makes them easy to spot as a counterfeit a mile away. Most have misspelled logos, cheap zippers or smell like chemicals. Despite the faults, eager shoppers in the region scoop them up as fast as they can get them.

The downside of knock-offs is that not only is it a crime, but also that someone else’s work is pilfered for profit. What is worse than that is that copyright crimes are being committed in Islamic nations right under the noses of authorities and all for the sake of something as inane as fashion.

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The Reality of Black Friday

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Suleiman Salem, TMO Foundation

Mask? Check.

Bullet-proof vest? Check.

Goggles? Check.

That completes my 2012 Black Friday shopping check-list. Apparently, shopping on Black Friday is no longer simply waiting in line, finding an item on sale, and purchasing it. According to various reports from all around the nation, there were at least ten major incidents this Black Friday. And for what? To save a few dollars.

A Walmart in California wins the first place prize for “most excruciatingly painful to watch”. Literally. A woman in her thirties couldn’t wait in line behind 20 others for an Xbox gaming console, so she derived a cunning scheme – premeditatedly – to give herself a competitive advantage. Her plan? Pepper spray the 20 lesser beings ahead of her, procure the Xbox, and leave the store without being hassled. What actually ensued was chaotic; earsplitting screams, blazing eyes, agonizing coughs, and a near-stampede. The woman then realized what a pathetic mistake she had made and hastily rushed out of the store. According to police reports, she didn’t end up purchasing the Xbox that was only $50 discounted.

Pepper-spray aside, there were brawls in many stores, gunshots fired in others, pandemonium over a $2 waffle-maker, and a few robberies, hence the checklist for personal safety. Nevertheless, the people are not completely at fault. Acknowledge that mankind will forever comprise of unintelligent, reckless, babbling shoppers. If Black Friday was not over-exaggerated and hyped up by every store and newspaper, online or in print, the masses wouldn’t be uncontrolled. Furthermore, many people don’t realize that they’re actually being ripped off by prices that have been raised before being slashed for Black Friday. To top that off, most of these deals were available throughout the year, when deal-hunters, including myself, were raiding the World Wide Web in search of the best deals, many of which topped Black Friday discounts.

From an Islamic perspective, there is nothing wrong with wanting to purchase discounted items. There is, however, something majorly wrong with someone who camps out for hours and spends all night saving money, but throughout the rest of the year doesn’t bother giving such priority to acts of worship. We may all look like devout, pious worshipers in front of our communities, but ultimately, all one needs is a reality check: am I giving my Lord, the Creator and Sustainer, the same priority I’m giving a sales frenzy?  Or am I neglecting even the most rudimentary acts of worship? After all, our material wealth is temporary and will one day cease to exist. Our good deeds, however, last an eternity.

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Dire Straits for Animals in Kuwait

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

lion-pictureThe stray animal population in Kuwait has been a problem for years. It gets worse every year, as more and more animals are evident on the streets, at parks and on public beaches. The problem begins with pet owners who purchase pets from abroad or locally in Kuwait. Once the animal’s cuteness wears off, or caring for it becomes problematic, irresponsible pet owners simply release the animal out into the streets leaving it to fend for itself. It is quite normal to see cats digging through garbage dumpsters. Increasingly, more and more dogs are sharing a similar fate. Packs of dogs troll the streets of Kuwait looking for scraps of food. In two separate incidents, stray dogs scrounging for food attacked residents.

There are animal organizations in Kuwait trying to handle the pet population. PAWS and Animal Friends are just two organizations that try to get animals off the streets and adopted into loving homes. However, the dynamic of the pet population in Kuwait is ever changing. Exotic wild animals are flooding the black market in Kuwait, with some even being sold out in the open at flea markets. There is a huge demand for exotic animals in Kuwait with bidders willing to pay top dollar. This poses an enormous challenge for the animal organizations in Kuwait who are not prepared to handle the capture and care of dangerous animals.

The Internet has also proven to be a handy tool for animal traders looking to sell their animals fast and as anonymously as possible. On a popular classifieds ad site in Kuwait, a user recently listed a veritable menagerie of exotic animals for sale, the ad reads: “We have tamed big cats, bush babies, chimpanzees and African gray parrots available. We offer only the tamed babies of 4 to 16 weeks from our collections. Our game reserve at the moment holds well tamed cubs to offer to big cats lovers; cheetah cubs, jaguar cubs, leopard cubs, black panthers, lion cubs, Bengal tiger cubs, white Siberian tiger cubs, jaguar and leopard cubs now available.” The ad goes on to say that the seller also has chimpanzees, baby elephants, gray parrots and other exotic animals from Africa.

Pet owners, domestic or exotic, are not required to apply for a license in Kuwait. Police usually do not get involved with pet ownership unless someone is injured and often that is too late. Exotic animals do not fare as well as domestic ones once the owner gets bored. Many times, the animal is hunted down and shot for sport.

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Revisiting A Cultural Heritage

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

sadu3The cultural heritage of Kuwait has a rich history of arts and handicrafts dating back centuries. The Bedouin Kuwaitis were famous for their brightly woven rugs, tapestries and calligraphy. However, with the discovery of oil in the late 1930’s the reliance upon handicrafts began to fade as the country morphed into an oil rich nation with newfound revenue to import products from all over the world. Today, the vast majority of Kuwaiti society is more interested in the latest fashions straight off the runways of New York and Milan than crafting.

World-renowned Kuwaits artists like Thuraya Al-Baqsami and Khazaal Al Qaffas have kept a flicker of hope for the Kuwaiti art scene burning brightly for decades. However, over the past few years a veritable art revival has been quietly taking place. A minority of Kuwaitis are increasingly becoming more interested in art and handicrafts. Over the past couple of years, hobby shops and art supply stores have started opening up at record pace. And business is booming.

The renewed interested in arts and handicrafts in Kuwait remains a mystery. In the USA and Europe, for example, a surge in interest for homemade handicrafts is often tied to a problematic economy as people try to save money by making things at home or even selling their wares to earn an income. The Kuwaiti economy has not only survived the years long economic turndown, but it has also flourished. The only discernable reason for the revival of arts and handicrafts is that many Kuwaitis are looking to get back to their creative roots.

Not only are there an abundance of arts and crafts suppliers in Kuwait, but there is also a wealth of handicraft classes complete with instructors now available to teach everything from jewelry making to painting. One of the most recent handicraft supply shops, LB o J’zazz – Beads and Things, also offers between 40-60 handicraft classes per year. Owners Lubna Seif Abbas and Bettina Al-Bakhit offer workshops complete with all the materials necessary to complete the crafting project from start to finish. In a recent interview, Abbas shared, “Each class is project-based. I think that everybody has creativity, it is just they need somebody to show them the basics, they need good tools, and time, and we have lots of time here in Kuwait. If anybody is bored, just let them come here. We will fill time with something useful and joyful to do at the same time. There is so much that we can do. People now seek to perform arts and crafts, and they look for some
thing deeper while enjoy doing it.”

The future looks bright for the handmade revolution in Kuwait as even members of the expatriate community are even getting in on the crafting. Abbas revealed that an increasing number of non-Kuwaitis are expressing interest in her courses and several are taking part.

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Swiss Antagonist of Minarets Is Now Muslim

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer Based on News Reports

daniel-streichRENOWNED Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who previously campaigned against Swiss minarets, embraced Islam a few years ago.

A member of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and a well-known politician, Daniel Streich was the first man who had launched a drive for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and to lock the mosques in Switzerland. The proclamation of Streich’s conversion to Islam created a furor in Swiss politics, and caused a tremor for those who supported ban on construction of mosques minarets.

Streich had propagated his anti-Islamic movement far and wide in the country, sowed seeds of indignation and scorn for Islam among the people, and paved the way for public opinion against pulpits and minarets of mosques.

But now Streich has become a servant of Islam. His anti-Islam thoughts finally brought him so close to this religion that he embraced it.

He is ashamed of his past doings now, and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland.

The most interesting thing in this regard is that at present there are four mosques in Switzerland and Streich wants to lay the foundation for a fifth. He wishes to seek absolution of his sin of proliferating venom against Islam. He is thinking of a movement contrary to his previous one to promote religious tolerance and peaceful cooperative living, in spite of the fact that ban on mosques minarets has gained a legal status.

This is the greatest quality of Islam that it comes up with even greater vigour, when it is faced with confrontation.

Abdul Majeed Aldai, the president of OPI, an NGO, working for the welfare of Muslims, says that Europeans have a great desire to know about Islam. Some of them want to know about the relationship between Islam and terrorism; same was the case with Streich.

During his confrontation, Streich studied the Holy Quran and started understanding Islam.

He wished to be hard to Islam, but the outcome was otherwise. Aldai further says.

Later the question of the ban on minarets was put to a vote in Switzerland, wherein the Swiss nationals did ban minarets in the country.

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Election Results Sadden All Three Michigan Candidates

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Farmington–November 9–Yesterday’s election tallies are in and unfortunately the three local Muslim candidates all lost their elections.

The three were Ahmar Iqbal, running for the Ann Arbor School Board, Amin Hashmi, running for the Troy City Council, and Abdul Latif Muhiuddin, running for the Plymouth-Canton School Board.
The three Muslim candidates were in widely divergent districts, with sparse voter turnout in an election which had no national or statewide elections–an election which determined the face of Michigan’s local politics but did not affect the exciting higher levels.

The minimal voter turnout meant that Burton’s Paula Zelenko would secure her seat as mayor in a hotly contested race with a well-known city councilman–and she would do so winning only 2,500 votes.  The mayor of Burton earns approximately $70,000 annually.

The same race saw a Flint mayor who won an election with only 9,000 votes.  The salary of the Flint mayor is about $91,000.

Iqbal won about 3,500 votes, earning fifth place out of six.  Muhiuddin won about 2,900 votes, placing 10th out of 15.  Amin Hashmi won about 1,400 votes, placing last in his election bid.

Iqbal wrote a very gracious concession letter which expressed his belief that 3,000 voters had chosen him “on merit,”  because he only shook hands with 500 voters and he won 3,500 votes.

Iqbal expressed that he had learned many lessons through the campaign, and had learned strategies, local politics, and about his own identity, and other important measurements of his own strength as required for a political campaign.

“The best is yet to come for all of us,” said Mr. Iqbal.

“Again, thank you for standing by me and I look forward to growing our relationship especially for important community causes.”

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Michigan Education Association (MEA) Endorses Abdul Muhiuddin (Muhi)

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

215007_108031785964365_108030909297786_38878_3037846_nOne up and coming Muslim may soon join the Plymouth-Canton school board.  Abdul Latif Muhiuddin, known to Muslims as “Muhi” and to the electorate as “Abdul Muhiuddin” is one of the 14 candidates remaining in the race for November 8th’s election to the board.

16 candidates began the race and 14 of them remain, vying for four seats on the school board, unpaid positions with three incumbents in the mix.

Muhiuddin won the MEA endorsement after appearing at a panel discussion where MEA staff interviewed the 16 candidates and asked them all the same questions.

Muhiuddin explains that only one of the incumbents in the race was endorsed by the MEA; the other two were not.

While this is a somewhat intimidating field, the candidate explained in an interview with TMO that “being endorsed by the Michigan Education Association I have a really good chance,” explaining that the MEA comprises unions of teachers, food services workers, cleaning services, bus drivers, “a large network, and with their support” absentee ballots were mailed out. 

About 2700 absentee ballots, Muhiuddin explains, have already been turned in, therefore his name likely is already among the frontrunners in the election.

Muhiuddin spoke to Ghalib Begg, another prominent Muslim who was elected to a local school board, and was advised by other Muslims as well.  “It was helpful in getting motivated and getting my strategy together.”

He emphasizes the strong skillsets that the Muslim community has to offer to the school board, especially tutoring services and bilingual services that Muslims could volunteer to offer to the school system.

Emphasizing his ability to contribute, Muhiuddin points to his past experience working with ISPU, which gave him to understand the alternative means of funding that are available that might support the Plymouth-Canton school system beyond the amount the system wins from the state. 

“We can supplement funding from the state budget, going to foundations, corporations (which have philanthropic sectors); we can apply for grants, whether for special ed or for vocational training or teacher resources to enhance existing resources.”  As evidence that this plan may work, Muhiuddin cites a recent donation by GM of $31 million to the United Way to support its educational efforts.
“I wanted to go let people know what my views on issues were, and why I wanted to get involved.  I received warm feedback, and some criticism as well.  I want to get involved in the local community.”

To learn more:  tinyurl.com/muhionlineresume; facebook.com/friendsformuhi; twitter.com/criendsformuhi. 855-411-MUHI.

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AFSPA & Kashmir

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Kashmir is in the news again for wrong reasons. Political leaders and parties are engaged in questioning each other’s intentions regarding their stand on Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The issue gained importance when J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah voiced his intention to revoke AFSPA from certain parts of AFSPA. It did not take long for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-winged groups associated with saffron brigade to strongly oppose this stand of Abdullah. Congress has also expressed its reservations on Abdullah’s views. Considering that Abdullah heads the J&K government with support of Congress, it has been expressed that before taking any decision on this issue, he needs to hold discussions and take opinion of Congress also. Subsequently, Abdullah indicated that the issue will be taken up by his cabinet after November 7, when the J&K government shifts to its winter capital, which is Jammu.

Clearly, Abdullah has not yet given the impression of having backtracked from his stand on withdrawing AFSPA from certain parts of J&K. At the same time, the political furore raised over the issue also suggests that he probably expressed his own personal opinion on AFSPA without consulting others in his government. There is also the possibility of his having deliberately expressed his stand on AFSPA only to gain an idea of various political opinions regarding the same. Considering that Abdullah is well-aware that withdrawal of AFSPA from any one or more parts of J&K is not in his hands alone, he probably deliberately voiced his intention primarily for some publicity and win over Kashmiris’ support on emotional lines. In other words, withdrawal of AFSPA actually from certain parts of J&K is not his immediate agenda. This point is proved by his decision to take up the issue at the state cabinet meeting after Eid-ul-Zuha. If the issue is taken up, it shall be followed by meetings, discussions, countering opposition and consultations with the central government, which are least likely to be completed in a short period. 

Against this backdrop, it is pertinent to analyze the AFSPA from another angle. Why has it been assumed that Kashmiris are against it? Basically, AFSPA is not confined to J&K alone. In fact, before J&K was covered by it, the armed forces were conferred special powers, as per AFSPA, in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The AFSPA was brought in force in these states soon after the act was passed by the Indian Parliament on September 11, 1958. It was extended to J&K in July 1990. 

Legally, in areas proclaimed as “disturbed,” an officer of armed forces has powers to “fire upon,” “use force, even to the causing of death,” against any person “acting in contravention of any law,” “assembly of five or more persons” and/or “possession of deadly weapons.” The act also allows arrest without a warrant, with use of force against any person who has committed a certain offence or is suspected of the same. The act authorizes the officers to enter and search any premise to make arrests.

The AFSPA also gives army officers legal immunity for their actions. The legal immunity, however, prevails for actions taken as per the AFPSA. This also implies that if army officers falsely justify their acts as per the power granted to them by AFPSA, they can be subject to prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding. Against this backdrop, it is relevant to probe a little into how AFSPA has been understood, rather misunderstood, where J&K is concerned. It may be noted, situations in J&K have usually escalated to stage of crisis due to a confrontation between unarmed civilians and the police. In recent past, the involvement of forces and the militants has not been responsible for any major disturbance in the region. The affected Kashmiris have not yet recovered fully from last year’s tension between the civilians and the state-police. More than 100 people, including school children, fell victim to state-controlled bullets last year. Among the first to fall victim was a student Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. He was hit by a teargas shell fired by the police on June 11, 2010. The police was chasing a crowd of stone pelters at Rajouri Kadal. Mattoo was not a part of the crowd. To this day, his family members are waiting for justice. As per AFSPA or any other law, neither the army nor the state police can “legitimize” use of force that led to death of Mattoo. Not surprisingly, Mattoo’s death triggered protests throughout J&K. It is the death of Mattoo and other innocent civilians, who are targeted by state-controlled bullets that raises the question as to why has strict action not been taken against those responsible for these killings.

The army and police, it may be pointed out, fall under two different departments. Understandably, though AFSPA grants armed forces certain special powers in disturbed areas, it does not grant the same to the police. Also, as mentioned earlier, even soldiers are not granted legal immunity if their actions are not as per the norms laid out by AFSPA.

It may take months, even years before AFSPA is lifted from certain areas of J&K. The issue may remain confined to debates and discussions. In this context, rather than indulge only in deliberations and debates on whether AFSPA should be lifted or not, it is imperative to examine carefully whether the act is being strictly adhered to by the army officers and whether police too are taking shelter under AFSPA for their crimes. Omar Abdullah should ensure that strict action is taken against those accused of violating/abusing AFSPA.

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A Musical Evening

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

Rochester Hills–October 23–Faiz M. Khan, the chief host and producer of Voice of Pakistan, hosted a musical evening this past Sunday at the Taza Banquet Hall in Rochester Hills.

More than 300 people attended the event.

Mr. Faiz M. Khan is chair and owner of a popular weekly program hosted Sundays on AM 1160 from 11AM to 12PM.  He held the gala dinner to celebrate his past success with Voice of Pakistan.  He introduced his team, especially Sakina Hakim, and also introduced the various dignitaries who were present at the dinner.

Faiz M. Khan is also associated with General Motors, Pioneer Printing, and is the Chair of the Pakistani American Caucus at the Michigan Democratic Party.

Following the food there was musical entertainment until late in the night, and the magical evening was improved by the musicians’ invitations to the audience to participate in the singing of traditional Muslim songs from the subcontinent.

For more information about Faiz M. Khan’s radio program, please visit faizmkhan.org.

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Reggie Reg Davis’ Statement About Proposed Detroit Charter on November 8th Election

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

TMO Editor’s note:  Some of you may remember TMO’s series on Muslim candidates in the local 2009 elections.  Reggie Reg Davis, a famous radio personality and convert to Islam, was one of those we interviewed during that time, as he ran for a seat on the Detroit Charter Commission.  He was elected and the following is an open letter from him concerning the newly proposed Detroit Charter, to be voted on and potentially ratified in the November 8th election.

The newly proposed Charter language is better than the current language however, it is NOT good enough and i feel Detroit deserves nothing less than the best! As a voice for the grassroots community, standing for the have nots and the children of our community; the seniors and working class, I’d like to say vote NO on Proposal C on Tuesday November 8.
This new language is better because with the new addition of the office of Inspector General, it will not allow for an elected official to practice cronyism, in which they put their childhood friend into a position he or she is not qualified for. They wont be able to get away with nepotism in which they hire their family members as a favor to the family or any type of corruption whether it be waste, fraud, malfeasance, misfeasance etc. So for this reason its better, however it is not necessarily the things that are in the proposed language that i am in opposition to but those things that have been left out.

For example, the biggest conflict at the Charter table during the conception of the new language was if a Charter should be ONLY framework for city government to work by or if it should go even farther by adding some legislation measures. The problem with allowing it to be only framework is that by doing so the city of Detroit becomes a non progressive city unlike many other major US cities. Washington D.C. has embodied into their home rule Charter an office of Disability Rights, which deals head on with the concerns of their disability community. And other prominent US cities like San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and more have a commission set up to deal with issues related to disability in their community. The majority of our board voted to not include any dealings with the disability community in our Charter.

In 2009, Oakland Ca. added to their Charter a program called “KIDS FIRST” by which 3% of their general fund goes towards helping children with issues like health, education, and violence. And since 2009, the city of Oakland Ca. has witnessed a dramatic decline in youth violence and a major increase in graduation rates; the city credits their Charter for the change. This type of progression or thinking outside the box, is what we have failed to do in the new proposed Charter language.

Until we have a Charter that is inclusive of all the people of this great city we call Detroit and until we decide to progress, like many other major US cities, to the next level and not be afraid to sprinkle a small bit of legislation into this very important document we should say NO! This document should be prepared to stand until the end of time.

If the Charter is voted down this November, the commission will go back to the table and have no other choice but to SERIOUSLY be a voice for the people as we make the proper corrections to the document to BEST serve the people who we represent. And at that point, we will have newly proposed language prepared for a TRUE election year; 2012.

Thank you Detroit!
Reggie Reg Davis
Charter Commissioner
reggieregdavis@gmail.com

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A Thirst for Blood

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

libyan-flag-9785144
 

There is a fine line that separates man from mere beast. This week that line was crossed by the armed rebels on the hunt for deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as they stumbled upon him held up in a storm drain in his hometown of Sirte. The events surrounding his death are as rough as the various video footage of his demise. Each video, shot from different cell phones, tells its own story. Some show Gadhafi being shot in the arm while others show him being beaten. Yet another shows him being dragged across the ground, his clothes in disarray, after he was apparently sodomized.  And the most notable reveals a gunshot wound to his head.

The question is not whether or not Gadhafi deserved to pay for his vast array crimes that stretched clear around the globe for decades. The answer is very clear in that regard, Gadhafi indeed deserved to be punished for his reign of terror. The question that begs to be answered is whether or not armed militia had the right to take matters into their own hands denying one of the world’s worst dictators the very basic of human rights, a trial in a court of law. Now many will argue that Gadhafi was not human in the way that he treated his own people with disdain and disregard for the sanctity of human life. In all respects Gadhafi was the judge, jury and executioner in Libya. However, hasn’t the very premise that made the ‘Arab Spring’ so inspirational to the world been forever tainted in a gushing of crimson blood?

It only got worse as Libyans danced in the streets with joy upon hearing of Gadhafi’s wholesale execution as scores followed his bloodied body to a nearby shopping mall where it was put on display. Men, women and children lined up and waited to catch a glimpse of Gadhafi’s gruesome corpse while taking even more cell phone video footage to share with the rest of the world.

Instead of stooping to Gadhafi’s merciless level, it might have been better to have hauled him off, alive, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. A great number of Gadhafi’s victims would have been given the opportunity to speak out against the dictator who dogged them for years and humiliate him in an international arena. Gadhafi was all about appearances and it would have caused him greater suffering to be publicly disgraced than merely shot in the head. Gadhafi meticulously tortured and enslaved his people without even showing the slightest bit of remorse. How fitting it would have been to see him stripped of all his self-given powers and forced to spend his remaining days confined to a minuscule jail cell. And while Gadhafi’s suffering was over in a mere matter of minutes, the people whose lives he scarred have a long road of healing to undertake.

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The Bellwether of Nations

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Tunis, Libya and the Arab “Spring”

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Santa Barbara–October 24th–Those of you who have been here for as long as generations, please forgive me,  and have patience with me, and grant me your forbearance.  

Yesterday (October 23rd) two important events came about over two bordering Islamic North African States.

The most dramatic was the demise of Colonel Khadafy in Libya.  Today, the National Transitional Council (المجلس الوطني الإنتقالي ) of the Libyan Revolution scheduled an announcement of the liberation of Tripoli and her hinterlands.

Although it is a great victory of the three so far in the Arab “Spring,”  it was the bloodiest of those triumphs which, with over 160 claimant groups are currently within the capital, was the costliest; and, thus, is the least likely to succeed by the very fact it was a coup of arms.

Strangely, the three successful regime changes so far of the Arab “Spring” have occurred in North Africa – Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and they all were Republics whose leadership was descended from the anti-colonial revolutions.  

The other grand occurrence of Sunday, October 23rd, was the Tunisian elections.   As I have pointed out before, Tunisia’s was the first Revolt of the “Spring,” and has the best chance of any of those successful so far to develop an Arab (Islamic) democracy.   Libya is the least in my humble opinion because of the degree of violence and foreign intervention to which it had to revert for its accomplishment.

It is too early to do much of an exegesis now so soon after the polls over Tunisia, but no egregious reports of irregularities have been reported to me so far, but Tunis has developed a viable civil society despite the years of dictatorship.  Unlike its neighbor, Libya, tribal politics are minor.  It has come out of its political nightmare as a manageable modern state although with serious challenges.
I expect our modern Punic Realm will do well – not without bumps along the way, though.  As I  mentioned in two weeks ago, much will depend upon the expertise and support from the West since so much of the wealth of that nation of ten million has been robbed by the last regime.  Yet, at the same time, the international financial crisis puts a strain on the deliverance of both material and aid of practical tutelage.  Alas, I wish I could be as positive for Benghazi.  I only hope that more military intervention will not be required from NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) on that side of the Northern African Sahara.

I would like to commend my colleague, Radwan Masoudi, the Libyan-American founder/Director of the Center of Islam and Democracy in Washington.  That think thank has been working on planning an Islamic democracy; so, that they can meld theologically and politically without contradiction. When the time miraculously arose, he had gone back to his native countryside to work with his cultural citizens to help make these elections possible by strengthening the roots of the civil society that already existed there!

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