Iraq’s Booming Funeral Market

May 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Afif Sarhan, IslamOnline.net

2010-05-11T080728Z_1227782277_GM1E65B18RJ01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-VIOLENCE

Residents carry a coffin of a victim who was killed in Monday’s bomb attack during a funeral in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad, May 11, 2010. Bombers and gunmen officials linked to a battered but still lethal al Qaeda killed more than 100 people on Monday during a day-long wave of attacks on markets, a textile factory, checkpoints and other sites across Iraq.

REUTERS/Atef Hassan

BAGHDAD – With deadly attacks still claiming more lives in the war-torn country, the funeral market in Iraq has turned from a simple work into a booming business.
“Before US-led invasion, I had one ceremony to take care,” mourner Ali Abdel-Kareem al-Shuwafi, 48, told IslamOnline.net on Friday, October 30.

“But in the last four years, I had to hire 12 employees and other 15 who are used when we have many ceremonies to hold in the same day.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence plaguing Iraq since the US invaded the country in 2003 to topple the Saddam Hussein regime.

“Violence in Iraq changed my life. I know that it isn’t a nice sentence to say but it is the true,” said Shuwafi.

“The continuing killings in my country helped me become a wealthy man and able to give a very good life to my family who years ago were suffering with the need of everything.”

Before the US invasion, Shuwafi was hardly able to provide basics to his family.

But his life has totally changed after the US troops invaded the oil-rich country.

“I decided to open a shop in Baghdad two years ago which takes care of everything, the three days mourning process, the burying and other ceremonies asked by our clients,” he said.

Shuwafi had borrowed money from a friend of his to open his shop.

“After few months, I had enough to pay him back and open more two shops, one in Baghdad and one in Basra where my brother takes care,” he said.

“I know I’m successful today because of people suffering, however, I didn’t kill them and just made a way for families to be well supported in a so hard moment of their lives.

“The war changed my life for better but I sometimes I wish that things were like before and I would had been able to improve my living conditions under other ways offered by the government.”

Lucrative

Like Shuwafi, many mourning professionals have made a fortune from the deadly violence.

“There was periods where I had to refuse ceremonies because I didn’t have enough materials to organize it,” Kamal al-Jumeiri, a funeral business owner in Baghdad, told IOL.

“During 2006 and 2007 I was able to make enough money to send my family away to Jordan to protect them and I use to visit my kids and wife every three months.

“My family accuse me of taking advantage and making money from people who were victims but someone had to make it and I had enough conditions to offer my skills.”

Jumeiri recalls that he only owned two coffins to run his business before the US invasion.

“After violence in 2006, I had enough money to open two shops,” he said.

“By two trucks, I import supplies from outside with better quality, offer a proper burial with all stuff needed like chairs for the mourners, recorders, speakers, people to read Qur’anic verses, kitchen apparatus to cook food during the three days ceremony, generators, tents and other specific things that sometimes is asked by grieving families.”

According to Iraqi traditions, families rent tents for the three days of mourning and professional mourners to add emotions by crying while speaking verses of the Qur’an.

In addition, coffee, tea and cigarettes should be offered to visitors during the three days of mourning.

In the last day, food is cooked and offered to all people present, including poor people who usually get close to get free food.

“I moved from a simple mourning workers into a first-class business and most of my clients have wealthy living conditions and hire my work due to my excellent materials used,” said Jumeiri.

The booming funeral market is also sparking rivalry among mourning professionals.

“I suffered threats from other mourning professionals,” said Jumeiri.

“Many of them, not all, have organised gangs to prevent us from keeping work and leave all ceremonies to them but I insisted and have to pay a security guard to follow me.”

Prices for the funeral services have skyrocketed over the violence.

“I lost my father before invasion from heart disease and didn’t spend more than US $50 for all ceremony and coffin,” Haydar Muhammad Khalif, a government employee, told IOL.

“But two months ago, my uncle was killed and we had to pay US $300 for the same ceremony, without any changes.”

Coffins now cost about $80, from only $10 before the US invasion.

A complete ceremony would cost from $150 to $400, from only $60 before the invasion.

“Even to die in Iraq you have to have enough money or you will have to be buried without proper Iraqi Muslim traditions,” said Khalif.

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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.”

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US Warns Pakistan over NY Bomb Plot

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The US secretary of state says Islamabad would face “very severe consequences,” if a terrorist attack on US soil was traced to Pakistan.

“We’ve made it very clear that if — heaven-forbid — an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences,” Hillary Clinton told CBS TV during an interview on Saturday.

However, she acknowledged that Pakistan’s attitude toward fighting terrorists had changed remarkably, but emphasized that US President Barack Obama’s administration “expects more.”

The remarks followed the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the suspect behind a failed bombing in New York’s Time Square.

US investigators believe the bomb plot was formulated by more than just one person and US media suggested that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was linked with the attempt.

However, TTP, a pro-Taliban militant group, has denied any connection with Shahzad.

The Obama Administration officials have said that “their top priority was to nail down Shahzad’s links to militant groups, and then to press Pakistan to act against the groups.”

12-20

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

Congressmen Almost Unanimously Vote Against Freedom of the Press

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yusra Alvi

Karachi, Pakistan–THE United States claims that one of its top foreign policy initiatives is to spread democracy and freedom around the world. But a recent bill in the US Congress has led many to wonder whether the US wants to become one of the world’s biggest hindrances to media freedom.

Early December the US House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority to pass a bill in order to stop satellite TV channels from 17 Arab nations from being transmitted to American audiences due to their engagement in ‘anti-American incitement to violence’.

In a Congress that cannot seem to agree on many burning issues — whether fixing the broken healthcare system or ways of dealing with the turbulent economic situation — the bill passed with 395 ‘yes’ votes, and only three dissenters.

The bill — known as House Resolution 2278 — has to pass many stages before it becomes a law, but it has shocked many for contradicting American support for free speech.

Airing of respectful disagreement with the policies of the US government is a part of the development process, which should be taken positively the US.

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

While You Were Sleeping

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

COV_iranFlag This week has seen a spurt of would-be terror plots that painfully highlights the reality that our world is still not as safe as it should be, despite the two wars still being waged against purported terrorist regimes. The most notable occurred in the heart of New York City as Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad has confessed to being the mastermind behind the car bomb that, luckily, did not explode in Times Square. Shahzad was just barely apprehended as he sat on an Emirates flight set for Dubai.

The tiny Gulf State of Kuwait also got its own dose of a potential terror-plot in the making when security personnel unraveled a tangled web of deceit within its own borders. A ‘sleeper cell’ network of spies, apparently working covertly for the Iranian government’s Revolutionary Guard, was exposed this past week much to the surprise of the denizens of the region. For weeks, local Kuwaiti newspapers have been reporting renewed ties between Kuwait and Iran as well as a couple of deals, like oil exports. By all appearances the sleeper cell was put into place to gather intelligence on primary Kuwaiti and American targets, in the event that America decided to take a preemptive military strike against Iran. Iranian President has always promised to lash out at any Gulf neighbor that allows its land to be used by the US and its allies in a show of force against Iran.

Kuwait’s security forces have arrested at least eleven high-ranking Kuwaiti citizens that worked in close proximity to both the interior and defense ministries as well as several Arab nationals whose nationalities have not been released. During the bust, Kuwaiti security personnel raided the home of one of the leaders of the sleeper cell and found a great deal of incriminating evidence including maps for sensitive targets in Kuwait, hi-tech gadgetry and an estimated $250,000 stockpile of cold hard cash. Key players within the sleeper cell have also revealed to Kuwait security forces that they were instructed to recruit new members from Kuwait that were sympathetic to the plight of Iranians.

It’s not surprising that Kuwait was chosen as a primary location for the Iranian sleeper cell to settle in unnoticed. There are several American army bases littered throughout the country and Kuwait is a key stopping point for American troops headed to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the strongest reason is most likely the friendship that Kuwait and America have built ever since the 1991 Desert Storm war, where America and its allies literally pulled Kuwait out of the clutches of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Word out of Iran is that the whole fiasco is merely a chance for Kuwait to discredit the country. However, the evidence is strongly leaning towards the validity of the sleeper cell and the Iranian governments full knowledge of its existence. And according to the Kuwaiti government there are still at least seven more members of the sleeper cell who have not yet been apprehended. But what is most disturbing is that interrogations with the suspects are slowly revealing that the espionage stretches clean across the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) member states with several Gulf countries supposedly having an invisible sleeper cell operating from within. Leaders from the Arab world are expected to meet in the foreseeable future to join forces in combating Iranian spy rings.

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

Muslim Business Leaders Invited by Democrats

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

The blowback of the Bush administration’s fierce pressure against Muslims has been the movement of once stalwart Republican Muslims over firmly to the Democratic camp.  Thus, 28 powerful Muslim businessmen and politicians flocked to a Democratic fundraiser in Washington, meeting with White House and Democratic Congressional leaders on April 14th and 15th–a project sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

The event was organized by Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, the two Muslim congressmen.

It comprised on the first day (April 14) a visit to the White House, and on the second day (April 15) a breakfast and meeting with House Democratic Congressional leaders.

This meeting was actually the second annual DCCC “Leadership Summit.” The delegation of 28 Muslims went to the White House and met with White House senior advisor Valerie Bowman Jarrett (Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Relations), who interestingly was born to American parents in Iran and speaks Persian.

The delegation had a very friendly and fraternal meeting with congressmen including Keith Ellison and Andre Carson,  and the following Democratic congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Whip James Clyburn, DCCC Chaimran Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the House Finance Committee Barney Fank, Chairman of Ways and Means Committee Sandy Levin, Chairman of the Homeland Securiity Committee Bennie Thompson, as well as seven other members of congress, and the DCCC executive director Jon Vogel.  The friendly nature of the meeting is evidenced by the testimony of attendees and also by the warmth of the discussions from pictures from the event.

Saeed Patel, a prominent New Jersey businessman, President of Amex Computers, said of the two days of meetings that “the main theme was making introductions, raising concerns, and the second thing was promotion of business.”

“Ellison now has been looking into arranging trade delegations to other countries, including India,” explained Mr. Patel–”he’s focusing on Muslim countries but there are also 150 million Muslims in India.”

Patel attended a recent such trade commission to Turkey.  “We went to Turkey last year–one week, different places, to promote trade.  We were hosted by the US ambassador in Ankara.  We met quite a few people… made a lot of contacts.”

“I am hopeful,” he said.  There can be “a lot of business between here and Turkey.”

The delegates, as described by Mr. Patel, included “a lot of people, some social activists, some doctors.”

“I felt that [Democratic leaders] were very gracious–they went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable.  Pelosi, Jarrett, all were very nice.  Very sympathetic.”

The honorable Mohammed Hameeduddin, a city councilman of Teaneck NJ, explained that his  agenda was “racial profiling.”

As an example, Hameeduddin cited the recent visit by Saeed Patel to Turkey–saying Patel on his return trip was “treated harshly by the TSA.”

“I expressed my views to Pelosi, Frank, and Benny Thompson,” said Hameeduddin.

Patel explained that the meeting was “very promising, Ellison and Carson both mentioned that, and Jarrett–this is not just hello and goodbye, this is hello and more hello, more interaction.”  The democrats communicated that “You are more than welcome, give us your personal opinions and experiences to take into account.”

“It was a good exchange,” said Patel.  “Nobody was holding back, everyone was speaking his mind.”

Some of the delegates expressed some consternation, he said, that Obama and the Democrats have been in office more than a year and yet there is still harassment in travel.

Benny Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, explained in seriousness that if a person is mistreated by airport security personnel he should “always get the name of the person disrespectful to you.”  But he also quipped, “Not too long ago your community was Republican, was it not?”

Patel explained that a follow-up meeting is in the works with Attorney General Eric Holder, on the subject of civil rights abuses against Muslims.

12-17

Taliban for Peace?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Supreme Leader Signals Willingness To Talk Peace

By Stephen Grey in Kandahar

AFGHANISTAN/

Taliban fighters pose in front of a burning German military vehicle in Isaa Khail village of Char Dara district of the northern Kunduz Province April 3, 2010. Three German soldiers were killed and five others seriously injured in fighting in Kunduz, the German Army Command in Potsdam said on Friday.

REUTERS/Wahdat

April 18, 2010 “The Times” — The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the movement’s senior Islamic scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks.

A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a “breakthrough” was possible. “There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process,” the source said.

At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.

“[Mullah Omar] is no longer interested in being involved in politics or government,” said Mullah “Abdul Rashid”, the elder of the two commanders, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

“All the mujaheddin seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution. We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

The interview was conducted by a reputable Afghan journalist employed by The Sunday Times with two members of the shura that directs Taliban activity across the whole of southern Afghanistan, including Helmand and Kandahar provinces. It was arranged through a well established contact with the Taliban’s supreme leadership.

Looking back on five years in government until they were ousted after the attacks in America on September 11, 2001, the Taliban leaders said their movement had become too closely involved in politics.

Abdul Rashid said: “We didn’t have the capability to govern the country and we were surprised by how things went. We lacked people with either experience or technical expertise in government.

“Now all we’re doing is driving the invader out. We will leave politics to civil society and return to our madrasahs [religious schools].”

The Taliban’s position emerged as an American official said colleagues in Washington were discussing whether President Barack Obama could reverse a long-standing US policy and permit direct American talks with the Taliban.

If the Taliban’s military aims no longer included a takeover of the Afghan government, this would represent “a major and important shift”, the US official said.

The Taliban objectives specified on their website had already shifted, Nato officials said, from the overthrow of the “puppet government” to the more moderate goal of establishing a government wanted by the Afghan people.

In the interview, the two leaders insisted that reports of contact between the Taliban and the Kabul government were a “fraud” and stemmed from claims made by “charlatans”. Up to now, no officially sanctioned talks have taken place, they said.

They laid down no preconditions for substantive negotiations, saying simply that the Taliban were ready for “honest dialogue”. Another Taliban source with close links to the Quetta shura said the movement was willing to talk directly to “credible” western politicians, including Americans, but not to intelligence agencies such as the CIA.

This source said that although the Taliban’s unwavering objective remained the withdrawal of all foreign troops, their preconditions for talks might now be limited to guarantees of security for their delegates and a Nato ceasefire.

According to a Nato intelligence source, Taliban representatives have established direct contact with several ministers in President Hamid Karzai’s government. But they refuse to have any direct contact with Karzai, whom they regard as an “illegitimate puppet”.

During an interview that lasted for several hours and was interrupted only by the coming and going of messengers on motorbikes, our reporter heard nothing from the Taliban leaders to suggest that the movement was weary of war, as some western analysts have claimed.

Instead, he was told that the Taliban believe they are winning and are able to negotiate from a position of strength. Asked about a forthcoming Nato offensive in the Kandahar region, a local Taliban commander who sat alongside the two scholars boasted: “We’re ready for this. We’re going to break the Americans’ teeth.”

The Taliban leaders said that lessons had been learnt from Nato’s last big offensive in the Marjah area of Helmand province earlier this year. When Nato gave advance notice of the operation, the Taliban were lured into sending too many fighters to the area, some of whom died.

The leaders said that in Kandahar a plan to counter Nato had already been prepared.

“There will be no surprise there,” said Abdul Rashid. “We have our people inside all positions in the city, in the government and the security forces.”

He added that America already had enough problems “to haunt her” and fighting in Kandahar would only turn more people against it.

“People don’t trust the foreigners because they are backing the warlords. People are fed up with crime and brutality and that’s a big problem for the Americans. We’re well positioned, with supporters everywhere.”

As they prepare for the traditional summer fighting season, the Taliban leaders are placing as much emphasis as Nato on winning the hearts and minds of the population.

Abdul Rashid said there had been Taliban commanders who had financed their campaigns by taking bribes to give safe passage to Nato supply convoys or from drug smugglers. But the Taliban’s leadership had ordered a halt to this.

“What we do is not for a worldly cause — it is for the sake of Allah. More important than the fighting for us now is the process of purification. We are getting rid of all the rotten apples,” he said.

12-17

A Terrorist by Any Other Name

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jon Pahl

(April 16, 2010) – When is a terrorist not considered a terrorist? When the US media identifies him or her as a “Christian”. And when is a terrorist group not considered a terrorist group? When the US media calls it an “anti-government militia”.

Exceptionalism is alive and well when it comes to reporting on violence in the name of religion, as evidenced in the recent case of the Michigan-based Hutaree, a group that the media has labeled a militia following recent FBI raids that uncovered stockpiles of illegal weapons, and a plot to kill law enforcement officers and “levy war” against the United States.

The leader of the group, 45-year-old David Brian Stone, pulled no punches about who he was, coining the term “Hutaree” which his website translates as “Christian warrior” for his group. His motto is the biblical passage John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The behavior of this group seems very similar to that of those termed terrorists by the media.

Yet Joshua Rhett Miller of Fox News described the Hutaree in a 29 March story as a “purportedly Christian-based militia group.” In a similar vein, Nick Bunkley and Charlie Savage of The New York Times identified Stone and the Hutaree somewhat apologetically as “apocalyptic Christian militants” in their 29 March report. This, despite the fact that the group not only stockpiled weapons and engaged in training identical to Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, but even planned improvised explosive devices based on those used by terrorists in Iraq.

In its “Times Topics” section, The New York Times positively contorts itself to avoid using the word “terrorist”. It describes the Hutaree as a “Michigan-based Christian militia group” and, mirroring the language of US Attorney General Eric Holder, as “anti-government extremists.”

Are we reserving the term “terrorist” only for Muslims these days? In coverage of stories like the thwarted plan to bomb synagogues in New York in May 2009 or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit, the mainstream media has no qualms about discussing “foiled terror plots.” Such a reservation stokes indiscriminate fear of Muslim “others”. It also constructs an implicit “us versus them” dualism between a broadly “Christian America” and an allegedly monolithic “Muslim world”, as American political scientist Samuel Huntington most notoriously opined in his “Clash of Civilisations” theory.

Religion is all too often seen as the root of terrorist violence, rather than as one of its most effective tools. As Scott Shane argued in the 4 April New York Times article “Dropping the word bomb”, we need a robust debate about what terms to use across cases. Journalists can help by practicing consistency, and by pointing out attempts to scapegoat one group and exempt another from the opprobrium associated with terms like “terrorist.”

Mainstream Christians like me cringe when a group like the Hutaree is identified as “Christian”. Perhaps this incident can help other Americans empathise with what close to 1.5 billion Muslims might have felt every time in the last few years they have heard the words “Muslim terrorists” or, far worse, “Islamic terrorists”.
A good rule to follow, for journalists and for all of us, might be to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.

And that means calling a terrorist – of whatever background – exactly that.

Jon Pahl (jpahl@ltsp.edu) is Professor of History of Christianity in North America at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and author of Empire of Sacrifice: The Religious Origins of American Violence. This article first appeared in The Colorado Daily and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) www.commongroundnews.org

12-17

Community News (V12-I17)

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Parvez Ahmed nominated to serve on Human Rights Commission

Dr. Parvez Ahmed, assistant professor of finance at University of North Florida, has been nominated by the mayor of Jacksonville to serve on the city’s Human Rights Commission.

“There are some here that believe they caught somebody that’s an evil person,” Mayor John Delaney told the council committee. “That is not the case here. It has the feel of lynching. It has the feel of what happened to the Japanese citizens on the West Coast in World War II who were incarcerated for simply being who they were.”

There were two protestors at the council meeting one of whom was escorted out.

The council committee voted to approve the nomination. The process will be complete when the full council votes later on.

Ahmed’s nomination was opposed by councilman Clay Yarborough who had earlier voted in his favor but reverses his stance this week. He did not cite the reason.

“I think there is a lot of fear, and the fear is exploited by people with definite agendas who have stated agendas of disempowering Muslims in America,” Ahmed said.

Young Muslims in US Seek Homegrown Imams

By Vidushi Sinha | Voice of America

The Muslim population in the United States is growing, and so is its need for spiritual guidance. A new generation American Muslims is demanding more from local mosques than they can always provide.

“It’s not what you see on television or it’s not what people are talking about or a dress code or whatever. It’s about being good to your fellow man, about being good to your God. That’s all it is. That’s what it is,” said Adeel Zeb, an aspiring imam and a Muslim chaplain at American University in Washington. He reaches out to young Muslims with what he calls the real message of Islam.

Zeb says there is often a disconnect between young Muslims and the foreign born leaders who head many mosques in the United States.

“When a youth comes and approaches the imam who comes from a different country – first of all there is a language barrier, second of all, there is a cultural barrier, and then there is also an age barrier. Many barriers have to be overcome,” he said.

Sayyid Syeed is a top official with the Islamic Society of North America. He concedes that many imams at American mosques are from overseas, but he says that’s beginning to change.

“We had to reject some imams who only knew the Koran, but could not relate themselves to the people. They came with the mentality that did not fit with our constituency where you have men and women actively in the leadership positions of islamic centers and these imams who came from overseas could not reconcile themselves with the fact that women were running the islamic centers,” he said.

In many Islamic countries, the imam’s   sole job is to lead the prayer. But here in  the United States, they often serve a  broader role.

“It is much more about leading the community than leading just the prayer,” said Sheikh Shaker Elsayed, the imam of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Northern Virginia. “Here you are a judge, you are an arbitrator, you are a mediator, you are a psychologist, you are a psychiatrist at times and you are a friend. You are a brother, you are a leader, a teacher, and all of those combined, and everybody wants to pick from you what they need.”

Imam Elsayed came from Egypt three decades ago. “The learning curve of most imams is very steep. It takes an average of five to eight years for an imam to become a true, local, effective imam, especially when you move from your very small environment to a big, large, open environment like the United States,” he said.

But young American Muslims often have questions that require more immediate answers. “You need an imam who has an understanding of Muslim life here. I know I grew up around a mosque I went to only twice a year,” said Tanim Awwal.

The community at large understands the need for an imam who knows the turmoil a Muslim American goes through while growing up in a non-Muslim country.

“You have to reach them at high school level, at the college level when they are exploring. When they are learning, when their mind is still young and receptive,” said Adeel Zeb.

Zeb argues that Muslim Americans want a spiritual guide who can help to reconcile 14 centuries of Islamic scholarship with the modern traditions of American life.

12-17

Why Do You Want to be a Journalist?

April 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

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

The following is the winning essay, by Zuleqa Husain, on the subject “Why do you want to be a journalist?” She received First Prize, a $1500 scholarship.

By Zuleqa Husain

ZHusain-Photo American’s fourth estate, the press, is one of the most influential game-changers in US living rooms. As an undergrad who majored in marketing and PR, I was always fascinated with the public’s information intake and subsequent behavior change based on that information. I joined the nascent International Media program at American University because of my desire to straddle the worlds of media analysis and mass communication.  Having worked at a policy shop—the Muslim Public Affairs Council—and an international media organization—Voice of America—I had an acute appreciation for the role of good journalism and its impact on the globe.  As I honed my interests through internships in radio (WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi), TV production (Story House), and international broadcast news (Al Jazeera English’s Riz Khan Show); I became increasingly interested in long-format programming. As I gain international media experience, I hope to join the policy-making community in the public diplomacy sector of the federal government.

When I quit medical school back home and came to the US, two months before 9/11 hit the nation, I wasn’t quite sure which direction my life would take. I knew that a good liberal arts education would help me decide what I wanted to do with my life. Marketing and PR seemed a good choice and I was good at it and so I majored in those subjects. Speaking skills, presentation skills and selling ideas, this came naturally to me. As America sought to understand Muslims and Islam, I co-founded the nation’s first publicly funded Muslim student organization at the University of Minnesota. Here, I was able to conduct workshops and presentations on Islam at high schools and community centers, churches and hospitals. I joined the Islamic Speakers Bureau and created packets of useful information on Muslims so that I could help contain the hysteria Americans were facing with George Bush’s War on Terror.

I graduated in 2004 and moved to Washington, D.C. That same month, Muslim Public Affairs Council’s national office offered me a position. Working at a policy shop such as MPAC was the best place to get the pulse of the Muslim American community and be able to define a unique Muslim identity for ourselves. Planning national communication strategies for MPAC’s ‘Countering Terrorism’ initiatives, helping abate the media frenzy during the Danish cartoon crisis, and fighting Islamophobic rhetoric stateside and abroad, helped me develop an appreciation for a focused strategy in media communications and an understanding of framework and messaging that is utilized in brand management.

The more we were in the spotlight of the media, and the more we were meeting with top government officials, the more I saw the need to change the paradigms that were present in our media systems. It wasn’t enough that we had a civil liberties organization like the Council on American Islamic Relations, looking out for our best interests. It wasn’t enough that top government liaisons for the Muslim community understood the predicament that American Muslims were facing because of the actions of a few misguided Muslims halfway across the world. To make the American people understand what was going on in the world, you had to get into their living rooms. I felt that if any change was to happen, it would be through the American media system. And that’s when I realized I wanted to be a journalist. I was busy telling the story for so long, I didn’t realize that the mike was turned off.

When I got a job as a reporter for Voice of America, for the first time, I felt like I was making a significant contribution. I was telling the true American story to the people of Pakistan and there was a considerable effect. We would get calls from viewers in Pakistan amazed that a hijabi Muslim in America was able to report on a story without being attacked on the street for being visibly Muslim. At VOA, I was able to bring the American-Muslim story to light for the Muslim populations worldwide. Our show was broadcast to 11 million viewers across the world.

Having worked for VOA for a year, and done numerous stories on American Muslims, concluded that the way forward was not to remain in the reporter track, but to become a producer. Producers control the content of the show. They decide what to air and what not to air. They have the final say in what stories get covered and how the show will be structured. I realized that if you wanted to change the dynamics of America’s newsrooms, the best route is to be a producer.
And for this, I went back to school.

During my three-year joint degree Masters program in International Media through the School of International Service and School of Communication at American University, I developed a solid academic grounding for how international media and communications work in today’s ever-shrinking world. In my coursework, I learn about international communication theory and why certain countries manage their journalists the way they do. I learned about propaganda, its role in mass media, the elements which make it effective and how to turn them in our favor. I also learn the art of producing a well-crafted news show that has a multi-media platform, including radio, video, web, and social media networks. I am also working on becoming a producer trained for long-format programming that is more conducive to good story-telling.  My final Masters project is a biopic documentary highlighting the historic tolerance and pluralism found in pre-independence India between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. Such narratives of tolerance and harmony need to be told, both for the American Muslim audience and for the Muslims around the world.

I have had the opportunity to learn the art of journalism at various prestigious media institutions during my degree program. I was a research assistant with The Kojo Nnamdi Show at NPR’s local affiliate in Washington DC. My input was most appreciated not when I was giving them a story idea about Muslims or Islam, but when I was giving them a fresh perspective on an existing story idea. They appreciated my nuanced insight on various subjects, political or otherwise.

I was also the assistant producer intern at the internationally acclaimed Riz Khan Show on Al-Jazeera English. There, I provided research and story ideas for the live daily talk show. I was able to direct the show to do stories that are under-represented in the media. Al-Jazeera English is keen on becoming the ‘Voice of the South’ and was open to my suggestions. 

Just last week, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale rolled out a new communication strategy with the Muslim world, one that involved pro-actively shaping global narratives. In a statement to Congress, she announced a redefining of the State department to include a position for Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Media. This would bolster communications outreach to “inform, inspire, and persuade target audiences and to counter misinformation.” There is a visible paradigm shift in such a strategy compared to previous administrations that were trying to ‘win hearts and minds’ by bolstering those voices that helped their cause. Countering misinformation is a bigger, more challenging task and media efforts weakening the effects of disinformation is a more powerful strategy.

After working for a number of years in the news networks, I see myself working for the Public Diplomacy arm of the State department as an international media expert. Having worked with international media networks, I will have insight into what are the effective ways to utilize messaging to generate a positive response vs. those that create media trauma.

As for the Muslim American community’s media needs, there is a significant gap between the effort that the Muslim American media outlets are putting into getting the word out on the peaceful nature of Islam and the impact of this effort. This gap needs to close, if there is to be any change in the minds of the American people about Islam and Muslims. Public relations efforts and putting out fires as the Muslims American community is hit by one media nightmare or another is not the solution. A concerted effort is needed wherein Muslim journalists have a set identity within the media networks of the nation. The Muslim journalist is not exclusive with his/her reporting. There cannot be just a Muslim beat, or an ethnic or religious beat for the Muslim. Juggling various identities fluidly is the mark of a Muslim journalist today.

I want to be a journalist because I want Muslims to be able to present their stories, their narratives, their perspectives, their understanding of the world around them, without feeling that they are constantly defending their religious and cultural identity. Muslim Americans have a lot to offer to the diverse fabric of America. The United States of America is one of the best places to live as a practicing Muslim today and our job is to make sure that the press fulfills its duties to the citizens of our great nation.

12-16

$640b Halal Industry Needs to Align with $1tr Islamic Finance Sector

April 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Rushdi Siddiqui, Gulf News

I wanted to take a sukuk break, as the last few months seem to be only about sukuk default, restructuring, conferences/seminars, etc. Islamic finance is not sukuk, its much bigger than an instrument. I wanted to look at an area that Islamic finance (IF) has not been linked to: the $640 billion (Dh2.3 trillion) halal industry (HI). There is a link, but it’s associated with IF ignoring HI!

The halal industry believes that Islamic finance has long ignored its little ‘halal-half’ brother, because it either does not understand the business model or its financing needs.

Islamic finance continues to have expected ‘challenges’ with standardisation, and the halal industry, the issue of certification and certifying bodies appears to be even more nascent. In IF, we have generally accepted guidelines on accounting (AAOIFI and Malaysia), prudential regulations (IFSB), ratings (IIRA), hedging (IIFM), but what and where are the leading HI standard bodies; Malaysia (Jakim), Brunei (Brunei halal), but there are more ‘bodies’ in OECD than OIC countries. Query: is the certification process accepted outside the home country?

The GCC countries are major importers of billions of dollars in foods/products, projected to touch $53 billion in 2020. Now, what if large importers like Saudi Arabia or the UAE impose ‘their’ halal certification criteria for exports from these countries, including G20 countries like Australia (red meat) and Brazil (chickens)? Because of the GCC’s volume of imports, could there be a risk of back-door certification via the GCC? However, if GCC countries do not have certifications or it’s not yet harmonized, then halal exporters still have time to establish certification before externally imposed.

In Islamic (equity) investing, we have Sharia-compliant screening from the five index providers plus AAOIFI and Malaysia, however, what criteria, if any, for investing in listed halal companies. Meat or poultry [and food] companies should have their products according to Quranic guidelines, “O mankind! Eat of that which is on earth, lawful and good…” 2:168.

Global market

Although a Sharia-compliant food-only index may not yet exist, S&P has, as of March 30, 15 Sharia-compliant food companies in the GCC (15 Saudi and one in each Oman and the UAE) and 123 global Sharia-compliant food companies from China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the US and others.

Is it correct to assume that GCC public listed food or meat or poultry companies’ offerings are halal, because large local populations and percentages of the expatriate communities are Muslims in these Islamic countries? Assuming correctly, then the Halal Index is possible with ensuing Halal Funds/ETFs off of such indexes.

Thus, two sets of indexes: Sharia-compliant and Halal index, but what about Sharia-compliant Halal Food Index? Would this be a ‘low-debt non-financial social-ethical counter-cyclical halal index? This could benefit ‘investors of conscience and appetite.’

The reality is the halal industry needs to establish an initial screening methodology for publicly listed companies in the halal industry globally, as the Sharia-compliant screens may not capture them. The present awkward situation is: one can consume the food or products of listed halal companies, yet cannot invest in them because they may fail the present Sharia screening!

Islamic banks (in the GCC) have traditionally financed the chain of ‘borrowers’ associated in real estate industry, commercial and residential, as they allegedly better understand the business model, risk, and recourse. The banks have stayed away from halal companies, possibly ex-Al Islami, hence, the latter has relied on the ‘friends and family finance’ (upstarts) and traditional interest based loans (established companies).

There are halal funds set up, but they are more for acquisition than financing. It would seem the fragmented global halal industry, in OIC and G20 countries, would be ripe for a consolidation strategy, hence, no different than the often heard quest for a big balance sheet Islamic mega bank created via consolidation.

Thus, financing of viable halal companies via roll-up acquisition strategy? Surely, more must be done, otherwise we may continue to consume halal products or meats financed with Riba-based finance companies!

The halal industry needs to get (1) its act together on process, auditing, and certification, and get into the face of Islamic banks and better explain the (2) inter-relatedness of the sectors, (3) better explain the business model, risk and its mitigation, (4) better explain that it establishes the foundation for diversified lending, and increased investor options for Islamic banks’ customers, and (5) allow Islamic finance to talk the talk of a $2-trillion ‘niche’ market in the making!

The writer is the Global Head of Islamic Finance, Thomson Reuters. Views expressed in this column are of the writer.

12-16

Pak MP’s Refuse Body Scan

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shah-Mehmood-Qureshi
Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says he had raised the issue with US authorities during his recent visit to Washington.

Pakistani MPs abandon US visit over body scanning

Pakistani lawmakers belonging to different political parties have refused to visit the United States amid a row over body scanning at American airports.

A senior member of the Pakistani Parliament told Press TV on condition of anonymity that 18 lawmakers had rejected official invitation extended by the US embassy in Islamabad.

The lawmakers say they would not visit the US until their exemption from scanning at US airports.

Earlier this month, a six-member Pakistani parliamentary delegation, protesting full body scanning in Washington, cut short their official US visit immediately to return home.

The US state department had invited them to Washington to discuss security in the troubled tribal regions of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says he had raised the issue with US authorities during his recent visit to Washington.

The X-ray machines show naked images of passengers.

Under the new rules, citizens from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen must receive an extra check of their body and carry-on bags before boarding a plane.

12-15

US Anger at Election Claims Prompt Karzai Call

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Agencies

2010-04-07T124306Z_01_BTRE63417OR00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-AFGHANISTAN-KARZAI

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a shura, or meeting, in Kandahar city April 4, 2010.

REUTERS/Golnar Motevalli

The United States has rejected President Hamid Karzai’s anti-foreigner outburst as “troubling” and “preposterous”, prompting a hurried effort by the Afghan leader to make amends, Agence France-Presse reported.

Officials said Karzai did not specifically apologise during a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, but expressed “surprise” at the furor over his claim that foreigners orchestrated election fraud.

The row came just a few days after President Barack Obama made an unannounced trip to Kabul to press Karzai on tackling corruption and to demand progress on good governance, as Washington’s troop surge strategy unfolds against the Taliban.

The new confrontation will only raise doubts about the fragile relationship between the Obama administration and Karzai, whom Washington is forced to consider a partner despite distaste for his political record.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called Karzai’s comments “troubling” and “cause for real and genuine concern”. Gibbs noted the huge US military and political resources – and sacrifices – committed to Afghanistan.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, meanwhile, described Karzai’s intervention as “preposterous”. US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry also met with Karzai in person to seek clarification on his comments on Thursday.

The Afghan leader then initiated the call to Clinton and expressed “surprise that his comments had created what he called a stir,” a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Generally we were happy with the call and we’re moving on,” the official added.

Crowley called the conversation a “constructive” one as Washington and Kabul seek to defuse tense relations.

“President Karzai reaffirmed his commitment to the partnership between our two countries, and expressed his appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices of the international community,” he said, adding that Karzai and Clinton “pledged to continue working together in a spirit of partnership”. But the Obama administration scrapped a planned Karzai visit to Washington last month after he gave himself full control over the electoral commission. In another snub to the United States, he then invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Afghanistan.

The Afghan leader drew fierce global condemnation for his speech on Thursday.

“There was fraud in presidential and provincial council elections – no doubt that there was a very widespread fraud, very widespread,” Karzai told Afghan election commission workers in Kabul.

“But Afghans did not do this fraud. The foreigners did this fraud,” he added, accusing other countries of interfering in his country’s domestic affairs.

He also claimed that such moves risked the 126,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan being seen as “invaders” – terminology used by the Taliban – and the nine-year insurgency as “a national resistance”. Afghan analysts suggested Karzai had lost control after being criticised by Obama and angered by the Afghan parliament, and noted the statements could signal a shift in foreign policy.

Afghan soldiers killed

German troops based in north Afghanistan mistakenly killed at least five Afghan soldiers, NATO forces said on Saturday, hours after the Germans lost three of their own soldiers in a gunfight with insurgents, Reuters reported.

A statement from NATO said that on Friday evening a unit of German soldiers was approached by two unmarked civilian vehicles which failed to stop when troops signalled them “using a variety of methods” in the northern province of Kunduz.

“The force eventually fired on the vehicles killing at least five Afghan soldiers … Initial reports indicate that the two civilian cars were part of an Afghan national army patrol en route to Kunduz,” NATO-led forces said in a statement.

A NATO spokesman later said it was unclear if the vehicles were civilian and the alliance was investigating the matter.

Hours before the incident, three German soldiers were killed in a gunfight with insurgents. The unit of German troops that killed the Afghan soldiers were on their way to the scene of that gunfight, when they came across the Afghan soldiers, NATO said.

Earlier, the governor of Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, said he had been to a hospital in the province and saw the bodies of six Afghan soldiers who had been killed in the incident, which happened near Char Dara district.

Opinion polls show most Germans oppose Berlin’s involvement in the Afghan war.

Opposition spiked after a German-ordered US air strike in a village in Kunduz in September killed scores of people, at least 30 of them civilians according to the Afghan government, the deadliest incident involving German troops since World War II.

Germany is the third-largest NATO contributor to the war with some 4,300 troops in Afghanistan, most in northern Kunduz where Taliban attacks and strength have increased over the past year. Germany’s parliament has agreed to send a further 850 soldiers.

12-15

Is This the Culmination of Two Years of Destabilization?

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated “Color Revolution?”

By Paul Craig Roberts

A number of commentators have expressed their idealistic belief in the purity of Mousavi, Montazeri, and the westernized youth of Tehran. The CIA destabilization plan, announced two years ago (see below) has somehow not contaminated unfolding events.

The claim is made that Ahmadinejad stole the election, because the outcome was declared too soon after the polls closed for all the votes to have been counted. However, Mousavi declared his victory several hours before the polls closed. This is classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the preemptive declaration of victory and the release of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people don’t see through this trick.

As for the grand ayatollah Montazeri’s charge that the election was stolen, he was the initial choice to succeed Khomeini, but lost out to the current Supreme Leader. He sees in the protests an opportunity to settle the score with Khamenei. Montazeri has the incentive to challenge the election whether or not he is being manipulated by the CIA, which has a successful history of manipulating disgruntled politicians.

There is a power struggle among the ayatollahs. Many are aligned against Ahmadinejad because he accuses them of corruption, thus playing to the Iranian countryside where Iranians believe the ayatollahs’ lifestyles indicate an excess of power and money. In my opinion, Ahmadinejad’s attack on the ayatollahs is opportunistic. However, it does make it odd for his American detractors to say he is a conservative reactionary lined up with the ayatollahs.

Commentators are “explaining” the Iran elections based on their own illusions, delusions, emotions, and vested interests. Whether or not the poll results predicting Ahmadinejad’s win are sound, there is, so far, no evidence beyond surmise that the election was stolen. However, there are credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilize the Iranian government.

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”

On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: “Mr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.”

A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: “Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”

The protests in Tehran no doubt have many sincere participants. The protests also have the hallmarks of the CIA orchestrated protests in Georgia and Ukraine. It requires total blindness not to see this.

Daniel McAdams has made some telling points. For example, neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman wrote the day before the election that “there’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ in Tehran.” How would Timmerman know that unless it was an orchestrated plan? Why would there be a ‘green revolution’ prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim? This looks like definite evidence that the US is involved in the election protests.

Timmerman goes on to write that “the National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars promoting ‘color’ revolutions . . . Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds.” Timmerman’s own neocon Foundation for Democracy is “a private, non-profit organization established in 1995 with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to promote democracy and internationally-recognized standards of human rights in Iran.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com.

12-15

Economist Tallies Rising Cost of Israel on US Taxpayers

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor

Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today’s population, that is more than $5,700 per person.

This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.

For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.

And now Israel wants more. In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country’s recession-bound economy.

Considering Israel’s deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don’t pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.
Israel’s request could be part of a supplemental spending bill that’s likely to be passed early next year, perhaps wrapped in with the cost of a war with Iraq.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It is already due to get $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid in fiscal 2003. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years.

Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel.

“Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel,” argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine.

These foreign-aid costs are well known. Many Americans would probably say it is money well spent to support a beleagured democracy of some strategic interest. But Stauffer wonders if Americans are aware of the full bill for supporting Israel since some costs, if not hidden, are little known.

One huge cost is not secret. It is the higher cost of oil and other economic damage to the US after Israel-Arab wars.

In 1973, for instance, Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to win back territories Israel had conquered in the 1967 war. President Nixon resupplied Israel with US arms, triggering the Arab oil embargo against the US.

That shortfall in oil deliveries kicked off a deep recession. The US lost $420 billion (in 2001 dollars) of output as a result, Stauffer calculates. And a boost in oil prices cost another $450 billion.

Afraid that Arab nations might use their oil clout again, the US set up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That has since cost, conservatively, $134 billion, Stauffer reckons.

Other US help includes:

• US Jewish charities and organizations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is “a net drain” on the United States economy, says Stauffer.

• The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel, and $600 million in “housing loans.” (See editor’s note below.) Stauffer expects the US Treasury to cover these.

• The US has given $2.5 billion to support Israel’s Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects.

• Israel buys discounted, serviceable “excess” US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to “several billion dollars” over recent years.

• Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel.

US help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel’s manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers.

• US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer estimates. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.

• Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. That cost $40 billion over 10 years, says Stauffer.

Stauffer’s list will be controversial. He’s been assisted in this research by a number of mostly retired military or diplomatic officials who do not go public for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic if they criticize America’s policies toward Israel.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I15)

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Unique Books of Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer Introduced During Famous Poet Khalid Masood Khan Humorous Poetry Program

“You may need Tylenol by the end of this program not because of headache but because of abdominal aches due to laughter:” These were the words of Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer at Lasani Restaurant Banquet Hall this past Friday, as he introduced famous Hilarious Poet from Multan Pakistan Khalid Masood Khan, who has introduced a new style of poetry, where he mixes Urdu and Punjabi languages, to introduce in an entertaining manner various cultural aspects of Pakistan; explain many issues facing the society & world; and even gives resolutions to some of the problems. The whole hall was full in anticipation of an unforgettable evening and everyone left the hall most satisfied. He indeed had the audience move their places with hilarity. Someone in the past has said about his poetry:

“Koee Nahee Hae Khalid-e-Masood Ki Tarha – Uus Ki Ghazal Ka Zaiqa Umrood Kee Tarha Hae”

The occasion became more buoyant as famous community leader, social worker and medical practitioner Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer (M.D.) introducing two of his books: “Nadir-o-Nayaab Ashaar”, which is a 225 collection of verses of famous poets over the last two centuries (Mir Taqi Meer; Ghalib; and others) and second book is “Muntakhib Mazahaya Shairee”, which is a 230 pages collection of humorous verses. Both these books have been reviewed by Newspaper Jang, Pakistan and have been entered into the curriculum at the Allama Iqbal Open University.

The program was emceed in the traditional manner by three persons: Saeed Basheer Gaddi of Sangeet Radio; Abdullah Jafari (son of famous humor poet); and Inayat Ashraf. Famous poet of Houston Reverend Dr. Afzal Firdous and Former City Councilperson M. J. Khan paid glowing tributes to Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer for his efforts in gathering excellent couplets and poems from the past and gave special accolade to Guest Poet Khalid Masood for giving new style to poetry.

“I have got inspiration for poetry from Dr. Amanullah Khan of Dallas, whom I call the ‘Father of Punjabi Poetry’. I did have some germs for poetry, but he is the one, who has revived the writer from inside me,” said Dr. Asaf Riyaz-i-Qadeer (M.D.). Dr. Qadeer graciously gifted his books to the guests with his autograph.

Dr. Amanullah Khan M.D; PhD, who was present on the occasion and informed that he has made his first movie (in Punjabi language with English subtitles film – Theme is Pakistan & India relationship) and it will debut on April 10, 2010 at 8 pm at The Landmark Magnolia Theatre in Dallas West Village, with a second screening on April 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm at the same theater. Eventually it will go worldwide in May 2010.

Khalid Masood Khan is a famous Urdu columnist, critic, poet and comedy writer from Multan (Khanewal), Pakistan. His work has been published with the leading Urdu newspaper Daily Jang for almost a decade or so. Some of his couplets are:

“Lalloo Khaet Sae Aik Paraona Aaya Tha – Munjae Peerae Phur Gaya Pan Sae Thuk Thuk Kar”

“Uus Ka Rishta Na Hunae Ka Baes Uus Ka Abba Tha – Sub Haryan Thae Uus Nae Aesa Abba Kahaen Sae Labba Tha”…

Right to Vote for Oversees Pakistanis

The Government of Pakistan is considering granting the right of vote as well as representation in National and Provincial Assemblies to Overseas Pakistanis. In this regard all those Pakistani who wish to participate in the electoral process, may kindly fill the form available at following link (http://www.pakistanconsulatehouston.org/oversees-pakistanis.asp) and email or mail it back to the Consulate of Houston. The response would enable the Government in assessing the extent of interest among the Pakistani Diaspora in the electoral process and taking a final decision in this regard. The immediate response would be highly appreciated.

Under the dual nationality agreement between the United States and Pakistan in 2002, Pakistani-Americans can retain both US and Pakistani passports and are eligible to vote in both countries. You are requested to kindly circulate this message widely to your Pakistani acquaintances. The mailing address of the Consulate is as under:

Consulate General of Pakistan, 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX 77070.

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Trains Explained, for kids

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track (permanent way) to transport freight or passengers from one place to another. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway.

Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate locomotive, or from individual motors in self-propelled multiple units. Most modern trains are powered by diesel locomotives or by electricity supplied by overhead wires or additional rails, although historically (from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century) the steam locomotive was the dominant form of locomotive power. Other sources of power (such as horses, rope or wire, gravity, pneumatics, and gas turbines) are possible.

The word ‘train’ comes from the Old French trahiner, itself from the Latin trahere ‘pull, draw’.

There are various types of train designed for particular purposes. A train can consist of a combination of one or more locomotives and attached railroad cars, or a self-propelled multiple unit (or occasionally a single powered coach, called a railcar). Trains can also be hauled by horses, pulled by a cable, or run downhill by gravity.

Special kinds of trains running on corresponding special ‘railways’ are atmospheric railways, monorails, high-speed railways, maglev, rubber-tired underground, funicular and cog railways.

A passenger train may consist of one or several locomotives, and one or more coaches. Alternatively, a train may consist entirely of passenger carrying coaches, some or all of which are powered as a “multiple unit”. In many parts of the world, particularly Japan and Europe, high-speed rail is utilized extensively for passenger travel.

Freight trains comprise wagons or trucks rather than carriages, though some parcel and mail trains (especially Travelling Post Offices) are outwardly more like passenger trains.

Trains can also be ‘mixed’, comprising both passenger accommodation and freight vehicles. Such mixed trains are most likely to occur where services are infrequent, and running separate passenger and freight trains is not cost-effective, though the differing needs of passengers and freight usually means this is avoided where possible.

Special trains are also used for track maintenance; in some places, this is called maintenance of way.

In the United Kingdom, a train hauled by two locomotives is said to be “double-headed”, and in Canada and the United States it is quite common for a long freight train to be headed by three or more locomotives. A train with a locomotive attached at each end is described as ‘top and tailed’, this practice typically being used when there are no reversing facilities available. Where a second locomotive is attached temporarily to assist a train up steep banks or grades (or down them by providing braking power) it is referred to as ‘banking’ in the UK, or ‘helper service’ in North America. Recently, many loaded trains in the US have been made up with one or more locomotives in the middle or at the rear of the train, operated remotely from the lead cab. This is referred to as “DP” or “Distributed Power

The railway terminology that is used to describe a ‘train’ varies between countries.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the interchangeable terms set and unit are used to refer to a group of permanently or semi-permanently coupled vehicles, such as those of a multiple unit. While when referring to a train made up of a variety of vehicles, or of several sets/units, the term formation is used. (Although the UK public and media often forgo ‘formation’, for simply ‘train’.) The word rake is also used for a group of coaches or wagons.

In the United Kingdom Section 83(1) of the Railways Act 1993 defines “train” as follows:

    a) two or more items of rolling stock coupled together, at least one of which is a locomotive; or
    b) a locomotive not coupled to any other rolling stock.

United States

In the United States, the term consist is used to describe the group of rail vehicles which make up a train. When referring to motive power, consist refers to the group of locomotives powering the train. Similarly, the term trainset refers to a group of rolling stock that is permanently or semi-permanently coupled together to form a unified set of equipment (the term is most often applied to passenger train configurations).

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s 1948 operating rules define a train as: “An engine or more than one engine coupled, with or without cars, displaying markers.”

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