Middle East Hit by U.S. Financial Crisis

October 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy New America Media, Shane Bauer

Editor’s Note: Even oil-rich Arab countries, which until recently were smug about being insulated from the financial debacle on Wall Street, are starting to worry. Analysts are predicting that they are sure to increase regulations and start pulling their economies away from the United States. NAM contributor Shane Bauer is a journalist and photographer based in the Middle East.

Stock traders in the Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen–While Washington was hashing out the terms of its largest financial bailout in history, Arab bankers were saying everything in the Middle East was as good as ever.

A full-page ad in one Middle Eastern magazine advertised a proposed business park called Falcon City, another fantasy land to add to the skyscrapers and glitter of oil-rich Dubai. Office buildings were shaped to resemble the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Taj Mahal.

“As a residential or business address, each wonder is a totally amazing investment,” the caption read.

A few days later, the same newsstands spelled dread. Images of fear-stricken men in white robes and kafiyyas, their eyes fixed on strings of red numbers, splashed the front pages. Headlines announced that the Middle East’s markets were crashing, and columnists spit fire, calling on the Arab world to free itself “from the shackles of American imperialism.”

The degree to which Arab investors, which have some $800 billion invested internationally, will rein in their international investments will likely depend on how heavily they are impacted by the crisis. But analysts say that at the very least, Arab countries are sure to increase regulations and start pulling their economies away from the United States.

“U.S. influence has long been waning, both in its capacity to inspire and to intimidate,” says David Levy, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Initiative at the Washington, D.C., think tank the New America Foundation. “The region has been increasingly looking elsewhere for investments and markets. The crisis on Wall Street will only hasten that process.”

2008-10-12T102958Z_01_DUB09_RTRMDNP_3_DFM-LIMITDOWN But Arab analysts say the United States was becoming increasingly unattractive for investment well before the financial crisis hit. Washington had rejected several investment attempts in recent years by Arab companies on the basis that they were, well, Arab.

The last rejection came when some Gulf companies showed interest in investing nearly $20 billion to help save Citi Group and Merrill Lynch when they were initially threatened with bankruptcy. The deal was stopped in Congress when opponents said an increase in Arab investment in the United States would present a national security problem.

As Arab stock markets fall for their third day since reopening after a one-week post-Ramadan holiday, one thing is clear: those with the most open markets and the strongest ties to the U.S. economy are being hit the hardest.

In the past three days alone, banks in the Persian Gulf have lost about $150 billion. On Tuesday, the Tadawul All-Shares Index, home to the Arab world’s biggest market, finished at its lowest close in four years.

Countries that last week were saying that their economies were “insulated” from international financial disasters are now bailing out their banks. The central bank of the United Arab Emirates pumped $17.5 billion into its banks this week and said it is ready to give more if needed.

Jan Randolph, an economic analyst at Global Insight, says that “Arab investors and banks are going to start looking locally for investments.”

The president of the Union of Arab Banks, Adnan Yusif, has announced that there needs to be an increase in regional investment, and economists have been calling for a meeting of financial ministers and policy makers to come up with a regionwide plan to deal with the crisis.

But inter-Arab economic cooperation might not be easy. The Middle East is home to some of the world’s most closed economies, like Syria, as well as countries whose names are virtually synonymous with unfettered growth, like the United Arab Emirates.

Antagonisms over competing economic ideologies run deep in the Arab world, and the current crisis seems to be reigniting debates about how much regional economies should be bound to the global economy.

“If this crisis does send real shockwaves through the region, and you start seeing that economies more closed to the world are more protected, people might start seeing open economies as a double-edged sword,” says David Levy.

Masa’ad al-Kurdi of the Saudi-owned Al-Majella magazine writes that neo-liberal globalization is to blame for the crisis. “The developing world’s economies are dependent on the U.S., the world’s largest importer, to buy their exports,” he argues. As the dollar weakens, “developing countries are going to pay the most,” writes Al-Kurdi, who concludes that “the United States of America is driving the world into the abyss.”

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Community News (V10-I30)

July 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Mohammad Khan, President and Founder. ViVotech is the President and Founder of ViVOtech Inc.

Mr. Khan held several engineering, marketing, and business development management positions during the 15 years he worked with VeriFone.

Joining VeriFone in its early stage in 1983, Mr. Khan helped the company develop its payment automation systems and later helped successfully market these products in more than 96 countries.

Included were the smart card and security payment products he conceived for VeriFone and launched to its worldwide markets in the early ‘90s.

Mr. Khan was also a co-founder of the Internet Commerce Division within VeriFone and was responsible for expansion of its Internet payment systems business into more than 25 countries. Khan is a co-founder of Sparkice, Inc., China’s e-Hub for global commerce, where he worked as its senior vice president.

Mr. Khan holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In 2006 Mohammad Khan was recognized as a leader of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction Trends Magazine and in 2005 as a “Mover and Shaker” of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction World magazine.

ViVOtech is a market leader in contactless payment software, over the air (OTA) card provisioning, promotion, and transaction management infrastructure software, NFC smart posters, and contactless readers/writers.

These innovative solutions allow consumers to make contactless payments with radio frequency-enabled credit cards, debit cards, key fobs, and NFC-enabled mobile phones. ViVOtech’s products are used by some of the most prominent retailers in the United States.

ViVOtech’s products are in use at movie theaters, fast food restaurants (QSR), casual dining establishments, convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores, buses, taxicabs and vending machine locations, enabling a wide variety of businesses to accept contactless payments.

Nevada brings people of diverse faiths together

LAS VEGAS–With an interfaith picnic Sunday, Nevada showed to the world that Christians (various denominations), Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others could discuss similarities and differences in their religions across the picnic tables and make friends with people of “other” faith.

There were prayers in Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, and English when Christians Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others gathered at Second Annual Northern Nevada Interfaith Community Picnic in Rancho San Rafael Park of Reno.

Besides coordinators Methodist Pastor John J. Auer, Rabbi Myra Soifer, Imam Abdul Rahim Barghouthi, several other religious leaders from the area participated in the event.

Muslim and Christian leaders to meet at Yale

NEW HAVEN–More than 150 Muslim and Christian leaders, including some of the world’s most eminent scholars and clerics, will gather at Yale University July 28-31 to promote understanding between the two faiths, whose members comprise more than half the world’s population.

Prominent political figures and representatives of the Jewish community also will speak at the conference, which launches a series of interfaith events planned around the world over the next two years.

These gatherings respond to the call for dialogue issued in an open letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, written by major Islamic leaders, to which Yale scholars responded with a statement that garnered over 500 signatures.

A watershed in Muslim-Christian relations, this interfaith meeting was organized by Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith & Culture under the leadership of its founder and director, Miroslav Volf, together with the director of the Center’s Reconciliation Program, Joseph Cumming. Volf will co-teach a course on faith and globalization at Yale this fall with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I firmly believe that few things are more vital to our shared future than that people of different faiths understand each other better, respect each other more, and work together more closely. That is why I, along with countless others, was hugely encouraged when A Common Word was published.

I warmly welcome the fact that one of the world’s premier academic institutions, by hosting this gathering, is seeking to carry the debate and the dialogue further and deeper,” said former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said, “I am extremely pleased that Yale Divinity School is hosting this important conference.

The Divinity School is committed to bringing the best insights of faith and intellect to bear on contemporary life, and the relationship between Christians and Muslims is one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Notable leaders expected at the conference include Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of Sudan; top Evangelical leaders Leith Anderson and Geoff Tunnicliffe; prominent Ayatollahs from Iran; Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi of Palestine, Grand Muftis of several Middle Eastern countries; Antonios Kireopoulos of the National Council of Churches; and John Esposito of Georgetown University. Senator John Kerry as well as other senior U.S. government officials also are expected to attend.

Residents pack meeting on Wallingford Mosque

WALLINGFORD, CT-Residents opposed to the construction of a mosque in Wallingford packed  Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. They held signs saying they don’t want any new development in the area.

The dispute is over the construction of the Salma K.Farid Islamic Centre on a 6.5 acre site. The mosque which would serve up to thirty people on Fridays is being built by Tariq Farid,39, a successful entrepreneur in the area.

Opponents of the mosque say that they are concerned about traffic. Some of them denied that they are anti-Islamic and said that they are only opposed to development.

A recent traffic study found the intersection and road satisfactory for the mosque’s traffic projections.

The Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to vote on the subject in September.

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Baitulmaal Fundraiser

April 10, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz , MMNS

The deteriorating conditions in Gaza – often described as the world’s largest outdoor prison– have shocked and outraged just and humane people throughout the world. With the attention of the world focused on Gaza, another organization has stepped forward to bring aid and alleviate the suffering there.

A banquet and fundraiser sponsored by Baitulmaal was held in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove, Ca. this past Saturday night.

Titled: “Light A Candle for Gaza,” the well attended event raised more than $85,000 for the beleaguered people of Gaza who lack even the basics of life as they endure deprivation under the boot of the Israeli oppressors.

The event featured as keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazien of the University of California in Berkeley. A native Palestinian, he is currently an adjunct professor at Boalt Hall School of Law and a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies there.

Afzar Noradeen was Master of Ceremonies for the event. Beginning with a reading of the Qu’ran by Moheb Daha, the evening also featured Hasan Mahmoud, an Imam from Jenin, Sheikh Mostafa Kamel and Osama Abuirshaid.

The audience listened intently as they were reminded of the ummah they were a part of. Quoting from the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), the speakers told the attendees that they were part of one body and – using an analogy of the human body – when one part of the body was in pain, the entire body was impacted.

“You do not look down on a fellow Muslim, and you do not let him down.”

Brother Abuirshaid told of individuals in Gaza and their suffering – of a pregnant mother of three who lost both legs in an Israeli bombing. Who, he asked rhetorically, will care for her children? He spoke of young children who live out of trash receptacles. He told of a 19 year old girl dying of kidney failure – a disease which could be controlled with medication easily available in the West.

Brother Abuirshaid spoke of individual Gazans and their suffering, giving them names as he did so. The audience gasped as these people became more than statistics.

“I feel as if I know them and suffer with them.” said one young woman in the audience.

Baitulmaal is an organization which strives to aid the poor, the sick and the helpless. Headquartered in Texas, Baitulmaal is a (501)(c)(3) charity. Members work toward preventing disease, improving the educational infrastructure and encourage hygiene in troubled areas of the world. Baitulmaal will be found wherever communities are in danger of dissolution and ruin; they serve communities racked both by war and by natural disaster. Baitulmaal has worked in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and in the United State where, to cite one example, the organization came to the aid of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A recent feature story in The Dallas Morning News in Baitulmaal’s home state described Baitulmaal and its alliance with a Christian organization. Sheikh Hasan Hajmohammad is the co-founder and now a senior consultant of Baitulmaal. Eric Williams is the CEO of a company that produces a religious talk show. They are working together in places far and wide.

Mindful of criticism from the non-Muslim community that might attend cooperation with Baitulmaal, Mr. Williams said: “With the heightened tension today between Muslims and Christians, I really wanted to…help solve the gap.”

From building a hospital in Jenin; to the rescue of earthquake victims in Pakistan; to providing blankets in the aftermath of a fire in Texas, Baitulmaal serves humanity.

To learn more about Baitulmaal, please access their web site at: www.baitulmaal.org. Or they may be accessed by postal service at: Post Office Box 166911, Irving, Texas, 75016. The telephone number of Baitulmaal is: (972) 257-2564.

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The Unnecessary Bengali Famine

April 5, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy BBC

The famine in British-ruled Bengal in 1943-44 ultimately took the lives of about 4 million people. The speaker talks of how this man-made famine is absent from most history books and virtually unknown to most people.

BBC Transcript:

Robyn Williams: Can you turn science to history? To test it, I mean? You can’t really do experiments on the past, so how could it be applied? Dr Gideon Polya insists that science does have a role in this regard, and he’ll explain in a minute. But the point of such an exercise is important here, because the reason for Dr Polya’s concern (and he’s written a book about it) is one of the worst genocides on record, or not on record, unless you search long and hard.

Gideon Polya is reader in biochemistry at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Gideon Polya: Humanity has made immense technological and scientific advances in the last few millennia through application of a scientific method involving the gathering of data, the generation of testable hypotheses, and experimentation to test the validity of such hypotheses. Reiteration of this process yields models that are progressively better approximations to reality.

Of course historically, this process has been impaired through authoritarian religious or political intervention. Such societal constraints aside, application of the scientific method can also encounter difficulties when past processes of the physical or biological world are considered. However, while we cannot recreate the explosion of a star, we can construct models that are consistent with the residual physical consequences of such events and with our current understanding of physical reality. Similarly, while we cannot recreate life currently, to biological scientists the Darwinian Theory of Evolution remains a powerful model explaining and systematising a huge body of information about past and present biological complexity.

Scientific approaches to human history are similarly constrained by the reality that it is generally not possible to do physical experiments to test historical models (although one can envisage, for example, computer simulations of past battles). In general the history is confined to relating model predictions back to pre-existing data, the physical consequences of events and human oral and written records of events. Of course value judgements, or culturally and philosophically biased ‘weightings’ will inevitably be applied to the relative importance of historical data. However some events involving massive loss of human life, such as the Jewish Holocaust, are so immense that they cannot be ignored, if at least for scientific predictive utility. Thus the Jewish Holocaust warns us of future dangers due to racism, moral unresponsiveness and the technological capacity for mass destruction.
The bottom line is that historians, like scientists, must respect the basic data. Selectively ignoring the data thwarts the quest for better approximations to the truth, and jeopardises informed prediction. While we all cynically accept the truism that ‘history is written by the victors’, the history of genocide in the 20th century, from South West Africa and Anatolia, to East Timor and Rwanda, reinforces the message that ‘history ignored yields history repeated’. Deletion of massive man-made human catastrophes from history and from general perception is not simply scientifically flawed and unethical, it also increases the probability that the same unaddressed, contributing social pathologies will yield the same carnage in the future.

One of the most extraordinary examples of such whitewashing of history is the sustained, continuing deletion of two centuries of massive, recurrent, man-made famine in British India from British and world history, and hence from general public perception. This massive, sustained lying by omission by two centuries of British academic historians occurred in a society having Parliamentary democracy, the means to readily disseminate information and a steadily expanding literate population. Furthermore, this process of lying by omission continues to this day in Britain and its English-speaking offshoots, such as Australia, countries having free speech, high literacy, democracy, prosperity and extensive media of all kinds.

To dramatise this perversion, imagine that the Jewish Holocaust was almost completely deleted from our history books and from general public perception, that there was virtually a total absence of any mention at all of this cataclysm in our newspapers and electronic media or in our schools and universities. Truth, reason, ethics and humanity aside, objective analysis suggests that such a situation would greatly increase the probability of recurrence of racial mass murder. Fortunately, in reality, virtually everyone is aware of this event and indeed in Germany today it is a criminal offence to deny the actuality of the Jewish Holocaust.

In contrast, during the Second World War, a man-made catastrophe occurred within the British Empire that killed almost as many people as died in the Jewish Holocaust, but which has been effectively deleted from history, it is a ‘forgotten holocaust’. The man-made famine in British-ruled Bengal in 1943-1944 ultimately took the lives of about 4-million people, about 90% of the total British Empire casualties of that conflict, and was accompanied by a multitude of horrors, not the least being massive civilian and military sexual abuse of starving women and young girls that compares unfavourable with the comfort women abuses of the Japanese Army.

The causes of the famine are complex, but ultimately when the price of rice rose above the ability of landless rural poor to pay and in the absence of humane, concerned government, millions simply starved to death or otherwise died of starvation-related causes. Although there was plenty of food potentially available, the price of rice rose through ‘market forces’, driven by a number of factors including: the cessation of imports from Japanese-occupied Burma, a dramatic wartime decline in other requisite grain imports into India, compounded by the deliberate strategic slashing of Allied Indian Ocean shipping; heavy-handed government action in seizing Bengali rice stocks in sensitive areas; the seizure of boats critically required for food acquisition and rice distribution; and finally the ‘divide and rule’ policy of giving the various Indian provinces control over their own food stocks. Critically, cashed-up, wartime, industrial, Calcutta could pay for rice and sucked food out of a starving, food-producing countryside.

Ultimately, millions of Bengalis died because their British rulers didn’t give a damn and had other strategic imperatives. The Bengal Famine and its aftermath for the debilitated Bengal population consumed its victims over several years in the case of complete British inaction through most of 1943 or insufficient subsequent action. Churchill had a confessed hatred for Indians and during the famine he opposed the humanitarian attempts of people such as the Prime Minister of Canada, Louis Mountbatten, Viceroy General Wavell, and even of Japanese collaborationist leader Subhash Chandra Bose. The hypothesis can be legitimately advanced that the extent of the Bengal Famine derived in part from sustained, deliberate policy.

The wartime Bengal Famine has become a ‘forgotten holocaust’ and has been effectively deleted from our history books, from school and university curricula and from general public perception. To the best of my knowledge, Churchill only wrote of it once, in a secret letter to Roosevelt dated April 29th 1944 in which he made the following remarkable plea for help in shipping Australian grain to India: ‘I am no longer justified in not asking for your help.’ Churchill’s six-volume ‘History of the Second World War’ fails to mention the cataclysm that was responsible for about 90% of total British Empire casualties in that conflict but makes the extraordinary obverse claim: ‘No great portion of the world population was so effectively protected from the horrors and perils of the World War as were the people of Hindustan. They were carried through the struggle on the shoulders of our small island.’

This whitewashing of Indian famine extends to two centuries of famine in British India. I have recently published a very detailed account of this two-century holocaust in British India that commenced with the Great Bengal Famine of 1769-1770 (10-million victims) and concluded with the World War 2 Bengal Famine (4-million victims) and took tens of millions of lives in between. In contrast to the response to the Jewish Holocaust, these events have been almost completely written out of history and removed from general perception and there has been no apology nor amends made. While Tony Blair has apologised for the mid-19th century Irish Famine that took over a million lives, there has been no apology for the World War 2 Bengal Famine.

My book is entitled, ‘Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History’ and sub-titled, ‘Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability’. I describe this whitewashing of history as ‘Austenising’ after Jane Austen, whose exquisite novels were utterly free of the ugly social realities of her time. Some of Jane Austen’s siblings and other connections, were involved in the rape of India. Of major note was Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India, who ferociously taxed famine-devastated Bengal and was eventually impeached and tried but ultimately acquitted for his manifold abuses in India. Warren Hastings almost certainly seduced Jane Austen’s aunt, Philadelphia Hancock. This adultery gave rise to Jane Austen’s lively cousin Eliza who is an evident model for the more advanced women of Jane Austen’s novels. While much of the huge academic Jane Austen industry has ignored (or ‘Austenised’) such interesting aspects of the lives of Jane Austen’s relatives, Jane Austen herself was much more forthcoming; thus to the initiated, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, the most Indian of her novels, includes a very detailed and barely disguised account of the Warren Hastings Scandal.

While it was legitimate for Jane Austen, the artist, to render her exquisite novels free of the contemporary awfulness in which her connections participated, the continuing ‘Austenising’ of British history is a holocaust-denying outrage that threatens humanity. Currently, 20-million people die each year of starvation-related causes and conservative, status quo productivity estimates would predict 30-million such deaths per year in the year 2050. A more realistic but still non-Malthusian view can be taken based on declining per capita agricultural production due to land degradation, decreased water availability, global warming effects on tropical cereal yields and increased population. A return from the current annual mortalities of about 10 per 1000 to the 35 per 1000 per year that obtained in British India in 1947 would yield a Third World excess mortality in 2050 of a staggering 200-million persons per year. Nevertheless this is avoidable, thus peri-conception, male sex selection provides just one simple example of a cheap, non-intrusive, pro-choice and technologically and socially feasible approach to slowing and indeed reversing population growth. That such an apparently radical suggestion is socially feasible is evidenced by the extraordinarily peaceful and tolerant multiracial society of Fiji, yet the initial male to female ratio among the indentured Indian five-year slaves was about 3 to 1.

The remorselessly continuing human catastrophe of mass starvation is avoidable provided that there is determined global responsiveness of a kind that was absent for both the Jewish Holocaust and the Bengal Famine of half a century ago. One hopes that the recent award of the Nobel Prize for Economics to Amartya Sen, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and expert analyst of the Bengal Famine, will increase global responsiveness to this continuing humanitarian disaster. We must resurrect the horrors hidden by two centuries of holocaust-ignoring historians, resolutely face the current environmental and humanitarian cris and apply the post-Holocaust injunction of ‘Never again’.

Robyn Williams: ‘Never again’, says Dr Gideon Polya, Reader in biochemistry at La Trobe University in Melbourne. And his interest in the subject of India (yes, I did ask) stems in part from having a Bengali wife. His book, by the way, can be ordered by writing to Dr Polya at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Dr. Gideon Polya
Associate Professor in Biochemistry
Dept. of Biochemistry
La Trobe University, Bundoora Vic. 3083
e-mail: g.polya@latroabe.edu.au
His book Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History can be obtained from the author by writing to him at La Trobe University

South Florida News, Vol. 8 Iss. 42

October 12, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

“Bravest Woman in the World” Mukhtar Mai to speak at FIU

Miami–Cries heard all ‘round the world came from here, first of shame, then of indignation, and finally cries for justice that were answered despite obstacles.

The South Florida community will get a chance to hear an inside perspective on one of the world’s most widely publicized recent cases of human rights abuse against a Muslim woman on Saturday, Oct. 28 as local South Asian women’s organization Sahara hosts Mukhtaran Mai, named “The Bravest Woman in the World” by Glamour, and one of TIME Magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.”

Gang raped by her local tribal counsel in Pakistan as punishment for a crime allegedly committed by her younger brother, Mai took the tribal council to court and won – making her the first woman in Pakistan to have won such a case.

Since then, she has traveled the world raising awareness about violence against women.

The event will be held at 7 PM at Florida International University’s South Campus. It is also being presented by the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade’s Women’s Advocacy Project, The Asian American Network Against Abuse of Human Rights (ANAA) and Glamour. (For more information, call Sophie Brion at (305) 441-0506 or email sophie@womensfundmiami.org) 

“Many strong and successful efforts have been made to develop our group,” says Brion of Sahara, the fledgling group aimed at helping to faciliate minority and immigrant women’s social services in the area for about a year now. “Sahara has collaborated with several organizations and has received assistance in fundraising, outreach efforts to the South Florida community, and with direct services to assist victims of domestic violence. We hope to continue to grow and reach our goals to assist Asian women in distress.”

In August 2006, Sahara established a phone help-line where victims can leave a message for one of the group’s counselors, who can then provide them assistance and direct them towards resources & services. The phone number for the hotline is 1-866-567-7635. A training session for those interested in becoming phone counselors was held on Friday, Sept. 15 at the local Safe Place Shelter, and the group continues to seek more volunteers.

The group’s most recent general body meeting was held on Sept. 18 at the home of one of their Muslim volunteer couples, the Shakir family, and it has organized a number of other events and activities over the summer. It also has a new website up at www.saharafl.org, which is being renovated with the help of SFINdians.com.

“Wow, the amount of growth/progress with this group is really impressive,” said Sahara volunteer and local social worker Syeda Naqvi. “I remember attending the second meeting or so when the idea was being hashed out and look at it now.”

Turkish Cultural Center hosts 2nd Interfaith Dinner

Ft. Lauderdale–South Florida’s youngest Muslim cultural organization continued to make in-roads with local community leaders this month, as The Anatolia Cultural Center (ACC) held its 2nd Annual Interfaith Dialogue Dinner on October 5 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriot North.

The event brought together a wide of range of speakers and guests from various faith backgrounds including: Richard Agler, senior rabbi at the Congregation B’nai Israel, Jack Noble, senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Pompano Beach, Cengiz Alacaci, associate professor of Mathematics Education at Florida International University, and George Earhart, paster at Shepherd of the Coast Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale.

In the vein of the three year old ACC’s monthly Turkish coffee nights, the evening Including presentations, dinner, dessert and conversation. Organizers made a special point that the event was not a fund-raising dinner.

“Our faith is a significant part of our culture and the ACC is dedicated to promote mutual understanding and respect between people of different faiths,” said the center’s director Mustafa Sahin. “The Annual Interfaith Dialog Dinners bring leaders of various faith-based organizations together opening the doors to conversation and tolerance.”

The Other Side of “Normal”

Everyday reflections of a young Muslim social worker

By Syeda Feiza Naqvi,
Special to TMO

Funny how we have the capacity to become so jaded that even the abnormal comes to wear the face of “normalcy”. Working as the supervisor of volunteers at the Guardian ad Litem Program, I see a lot in an “average” day…or rather, hear a lot. But my second encounter with the same exact prostitute, in the same exact week, at the same exact gas station has made me reflect on just how wide a gulf there is between who I am today vs. who I was three years ago, when I first got my job.

“Yesterday” the sight of the billboard sign on the way to work was enough to make me quake in my shoes and seriously question whether I even wanted to go for the interview. ‘Twas no ordinary billboard sign, oh no: it was one that showed the picture of a serial rapist, asking for any info on his whereabouts.

But today, I look at a prostitute and can tell, immediately, that she’s on a high from a recent “date” with a joint or two. I can’t pick up the familiar smell of weed on her (oh yes, I have come to know that scent quite well by now), but her strung out appearance and tipsy steps give her away. She is all angles, and taut skin, but I can still see the last, faint vestige of beauty on her face. She could have been…must have been, beautiful once. Now she trades on those remnants for food, pointing to a sandwich as a price for her time.

And I just walk on, about my business, as if all of this is normal.

I’ve seen too many parents, too many adults, fall victim to their passions, obsessions, addictions, to believe in the capacity to save any of these lost souls. Because I know too well the underbelly of their deeds: the innocent children who are neglected or abused or severely endangered as a result.

Sometimes it scares me, the dark sense of humor that lurks within me, making note of the stupid, stupid ironies existent in some of these cases: the junkie mother who, ironically, works as a substance abuse counselor at a local college; the huge, buff, drug dealer father reduced to tears, as if he’s five, because he’s scared silly by the machinations and aggression of his tiny, pencil-thin wife; the mother who comes to court and tells the judge that she thinks she’s being followed by aliens…

Sigh.

I think a sense of humor is a necessary coping skill, because you either have to laugh or just put your head down and CRY.

I’ve driven past the scene of a break-in/shooting at the same grocery store about three times now. Note to self: never go grocery shopping in THAT particular store.

And none of it even registers anymore…it’s like the backdrop to a very normal, very average day.

None of the cases I get surprise me anymore….child raped by father? Been there, done that. Kids beaten up by parents? Happens all the time. Schizo mother unable to care for kids? Please, what else is new? Criminal parents with violent tempers? Lord, who ISNT a criminal, tell me that? Domestic violence disputes? Sigh. Lost causes. ‘Cause you know the woman is just going to go back to her no good husband.

What particularly amuses me is how people continue to underestimate me, until I open my mouth in court.

Oh, these parents. They just never learn.

They see the hijab and assume I’m some submissive, meek, nice type, and it ends up costing them. I imagine it’s rather like thinking you are talking to a nun, only to have her whip the habit off suddenly, catching you off guard.

They seem so stunned.

Well, good…if that’s the wake up call they need to get their act together, then fine, so be it.

Syeda Feiza Naqvi is a local writer, a leading veteran of local and regional Muslim organizations. For more info on how to serve as the voice for an abused child, please go to www.nationalcasa.org.

Many Arabs Favor Nuclear Iran

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Many Arabs Favor Nuclear Iran
By Jonathan Wright
CAIRO (Reuters) – The United States found little support in the Arab world when it invaded Iraq in 2003.
In a military confrontation with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program, it should not expect any more.
Some Arabs, mainly outside the Gulf, are positively enthusiastic about Iran’s program, even if it acquires nuclear weapons, if only because it would be a poke in the eye or a counterweight to Israel and the United States.
Others, especially in countries closest to Iran, are wary of any threat to the status quo and the instability it might bring.
Most in the Arab world see the U.S. and European campaign against Iran as hypocritical, while Israel refuses to allow international nuclear inspections and is thought to have some 200 nuclear warheads.
“I want the whole region free of all nuclear weapons but if the West continues its double-standard approach on this issue then Iran has the right (to have them),” said Abdel-Rahman Za’za’, a 29-year-old Lebanese engineer.
“This could provide some balance against Israel and help the Palestinians in their negotiations. We have to take our rights because they are not going to be given to us,” he added.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, said this week it saw no harm in Iran developing nuclear arms.
“That would create a kind of equilibrium between the two sides — the Arab and Islamic side on one side and Israel on the other,” said deputy Brotherhood leader Mohamed Habib.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Tuesday policies toward nuclear programs in the region needed thorough review.
“These policies which are based on double standards will blow up and escalate this issue and this escalation will not include only Iran and Israel,” he said. The Arab League represents 22 Arab governments, from Morocco to the Gulf.
Iran says it has no intention of making nuclear bombs and wants enriched uranium only to generate electricity. The United States says it does not believe it.
Analysts said they detected a surprising level of sympathy and support for Iran in the region.
WOUNDED DIGNITY
“It’s amazing how encouraging people are of the whole thing. Some think the Iranians are on the way to acquiring it (nuclear weapons capability) and are quite excited,” said Hesham Kassem, editor of the independent Cairo newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.
“There doesn’t seem to be any awareness that it might be a calamity,” added Kassem, who said he personally was afraid of an arms race bringing in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.
Mohamed el-Sayed Said, deputy director of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a Cairo think tank, said: “People are very very warm about it (Iran’s nuclear program).”
“Anyone who challenges the United States will find a great deal of support. That’s a very profitable enterprise in public opinion terms,” he added.
“Even if it takes an arms race, people don’t mind. What we have here is wounded dignity and revulsion about the lack of fairness and double standards.”
Most Arab governments have called for a peaceful solution to the confrontation with Iran, in the hope that diplomacy will enable it to develop nuclear energy under U.N. supervision.
If they speak about nuclear weapons, they say the whole Middle East should be nuclear-free, implicitly including Israel. U.S. officials say they can only deal with Israel’s nuclear activities after a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Analysts in the Gulf raised special concerns. “Gulf states are legitimately concerned about Iran joining the nuclear club,” said Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates.
“The possibility of a fourth Gulf war is just beyond our ability to manage. We don’t want it. It will just make life miserable and hell,” he added.
Saudi analyst Dawoud al-Sharayan said an Iranian nuclear bomb could give the United States a pretext to maintain its military forces in the Gulf and add to the tension.
Saudi Arabia would then have the right to think about having its own nuclear weapon, he added. –
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas in Cairo, Alaa Shahine in Beirut, Miral Fahmy in Dubai and Andrew Hammond in Saudi Arabia)

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