US Special Representative Favors “Friendship” With Indian Muslims

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Farah Pandith, United States’ first Special Representative to Muslim Communities, was here on a four-day visit to apparently “win over” the Indian Muslims and improve President Barack Obama administration’s image among them. Farah has come and gone (Feb 16-19), leaving many questions unanswered about the role such visits can really play in improving United States’ image among the Indian Muslims. Asserting that her visit was “not a popularity contest,” Farah said that it was an “effort to engage with people and strike partnerships to find a common ground of interest for the common good of all.”

Farah, an American of Indian origin, was born in Kashmir. It was her first visit to India as an US Special Representative, a new position created by Obama administration to improve Washington’s image in the Muslim world and also to actively “listen and respond” to their concerns in Europe, Africa and Asia. Sworn to this position last year on September 15, Farah has visited 12 other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iraq and Kuwait. Her visits are a part of Obama administrations to reach out to Muslims dominated by “propaganda, stereotypes and inaccurate generalizations” about Washington.  This is the message Farah conveyed during her addresses in New Delhi at Jamia Millia Islamia University and India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC).

Farah played her part in displaying her consciousness about her religious identity as a Muslim and also in fulfilling the responsibility assigned to her in reaching out to Muslims across the world. She kept her head bowed as a cleric recited from the holy Quran at the function held at IICC. Farah began her brief address with the traditional Muslim greeting: “Asalaam Alaikum.” It was President Obama’s “vision to build partnerships with Muslim communities across the globe on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect,” she said. “I repeat that it is based on mutual interest and respect and I extend my hand of friendship and partnership with you,” she asserted.

Highlighting the significance of her position, Farah said: “Never before America had an envoy for Muslim communities. This is the first time an envoy for the Muslims was appointed. My job is to work with our embassies worldwide to engage with the Muslim communities and focus strongly on the new generation.” “Secretary (Hillary) Clinton has asked me to engage with Muslim communities around the world at the grassroots level, and to build and extend partnerships through the US embassies in both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries. I have to look at out-of-the-box ways to engage, based on mutual respect. That is my job, my mandate,” she said.

“With one-fourth of the world’s population that is Muslim, of course our country (United States) wants to do as much as we can to build partnerships across the board,” Farah stated. “We can and we want to extend the partnership in a very strong way that will allow us to develop long-term relationship with Muslims all over the world,” she said.

Drawing attention to Islam being practiced in United States and the diversity there, Farah pointed to having learned reading holy Quran at a mosque there. She also tried convincing the audience that she was “this was not an effort to increase popularity of America by a few percentage points.” Nevertheless, while interacting with Indian Muslim leaders, she pointed to Obama administration being serious about working closely with Islamic world. This, she said, was marked by appointment of Indian born Rashid Hussain as envoy for the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).  Obama’s advisory council for faith also includes Eboo Patel, an Indian-American Muslim from Chicago.

The US government can act as a “convener, facilitator and intellectual partner” and help forge partnerships on basis of common ideas and common goals, the benefits of which will be useful not only for Muslims, but everyone, Farah said. Elaborating on her mission to reach out to the young generation, she pointed out that 45 percent of the world population is under the age of 30. “I will focus more on the young generation in Muslim world and I want to understand the diversity of Islam in different countries and communities as well,” she said.

Though Farah expressed that she was “interested in talking to the Facebook generation, the youth,” she evaded questions posed at Jamia University on United States’ foreign policy on issues that have bothered Muslims across the world. To a question regarding Israel-Palestine, she said: “That is not my job. I am not George Mitchell (US Mideast envoy).” On Washington’s policy regarding West Asia and Pakistan, Farah replied: “I am not Richard Holbrooke (US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan). It’s not my job to work on Kashmir or Pakistan.”

Irrespective of whether Farah succeeds in improving image of Obama administration among the Muslims, her own identity has certainly played some part in compelling the world to revise the stereotyped image they have of Muslim women. The Obama administration is apparently hopeful that Farah’s image as a “modern Muslim” will help win over the young generation. Suggesting this, Farah said: “This generation is having to navigate through that and understand what it means to be modern and Muslim and also is really searching for a way to be connected.”

12-9

Obama Picks Special Envoy to World Muslim Group (OIC)

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

ResizedImage130160-rashad Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama appointed a special envoy Saturday to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the 57-nation organization that calls itself the “collective voice of the Muslim world.”

He is Rashad Hussein, an Indian-American Muslim who has been a deputy associate White House counsel, described by Obama as “an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff.”

Obama made the announcement Saturday in a video message to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He said he made the move to broaden the outreach strategy toward the Muslim world he laid out last year in Cairo.

“Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work,” Obama said. A hafiz is someone who has memorized the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be speaking Sunday at the 7th annual forum and Obama took the opportunity Saturday to laud the event and reiterate what he calls the “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world” – a relationship that he says has been marred by “misunderstanding and mistrust.”

“The United States is responsibly ending the war in Iraq; we are removing all our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August, and we will partner with the Iraqi people on behalf of their long-term security and prosperity. In Afghanistan and beyond, we are forging partnerships to isolate violent extremists, reduce corruption and to promote good governance and development that improves lives.

“We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians. And the United States will continue to stand for the human rights and dignity of people around the world,” he said.

Obama said his administration has held thousands of events with students, civil society groups, faith leaders and entrepreneurs, including Clinton’s “landmark” visit to Pakistan.

“And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month. This dialogue has helped us turn many of the initiatives I outlined in Cairo into action,” the president said.

Obama also listed outreach initiatives toward the Muslim world in education, economic development, science and technology, food security, and global health.
“None of this will be easy. Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun.”

Hussain has served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He posted a message on the White House blog saying he is “honored and humbled” by the appointment.

“I am committed to deepening the partnerships that he (Obama) outlined in his visionary address last summer. I look forward to updating you on the Administration’s efforts in these areas over the coming months,” he said.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference says it is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations and that its 57-state membership is “spread over four continents.”

12-8

Wardere to Vie for Senate

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kay Fate, Faribault Daily News

washington-dc-us-capitol-s Mahamoud Wardere knows his story is interesting.

“Can you imagine?” he asks. “An anti-war GOP candidate who is an immigrant from Somalia, an African-American, too, and Muslim.”

Wardere describes his candidacy as one that will be “different, with fresh ideas and a world class of understanding.”

He plans to run for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s Second District, a seat held by Republican John Kline.

The six years he spent working as a community liaison for former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman were invaluable, Wardere, 42, said.

“One thing I learned is how the system works, and at what level,” he said. “You have to know what Congress can do and what it can’t do. You have to know what your constituents expect from you.”

His goal is to develop long-term ideas.

“There are things that today may be politically helpful, but in the long run may not help,” Wardere said.

His campaign slogan sums it up, he added: Uniting the country and passing peace and prosperity to our children and grandchildren.

“I’m running because I’m very much aware of the challenges the residents of the Second District face every day,” he said, “and I believe I can do a better job.”

Wardere’s four priorities for the Second District are to tackle a poverty level that has risen 7 percent in one year; unemployment; the suffering of small businesses; and more benefits for the men and women in uniform, as well as their caregivers.

He is just as determined to make change at the national level.

He’d like to see GOP Chairman Michael Steele resign.

“He failed miserably to lead our party and explain who the GOP leaders are,” Wardere said. “He failed to reach out to Latinos and even African Americans. He must resign.”

Wardere is hardly alone in his desire to make change within the GOP.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is considered by some to be the father of the Tea Party movement, faces three opponents in the March Republican primary.

Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain, too, will have a challenger in J.D. Hayworth, a conservative talk radio host.

Closer to home, Kline has yet to formally announce he will seek a fifth term.

Still, said Troy Young, his communications director, “Congressman Kline fully intends to run for re-election.”

DFLer Dan Powers will also seek Kline’s seat, said Mary Breitenstein, Powers’ campaign manager.

She had no comment on Wardere’s decision to run, but believes it’s time for Kline to go.

“As we say, we’re focused like a laser beam on winning the DFL endorsement,” Breitenstein said. “We do know that Kline’s been in Congress for a while, and has not been listening to his constituents. Dan wants to listen.”

Also in the DFL Congressional race is Shelley Madore, a former state representative from District 37A.

“I won’t shy away from criticizing the establishment,” Wardere said. “I believe our Congress has a constitutional responsibility to oversee federal agencies and must take part in the checks and balances… We need to elect competent Congressmen and women who can understand world issues. It’s the responsibility of our congressional delegates to understand the world issues and keep America safe.”

Diversity is power, Wardere said.

“When we were fighting against Germany and Hitler, what language did we use?” he asked. “We used the language of the Native Americans. That worked.”

Of his 12 national priorities, nearly half of them include passing resolutions to recognize those who work for peace.

“Anybody who brings peace, you have to praise,” Wardere said. “We must worry about passing insecurity to our children and grandchildren the same way we worry about passing the deficit to them. We must pass them many friends, not many enemies.”

He would also work on legislation that defines the goal of the war on terror, clarifies the U.S.’s position and expedites ending wars.

“Washington has sent many conflicting broad and vague messages to the world, and some of them are self-defeating,” he said. “Our message should be simple and clear: we have been attacked, and we will attack anyone who wants to harm us and we will defend our people, period.”

So, has Wardere discussed his plans with Coleman, his former boss?

“No,” he smiled. “This is my decision. I don’t know what he’d say.”

12-8

Wars Sending US into Ruin

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Obama the peace president is fighting battles his country cannot afford

By Eric Margolis, QMI Agency

2010-02-10T142132Z_01_BTRE61913W200_RTROPTP_3_NEWS-US-AFGHANISTAN-ASSAULT

U.S. Marines walk during a dust storm in a U.S Marines camp near the town of Marjah in Nad Ali district of Helmand province, February 8, 2010.    

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

U.S. President Barack Obama calls the $3.8-trillion US budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health.

In fact, it’s another potent fix given to a sick patient deeply addicted to the dangerous drug — debt.

More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks.

Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.

To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military “contractors” (mercenaries and workers); and veterans’ costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada’s total defence budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan “surge” of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defence budget.

No wonder U.S. defence stocks rose after Peace Laureate Obama’s “austerity” budget.

Military and intelligence spending relentlessly increase as unemployment heads over 10% and the economy bleeds red ink. America has become the Sick Man of the Western Hemisphere, an economic cripple like the defunct Ottoman Empire.

The Pentagon now accounts for half of total world military spending. Add America’s rich NATO allies and Japan, and the figure reaches 75%.

China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10% of what the U.S. spends on defence.

There are 750 U.S. military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 service members stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea.

Military spending gobbles up 19% of federal spending and at least 44% of tax revenues. During the Bush administration, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — funded by borrowing — cost each American family more than $25,000.

Like Bush, Obama is paying for America’s wars through supplemental authorizations ­– putting them on the nation’s already maxed-out credit card. Future generations will be stuck with the bill.

This presidential and congressional jiggery-pokery is the height of public dishonesty.

America’s wars ought to be paid for through taxes, not bookkeeping fraud.

If U.S. taxpayers actually had to pay for the Afghan and Iraq wars, these conflicts would end in short order.

America needs a fair, honest war tax.

The U.S. clearly has reached the point of imperial overreach. Military spending and debt-servicing are cannibalizing the U.S. economy, the real basis of its world power. Besides the late U.S.S.R., the U.S. also increasingly resembles the dying British Empire in 1945, crushed by immense debts incurred to wage the Second World War, unable to continue financing or defending the imperium, yet still imbued with imperial pretensions.

It is increasingly clear the president is not in control of America’s runaway military juggernaut. Sixty years ago, the great President Dwight Eisenhower, whose portrait I keep by my desk, warned Americans to beware of the military-industrial complex. Six decades later, partisans of permanent war and world domination have joined Wall Street’s money lenders to put America into thrall.

Increasing numbers of Americans are rightly outraged and fearful of runaway deficits. Most do not understand their political leaders are also spending their nation into ruin through unnecessary foreign wars and a vainglorious attempt to control much of the globe — what neocons call “full spectrum dominance.”

If Obama really were serious about restoring America’s economic health, he would demand military spending be slashed, quickly end the Iraq and Afghan wars and break up the nation’s giant Frankenbanks.

12-7

Open Letter to Islamophobe Dutch MP Geert Wilders

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Dear Mr Wilders,

They say you can only take a horse to the water, you cant make it drink. But human beings are not horses. Unlike animals, they can be reasoned with. I offer these few remarks in the faint hope you are amenable to reason.

It is about your recent speech to the Alliance of Patriots in New York. In which you paint an apocalyptic picture of the Islamization of Europe. You describe some European cities with Muslim neighborhoods in lurid terms. It is a world where women walk around in figureless tents. Their husbands, or slave holders, if you prefer, walk three steps ahead. Mr Wilders, I live bang near one of those areas in West London. I often visit Whitechapel and Edgware Road parts of our colorful Londonistan I have never seen a Muslim woman walking behind her husband. Rather, the mothers stroll about in a proud, dignified manner, alongside the men. Nothing in their behavior suggests a subordinate role, let alone slavery. And there are tons of lively, even feisty Muslim girls wearing all sorts of gear. True, they may not, as a rule, behave like permissive, liberated females, baring the flesh, hugging and kissing partners in public, no. I would even guess most of them don’t sleep with boys before marriage. But since when are chastity, modesty and self-restraint so bad? The traditional, Christian mores of the Western civilization which you claim to uphold used to prize such things, no?

25 per cent of the population of Europe will be Muslim just 12 years from now. Lies, damned lies and statistics, someone said. But if you want native Europeans to stay numerically supreme, how about encouraging them to have more children? To urge them not to use contraceptives, the pills? To give up abortion? To bolster family values? Stop bashing Islam. Embrace the Christian religion in its conservative, sound traditions and all will be kosher.

Thousands of mosques across Europe. With larger congregations than churches, you notice. Well, whose fault is that? Do perhaps Muslims stand at church doors, stopping the eager faithful from worshipping the Lord? Methinks you should rather address yourself to Christians. Look at Muslims you should say. Look at how many regularly pray. How keen they are on the observances of their religion. You should do the same. Exactly. The flourishing of mosques across Europe should serve as a stimulus to Christians. A window of opportunity. As an urgent reminder to get back to their vital, life-giving roots the worship of the One True God. Why blame pious Muslims for the faults of lukewarm or nominal Christians, eh?

In Amsterdam gays are beaten up almost exclusively by Muslims. Awful, if true. Funnily enough, I recall the words of Pym Fortuyn, the gay right-wing politician murdered by a fanatic. I have nothing against Moroccans I have slept with so many of them. From Andre Gide to William Burroughs, the Arab world has been one of artistic gays favorite fun destinations. Tangiers nickname was Sodom on Sea. Homophobia cant be all that endemic amongst Arabs, I should imagine.

The history of the Holocaust can no longer be taught because of Muslim sensitivity. How bizarre. First, a godson of mine has been to Auschwitz, on a school trip. Part of a program to learn about wartime horrors. School curricula in Britain do in fact include projects about WWII and persecutions of Jews and other people. London’s Imperial War Museum has a holocaust section, which I viewed just the other day. What’s more, TV channels force-feed viewers with a daily, obsessive dose of films and programs about the war and Germanys crimes. If anybody should complain about this state of affairs, it should be Germans. It fuels Germanophobia, the lurking, masochistic English vice. Do todays Germans deserve such constant pilloring? After all, isn’t Germany amongst the strongest supporters of your beloved state of Israel?

Ok, you don’t like Muslims. Yet they are not going to go away. Your case is analogous to that of the man whose garden was infested by ladybirds. They were everywhere. He didn’’t like them. He tried several methods to get rid of them. Sprays, insecticides, this and that. Nothing worked. The ladybirds kept being around. Indeed, they multiplied. The guy was getting obsessed with them, growing paranoid, bitter, haunted. Eventually, he sent an e-mail to a wise old friend, an experienced gardener: What should I do about the damned ladybirds?

The reply came: I suggest you learn to love them.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli

12-7

Prophet’s (s) Promise to Christians

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware

The_Patent_of_Mohammed Muslims and Christians together constitute over 50 percent of the world. If they lived in peace, we would be half way to world peace. One small step we can take towards fostering Muslim-Christian harmony is to tell and retell positive stories and abstain from mutual demonization.

In this article I propose to remind both Muslims and Christians about a promise that Prophet Muhammad (s) made to Christians. The knowledge of this promise can have enormous impact on Muslim conduct towards Christians. Muslims generally respect the precedent of their Prophet (s) and try to practice it in their lives.

In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammad (s) and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which I reproduce below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possesses a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site. It also boasts the oldest collection of Christian icons. It is a treasure house of Christian history that has remained safe for 1,400 years under Muslim protection.

The Promise to St. Catherine:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

charter The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the promise eternal and universal. Muhammad (s) asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far, straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammad (s) declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.

A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter of rights without any duties!

The document is not a modern human rights treaty, but even though it was penned in 628 A.D. it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of work, and security of the person.

I know most readers, must be thinking, So what? Well the answer is simple. Those who seek to foster discord among Muslims and Christians focus on issues that divide and emphasize areas of conflict. But when resources such as Muhammad’s promise to Christians is invoked and highlighted it builds bridges. It inspires Muslims to rise above communal intolerance and engenders good will in Christians who might be nursing fear of Islam or Muslims.

When I look at Islamic sources, I find in them unprecedented examples of religious tolerance and inclusiveness. They make me want to become a better person. I think the capacity to seek good and do good inheres in all of us. When we subdue this predisposition towards the good, we deny our fundamental humanity. In this holiday season, I hope all of us can find time to look for something positive and worthy of appreciation in the values, cultures and histories of other peoples.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and a fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

12-6

The Camel Road

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“As a camel beareth labour, and heat, and hunger, and thirst, through deserts of sand, and fainteth not; so the fortitude of a man shall sustain him through all perils.”

~Egyptian King- 14th Century

camel-s Long gone are the days when camels, also known as the ‘ships of the desert’, were considered mere beasts of burden. Over the past few decades, the beleaguered camel has come up in the world and is often considered, by more than a few wealthy Arab businessmen, to be a crowning jewel in a portfolio of glittering capitalism.

Every year the love of all things with skinny legs and a giant hump is brought out for all to see at the annual Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi, which started this week and runs until February 8. Located in the heart of Zayed City lies a barren and desolate unpaved road that comes to life but once a year.  Nicknamed “Millions Street” after many a million dollar deal that has been struck up over the years, the mere 3 kilometer long road is an internationally recognized commercial site for some of the best camels in the entire world. It’s also the site of the festival that draws in both a local and international crowd.

Camel owners and aficionados from all over the Middle East descend upon the tiny Gulf emirate in the weeks leading up to the camel show and auction. Organizers treat their wealthy guests to camel beauty pageants, camel petting sessions and an auction fit for a king’s ransom.  As a result of the buzz surrounding this social event, members of the non-camel loving set can also line their wallets with some cold hard cash simply by catering to both man and beast. Savvy merchants often set up tents and offer a host of camel-related gear, from plushies to woven mats, and traditional UAE handicrafts. The municipality has also gotten in on the game by offering meals and water for the human guests while providing fresh fodder for the four-legged ones. There is even a makeshift mosque, camel hospital and a grocery store.

The starting price for one of the perfectly pampered and preened camels is a whopping 50,000 Dirhams and often skyrockets to several millions of dollars. This year more than 28,000 camels are on display with each one carrying its own price tag based on breed and beauty. In the first days of the festival, reports in the local media already revealed that a wealthy local businessman named Hamdan Bin Ghanim Al Falahi bought several camels to complete his prestigious flock to the tune of 45 million Dirhams.

As for the beauty pageant, a team of judges determines which camels are the youngest, most beautiful, possess the best lineage and who are most well behaved. The prizes for the winners of the beauty pageant stand to win an estimated 42 million Dirhams. Owners busy themselves throughout the day fussing over the camels to ensure that everything is picture perfect. Once the sun sets, the festivities hit a peak and last well into the morning. It’s all smiles for the owners who stand to earn millions if one of their camels catches the eye of a ‘cash cow’ of a buyer.

Looking back at past events, several lucrative sales have been made. Most notably were the sales of two camels that had made a name for themselves in the region. The camel named Marokan fetched an estimated 15 million Dirhams while his equally beautiful compatriot Mura’a was purchased for 10 million Dirhams. Camel breeding and herding is big business in the Gulf region which has pretty much catapulted itself out of the global credit crunch with only a couple of scratches. Event organizers hope to continue the event in the future and share a bit of the traditions of the UAE with the rest of the world.

12-6

America’s Credibility Takes Another Blow

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By David Rothkopf

court_front_med It’s ironic. At precisely the moment that Secretary of State Clinton was rightly striking out at the Chinese for their infringement of the rights of their own citizens to open Internet access, democracy was dying in America.

In fact now, following an era that might well be defined by America’s twin credibility crises of the past decade, another looms.

The first two blows — blows that have left America’s standing in the world weaker today than it has been at any time in the past half century, even with the many steps President Obama has taken to reverse the missteps of the Bush era — undercut two of what might be seen as the three pillars of American standing on the planet.

The initial credibility crisis was triggered by the Bush administration’s reckless disregard for the values upon which the republic was founded. >From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, from the illegal invasion of Iraq to the rendition and torture of prisoners, America’s role as a leader by virtue of our moral standing was called into question. The champions of the rule of law were now seen, rightfully, as one of its enemies, arguing as we were that there were two standards: that to which we held the rest of the world and that we chose for ourselves.

Next, America’s role as an economic model for the world, champion of free markets and opportunity for all came under fire. In the run up to the economic crisis of 2008-2009, growing inequality in the United States was leading many critics to question our “leave it to the markets” approach. But then came the crisis and once again, the United States demonstrated that the doctrine we had preached worldwide were not going to be applied at home and moreover, that our system was deeply and fundamentally flawed. Doubt about “American capitalism” were only amplified in the aftermath of the crisis, in which middle class victims of the crisis were hardly helped and many were hurt but in which Wall Street fat cats called the tune, reaped the rewards of government intervention and then flouted their power by shrugging off the government when it was no longer necessary to their business plans.

What was left for Americans to cling to? Our moral standing and our fundamental message to the world had been built on the ideas of respect for the rule of law and free markets. And now the world was left to wonder, if not America, then to whom do we turn? Should we embrace other models?

Admittedly, the Chinese model, which might have had a shot at greater influence given the damage done to the U.S. brand, wasn’t doing itself any favors with its attempt to deny its people both basic rights of all international citizens of the 21st Century … which would also have the effect of making Chinese workers less competitive in the global economy. Hillary Clinton’s speech attacking this was forceful and utterly appropriate. The Chinese whining in response to it was a sign of weakness and with some luck, the Obama administration will ignore it, shrug off the Chinese threats of consequences in other areas of the bilateral relationship, and continue to press home this essential point.

But the argument on behalf of the American way was made immeasurably harder recently by the Supreme Court’s devastating blow to several of the most fundamental precepts of American society — equal rights, for example, or truly free speech (which is to say the right speak and be heard, without having to pay for it).

By a 5-4 vote the justices of the court, with the Republican right in the majority, struck down limits on corporate campaign spending. Further building on the dangerous fiction in American law that corporations ought to have rights akin to those of individuals, the decision effectively unleashes the floodgates of corporate and union money into the political arena.

This is certainly a more powerful threat to democracy than terrorism. It may well be a more powerful threat to democracy than was the fatally-flawed Soviet Union. Because to the extent to which politicians depend on donations to remain in power, they are inevitably influenced by those who have the most money. Not surprisingly, corporate entities, representing many people and often vast economic enterprises, have vastly more financial resources than individuals. Arguing, as American right wingers do, that campaign donations are form of free speech and thus cannot be constrained, ignores the reality that by equating money with free speech we effectively say that those with more money have more free speech, are entitled to greater influence within our society.

The implications are stark. Should this decision go unreversed by subsequent action of the Congress, a future court or a future constitutional amendment, it tips the balance of power in the United States even farther away from average people and in the direction of elites. Since campaign donations do not flow from companies primarily for ideological reasons but rather to advance narrow self-interests, the business of U.S. political class will necessarily be driven by the politics of the business class.

In a nutshell, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision made it very likely that America will not be an effective leader in combating global warming or preserving global resources, it will not be able to effectively resolve the internal threats to its own society like a failing health care system, and it will pursue international policies that are driven less by the broad national interest and more by the agenda of companies that in fact, have increasingly little national identity.

In this respect, this compromise of the third and most important pillar of U.S. international leadership-democracy, may be the most damaging of all. We can repair, as the Obama administration has attempted to do, the abuses of the Bush years. But if the court’s action does in effect institutionalize Calvin Coolidge’s old idea that “the business of America is business” it will be impossible to either effectively redress the flaws in the American economic model or for us to continue to argue that the nation that was the most important pioneer of representative democracy will continue to be able to play that role.

12-5

Michigan Muslims Help Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

Doctors from around the world have travelled to the island of Hispanola, on which stands the beleaguered and battered nation of Haiti. 

It is an honor for the Muslims of Southeast Michigan that several doctors from the Muslim community are among the many doctors and others who have gone to the nation to offer their assistance.

Muslim doctors travelling to Haiti from the Michigan area include Dr. M. Azhar Ali, MD (Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery) and Dr. Khalid Rao, MD  (Internal Medicine). 

12-5

Interfaith Singing Event in Ann Arbor

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

ScreenShot106

Three members of the Threshold Choir of Ann Arbor sing at the East West Center on Airport Rd. in Ann Arbor. 

Photo by Steve Lyskawa

Ann Arbor–January 24–Three very different singing groups performed together at a Divine Language of Music Chanting special at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth at 704 Airport Rd. in Ann Arbor Sunday night.

An audience of about 120 people packed a beautiful room lit by candles, with paintings on the walls designed to represent spiritual teachings, and symbols around the room of cosmological things like the stars and moon.

Norma Gentile sang first–she is a recording artist of four solo musical CDs, 10 Meditation and teaching CDs.  She sings in a way designed to connect to spiritual powers.

Also singing were The Threshold Choir, which may be of slightly more interest to a Muslim audience.  The Threshold Choir, represented Sunday by about 15 singers, sings at the bedsides of people–sometimes bedsides of people who are dying, sometimes bedsides of people who are sick or in comas.  The Threshold Choir actually has branches all over the United States and in Canada as well, although they began in the Bay Area of California (where they now have several branches).

“We sing in small pairs or small groups in hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes when we are invited by family or caregivers,” explains their website.

At the Center for Spiritual Growth the Ann Arbor brach of the choir did a demonstration of several of their songs, including a rehearsed bedside singing ceremony.

The songs they sang at the event were all in English, including one called “Breathe in, cherish yourself, breathe out, cherish the world,” and another one which is a Navajo prayer, “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced, live your life so that when you die, you rejoice and the world cries.”

The Threshold Choir is a women’s only choir which is in fact a kind of spiritual guidance–beginning singers are welcomed from all faith backgrounds but are trained for a period of months before they actually perform for people at their bedsides.

Finally there was a Sufi chanting group which chanted the Shahada and Allah’s Holy Names, and there was a drum accompaniment and also there were whirling dervishes; Mr. Kamau Ayyubi explained the dervishes hold their right hand up high and extend their left down, representing bringing Divine benefits to this world.

12-5

A Crisis of Health and Minds

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

blowing_cement Ever since the H1N1 virus reared its ugly head this past summer it has jumped to the top of the list of diseases most deadly to humans. However, an older and wiser disease is still infecting many people across the world with the same deadly consequences. Tuberculosis (TB), a lethal lung infection, is as contagious as the H1N1 virus and spreads easily from person to person. For this reason alone, it is vital for the person infected with TB to be kept away from other people and treated in a hospital.

Unfortunately, in some regions of the world, people with TB are treated as if they have leprosy. They are often shunned by their society and isolated because people are afraid of contracting the disease. Nowhere is this more evident than in Egypt where having TB is often a death sentence for the person afflicted with it. According to the Egyptian government 21 out of every 1,000 Egyptians are infected with TB. However, only 1 in 10 cases becomes active while the remaining stay dormant. Doctors have approximated the number of TB cases in Egypt to be around 17,000. However, independent analysts believe that the number of TB cases in Egypt is a lot larger and could pose even a greater health epidemic than the pandemic flu.

Like most societies, it is the poorest and weakest members of a community that often bear the brunt of disease. In Egypt, slum-dwellers and cement workers are the most prone. In the case of the latter, Scientists believe that years of breathing the talcum-like powdery cement, which often causes Silicosis or lung disease, makes a person 30 more times likely to develop full-blown TB. However, there is no tangible evidence to support that claim besides the fact that cement workers are increasingly developing TB in droves. “TB has come to pose a real danger to the people of this country. The problem is that poor Egyptians living in the country’s slums are more prone to it,” revealed Essam al-Moghazy, chief of the National Tuberculosis Control Program, in a recent interview.

Once infected, company protocol often dictates that cement workers infected with TB are fired from their jobs. With most only earning a meager living in the first place, a stay in the hospital for treatment is out of the question. And the company the workers labor for day in and day out simply washes their hands of the sick employee without even offering insurance or other assistance. As a result, the workers have no recourse but to turn towards their home where it is common for them to spread the disease to their families. Cement workers are just one class of workers out of thousands whose jobs are dissolved once the employee contracts TB.

The Egyptian government has high hopes of eradicating TB by the year 2050 as it is the third leading cause of death amongst Egyptians, behind Bilharzia and Hepatitis C. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report stating that Egypt had been successful in managing the disease with case detection averaging 72% and successful treatment registering at 87%, which is 2% higher than the WHO’s global objectives.

12-4

Israel’s Growing Insanity

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I wrote this on 9th February 2009, the day before Israel’s election, after seeing an interview with Benjamin Netanyahu’s father on Israeli TV. Benjamin Netanyahu’s father—described as “sharp as a razor” at the ripe old age of 99—gave a rare interview to Amit Segel of Israel’s Channel 2 to support his son’s election campaign (Channel 2 website. 7 Feb. 2009).

At some point in the interview Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu said, “Today we are facing plain and simple, a danger of annihilation. This is not only the ongoing existential danger to Israel, but a real danger of complete annihilation. People think that the Shoah (Holocaust) is over — but it is not, it is continuing all the time” (My translation from the Hebrew).

The views of Netanyahu Senior do not represent a lunatic fringe, but the Israeli mainstream. When I was growing up in Israel, things were much the same. I and everyone I knew believed in earnest that we were always at risk of annihilation. Fear of annihilation is at the heart of Jewish, not just Israeli culture and it pre-dates the Holocaust. But the climate in Israel today is far more extreme than it was in my time, as Israel on the whole moves further and further to an irrational fanatic position.

When a person’s perception of reality is completely out of touch with reality itself, we begin to get an uneasy feeling that something might be wrong with his or her mind. Where is the evidence that the Jews, right now are facing a “real danger of complete annihilation”? Where is the evidence that the Holocaust, a systematic and deliberate plan to eliminate all Jews during the Second World War, is still being carried out?

I would even argue that saying this is an insult to the victims of the real Holocaust. Israel is rumored to have one of the most powerful military forces in the world but Israelis still believe that they are right now being annihilated. This is insanity.

Someone is indeed facing a risk of cultural, economic, political and even physical annihilation, but it’s not Israel or Jews, it’s the Palestinians, and the annihilator is Israel itself.

Our politics and our economics are both a product of our psychology, not something separate. We make political and economic choices based on who we are and what we feel and believe. Many rational people search for a rational analysis—often political or economic—for what is happening in Israel-Palestine. But the only way to interpret Israel’s behavior during the past 61 years is through understanding the psychology of its society and its leaders.

To ignore Israel’s psychology is dangerous because it means that any intervention based only on political considerations, will miss the mark and risk being irrelevant. Indeed if you look at the history of diplomacy and `peace negotiations’ in the region, it is quite obvious that they have achieved nothing at all. Things seem to be progressing on a trajectory determined by something that to someone in my profession, looks more like a mental illness than a political plan, bearing no relation to any rational diplomatic efforts, `roadmaps’, peace plans or truces.

Israel’s behavior is a direct product of its psychological struggle with the implications of Jewish identity, which in turn determines Israel’s very reason for existence. In his book Alternative to a Psychotic State Akiva Orr asks if Israel is a `Jewish state’ or a `state for the Jews’. Since it is clearly not a Jewish state—Israeli state law is different to religious law—then it must be a state for the Jews. And this begs the question of `who or what is a Jew’, and to that there has never been a satisfactory legal answer.

Israel has no constitution precisely because it cannot resolve the question of who or what it wants to be. The de-facto, modern secular Zionist definition of a Jew is someone who would have been considered a Jew by Hitler. Effectively Jews are allowing themselves to be defined by those who hated them and sought their annihilation. In other words, this identity was formed as a reaction to a particular set of circumstances.

But what happens if the circumstances change? What does that do to this identity? In other words, if the world is now safe for Jews and is no longer what Jewish people thought it was, then Jewish people no longer know who they are, in which case either Jewish identity needs to change, or you make sure that the world is back to what it was when the Jews were persecuted. That way there is no need to go through the difficult process of self-examination or live in a world that doesn’t make sense.

The reason for the existence of the state of Israel is a direct result of Jewish self-perception as victims of persecution. Israel was created to offer a safe haven for Jews from persecution. I could be wrong, I might be naïve, but I don’t believe that Israeli leaders are conscious that they are now hyping up more traditional forms of anti-Semitism—that is to say, I don’t think that they are consciously plotting to do it. They are operating without awareness and they probably believe in their own explanations for what they are doing, for example that they attacked Gaza to weaken Hamas. But we must look at the real consequences of Israel’s actions in Gaza and three years ago in Lebanon for example, to understand Israel’s real motivation.

If Israel’s actions lead to an increase in fanaticism and in anti-Jewish sentiment, this is because this is what Israel wants to achieve, albeit unconsciously.

But why does Israel need more fanaticism and antisemitism? An increase in real anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews would bring current reality into line with the outdated imaginary reality, and would help keep Jewish identity unchanged. The reality is that Jews have not been victims, certainly not of a genocidal regime for over sixty years—the Holocaust is not happening now and there is no attempt by anyone to annihilate the Jews.

The fact that Jews live in safety everywhere and are not persecuted makes Israel uncomfortable. If the Jews are doing well everywhere, then Jewish identity is being put to question, and so is the very reason for the existence of Israel. The very state that was created to save the Jews from persecution, now needs them to be persecuted again so that it can continue to exist. Escalating the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is one of the means to achieving this end.

The Palestinians, who are desperately trying to understand what has been happening to them, are caught in this madness and are the victims of it. It’s not because of who they are or something they did, that they are suffering. It’s because they had the misfortune of living on the land that a neurotic Zionist movement was determined to take for itself regardless of cost. I think many Palestinians are beginning to recognise this but the world leaders still believe Israel’s racist propaganda, which says that there is something inherent in the Palestinian people that means that they deserve what they get.

This is why it is essential that the world intervene decisively. I do not trust Israel to suddenly develop sufficient self-awareness to understand what it’s doing and put a stop to it. Israel’s growing delinquency demonstrates the exact opposite. The Palestinians do not have any more time to spare.

12-4

Abu Dhabi’s Dubai aid shrinks to $5 bln

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Amran Abocar and Nicolas Parasie

2010-01-08T095618Z_1575008665_GM1E6181DQ601_RTRMADP_3_EMIRATES

Expert sky diver and BASE jump enthusiast Omar Al Hegelan (C) descends on to Burj Park Island after free falling from Burj Khalifa in Dubai, January 5, 2010. Al Hegelan and Nasser Al Neyadi both expert divers, have broken the record for the world’s highest BASE jump after free falling from the tallest building in the world, and made their landing on Burj Park Island after covering a vertical descent of 672 metres (2,205 ft). Picture taken January 5.

REUTERS/Stringer

DUBAI, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Dubai said on Monday that half of a $10 billion bailout from Abu Dhabi last December came from an older debt deal, highlighting what analysts said was the emirate’s poor market communications and lack of transparency.

Investors said news that Abu Dhabi directly lent less new money than previously thought also indicated the wealthy emirate wanted more evidence of Dubai’s fiscal probity, after helping it avert an embarrassing default on a state-linked bond.

“The government works behind a high degree of opacity and I think market players have factored that in,” said Khuram Maqsood, managing director of Emirates Capital.

The UAE is not known for exercising best practice transparency but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying. But I don’t think they’re there yet and I think people recognise that.”

A Dubai government spokeswoman said the last minute lifeline last Dec. 14 included $5 billion raised from Al Hilal Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi which was announced on Nov. 25.

“Obviously it’s a lot less cash than we had assumed,” said Raj Madha, an independent analyst based in Dubai.

“The interesting thing is what it says about the behaviour of Abu Dhabi: whether they are just rushing through a large amount of money or whether they are providing funding where required.”

Five-year credit default swaps for Dubai stood at 426 basis points, up from 423 basis points on Friday.

Dubai rocked global markets last Nov. 25 when it requested a standstill on $26 billion in debt linked to its flagship conglomerate Dubai World and its two main property developers, Nakheel and Limitless World.

The $5 billion raised from the two Abu Dhabi banks was part of a $20 billion bond programme announced early last year. The UAE central bank signed up for $10 billion of that in February.

But it was unclear whether Abu Dhabi’s $10 billion bailout on Dec. 14 — which enabled Dubai World to repay a $4.1 billion Islamic bond, or sukuk by developer Nakheel — was entirely new money or included the bond to the Abu Dhabi banks.

The government spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Gulf Arab emirate had already drawn down $1 billion of the $5 billion from the banks, provided under a five-year bond priced at 4 percent, with the rest yet to be used.

The remainder of the funds, some $4.9 billion, may come from the banks’ or the Abu Dhabi government directly, the spokeswoman said, through another of its investment vehicles.

“The question is whether there will be more funds coming in; because as things stand today, Dubai without further support will find it very difficult to drive a favourable bargain with its creditors,” said a Gulf-based banker.

Asked whether Dubai would seek more funds, the spokeswoman declined to comment.

Abu Dhabi’s support in December came nearly three weeks after the standstill news and amid a lack of communication by Dubai which shook global markets and may have caused lasting damage to the reputation of the Gulf business hub.

CREDITOR TALKS

Dubai World is in the midst of talks with its creditors to finalise a formal standstill agreement that would last for six months, during which the conglomerate will restructure its remaining debt burden, estimated at some $22 billion.

The conglomerate has insisted the restructuring is limited only to certain units and has ringfenced its jewels such as ports operator DP World.

In a research note on Monday, UBS said there was a high probability Dubai World would have to offer “sweeteners” to creditors to bring them onside in the debt talks.

That could include higher interest rates or equity swap options to persuade creditors to give up claims to key assets, like the profitable port operator.

“It is unlikely that Abu Dhabi’s support has peaked just yet and the probability of further balance sheet assistance is high,” UBS economist Reinhard Cluse said.

But he said Abu Dhabi, the biggest and wealthiest of the seven member United Arab Emirates federation, would not want to act solely “as a channel for cash” and would demand systemic changes.

Dubai has said the Abu Dhabi lifeline is contingent on Dubai World reaching an acceptable standstill with creditors.

Uncertainty over the restructuring has weighed on UAE markets as investors fret about the outcome amid a dearth of information.

The conglomerate said this month it is “some time away” from presenting its formal plan to creditors, though it is expected in coming weeks.

“Clearly there were critical time deadlines last year that required extraordinary measures,” said Mashreq Capital Chief Executive Abdul Kadir Hussain, of Abu Dhabi’s bailout.

“But whatever form is required, whether it’s the federation or Abu Dhabi, what is critical now is a well-documented plan for repayment and … a strategy that will show how all of this will be taken care of.” On Monday, the Financial Times said some creditors to the conglomerate are seeking to offload loans to reduce their exposure to the conglomerate.

(Additional reporting by Chris Mangham and Dinesh Nair; Editing by John Irish and David Cowell)

12-4

Oldest Swiss Bank Tells Clients to Sell U.S. Assets or Leave

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) — Wegelin & Co.,Switzerland’s oldest bank, is telling wealthy clients to sell their U.S. assets, or switch banks, because of concerns new rules will saddle investors with tax obligations in the world’s biggest economy.

U.S. proposals to extend reporting requirements for banks whose clients buy American stocks and bonds coupled with estate tax liabilities that may be inherited by the heirs of people who have such holdings prompted the advice from the St. Gallen, Switzerland-based bank, said Managing Partner Konrad Hummler.

“We came to the conclusion that it’s a threat to our clients,” Hummler, who is also president of the Swiss Private Bankers Association, said in an interview yesterday during a conference in Zurich. “It’s also a threat to us as a bank because as a custodian we are an executor to the estate. We find this aspect discomforting, so we recommend selling all American securities whatsoever.”

Hummler said he plans to raise the subject today at a meeting of the Private Bankers Association, which counts Pictet & Cie., Lombard Odier & Cie. and Mirabaud & Cie. among its members. Swiss banks, which manage $2 trillion, or 27 percent, of the world’s privately held offshore wealth, are struggling to protect bank secrecy after the government agreed to hand over the names of 4,450 UBS AG clients to U.S. tax authorities.

Hummler said he wouldn’t ask other association members to follow Wegelin’s lead. Wegelin, founded in 1741, manages more than 20 billion Swiss francs ($18.7 billion) in client assets.

“Every member is free to decide and act on their own,” he said.

HSBC Studies Alexandre Zeller,head of HSBC Holdings Plc’s private bank in Switzerland, said his company is still studying the new rules for qualified intermediaries and will do everything it can to comply with them.

“Often in these agreements you have to understand how this will be applied, and it would be premature, especially for an international bank, to take such a decision,” he said today, referring to Wegelin’s position. “It’s not on the agenda for the moment.”

The U.S. has proposed increasing reporting and oversight requirements for so-called qualified intermediaries — foreign banks that withhold taxes on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, new rules may mean that people who spend limited periods oftime in the U.S. acquire tax obligations, including estate taxes,creating an unacceptable risk for Wegelin’s clients, Hummler said.

If a client decides to keep his U.S. investments, “then finally he has to change banks,” Hummler said.

“We’re talking about probabilities,” Hummler said. “My responsibility toward clients has to include any kind of probability,and if I see a real threat then we have to act.”

Wegelin is finding alternative ways of investing in the U.S. that won’t impose reporting requirements on the bank or tax liabilities on clients, Hummler said.

“The good thing is that in today’s world you can build up U.S.exposure in equities and as well in bonds through derivatives and index funds and so on, so we are switching to a European-made American exposure.”

Germany and France have also sought to weaken Swiss secrecy laws as they crack down on tax evaders.

The French government, which signed a double-taxation treaty with Switzerland on Aug. 27, obtained the names of 3,000 people suspected of tax fraud and holding accounts at three Swiss banks, French Budget Minister Eric Woerth, said Aug. 30 in an interview with the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

“It’s not credible,” Hummler said. “The U.S. had a hard time getting these 4,450 names, then the French come and say we have 3,000? I cannot believe it, but they’re trying it on.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Warren Giles in Zurich at wgiles@bloomberg.net

12-3

Al-Qaeda Using U.S. to Accomplish Goals — and U.S. Is Playing Along

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

William Pfaff, Chicago Tribune

PARIS — It is not widely understood that the policy objective of Al Qaeda is not to attack the Western countries, which in itself accomplishes nothing. Bringing down a Western airliner or blowing up a building in the United States or Britain is of no interest in itself, since the Islamic radical does no good by simply killing unbelievers. The ultimate purpose of Al Qaeda is to bring about an upheaval in the Islamic world in which Islam can be rescued from corrupted governments and degenerate practices.

When Gordon Brown or Barack Obama say that Western soldiers have to fight terrorists abroad so that they will not have to fight them in their own hometowns, they’re being silly, as such sophisticated men ought to know.

Why should Al Qaeda or the Taliban wish to fight in Peoria, Illinois, or a garden suburb of London? There are no recruits to be made there, and nothing to be gained in the real battle that the Muslim extremists are waging: to radicalize the Muslim world, and to rescue their co-religionists from heretical beliefs and Western practices.

The real reason for attacking Westerners in the West, or in airplanes on the way there, is to provoke the Western governments to send more Western soldiers to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere in the Muslim world to attack Muslim jihadists on the Islamists’ own ground, where the latter have tactical and human advantages that Western soldiers can never overcome.

Instead, attack by Western soldiers and the building of Western military bases on the soil of Muslim countries radicalizes and scandalizes ordinary people, and undermines the governments of those countries that choose to align themselves with the invaders — thereby, in the eyes of Islamic true believers, revealing themselves as traitors to orthodox Muslim belief.

The United States and the NATO countries are playing Al Qaeda’s game with every planeload of troops they dispatch to the Arab world and to Central Asia.

A headline in the Paris press says: “The CIA and U.S Special Forces lend a powerful hand to the government of Yemen.” The front-page headline in Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune says: “Yemen corruption blunts Qaeda fight.” This report explains that the Yemeni president’s government “is filled with members of his family and . . . wants to ensure that his son, Ahmed, 38, succeeds him.” The story goes on to say that “the economy has collapsed, with oil revenues down and oil and water running out.” This is the American-allied regime.

At the end of last year, we read about allegations of corruption in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s own family, and the results of a national election were challenged as falsified. The president of Afghanistan has just ordered the nation’s parliament back from vacation in order to vote on his new cabinet nominees. These are to take the place of 17 of his 24 previous cabinet appointments, all rejected by parliament. Mr. Karzai is, of course, the man the United States put in place in Kabul to bring democracy to Afghanistan, so as to save it from the Taliban and al-Qaida.

No American who witnessed the waltz of U.S. senators with the health industry’s lobbyists during the ongoing effort to legislate health reform in the U.S. is in a position to be condescending about foreign corruption. If the United States has an occupying army that put in place, or sustains, the Afghan, Pakistani or Yemen government, then the ordinary citizen in those countries will see Americans and NATO as sources of their nation’s corruption, and perhaps the main one.

Moreover, the Taliban and al-Qaida are not fighting against corrupt governments in order to reform them. They want to destabilize and eventually destroy all of them so as to clear a political space in which 40 million Pashtuns and their fellow Sunni Arabs can create a new political dispensation of true believers, while the West declines.

That is fantasy, but it is a fantasy in which the United States and NATO are unwittingly playing leading roles.

(Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.)

Mordechai Vanunu on Israel’s Nuclear Blackmail

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

vanunu
File: Mordechai Vanunu

By Hesham Tillawi Interview, Current Issues TV

Below is the transcript of an eye-opening interview that took place between peace activist Mordechai Vanunu and talk show host Hesham Tillawi on the television program Current Issues.

TILLAWI. `Well, I do believe that we have Mordechai Vanunu with us…Mordechai, are you with us?

VANUNU. Yes.

TILLAWI. Good Morning, I know that it is 4 o’clock in the morning there in Jerusalem. Folks, Mordechai Vanunu has spent 18 years in an Israeli jail for telling Israeli nuclear secrets. He was lured to Rome by Israeli agents and kidnapped and then sent back to Israel where he spent 18 yrs in prison and 11 of those years in solitary confinement. That is true, Mordechai?

VANUNU. Yes, that is right.

TILLAWI Now, Mordechai, I have a question for you. What was it that you really felt that you must tell the world about, what was it about the Israeli nuclear program that you felt to yourself, `you know I cannot continue like this, I cannot remain silent on this, I have got to tell the world about it.’ What was it?

VANUNU Well, the most important point is that it was the same situation that we have right now, namely that these people continue to lie and to cheat the world as well as their own citizens by denying the truth, by declaring that they do not have atomic weapons while at the same time I was working there helping to produce them. At that time there were more than 200 atomic weapons, in 1986, and it was at that time that they started to produce the most horrible of all weapons, the hydrogen bomb…all of this in secret, in lying and in cheating the world and all of its citizens. So I said to myself `It is impossible to keep these secrets. I must report about them and to try and stop it.’

TILLAWI Mordechai, there are a lot of nations that have nuclear weapons. What is it about Israel having them that makes you so nervous?

VANUNU Because Israel wants to use them, to cause genocide and holocaust on other innocent citizens. It has always been a part of Israel’s secret policy. And also by having them, Israel will use them as a threat to avoid making peace with the Arab world as well as imposing her policies on those peoples. As long as she has them, she will continue on in her policies of not making peace, of occupation and of neglecting the Palestinian suffering caused by the refugee camps that have existed for more than 50 years.

TILLAWI One of the Israeli professors said a few months ago that ‘we have the nuclear capability of hitting every major European city,’ is that true to your knowledge?

VANUNU Yes, it is true. They can bombard any city all over the world, and not only those in Europe but also those in the United States, and by this threat what they are doing is to send a secret message to any leader and to any government that they have the ability to use them aggressively and to blackmail them, to blackmail Europe and the United States, everywhere, in every state around the world. It was Europe and the United States who helped them get this power, and now that Israel has it, she is coming back and saying to them ‘We will not obey any orders that you give us. No international law, no international agreement, no UN resolutions,’ and all because of these atomic weapons that they have. …

TILLAWI … What made Mordechai Vanunu betray his country and then change his religion?

VANUNU Yes, this is a very good question and very important. You are right, it is not usual to have a person come to these hard conclusions. As far as my conversion, it started at the very early age of 15 or 16. I was raised in the Jewish religion and in a Jewish family. Israel and Judaism were considered as one nation, one big family, one tribe. I began criticizing and rejecting Judaism over the point of view that these Jews are teaching injustice through their Judaism. In the same way that Jesus Christ also criticized Judaism 2,000 years ago, I was unwilling to accept what they teach, and later converted to the opposite of Judaism. The Jewish tribe teaches that there is only one Chosen people of God. They teach of their superiority, taking literally word-by-word the writings in the old bible. And I decided therefore that after 2,000 years these ideas were nonsense. There are 6 billion people around the world, and all of them are equal, all are part of the human race. There is no such thing as a super race. We should all respect and love each other, and that was the beginning of my rejecting Judaism and my accepting of Christianity, of following the teachings of Jesus Christ and of accepting humanity. I am not a religious man, I am not going to become a priest. I did all of this for my humanity and for my beliefs. So, I chose my own way and began criticizing the Jewish faith. Those who teach Judaism run the lives of those under them, telling them what they must do every hour of every day, issuing many orders about everything, from waking up in the morning to going to sleep, but at the same time they do not teach them to respect other human beings, to accept non-Jews and to believe that non-Jews are like them. They teach that only the Jews are the chosen people. So, this is Judaism, a collection of primitive traditions thousands of years old that have not changed. The world has changed in the last 2,000 years and the Jewish people need to accept and understand this change, and especially if they want a democratic country. You cannot have a state and run it as they did 2,000 years ago. They came to Palestine in the name of the Bible and in the name of their god and took this land that was promised to them thousands of years ago. In the name of this god, they took the land, expelled the people and gave them hard, cruel, barbaric lives for the last 60 years. This way of thinking, this faith cannot exist within this new age, and it was this that also led me to expose Israel’s nuclear secrets.

TILLAWI Mordechai, you have been living amongst the Palestinians for a while now. What do you think, are they the terrorists that we have all been hearing about?

VANUNU I have been living amongst the Palestinians now for 15 months, but I have been following the Palestinian situation now since the 1980’s. Now I am here living among them, watching them, meeting with them, eating with them, enjoying life with them and seeing how the Israelis have succeeded in portraying them all over the world as terrorists. But this is not true. They are very peaceful people and lovers of peace. …

TILLAWI So, why are we after Iran then to open its doors to inspections, but no one is asking Israel to do the same? Why is that?

VANUNU This is a very strange situation that has been developed and accepted by the Western states since the 1960’s. It goes back about 40 years. My view is that Europe and America are and have been under a long-term agenda of blackmail by the Israelis. In the first case, the Israelis constantly bring up the Holocaust and what happened to the Jews during WWII, blaming the West for it and then using this as the justification for possessing nuclear weapons as a way of preventing this from ever happening again. …(9) Mordechai Vanunu says Nazi Holocaust used as “propaganda” to blackmail the WestThe World Today (ABC Radio, Australia)Wednesday, 29 September , 2004

MORDECHAI VANUNU: Maybe the real fear is that my free spirit, my free belief to express my views in politics, in everything, not only nuclear secrets, I have many interesting views and I’m telling them without fear and expressing that to anyone in all the world, in all the media, and that is not good for Israel.They don’t like it, and also, the Israel Government and state have teached all the world, especially the west, Europe, United States, Australia, Canada, they teach them to fear and now to be under blackmail by Israel propaganda of Holocaust and all this propaganda.

http://currentissue s.tv/VanunuTranscript.html

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Dubai Officials’ Confidence-Building Britain, US Trip

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amran Abocar and Steve Slater

2009-12-16T115052Z_26914839_GM1E5CG1J5P01_RTRMADP_3_DUBAI

An investor looks at stock information at the Dubai Financial Market December 16, 2009.   REUTERS/Mosab Omar

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Two top Dubai officials are visiting Britain and the United States over the coming days to rebuild investor confidence after neighboring Abu Dhabi helped bail out the emirate’s flagship company.

A source close to the government said the officials were already in London and would be in New York on Thursday and Washington on Friday to meet financial and political leaders.

“This is the next step in Dubai’s commitment to greater transparency,” said the source.

“They will spend the next few days meeting financial, economic and political leaders in London, New York and Washington, D.C. to discuss the actions taken this week to stabilize global markets.”

The emirate, famous for its man-made islands in the shape of palms and for other infrastructure projects, rocked global markets on November 25 with a request for a standstill agreement on $26 billion of debt linked to Dubai World and its two main property units, Nakheel and Limitless World.

The roadshow is being led by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee and the uncle of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Until recently he was best known as leader of the Emirates airline, but his public profile has risen since the debt crisis erupted.

Also on the trip is Mohammed al-Shaibani, deputy chairman of the same committee. He heads Sheikh Mohammed’s court and is chief executive of the Investment Corporation Dubai, which oversees the government’s investment portfolio.

‘Comprehensive Solution’

Earlier this week, Abu Dhabi, which produces 90 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ oil exports, provided $10 billion of financial aid to its fellow UAE member to meet the debt obligations of Dubai World until the end of April and to stave off a bond default by Nakheel.

Some $4.1 billion of the rescue funding helped Nakheel repay an Islamic bond, or sukuk, on Tuesday, a day after its due date.

The Abu Dhabi lifeline came in the form of bonds, at similar terms to a $10 billion bond issue to the UAE central bank in February, which carried a coupon of 4 percent per annum for the five-year, fixed-term issue.

Dubai also announced this week it would implement immediately an insolvency law modeled on U.S. and British practices in the event Dubai World needs to seek protection from its creditors. Meanwhile, Dubai’s ruler ordered the creation of a tribunal, headed by three international judges, to oversee any disputes between Dubai World and its creditors.

“They want to explain what happened this week,” said another source close to the government. “It’s very much the transparency message and to discuss the fact they presented a comprehensive solution.”

With the bond repayment out of the way, Dubai World must now agree a standstill with creditors, allowing it time to undergo a massive restructuring. It is slated to meet representatives from some 90 banks in Dubai on Monday.

(Editing by Andrew Callus and Kenneth Barry)

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Eboo Patel Earns Award

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

eboo patel Eboo Patel, the Chicago based founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, has won the 2010 Louisville Grawemeyer award in religion for his autobiography. He was selected from among 67 nominations worldwide.

Patel’s encourages young people of different religions to perform community service, explore common values and build bridges among diverse faiths. The organization is now active on about 75 college campuses.

“Religious extremists all over the world are harnessing adolescent angst for their own ends,” said Susan Garrett, a religion professor who directs the award. “Patel urges us to take advantage of the short window of time in a young person’s life to teach the universal values of cooperation, compassion and mercy.”

The Indian born Patel immigrated to Chicago as a child. As a teenager, he struggled with what he saw as a lack of religious pluralism in America. His experiences prompted him to launch a movement to build interfaith cooperation by inspiring college students to champion the cause.

He formed Interfaith Youth Core in 1998.

A Rhodes Scholar, he is now a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations. In October, U.S. News & World Report named him one of America’s Best Leaders in 2009.

The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual $200,000 prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion. They were founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer to help make the world a better place. The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Seminary jointly award the religion prize.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Torment in Hell

1. The Worst Torment

Hypocrites, whom Allah describes in the Qur’an as deserving of even worse, will be punished with the greatest suffering in the Hereafter—in other words, with the torment of Hell:

. . . Do you, then, believe in one part of the Book and reject the other? What repayment will there be for any of you who do that except disgrace in this world? And on the Day of Resurrection, they will be returned to the harshest of punishments. Allah is not unaware of what you do.

Al-Baqara: 85

2. An Unremitting Suffering

Those are the people who trade the Hereafter for this world. The punishment will not be lightened for them. They will not be helped.

Al-Baqara: 86

Hypocrites will remain in Hell for all eternity and their suffering will never be lightened in any way.

3. A Fierce Punishment

Give news to the hypocrites that they will have a painful punishment.

An-Nisa’: 138

According to the Qur’an, the torment of Hell will be fierce and very great. Everyone there will be cast into the flames. Escape will be impossible. They will be bound with chains and iron shackles. They will be scourged with whips of iron. Hypocrites, whose only foods will be boiling water, pus, the tree of Zaqqum and thorns, will wish to leave Hell, but their suffering will never end or ever be alleviated.

The reason is that although they knew everything Allah required of them in this world, they followed their Earthly desires and turned their backs on the truth, declaring war on Allah and His religion.

4. The Most Humiliating Torment

The people in Hell will assume a frightening appearance and experience torment in all respects. Their bodies will be torn apart with fire, boiling water will be poured over their heads, and they will be forced to wear clothing made of tar and flame:

But those who strive against Our signs, trying to nullify them, will have a punishment most humiliating. (Surah Saba’: 5)

5. Curse of Allah

As we have seen, hypocrites will be surrounded with torments in all respects in Hell. Yet there is one torment even greater than all of these, and that is the curse of Allah—His refusal to speak with them and His humiliation and disparagement of them:

The repayment of such people is that Allah’s curse is on them and that of the angels and of all humanity.

Ali ‘Imran: 87

Those who conceal what Allah has sent down of the Book and sell it cheap, take nothing into their bellies but the Fire. On the Day of Resurrection Allah will not speak to them or purify them. They will have a painful punishment.

Al-Baqara: 174

6. They Will be All Alone

The people they imagined to be their friends in this world will be far distant from them in the Hereafter. Each will have his own sufferings, for which reason they will be able to find no friend or comforter, and they will remain all alone.

. . . You will not find any one to help them.

An-Nisa’: 145

In the Hereafter, moreover, they will curse the people they called closest to them in this world.

. . . But then on the Day of Resurrection, you will reject one another and curse one another. The Fire will be your shelter. You will have no helpers.

Al-‘Ankabut: 25

7. They Will Suffer Terrible Loss

There is no doubt that in the Hereafter they will be the losers.

An-Nahl: 109

Leaving behind the life of this world, which they imagined to be so profitable, they will die and enter Hell, their true abode. There they will see the true face of all things and realize that rather than having gained any profit, they have actually suffered a terrible loss. They will realize that everything they did in this world has been meaningless and cannot benefit them at all.

The Lowest Level of Hell

The hypocrites are in the lowest level of the Fire. You will not find any one to help them.

An-Nisa’: 145

As Allah reveals to us in the above verse, hypocrites inhabit “the lowest level of the Fire.” The reason for that, of course, is their two-facedness and their moral model based on strife.

We have touched on dozens of elements that determine hypocrites’ cunning natures. One aim behind our setting out these defects one by one is to show that hypocrites are among the cruelest people who have ever lived, and to provide a means of imparting that knowledge to all.

The reason why the hypocrites described right throughout this book are to be regarded as cruel and extreme is because they are people to whom knowledge has been given. In other words, they have been told of religious moral values and have learned the truth from believers, and even from the messenger of Allah himself. They have lived for a while according to those religious moral values, but then turned their backs on them and, of course, on Allah, on His messenger and the faithful, imagining that their life would be easier as deniers. Allah reveals that:

They swear by Allah that they said nothing, but they definitely spoke the word of disbelief and returned to disbelief after their Islam. They planned something, which they did not achieve and they were vindictive for no other cause than that Allah and His messenger had enriched them from His bounty. If they were to repent, it would be better for them. But if they turn away, Allah will punish them with a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter, and they will not find any protector or helper on the Earth.

At-Tawba: 74

Therefore, they bear a greater burden of responsibility than—and are quite distinct from—those to whom knowledge has not been imparted; in other words, to people who have not been called to religious moral values and the Qur’an, and who have thus never been followers of Islam. The suffering they experience in the Hereafter will be far worse than the latter, as is revealed by Allah. That is because hypocrites appear to be religious during the course of their lives, avoiding any number of telltale sins that would enable them to be identified by believers. In their hearts, however, they harbor no obedience towards Allah and His messenger but on the contrary, feel a cunning hatred of and enmity towards them. It is only natural and just that such people should deserve the worst punishment in Hell, because hypocrites have witnessed the finest examples of moral values in the community of the faithful, have lived in the most peaceful environment, and have experienced great love and respect. However, although they have known nothing but goodness and beauty from believers, still they manage to feel hatred for them because of the sickness in their hearts.

Moreover, because they were proud and arrogant in the face of believers during their time in this world, Allah will humiliate and belittle them.

The position of the hypocrites is described thus in one hadith:

On the Day of Qiyamah, the one in the vilest of conditions will be a two-faced person.

Sahih Bukhari and Muslim

They seek to deceive believers in this world but in the Hereafter, will beg them for even the slightest help. Yet of course believers will not be taken in by this. Thanks to the infinite justice of Allah, they will live for all eternity among His blessings.

Verses speak of hypocrites’ endless lamentation in Hell:

That Day the men and women of the hypocrites will say to those who believe, “Wait for us so that we can borrow some of your light.” They will be told, “Go back and look for light!” And a wall will be erected between them with a gate in it, on the inside of which there will be mercy but before whose exterior lies the punishment. They will call out to them, “Were we not with you?” They will reply, “Indeed you were. But you made trouble for yourselves and hung back and doubted and false hopes deluded you until Allah’s command arrived. The deluder deluded you about Allah. So today no ransom will be accepted from you or from those who disbelieved. Your refuge is the Fire. It is your master. What an evil destination!”

Al-Hadid: 13-15

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Obama, the Anti-Churchill?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

winston_churchill_01 If you take out just one sentence, Barack Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week was all about focusing and limiting the scope of the U.S. mission in that country. The objectives he detailed were exclusively military: to deny al-Qaeda a haven, reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Kabul government’s security forces. The nation that he was interested in building, he explained, was this one.

And then there was that one line: “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” Here lies the tension in Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge — send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down — is his answer to this dilemma.

This first year of his presidency has been a window into Obama’s worldview. Once most presidents get hold of the bully pulpit, they cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate toward grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama is a realist by temperament, learning and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing resources to achieve them and keeping his eyes on the prize.

“In the end,” the president said last Tuesday, “our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.” He explained that America’s economic and technological vigor underpinned its ability to play a world role. At a small lunch with a group of columnists before his speech last week, he made clear to us that he did not want to run two wars. He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America’s long-term security. He explained that challenges at home — economic growth, technological innovation, education reform — were at the heart of maintaining America’s status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

It is clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious — to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial. That begins with narrowing the “war on terrorism”; scaling back the conflict with the Islamic world to those groups and countries that pose serious, direct threats to the United States; and reaching out to the rest. He has also tried to develop a better working relationship with major powers such as Russia and China, setting aside smaller issues in hopes of cooperation on bigger ones. This means departing from a bipartisan approach in which Washington’s role was to direct and hector the rest of the world, pushing regimes large and small to accept American ideas, and publicly chastising them when they refused. Obama is trying to break the dynamic that says that when an American president negotiates with the Chinese or Russians, he must return with rewards or concessions — or else he is guilty of appeasement.

For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.

Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

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