Senate Gives “Audit the Fed” a Unanimous Victory

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By John Nichols

“The Fed can no longer operate in virtual secrecy,” declared Vermont independent Bernie Sanders Tuesday after the Senate voted 96-0 to add his “Audit the Fed” amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill.

The Senate amendment is not as muscular as the bipartisan legislation backed by the House, which was sponsored by Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, an aggressive progressive, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, an equally aggressive conservative with libertarian leanings. The Grayson-Paul bill authorizes audits by the Government Accountability Office of every item on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, including all credit facilities and all securities purchase programs; there would be exemption only for unreleased transcripts, minutes of closed-door meetings and the most recent decisions of the central bank. The Senate measure is narrower in its focus, but it would require the GAO to scrutinize some several trillion dollars in emergency lending that the Fed provided to big banks after the September 2008 economic meltdown.

The actual amount of public money that has been set aside for private banks is not known. That’s one reason why this audit is so important. But there can be no doubt that the figure is astronomical. The Center for Media and Democracy’s Wall Street Bailout Tally shows that since 2008, the U.S. government has flooded Wall Street banks and financial institutions with $4.7 trillion dollars in taxpayer money, mostly in the form of loans from the Fed reserve. The Fed has never told us which firms got these loans and what type of collateral American taxpayers got in return. This will now be revealed. We will also get an accounting of the Fed’s “stealth” bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

Sanders tried to pass a broader amendment, but when he faced roadblocks — and the prospect that audit language might be excluded entirely from the final bill — he agreed to propose an amendment outlining the one-time audit of post-meltdown Fed activity.  That did not sit well with all senators. Even as Republicans such as New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg tried to prevent any demand for transparency, Louisiana Republican David Vitter proposed tougher language along the lines what Grayson and Paul pushed through the House. While most Democrats and a number of Republicans opposed the tougher language, Sanders joined the most serious reformers in the Democratic caucus — Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Washington’s Maria Cantwell, North Dakota’s Byron Dorgan, Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln, Virginia’s Jim Webb and Oregon’s Ron Wyden — in voting “yes.”

The Vitter amendment failed on a 62-37 vote and Feingold was especially disappointed.  “Unfortunately,” the Wisconsin progressive declared, “the defeat of the Vitter amendment means American taxpayers will still not have a complete picture of how one of the most powerful government agencies makes policy and spends their tax dollars.”

Still, Feingold acknowledged that, “Senator Sanders’ amendment will mean more transparency for the Federal Reserve, so the public will have a better idea of how it is spending taxpayer dollars.”

That transparency is consequential, noted Sanders. “Let’s be clear,” he explained, “when trillions of dollars of taxpayer money are being lent out to the largest financial institutions in this country, the American people have a right to know who received that money and what they did with it.  We also need to know what possible conflicts of interest exist involving the heads of large financial institutions who sat in the room helping to make those decisions.”

The “Audit the Fed” language that is included in the final legislation remains to be seen, as the differences between the House and Senate proposals will have to be reconciled by a conference committee. That will provide an opening for Grayson, Paul, Sanders and their allies to push for the broadest possible transparency. But, make no mistake, there will be pushback.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has repeatedly refused to respond to demands from Sanders and others for information about the banks that have been bailed out by the taxpayers — and that continue to pad their accounts with public dollars. President Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their aides are critics of the “Audit the Fed” push, as well.

So why, with so much official opposition, did the “Audit the Fed” movement win a 96-0 vote in the Senate? Campaigners on the left and right made the issue a high priority. A good deal of credit must go to Sanders and Paul — long-time critics of the Fed who opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailouts and then steered anger at those bailouts toward the “Audit the Fed” movement — which was boosted on the left by websites such as Jane Hamsher’s Firedoglake and on the right by the Paul-linked Campaign for Liberty, as well as by outspoken economists such a Dean Baker and watchdog operations such as CMD’s BanksterUSA project.

Ultimately, however, much of the credit must go to Grayson, who embraced Paul’s proposal — which had languished in the House — and led the campaign to get Democrats to sign on to the bill. As Hamsher says, “Tremendous credit goes to Alan Grayson. It was Grayson who decided to take up Ron Paul’s bill and bring Democratic support for it.

Sanders, who took some hits for compromising, also deserves credit at this point for making sure, even when he was forced to trim back on his amendment, that critical elements of the initial proposal by Paul — especially the defined role for the GAO — were retained. That will make it harder for the Obama White House and their allies in the congressional leadership to gut the audit language in the conference committee.

There will, as well, be additional fights:

“While passage of Senator Sanders’ amendment will provide some long overdue accountability and transparency for the Federal Reserve, the overall bill still needs a lot of work,” said Feingold. In particular, Feingold and other real reformers have focused on the need for the bill to restore the firewall between Main Street banks and Wall Street securities firms and insurance companies, which contributed to financial institutions growing “too big to fail.”

While the bipartisan support for auditing the Fed represents a step in the right direction, Feingold is right when he says it is only one step on a long road toward addressing the way in which bad decisions by Congress “led to deregulation and the increased concentration of economic power and economic decision-making.”

John Nichols is Washington DC correspondent for The Nation magazine.

12-20

Community News (V12-I20)

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Karan Johar, others receive MPAC award

LOS ANGELES–Bollywood director Karan Johar and four other media personalities received the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Awards at a glittering ceremony held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.

The recipients in the categories were as follows:

* Director KARAN JOHAR for the groundbreaking Bollywood film “My Name is Khan”, blending of love story with the harsh realities of being a South Asian Muslim in the U.S. post-9/11

* Pulitzer-nominated author DAVE EGGERS for his bestseller “Zeitoun” about a Muslim American family facing the fallout of Hurricane Katrina

* First-time writer/director CHERIEN DABIS for her award-winning independent film “Amreeka” about a family of Palestinian immigrants grappling with intolerance and identity against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War

* ABC TELEVISION for a touching episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” called “Give Peace a Chance” featuring a Muslim character in a positive role.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize these talented and inspirational voices for bringing humanizing and multi-dimensional portrayals of Muslims to millions of television and film viewers,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati.

Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan obtains fellowship American Society of Hypertension

NEW YORK–Dr. Sultan Sikander Ali Khan, MD, FACP, FASH, has been granted the prestigious fellowship of the American Society of Hypertension. There are only 113 Fellows of American Society of Hypertension in the US.

The Hyderabad, India, born Dr. Khan is a Diplomate American Board of Internal Medicine, Diplomate American Board of Clinical Lipidology and Fellow of American College of Physicians.

He has published several articles in leading medical journals.

He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Medical College and has a private practice in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Board recommends approval for Sheboygan mosque

SHEBOYGAN, WI–The Town of Wilson Plan Commission in Wisconsin unanimously recommended approval for a conditional use permit to allow to convert a former health food store into the county’s first mosque.

Commission Vice Chairman June Spoerl, who chaired Monday night’s meeting in the absence of commission Chairman Doug Fuller, said Mansoor Mirza, the owner of the building at 9110 Sauk Trail Road had satisfied “quite a few of the concerns we had,” including well, septic, fire code and occupancy issues.

The building’s 25 parking spaces also are adequate, officials said, but stipulated that no on-street parking be allowed and that if the parking lot is to be expanded, there would be no runoff onto neighboring property.

No public comment was allowed before the Plan Commission but will be taken when the Town Board meets at 6 p.m., on Monday, May 17, to consider final approval of the mosque.

If approved, the permit would be for two years at which time the mosque would have to apply for permit renewal.

Florida mosque firebombing condemned

JACKSONVILLE, FL–Political and religious leaders in Jacksonville have condemned the firebombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

In a statement issued to the press Florida. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said, “I strongly condemn the alleged Monday night attack at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. No one in this country should ever be concerned for their safety when they practice their chosen faith. The free exercise of religion is one of our most cherished rights as citizens of this great nation. Ironically those targeted were exercising that right while gathered in prayer inside the Islamic Center as this act of hatred was carried out.  

I have full confidence that federal, state and local law enforcement authorities will conduct a thorough investigation and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this crime.”

The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville issued the following statement, “The Interfaith Council of Jacksonville deplores and condemns the attempt to bomb the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, one of our most faithful member communities. The attempted bombing on Monday night was a cowardly andmorally reprehensible act. Such an act besmirches the good name of our city and exposes how much work there is yet to do in teaching the values of religious tolerance and brotherhood. There is no more place in our city for this sort of religious intolerance and hatred than there is for racial bigotry. The IFCJ calls on all responsible citizens of our community to bear witness that this sort of violence will not be tolerated in our midst.”

12-20

Honor for Prof. Barlas

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

asma-barlas ITHACA, NY—Longtime faculty member and administrator Asma Barlas has been named director of Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity (CSCRE). She served as the founding director of the CSCRE from 1999 to 2002 and returned to the position for a three-year appointment in 2006.

A member of the faculty since 1991, Barlas is a professor in the Department of Politics in the School of Humanities and Sciences. She has focused her research on Islam and on how Muslims interpret and live it in accord with the Qur’an, particularly with regard to women.

The CSCRE is a campus-wide interdisciplinary unit within the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies (DIIS). It offers courses that engage with the experiences of ALANA people (African-Americans, Latino/a-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native-Americans), who are generally marginalized, under-represented or misrepresented in the U.S. as well as in the curriculum. The center hosts an annual year-long discussion series to promote meaningful dialogue on themes that may not be well covered in the college-wide curriculum.

“Dr. Barlas is noted for her intellectual accomplishments, advocacy on behalf of ALANA people and commitment to considering the connections between the domestic and the international,” said Tanya Saunders, dean of the DIIS. “We are delighted that she will continue to lead the center, contribute to the college’s plan for diversity, support student and faculty engagement with life in a dynamic multiracial and polycultural world, and strengthen the understanding of how race and ethnicity shape an individual’s identity and life chances.”

Barlas has authored the books “Islam, Muslims, and the U.S.: Essays on Religion and Politics,” “‘Believing Women’ in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an” and “Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia.” In the spring of 2008 she held the prestigious Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where she delivered public lectures, discussed her work in progress with faculty, taught a course for graduate students on Islam and pursued her own research.

A Muslim and a native of Pakistan, Barlas was one of the first women to join the Foreign Service and later became assistant editor of a leading opposition newspaper. In the mid-1980s she came to the United States, where she eventually received political asylum. She holds a Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Denver, an M.A. in journalism from the University of the Punjab, Pakistan and a B.A. in English literature and philosophy from Kinnaird College for Women, Pakistan.

12-19

Obama Fights ‘Otherization’

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

of Muslims, through Envoy Rashad Hussain

By Josh Gerstein, Politico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12-19

Obama to Hold Global Summit if Latest Middle East Talks Fail

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem

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

File:  U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden smile as they are pictured with bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 21, 2010.

REUTERS/Jason Reed 

Barack Obama could call a world summit by the end of the year to pave the way for a Palestinian state should hoped-for peace talks bring no breakthrough in coming months.

The US President is understood to have informed European leaders of his plan to break an Israeli-Palestinian deadlock if negotiations have not borne fruit by September or October, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz cited unidentified Israeli officials as saying.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday told reporters that special envoy George Mitchell would be returning to the Middle East next week, when she said that proximity talks – the first since peace talks stalled in January 2008 – would begin again. The planned return to the negotiating table was delayed last month after a row over Israeli plans to build new homes in East Jerusalem.

If those talks are again knocked off course, a broader summit will become more likely. The four members of the Middle East Quartet negotiating group – the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – would be expected to play a leading role in the summit to present a united front, the paper said. The summit would address core issues, including Jerusalem and final borders.

The bold move reflects Mr Obama’s resolve to find a solution to the decades-old conflict that has eluded his predecessors and raises the possibility that Washington might seek to impose its own settlement on the parties, a prospect viewed with hostility by Israeli politicians.

Mr Obama has placed negotiations at the forefront of his political agenda while acknowledging that a continued stalemate threatens the US’s own security interests.

After months of intense US diplomacy in the region, the indirect “proximity” talks represent the best chance of a breakthrough in the peace process.

While a final settlement has appeared tantalisingly close in the past, few Palestinians believe that a solution can be reached without outside help, and Israelis repeatedly insist they have no partner for peace.

“Leaving the peacemaking hostage to agreements between both sides is not a good idea,” said Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority. “The international community has to play a larger role.”

Earlier this month, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Mr Obama to impose a peace solution, a plea that will have worried Israeli officials, who insist that a negotiated solution between the two parties is the only way out of the impasse.

Mr Obama’s efforts to bring both sides to talks have stalled over the critical issue of Jewish settlements in Arab-dominated East Jerusalem, which Israel captured and later annexed after the Six-Day War in 1967. Palestinians covet East Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Mr Abbas backed out of talks in early March after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 Jewish homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by the US Vice-President Joe Biden. The resulting row plunged relations between Israel and the US, its closest ally, to their lowest point in recent memory.

A US State Department official declined to confirm back-up plans for a global summit, saying: “Peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside. Our focus remains on seeing the discussions that are under way lead to formal negotiations that will address all of the complex issues.”

12-19

Why We Won’t Leave Afghanistan or Iraq

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Yes, We Could… Get Out!

By Tom Engelhardt

2010-05-05T120909Z_1306706484_GM1E6551JSJ01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN

An Afghan man smiles after he received food aid in Kabul May 5, 2010. The Afghan Ministry of Defense distributed food aid such as wheat, cooking oil, sugar and beans to 220 poor families.        

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Yes, we could. No kidding. We really could withdraw our massive armies, now close to 200,000 troops combined, from Afghanistan and Iraq (and that’s not even counting our similarly large stealth army of private contractors, which helps keep the true size of our double occupations in the shadows). We could undoubtedly withdraw them all reasonably quickly and reasonably painlessly.

Not that you would know it from listening to the debates in Washington or catching the mainstream news. There, withdrawal, when discussed at all, seems like an undertaking beyond the waking imagination. In Iraq alone, all those bases to dismantle and millions of pieces of equipment to send home in a draw-down operation worthy of years of intensive effort, the sort of thing that makes the desperate British evacuation from Dunkirk in World War II look like a Sunday stroll in the park. And that’s only the technical side of the matter.

Then there’s the conviction that anything but a withdrawal that would make molasses in January look like the hare of Aesopian fable — at least two years in Iraq, five to ten in Afghanistan — would endanger the planet itself, or at least its most important country: us.

Without our eternally steadying hand, the Iraqis and Afghans, it’s taken for granted, would be lost. Without the help of U.S. forces, for example, would the Maliki government ever have been able to announce the death of the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq? Not likely, whereas the U.S. has knocked off its leadership twice, first in 2006, and again, evidently, last week.

Of course, before our troops entered Baghdad in 2003 and the American occupation of that country began, there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. But that’s a distant past not worth bringing up. And forget as well the fact that our invasions and wars have proven thunderously destructive, bringing chaos, misery, and death in their wake, and turning, for instance, the health care system of Iraq, once considered an advanced country in the Arab world, into a disaster zone(that — it goes without saying — only we Americans are now equipped to properly fix). Similarly, while regularly knocking off Afghan civilians at checkpoints on their roads and in their homes, at their celebrations and at work, we ignore the fact that our invasion and occupation opened the way for the transformation of Afghanistan into the first all-drug-crop agricultural nation and so the planet’s premier narco-nation. It’s not just that the country now has an almost total monopoly on growing opium poppies (hence heroin), but according to the latest U.N. report, it’s now cornering the hashish market as well. That’s diversification for you.

It’s a record to stand on and, evidently, to stay on, even to expand on. We’re like the famed guest who came to dinner, broke a leg, wouldn’t leave, and promptly took over the lives of the entire household. Only in our case, we arrived, broke someone else’s leg, and then insisted we had to stay and break many more legs, lest the world become a far more terrible place.

It’s known and accepted in Washington that, if we were to leave Afghanistan precipitously, the Taliban would take over, al-Qaeda would be back big time in no time, and then more of our giant buildings would obviously bite the dust. And yet, the longer we’ve stayed and the more we’ve surged, the more resurgent the Taliban has become, the more territory this minority insurgency has spread into. If we stay long enough, we may, in fact, create the majority insurgency we claim to fear.

It’s common wisdom in the U.S. that, before we pull our military out, Afghanistan, like Iraq, must be secured as a stable enough ally, as well as at least a fragile junior democracy, which consigns real departure to some distant horizon. And that sense of time may help explain the desire of U.S. officials to hinder Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s attempts to negotiate with the Taliban and other rebel factions now. Washington, it seems, favors a “reconciliation process” that will last years and only begin after the U.S. military seizes the high ground on the battlefield.

The reality that dare not speak its name in Washington is this: no matter what might happen in an Afghanistan that lacked us — whether (as in the 1990s) the various factions there leaped for each other’s throats, or the Taliban established significant control, though (as in the 1990s) not over the whole country — the stakes for Americans would be minor in nature. Not that anyone of significance here would say such a thing.

Tell me, what kind of a stake could Americans really have in one of the most impoverished lands on the planet, about as distant from us as could be imagined, geographically, culturally, and religiously? Yet, as if to defy commonsense, we’ve been fighting there — by proxy and directly — on and off for 30 years now with no end in sight.

Most Americans evidently remain convinced that “safe haven” there was the key to al-Qaeda’s success, and that Afghanistan was the only place in which that organization could conceivably have planned 9/11, even though perfectly real planning also took place in Hamburg, Germany, which we neither bombed nor invaded.

In a future in which our surging armies actually succeeded in controlling Afghanistan and denying it to al-Qaeda, what about Somalia, Yemen, or, for that matter, England? It’s now conveniently forgotten that the first, nearly successful attempt to take down one of the World Trade Center towers in 1993 was planned in the wilds of New Jersey. Had the Bush administration been paying the slightest attention on September 10, 2001, or had reasonable precautions been taken, including locking the doors of airplane cockpits, 9/11 and so the invasion of Afghanistan would have been relegated to the far-fetched plot of some Tom Clancy novel.

Vietnam and Afghanistan

Have you noticed, by the way, that there’s always some obstacle in the path of withdrawal? Right now, in Iraq, it’s the aftermath of the March 7th election, hailed as proof that we brought democracy to the Middle East and so, whatever our missteps, did the right thing. As it happens, the election, as many predicted at the time, has led to a potentially explosive gridlock and has yet to come close to resulting in a new governing coalition. With violence on the rise, we’re told, the planned drawdown of American troops to the 50,000 level by August is imperiled. Already, the process, despite repeated assurances, seems to be proceeding slowly.

And yet, the thought that an American withdrawal should be held hostage to events among Iraqis all these years later, seems curious. There’s always some reason to hesitate — and it never has to do with us. Withdrawal would undoubtedly be far less of a brain-twister if Washington simply committed itself wholeheartedly to getting out, and if it stopped convincing itself that the presence of the U.S. military in distant lands was essential to a better world (and, of course, to a controlling position on planet Earth).

The annals of history are well stocked with countries which invaded and occupied other lands and then left, often ingloriously and under intense pressure. But they did it.

It’s worth remembering that, in 1975, when the South Vietnamese Army collapsed and we essentially fled the country, we abandoned staggering amounts of equipment there. Helicopters were pushed over the sides of aircraft carriers to make space; barrels of money were burned at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon; military bases as large as anything we’ve built in Iraq or Afghanistan fell into North Vietnamese hands; and South Vietnamese allies were deserted in the panic of the moment. Nonetheless, when there was no choice, we got out. Not elegantly, not nicely, not thoughtfully, not helpfully, but out.

Keep in mind that, then too, disaster was predicted for the planet, should we withdraw precipitously — including rolling communist takeovers of country after country, the loss of “credibility” for the American superpower, and a murderous bloodbath in Vietnam itself. All were not only predicted by Washington’s Cassandras, but endlessly cited in the war years as reasons not to leave. And yet here was the shock that somehow never registered among all the so-called lessons of Vietnam: nothing of that sort happened afterwards.

Today, Vietnam is a reasonably prosperous land with friendly relations with its former enemy, the United States. After Vietnam, no other “dominos” fell and there was no bloodbath in that country. Of course, it could have been different — and elsewhere, sometimes, it has been. But even when local skies darken, the world doesn’t end.

And here’s the truth of the matter: the world won’t end, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in the United States, if we end our wars and withdraw. The sky won’t fall, even if the U.S. gets out reasonably quickly, even if subsequently blood is spilled and things don’t go well in either country.

We got our troops there remarkably quickly. We’re quite capable of removing them at a similar pace. We could, that is, leave. There are, undoubtedly, better and worse ways of doing this, ways that would further penalize the societies we’ve invaded, and ways that might be of some use to them, but either way we could go.

A Brief History of American Withdrawal

Of course, there’s a small problem here. All evidence indicates that Washington doesn’t want to withdraw — not really, not from either region. It has no interest in divesting itself of the global control-and-influence business, or of the military-power racket. That’s hardly surprising since we’re talking about a great imperial power and control (or at least imagined control) over the planet’s strategic oil lands.

And then there’s another factor to consider: habit. Over the decades, Washington has gotten used to staying. The U.S. has long been big on arriving, but not much for departure. After all, 65 years later, striking numbers of American forces are still garrisoning the two major defeated nations of World War II, Germany and Japan. We still have about three dozen military bases on the modest-sized Japanese island of Okinawa, and are at this very moment fighting tooth and nail, diplomatically speaking, not to be forced to abandon one of them. The Korean War was suspended in an armistice 57 years ago and, again, striking numbers of American troops still garrison South Korea.

Similarly, to skip a few decades, after the Serbian air campaign of the late 1990s, the U.S. built-up the enormous Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo with its seven-mile perimeter, and we’re still there. After Gulf War I, the U.S. either built or built up military bases and other facilities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, as well as the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. And it’s never stopped building up its facilities throughout the Gulf region. In this sense, leaving Iraq, to the extent we do, is not quite as significant a matter as sometimes imagined, strategically speaking. It’s not as if the U.S. military were taking off for Dubuque.

A history of American withdrawal would prove a brief book indeed. Other than Vietnam, the U.S. military withdrew from the Philippines under the pressure of “people power” (and a local volcano) in the early 1990s, and from Saudi Arabia, in part under the pressure of Osama bin Laden. In both countries, however, it has retained or regained a foothold in recent years. President Ronald Reagan pulled American troops out of Lebanon after a devastating 1983 suicide truck bombing of a Marines barracks there, and the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, functionally expelled the U.S. from Manta Air Base in 2008 when he refused to renew its lease. (“We’ll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami — an Ecuadorian base,” he said slyly.) And there were a few places like the island of Grenada, invaded in 1983, that simply mattered too little to Washington to stay.

Unfortunately, whatever the administration, the urge to stay has seemed a constant. It’s evidently written into Washington’s DNA and embedded deep in domestic politics where sure-to-come “cut and run” charges and blame for “losing” Iraq or Afghanistan would cow any administration. Not surprisingly, when you look behind the main news stories in both Iraq and Afghanistan, you can see signs of the urge to stay everywhere.

In Iraq, while President Obama has committed himself to the withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2011, plenty of wiggle room remains. Already, the New York Times reports, General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in that country, is lobbying Washington to establish “an Office of Military Cooperation within the American Embassy in Baghdad to sustain the relationship after… Dec. 31, 2011.” (“We have to stay committed to this past 2011,” Odierno is quoted as saying. “I believe the administration knows that. I believe that they have to do that in order to see this through to the end. It’s important to recognize that just because U.S. soldiers leave, Iraq is not finished.”)

If you want a true gauge of American withdrawal, keep your eye on the mega-bases the Pentagon has built in Iraq since 2003, especially gigantic Balad Air Base (since the Iraqis will not, by the end of 2011, have a real air force of their own), and perhaps Camp Victory, the vast, ill-named U.S. base and command center abutting Baghdad International Airport on the outskirts of the capital. Keep an eye as well on the 104-acre U.S. embassy built along the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad. At present, it’s the largest “embassy” on the planet and represents something new in “diplomacy,” being essentially a military-base-cum-command-and-control-center for the region. It is clearly going nowhere, withdrawal or not.

In fact, recent reports indicate that in the near future “embassy” personnel, including police trainers, military officials connected to that Office of Coordination, spies, U.S. advisors attached to various Iraqi ministries, and the like, may be more than doubled from the present staggering staff level of 1,400 to 3,000 or above. (The embassy, by the way, has requested $1,875 billion for its operations in fiscal year 2011, and that was assuming a staffing level of only 1,400.) Realistically, as long as such an embassy remains at Ground Zero Iraq, we will not have withdrawn from that country.

Similarly, we have a giant U.S. embassy in Kabul (being expanded) and another mega-embassy being built in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. These are not, rest assured, signs of departure. Nor is the fact that in Afghanistan and Pakistan, everything war-connected seems to be surging, even if in ways often not noticed here. President Obama’s surge decision has been described largely in terms of those 30,000-odd extra troops he’s sending in, not in terms of the shadow army of 30,000 or more extra private contractors taking on various military roles (and dying off the books in striking numbers); nor the extra contingent of CIA types and the escalating drone war they are overseeing in the Pakistani tribal borderlands; nor the quiet doubling of Special Operations units assigned to hunt down the Taliban leadership; nor the extra State department officials for the “civilian surge”; nor, for instance, the special $10 million “pool” of funds that up to 120 U.S. Special Operations forces, already in those borderlands training the paramilitary Pakistani Frontier Corps, may soon have available to spend “winning hearts and minds.”

Perhaps it’s historically accurate to say that great powers generally leave home, head elsewhere armed to the teeth, and then experience the urge to stay. With our trillion-dollar-plus wars and yearly trillion-dollar-plus national-security budget, there’s a lot at stake in staying, and undoubtedly in fighting two, three, many Afghanistans (and Iraqs) in the years to come.

Sooner or later, we will leave both Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s too late in the history of this planet to occupy them forever and a day. Better sooner.

Tom Engelhardt runs the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com (“a regular antidote to the mainstream media”).

12-19

US Muslims Condemn Times Square Attack

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By KWTX

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

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

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

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

12-19

PAKPAC Condemns NY Attempted Bomb Plot

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

“Washington DC: May 4th, 2010: The Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee (PAKPAC) condemns the Times Square attempted attempted bomb plot over the weekend. We appreciate the efforts of the New York Police Department as well as the FBI and vigilant NY residents in responding to this incident and saving hundreds of lives. PAKPAC is shocked and saddened to learn that the prime suspect is of Pakistani heritage. Though details of the case are still being uncovered and investigations are on going, we denounce this attempted attack on our soil and seek that this individual or any accomplice, to be tried and punished under American Judicial system. Whether this is an act of a lone individual or a group, it harms everyone and benefits no one. As a community, we should have zero tolerance for such acts as they damage and disrupt the way of life of Americans. 

“PAKPAC agrees with President Obama’s call for all citizens to be vigilant, it maybe be recalled that it was reporting by a vigilant NY resident that stopped this tragic incident from happening. PAKPAC and Pakistani Americans are committed to protect and defend the United States of America. We ask the Pakistani Americans and American Muslims to demonstrate an iron resolve against terrorism and to remain vigilant and continue to report anything that is illegal or suspicious to law enforcement agencies.

“Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, stated on the “Today” show that it was premature to label any person or group as suspect. “Right now, every lead has to be pursued,” she said. “I caution against premature decisions one way or the other.”  PAKPAC requests  that the U.S. law enforcement agencies and American community to safeguard the civil rights of the thousands of law abiding Pakistani Americans and ensure that there is no backlash against the community, locally in Connecticut or across the nation. Pakistani American community seeks to work together with the Obama Administration and law enforcement  agencies, and to provide them with resources to protect the safety of our nation and its citizens.

“The US ambassador to Islamabad Anne Patterson held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on this issue. Mr. Qureshi assured Pakistan’s full cooperation to US in this regard. The nation of Pakistan along with its armed forces has given unprecedented sacrifices in US-led war on terrorism. It is estimated that over five thousand Pakistani military and civilians have lost their lives, while Pakistan economy has suffered a loss of $35 billion since September 11 attack. PAKPAC welcomes the full cooperation offered by Pakistan Government.

“PAKPAC is monitoring this developing situation and will keep you updated periodically.”

FOR FURTHER CONTACT:

Executive Director: Irfan Malik   ED@pakpac.net    202 558 6404
Connecticut contact: Saud Anwar   saud.anwar@pakpac.net   202 558 6404

Kandaharis Want Peace Talks

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

2010-05-05T121705Z_1095639419_GM1E6551KBZ01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN

Afghan women clad in burqas and a child receive food aid in Kabul May 5, 2010. The Afghan Ministry of Defense distributed food aid such as wheat, cooking oil, sugar and beans to 220 poor families.

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

An opinion survey of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province funded by the U.S. Army has revealed that 94 percent of respondents support negotiating with the Taliban over military confrontation with the insurgent group and 85 percent regard the Taliban as “our Afghan brothers.”

The survey, conducted by a private U.S. contractor last December, covered Kandahar City and other districts in the province into which Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is planning to introduce more troops in the biggest operation of the entire war. Those districts include Arghandab, Zhari, rural Kandahar, and Panjwayi.

Afghan interviewers conducted the survey only in areas which were not under Taliban control.

The decisive rejection of the use of foreign troops against the Taliban by the population in Kandahar casts further doubt on the fundamental premise of the Kandahar campaign, scheduled to begin in June, that the population and tribal elders in those districts would welcome a U.S.-NATO troop presence to expel the Taliban.

That assumption was dealt a serious blow at a meeting on April 4 at which tribal elders from all over Kandahar told President Hamid Karzai they were not happy with the planned military operation.

An unclassified report on the opinion survey was published in March by Glevum Associates, a Washington-based “strategic communications” company under contract for the Human Terrain Systems program in Afghanistan. A link to the report was first provided by the Web site Danger Room which reported the survey April 16.

Ninety-one percent of the respondents supported the convening of a “Loya Jirga,” or “grand assembly” of leaders as a way of ending the conflict, with 54 percent “strongly” supporting it, and 37 percent “somewhat” supporting it. That figure appears to reflect support for President Karzai’s proposal for a “peace Jirga” in which the Taliban would be invited to participate.

The degree to which the population in the districts where McChrystal plans to send troops rejects military confrontation and believes in a peaceful negotiated settlement is suggested by a revealing vignette recounted by Time magazine’s Joe Klein in the April 15 issue.

Klein accompanied U.S. Army Capt. Jeremiah Ellis when he visited a 17-year-old boy in Zhari district whose house Ellis wanted to use an observation post. When Ellis asked the boy how he thought the war would end, he answered, “Whenever you guys get out from here, things will get better.”

“The elders will sit down with the Taliban, and the Taliban will lay down their arms.”

The Kandahar offensive seems likely to dramatize the contrast between the U.S. insistence on a military approach to the Taliban control of large parts of southern Afghanistan and the overwhelming preference of the Pashtun population for initiating peace negotiations with the Taliban as Karzai has proposed.

Ironically, highlighting that contradiction in the coming months could encourage President Barack Obama to support Karzai’s effort to begin negotiations with the Taliban now rather than waiting until mid-2011, as the U.S. military has been advocating since last December.

Obama told a meeting of his “war cabinet” last month that it might be time to start negotiations with the Taliban, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have opposed any move toward negotiations until Gen. McChrystal is able to demonstrate clear success in weakening the Taliban.

The Taliban ruling council has taken advantage of the recent evidence of contradictions between Pashtuns in Kandahar and the U.S. military over the Kandahar offensive by signaling in an interview with the Sunday Times of London that Taliban leader Mullah Omar is prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.

In a meeting in an unidentified Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan reported Sunday, two Taliban officials told the newspaper that Omar’s aims were now limited to the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners, and the restoration of security. It was the first major signal of interest in negotiations since the arrest of Mullah Omar’s second in command, Mullah Baradar, in late January.

The report of the Glevum survey revealed that more people in Kandahar regard checkpoints maintained by the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) and ANA and ANP vehicles as the biggest threat to their security while traveling than identified either Taliban roadside bombs or Taliban checkpoints as the main threat.

Fifty-eight percent of the respondents in the survey said the biggest threat to their security while traveling were the ANA and ANP checkpoints on the road, and 56 percent said ANA/ANP vehicles were the biggest threat. Only 44 percent identified roadside bombs as the biggest threat – the same percentage of respondents who regard convoys of the International Security Assistance Force – the NATO command under Gen. McChrystal – as the primary threat to their security.

Only 37 percent of the respondents regarded Taliban checkpoints as the main threat to their security.

In Kandahar City, the main target of the coming U.S. military offensive in Kandahar, the gap between perceptions of threats to travel security from government forces and from the Taliban is even wider.

Sixty-five percent of the respondents in Kandahar City said they regard ANA/ANP checkpoints as the main threat to their security, whereas roadside bombs are the main problem for 42 percent of the respondents.

The survey supports the U.S. military’s suspicion that the transgressions of local officials of the Afghan government, who are linked mainly to President Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar province council and the main warlord in the province, have pushed the population into the arms of the Taliban.

An overwhelming 84 percent of the respondents agreed that corruption is the main cause of the conflict, and two-thirds agreed that government corruption “makes us look elsewhere.” That language used in the questionnaire was obviously intended to allow respondents to hint that they were supporting the Taliban insurgents in response to the corruption, without saying so explicitly.

More than half the respondents (53 percent) endorsed the statement that the Taliban are “incorruptible.”

“Corruption” is a term that is often understood to include not only demands for payments for services and passage through checkpoints but violence by police against innocent civilians.

The form of government corruption that has been exploited most successfully by the Taliban in Kandahar is the threat to destroy opium crops if the farmers do not pay a large bribe. The survey did not ask any questions about opium growing and Afghan attitudes toward the government and the Taliban, although that was one of the key questions that Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the head of intelligence for Gen. McChrystal, had sought clarification of.

12-19

Journalism: An Islamic Perspective

May 6, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By Musa Odeh

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 Musa Odeh, on the subject “Journalism:  An Islamic Perspective.” He received a $500 scholarship.

Moosesuit

It was the morning of September 11, 2001.  Hijackers overtook a commercial plane and smashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.  As the world watched the building diminish and burn to the ground, a second airplane collided into the south tower like a guided missile in a war zone.  It took two hours, and the World Trade Center was no more. The attacks of September  11th would be remembered forever as the worst attack on U.S. soil.  The World Trade Center would never be the same again. The United States would never be the same again. The world would never be the same again. Islam would never be the same again.

My life changed on September 11th as the U.S. launched a “War on Terrorism.”   The media began to portray Islam as an enemy towards mankind, especially here in the West.  Islam was the new face of the public enemy, and this was not justified.  False portrayals of Muslims as terrorists forced me to take action.  The word “terrorism” has become a synonym to “Islam.” 

I have taken it upon myself to prove otherwise.  I feel it is my obligation to show the other side of the story.  It is my calling to battle skewed reports and unbalanced coverage of Muslims in the media.  It is my job to shed light on the truth.  In a time of war and hate crimes against Muslims, it is I who shall show the world the truth–by fighting and battling–because in the end, the pen is mightier than the sword.

When I was younger, my mother used to tell me to pick my battles and choose them wisely.  If something was not a good idea to pursue, she would tell me, “This is not your fight.  Let it go.”  She also taught me to never start a fight I couldn’t finish.  I never really understood her advice until today.  Showing the world the truth and reporting the facts is my fight.  It is a battle I wisely choose to fight and it is definitely my struggle.  This is a fight I will not back down from and I am determined to stand tall because I cannot be defeated in this fight.

I chose to be a journalist because I want to be an advocate for Islam and show the true meaning of the religion from a broad perspective.  Islam has been covered in the media through a tainted and biased lens and I feel that journalism chose me, to find the stories that dig deeper into human interest and show the truth of Islam and its followers.  When I watch the news, I feel so much more strongly about this cause.  I feel it is my duty to speak on behalf of the oppressed Muslims who are portrayed as monsters, the law abiding, hard working Muslims who are looked down upon because of their faith. 

I want to become a journalist because I enjoy learning and interacting with people.  I would write and report stories that show people something they did not know before reading my piece.  It is my goal to report the story that nobody else has ever thought of.  The story is not about me, it’s about the people I am interviewing. The story is also about the communities I am working for.  I want to publicize the stories of the little people, who without me would not have had their story told to the world or their voices heard.   Helping people and communities is all the compensation and reward I need for being a journalist.  My long term goal is to win a Pulitzer Prize for the phenomenal work I have done to help people tell their stories and to allow their voices to be heard.

By definition, a journalist is someone who gathers or broadcasts news to the public.  In all honesty, I feel there is no correct or accurate definition of the word “journalist.”  My ultimate goal is to find a job as a reporter and/or writer for the mainstream media of the U.S.  I want to bring out the truth and report stories that show the actual face of Islam and its followers.  For example, I would love to cover Muslims in the Dearborn area and show the world how Muslims live on a day to day basis, by showing that they have close family ties and work every day jobs.  It is my hope that the biased world would be able to relate and the “terrorist” image would begin to fade away.  I want to be the reporter who shows what Muslim life is actually like. Contrary to the western mentality of Muslims sitting around in “madrasas” all day plotting their next act of evil; when in reality, those thoughts are non-existent.

As a Muslim who tries his best to live his life by Islam, I feel that it is my responsibility and obligation to portray Islam in a positive light. I do that through my interactions with people on a daily basis by showing how Muslims deal with others in a kind and respectful manner. Islam was first spread by merchants who went to faraway lands that had never heard of Islam.  It is through their positive interactions with non-Muslim merchants and citizens that they influenced the communities they stumbled upon. 

When the followers of other religions witnessed the respectful, honest and fair ways of the Muslims they began to inquire about this religion.  The kindness of Islam draws people closer and closer to the religion.  Muslim merchants’ mannerisms were exemplary, to the point that it piqued people’s interest and motivated them to inquire about the religion.  That helped the spread of Islam.  Muslim merchants led by example and became ambassadors of Islam– as I plan to do in my daily works as a Muslim journalist—God willing.

Becoming a journalist is hard enough, but becoming a Muslim journalist is ten times harder.  A Muslim journalist must be perfect in every aspect of his job because his actions are already magnified from day one.  As a Muslim journalist, one will be criticized and ridiculed because of the religion he/she chooses to follow.  This forces the Muslim journalist to have thick skin and be flawless in the work of reporting, as well as extremely accurate with facts and sources.  A hiccup for a Muslim journalist is viewed as a heart attack to the rest of the world.  All eyes are on a Muslim when entering the world of journalism as a Muslim.

The biggest reason Muslims are hated in the eyes of the United States public is because of their ignorance which led them to learn the fear of Islam.  The best and most effective way to counter “Islamophobia” is by educating the public about the true essence of Islam.  It is the journalist’s job to be objective and tell the facts.  Educating the world about Islam and its followers will result in the world beginning to view the religion in a new light.

Islam teaches its followers to respect all religions and that should be included in some coverage.  Other coverage could detail stories of the Prophet Muhammed (s) and how he once passed a Bible on the ground and how he stopped to pick it up, teaching his companions that we should respect “their” book.  He respected the book and the people who follow it.  Islam also preaches being nice to your neighbors.  Why not find a story of a Christian family having nothing but good things to say about a neighboring Muslim household whom they have lived next to for 20 years? 

Little things can change the way the public views Islam, but as a Muslim journalist, my first job is to educate the public about Islam in direct and indirect ways.  One can counter ignorance by educating.  One can counter stereotypes by disproving them and showing they are not true.  We can counter “Islamophobia” by showing the public there is nothing to fear besides the biases of one nation.

Finally, I have not chosen journalism.  Journalism has chosen me.  I feel that I have been chosen to make a difference in this world and I will rise to the occasion.  I will use my skill in writing and my outspoken ways to serve Islam as journalist.  I ask the Almighty to grant me success in doing so.

12-19

The Pakistani (Acting) Consul General For the West Coast of the United States

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Muhammad Khalid Ejaz

Los Angeles–April 10th–My last two articles came out of a discussion with the Indian (former) Ambassador to Afghanistan.  I was fortunate to hear a speech of the (Acting) Consul-General of Pakistan to the Western United State at the South Asian Studies Association (S.A.S.A) banquet here at U.S.C. (the University of Southern California).  His comments balanced those of Ambassador Maukapadya in Berkeley a month before.

Dr. Ejaz stated that Pakistan was the fifth most populous country in the world, but because of political disruptions over the land, (there has not been an accurate census since 1991, but it is safe to say that in early 1994, the inhabitants of Pakistan were appropriately estimated at 126 million, making it the ninth most populous country in the world although its land area, however, ranks thirty-second among nations.  Thus, Pakistan, then, had about 2 percent of the world’s population living on less than 0.7 percent of the world’s land. The population growth rate is among the world’s highest, officially assessed at 3.1 percent per annum, but privately considered to be closer to 3.3 percent for each year. Pakistan is assumed to have reached 150 million citizens ten years ago, and to have contributed to 4 percent of the world’s growth which is predicted to double by 2022.)  All this past paragraph demonstrates is that the  Consul-General’s approximation of Pakistan’s place in population today in relation to the demographics of the world probably is close to correct.

Strategically, his nation is at the intersection of four vital locales to the U.S. and to the developing world.  That is both Central and South Asia, and the Middle East and with China on its border connected by the Karkoram Highway.  Several of these regions are either oil/gas rich, or require Pakistan’s help to transport this energy to their ever-expanding economies.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rawapindi was America’s most allied of (trusted) allies.  Now, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) fulfills that function for Washington. 

In the 1980s, the two countries joined forces to help defeat the Russians in Afghanistan, but the District of Columbia deserted not only the Pakistanis, (but the Afghani and foreign fighters in the Hindu Kush Mountains. With the retreat of the Russians, and the collapse of their empire [the U.S.S.R, or [the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic], and [the whole “Second World” with it]), a five-way Civil War developed in Afghanistan, and eventually the rise of Taliban.) 

Thus, (your author consigns the blame the roots of 9/11 on the Reagan Administration ill-advised policy of not providing development aid and skills to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This, in turn, has lead to our current War in the Pakistani-Afghanistani Mountains.  That is why your writer designates Reagan to have been one of the worst of American Presidents instead of one of the best which the vulgar declare him to be in the Metropole [the Center of Empire] here.  Besides Washington’s airport being named after, there is a movement to put his face on the fifty dollar bill!).

After the ninth of 9th of September 2001 Islamabad was (forced) to become a front line State once again.  Ejaz asserted our allied relationship with the U.S.A. should evolve into a more equitable one.  We should have a “normalized” relationship with both those in the West, (and with the Taliban)!

We (Pakistan) are, also, under the threat of terrorism whose roots reside along the Durand Line.  It is a porous border that dives a subnationality (the Pashtoons) that should have a right to regularly cross that frontier to visit their relatives on the other side!  We cannot seal the borderland where the tribes exist in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It is true, though, many things that happen on the Afghani side of the border deeply impact the Northwest Frontier Provinces.

With this porous borderland, there are fighters who cross into our country for sanctuary.  Thus, despite the West’s accusations, Rawalpindi has suffered high casualties!  Muhammad Khalid Ejaz called on the U.S.A. to become more involved with development in the Af-Pak territories.  There is a serious problem between Pakistan and India, too, over water rights; the great powers could help negotiate this.  Still, Pakistan, as a nuclear power, has issues with nuclear India.  He affirmed that Kashmir can be settled!

He concluded that the U.S.A. has a role in the Afghan conflict, but the tribes have to have their traditional rights of cross-border movement.

12-19

Negotiating with the Taliban?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sleeping” with the Enemy”

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12-17

US Puppet Cuts His Strings

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thwarted by the American government on compromise with Taliban, Karzai has begun openly defying his patrons

By Eric Margolis

2010-03-31T115509Z_01_BTRE62U0X4200_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-AFGHANISTAN-TALIBAN-OBAMA

U.S. President Barack Obama inspects a guard of honor with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, March 28, 2010.

REUTERS/Jim Young  

April 11, 2010 “Toronto Sun” — Henry Kissinger once observed that it was more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy.

The latest example: the U.S.-installed Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who is in serious hot water with his really angry patrons in Washington.

The Obama administration is blaming the largely powerless Karzai, a former CIA “asset,” for America’s failure to defeat the Taliban. Washington accused Karzai of rigging last year’s elections. True enough, but the U.S. pre-rigged the Afghan elections by excluding all parties opposed to western occupation.

Washington, which supports dictators and phoney elections across the Muslim world, had the chutzpah to blast Karzai for corruption and rigging votes. This while the Pentagon was engineering a full military takeover of Pakistan.

The Obama administration made no secret it wanted to replace Karzai. You could almost hear Washington crying, “Bad puppet! Bad puppet!”

Karzai fired back, accusing the U.S. of vote-rigging. He has repeatedly demanded the U.S. military stop killing so many Afghan civilians.

Next, Karzai dropped a bombshell, asserting the U.S. was occupying Afghanistan to dominate the energy-rich Caspian Basin region, not because of the non-existent al-Qaida or Taliban. Karzai said Taliban was “resisting western occupation.” The U.S. will soon have 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, plus 40,000 dragooned NATO troops.

Karzai even half-jested he might join Taliban.

Washington had apoplexy. A vicious propaganda campaign was unleashed against Karzai. The New York Times, a mouthpiece for the Obama administration and ardent backer of the Afghan war, all but called for the overthrow of Karzai and his replacement by a compliant general.

An American self-promoter, Peter Galbraith, who had been fired from his job with the UN in Kabul, was trotted out to tell media that Karzai might be both a drug addict and crazy.

Behind this ugly, if also comical, spat lay a growing divergence between Afghans and Washington. After 31 years of conflict, nearly three million dead, millions more refugees and frightful poverty, Afghans yearn for peace.

For the past two years, Karzai and his warlord allies have been holding peace talks with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia.

Karzai knows the only way to end the Afghan conflict is to enfranchise the nation’s Pashtun majority and its fighting arm, the Taliban. Political compromise with the Taliban is the only – and inevitable – solution.

But the Obama administration, misadvised by Washington neocons and other hardliners, is determined to “win” a military victory in Afghanistan (whatever that means) to save face as a great power and impose a settlement that leaves it in control of strategic Afghanistan.

Accordingly, the U.S. thwarted Karzai’s peace talks by getting Pakistan, currently the recipient of $7 billion in U.S. cash, to arrest senior Taliban leaders sheltering there who had been part of the ongoing peace negotiations with Kabul.

It was Karzai’s turn to be enraged. So he began openly defying his American patrons and adopting an independent position. The puppet was cutting his strings.

Karzai’s newfound boldness was due to the fact that both India and China are eager to replace U.S./British/NATO domination of Afghanistan. India is pouring money, arms and agents into Afghanistan and training government forces. China, more discreetly, is moving in to exploit Afghanistan’s recently discovered mineral wealth that, says Karzai, is worth $1 trillion, according to a U.S. government geological survey.

Russia, still smarting from its 1980s defeat in Afghanistan, is watching America’s travails there with rich enjoyment and not a little yearning for revenge. Moscow has its own ambitions in Afghanistan.

This column has long suggested Karzai’s best option is to distance himself from American tutelage and demand the withdrawal of all foreign occupation forces.

Risky business, of course. Remember Kissinger’s warning. Karzai could end up dead. But he could also become a national hero and best candidate to lead an independent Afghanistan that all ethnic groups could accept.

Alas, the U.S. keeps making the same mistake of seeking obedient clients rather than democratic allies who are genuinely popular and legitimate.

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Community News (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Taskeen Khan wins first place in writing contest

taskeen-khan CHICAGO, IL–Taskeen Khan,a sixth grader from Hadley Junior High in Glen Ellyn , has won the first place in Expository Category in a national writing context held by the Writing Conference, Inc.

Her entry, Courage, tells the story of woman named Ahlam who came to the U.S. because of persecution in her home country. Taskeen recounts Ahlam courage in speaking out, building a new life for herself, and helping others to do the same.

Taskeen has been invited to the National Awards Ceremony in Kansas, where the winning pieces will be acted out by high school students. Her piece will also be published in the Writers Slate, an online journal.

Zahir Dossa, Soros Fellowship Recipient

zahir-dossa This is the fourth installment of our series of profiles of Muslim recipients of Paul and Daisy Fellowships

Zahir Dossa was born in Canada before moving to Texas to parents of Indian heritage who had settled in, and then fled during the socialist regime from, Tanzania.  Zahir gained admission to MIT, where he and a fellow student founded an organization to distribute low-tech but very inexpensive irrigation pumps to low-income farmers in Sudan.  Their efforts were featured in an article in Popular Mechanics and a report on BBC World Radio.

Their organization has received various awards, including the $10,000 Davis Peace Prize.  Funded as an undergraduate by the Gates Foundation, Zahir graduated with majors in electrical engineering and computer science along with management.  He has remained at MIT, where he is now pursuing both a MEng in electrical engineering and a PhD in urban studies.   Continuing with his interest in international development, he has created a curriculum for practitioners and is working to create a minor in international development at MIT.

Students at NJIT call for bringing back halal menu

NEWARK, NJ–Muslim students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology are calling on the administration to bring back the halal menu in campus cafetaria.

The “Halal Grill”  in the cafeteria has been facing shortages in supplies since last year and has been completely taken out this semester.

In a letter to the student newspaper a Muslim student wrote, “We are a campus from countless walks of life, it is important to accommodate these groups and not marginalize them. I ask that Gourmet Dining Services either provides Halal food, or update its website – the Grill no longer offers a wide variety of Halal items.”

Calgary Halal food bank grows

CALGARY,Canada–Muslim Families Network Society, a Calgary based non-profit organization, started its Halal food bank as a community outreach program in 2004 with a mission to relieve poverty.

With food bank 24/7 services, MFNS also provides bi-annual city-wide food, meat and clothes distributions; once at Easter time and in the month of Ramadan.

Needs are fulfilled according to family size with food, halal meat, clothes, toys, books and food gift cards. MFNS has made it easier for people in need to buy the food according to their dietary specifications.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Census 2010

 

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Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia Hosted Media Round-table to Encourage the Community Participation in Census 2010: Very Crucial For the Enhancement of Local Resources & Living Standards…

Avoid the knock on your Door: You can still do it by April 16th, 2010: Sheriff Garcia

“We have a challenge. I and my department are ready for it to go out; block walk, attend different community events; and encourage the diverse communities residing in Harris County, Texas to fill out the simple, but most crucial Census 2010 Ten Questionnaire Form. If people mail in this form by Friday, April 16th, 2010, the forms can still be with the Census Department by the final deadline of April 19th, 2010. Two weeks after that, people can start to expect knock at their doors by enumerators.”

These were the sentiments of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, as he met in his new office building located at 1200 Baker Street, with the members of local South Asian media and community persons, amidst Census Reports that by April 12th, 2010, 60% of Harris County population has responded to the Census 2010 (67% in Year 2000), as compared to 66% national response rate up till now in Census 2010 (72% in Year 2000).

In Census 2010 Data for the State of Texas, the response rate is 61%, while this rate in the Year 2000 was 68% and in the same Year 2000, the national response rate was 72%. As such less percent of the population is responding to Census Questionnaire up till now, which is the challenge Sheriff Garcia had mentioned. Five top States at present include Wisconsin 77%, Minnesota 75%, Iowa 74%, Michigan 72%, & Nebraska 72%.

Present at the Harris County Sheriff Round-Table were of course Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Alan Bernstein, Executive Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Christina Garza, Media Relations Manager, Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Bala Balachandran of the City of Houston Planning Department; Mustafa Tameez, President of Outreach Strategists, LLC (a certified 8(a), M/DBE, SBE company); and Huma Ahmed, Director of Program Development and General Counsel Outreach, Strategists, LLC. Prominent community members including Shaukat Zakaria, A. J. Durrani, Sajjad Burki, & Hasu Patel; and media persons like Tariq Khan, Jameel Siddiqui, Shamim Syed, Koshi Thomas, Haider Kazim, & ILyas Choudry, were in attendance as well.

“It will cost everyone as tax payers, if more populations’ doors have to be knocked. It has been estimated, that if 100% of the households in USA mail back their census forms by April 16th, 2010, taxpayers would save 1.50 BILLION Dollars, a huge amount in these economics times. Let’s all do our part in the Asian Community and mail back our forms,” added Mustafa Tameez of Outreach Strategists, who is liaison with the Harris County Sherriff Department for the South-Asian Community (he can be reached at 713-247-9600 or E-Mail: MITameez@OutreachStrategists.Com)

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. The Census informs critical decisions, from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds, and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide. South Asians have been undercounted in Census reports in the past. Sheriff said many individuals don’t respond because they are afraid to share confidential information.

“It is very important that everyone understands that the information collected is protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency,” stated Sheriff Garcia, so as to help ease confidentiality concerns surrounding the 2010 Census among some members of that community.

“Even provisions of Patriot Act cannot be used to get information from Census Data,” informed Mustafa Tameez.

All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting only of 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.

The Census 2010 matters extremely to our community, in that every year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to state, local and tribal governments based on census data. These funds:

• Help leaders determine where to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child care and senior centers and more;
• Help fund important community programs important to the South Asian population; and
• Assist with planning for education, housing, health and other programs that reflect diversity in the community.

The census is a count of everyone in the United States. Everyone must be counted. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.

Households should complete and mail back their forms as soon as you receive it. Starting in May, Census workers will visit households that do not return forms to take a count in person.

A complete count is extremely important to the South Asian Community. Take the time to fill out the form and send it back. Just 10 minutes. 10 questions. We’re All Counting on You!

For more information about the 2010 Census visit www.2010.census.gov or call 1-800-923-8282.

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Nearly 800,000 U.S. TV households ‘cut the cord,’ report says

April 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Make no mistake: The big cable, satellite, and telco carriers are still sitting pretty with more than 100 million TV subscribers. Nevertheless, a new report claims that more and more viewers are "cutting the cord" in favor of watching their favorite shows via over-the-air antennas (remember those?), Netflix, or the Web.

TechCrunch has the scoop on a new report from the Toronto-based Convergence Consulting Group, and though the figures may not be a "serious threat" to the big cable and satellite carriers yet, the trend might eventually spell trouble for the like of Cablevision, Comcast, DirecTV, and Time Warner Cable.

To wit: Nearly 800,000 households in the U.S. have "cut the cord," dumping their cable, satellite, or telco TV providers (such as AT&T U-verse or Verizon FiOS) and turning instead to Web-based videos (like Hulu), downloadable shows (iTunes), by-mail subscription services (Netflix), or even good ol’ over-the-air antennas for their favorite shows, according to the report.

Now, as TechCrunch points out, the estimated 800,000 cord cutters represent less than 1 percent of the 100 million U.S. households (give or take) currently subscribing to a cable/satellite/telco TV carrier, so it’s not like we’re talking a mass exodus here. But by the end of 2011, the report guesstimates, the number of cord-cutting households in the U.S. will double to about 1.6 million, and if the trend continues, well…

Even more trouble for the big carriers is the report’s assertion that U.S. TV watchers are getting a taste for online video, with an estimated 17 percent of the U.S. TV audience watching at least one or two shows online in a given week last year, up from just 12 percent in 2008, and set to rise to 21 percent this year.

Personally, I find the temptation to cut the cord pretty enticing, especially whenever I get a load of my monthly $130 cable bill (which includes unlimited broadband and HD but no premium channels). Why am I paying so much for all the hundreds of channels that I rarely ever watch, anyway? Wouldn’t it be easier — not to mention a lot cheaper — just to ditch my DVR and watch my favorite shows on iTunes and Hulu, catch up on the news via CNN.com, and be done with it?
There’s one important factor that’s keeping me from pulling my scissors out: live sports, and particularlyESPN, my 24-hour sports companion. Sure, as a football fan, I could keep up with the Jets and the Giants via over-the-air TV (although I’m not sure my landlord would be all that ecstatic about my installing a TV antenna on the roof of our Brooklyn brownstone), but without cable, I’d be left high and dry when it comes to Monday Night Football.

What about you? Anyone out there count themselves as one of the 800,000-plus cord-cutting households in the U.S.? If not, would you ever consider it, or are you too attached to basic cable?

Correction: This post originally said that 800,000 U.S. TV households "cut the cord" in 2009. They didn’t all cut the cord in 2009; the number reflects how many had cut the cord by the end of 2009 — a somewhat important distinction. Apologies for the goof.

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Islam Siddiqui Appointed

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

President Obama on Saturday announced the recess appointment of 15 political appointees whose nominations had been stalled by Republicans.

DrIslamSiddiqui “The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis,” Obama said in a statement.

“Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees to the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government.”

The 15 newly appointed nominees are:

* Jeffrey Goldstein: Nominee for Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, Department of the Treasury
* Michael F. Mundaca: Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, Department of the Treasury
* Eric L. Hirschhorn: Nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration and head of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Commerce
* Michael Punke: Nominee for Deputy Trade Representative – Geneva, Office of the United States Trade Representative
* Francisco “Frank” J. Sánchez: Nominee for Under Secretary for International Trade, Department of Commerce
* Islam A. Siddiqui: Nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
* Alan D. Bersin: Nominee for Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security
* Jill Long Thompson: Nominee for Member, Farm Credit Administration Board
* Rafael Borras: Nominee for Under Secretary for Management , Department of Homeland Security
* Craig Becker: Nominee for Board Member, National Labor Relations Board
* Mark Pearce: Nominee for Board Member, National Labor Relations Board
* Jacqueline A. Berrien: Nominee for Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
* Chai R. Feldblum: Nominee for Commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
* Victoria A. Lipnic: Nominee for Commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
* P. David Lopez: Nominee for General Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

In a post to the White House blog that accompanied Obama’s announcement, spokeswoman Jen Psaki wrote that the president “was no longer willing to let another month go by with key economic positions unfilled, especially at a time when our country is recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the president the right to unilaterally fill any vacancy that would normally require Senate confirmation when the Senate is in recess.

Unlike appointments that are confirmed by the Senate, recess appointments only last until the end of the next session of Congress, which right now would mean until the end of 2011.

Obama had been widely expected to recess appoint Becker and Pearce to the labor relations board. As Jason Linkins wrote in the Huffington Post on Friday, GOP opposition to Obama’s nominees had left the board with only two of its five members, which has led to a lot of one-to-one ties.

Some of the other appointments are to critical positions, such as the two Treasury candidates whose nominations had been stalled.

And some were being obstructed for particularly outrageous reasons. As Ryan Grim recently reported for the Huffington Post, the two trade nominees — Bunke and Siddiqui — were being blocked by Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning because he is opposed to a tobacco-related law passed by the Canadian Parliament.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), was particularly eloquent on that matter on the Senate floor two weeks ago: “The Senator from Kentucky has said he doesn’t have any objection to these nominees. He’s only blocking the nominations as leverage against the President and [U.S. Trade Representative Ron] Kirk. That is pure obstructionism.”

Obama nevertheless shied away from what would have been some more controversial recess appointments. He did not unilaterally install any of his blocked nominees to the Justice Department, including Dawn Johnsen, his nominee to run the Office of Legal Counsel, and Chris Schroeder, his nominee to be assistant attorney general for legal policy — both of whom are beloved by progressives but reviled by Republicans. He also chose not to recess appoint one of his senior Treasury nominees, Lael Brainard, nominated for undersecretary of international affairs, who has run into some tax issues.

That Obama would use his recess appointment powers isn’t a surprise. According to the Congressional Research Service, President George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments; President Clinton made 139.

Until Saturday, Obama hadn’t made any — despite Republican obstruction so intense that even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in early February essentially begged Obama to do an end run.

“Frankly, I think the President should recess all of them — all of them,” Reid said of Obama’s stalled nominees. “There are scores of them being held up for reasons that have nothing to do with anything dealing with these people or how they will function once in office.”

There are still about 200 judicial and civilian nominees being held up, some of them for some pretty amazing reasons. And the Senate is in recess until April 12.

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Islam in the Bahamas

April 1, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

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Jama’at Ahlus Sunnah Bahamas, Carmichael Road, Nassau

Introduction

Vacationing in the Bahamas, who would have thought that there are Muslims living in nice neighborhoods with a beautiful mosque. There are more than 300 Muslims in Nassau, Bahamas who are organized and have five daily prayers. Islam has come to the Bahamas more than 40 years ago via United States.

History

Which country is closest to Miami?  It is the Bahamas, only 40 miles from Miami to the east while Cuba is 80 miles to the south.  The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, well known for their gorgeous beaches, sea of colors, vivid flamingoes, and Poinciana trees that line the edge of roads and tantalize the senses with their fragrant aromas. Christopher Columbus discovered it on October 12, 1492 and named it Bahamas (low water or sea).  The British have controlled it until the Bahamians achieved their independence on July 10, 1973.  The thirteen colonies fought the British and won the island for few years but at the treaty of Versailles in 1783, the British traded Florida for the Bahamas.

Economy

Nassau, the capital, is the queen of archipelago, most densely populated consisting of two thirds of total population of 342,000. Eighty five percent of people are of African descent with literacy rate of 95 percent. City of Nassau is decorated with architecture of British, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and flavor of southern US. In 2008, 4.6 million people visited Bahamas, 85 percent from the USA.  Its economy thrives on four areas for income:  tourism, fishing, banking, and farming.  The Bahamas, because of it strict secrecy laws, is called the “Switzerland of the West.” It has no income tax, sales tax, capital gain tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax. The nation’s stable government and economy as well as its proximity to the U.S. make it one of the most attractive areas for investors all over the world. There are 110 US affiliated businesses operating in the Bahamas, mostly in tourism and banking.

Coming of Islam

According to the old records, some of the early Muslims were brought as slaves from North Africa. In the 1960’s a Bahamian called Bashan Saladin (formerly Charles Cleare) preached Islam and converted his home into Mosque. In 1974, Dr. Munir Ahmad who returned from US as Dental Specialist and Mr. Mustafa khalil Khalfani joined hand to establish Islam. They were later joined by Br. Faisal AbdurRahmaan Hepburn. There is only one central college in Nassau and no large university.  For all higher education, the Bahamians must travel to the United States.  After independence, many Bahamians converted to Islam while studying in the US.  Everyone you meet has connection to the US.  There are many South Asian Muslims from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as Turkey and Guyana totaling to 20-30 people working as doctors, businessmen and teachers that visit the mosque.

Community Development

There are many Muslims from India, Pakistan and other countries that have helped develop this community. In 1978 when Jamaat-Ul-Islam, the Revolutionary Islamic Movement, was formed and Br. Mustapha Khalil Khalafani was chosen as its leader. The Muslims established Jamaat- Ul-Islam Mosque in Nassau runned  by Jamaat Management Consultancy Limited owned by Brother Faisal Abdurrahman Hepburn.

The Mosque

The Mosque rests on two acres of land, white in color with three domes (one large and two small) and one tall minaret.  It is surrounded by newly planted trees, a colorful courtyard and a parking lot.  Women area is separated by a perforated wooden partisan. The five daily prayers are performed punctually in congregation. Over 60 people attend the Friday sermon and prayer.  Other activities include brothers and sisters study circle as well as children’s Sunday school.

Conclusion

Islam in Nassau is growing with strong foundation for increasing the Dawa work in the area. Muslims are being ignored or marginalized in many ways, because of being a very small minority(less than 1% of the population). For example, the media refuse to air positive Islamic program and local newspapers are reluctant to cover events relating to Islam and Muslims. They are still facing problems in carrying on their activities. They could use some help and attention from US Muslims in order to energize their work. Muslims in the U. S. including doctors, engineers etc. can contribute by devoting their 1-2 week of vacation per year while doing seminars on Islam or having free medical clinics while still enjoying the scenery. The entire area is conducive to Dawa work due to high literacy, good command of English language, respect for people from US in general and religious background. The US national organizations of Muslims have special obligation to reach out and extend a helping hand. Any cooperation and coordinated activity will go a long way in establishing Islam in this part of the world. For more information about the mosque or the Islamic organization in the Bahamas, contact them at email: faisalhepburn@yahoo.com or visit their website: http:// www.jamaahlus-sunnah.com/.

Anis Ansari, MD,
Clinton, IA
Dr. Ansari is President of Islamic Society of Clinton County in Clinton, IA  and Board Certified Nephrologists. He can be reached at a.ansari@mchsi.com.

Community News (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shah R. Ali Receives Soros Fellowship

679E This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. 

Shah R. Ali came to the USA  from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.

Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.

St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.

The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.

The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said “Discrimination is intolerable” or “St. Cloud school district must integrate” among other things.

Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members aren’t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.

A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.

Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week

BOSTON, MA–Boston University’s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.

Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Society’s “Lights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,” the Daily Free Press reported.

He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.

College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as “unconventional” and insecure.

“He encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,” he said. “By sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.”

New mosque opens in Highland

HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.

Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.

“Don’t think you’re done now,” he said, smiling. “Today is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. You’ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.”

The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.

Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless

By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown.  The project’s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures.  Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people.  But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa’s homeless. 

“We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,” said one of the students. “So that’s our purpose here.  That’s all.”

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities.  The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.

“Project Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,” said another student. “They went to the local city hall and started feeding.”

The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people.  It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless.  That’s about three percent of the population.  For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter.  What matters is that they are in need.  Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.

“We come up to them,” said Jill Moreida. “We don’t just give them food and walk away.  We don’t feed them like they’re at the zoo.  We make friends with them; we talk with them.  We interact with them.  Week after week after week.  And we know stories about their family.  We know when they’re sick.  We get to develop relationships with them.”

“Oh, we wait for them!  We wait!  You see, we waited in the rain,” said a homeless man. “We got caught in the rain!   We feel beautiful with them coming.”

As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.

“They say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,” said Moreida. “And it’s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when we’re feeding them.  But there’s a bigger message being brought, and it’s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam.  Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that we’re going to hurt them or anything.”

Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida.  Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance.  Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.

“Our main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Hussein Nagamiya. “So, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away.  We conduct their [medical] tests.  Some of them may never have a test in the entire year.  We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.” 

In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States.  (Courtesy: Voice of America)

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

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By William Green, Bloomberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outsider in London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Treasure

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

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

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

Art Mentor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tactile Billionaire

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

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

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

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

Decoy Shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful and Overlooked

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

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

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

Property Development

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

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

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

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

Mayfair Mansion

One personal property venture proved more problematic.

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

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

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

And the collection’s theme?

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

–Editors: David Ellis, Jonathan Neumann

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