Profile: Nina Rehman Khan, HDF President

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

ninarehman2photoFarmington–June 15–The new president of HDF spoke with TMO Tuesday about her background, her experience with HDF, and her plans for the future.

Dr. Rehman is a physician specializing in internal medicine, with a private practice, operating at St. John and Troy Beaumont Hospital.

Human Development Foundation (HDF) is a not-for-profit formed almost 15 years ago in Illinois; it focuses almost all of its development work in Pakistan.  Its annual operating budget is over $1 million, according to its verified 2009 tax return, and its coffers also hold more than $1 million.

She explains that she has been involved “on and off, as a medical student even,” with HDF for many years, and that she has been involved on a regular basis with HDF since 2003, “at many levels, secretary, board of directors, to other things.”

“I prefer HDF because it involves more women’s health and education–women are my top priority… HDF emphasized more women and their health issues, immunizations for kids–all that attracted me more.”

She speaks with admiration of the accomplishments of HDF to date, of running “over 200 schools,” of microloans (“mainly to women but also to some men”).   HDF provides help to get people “off the ground so they can be independent… raise their own family and be educated, and get skills.”  HDF provides “help with pregnancies and immunizations, free clinics in different villages, support clinics for women’s health–childbirth and preventive health.”

She explains of HDF’s focus on Pakistan and relative silence in the US that “that’s our vision.” However she explains that she has considered doing some projects to help children and women in Detroit, and that HDF did do some work to relieve the suffering after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“I was planning on doing more during Christmas, to help the homeless and kids [in Detroit].”

HDF is an apparently very successful not-for-profit, which claims to maintain over 200 schools in Pakistan; also clinics and even entire villages.  HDF provided homes for people displaced by the floods in Pakistan, in association with APPNA. 

In her professional life Dr. Rehman emphasizes women’s preventive health, and anti-aging.  She recently completed a fellowship in anti-aging.

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Haroon Siddiqui Speaks at Indian American Muslim Council Event at Tawhid Center in Farmington

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

P5210005One of the most prominent journalists in Canada spoke at the Tawheed Center Saturday evening.  Haroon Siddiqui, originally from Hyderabad, India, started working as a reporter before leaving India, then came to Canada and progressed through a meteoric rise at the Toronto Star, Canada’s best newspaper.  He progressed from reporter to national editor in only twelve years (1978 – 1990).  Finally he served for eight years as “Editor Emeritus,” the editorial page editor of the Star.

Siddiqui is the recipient of numerous awards from organizations and from national and provincial bodies.  For example, in 2000 and 2001 he became a member of the Order of Ontario, for crafting “a broader definition of the Canadian identity,” inclusive of our First Nations, French Canadians and newer Canadians he is active in several organizations, including service as a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism.  He is also the author of Being Muslim, a book which he signed for visitors on Saturday evening at the Tawheed Center.

Saturday, Asim Khan of the Tawheed Center explained in detail the recent achievements of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) which sponsored the evening with Haroon Siddiqui.  the IAMC is an Indian advocacy  and service organization based in Washington DC.  Recent changes included changing the name to reflect the IAMC’s center of gravity in the USA.  Achievements include serious work to counter discrimination in India (and to some extent in America) against Muslims.  Mr. Khan explained the most important achievement was the work of the Human Rights Law Network, an association of 300 lawyers in India who work to protect Muslims from abuses and injustices by authorities in India. The lawyers handled 50 cases this year.

The keynote speaker, Mr. Siddiqui, spoke on wide ranging issues concerning the philosophical foundation for Muslims to live in the United States and Canada. He spoke about the three levels of conflict that arose out of the 9/11 attacks (a generalized war on terror, actual war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by a few, a cultural warfare aimed against Islam and Muslims–blaming every Muslim for every evil done by any Muslim).  He quoted Anne Frank, who in her diary explained that when a Jew does something wrong, every Jew is blamed, but when a Christian does something wrong then only that Christian is blamed–Siddiqui showed the parallel current situation for Muslims. Siddiqui emphasized that “there is no dichotomy between being Muslim and being American, no clash, no law contrary to Islamic principles, except one–four wives.”  He emphasized that in the West there is in fact sometimes more freedom to practice Islam than in supposedly Muslim countries.

He also advised against pitfalls that he said confronted Muslim immigrants to the West, including individual success built at the cost of community success.

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Parenting in America

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

There is a lot of uncertainty within the Muslim community about how to raise righteous children, given all the choices available within American society. How do we raise children who are honest, responsible, well mannered, never use bad language, are faithful friends, get good grades, and are not only polite but helpful with authority? Is it possible to raise children without any emotional problems and without any interest in drugs or alcohol or sex?

Sometimes immigrant parents try to be too strict, and then when that doesn’t work out, they simply give up and let their children be free like an adults. But did they even try to give clear guidance?

Children learn mostly through observation. The most important time to give a child a sense of moral responsibility is before the age of 5. After that, it’s all talk.

The “attachment parenting” philosophy of parenting gives babies their full Islamic rights. Two years or more of breastfeeding, and sleeping with the mother until weaning time. It is a huge personal sacrifice for the adults involved, but this will give children the foundation of confidence. No matter what else we did wrong, we can know that our children had plenty of skin contact with their mother at the most important time in their lives. They never have to doubt whether or not they are loved.

Skin contact with the mother at an early age will help prevent promiscuity in preteens and teens. I believe that most young (and older) people who irresponsibly search for a “friend” to give them comfort were denied a sense of comfort within their home life. If their parents’ love was conditional, they will search for unconditional love anywhere they hope they can find it. But if they don’t have a healthy example, they will likely never find true love.

Feelings do matter. If we cross the boundary of respect with our children (yelling at them), it is vital to always apologize and make friends again. It is emotional abuse to let children go to sleep feeling hurt and angry. Never expect them to just cheer up and accept abuse. Never call names.

Some children have strong fears of death due to emotional isolation and deep thinking. It is scary to imagine not existing anymore. Studying religion can just make them even more afraid of death and hell. Yet, it is so easy to help a child overcome this fear. If a child is having panic attacks, give him a hug!!! There is only one cure for fear. LOVE.

Truth matters. Never lie to your children. Don’t promise them things you don’t deliver, and that includes threats. Don’t make empty threats. When you promise something good, do it. If you cannot do it, apologize and explain. Be consistent. Don’t create surprises.

If we don’t give our children clear rules, it will be hard for them to take us seriously. We cannot leave our children alone to deal with this total emotional crisis of living in this world! If the child is seriously confused and then breaks the rule, he won’t understand the punishment. After that, we still have to protect the child in every way! We have to talk to our children about how to behave appropriately, and why.

If you want your children to be different from most children, never allow any TV station in your home. They will be exposed to TV programs at other people’s homes and this will help them keep in touch with what other people are thinking, but if they are not exposed to the continuous advertising and moral corruption of the TV at home, they will possess freedom of thought. They won’t have this need to be “sexy” or buy certain things, that young people usually learn they need to attain in order to be acceptable to society.

Above all, be home. Make huge personal sacrifices in order to be at home despite all odds. Being home makes a huge difference in children’s lives. If you are simply there, but teach them that you are not always available to serve them, they will have to learn how to cook and clean in reasonable amounts in order to help you get your work done. Any work they do adds to the strength of their family and home. This gives them a sense of accomplishment. The family must operate as a team effort!

This is so much more important than making huge demands on children that are often not moral or practical demands. Many parents waste huge amounts of money and energy forcing their children to learn how to ice skate (for example) instead of giving them the choice about whether or not they even want to ice skate.

Structured activities are not always necessary. Children really need time to do whatever they want to do. One must to steer them away from computer games and cartoons, of course; but once we deny them those options, they start being creative. They start making things with Lego’s or planting seeds in the garden or reading books. Sometimes they choose to do chores for small amounts of money.

Children suffer a lot when their parents are always driving them from this place to that place for all these structured activities. They need time to be left alone to do what they want in the home. Many children become exhausted from all these activities that are based on giving parents more free time without them.

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Chicago Muslim Journalist Attends White House Correspondents Dinner

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Haia Radwan, CIOGC

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As a Deborah Orin Scholarship winner, I was recently invited to the Annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This experience was possible because of the grace of Allah and my work as a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

It was truly a humbling experience, Alhamdulillah. I was able to enter a VIP room before the event where I met Sean Penn, Jon Hamm and Seth Meyers – Hamm even complimented me on my hijab. I was able to take pictures with President Obama and the First Lady. I talked to the President about the horrendous traffic in Chicago every time he visited, and it made him laugh.

After dinner, the program began with the award ceremony. As my name was called, I walked confidently across that stage. I did not feel nervous; rather I was proud to wear hijab on national television and represent Muslim women. It was great to show the world that Muslim women are smart and educated, and not oppressed. Islam has always given women the rights to vote, be educated, work, and be an integral part of society. It is so beautiful how the Quran has a whole chapter called Surat An-Nisaa (Chapter of Women) dedicated to women

Meeting the President and receiving an award in journalism was wonderful, but the highlight of my night was to show what Muslim women can do. Being the only one wearing a hijab made me very recognizable and that was a good thing. Many people including journalists, congressmen and women and even some celebrities congratulated me. I believe my hijab is empowering, and a blessing.

When employers look at my work, they can judge me based on my talents and not the way I look. The important thing is to be proud of the hijab, and proud that the United States gives us the freedom to be who we are. Now it is our jobs to give back as active citizens. We need to vote and be involved in the community on every level.

I left the event with many business cards and contacts. However, what was even better was leaving knowing that I represented Islam for what it really is. Alhamdulilah, I never once felt uncomfortable about who I was as a Muslim. I hope that Allah gives me the strength to excel as a journalist and I hope I can inspire other young Muslim girls to be proud of their identity and to know that anything is possible.

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20th Century Muslim Scientists — Sameera Moussa

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Aslam

220px-SameeraMoussaSameera Moussa was born on March 3, 1917 in Egypt. She was an outstanding Egyptian scientist. In 1939 she graduated from Cairo University with Bachelor of Science degree   in radiology .  She was appointed first as a demonstrator but because of her ability she became  Assistant Professor at the university, she was first woman to hold an  university post in those days. Sameera Moussa completed  her PhD  degree in England on atomic radiation. Being the first women to obtain a Ph.D. degree in atomic radiation, she earnestly sought to make nuclear treatment available for every one. During her  visit to America on Fulbright scholarship  she was invited to visit a place of interest in  August of 1952. On her way to  the place she was going she had car accident.  The car fell down  40 feet down hill which killed her immediately. The  accident was a mystery because the body of the driver could not be found at the place of  accident.  It is believed that   driver  jumped from the car just before it went down. The mysterious death of Sameera  led  people to believe that it was a planned assassination, most probably  the Israeli Mossad.

Here in England while she was pursuing  her studies she devoted her time and efforts to learn more about  the  peaceful use of  radioactive atom in combating cancer, especially when her mother went through a fierce battle against cancer. Throughout her intensive research, she came up with a historic equation that would help break the atoms of common  metals such as copper.

With an overwhelming drive to impart her knowledge to those who crave for it, she sponsored  an international conference under the banner “Atom for Peace” where many scientific figures were invited. The conference made a number of recommendations for setting up a committee for the protection against the nuclear bomb hazards in which she was an active member.

Sameera Moussa received  the Fulbright scholarship in  Atomic Radiation Program and came to  University of California at Barkley where she did some significant work in her field  . In recognition of her outstanding work and deep knowledge  she was allowed to visit the US secret atomic facilities. The visit raised vehement debate in US academic and scientific circles as Sameera was the first non US citizen  to have access to such facilities.

She  was offered the opportunity to receive Green Card so she could stay here in USA but she  turned down the offer and preferred to return home to pursue her dream of harnessing atomic power for peace and the welfare of all humanity. But her life was cut short by the planed accident otherwise  she could done a lot of work in her field of research. The Egyptian government have dedicated her name to the Atomic Department of the National Research. Her library has been donated to the university which have her own writings on Madame Curie, human struggle and other themes. 

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Post-Mothers’ Day Musings

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Spring comes with it the exorcism of demons. Singing out loud. Dancing in the kitchen. Cleaning out the house from dirt. Digging ourselves out from under the mess. Yes, it is important. If we don’t do it, nobody else will. Going for long walks. I love the community that has a spring festival. Let’s all put flowers in our hair and wave at our neighbors. Let the Dandelions Live! At least until my toddler gets to them. The young leaves are tasty, nutritious, and help with ailments such as arthritis. If you go to Europe they will serve you dandelion salad at the restaurant. Anyway, we all know that spring is a time to enjoy the sun, the rain, and the wind with those you love.

All I ever wanted for Mothers Day was for my children to clean their rooms and by God they did it. They even mopped the kitchen too. My daughter gave me a lipstick for a gift. I totally needed this, since my younger ones had destroyed any cosmetic item I had before their birth. Hallelujah! There is nothing better than children. I always wanted a houseful of them. They are baking brownies right now. Can I hear another Hallelujah? Well, let’s hope they clean up after themselves.

Given the amount of work that the younger generation requires, it seems to be a miracle that the human race survives. It is amazing, how women take this burden upon themselves, with or without the help of a husband. I mean, it’s wonderful if a man can come home from work and read his children a story, but we are talking about a half hour of teeth brushing, prayers, and water refills. What about the other 23 ½ hours? Either these children have a mother at home, or she paid for child care.

Caring for children is a full time job. A 24 hour a day job. Those of us who work day jobs realize that after we come home, at least 50% of that remaining time belongs to our children. There isn’t anyone else around to pick up our slack. We cannot call in sick just because we have the flu. If our child has a bad dream, throws up, or feels cold in the night, we wake up and we deal with it. Even after the child has long gone back to sleep, sometimes we lay awake, wondering about all the problems and uncertainties of life. Even the worrying is part of being a parent.

Mothers Day is a beautiful day, but we must also give strength to all who give strength to the Mother. Do these people even exist? What will it take for us to will them into existence? Ultimately, we are all talking about loyalty to Our Mother, the Earth. Can we make things right by her? Can we help each other not to harm others? Can we stop trying to define and control other people?

There are so many beautiful women raising families in our community. Some of them have emotional support; some don’t. Some of us are enjoying life, yet some of us are merely surviving. Within our circle of influence, is there more that we can do to help children feel welcome in the community? It is impossible to separate women from children. You cannot insult the mother, yet praise the child, without putting the child in an ethical dilemma. If there are shortcomings in the mother, usually she needs help. We have to find ways of strengthening women’s participation in the community while allowing her children to tag along. So many political causes require adult participation without children.

Except in rare cases, women are the primary caretakers of children, and in fact, of the entire family. How can we make this job easier for them? Because our communities need these giving people to contribute their creativity, not just their daily survival abilities. Can we create a world where these people with so much life experience can still contribute to the community? Can we create a forum where these people’s opinions are welcome and their advice is heeded?

Some of the women in our communities are so intelligent, so empathetic, so clearly able to see the future. We need to listen to them. We need to find a way to make them feel like their contribution is valuable. We need to care about how they feel. We need to take their advice.

The most important thing you can do to validate a woman is to respect her opinion. When you do that, she becomes energized. Once a woman becomes energized, there is no stopping her. She will lead the way. This spring, let us validate the women in our lives and give them the energy to continue the struggle.

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Al-Awda Convention

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

As people of conscience throughout the world look for solutions to the unjust treatment Palestinians, one organization centers on a key issue: The Right to Return. 

Al-AWDA, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, held its ninth Annual International Convention this past weekend in Anaheim, Ca.  The theme of the Convention was: Onward, United and Stronger.   

The event began on Friday evening with a display of cultural resistance through various art forms. The attendees snacked on Arab appetizers and listened to poetry, viewed art works and heard two film makers speak about their work.

Workshops filled most of the next day. Covered were such topics as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions; Return from Exile Project, and Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign.   

Dr. Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement (FPM) conducted the workshop on the Return from Exile Project. Dr. Larudee declared that the Nike slogan “Just Do It” should be the slogan for Palestinians. Too long have Palestinians waited for some organization – the United Nations – for example, to smooth their Right to Return. It is time, he said, to “just do it”.

He gave as a comparison the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. The freedom fighters there did not ask permission of an outside body nor did they act with a preconceived notion of being rescued should their attempts fail. They not only took to the streets, they did so in such large numbers that they became unstoppable.

Dr. Larudee suggested that on a pre selected day a group of Palestinians who satisfy the requirements for the Right to Return, fly from various nations into Ben Gurion Airport. They must have a family home inside the Green Line; be citizens of and have a passport from a nation from which Israel does not require a visa; should be willing to go to jail for two weeks; must be willing to resist non violently being thrown out of Israel, and be content with the knowledge that they will be denied future entry.

The movement, Dr. Larudee emphasized, is direct action and non violent. The Free Palestine Movement is an outgrowth of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), an organization which still exists and was the first group to break the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza, Palestine with two boats in the late summer of 2008. Dr. Larudee described the feeling of euphoria as the two boats approached Gazan shores to the cheers of the residents, crowed into the area where the boats would dock. He spoke proudly of the certificate of Palestinian citizenship he received on that voyage.

The web site of Dr. Larudee’s movement is: www.freepalestinemovement.org.

During the presentation of the Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign, two young women, students from San Diego schools, spoke of the plight of children under Israeli occupation.
“Every year 700 children are imprisoned by Israel in the West Bank.”

The speakers went on to describe middle of the night raids where children are torn from their families; interrogations with no guardian or attorney present; imprisonment for three months with no opportunity to contact the outside world, and forced confessions, written in Hebrew which the children do not understand.

“I never realized it was this terrible” said one woman in the audience. “How can this go on?”

The women went on the explain that since rebuilding materials are forbidden by the Israelis to enter Gaza, young boys often collect gravel and metal scraps. To do this they must bend over and dig. It is common for Israeli forces to open fire when the children are in this vulnerable position, the aim being to hit their legs.

The Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign is a few months old and is an AL-AWDA project. Information may be obtained and contributions made at: www.al-awda.org.

Invited guests included: Laila Al-Arian, Michel Shehadeh, Ali Abunimah, and Dr. Salman H. Abu Sitta.

KinderUSA, International Action Center, and the International Solidarity Movement were among those organizations that held displays.

A banquet was held in the evening to honor the valuable work of Dr. And Mrs. Musa Nasir. The Nasirs are not only active and productive members of AL-AWDA, they also founded the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). The PCRF provides treatment free of charge to Arab children in the Middle East with emphasis on Palestine. Often the work is on site, but, if that is not feasible, the children are transported to nations where they can be treated to a restoration of health. The PCRF also trains medical personnel in the oPt and donates medical equipment to Palestinian hospitals. They have recently announced their entry into the field of pediatric oncology.

AL-AWDA is a broad based, non profit, democratic and grass roots organization which seeks to create awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. It is composed of activists and students and seeks particularly to create such awareness among members of the media and elected officials.

AL-AWDA demands the Right to Return for the Palestinian people: the restoration of Palestinian rights including return to homes and compensation for confiscated and damaged property.

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Tawhid Center Events

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

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Farmington–April 9–The Tawhid Center has undergone a major transformation over the past few years, yet TMO has not looked at the center since completion of its construction work.

The prayer hall, the subject of years of fundraising and construction, now can hold about 500 people on the lower level, plus another 150 on the mezzanine level.  The women’s area can hold 500 people–in total the mosque can hold about 1,200 people.  The dining area can accommodate 400 people and is available to the community for events at only $800 (for rental and cleaning fee combined)–this provides the luxury of being able to pray in immediate proximity of your event. 

Says Asim Khan of the Tawhid Center, “This has been a big hit actually, it is a central location… We provide the tables and chairs, and [clients] provide the cutlery and food.”

The schools at Tawhid continue, with about 24 hifz students ($400 per child per month), about 30 students in the evening maktab school ($100 per month), about 70 students in the Sunday school ($50 per month).  The summer school is planned to open in July, and will cost about $300 for the entire summer of 6-8 weeks, 10AM to 4PM, Monday thru Thursday.

May 21 Tawhid has invited best-selling author Haroon Siddiqui.  On June 11 they plan to hold an open house and provide free health care services.

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Sec. of State Hillary Clinton Appreciates Muslims’ Contribution to America at US-Islamic World Forum Washington DC, April 12, 2011

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Remarks of Hillary Clinton

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“Thank you, Strobe. It is a pleasure to join this first U.S.-Islamic World Forum held in America. His Highness the Amir and the people of Qatar have generously hosted the Forum for years. I was honored to be a guest in Doha last year. And now I am delighted to welcome you to Washington. I want to thank Martin Indyk, Ken Pollack and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution for keeping this event going and growing. And I want to acknowledge all my colleagues in the diplomatic corps here tonight, including the Foreign Ministers of Qatar and Jordan and the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Over the years, the U.S.-Islamic World Forum has offered a chance to celebrate the diverse achievements of Muslims around the world. From Qatar — which is pioneering innovative energy solutions and preparing to host the World Cup — to countries as varied as Turkey, Senegal, Indonesia and Malaysia, each offering its own model for prosperity and progress.

This Forum also offers a chance to discuss the equally diverse set of challenges we face together around the world – the need to confront violent extremism, the urgency of achieving a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, the importance of embracing tolerance and universal human rights in all our communities.

I am proud that this year we are recognizing the contributions of the millions of American Muslims who do so much to make this country strong. As President Obama said in Cairo, “Islam has always been a part of America’s story,” and every day Americans Muslims are helping write our story.

We are meeting at a historic time for one region in particular: the Middle East and North Africa. Today, the long Arab winter has begun to thaw. For the first time in decades, there is a real opportunity for change. A real opportunity for people to have their voices heard and their priorities addressed.

This raises significant questions for us all:

Will the people and leaders of the Middle East and North Africa pursue a new, more inclusive approach to solving the region’s persistent political, economic and social challenges? Will they consolidate the progress of recent weeks and address long-denied aspirations for dignity and opportunity? Or, when we meet at this Forum in five years, will we have seen the prospects for reform fade and remember this moment as just a mirage in the desert?

These questions can only be answered by the people and leaders of the Middle East and North Africa themselves. The United States certainly does not have all the answers. In fact, here in Washington we’re struggling to thrash out answers to our own difficult political and economic questions. But America is committed to working as partners to help unlock the region’s potential and realize its hopes for change.

Much has been accomplished already. Uprisings across the region have exposed myths that for too long were used to justify a stagnant status quo: That governments can hold on to power without responding to their people’s aspirations or respecting their rights. That the only way to produce change in the region is through violence and conflict. And, most pernicious of all, that Arabs do not share universal human aspirations for freedom, dignity and opportunity.

Today’s new generation of young people rejects these false narratives.

They will not accept the status quo. Despite the best efforts of the censors, they are connecting to the wider world in ways their parents and grandparents could never imagine. They see alternatives. On satellite news, on Twitter and Facebook, and now in places like Cairo and Tunis. They know a better life is within reach – and they are willing to reach for it.

But these young people have inherited a region that in many ways is unprepared to meet their growing expectations. Its challenges have been well documented in a series of landmark Arab Human Development Reports.

Independently authored and published by the United Nations Development Program, they represent the cumulative knowledge of leading Arab scholars and intellectuals. Answering these challenges will help determine if this historic moment lives up to its promise. That is why this January in Doha, just weeks after a desperate Tunisian street vendor set fire to himself in public protest, I talked with the leaders of the region about the need to move faster to meet their people’s needs and aspirations.

In the 21st century, the material conditions of people’s lives have greater impact on national stability and security than ever before. The balance of power is no longer measured by counting tanks and missiles alone. Now strategists must factor in the growing influence of citizens themselves — connected, organized and frustrated.

There was a time when those of us who championed civil society, worked with marginalized minorities and women, and focused on young people and technology, were told our concerns were noble but not urgent. That is another false narrative that has been washed away. These issues – among others – are also at the heart of smart power – and they must be at the center of any discussion attempting to answer the region’s most pressing questions.

First, can the leaders and citizens of the region reform economies that are overly dependent on oil exports and stunted by corruption? Overall, Arab countries were less industrialized in 2007 than in 1970.

Unemployment often runs more than double the world-wide average, and even worse for women and young people. While a growing number of Arabs live in poverty, crowded into slums without sanitation, safe water, or reliable electricity, a small elite has increasingly concentrated control of the region’s land and wealth. The 2009 Arab Development Report found that these trends – and I quote — “result in the ominous dynamics of marginalization.”

Reversing this dynamic means grappling with a second question: How to match economic reform with political and social change? According to the 2009 Global Integrity Report, Arab countries, almost without exception, have some of the weakest anti-corruption systems in the world. Citizens have spent decades under martial law or emergency rule.

Political parties and civil society groups are subject to repression and restriction. Judicial systems are far from free or independent.

Elections, when they are held, are often rigged.

This leads to a third and often-overlooked question: Will the door to full citizenship and participation finally open to women and minorities? The first Arab Human Development Report in 2002 found that Arab women’s political and economic participation was the lowest in the world. Successive reports have shown little progress. The 2005 report called women’s empowerment – and I quote – a “prerequisite for an Arab renaissance, inseparably and causally linked to the fate of the Arab world.”

This is not a matter of the role of religion in women’s lives. Muslim women have long enjoyed greater rights and opportunities in places like Bangladesh and Indonesia. Or consider the family law in Morocco or the personal status code in Tunisia. Communities from Egypt to Jordan to Senegal are beginning to take on entrenched practices like child marriage, honor crimes and female cutting. All over the world we see living proof that Islam and women’s rights are compatible.

Unfortunately, some are actually working to undermine this progress and export a virulently anti-woman ideology to other Muslim communities.

All of these challenges — from deep unemployment to widespread corruption to the lack of respect and opportunities for women – have fueled frustration among the region’s young people. And changing leaders won’t be enough to satisfy them. Not if cronyism and closed economies continue to choke off opportunity and participation. Or if citizens can’t rely on police and the courts to protect their rights.

The region’s powerbrokers, inside and outside government, need to step up and work with the people to craft a positive vision for the future.

Generals and imams, business leaders and bureaucrats, everyone who has benefited from and reinforced the status quo has a role to play. They also have a lot to lose if the vision vacuum is filled by extremists and rejectionists.

So a fourth crucial question is how Egypt and Tunisia should consolidate the progress that has been achieved in recent months.

Former protesters are asking: How can we stay organized and involved?

It will take forming political parties and advocacy coalitions. It will take focusing on working together to solve the big challenges. In Cairo last month, I met with young activists who were passionate about their principles but still sorting out how to be practical about their politics. One veteran Egyptian journalist and dissident, Hisham Kassim, expressed concerns this week that a reluctance to move from protests to politics would, in his words, “endanger the revolution’s gains.” He urged his young comrades to translate their passion into a positive agenda and political participation.

And as the people of Egypt and Tunisia embrace the full responsibilities of citizenship, we will look to transitional authorities to guarantee fundamental rights such as free assembly and expression, to provide basic security on the streets, and to be transparent and inclusive.

Unfortunately, this year we have seen violent attacks in Egypt and elsewhere that have killed dozens of religious and ethnic minorities, part of a troubling world-wide trend documented in the State Department’s annual human rights report released on Friday. Communities around the world, including my own, have struggled to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and tolerance of unpopular views.

But each of us has a responsibility to defend the universal human rights of people of all faiths and creeds. And I want to applaud the Organization of the Islamic Conference for its leadership in securing the recent resolution by the UN Human Rights Council that takes a strong stand against discrimination and violence based upon religion or belief, but does not limit freedom of expression or worship.
In both Egypt and Tunisia, we have also seen troubling signs regarding the rights and opportunities of women. So far women have been excluded  from key transitional decision-making processes. When women marched through Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women’s Day in their new democracy, they were met by harassment and abuse. You can’t claim to have a democracy if half the population is silenced.

We know from long experience that building a successful democracy is a never-ending task. More than 200 years after our own revolution, America is still working on it. Real change takes time, it takes hard work and patience – but it is possible. As one Egyptian women’s rights activist said recently, “We will have to fight for our rights… It will be tough, and require lobbying, but that’s what democracy is all about.”

We also know that democracy cannot be transplanted wholesale from one society to another. People have the right and responsibility to devise their own government. But there are universal rights that apply to everyone and universal values that undergird vibrant democracies everywhere.

And one lesson learned by transitions to democracy around the world is that it can be tempting to refight old battles rather than focus on ensuring justice and accountability in the future. I will always remember watching Nelson Mandela welcome three of his former jailors to his inauguration. He never looked back in anger, always forward in hope.

The United States is committed to standing with the people of Egypt and Tunisia as they work to build sustainable democracies that deliver real results for all their citizens, and to supporting the aspirations of people across the region. On this our values and interests converge.

History has shown that democracies tend to be more stable, more peaceful, and ultimately, more prosperous. The trick is how we get there.

So this is a fifth question: How can America be an effective partner to the people of the region? How can we work together to build not just short-term stability, but long-term sustainability?

With this goal in mind, the Obama administration began to reorient U.S. foreign policy in the region and around the world from our first days in office. We put partnerships with people, not just governments, at the center of our efforts.

We start from the understanding that America’s core interests and values have not changed, including our commitment to promote human rights, resolve long-standing conflicts, counter Iran ’s threats and defeat al Qaida and its extremist allies. We believe those concerns are shared by the people of the region. And we will continue working closely with our trusted partners – including many in this room tonight — to advance these mutual interests.

We know that a one-sized fits all approach doesn’t make sense in such a diverse region at such a fluid time.

As I have said before, the United States has a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future. We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. Violence is not and cannot be the answer. A political process is. We have raised our concerns about the current measures directly with Bahraini officials and will continue to do so.

The United States also strongly supports the Yemeni people in their quest for greater opportunity and their pursuit of political and economic reform that will fulfill their aspirations. President Saleh needs to resolve the political impasse with the opposition so that meaningful political change can take place in the near term in an orderly and peaceful manner.

And as President Obama has said, we strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government over the past few weeks. President Assad and the Syrian government must respect the universal rights of the Syrian people, who are rightly demanding the basic freedoms that they have been denied.

So going forward, the United States will be guided by careful consideration of all the circumstances on the ground and by our consistent values and interests.

Wherever we can, we will accelerate our work to develop stronger bonds with the people themselves – with civil society, business leaders, religious communities, women and minorities. We are rethinking the way we do business on the ground, with citizens themselves helping set the priorities. For example, as we invest in Egypt ’s new democracy and promote sustainable development, we are soliciting grant proposals from a much wider range of local organizations. We want to find new partners and invest in new ideas. And we are exploring ways to use connection technologies to expand our dialogue and open new lines of communication.

As we map out a strategy for supporting the transitions already under way, we know that the people of the region have not put their lives on the line just to vote in an election. They expect democracy to deliver jobs, sweep out corruption, and extend opportunities that will help them prosper and take full advantage of the global economy. So the United States will work with people and leaders across the region to create more open, dynamic, and diverse economies where all citizens can share in the prosperity.

In the short term, the United States will provide immediate economic assistance to help transitional democracies overcome their early challenges — including $150 million for Egypt alone.

In the medium term, as Egypt and Tunisia continue building their democracies, we will work with our partners to support an ambitious blueprint for sustainable growth, job creation, investment and trade.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation will provide up to $2 billion to encourage private sector investments across the Middle East and North Africa —especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. We are working with Congress to establish Enterprise funds for Egypt and Tunisia that will support competitive markets and provide small and medium-sized businesses with access to critical low-cost capital. Our Global Entrepreneurship Program is seeking out new partners and opportunities. And we are exploring other ideas, such as improving and expanding the Qualified Investment Zones, which allow Egyptian companies to send exports to the United States duty-free.

To spur private sector investment, we are working with Partners for a New Beginning, an organization led by former Secretary Madeleine Albright, Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola and Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute. It was formed after the President’s Cairo speech and includes the CEOs of companies like Intel, Cisco, and Morgan Stanley.

These leaders will convene a summit at the end of May to connect American investors with new partners in the region’s transitional democracies, with an eye toward creating jobs and boosting trade.
Under the auspices of Partners for a New Beginning, the U.S.-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity is already building a network of public and private partners and programs that deepen economic integration among the countries in North Africa. This past December in Algiers, the Partnership convened more than 400 young entrepreneurs, business leaders, venture capitalists and Diaspora leaders from the United States and North Africa. These people-to-people contacts have helped lay the groundwork for cross-border initiatives to create jobs, train youth, and support start-ups.

For the long term, we are discussing ways to encourage closer economic integration across the region, with the United States and Europe, and around the world. The Middle East and North Africa are home to rich nations with excess capital and poorer countries hungry for investments. Forging deeper trade and economic relationships between neighbors could create new industries and new jobs. And across the Mediterranean, Europe also represents enormous potential for new economic partnerships and greater shared prosperity. Reducing trade barriers in North Africa alone could boost GDP levels by as much as 7 or 8 percent in countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, and could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in new wealth across the region every year.

The people of the Middle East and North Africa have the talent and drive to build vibrant economies and sustainable democracies – just as citizens have done in other regions long held back by closed political and economic systems, from Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe to Latin America.

It won’t be easy. Iran provides a powerful cautionary tale for the transitions under way across the region. The democratic aspirations of 1979 were subverted by a new and brutal dictatorship. Iran’s leaders have consistently pursued policies of violence abroad and tyranny at home. In Tehran, security forces have beaten, detained, and in several recent cases killed peaceful protesters, even as Iran’s president has made a show of denouncing the violence against civilians in Libya and other places. And he is not alone in his hypocrisy. Al Qaida’s propagandists have tried to yoke the region’s peaceful popular movements to their murderous ideology. Their claims to speak for the dispossessed and downtrodden have never rung so hollow. Their arguments for violent change have never been so fully discredited.

Last month we witnessed a development that stood out, even in this extraordinary season.

Colonel Qadhafi’s troops had turned their guns on civilians. His military jets and helicopter gunships had been unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.

Benghazi’s hundreds of thousands of citizens were in the crosshairs.

In the past, when confronted with such a crisis, all too often the leaders of the Middle East and North Africa have averted their eyes or closed ranks. But not this time. Not in this new era. The OIC and GCC issued strong statements. The Arab League convened in Cairo, in the midst of all the commotion of Egypt’s democratic transition. They condemned the violence and suspended Libya from their organization, even though Qadhafi held the League’s rotating presidency. They went on to call for a no-fly zone. I want to thank Qatar, the UAE and Jordan for contributing planes to help enforce it.

But that’s not all. The Arab League affirmed – and I quote – “the right of the Libyan people to fulfill their demands and build their own future and institutions in a democratic framework.”

That is a remarkable statement. This is reason to hope.

But all the signs of progress we have seen in recent months will only be meaningful if more leaders in more places move faster and further to embrace this spirit of reform… if they work with their people to answer the region’s most pressing challenges: How to diversify their economies, open their political systems, crackdown on corruption, and respect the rights of women and minorities.

Those are the questions that will determine whether the people of the region make the most of this historic moment or fall back into stagnation.

The United States will be there as a partner, working for progress. We are committed to the future of this region and we believe in the potential of its people. And we look forward to the day when all the citizens of the Middle East and North Africa and around the world have the freedom to pursue their God-given potential.

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Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Event

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is at the forefront of concerned humanitarians throughout the world.  While may organizations attempt to address at least some of these needs, the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund works with the most helpless victims of the turmoil there – the children.

The Southern California chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) will hold a dinner in Granada Hills, Ca on Sunday, May 15th at the St. Andrew and St. Charles Episcopal Church. The event will begin at 4:00pm.

There will be two featured speakers, Dr. Musa Nasir and Dr. Hugh Watts. Dr. Nasir is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the PCRF and was one of the founding members in 1991. Dr. Watts is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles. He has travelled frequently to Palestine to provide his medical expertise to patients and to medical personnel who are being trained there.

In addition, there will be videos of two children brought to Los Angeles for treatment by the chapter. The touching story of their journey from seriously impacted health to a normal life has brought past audiences to their feet and has further inspired the chapter members.

The attendees will enjoy Middle Eastern music and arts and crafts.

The event is distinct from the gala held in the Fall by the PCRF chapter. It is largely informational, an effort to reach people in the San Fernando Valley and parts of Ventura County. Of course, donations to this worthy cause will be welcomed.

Tickets are $25 if purchased prior to the event and $35 at the door. For further information, please contact Lulu Emery at  (714) 960-1215 or Lily Karam at (562) 432-0005.The PCRF is a 501 (c) (3) non profit and non political organization.

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund was formed in 1991 in response to the urgent medical needs of children in Palestine. Since its founding its scope has expanded to include the entire Middle East. Children are treated free of charge by medical teams sent to the Middle East if local treatment is an option. If not the children are transported at no charge to the United States or a small number of other nations where they can receive state of the art medical treatment. The medical teams that visit the Middle East also provide on site training to local doctors.

In recent months teams have included a pediatric urology team from the Bay area to Gaza; a Chilean surgery team to Nablus, and a pediatric surgery mission to Gaza and the West Bank.

During the October 2010 banquet/fundraiser the PCRF announced that it will now enter the field of pediatric oncology.

PCRF has received international acclaim from such famous figures as Bishop Desmond Tutu and former US President Jimmy Carter.

Other projects include a Women’s Empowerment Project, summer camps, wheelchair distribution and Emergency Relief.

The foregoing is but a small example of the work of PCRF. Readers should access its web site: www.pcrf.net for a complete story of its work.

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The Day I Met Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Living Saint

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Oborne

220px-Abdul_Sattar_EdhiIn the course of my duties as a reporter, I have met presidents, prime ministers and reigning monarchs.

Until meeting the Pakistani social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi, I had never met a saint. Within a few moments of shaking hands, I knew I was in the presence of moral and spiritual greatness.
Mr Edhi’s life story is awesome, as I learnt when I spent two weeks working at one of his ambulance centres in Karachi.

The 82-year-old lives in the austerity that has been his hallmark all his life. He wears blue overalls and sports a Jinnah cap, so named because it was the head gear of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

No Pakistani since Jinnah has commanded the same reverence, and our conversations were constantly interrupted as people came to pay their respects.

Mr Edhi told me that, 60 years ago, he stood on a street corner in Karachi and begged for money for an ambulance, raising enough to buy a battered old van. In it, he set out on countless life-saving missions.

Gradually, Mr Edhi set up centres all over Pakistan. He diversified into orphanages, homes for the mentally ill, drug rehabilitation centres and hostels for abandoned women. He fed the poor and buried the dead. His compassion was boundless.

He was born in 1928, when the British Empire was at its height, in Gujarat in what is now western India. But he and his family were forced to flee for their lives in 1947 when the division of India and creation of Pakistan inspired terrible communal tensions: millions were killed in mob violence and ethnic cleansing.

This was the moment Mr Edhi, finding himself penniless on the streets of Karachi, set out on his life’s mission.

Just 20 years old, he volunteered to join a charity run by the Memons, the Islamic religious community to which his family belonged.

At first, Mr Edhi welcomed his duties; then he was appalled to discover that the charity’s compassion was confined to Memons.

He confronted his employers, telling them that “humanitarian work loses its significance when you discriminate between the needy”.

So he set up a small medical centre of his own, sleeping on the cement bench outside his shop so that even those who came late at night could be served.

But he also had to face the enmity of the Memons, and became convinced they were capable of having him killed. For safety, and in search of knowledge, he set out on an overland journey to Europe, begging all the way.

One morning, he awoke on a bench at Rome railway station to discover his shoes had been stolen. He was not bothered, considering them inessential.

Nevertheless, the next day an elderly lady gave him a pair of gumboots, two sizes too large, and Mr Edhi wobbled about in them for the remainder of his journey.

In London, he was a great admirer of the British welfare state, though he presciently noted its potential to encourage a culture of dependency. He was offered a job but refused, telling his benefactor:
“I have to do something for the people in Pakistan.”

On return from Europe, his destiny was set. There was no welfare state in Fifties Pakistan: he would fill the gap. This was a difficult period in his life. Shabby, bearded and with no obvious prospects, seven women in rapid succession turned down his offers of marriage. He resigned himself to chastity and threw all of his energy into work.

He would hurtle round the province of Sindh in his poor man’s ambulance, collecting dead bodies, taking them to the police station, waiting for the death certificate and, if the bodies were not claimed, burying them himself.

Mr Edhi’s autobiography, published in 1996, records that he recovered these stinking cadavers “from rivers, from inside wells, from road sides, accident sites and hospitals When families forsook them, and authorities threw them away, I picked them up Then I bathed and cared for each and every victim of circumstance.”

There is a photograph of Mr Edhi from this formative time. It could be the face of a young revolutionary or poet: dark beard, piercing, passionate eyes. And it is indeed the case that parts of his profound and moving autobiography carry the same weight and integrity as great poetry or even scripture.

Mr Edhi discovered that many Pakistani women were killing their babies at birth, often because they were born outside marriage.

One newborn child was stoned to death outside a mosque on the orders of religious leaders. A furious Mr Edhi responded: “Who can declare an infant guilty when there is no concept of punishing the innocent?”

So Mr Edhi placed a little cradle outside every Edhi centre, beneath a placard imploring: “Do not commit another sin: leave your baby in our care.” Mr Edhi has so far saved 35,000 babies and, in approximately half of these cases, found families to cherish them.

Once again, this practice brought him into conflict with religious leaders. They claimed that adopted children could not inherit their parents’ wealth. Mr Edhi told them their objections contradicted the supreme idea of religion, declaring: “Beware of those who attribute petty instructions to God.”

Over time, Mr Edhi came to exercise such a vast moral authority that Pakistan’s corrupt politicians had to pay court. In 1982, General Zia announced the establishment of a shura (advisory council) to determine matters of state according to Islamic principles.

Mr Edhi was suspicious: “I represented the millions of downtrodden, and was aware that my presence gave the required credibility to an illegal rule.”

Travelling to Rawalpindi to speak at the national assembly, he delivered a passionate denunciation of political corruption, telling an audience of MPs, including Zia himself: “The people have been neglected long enough.

“One day they shall rise like mad men and pull down these walls that keep their future captive. Mark my words and heed them before you find yourselves the prey instead of the predator.”

Mr Edhi did not distinguish between politicians and criminals, asking:

“Why should I condemn a declared dacoit [bandit] and not condemn the respectable villain who enjoys his spoils as if he achieved them by some noble means?”

This impartiality had its advantages. It meant that a truce would be declared when Mr Edhi and his ambulance arrived at the scene of gun battles between police and gangsters.

“They would cease fire,” notes Mr Edhi in his autobiography, “until bodies were carried to the ambulance, the engine would start and shooting would resume.”

Mr Edhi eventually found a wife, Bilquis, but his personal austerity was all but incompatible with married life. When the family went on Hajj, a vast overland journey in the ambulance, he forbade Bilquis to bring extra clothes, because he was determined to fill the vehicle with medical supplies.

Reaching Quetta in northern Baluchistan, with the temperature plunging, he relented enough to allow her to buy a Russian soldier’s overcoat.

Later on, when their children grew up, Mr Edhi would not find time to attend his daughter’s marriage.

But Mr Edhi’s epic achievement would not have been possible but for this inhuman single-mindedness. Today, the influence of the Edhi Foundation stretches far outside Pakistan and Mr Edhi has led relief missions across the Muslim world, providing aid at every international emergency from the Lebanon civil war in 1983 to the Bangladesh cyclone in 2007.

There are no horrors that Mr Edhi and his incredibly brave army of ambulance men have not witnessed, and the numerous lives they have saved.

The story of Mr Edhi coincides with the history of the Pakistan state.

More than any other living figure, he articulates Jinnah’s vision of a country which, while based on Islam, nevertheless offers a welcome for people of all faiths and sects. Indeed, the life of Mr Edhi provides a sad commentary on the betrayal of Jinnah’s Pakistan by a self-interested political class.

One evening, as the sun set over Karachi, I asked Mr Edhi what future he foresaw. “Unless things change,” he said, “I predict a revolution.”

Peter Oborne’s film on the Edhi Foundation can be seen in ‘Unreported World: Defenders of Karachi’.

The Telegraph (UK)

13-16

Horticulture

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagationand cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plantbiochemistry, and plant physiology. The work particularly involves fruits,berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs, and turf. Horticulturists work to improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects,diseases, and environmental stresses. Horticulture usually refers to gardening on a smaller scale, while agriculture refers to the large-scale cultivation of crops. The word is composite, from two words, horti, meaning grass, originating in the Greek χορτον, meaning the same (grass) and the word culture.

Horticulture has a very long history. The study and science of horticulture dates all the way back to the times of Alexander the Great, and has been going on ever since, with present day horticulturists such as Freeman S. Howlett, the revolutionary horticulturist. The origins of horticulture lie in the transition of human communities from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary or semi-sedentary horticultural communities, cultivating a variety of crops on a small scale around their dwellings or in specialized plots visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next. (such as the “milpa” or maize field of Mesoamerican cultures). In forest areas such horticulture is often carried out in swiddens (“slash and burn” areas). A characteristic of horticultural communities is that useful trees are often to be found planted around communities or specially retained from the natural ecosystem.

Horticulture primarily differs from agriculture in two ways, firstly it generally encompasses a smaller scale of cultivation, using small plots of mixed crops rather than large fields of single crops. Secondly horticultural cultivations generally include a wide variety of crops, even including fruit trees with ground crops. Agricultural cultivations however as a rule focus on one primary crop. In pre-contact North America the semi-sedentary horticultural communities of the Eastern Woodlands (growing maize, squash and sunflower) contrasted markedly with the mobile hunter-gatherer communities of the Plains people. In Central America, Maya horticulture involved augmentation of the forest with useful trees such as papaya, avocado, cacao, ceiba and sapodilla. In the cornfields, multiple crops were grown such as beans (using cornstalks as supports), squash, pumpkins and chilli peppers, in some cultures tended mainly or exclusively by women.

12-9

Joe Sacco’s New Book

January 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Graphic novel on IDF ‘massacres’ in Gaza set to hit bookstores

By The Associated Press

selfportrait_sacco Fans say graphic novelist Joe Sacco has set new standards for the use of the comic book as a documentary medium. Detractors say his portrayals of the Palestinian conflict are filled with distortion, bias and hyperbole.

One thing is certain – the award-winning author of “Palestine” leaves few readers indifferent.

Sacco’s work has more in common with gonzo journalism than your Sunday comic strip: He travels to the world’s hot spots from Iraq to Gaza to Sarajevo, immerses himself in the lives of ordinary people, and sets out to depict their harsh realities – in unflinching ink and paper.

One of his biggest supporters is award-winning Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, who directed the 2008 Golden Globe winning cartoon ocumentary “Waltz for Bashir.”

“Whenever I’m asked about animation that influences me, I would say it’s more graphic novels. A tremendous influence on me has been Sacco’s ‘Palestine,’ his work on Bosnia and then Art peigelman’s ‘Maus,’” he said in a telephone interview.

“His work quite simply reflects reality.”

The American-Maltese artist’s latest book, “Footnotes in Gaza,” chronicles two episodes in 1956 in which a U.N. report filed Dec. 15, 1956 says a total of 386 civilians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers – events Sacco said have been “virtually airbrushed from history because they have been ignored by the mainstream media.”

Israeli historians dispute these figures.

“It’s a big exaggeration,” said Meir Pail, a leading Israeli military historian and leftist politician. “There was never a killing of such a degree. Nobody was murdered. I was there. I don’t know of any massacre.”

Sacco’s passion for the Palestinian cause has opened him up to accusations of bias.

Jose Alaniz, from the University of Washington’s Department of Comparative Literature, said Sacco uses “all sorts of subtle ways” to manipulate the reader.

“Very often he will pick angles in his art work that favor the perspective of the victim: He’ll draw Israeli soldiers or settlers from a low perspective to make them more menacing and towering.”

Alaniz also said Sacco draws children “in such a way to make them seem more victimized.”

Sacco himself admits he takes sides.

“I don’t believe in objectivity as it’s practiced in American journalism. I’m not anti-Israeli … It’s just I very much believe in getting across the Palestinian point of view,” he said.

In “Palestine,” which won the 1996 National Book Award, Sacco reported on the lives of West Bank and Gaza inhabitants in the early 1990s. “Safe Area Gorazde,” which won the 2001 Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel, describes his experiences in Bosnia in 1995-96.

Sacco has been lauded by Edward Said, the renowned literary scholar and Palestinian rights spokesman, who said in his foreword to “Palestine”: “With the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered this terrible state of affairs better than Joe Sacco.”

“Footnotes” – to be released in the United States on Tuesday – sees Sacco’s cartoon self, with the now trademark nondescript owlishly bespectacled eyes, plunge into the squalid trash-strewn, raw concrete alleys of Rafah, and its neighboring town of Khan Younis.

Sacco draws crowded narrow streets, full of prying schoolchildren and unemployed men. His desperate characters – fugitives, widows and sheiks – mix long past fact with fiction.

“What I show in the book is that this massacre is just one element of Palestinian history … and that people are confused about which event, what year they are talking about,” he said.

“Palestinians never seem to have had the luxury of digesting one tragedy before the next is upon them.”

Sacco said in doing so he is trying to create a balance to what he calls the United States’ pro-Israeli bias.

A scene in “Palestine” shows an Israeli woman asking: “Shouldn’t you be seeing our side of the story?” Sacco’s cartoon self replies: “I’ve heard nothing but the Israeli side most of my life.”

Sacco says he puts himself into his comics because he wants his readers to see and feel what he does.

“I’m not pretending to be the all powerful, all knowing journalist god … I’m an individual who reacts to people who are sometimes afraid … On a human level, of course that colors the stories I’m telling.”

Folman, who both wrote and directed the 2008 animated documentary film about a 19-year-old Israeli soldier still troubled by nightmares about the Lebanon War, says Sacco has brought something rare to the cartoon genre.

“The way he illustrates says everything about the writing – it’s so unique, there is nothing quite like him,” he explained.

“I really admire the guy … And I feel from his work that we share exactly the same opinions about what’s happening in the Middle East … The day will come when I will meet him and hopefully work with him.”

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Successful CAIR Banquet/Fundraiser

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

cair_logo-california
In the current atmosphere of Islamophobia – an Islamophobia that has reached epidemic proportions -organizations that educate about Islam and work tirelessly for the civil rights of Muslims, play a crucial role in American life. One such organization is the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Greater Los Angeles CAIR held a highly successful banquet/fundraiser in Anaheim as two thousand people gathered to help this Muslim advocacy group celebrate its 13th annual event. Nearly half a million dollars – CAIR’s goal – was raised during the evening to support CAIR in its essential work.

State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) gave the opening remarks. He encouraged Muslims to become active on the political scene.

Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca, thanked the Muslim community for its prayers on behalf of the victims of the Fort Hood tragedy. Representatives from government at the local, state and federal level were also in attendance.

Twin keynote addresses by CAIR National Chair Larry Shaw and former Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) were warmly received by the audience.

Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of Greater Los Angeles CAIR, spoke on the need for Muslims to become engaged in public life.

“Today our work is not about merely protecting your right to work, travel, and worship, although this is still a critical part of our mission. It is to a great extent, about carving our place in society, ensuring our seat at the table, even if a tiny minority wants us out.”

The attendees saw a film detailing the work of CAIR with particular emphasis on CAIR’s work with youth.

During the evening three awards were given out. The 2009 Courage in Media Award was presented to David Eggers, the author of “Zeitoun”, a non fiction account of Muslim American Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina struck and his subsequent jailing and humiliation.

The 2009 Bridge Builder Award was presented to Kathy and Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a couple whose story was presented in the above referenced work “Zeitoun.”

The 2009 Excellence in Leadership Award was presented to Atif Moon, a resident of Ranch Palos Verde. His physical limitations have not prevented him from serving his community and being an inspiration to young Muslims.

CAIR was founded in 1994 to work on behalf of the civil rights of Muslims and to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America.

The Greater Los Angeles area CAIR may be accessed on the Internet at: info@losangeles.cair.com.

11-49

Book

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail-adil

Definitions for “book”

A set of written, printed, or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers.
1. A printed or written literary work.
2. A main division of a larger printed or written work: a book of the Old Testament.

1. A volume in which financial or business transactions are recorded.
2. books Financial or business records considered as a group: checked the expenditures on the books.

1. A libretto.
2. The script of a play.

Book

   1. The Bible.
   2. The Koran.

1. A set of prescribed standards or rules on which decisions are based: runs the company by the book.
2. Something regarded as a source of knowledge or understanding.
3. The total amount of experience, knowledge, understanding, and skill that can be used in solving a problem or performing a task: We used every trick in the book to finish the project on schedule.
4. Informal. Factual information, especially of a private nature: What’s the book on him?

A packet of like or similar items bound together: a book of matches.

A record of bets placed on a race.

Games. The number of card tricks needed before any tricks can have scoring value, as the first six tricks taken by the declaring side in bridge.

KinderUSA Event for Gaza

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

The deteriorating situation in Gaza is of primary concern to humanitarians throughout the world. Unfortunately the Israeli dominated media have done little to present to the public the true picture of present life in Gaza, often and correctly labeled “the world’s largest outdoor prison.”

A number of charitable organizations have been on the ground in Gaza doing humanitarian work, though such work constitutes only a fraction of what is needed. None of the much vaunted aid pledged to Gaza has been received. KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief) is one such organization.

KinderUSA held a successful Ramadan Iftar and fund raiser at Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque in Los Angeles this past weekend.

Titled: “Working Together, Rebuilding Lives”, the event filled the mosque’s Abu Dawood Hall as attendees listened to KinderUSA Chair, Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, and keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley describe the dire situation in Gaza. The scope of the presentations focused on  Gaza’s continuing deterioration begun by Israel’s deliberate isolation of Gaza following the successful election of Hamas and exacerbated by Operation Cast Lead. The latter was a month long siege which began in late December of last year.

Dr. Al-Marayati, speaking in front of a video screen, gave some background on KinderUSA and its accomplishments since its founding in 2002. She emphasized the low overhead – 20% – of most projects. With respect to Ramadan projects, 100% of monies collected is used for charitable work. Contributions to KinderUSA qualify as Zakat.

KinderUSA is unique in that instead of goods and services, vouchers are given. These vouchers give greater choice to the recipients, and they can tailor the purchases to their particular needs. Since purchases are made from local merchants, this system also strengthens local communities.

KinderUSA also supports projects for women who are heads of households. Women who are pregnant are provided with special meals, and baked goods are delivered to impoverished families. More than 80% of Gazans are dependent on outside aid.

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel attacked mosques, residential areas, and schools. The infrastructure was destroyed, and Gaza residents were left to live in tents.

Dr. Al-Marayati introduced Dr. Hatem Bazian. Dr. Bazian is the founder of the Berkeley Center for the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia and a Senior lecturer for Near Eastern and Asian American Studies.

Dr. Bazian expressed his admiration for KinderUSA and told of his support for the organization since its founding. He spoke of the Palestinian Diaspora and mentioned in particular the number of Palestinians in South America. He remarked ironically that “Palestinians have been forced to conduct most of their politicking outside of Palestine.”

Dr. Bazian referenced former President and peace activist Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter has said that there is no question that Israel is responsible for the bloodshed in Gaza.

The audience gasped as Dr. Bazian told of the destruction of Gaza’s electrical plant six months before Operation Cast Lead, which destruction has made Gaza totally dependent of Israel for electricity.

“I didn’t know that.” said one young woman to her table mate. “You don’t read that in the newspaper or see it on TV” replied the other woman.

There has been a lack of courage to take Israel to task, Dr. Bazian continued. The Palestinians do not have control in Gaza, the Israelis do. The speaker referenced Israel’s dismay over Hamas’  electoral victory – their justification for continuing control. He brought laughter from his audience when he postulated an analogous situation vis a vis other nations who may have disapproved of former President George Bush’s victory at the polls. But Israel, of course, plays by its own rules.

Israel, the speaker asserted, wants to starve Gaza into submission. Israel has violated numerous codes of International law. Yet they are not called to answer for these violations. He urged people to speak up. Silence will only help Israel retain the status quo.

Successful fundraising took place. The attendees enjoyed an excellent Middle Eastern meal and were actively engaged in discussion at the end of the event.

KinderUSA is a 501 (c) (3) organization. To learn more of KinderUSA’s work, please access them at: www.kinderusa.org

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Huda El Masri Sosebee

August 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Readers of The Muslim Observer are familiar with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), a humanitarian, charitable organization which addresses itself to the needs of Palestinian children in the Middle East.

On July 15, Huda El Masri Sosebee, the wife of Steve Sosebee, President and CEO of the PCRF, passed away after a brave battle with cancer. She was 46. Huda has left behind a grieving husband and two daughters, 12 year old Deema and 2 year old Jenna.

While Huda held the title of Director of Social work, she dedicated herself to the PCRF in its entirety and to the suffering children in the Middle East. Those who met her even briefly were inspired by her love, her energy, and her enthusiasm.

Huda was a proud and brave Palestinian Arab woman who herself to her work, even sending emails in her final weeks to insure that the work of the organization would not suffer.

Those who knew her feel blessed by their association.

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KinderUSA Event

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
The tragedy of Gaza is known throughout the world. Humanitarian groups such as KinderUSA focus on the smallest and most helpless victims – the children. Given the disproportionate number of young children in Gaza, their work takes on heroic proportions. 

KinderUSA, an advocacy group for children, held its annual banquet/fundraiser this past Saturday evening at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove, Ca. The event was titled: “Planting Seeds Today for Ramadan Tomorrow”. KinderUSA, which stands for Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief, was founded in 2002 by a group of dedicated physicians and humanitarian workers. In promoting the well being of children, KinderUSA is dedicated to the principle that children have a right to survival and that right has as a corollary a right to health,education and shelter.

The event featured as speakers Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, the Chairperson of KinderUSA and Dr. Mads Gilbert of the Norwegian Aid Committee University Hospital Norway.

Both physicians told of their experiences in Gaza, experiences which limned the cruelty of the Israeli Occupation. Dr. Al-Marayati also outlined and explained the work that KinderUSA has done in the region.

After an introduction by Dr. Basil Abelkarim and his reading with translation from the holy Koran, Dr. Al-Marayati took to the podium.

KinderUSA now has permanent non profit status. The group seeks transparency in all its operations. In describing some of their work in Gaza, Dr. Al-Marayati said that KinderUSA gives out food coupons which coupons are then used by the recipients to purchase food. The food is grown and prepared locally, and it is KinderUSA which provides the seeds for agricultural products. KinderUSA also supports a bakery in Gaza which provides nutritious goods throughout the oPt.

The audience was visibly moved when Dr. Al-Marayati described the courage shown by KinderUSA workers in going into the streets of Gaza during the Israeli assault. They put their lives at risk to insure that no hungry family was left unfed.

Dr. Al-Marayati also addressed the total and wanton destruction that the Israeli assault imposed on Gaza. She showed pictures of devastated buildings that could not conceivably be considered military targets and therefore should not have been targets of primary intent. One such building was a mosque and another was the American International School.

Dr. Mads Gilbert said that he could not call Israeli recent action in Gaza a war. Wars have rules. This was a vicious assault. “The Palestinian people may well be the strongest and most innovative people on earth” he said. Israel launched an assault, an action that violated basic human rights.

Dr. Gilbert referenced the recent issue of the prestigious medical journal, Lancet, that showed a scientific correlation between the Israeli Occupation and the tragic health conditions in Gaza. There can be no improvement until the Occupation ends.

Gaza, he continued, is a prison camp. Given the average age of Gazans – which is in the teens – it is truly a prison camp for children.

The pictures that were shown in the front of the room told a story of suffering in themselves. The doctors presentations brought the suffering alive.

“It is hard to believe how terrible things are” said one young woman “But it is true.”

For readers who wish to know more of the work of KinderUSA or who wish to contribute to their excellent work, please access their web site at: www.kinderusa.org.

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Iraqi Boy Solves 300-year Old Math Puzzle

June 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Bernoulli_Jacob
Jacob Bernouilli

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden has cracked a math puzzle that has stumped experts for more than 300 years, Swedish media reported on Thursday.

In just four months, Mohamed Altoumaimi has found a formula to explain and simplify the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations named after the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, the Dagens Nyheter daily said.

Altoumaimi, who came to Sweden six years ago, said teachers at his high school in Falun, central Sweden were not convinced about his work at first.

“When I first showed it to my teachers, none of them thought the formula I had written down really worked,” Altoumaimi told the Falu Kuriren newspaper.

He then got in touch with professors at Uppsala University, one of Sweden’s top institutions, to ask them to check his work.

After going through his notebooks, the professors found his work was indeed correct and offered him a place in Uppsala.

But for now, Altoumaimi is focusing on his school studies and plans to take summer classes in advanced mathematics and physics this year.

“I wanted to be a researcher in physics or mathematics; I really like those subjects. But I have to improve in English and social sciences,” he told the Falu Kuriren.

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Kamala Surayya (1934- 2009)

June 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: With a hypersensitive and emotional spirit, reflected in her words – written as well as spoken – Kamala Surayya always moved on, stepping into controversial zones through her creative work and also her life-style. Ironically, her being a trendsetter is also marked by the homage paid to her and the funeral services held in her memory. She is one of the few Indian celebrities, who have been accorded state-level funeral services even though at the time of their death, they did not hold any high political or any authoritative post necessitating the same. Kamala, the well-known litterateur and poet, breathed her last in Pune (May 31), in a city hospital, where she had been admitted on April 18. Her body was brought to her native region, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on Monday. The body was interred with state honors at the graveyard of Palayal Masjid, where it was laid to rest (June 2). The funeral prayers were led by chief cleric of Palayal Masjid. 

Expressing grief at Kamala’s demise, in his message, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that her poems “focusing on womanhood and feminism gained her recognition as one of the most noted modern Indian writers.”

Kamala had decided to leave Kerala and stay in Pune around two years ago. She had said then: “Enough is enough. Kerala has become an inhospitable place. I can’t live here anymore. I am getting raunchy mails and obscene calls. Everything is being criticised. Even fellow writers are not on my side. Maybe because I don’t have power through politics. Maybe, because I don’t have the influence.” On whether, the discomfort she faced had anything to do her with her converting to Islam, Kamala replied: “No. It has nothing to do with that. The truth is Kerala can’t stand ‘brainy women.’ They expect women to be behind closed doors. Their roles are predefined. They don’t want women to explore.” She converted to Islam in 1999, at the age of 65, a little after passing away of her husband. Earlier known as Kamala Das, after conversion, she started using the name Kamala Surayya.

So Kamala left Kerala, with practically no intention of ever returning back. As she then said: “I don’t have anything left there. No sentiments. I am leaving everything behind- furniture and all my books. I am not taking anything. I have had enough of Kerala culture. I want to be at peace with myself.” Kamala also felt sad that the state she belonged to had not given her due recognition. It is, however, claimed that practical sense prompted Kamala to move out of Kerela and live with her youngest son in Pune. She had accepted the hard reality that because of failing health she couldn’t live alone anymore in her flat in Kochi. She longed to finally return to Kerala. During the last couple of months, Kerala Minister for Culture M.A. Baby visited the ailing Kamala twice. He is understood to have offered to make arrangements for a state funeral, befitting her stature, in her home state Kerala, where she really wanted to be laid to rest.

Kamala was born on March 31, 1934 in Punnayurkulam in Kerala, in a conservative Hindu family. Her father V.M. Nair, a leading executive, later became managing editor of the widely-circulated Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi. While her mother Balamaniyamma was a noted poet, her great uncle Nalapat Narayana Menon was a literary stalwart of the time. Influenced by her mother and great-uncle, Kamala took to writing from an early age.  She was married at a young age (13) to Madhava Das, 15 years older than her. The couple had three sons.

Kamala began writing professionally after becoming a mother, with her kitchen table serving as her writing area after the housework was taken care of. “There was only the kitchen table where I would cut vegetables, and after all the plates and things were cleared, I would sit there and start typing. That was my work area,” she said in an interview in 1996.

Among her most notable works is her autobiography, My Story (1976) which has been published in more than 15 languages. Other popular English works of Kamala include Asian Poetry Prize winner- The Sirens (1964) and Kent’s Award winner – Summer in Calcutta (1965). Her last published work in English is a collection of poems- Yaa Allah (2001). Kamala’s Malayayam works, for which used the penname Madhavikuttii, include short stories- Pakshiyude Manam (1964), Vayalar Award winner, novel Neermathalam Pootha Kalam (1994), poetry- Only the Soul Knows How to Sing (1996) and short stories – Nashtapetta Neelambari (1998).

She has earned laurels as well as criticism for her writings, viewed by “liberal” by some and “amoral” by others for their projection of women. In Kamala’s opinion, Indian women were suppressed and exploited. She wanted them to liberate themselves from age-old prejudices, which led to their sufferings.

Kamala ventured into the political arena for a little while and also directed her creativity to painting for some time. She floated Lok Seva Party to promote social and humanitarian work. She, however, failed to win Lok Sabha in 1984. But the lady moved on, creating waves through her pen. Her achievements and life extended beyond the pen, as she said: “I wanted to fill my life with as many experiences as I can manage to garner because I do not believe that one can get born again.” And so she did. Kamala Surayya is no more, but with her writings, she has joined the immortals.

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