Wall Street and Islamophobia

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Oakland–October 31st–I lived in this curious city across from San Francisco for most of my thirty-one years here in the East Bay.  Unlike that City across the Bay, which is more of a dreamland where one goes when one is young, but Oakland is a gutsy –mainly Black – working class city.  It is, also, the third largest port on the West Coast.  Most of the Muslims here, too, are native born Afro-American converts with a considerable number of Eritrean refugees and a noticeable contingent Yemeni with Palestinian and other miscellaneous groupings.

What created Oakland in the Nineteenth Century was the fact that the trans-Continental railway ended here and its passengers would get off, and be put on ferries to the City on the Golden Gate.

Curiously, in the recent “Occupy Wall Street” Movement, more than New York or even the Western financial hub across San Francisco Bay, the seemingly provincial and small (400,000) peripheral urban space of Oakland has become a center of the battle against the financial collapse of “free” enterprise that the George W. Bush Administration accelerated through his anti-Islamic Colonial Wars.  As evil as that was, the administration of those Wars, were managed so incompetently that they failed to finance their martial adventures – contrary to the history of Foreign adventurism which usually leads to a stimulation of a national economy temporarily – in that the Bush Regime gave financially unsound tax-breaks to the upper 1% of the population – the economy shrank instead — as the national debt plummeted.  (Now, let it be noted, that I do not advocate preventative War in any way!)  

Many in the Muslim community here have suffered even more than the general citizenry.  Homes have been foreclosed, jobs have been lost and not regained, lifetime savings have slithered away, and, yes, despite residency in this land of plenty, there is even hunger.

Notwithstanding, President Barrack Hussein Obama’s attempted to prod a budget through Congress earlier this year that would begin to alleviate the suffering of the grand majority of Americans, which was obfuscated by the largely anti-Muslim “Tea Party.”  The latter have hindered relief to suffering American citizens / residents including those who attend the Mosques. 

Under Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was largely instituted as one of the Reconstruction Amendments, to prevent any future attempts to reverse the Thirteenth Amendment passed during the U.S. Civil War (1860s) to irradiate the deplorable institution of slavery, also, raises the question of what monetary powers Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment gives to the President.  “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned…”  Therefore, it is argued that Section 4 gives the President unilateral authority to raise or ignore the national debt ceiling (like in a national such as World War II, the Great Depression or the current financial crisis).

President Obama made a grave error in not invoking Section 4, and regulating by decree last February, and, hopefully, when the budget comes up again, and (economic) Keynesian solutions are called for, the Administration will block the reactionaries of the Lower house, for, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, an upcoming worldwide economic collapse is brewing due to the Euro-zone National Debt Crisis and the “Tea Party” fiscal interference in the States.  Therefore, to avoid this, drastic measures are indicated.

To counter this, a populist movement has arisen in America in protest against the corruption of the American system deregulated over the past several decades by interspersed right-wing governments.  In a letter, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim in Congress sarcastically writes, “…if you exercise your right to free speech against the excessive power and greed of Wall Street…they say you’re ‘dangerous’ and engaging in ‘class warfare.’”

The disproportionate importance of the Oakland demonstrations to the national movement is the reaction by incompetent elite who essentially stole an election by a conspiratorial manipulation of rank-choice voting.  (This minor city’s last two mayors had remarkable resumes – one a former Governor and the last a leading former Congressman.  It was expected that the last President Pro Temp of the California [State] Senate in Sacramento who represented Alameda County of which Oakland is the seat, who won a plurality of the first round vote, would be the next Mayor, but lost because three of the other candidates campaigned to have their supporters list two of the others as their second and third choices; thus, thwarting democracy with incompetency.  The result of which is that the current Mayor represents only one small ethnic element of the city; therefore, Muslims, who largely belong to the ethnic plurality, are denied political recognition here.)

Be that as it may, this Op-Ed is to state that the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement is related to Islamophobia because the same crisis that created hatred against Muslims in the States gave reign to the greed in America’s financial structure.  In a way, maybe Islam’s non-usury system has a lot to teach the West which, by the way, renounced a similar system in the Renaissance.

Some commentators have equated the “Occupy Wall Street” Movement to America’s version of the Arab “Spring.”  It is true that Islam and democracy can find a compatible form, but – like the case with Soviet Socialism – it may not be able to co-exist with American Capitalism as “written.”   I believe that the Koran and Hadith have much to teach the West in ways to reform its financial institutions and dealings.

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Anam Miah: Second Time Around

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Hakim Rahman

Anam_miahAnam Miah, Hamtramck City Council candidate, imagines the city of Hamtramck, Mich. as a place for leaders and community members to work together toward common goals by unifying through diversity and neighborly relations.

Miah, 35, said this is the right time for him to join in the leadership to help bring about a discussion between leaders and residents. “This community deserves to know what’s going on behind the doors in city hall.”

Miah received 345 votes in the August Primaries, making it to the top six. He ran in 2009, at a time when he had four union contracts as the President of the local USW 690 for steel workers (he was elected in April 2006), which took away time from door-to-door campaigning.

He has been employed at Flexible Products in Auburn Hills, Mich. for 15 years.

As a 25-year resident of Hamtramck, Miah remembers growing up in a time when people were proud home owners, and they took care of their neighborhoods. He said things have changed since, “Ethnic groups stick with their own.” 

“That’s not how a community works,” Miah said. “We need to all put our two cents in. I need to look at where I’m from and where you’re from to get a better sense of unity.” Miah was born in Bangladesh and moved to the United States with his family to pursue a better life.

One of the issues Miah hopes to tackle if elected is work to train Hamtramck police officers to better deal with the diverse community made up of predominant populations of Polish, Bangladeshi, Yemeni and Bosnian Americans. 

He said police are hard-wired to “follow the book” rather than explain offenses in a dignified manner to citizens who may “not fully understand the rules.” Another way to deal with this problem is by hiring people within the diverse communities to fill (when applicable) vacant spots in City Hall and the police and fire departments, he said.

Residents are left in the dark on how their tax money is used, he said. For example, Miah said leaders can help people find out about federally funded programs for low-income families such as the Michigan Weatherization Program, which helps people in the city without hurting the budget. “Vast amount of people are working class… more than well qualified don’t know or never have heard about these programs.” 

Miah was inspired to change his life after a trip to Memphis, Tenn., with USW, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The experience made him reflect and realize he could make a difference, “Instead of living my life working and paying bills.” 

This one man changed world history for minorities and people, he said. “If he can do it and he has done it I can try.”

Miah has been serving on the Hamtramck Zoning Board of Appeals since 2006.

He hopes to pursue an Associate’s Degree in criminal justice or political science at Oakland Community College. 

The father of two works from his home office with an average of 35 volunteers.

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In Yemen, Locals Worry About Obama Policy on Al-Qaeda

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Michael Horton, The Christian Science Monitor

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Yemeni family. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr)

From smoky halls to the rugged mountains of Yemen, locals are worried that their country – threatened more by poverty and water shortages than terrorism, they say – could turn into another Afghanistan.

Sanaa, Yemen – Amid an intensifying US effort to curb Al Qaeda activity in Yemen, locals in this impoverished country are worried that a focus on military aid alone could backfire – spawning a more robust militant movement and potentially drawing the US into an Afghanistan-like war.

In a smoke-filled hall in the capital of Sanaa, where men gather to chew the mildly intoxicating leaves of the qat tree and smoke water pipes, most of the talk is about Al-Qaeda and American intentions in Yemen.

“By God, they want to turn this country into Afghanistan,” declares Mohammad al-Jaffi, a young man who says he fled the Arhab area, a mountainous region just north of Sanaa, after a recent attack on a suspected Al Qaeda hideout. On Monday, the government said it killed two Al Qaeda members in the Arhab region.

“We are not radicals here,” Mr. Jaffi adds, his cheek bulging with the pulpy green leaves that strict Salafis — the Muslim sect that Al Qaeda members belong to — consider forbidden. Holding up a qat branch, he yells, “Look at this. We all chew this here – in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabis would kill us for chewing qat.”

But US and other foreign diplomats are clearly concerned. France, Germany, and Japan all closed their embassies Monday, following US and British closures the previous day, amid reports that a significant amount of explosives had gone missing from the Yemeni army.

“Exclusive Focus on Al Qaeda a Mistake”

With the reported surge in Al-Qaeda activity in Yemen, the Obama administration has reiterated its “partnership” with the increasingly vulnerable regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who faces a rebellion in the north and secessionists in the south. Gen. David Petraeus, who as head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) is overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced on Jan. 1 that the US would double military aid to Yemen after allocating a reported $70 million in 2009.

It has been widely reported that the US is also providing the Yemeni government with intelligence and military trainers. Britain, meanwhile, has announced that it will fund an antiterror police force. Such a sole focus on suspected terrorism is seen as a mistake by some experts as well as locals.

“I think an exclusive focus on Al Qaeda to the exclusion of every other threat in Yemen is a mistake,” says Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton PhD candidate who was recently in Yemen for his research on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). “Viewing this threat only through the prism of Al Qaeda induces exactly the kind of result the US is hoping to avoid.”

Locals in two provinces often cited as Al Qaeda strongholds, Al-Jawf and Marib, are more concerned with severe poverty – an issue they say the central government has done little to alleviate.

“This government does not care about us. Everything we have, we have to fight for – to get money for a school or medicine we have to block the road. This is all they listen to,” says Ahmad al-Nasri. “By God the tribe is all we have, it is what protects us.”

Mr. Johnsen says that development aid is “crucial” in Marib and Al-Jawf, but disputes the popular depiction of Yemen as a place with large areas that are totally ungovernable.

“The government doesn’t appear to be able to constantly control these areas,” he acknowledges, citing recent flare-ups between tribal leaders and the government. “But the image of Yemen being a Wild West … is not necessarily accurate.”

Yemeni government offices in Sanaa were closed and the Yemeni embassy in Washington was unable to comment before press time.

Water Shortages

A potentially greater destabilizing influence than militancy in Yemen is water shortages, which are already the root of a large percentage of the inter-tribal fighting that plagues the country.

The UN has ranked Yemen as one of the most water-scarce countries, and one local geology professor has estimated that Sanaa’s wells will go dry by 2015 at current usage rates. The country is in desperate need of investment in new drip irrigation systems and water conservation measures.

“Look at these apricot trees,” says Mohammad Faris, who owns an orchard on the outskirts of Sanaa that once flourished. “Half of them are dead from lack of water.”

“We don’t need more guns in this country,” declares Mr. Faris as he stands among the parched remains of what used to be fertile ground. “This village needs a new water pump and we need new trees that drink less water.”

Increased Sympathy for Al Qaeda?

Many locals emphasize that the country’s primary need is development aid, which has in the past been hampered by international concerns about government corruption. But some say they’re ready to fight if the US comes – a prospect that as yet looks unlikely, though Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) of Connecticut recently suggested that without preemptive action a future war may occur.

“We have a long history of fighting invaders here,” says Ismail Hadi, a village elder in the rugged mountainous province of Hajjah, not far from the sectarian war being fought against Houthi rebels. As he looks out over his terraces of qat trees that cascade down towards a deep canyon, he adds, “We fought the Turks, we fought the Egyptians, God willing we will fight the Americans when they come.”

Back at the Sanaa qat hall, Uithman al- Ansi echoes that sentiment.

“If the Americans want a fight they will get it,” says Mr. Ansi as he grabs the hilt of his jambiya, the traditional dagger carried by many men here. Another man who says he is from Marib, one of the two frequently cited Al Qaeda strongholds, suggests that US attacks or support for attacks on suspected militants could increase the number of Al Qaeda sympathizers in Yemen.

“The Americans don’t know our customs,” says the man. “When they attacked al-Harithi [a suspected Al-Qaeda member who was targeted by a US drone in November 2002] on our lands, his people became our guests. We have long memories.”

Christa Case Bryant contributed reporting from Boston.

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