This Struggle Has Re-awakened Our Imagination

November 23, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Arundhati Roy

Text of a speech given by Arundhati Roy at the People’s University in Washington Square, NYC on 20 November, 2011.

india-arundhati-at-mike3Tuesday morning, the police cleared Zuccotti Park, but today the people are back.

The police should know that this protest is not a battle for territory. We’re not fighting for the right to occupy a park here or there. We are fighting for justice. Justice, not just for the people of the US, but for everybody.

What you have achieved since September 17th, when the Occupy movement began in the United States, is to introduce a new imagination, a new political language into the heart of empire. You have reintroduced the right to dream into a system that tried to turn everybody into zombies, mesmerized into equating mindless consumerism with happiness and fulfillment.

As a writer, let me tell you, this is an immense achievement. And I cannot thank you enough.

We were talking about justice. Today, as we speak, the army of the United States is waging a war of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. US drones are killing civilians in Pakistan and beyond. Tens of thousands of US troops and death squads are moving into Africa. If spending trillions of dollars of your money to administer occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan is not enough, a war against Iran is being talked up.

Ever since the Great Depression, the manufacture of weapons and the export of war have been key ways in which the United States has stimulated its economy. Just recently, under President Obama, the US made a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia – moderate Muslims, right? It hopes to sell thousands of bunker busters to the UAE. It has sold $5 billion-worth of military aircraft to my country, India, which has more poor people than all the poorest countries of Africa put together. All these wars, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Vietnam, Korea, Latin America, have claimed millions of lives — all of them fought to secure the “American way of life”.

Today, we know that the “American way of life” — the model that the rest of the world is meant to aspire towards — has resulted in 400 people owning the wealth of half of the population of the United States. It has meant thousands of people being turned out of their homes and their jobs while the US government bailed out banks and corporations — American International Group (AIG) alone was given $182 billion.

The Indian government worships US economic policy. As a result of 20 years of the free market economy, today, 100 of India’s richest people own assets worth one-quarter of the country’s GDP while more than 80% of the people live on less than 50 cents a day. Two hundred and fifty thousand farmers, driven into a spiral of debt death, have committed suicide. We call this progress, and now think of ourselves as a superpower. Like you, we are well-qualified. We have nuclear bombs and obscene inequality.

The good news is that people have had enough and are not going to take it any more. The Occupy movement has joined thousands of other resistance movements all over the world in which the poorest of people are standing up and stopping the richest corporations in their tracks.

Few of us dreamed that we would see you, the people of the United States on our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don’t know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.

They, the one percent, say that we don’t have demands” perhaps they don’t know, that our anger alone would be enough to destroy them. But here are some things — a few “pre-revolutionary” thoughts I had — for us to think about together:

We want to put a lid on this system that manufactures inequality. We want to put a cap on the unfettered accumulation of wealth and property by individuals as well as corporations. As “cap-ists” and “lid-ites”, we demand:

One, an end to cross-ownership in businesses. For example, weapons manufacturers cannot own TV stations; mining corporations cannot run newspapers; business houses cannot fund universities; drug companies cannot control public health funds.

Two, natural resources and essential infrastructure — water supply, electricity, health, and education — cannot be privatized.

Three, everybody must have the right to shelter, education and healthcare.

Four, the children of the rich cannot inherit their parents’ wealth.

This struggle has re-awakened our imagination. Somewhere along the way, capitalism reduced the idea of justice to mean just “human rights”, and the idea of dreaming of equality became blasphemous. We are not fighting to just tinker with reforming a system that needs to be replaced.

As a cap-ist and a lid-ite, I salute your struggle.

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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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Battle: 1757

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Anwarul Islam

evt100507085400060We’ve all heard the cliché: ‘A shot heard around the world.’ It refers to the start of the revolutionary war in 1775 that gave birth to United States of America.  In June 23 of 1757, about eighteen years before that shot, a similar incident of epic significance occurred in a not-so-known battlefield halfway around the world in India. That case, however, is known not for the firing of a shot, but rather its withholding. The outcome of the battle of Plassey would usher in the world in which we live today.

Plassey is a place in West Bengal of present day India. It is located about twelve miles north of the city of Kolkata. The battle that took place there was between Englishman Robert Clive of East India Company and nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-daula. It was not a big battle. A few Englishmen and few hundred of the nawab’s soldiers were killed.

Instead, the real battle in Plassey was fought in a dark alley of intrigue and treachery, underscored by the incompetence of a young nawab. The actual details of the battle are unclear. Only one thing is certain: the shots that were supposed to have been fired for the nawab were not fired. The cannons under the command of his general, Mir Jafar, remained silent.

The battle mirrored the fractured, bickering ruling class of India at that time. The silence would change Bengal and India’s history. It would prove a definitive moment in world history and eventually pave the way for the domination of English speaking people in the world.

Robert Clive, later know as Baron of Plassey in England, became one of the richest person of England as a result of this battle. And that evoked some not-so-subtle jealousy from the established order of that time. He had to face parliamentarians to explain his actions. In his defence, he offered, “Consider the situation in which the victory of Plassey placed me.  A great prince was dependent on my pleasure; an opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles, I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels. Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderations.”

Mr. Clive did not mention about the silver of Bengal. May be he did not find it as glittering as the gold and jewels or it was stored in some other vaults. But for centuries silver and gold had found its way into Bengal as a result of its trading relation with the world. The Rupee, the currency of India, Pakistan and many other countries got its name from Rupa or silver as in known in many Indian languages.

Today, it is difficult to mention Bengal and wealth in the same sentence. At one time, however, Bengal was one of the most prosperous places in the world. Even after forty years of East India Company’s plundering, it still remained one of the two leading manufacturing centers of the world.

In 851, Arab Geographer Ibn Khurdabhbih wrote about his personal encounter with Bengal’s cotton textile and praised them for their superior beauty and fineness. These textiles of Bengal would attract merchants from around the world, who would buy its products in exchange for precious metals. Before the arrival of silver from the mines of Potosi in Bolivia of the New World, silver came from upper Burma-Yunnan mines which the rulers used to monetize their economies. In the middle of the first millennium, Bengal’s economy became monetized and silver coins became the medium of exchange.  Then the Portuguese came to Bengal in early sixteen century flushed with new world silver.

Eventually, the silver went back to Europe. Leadership of the world changed hands from Portugal and Spain to England with a brief interlude of Dutch hegemonic piracy. For the British, the taxes received from India’s peasants—who cultivated of fertile land in the Bengal Delta—would lubricate its economic and military engine. India became the captive market for British Industrial Products as punitive tariffs would destroy the local textile industry in order to make room for the products of Manchester. The directors of the East India Company became enormously rich and thus gained influence over governmental policies. As the parliament became stronger, the monarchy became weaker. 

On a military and political front, the victory of Plassey was the impetus for British mastery of the world. The British gained control of the saltpetre of Bengal, the indispensable ingredient of gunpowder. With Bengal under sole control of the East India Company, the French had to make do with an inferior domestic supply of saltpetre, resulting in a suit for peace in 1763. Ending the seven year war, it paved the way for the rise of the British supremacy in the world.

For the East India Company, the booty of Plassey was huge.  Two hundred barges loaded with silver and gold were floated from Bengal’s capital, Murshibad, to London. It is almost certain that the barges floated down the Ganges contained that silver the Portuguese brought in.  American historian Brooks Adams states a direct link between the industrial revolution and Plassey: “Very soon after Plassey, the Bengal plunder began to arrive in London, and the effect appears to have been instantaneous; for all authorities agree that the ‘industrial revolution’, the event which has divided the nineteenth century from all antecedent time, began with the year 1760.”

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Hillary Clinton Speaks at Eid ul-Fitr Reception

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Hillary Clinton

Ben Franklin Room

2011-09-01T141308Z_1393267109_GM1E7911PY301_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA-CONFERENCE

File: Hillary Clinton in Paris September 1, 2011.

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you, Farah.  Thank you.  Well, I am a wannabe athlete – (laughter) – and I have absolutely no claim to being anything other than that, but I am delighted that this evening we are going to be honoring some young people who truly are athletes and who are carving their own futures in the history of our country.

So good evening everyone.  Eid Mubarak.  And thank you, Farah, for your tireless efforts on behalf of the work that brings you not only to this podium but around the world.

It is a delight to see so many ambassadors from countries that I have visited and know well and to see many familiar faces here again, particularly some of the youth leaders that we honored at our last Iftar dinner.  The problem with Ramadan in August is it was impossible, and so we thought, well, it’s September but we’re going forward.  And so I thank you for your understanding and your being here once again.

Now, I’m told that there are two members of Congress with us, Representatives Keith Ellison and Sheila Jackson Lee, and I send a special word of welcome to them.

As Farah said, you can see through the lobby and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms some of our history of presidents affirming America’s respect for Muslims and Islam dating back to Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.  And we celebrate that history, and particularly today we wanted to celebrate sports and athletic competition.  Whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup, the human drive to run faster and climb higher is universal, and universally celebrated.  And it’s also a way by which talent rises to the top, ability is what matters, and people are treated equally.

And that’s part of the reason the State Department sponsors sports exchange programs and sends sports ambassadors around the world.  And for all the athletes joining us this evening, you may never have thought of yourself exactly as a role model, but you are.  And you are not only to the students that some of you visited earlier today, but to so many beyond.  And all Americans take pride in your achievements.

Now, we have some household names as well as some who will be household names.  World champion boxer Amir Khan flew all the way from London to be part of this celebration.  Where is Mr. Khan?  Thank you so much for coming.  (Applause.)

We also have a number of women athletes who are here.  When Ibtihaj Muhammad fences in her hijab, when she trains 30 hours each week without missing a prayer, she’s thinking about winning and she’s thinking about the London Olympics next year.  Where is Ms. Muhammad? 

Where is she?  Right there.  (Applause.)  But I think it’s fair to say that, as her mother has said, many people feel pride and recognize that she is representing more than just herself in her endeavors.
Now, not everybody will go to the Olympics, but even weekend warriors can get some satisfaction out of this.  And I hope many of you were able to watch the new documentary we screened earlier.  And we are joined by the coach and four members of the Fordson Tractors  from Dearborn, Michigan, as well as the filmmakers.  Where are all of them? 

That was such a great documentary and a great story.  (Applause.)

And I hope everybody gets a chance to meet our athletes here tonight, but that film highlighted the exceptional circumstances that the team faced, that they wanted to train hard and stay healthy while keeping the requirements of Ramadan.  And so like every other high school team, they geared up for football practice in August this year with two-a-day practices, except they took the field at 11:00 p.m. and finished around 4:00.  And that takes special dedication, special dedication to both your sport and your faith.

But what stood out to me is how familiar the team and the players ultimately are.  The image of the pregame huddle and prayer could’ve been filmed at any high school in America.  Shoulder pads and helmets crowded the locker room, and big-game nerves were somewhat evident on your faces, I have to confess.  But despite the extra burdens they carried, at the end of it, it was Friday night football for a team of champions.

Now, we can’t pretend that there have not been difficulties and division.  In fact, the Fordson documentary tells the story of the religious tensions in Dearborn, Michigan.  But the power of America has always been anchored in our ability to come together and move forward as one nation.

This weekend, we will mark the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  And we all lost something that day.  In the ashes and the aftermaths, we knew that we had lost Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, men, women, young, old.  And a decade later, that unity that we felt must continue to inspire and guide us.

I’m very proud that in our country, despite the challenges, we do honor the freedom of religion.  Too many countries in the world today do not, or they make it difficult and even dangerous for people to try to exercise their religion.  So as difficult as it may be, the fact that we get up every day and keep trying is a real tribute to all of us.  So at this time of celebration and reflection, and as we mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of a new year of renewal and possibility, I hope we can recommit ourselves to the common cause of spreading peace, prosperity, understanding to all the people of the earth.

Now I wanted to introduce two of our athletes so that you could hear  from them directly.  Ephraim Salaam has played in the NFL for over a decade, but some of you may know him best for his memorable Super Bowl commercial last year.  (Laughter.)  And Kulsoom Abdullah is a weightlifter, forging the way for Muslim women athletes to maintain their freedom of expression and still compete at the highest level. 

Please join me in welcoming first Ephraim and then Kulsoom.

(Applause.)

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Debt Talks Reveal Republican Apocalyptic War on Government

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Harold Meyerson

As Default-on-Our-Debt Day creeps ever closer, America’s two major political parties have embarked on a round of ideological redefinition.

Republicans have subordinated even the appearance of concern for many of their historic priorities — reducing deficits and the debt, maintaining a passable system of roads, even reducing Medicare and Social Security payouts — to the single goal of blocking any tax increase on anyone ever again. Taking the adage that “that government is best that governs least” to an extreme, at least some seem to view a government shutdown as a consummation devoutly to be wished. GOP presidential candidate and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is running ads hailing the shutdown of his state’s government, the result of the same kind of political impasse that threatens to shutter the feds’ doors.

If it was possible to give libertarianism a bad name, today’s Republicans would be doing just that.

On the Democratic side, President Obama has moved so far to the right that he has picked up many of the ideals the Republicans have jettisoned and embraced them as his own. It’s Obama who’s now the deficit-and-debt hawk and who has proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Congressional Democrats oppose the president’s proposed entitlement cuts, but in fact they’ve already voted to reduce Medicare spending (though not benefits) by passing health-care reform, and, as part of the current budget negotiations, have agreed to major cuts in domestic as well as military spending.
In Obama’s defense, the Republicans he has to deal with have moved so far right that they make even the Gingrich-era GOP with which Bill Clinton grappled look like the Berkeley City Council. The fiscal constraints on his presidency far exceed those Clinton confronted, too.

But if the factors that have pushed Obama rightward are at least intelligible, those that have prompted the Republicans to winnow their agenda to one-note opposition to taxes and spending are nowhere so obvious.

For one thing, federal tax revenue as a percentage of the gross domestic product is at its lowest level since 1950. The correlation between low federal taxes and job creation looks more inverse than direct. The economy generated far more net new jobs during the ’90s (approximately 22 million during Clinton’s presidency alone), before the Bush tax cuts, than it has since (approximately zero). Yet in opposing any tax increases on the rich as part of a debt-reduction deal, House Speaker John Boehner vowed Monday that “the House cannot pass a bill that raises taxes on job creators.”

Job creators? What job creators? Over the past two months, according to employment statistics, we seem to have completely run out of job creators, though American multinational corporations are having no trouble creating jobs in the cheap-labor nations of Asia. Small businesses, however, cannot expand until American consumers start buying more, and American consumers can’t start buying more until they work their way out of the debt they incurred during the recent decades of pervasive income stagnation.

The Republicans, that is, have embraced market libertarianism at the very moment that America’s market capitalism is functioning worse than at any time since the Great Depression. Their timing is so perverse that we have to seek explanations for their radicalism that go beyond those of economic philosophy.

Republicans, to be sure, have long waged a war on government, but only now has it become an apocalyptic and total war. At its root, I suspect, is the fear and loathing that rank-and-file right-wingers feel toward what their government, and their nation, is inexorably becoming:

multiracial, multicultural, cosmopolitan and now headed by a president who personifies those qualities. That America is also downwardly mobile is a challenge for us all, but for the right, the anxiety our economy understandably evokes is augmented by the politics of racial resentment and the fury that the country is no longer only theirs. That’s not a country whose government they want to pay for — and if the apocalypse befalls us, they seem to have concluded, so much the better.

Most Americans, thankfully, don’t share the right’s romance with cataclysm — something then-Senate Republican leader Bob Dole realized when he called off the shutdown of 1996, something that current Senate GOP chief Mitch McConnell realized Tuesday when he unveiled a cynical and circuitous plan to back off from the impending smash-up. Dole persuaded his fellow Republicans to stand down. It’s not clear, given the furies that possess today’s Republicans, that McConnell can do the same.

meyersonh@washpost.com

13-29

Getting on Board with Peace in Israel

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

An Israeli American explains why she will be among many boat passengers trying to break through Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By Hagit Borer

Later this month an American ship, the Audacity of Hope, will leave Greece on a journey to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel’s blockade. It will join an expected nine other ships flying numerous flags and carrying hundreds of passengers from around the world. I will be one of those passengers.

I am an Israeli Jewish American. I was born in Israel, and I grew up in a very different Jerusalem from the one today. The Jerusalem of my childhood was a smallish city of white-stone neighborhoods nestled in the elbows of hills. Near the center, next to the central post office, the road swerved sharply to the left because straight ahead stood a big wall, and on the other side of it was “them.”

And then, on June 9, 1967, the wall came down. Elsewhere, Israeli troops were still fighting what came to be known as the Six-Day War, but on June 9, as a small crowd stood and watched, demolition crews brought down the barrier wall, and after it, all other buildings that had stood between my Jerusalem and the walls of the Old City, their Jerusalem. A few weeks later a wide road would lead from my Jerusalem to theirs, bearing the victors’ name: Paratroopers Way.

A soldier helped me sneak into the Old City. Snipers were still at large and the city was closed to Israeli civilians. By the Western Wall, a myth to me until then, the Israeli army was already evicting Palestinian residents in the dead of night and demolishing all houses within 1,000 feet. Eventually, the area would turn into the huge open paved space it is today, a place where only last month, on Jerusalem Day, masses of Israeli youths chanted “Muhammad is dead” and “May your villages burn.”

It is a different Jerusalem now. It is not their Jerusalem, for it has been taken from them. Every day the Palestinians of Jerusalem are further strangled by more incursions, by more “housing developments” to cut them off from other Palestinians. In Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood built by Jordan in the 1950s to house refugees, Palestinian families recently have been evicted from their homes at gunpoint based on court-sanctioned documents purporting to show Jewish land ownership in the area dating back some 100 years. But no Palestinian proof of ownership within West Jerusalem has ever prevailed in Israeli courts. Talbieh, Katamon, Baca, until 1948 affluent Palestinian neighborhoods, are today almost exclusively Jewish, with no legal recourse for the Palestinians who recently raised families and lived their lives there.

In his speech on Jerusalem Day, Yitzhak Pindrus, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, assured a cheering crowd of the ongoing commitment to expanding the Jewish neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik, as Sheik Jarrah has been renamed.

This is not my Jerusalem. The tens of thousands of jeering youths that swarmed through its streets on Jerusalem Day have taken the city from me as well. That they speak my native tongue is almost impossible for me to believe, for there is nothing about them or about the society that gave birth to them that I recognize.

Did we know in 1967, in 1948, that it would come to this? Some did. Some knew even then that a society built on conquest and dispossession would have to dehumanize the conquered in order to continue to dispossess and oppress them. A 1948 letter to the New York Times signed by Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, among others, foretells much of the future. Martin Buber did not spare David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, his perspective on the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948-49.

But too many others, including members of the U.S. Congress who recently cheered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are determined to not hold the Israeli government responsible or the Israeli-Jewish society culpable.

Let us note that some Israeli Jews do stand up and protest. There are soldiers who refuse to serve, journalists who highlight injustice, and human rights organizations, activist groups, information centers. In a sense, all of us seeking justice have been on a virtual boat to Gaza all these decades. We have been trying to break through the Israeli blockade, in its many incarnations. We wish to say to the Palestinians that, yes, there are people in Israel who know that any viable future for the Middle East must be based on a just peace — not the forced imposition spelled out by Netanyahu to Congress — or else we are all doomed. We want it known that the soldier is not the only face of Israeli Jews. There are those who say to the government of Israel, “You do not represent us.” We say to the people of the United States in general and to American Jews in particular that yes, you do have an alternative. You can support peace. A true peace.

Hagit Borer moved from Israel to the United States to study in 1977. She became an American citizen in 1992 and is currently a professor of linguistics at USC.

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Stocks Teetering on ‘Tipping Point’ of a Correction:

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nouriel Roubini

Dr. Doom sees global economic growth stalling; corporate results will disappoint, he predicts.

Nouriel Roubini, the economist who predicted the global financial crisis, said stock markets are at the “tipping point” of a correction as economic growth may begin to slow.

Companies had ridden a worldwide recovery to boost sales and profits, supporting equity price increases, Roubini told a conference in Budapest today. Now, signs of a global economic slowdown may drag down stock prices, he said.

“Until two weeks ago I’d say markets were shrugging off all these concerns, saying they don’t matter because they were believing the global economic recovery was on track,” Roubini said. “But I think right now we’re on the tipping point of a market correction. Data from the U.S., from Europe, from Japan, from China are suggesting an economic slowdown.”

The world economy is losing strength halfway through the year as high oil prices and fallout from Japan’s natural disaster and Europe’s debt woes take their toll.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. now forecasts global economic growth of 4.3 percent in 2011, down from its 4.8 percent estimate in mid-April. UBS AG has trimmed its forecast to 3.6 percent from 3.9 percent. Downside risks also include a shift to tighter monetary policy in emerging markets.

Roubini, 53, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, predicted in July 2006 a “catastrophic” global financial meltdown that central bankers would be unable to prevent. In October 2008, Roubini said he still saw “significant downside risks to equity markets,” failing to predict the stock market rebound that sent shares soaring around the globe last year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has almost doubled from its low in March 2009.

Stocks rose today, preventing the fourth straight weekly loss for the MSCI All-Country World Index, and commodities gained after the Group of Eight leaders said the global economy is strengthening. The MSCI index added 0.8 percent at 10:32 a.m. in New York, putting the gauge 0.1 percent higher since May 20. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.4 percent.

Data this week showed Chinese manufacturing expanding at the slowest pace in 10 months, orders for U.S. durable goods dropping the most since October and confidence among European executive and consumers sliding for the third straight month. The MSCI World Index of stocks in advanced economies dropped 4.2 percent this month.

“Until now, equity prices were supported by better-than-expected earnings, sales and profit margins,” Roubini said. “But all three are under squeeze. With slow global economic growth, they’re going to surprise on the downside. We’re going to see the beginning of a correction that’s going to increase volatility and that’s going to increase risk aversion.”

–Bloomberg News—

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Great American Patriots

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Glenn Greenwald, AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, just as the U.S. President does each year.  Here is how the American Congress — especially the super-patriots of the American Right — reacted to their own President the last two times he addressed them (with frosty coolness and even passive-aggressive hostility):

And here is how the super-patriots of the American Right — largely joined by their Democratic colleagues — reacted to the speech given today by this foreign leader: with multiple standing ovations, including for ludicrous and absurd proclamations such as equating Hamas with Al Qaeda and claiming that Israel is “not a foreign occupier” in the West Bank:

Indeed, according to ABC News, Netanyahu received more standing ovations from the U.S. Congress (29) than the U.S. President did the last time he spoke (25); all of the ones Netanyahu received were from the super-patriots of the GOP caucus (and most from the Democratic caucus as well), whereas those right-wing patriots joined in only a small fraction of the ones received by their own country’s President.

What makes this more remarkable still is that this foreign leader whom they were cheering so boisterously and continuously just completed a public, ugly conflict with the American leader and has a long record of demonstrated indifference to American interests; yet the super-patriots of the American Right sided so brazenly and publicly with this foreign leader over their own country’s President.  Meanwhile, both political parties in Congress are in a frantic competition to see which one can lavish Netanyahu with more obsequious praise; this statement sent out in the name of Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey is typical of the entries.  For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ran to AIPAC to undercut (and rebuke) his own President and the leader of his own party on Israel, something that — as Andrew Sullivan correctly observed –  would be inconceivable on any foreign policy issue other than Israel.

In sum, the same faction that spent the last decade demanding fealty to the Commander-in-Chief in a Time of War upon pain of being accused of a lack of patriotism (or worse) now openly sides with a foreign leader over their own President.  The U.S. Congress humiliates itself by expressing greater admiration for and loyalty to this foreign leader than their own country’s.  And because this is all about Israel, few will find this spectacle strange, or at least will be willing to say so.

13-23

The Fallacy of Islamic Reform

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Macksood A. Aftab

In recent times many individuals are advocating for an Islamic reform along the lines of the reforms which occurred in Christian Europe and brought Christianity out of the dark ages and into the modern one.   The advocates of such reform appear unaware of Islamic intellectual and cultural history.  Their assertion lies on the mistaken assumption that like medieval Christianity, medieval Islam must also have been similarly backward and barbaric.    However, the exact opposite is true in the case of Islam.

Medieval Islam gave rise to a beautiful civilization filled with culture, tolerance and diversity.   It nourished a whole array of scientists and sciences in the fields of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, history and others.   As an example of the culture of learning the main library in Cordoba (Islamic Spain) contained between 400,000 and 600,000 books, and was one of 70 libraries in the city.

Art, architecture and poetry flourished in medieval Islam.  Some of the most beautiful world landmarks such as the Alhamra, the Taj Mahal, and the Blue Mosque are from this era.   Bernard Lewis states,  “The civilization of Islam was by far the most advanced and the most creative in the world. Muslims led the world in science.”   Fischer adds, “ The brilliance of Perso-Turko-Islamic civilization provided architectural, painting and music forms to a world stretching from Andalusia to India to Central Asia.”

Islam during this time embodied a liberal worldview which embodied religious tolerance not only towards non-muslim minorities but also amongst the various schools of thought within Islam.

Contrast the progressive city of Venice with the Islamic capital of Istanbul.    Goffman narrates the experience of a Muslim merchant who visits Venice in 1567 CE and notices that Muslim were not allowed to build mosques and were even denied water for ablution.   Whereas, “In his beloved city of Istanbul, the large and thriving communities of Christians and Jews fraternized with Muslims on the streets and in the work places of the city.”   Classical Islamic civilization celebrated and preserved religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity amongst its population.

Women enjoyed privileges in society and status unthinkable in Europe.  Ruth Roded has documented that that the proportion of female lecturers in many classical Islamic colleges was higher than in modern Western universities.  She writes,   ‘If U.S. and European historians feel a need to reconstruct women’s history because women are invisible in the traditional sources, Islamic scholars are faced with a plethora of source material that has only begun to be studied. [ . . . ] In reading the biographies of thousands of Muslim women scholars, one is amazed at the evidence that contradicts the view of Muslim women as marginal, secluded, and restricted.’ 

Reform movements did take place in Islam in the 19th and 20th century.   However, unlike in the case of Europe when reform brought it out of the dark ages into enlightenment.   This reform took Islam from enlightenment into the dark ages.     These movements form the basis for the ideology of today’s Islamists, extremists and “puritans.”

Professor Fadl summarizes , “Puritans render the humanistic legacy of the Islamic civilization irrelevant as they ignore the accomplishments of past generations of Muslims in fields such as philosophy, the arts, architecture, poetry and music, moral and ethical theory, and even romanticism and love.” 

These reform movements revolted against traditional and progressive Islamic civilization and were largely reactionary to Western colonialism, ironically adopting western organizational structures at the expense of traditional Islamic institutions.  “Indeed, today’s Islamist militants reject the heritage of traditions in their endeavor to politicize Islam. Ironically, they contribute to the process of detraditionalization of society.” 

Therefore, the traditional Muslims of today are wary of a call towards Islamic reform.   This call is a result of the imposition of a western worldview on Islamic history.   Rather, the traditional Muslims are calling for a Revival of Islam.    A restoration of what were a great religion, and a great civilization begun in Madina by the Prophet (s) of Islam and which flourished for the following millennium.  Not for reform which had derailed the success story of Islam.

Dr. Macksood A. Aftab is Clinical Instructer at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.  He is also a candidate for Masters in History of Science at Harvard University’s Extension School.  He is a Neuroradiologist having completed his fellowship training at the Harvard Medical School.  He is also editor of the Journal of Islamic Philosophy.

13-20

Muslims and THE PEACE – As Salaam

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Finding a new way to fight

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

Since the start of the so-called “Muslim Reformation” in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, and others, there have been many” Coach Potato Diplomats” explaining the why’s and the who’s of what is happening… 

These “Islamic” countries have been operating under tyranny and dictators since they gained their freedom from the colonialists who put these dictators in power.  The same countries that colonized these countries;  the United States, France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom and others, are the same ones controlling their economy today.  In some African countries, the colonizing country controls the airports that they built and command upwards of 95% of all revenues generated yearly – while the natives are just happy to be able to use it.

One of the most common descriptions of Islam is it’s the”religion of peace.”  And this is true.  The very root of the word Islam means peace.  But it’s more than a definition and explanation of a word; it is actually a way of life.

The war we are fighting today is not really one of bullets and physical violence. For us Muslims it is not even one of planes, ships, rockets, and nuclear weapons because we are grossly inferior in all those areas.  So it makes sense to approach the solution to our problems in a different way.   The war we must fight today is not one of raw emotion; it must be one fought with morality and spiritually-guided intelligence.

I’m sure most of you readers have heard of the “Qur’an-burning Pastor Jones from Florida.  This fellow traveled to Detroit, Michigan to stage a protest against the “threat of violence stemming from what he thinks is sharia law.  Ironically his protest was to be in front of a masjid widely known for its efforts to spread peace through our society.  It seems his, and his sponsors( reported to be some White-supremist right-wing group in Northern Michigan) sole purpose was to incite the very violence he says he was trying to prevent.  And he wanted to do all this on the Christian “Good” Friday and in the very name of Christ Jesus, who, according to biblical scripture, would never have done such a thing.

As a result and I’m sure much to his surprise, Pastor Jones’ plans backfired on him and actually benefited the Muslims.  Nearly a thousand people of varying faith traditions (mostly Christians) came to the masjid targeted by Jones, the Islamic Center of America, to speak against him and extol the virtues of our glorious religion.  The Archbishop of Southeast Michigan, the leader of over one and a half million Catholics was in attendance and lead the speeches of the interfaith group of leaders.

After the short program one of the most glorious and spectacular sights I have personally witnessed took place.  A multitude of Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Bahia, and others, joined hands with the Muslims and circled the masjid in a show of solidarity and interfaith love and respect. It was a sight to behold.  Now who would have thought such a show of love and respect was possible?  Many people, including many Muslims, believe this religion would never garner that kind of respect.  But Almighty ALLAH has promised the believers the victory IF they submit to Him with a gentle heart.

But it was no accident that that great multitude of people showed up to support the Muslims.  The Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) has been working diligently fostering interfaith love and respect for over thirty years.  Additionally, the Interfaith Leadership Council co-sponsored the program at the masjid.  They worked tirelessly to show their support of the masjid and their disdain of “Pastor” Jones.  The relationship with the different faith traditions in the area has been on solid footing because we reached out to them and they reached out to us.  We accepted their overtures and they accepted ours.  So we grew to know one another.   

As I said earlier, we do not have the wherewithal to fight a physical war but our God and our scripture make us well equipped to fight a spiritual one.  

Let us focus on fighting a war we can win.  Let us argue with them in the best manner – with wisdom and beautiful preaching.  That’s when we are  setting  our aim on the real enemy; the Shaitan. 

It is a war fought on our terms; and it is a war we can win.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

13-18

Why I Want to Be a Journalist

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s note:  The TMO Foundation conducted a scholarship essay contest and TMO is now printing the essays of some of the entrants to the contest.

This is the essay of a $500 scholarship winner, by Nidah Chatriwala, on the subject “Why I Want to Be a Journalist.” She received a $500 scholarship.

By Nidah Chatriwala

I want to be a journalist for many reasons, but before we jump into the reasons why, let me share with you the first moment I was given the hint of having a career in this field. I remember clearly even today, I used to read the Fun Times, a children’s newspaper in Saudi Arabia. In one of their issues they had given examples of few careers for children to ponder about and one of them was journalist. Without a second thought I laid my finger on it and screamed confidently, “that’s what I want to be!” Then in high school my influential teachers gave birth to my hidden talent, which has today become my companion in life, writing. Then came time for graduating high school and I had couple of ideas for my career since freshmen year which changed from being an actor to an interior designer then a psychologist and finally, a journalist. 

I wanted to be a journalist and I didn’t have a solid reason to support my decision. This led to my research in the career and I discovered how a specialization in journalism gelled with my skills and personality. I believe journalism is the perfect career for me because of the certain mindset, personality, and skills it requires; basically it requires me. There are four sections that complete the soul of a journalist, which are communication, discipline, problem-solving skills, and working with people.

To be interested into the journalism path, one must have considered achievement and independence important. They must possess artistic abilities such as working with artistic forms because it gives them freedom to be expressive. Having an investigative personality is an important trait of a true journalist as they to search for facts and figure out solutions to problems with their minds. Journalists have strong enterprising skills because they carry the trait of strong leadership into creating and carrying out projects. Of course having the sense of recognition and support from co-workers and employers is intensely important to me and to a journalist; this description of a journalist equals me.

Skills which I am graciously gifted to be a journalist are:  to be comfortable with the inspiring language of English, competent with the use of the latest computer and other technologies, being aware of the shared link between communications and media, and administrative and management abilities.

These are the qualities that are combined to build a sensational journalist today. Though I am capable of all specializations of journalism, I have chosen public relations.

I chose public relations because I believe that I contain the necessary skills this department requires. I encompass enthusiastic presentation skills with an obsession for planning, which is beneficial in managing events for my clients. My communication skills can assist me in retrieving clear expectations from my clients to creating and maintaining cooperative relationships. My artistic flare can visually show my clients their idea in action. My partnership with goodwill will magically transform my clients’ image positively. My editorial skills can mechanically flow the information to other media outlets or to create speeches. My business side can market an idea or a product with fresh techniques to profit the client.

I strongly believe that, especially in today’s time, we need more Muslims in this field because due to the damage media has already done on the peaceful image of Islam, it needs to be cleared. Successful and positive examples need to be illuminated by the media to show what Islam really is, and who Muslims really are. Muslim journalists need to work as public relations examples of Islam, to promote its true message with facts and successful examples.

A few serious issues our Muslim American community faces today are the fear of hiring a Muslim for a job and being stereotyped. To address these conflicts we need to unite as a Muslim community and work together living proudly under the freedom this nation has provided us with. We must raise our voices together to get action on our views, but most of all, we need to become good Muslims. That is because we need to win Allah on our side first and we can do that by practicing our religion and sharing knowledge with each other.

If Allah is on our side then nothing is impossible. To solve the Islamphobia, we as Muslims should unite, become good Muslims, and promote Islam in our communities. We should participate in our local events, spread knowledge to our non-Muslim brothers and sisters, and invite them to learn about our religion, but most importantly we as Muslim journalist should promote Islam.

One issue close to my heart is the treatment us Muslim women get, who wear the hijab, at the workplace. In my experience, I have received the skeptical stares, unfair questions, and difficulty in being hired for a job position. I have heard from my Muslim sisters that at times their employers asked them to take off their hijabs and these situations have been mishandled to even leading to a lawsuit against the employer, but in majority of the cases the employer agreed to have the Muslim sister to continue to wear her hijab after a religious explanation. Once again it narrows down to spreading knowledge of Islam for a clear and better understanding of who we are.

One of the aspects of today’s media that irritates me is the choice of words they invent while referring to the terrorists; for example, the Islamic fundamentalists, the extremists, the Islamic world or the Muslim world. These terms are used to describe terrorists and their destructive activities or train of thought the Muslim dictator of a country’s viewpoint. This is unfair and unethical. These terms should be taken out immediately because Islam has no relation to terrorists and their tactics or to the political ideas the Middle Eastern countries’ president has.

Muslims need to participate in debates and policy-making events because it’s important–not because it’s a right which we have earned as citizens of this nation, but because we need to make our government to remember that it in itself is nothing without the people. We the people run these nations and the government should abide by justice, organize itself with a president, who declares the majority ruling. The government has its own ways of checking itself and the president, but we the people have the power over all. So we Muslims should show our community power by participating in our governmental hearings, most importantly make our votes count, and take part in politics.

We Muslim Americans can relate to other Muslims in other parts of the world by the beautiful faith we share between us.

We all have our own share of difficulties we have to pass through in our lives every day. We all surrender to one and only god, Allah. We all bow our heads down towards the Ka’aba five times a day. We fast during the month of Ramadan together. We all make a goal of performing hajj at least once in our lifetime. We both give charity and offer help to the poor. These five pillars of Islam, belief in Allah, and our daily hurdles, bring us on the common ground of hope and friendship between each other. Not only that, we are all brothers and sisters in Islam, who were created out of Adam–we worship Allah, and follow our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (s) teachings.

We Muslim Americans are already a part of the American pluralism. We have the most diversity of people in our religion, we follow the religion which is the solution for humanity, we have been taught to tolerate and bear with patience when treated unfairly and we learned to accept and offer help to each other. We strive to reach a common ground of agreement between each other. Our social societies promote positive energy with rules and guidance provided by the best sources such as the Qur`an, hadiths, and Allah’s blessings. We blend and accept each other’s culture. We can create an example of a perfect society.

In conclusion, I believe that more than ever before we are in strong need of Muslim journalists and opportunities to fund our education should be highly created especially for this area of study.

12-20

Sec of State Hillary Clinton Praises the Late Imam Tantawi

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

From US Dept. of State Website

“I was saddened today to learn of the passing of Grand Imam Mohamed Sayyid Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar University in Cairo.

“Imam Tantawi was a highly respected cleric and the leader of one of the most important institutions of Islamic learning in the world. As President Obama said in Cairo last summer, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning for over a thousand years, and it continues to play a dynamic role today. Imam Tantawi was an important voice for dialogue among religions and communities. Under his leadership, the university co-hosted the President’s speech laying out a vision for a “New Beginning” between the United States and Muslim communities around the world. And Americans will always remember Imam Tantawi for his condemnations of violence after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when he said: “It’s not courage in any way to kill an innocent person.”

“We offer our condolences to the Imam’s family and friends today, as well as his many students in Egypt and in Muslim communities throughout the world.”

12-12

How Muslim Inventors Changed the World

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

From coffee to cheques and the three-course meal, the Muslim world has given us many innovations that we take for granted in daily life. As a new exhibition opens, Paul Vallely nominates 20 of the most influential- and identifies the men of genius behind them

- Saturday, 11 March 2006

Islam Science 1) The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. Certainly the first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions. By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice in 1645. It was brought to England in 1650 by a Turk named Pasqua Rosee who opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London. The Arabic qahwa became the Turkish kahve then the Italian caffé and then English coffee.

2) The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one.

3) A form of chess was played in ancient India but the game was developed into the form we know it today in Persia. From there it spread westward to Europe – where it was introduced by the Moors in Spain in the 10th century – and eastward as far as Japan. The word rook comes from the Persian rukh, which means chariot.

4) A thousand years before the Wright brothers a Muslim poet, astronomer, musician and engineer named Abbas ibn Firnas made several attempts to construct a flying machine. In 852 he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. He hoped to glide like a bird. He didn’t. But the cloak slowed his fall, creating what is thought to be the first parachute, and leaving him with only minor injuries. In 875, aged 70, having perfected a machine of silk and eagles’ feathers he tried again, jumping from a mountain. He flew to a significant height and stayed aloft for ten minutes but crashed on landing – concluding, correctly, that it was because he had not given his device a tail so it would stall on landing. Baghdad international airport and a crater on the Moon are named after him.

5) Washing and bathing are religious requirements for Muslims, which is perhaps why they perfected the recipe for soap which we still use today. The ancient Egyptians had soap of a kind, as did the Romans who used it more as a pomade. But it was the Arabs who combined vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatics such as thyme oil. One of the Crusaders’ most striking characteristics, to Arab nostrils, was that they did not wash. Shampoo was introduced to England by a Muslim who opened Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths on Brighton seafront in 1759 and was appointed Shampooing Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV.

6) Distillation, the means of separating liquids through differences in their boiling points, was invented around the year 800 by Islam’s foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry, inventing many of the basic processes and apparatus still in use today – liquefaction, crystallisation, distillation, purification, oxidisation, evaporation and filtration. As well as discovering sulphuric and nitric acid, he invented the alembic still, giving the world intense rosewater and other perfumes and alcoholic spirits (although drinking them is haram, or forbidden, in Islam). Ibn Hayyan emphasised systematic experimentation and was the founder of modern chemistry.

7) The crank-shaft is a device which translates rotary into linear motion and is central to much of the machinery in the modern world, not least the internal combustion engine. One of the most important mechanical inventions in the history of humankind, it was created by an ingenious Muslim engineer called al-Jazari to raise water for irrigation. His 1206 Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices shows he also invented or refined the use of valves and pistons, devised some of the first mechanical clocks driven by water and weights, and was the father of robotics. Among his 50 other inventions was the combination lock.

8) Quilting is a method of sewing or tying two layers of cloth with a layer of insulating material in between. It is not clear whether it was invented in the Muslim world or whether it was imported there from India or China. But it certainly came to the West via the Crusaders. They saw it used by Saracen warriors, who wore straw-filled quilted canvas shirts instead of armour. As well as a form of protection, it proved an effective guard against the chafing of the Crusaders’ metal armour and was an effective form of insulation – so much so that it became a cottage industry back home in colder climates such as Britain and Holland.

9) The pointed arch so characteristic of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals was an invention borrowed from Islamic architecture. It was much stronger than the rounded arch used by the Romans and Normans, thus allowing the building of bigger, higher, more complex and grander buildings. Other borrowings from Muslim genius included ribbed vaulting, rose windows and dome-building techniques. Europe’s castles were also adapted to copy the Islamic world’s – with arrow slits, battlements, a barbican and parapets. Square towers and keeps gave way to more easily defended round ones. Henry V’s castle architect was a Muslim.

10) Many modern surgical instruments are of exactly the same design as those devised in the 10th century by a Muslim surgeon called al-Zahrawi. His scalpels, bone saws, forceps, fine scissors for eye surgery and many of the 200 instruments he devised are recognisable to a modern surgeon. It was he who discovered that catgut used for internal stitches dissolves away naturally (a discovery he made when his monkey ate his lute strings) and that it can be also used to make medicine capsules. In the 13th century, another Muslim medic named Ibn Nafis described the circulation of the blood, 300 years before William Harvey discovered it. Muslim doctors also invented anaesthetics of opium and alcohol mixes and developed hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes in a technique still used today.

11) The windmill was invented in 634 for a Persian caliph and was used to grind corn and draw up water for irrigation. In the vast deserts of Arabia, when the seasonal streams ran dry, the only source of power was the wind which blew steadily from one direction for months. Mills had six or 12 sails covered in fabric or palm leaves. It was 500 years before the first windmill was seen in Europe.

12) The technique of inoculation was not invented by Jenner and Pasteur but was devised in the Muslim world and brought to Europe from Turkey by the wife of the English ambassador to Istanbul in 1724. Children in Turkey were vaccinated with cowpox to fight the deadly smallpox at least 50 years before the West discovered it.

13) The fountain pen was invented for the Sultan of Egypt in 953 after he demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes. It held ink in a reservoir and, as with modern pens, fed ink to the nib by a combination of gravity and capillary action.

14) The system of numbering in use all round the world is probably Indian in origin but the style of the numerals is Arabic and first appears in print in the work of the Muslim mathematicians al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi around 825. Algebra was named after al-Khwarizmi’s book, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, much of whose contents are still in use. The work of Muslim maths scholars was imported into Europe 300 years later by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Algorithms and much of the theory of trigonometry came from the Muslim world. And Al-Kindi’s discovery of frequency analysis rendered all the codes of the ancient world soluble and created the basis of modern cryptology.

15) Ali ibn Nafi, known by his nickname of Ziryab (Blackbird) came from Iraq to Cordoba in the 9th century and brought with him the concept of the three-course meal – soup, followed by fish or meat, then fruit and nuts. He also introduced crystal glasses (which had been invented after experiments with rock crystal by Abbas ibn Firnas – see No 4).

16) Carpets were regarded as part of Paradise by medieval Muslims, thanks to their advanced weaving techniques, new tinctures from Islamic chemistry and highly developed sense of pattern and arabesque which were the basis of Islam’s non-representational art. In contrast, Europe’s floors were distinctly earthly, not to say earthy, until Arabian and Persian carpets were introduced. In England, as Erasmus recorded, floors were “covered in rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for 20 years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned”. Carpets, unsurprisingly, caught on quickly.

17) The modern cheque comes from the Arabic saqq, a written vow to pay for goods when they were delivered, to avoid money having to be transported across dangerous terrain. In the 9th century, a Muslim businessman could cash a cheque in China drawn on his bank in Baghdad.

18) By the 9th century, many Muslim scholars took it for granted that the Earth was a sphere. The proof, said astronomer Ibn Hazm, “is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth”. It was 500 years before that realisation dawned on Galileo. The calculations of Muslim astronomers were so accurate that in the 9th century they reckoned the Earth’s circumference to be 40,253.4km – less than 200km out. The scholar al-Idrisi took a globe depicting the world to the court of King Roger of Sicily in 1139.

19) Though the Chinese invented saltpetre gunpowder, and used it in their fireworks, it was the Arabs who worked out that it could be purified using potassium nitrate for military use. Muslim incendiary devices terrified the Crusaders. By the 15th century they had invented both a rocket, which they called a “self-moving and combusting egg”, and a torpedo – a self-propelled pear-shaped bomb with a spear at the front which impaled itself in enemy ships and then blew up.

20) Medieval Europe had kitchen and herb gardens, but it was the Arabs who developed the idea of the garden as a place of beauty and meditation. The first royal pleasure gardens in Europe were opened in 11th-century Muslim Spain. Flowers which originated in Muslim gardens include the carnation and the tulip.

“1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World” is a new exhibition which began a nationwide tourthis week. It is currently at the Science Museum in Manchester. For more information, go to www.1001inventions.com 

12-9

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

January 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–Your author takes his title from John LeClare; a popular British spy novel by that new title above for the subject today is a former Central Intelligence (CIA) operative, Robert Baer, who had come in from the “Cold” for the purpose of promoting his book The Devil We Know.  Baer was an operative in the Middle East with an expertise with Iran shortly before the Iranian Embassy crisis had begun.  His career with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) spanned twenty-five years before he began to have second thoughts.  He had come to the University of California, one of his alumna maters, campus to talk about his book, and to comment on the Obama’s Administration’s intensely controversial policy relationship with Tehran.

Early in his career he was part of the team to determine who was responsible for the Embassy take over.  During this period, Lebanon was to become part of Persia’s sphere of influence.  “Iran is not so much an opponent to the States than with Israel.”  After the 2006 War with Hezbollah, both the United States and Israel’s influence was driven out of Beirut’s territory.  Iran, thus, has become hegemonic in the eastern reaches of the Middle East.  Essentially, Iran had beaten Israel through proxy (Hezbollah).   Effectively, Tel Aviv did not know what “hit it!”   They were unable to comprehend their own intelligence — which they had been fundamentally at War which they lost.  

Baer considers the Anti-Zionist Shia much more discipled than the Sunni.  Robert Baer has a great deal of respect geopolitically for the Iranians.  “We need Iran…for a peaceful Middle East!”  To come to blows with their million man army, would be suicidal.  According to Bob Baer, their armed forces consume up to 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Further, culturally, they are a more culturally sophisticated than us, for Islam is more flexible than the Occident. 

As Iran backs Hamas, “Al-Qaida is an ideanot an org” as R. Baer, also, stated on the BBC today (January 5th).”  For peace we require Iran!  We have to treat them as a power, hegemonic within their region.  “We can’t use the Bush [Utopian] Doctrine.”  For one thing, “Tehran is in competition with Saudi Arabia.”  Further, “Khomeini isn’t a true Ayatollah.”  His support is in the army.  Washington respects the Iranians as a dynamic power for a peace between us.

“The greatest threat [to Persia] is demographic.”  That is, the imbalance between the growth of the younger generations and the middle and senior age groups.  We should be looking as a partner with them within the Gulf instead of being competitors.  “Iran can become troublesome.”  Therefore, we should “…talk to our opponents…or fail.”

12-2

As in the Days of the USSR

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sara Daniel, Le Nouvel Observateur

Shahnawaz Tanaï, former defense minister for Najibullah’s pro-Soviet government, compares the two occupations of Afghanistan.

In the last presidential election, he came in sixth out of 41 candidates. A good showing for a man who was once defense minister to Najibullah, the former pro-Soviet president of Afghanistan, murdered by the Taliban. Shahnawaz Tanai nostalgically evokes the “good old days” of the Soviets, which he seems not to be the only one to miss. According to him, there are many commonalities between NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan and the Soviet period. First of all, the Russians, like the Americans, relied on warlords of evil repute in order to take over power. Then Russia, like NATO today, was unable to pacify the country because of the open border with Pakistan, which assured the Mudjahadijn a rear staging base. “In 1985, six years after the beginning of the Soviet invasion, the debates began in Russia, exactly like today in the West, on the legitimacy of the government in place in and on the Soviet Union’s economic troubles …The Russian Army’s morale was at a nadir and people in Moscow were wondering about the opportunity of sending more soldiers: Brejnev was for, the KGB was against …” In 1988, Najibullah sent his defense minister to Moscow to convince Gorbachev to stay in Afghanistan: “I gave him the advice I could give the Americans today: to envisage the stages of a withdrawal, you must first secure the major axes and the principle cities, Mazar, Herat, Kabul, and give the army logistical support.” Najibullah’s former minister remembers a meeting between Najibullah and Fidel Castro: “Castro advised Najibullah to appear less dependent on Gorbachev. Karzai should also put some distance between himself and the Americans …”

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Sir Syed Day 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui

SIRSYED

The annual Sir Syed Day 2009 gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area once again brought together south-Asian Alumni of this esteemed university and a rainbow of enthusiasts of the Urdu language at the India Community Center in the city of Milpitas on Saturday November 14th. And once again great pains were taken during this two part educational and literary gala to keep the legacy of a great man alive and to highlight the efforts of the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Northern California (AMUAA-CA) in raising funds to offer educational opportunities to several disadvantaged students to enable them to attend AMU.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 to 1898), the founder of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College which became a full-fledged university in 1920 was a remarkable individual who defied the odds and was able to provide an avenue for Indian Muslims to get a scientific-modern education at a time when the community was shunning progressive ideas. And because of him and the institution he founded this event became possible because Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is recognized today for its academic and not to forget artistic contributions (e.g. Indian Actor Naseeruddin Shah).

The evening started with fine food from Chandni and some valuable networking opportunities as both the “Old Boys” and now “Old Girls” who have had the privilege of attending this unique institution located in Aligarh, India caught up on their current lives, the past, and speculated on the future. AMU, which started off as a somewhat exclusive Muslim university has now acquired a more religiously diverse student population whose its ethnic diversity has remained legendary. Scions of families from Peshawar to Dacca (Dhaka of the old) and from Kashmir to Hyderabad Deccan all have attended AMU from the early 1900’s onwards and some graduates have gone on to lead countries, states and other educational institutions. Today, the university population is global and they including over two hundred in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sitting at the table with Prof. Munibur Rahman and Prof. Steven Poulos was indeed an honor. We will revisit Prof. Rahman later in the report. His friend Dr. Poulos who has been Director of the South Asia Language Resource Center at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago and did research at AMU in the late 1960’s also shared his feelings on his visit there and where things stand today. The program at the University of Chicago has been instrumental in creating the first online Pashto dictionary and has created a Pashto proficiency test and also offers online courses in elementary Sindhi and intermediate Urdu.

The formal evening proceedings started off with an invocation and Ms. Huma Abidi made the necessary introductions, welcoming back Aligarians to Sir Syed Day and reminiscing about her own past experiences at the historic campus. She then invited AMUAA President Nihal Khan to present his thoughts. Khan Sahib highlighted facts on how the Sir Syed’s memory and the Aligarh tradition has been kept alive for the past decade in the San Francisco Bay area but also reminded everyone that there was a dual purpose for the evening which is to raise funds to provide students in need to get an education, making the purpose of this Mushaira (Poetry Recital) broader. He also thanked a list of sponsors for making this gathering possible.

Next, Keynote Speaker Dr. Aslam Abdullah who wears many hats including that of leading both American and Indian Muslims in thought, started by stating that in cities all over the world Aligarh Alumni pay tribute to that giant of a man (Sir Syed). Quoting from poet Allama Iqbal looking through Sir Syed’s eyes, Dr. Abdullah explained how Sir Syed’s efforts started when the Muslims of India were at their lowest self-defeating point. Modern scientific education was negated by the religious leadership of the time to the point when they defined the poor Muslim conditions post 1857 as a divine scheme to be accepted. “Sir Syed challenged that view,” said Dr. Abdullah. He gave the example of how at one time England was debating how many teeth a chicken had. The debate went on and on till Francis Bacon simply asked why don’t you open the chicken’s mouth and find out?  He said that Similarly, Sir Syed promoted analytical thought. “He wanted to inspire the younger generation,” he added. He wanted his community in India, especially the young to understand both the Holy Quran and modern thinking. . “He did not want to build an ordinary university,” said Dr. Abdullah. This was a revolutionary movement inclusive of others but people mistakenly made it a minority issue, which is not correct. “Today, we need to re-awaken that dream,” he said.

After a brief ceremony for a local Aligarh Cricket League where the “Man of the Tournament” and the winning team was presented awards, everyone was reminded of the fundraiser (www.aeef.net) and the first part of the event came to its conclusion with the traditional singing of the university anthem the “Tarana-e-Aligarh” in which many in the audience participated.

The second part of this program was once again the Urdu poetry recital or “Mushaira” which draws on the essence of a culture, which is associated with the Urdu language. Dr. Nausha Asrar from Houston, Texas conducted the proceedings and introduced all the poets and invited Prof. Munibur Rahman to preside as the most senior person present. And from that point started a literary journey of wit, humor, reason, wisdom and in the end emotion moved many listeners.

Starting with local San Francisco resident Engineer Vasmi Abidi who questioned why neighbors who share walls here don’t know each other, to India ’s Tahir Faraz asking why trees of friendship have little support from even a gentle wind while the trees of hate today are so full of fruit? And then Abbas Tabish from Lahore, Pakistan explained how his own condition has started to reflect the condition of his house and the lament of those who sell their village land and soul to big cities for a song. Nausha Asrar next added both his wisdom and humor while Khalid Irfan from New York was at his satirical best about donkeys in public places and the government and why one more mule would not make a big difference. He was also for the exchange of female Indian Bollywood dancers with extremists from across the border for better Pakistan India ties (We don’t believe that the Indians would agree).

Senior poet Meraj Faizabadi from India next brought the audience back down to earth speaking of glass houses and dashed hopes amidst betrayals. On Aligarh he asked what is a flame without its spreading light? On India-Pakistan friendship he explained that he was all ready to reach across the gap that divides the two people, but strangely he was still trying to find where that gap really was?

The other senior poet, Waseem Barelvi also from India requested that other avenues of expressing sadness be found, since his tears are now too old to express his feelings anymore. He spoke about the human relationship with God and the uniqueness of the Aligarh culture or “Tehzeeb”. He said that one should try to give up on expecting generosity from others to protect one from painful disappointment but on the other hand, one should be ready to hit a wall if the cause is just. And yes on the topic of love without which the language of Urdu poetry would remain incomplete, if you have lost in love, your loss is painful but in that loss it is still a gain, he said.

Last but not least the President of this Mushaira, Michigan resident Prof. Munibur Rahman, who holds two Masters Degrees from Aligarh, in History (1942) and Persian (1944) and a contemporary of this writer’s father, shared his thoughts. Prof. Steven Poulos was quite accurate in describing him earlier as he turned out to be an amazing presenter. Someone who can think in English, Urdu and Farsi simultaneously, he moved us all to an emotional level seldom reached. The pain of old age, the parting of his beloved wife, visiting a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, all this reporter can say is “Maan Gayay Sahib” (We knew that we were in the presence of excellence). Several people were moved to tears with his Nazm “Guftugu” (Conversation) written for his late wife in which he tries to bridge a gap between his current life and her death. Down to her “Chabi Ka Guccha” (Key Ring) a stark reminder of her, we found out what true love was. Prof. Rahman also highlighted his trials and tribulations on aging, trying to reach out to busy children and losing one’s old friends in a unique and beautiful manner. His standing ovation was certainly well deserved. All this writer can add is that I was humbled in his presence and Prof. Munibur Rahman is one fine example of some of the people who graduated from and taught at Aligarh.

In conclusion, this was possibly one of the finest evenings that the local AMUAA has put together in the past decade or so. Our congratulations to all the local volunteers who put this event together and a word of thanks to Nihal Khan, Dr. Shaheer Khan and their team for continuing to keep us in mind when Sir Syed Day comes around every year. It was almost surreal but this time “Mehfil Ka Mahol Bahot Khoobsoorti Say Ban Giya” (the environment of the event came to a beautiful medium naturally). Bahot Khoob!

Readers are encouraged to contact the AMUAA at http://www.amualumni.org/

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