Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Spain's Senate Votes to Ban Burqa

Taken from here.

MADRID — In a significant escalation of Spain’s debate over how to handle radical Islam, the Senate on Wednesday narrowly and unexpectedly approved a motion to ban Muslim women from wearing in public the burqa or other garments that cover the whole body.

The vote, 131 to 129, was another setback for the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which had favored more-limited restrictions on Islamic clothing and has instead been pushing to curtail religious fundamentalism through better education.

The Spanish vote comes amid several national initiatives across Europe to restrict the spread of radical Islam and defend liberal values.

In Belgium, the lower house of Parliament has already approved a measure that, if unamended by the upper house, would make it a crime to wear in public “clothing that hides the face.”

France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, has also been inching toward such a ban on the burqa. The measure has the backing of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently condemned the garment as “a sign of subservience” rather than one of religion.

In Switzerland last year, a referendum banned the construction of minarets.

While national politicians may be urging a clampdown on the burqa, such moves are still expected to run into legal obstacles. In March, France’s top administrative body, the Council of State, warned the government that a full ban would be unconstitutional. A commission of the Council of Europe, the European institution dealing with human rights issues, also recently warned governments against imposing a complete ban that would violate women’s individual rights.

Before the Spanish Senate’s vote, some of the country’s local authorities had already moved to introduce restrictions on the burqa. The issue was especially heated in the region of Catalonia, where the debate over Islam and immigration has become entangled in early campaigning ahead of regional elections later this year. The pending elections may have proved crucial in the Wednesday vote, as senators from the CiU, a Catalan party, surprisingly switched their earlier stance to vote in favor of a burqa ban.

The motion adopted by the senators calls on Spain to outlaw “any usage, custom or discriminatory practice that limits the freedom of women.” It was drafted and led by politicians from the main center-right opposition People's Party.

Justifying the vote, one of the senators from the CiU, Montserrat Candini, said that “we cannot tolerate that nobody understands that we are not in favor of banning the burqa.”

The Senate’s position also came as a surprise because although Spain has become a major European entry point for Muslim migrants from North Africa, few of those immigrants wear either the burqa or the niqab, which does not cover the eyes. A similar argument has also been made by opponents of a burqa ban in countries like France, where only an estimated 2,000 women wear the burqa out of a Muslim population of about 5 million. France, however, already passed a law in 2004 to ban head scarves or any other “conspicuous” religious symbol from state schools in order to preserve their secularism.

The Spanish government is supposed to follow the Senate’s motion. However, given that Socialist senators opposed the ban, the governing party is likely to seek ways to circumvent the vote.

Anna Terrón, the secretary of state for immigration, said the Senate vote had “more to do with the election campaign in which the CiU is involved than with a real discussion” on the burqa.

ICNA Launches Outreach and Relief efforts in Alaska

By Suzanne Khazzal

ICNA members were hosted by the largest mosque in Alaska, the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage, Alaska (ICCAA) from May 21-28 where they visited to help establish ICNA activities.

The Friday night youth group listening to a presentation.

The Friday night youth group listening to a presentation.

The team included Dr. Muhammad Ayub, member of the ICNA general assembly, Washington Unit, Amir Mertaban the WhyIslam Coordinator of Southern California and Waqas Syed the Assistant General Secretary of ICNA.

Mertaban presented a Friday sermon and was followed by a youth meeting later in the day to discuss organizing youth work. Young Muslims national will follow up with the youth coordinator to support them in running a successful youth circle at the mosque.

A group discussion in progress during the workshop.

A group discussion in progress during the workshop.

Syed and Mertaban held a Dawah 101 workshop for the community, which included Dawah tips and ICNA’s WhyIslam project. The workshop presented the crowd with interactive sessions on frequently asked questions. An estimated 24 attendees signed up to volunteer for the project.
An interactive session during the workshop.

An interactive session during the workshop.

Some of the key members of the local WhyIslam team.

Some of the key members of the local WhyIslam team.

After the workshop an exclusive meeting was conducted regarding establishing a local team. A local WhyIslam coordinator was assigned and several dawah opportunities in Anchorage were formalized.
Dr. Ayub helping Tanya, who embraced Islam, to proclaim the Shahadah.

Dr. Ayub helping Tanya, who embraced Islam, to proclaim the Shahadah.

Also on the agenda was the new building ICCAA is building, with ICNA’s support. Various ICNA Relief services were discussed with the ICCAA President Lamin Jobarteh. He expressed desire to work with ICNA Relief in offering social services to the local community.

Jobarteh and ICCAA Dawah Chair Dawood Abuobaid organized a meeting with Regina Boisclair, Chair of Catholic Theology and professor of Religious Studies at the Alaska Pacific University. An understanding was reached regarding organizing a major interfaith event with ICNA in the near future.

Please visit and support: The Islamic Community Center of Anchorage, Alaska (ICCAA)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Siegman: No Peace Possible Between Israel and Palestinians without Hamas

This is an old, but very interesting and relevant interview. Taken from here.

March 7, 2008

Henry Siegman, an expert on Middle East negotiations, says that no peace will be possible between Israel and Palestinians unless Hamas is brought into the process. “The notion that the Israeli government leaders and our own government have that it is possible to exclude Hamas from peace talks and have a successful result from those talks is a fantasy,” he says. “It’s not going to happen.” Because of President Bush’s refusal to deal with Hamas, he says, it is unlikely that any progress can be made until there is a new president in the White House.

There’s a bit of a lull right now in the fighting between Hamas and Israel, which has led to over one hundred Palestinians dead and a few Israelis in the past couple of weeks. Can you see a diplomatic way of getting a cease-fire that would permit peace talks to continue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under Fatah leader, President Mahmoud Abbas?

I don’t see talks between Israelis and Palestinians leading anywhere without finding a way of bringing Hamas—who constitute the government of roughly half the Palestinian people—into that process. You can’t make peace with half the population and remain at war with the other half. The notion that the Israeli government leaders and our own government have that it is possible to exclude Hamas from peace talks and have a successful result from those talks is a fantasy. It’s not going to happen.

The question is, is it possible to persuade the United States and Israel’s government to allow Hamas to participate in this process?

The obvious question is would Hamas participate even if it is allowed?

Well, let’s go back in time a bit. After a Palestinian unity government was established in early 2007 as a result of the Mecca agreement, worked out by Saudi mediation, and even before that, when there were talks between Hamas and Fatah about the possibility of forming such a government, Hamas made it clear that even though they themselves would not sit in on those discussions, they had no objections to such discussions proceeding or to Abbas, as the president of the Palestinian Authority and also the president of Fatah, conducting those negotiations. So there was no obstacle to the peace process going forward, particularly since Hamas committed itself to putting an agreement, if one was reached with Israel, to a public referendum. Also Hamas committed itself to abiding by the outcome of that referendum. The notion that you can’t have peace talks while Hamas is in the government is simply not true.

Do you buy into this view that is in a new Vanity Fair article that the United States planned, in cooperation with Fatah, to cause a coup in Gaza and throw out Hamas, and that backfired, leading to the current split between Fatah and Hamas?

One does not need an investigative article to make that point to know it is true. The U.S. government made no secret whatsoever from the beginning that it intended to arm Abbas’s security forces, appoint an American general to be in charge of that program, and provide finances for training, equipment, and the arming of these people. They said publicly the purpose of this project would be for these people to have a showdown with Hamas and to oust them from the government. So, this was never a secret. This was always in the public domain.

I never saw that— that they were so blatant to say they wanted Fatah to oust Hamas.

Yes, they were precisely that blatant. What happened next is that under the direction of Mohammed Dahlan, who was Abbas’s national security adviser, the Fatah militias in Gaza were instructed to attack Hamas forces and to create a sufficient level of anarchy that would allow Abbas’s security forces to come in and to say they have to restore order and take over the government in Gaza. This never was a secret. In any event, the Vanity Fair article pretty much nails down the story.

When was this decision taken?

The decision, according to the article, was taken immediately after the election in January 2006. As the Vanity Fair story tells it, the State Department people and the White House were in a state of total shock when the election results came in.

Hamas was overwhelmingly elected and Fatah was ousted. Incidentally, at this time, Hamas itself was still observing a self-declared cease-fire. They were not sending in missiles or engaging in violence against Israel. I mention this because a lot of people are under the impression that this decision to overthrow Hamas is somehow related to Hamas’ violence. That is simply not true. At the time this decision was taken, there was a cease-fire that Hamas had observed for a year and a half.

So given the current situation, a resumption of talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would result in really nothing, right?

It would result in nothing for essentially two reasons. First, both Israeli officials and American officials are not aware of what it is that Abbas can agree to. They see him as a moderate and he is a moderate in that he opposed the violence of the second intifada [uprising] in 2000, and always argued that this was not the way that Palestinians will achieve their national goal. But it is precisely because he has argued against violence that he is not in a position—particularly when he is at odds with Hamas—to make any kind of significant compromises in the Palestinian position. There is no way that Israelis will be able to get his agreement of what they consider to be their minimal red lines. That is one reason why without Hamas’s participation there is no way that Israel and Abbas could reach agreement on the refugee issue, on the Jerusalem issue, and certainly not on the settlement and border issues, which comprise all of the major permanent-status issues.

The second reason is, as we have just seen in the past week or two, Hamas retains the capacity to blow up the negotiations at any point by simply engaging in violence. And if Hamas sees that there is a process going on that is intended to exclude them, to marginalize them, and ultimately to oust them, they are not going to allow the process to proceed.

The Bush administration will be out of office in ten months. The Israeli government is extremely weak because of a shaky coalition government. Both the U.S. and the Israeli governments won’t deal with Hamas. How do you get over this? Do you wait until there is a new president?

There is no choice but to wait for a new president because on this precise issue of dealing with Hamas, without a resolution, no peace process can succeed. President Bush is not going to change his mind. At least that is what I am told by people who are in touch with him or talk to him about it. He is absolutely convinced that Hamas is part of the “Axis of Evil.” He believes these are people who are essentially in the mold of al-Qaeda, that they support the globalist, jihadist ambition to take over the whole world and establish a caliphate, and so on.

Those convictions of Bush’s are completely divorced from reality. The fact of the matter is that Hamas and al-Qaeda are totally at odds, and have been from the very beginning. Al-Qaeda doesn’t believe in national liberation movements. They believe only in a religious return under a caliphate to the Islamic territories. The idea of a Palestinian nationalism, or any other, they reject completely. Al-Qaeda has no sympathy for Hamas and Hamas has publicly on several occasions repudiated and rejected the statements and prescriptions made by al-Qaeda’s leaders for the Palestinian movement.

What about the Israelis? The Israelis know Hamas pretty well. When Hamas was in opposition to the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], the Israeli government had no great love for the PLO. Do you get any sense that the Israelis would like to deal with Hamas even though Hamas says it will never recognize the existence of the state of Israel?

Well, there was a poll recorded last week in Haaretz that showed a majority of Israelis want their government to reach out to Hamas because they understand that you can’t deal with the problem without Hamas participation. Now there are some well-informed people who tell me that Olmert and others in his government were ready to deal with Hamas, were prepared to respond to Hamas’s offer for a truce and to use the truce to allow a reestablishment of a unity government that would include Hamas and Fatah. But the opposition from Washington, from the White House, is so unyielding that they haven’t been able to act on that.

Have you been following any of the American political campaigns? Have any of the candidates shown any interest in going beyond what the stated American policy is right now?

None of the candidates have said anything on the subject except the very bland, general statements that they are totally committed to the security of Israel. What their real positions are, if they have the responsibility in office to deal with the problem, I simply don’t know.

Some of the advisers to these people, if they remain influential advisers once they get into office, have views that are far less rigid, certainly quite different, than those held by Bush and his people. There will have to be a change in position eventually that not only allows but encourages Israeli leadership to bring Hamas into the process and to deal with the violence coming out of Gaza not militarily but diplomatically. But we’re going to have to wait until the next administration.

Do you think the Egyptians could work out a truce right now? The Egyptians are right now engaged in talking to Hamas about trying to work out a truce, acting as surrogate negotiators with Israel.

The Egyptians have played that role for some time now—with not very impressive results—since Gilad Shalit, the [Israeli] soldier who was kidnapped by some militant groups in Gaza a year and a half ago. They have tried to formulate a package that would enable the parties to agree on a truce and to have an exchange of prisoners. So far, they simply have not been able to deliver. Whether they will be able to do so going forward is difficult to say, particularly since the situation has become even more complicated because there has been added to the mix the issue of the border between Egypt and Gaza . Israelis would like to see it resealed exactly the way it was before. That is something that is very difficult for Egypt to agree to since the Egyptians would then be seen as an accomplice in the Israeli effort to essentially strangle the population of Gaza. It is impossible at this point to cut a deal that doesn’t address that issue as well.

Israelis have said more recently that Hamas has been using missiles made in Iran to hit Ashkelon. Do you think that Iran is really involved now in helping out Hamas?

Hamas and Iran are not natural partners. Hamas are Sunnis. Unlike the Hezbollah, who are Shiites and are natural partners with the Iranians, Hamas is not. Nevertheless, they are fighting, as they see it, for their survival. In those circumstances they will accept assistance from whoever will give it to them. The fact that they are Shiites will not prevent accepting their help. However, there is not evidence, as far as I know, that they have accepted that help on terms that make them subservient to Iran. When Iran tried to organize a meeting to protest the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference last November, Hamas refused to attend, forcing the Iranians to cancel their plans.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Economist: Reader debate: Still carrying the shield of democracy?

taken from here.

Can Israel lay claim to being a true democracy while holding on to the Palestinian territories?

The Economist offers views from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and two Israeli academics on whether Israel can still be considered a democracy, given its regional policies.

ISRAEL continues to face criticism from the world for its raid of a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza and for its blockade of the area. The episode has provoked much debate within Israel itself; about the nature of Israel's response to the flotilla, about Israel's policies in Gaza and, most recently, about its policies towards Arabs living within Israel.

Last week a parliamentary committee voted to withdraw the privileges of an Arab member parliament, who sailed with the activists and who was almost attacked by another member of parliament. Reuven Rivlin, the speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, says he will ignore the committee's recommendation but he worries that these incidents illustrate an erosion of Israel's democratic tradition.

Others have long believed that Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories undermines its democratic credentials. We asked Mr Rivlin and two Israeli academics whether they thought this was the case. Please join the debate below.

Full Text of Document

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Defense of Helen Thomas

Thomas apologized on her website on June 4, saying, "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon."

I would like to point out, however, that Gandhi said the exact same thing... did he hate Jews? Helen Thomas should not have had to lose her position for speaking her mind. She said nothing derogatory to the Jewish people. Had she actually said something that was anti-semitic, I would be the first person to condemn her.

Gandhi said "But in my opinion, they [the Jews] have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism... Why should they depend on American money or British arms for forcing themselves on an unwelcome land? Why should they resort to terrorism to make good their forcible landing in Palestine?"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Obama’s Patience With Israel Finally Cracks

Taken from here.

By Rachelle Marshall

ISRAEL’S first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, stated the Zionist dream in 1937 when he said, “The boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people, and no external factor will be able to limit them.” Ben-Gurion told the Zionist Executive Committee that “After the formation of a large army...we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is moving steadily to fulfill that dream. Unlike some of his predecessors, he has made no pretense of seeking a peace that would satisfy the Palestinians. He has obstructed Washington’s attempts to bring the two sides together, and tightened Israel’s hold on all the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

When Palestinians refused to take part any longer in talks that went nowhere, President Barack Obama came up with yet another plan to lure them back. This time the process is called “proximity talks,” during which the two sides will remain apart while special Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell shuttles between them. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reluctantly agreed to take part.

The Israelis lost no time booby-trapping the proposal. As Vice President Joseph Biden arrived in Jerusalem on March 9, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in Arab East Jerusalem and 112 in the illegal West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit. Biden, who was blindsided by the news, condemned “the substance and timing of the announcement,” and Israeli officials hurriedly expressed regret—but only for the poor timing. A government spokesman made it clear that Israel would never relinquish its claim to all of Jerusalem.

But to Biden, Israel can do no wrong. Ignoring the slap delivered by the Israelis, the next day he asserted in a speech at Tel Aviv University America’s “absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.” When Netanyahu assured him that construction of the new units might not take place for a year, the vice president hailed the statement, saying it would give peace negotiators more time to work out an agreement. The Palestinians were not as forgiving. The day after Biden left, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Abbas would take no part in peace talks until Israel abandoned its plan to build the 1,600 new homes.

Unlike his vice president, Obama refused to turn the other cheek. Shortly after Biden returned to Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu and told him he had harmed “the bilateral relationship.” David Axelrod, Obama’s closest adviser, called Israel’s announcement “destructive” and an “affront.” Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael B. Oren, was summoned to the State Department, where he undoubtedly heard even tougher language.

The old relationship had definitely chilled. Obama demanded in blunt terms that Israel cancel the building project, and grant major concessions to the Palestinians, such as releasing prisoners and returning more West Bank land. Instead of complying, Netanyahu insisted the construction of new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem was not a matter for negotiation and “would not hurt the Palestinians.” In fact, of course, such construction takes land from a future Palestinian state, cuts off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, and prevents Arab neighborhoods from expanding.

Meanwhile Israel quietly took action against peaceful protestors by closing off the village of Bil’in to Israeli and international peace activists on Fridays. The order will prevent outsiders from taking part in the weekly protests at the wall that splits the West Bank village in two, in effect allowing Israeli police to fire at will at nonviolent Palestinians, away from the eyes of foreigners.

[More than a year after Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” parents and children still live in tents, as Israel continues to prevent construction materials from entering the besieged Gaza Strip. (Photo courtesy Gretta Duisenberg)] More than a year after Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” parents and children still live in tents, as Israel continues to prevent construction materials from entering the besieged Gaza Strip. (Photo courtesy Gretta Duisenberg)

And chances are they will. Four Palestinian teenagers were killed by Israeli fire within 24 hours on March 21, two of them cousins who witnesses said were working on their family’s land near Nablus when they were shot by settlers. President Abbas quickly condemned what he called “The Israeli escalation and the killing of Palestinians on a daily basis,” saying it was “the response of the Israeli government to the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the Americans.” Nevertheless, U.S. envoy Mitchell was in Jerusalem the same day assuring the Israelis that “our commitment to Israel is unshakable and enduring.”

The Israelis may be reluctant to offend an American president, but they know that any threat to punish Israel is certain to raise a storm of protest in the U.S. At least two dozen members of Congress objected to Obama’s scolding of Israel, and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League claimed to be “shocked and stunned.” According to pro-Israel zealots, when Israel thumbs its nose at the president while pocketing billions of dollars a year in U.S. aid, it is the president who is at fault.

Israel also has miffed the Europeans. The murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official, was intended to be a routine operation by Mossad, which since the early 1970s has gotten away with at least 40 assassinations in Athens, Beirut, Rome, and several other cities. The latest action revealed Mossad agents to be bunglers as well as murderers.

The scenario that played out in a Dubai hotel room this past January could have come from a paperback thriller. The agents entered Mabhouh’s bedroom, injected him with a paralyzing drug, suffocated him with a pillow, smoothed away any signs of struggle, and even relatched the door when they left. But the fabled Mossad was no match for the Dubai police, which produced a 27-minute video showing the faces of 26 of the conspirators, many of them wearing obviously fake beards and wigs.

Because the suspects carried false British, French, Irish, German and Australian passports using the names of Israelis with dual citizenship in those countries, they had engaged in identity theft, a crime that goes to the heart of any security system. The British regarded it as so serious an offense that they expelled an Israeli diplomat and warned British travelers to Israel that their identity details might be at risk. Washington made no comment on either the killing or Israel’s use of fraudulent passports.

In fact, the degree of America’s involvement is one of the major mysteries of the affair. Two of the suspects were admitted to the U.S. shortly after the killing, and 14 of them carried credit cards issued by U.S.-based banks, MetaBank in Storm Lake, Iowa, and Payoneer in New York (see story p. 18). The State Department, which frequently denies visas to Palestinian peace activists, unaccountably failed to question Israelis traveling on false passports.

Netanyahu again showed his disregard for world opinion when in late February he announced a $100 million plan to rehabilitate 150 “Zionist heritage sites,” at least two of them in occupied Palestine. Since the list includes Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, where Abraham and Sara are buried, he in effect asserted Israel’s sole sovereignty over places sacred to Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews. ”People must be familiar with their homeland,” Netanyahu said. “This is what we will instill in this and coming generations, to the glory of the Jewish people.” To those with long memories, the statement was chillingly similar to the Nazis’ association of “land” with “blood.”

Netanyahu’s claim that the tombs of Abraham, Rachel and other biblical figures were the sole legacy of the Jews also seemed designed to infuriate Palestinians, since it came on the 16th anniversary of the massacre by a Jewish settler from Brooklyn, Baruch Goldstein, of 29 Muslim worshippers as they prayed at the Ibrahimi Mosque. Israeli peace activist Uri Avneri called it “nothing but an expropriation and a blatant provocation.”

Given Israel’s history of obstruction, Palestinians have every reason to believe that the proximity talks will do no more than take up time while the Israelis continue to build settlements. This time, however, Obama is insisting that the talks deal with substantive issues rather than procedures. He must now define the goal: either an independent Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or a single state in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal ctizens.

It is even more important that Obama face up to Congress and the Israel lobby and announce what he will do to assure Israel’s acceptance of such an agenda and its ultimate outcome. On the line is his credibility in the Arab world, as well as what may be the last chance for peace. Meanwhile, the specter hanging over the proceedings will be the thousands of young Palestinians growing up with no hope of a future, and the pro-Israel extremists who prefer continued bloodshed to a just peace. It is a volatile mix that inflames anger in the region and increases the danger of terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Afghanistan Has Its Own Interests

Since the U.S. is pushing for harsher sanctions against Iran, and the Israelis claim Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, both Israel and the U.S. must have found disquieting a front-page photo in the March 11 New York Times showing America’s close ally, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, warmly embracing Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The photo indicated that in a region regarded as being of strategic importance to the U.S., our local allies don’t necessarily share the same concerns. As the war in Afghanistan goes into its ninth year, the differences become more and more evident.

Karzai ran into a storm of complaints when he visited Marjah shortly after Marines captured the town from the Taliban. Instead of cheering, residents complained of the corruption and cruelty of government officials that had made the Taliban a welcome alternative. A leading elder said, “The warlords who ruled us for the past eight years, those people whose hands are red with the people’s blood, those people who killed hundreds, they are still ruling over this nation.”

Others shouted examples of abuses committed by the U.S.-backed warlords who took power after the invasion, such as the rape and imprisonment of an 8-year-old boy. The elders also complained that the American troops fighting in Marjah had arrested innocent farmers, destroyed irrigation canals, and taken over schools and homes. “How can we educate our children,” they demanded, “when their schools are turned into military bases?”

The Afghan soldiers and police who are intended to replace the Americans are even less welcome. Immediately after Marines cleared a neighborhood in Marjah, Afghan soldiers looted its bazaar, requiring a Marine captain to pay hundreds of dollars to the outraged shopkeepers. The Afghan police who will be in charge of local security are notorious for bribery, drug trafficking and extortion, and are hated by the Afghan people. The U.S. and NATO plan to send thousands of Afghan police recruits to Jordan and Turkey for training, but meanwhile the Taliban forces are reportedly infiltrating back into Marjah and warning residents against cooperating with the allied troops and police.

The conquest of Marjah cost the lives of 15 allied soldiers and 35 civilians, including an elderly man who was shot by American troops in front of his home. The slain man’s grandson said, “For us the Taliban and the Marines are the same. They are fighting and killing us.” In the nearby town of Lashkar Gah, where many residents of Marja had fled to escape the fighting, a man whose brother was killed said, “This is a hell for us. Every day our people are burning, sometimes killed by IEDs and sometimes by foreign troops and sometimes by the Taliban.”

Then he asked a question many Americans have asked: “Why are they fighting? With whom are they fighting?” The question became even more poignant when the Pakistanis, with U.S. assistance, captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a top Taliban leader who was engaged in secret talks with the Afghan government when he was arrested. Baradar’s capture highlighted the rifts among the U.S. and its allies. British, Afghan and U.N. officials favor immediate peace talks, while the Americans want to move more slowly, undoubtedly playing for time until the Taliban are weakened and Afghan security forces are able to take over from U.S. troops.

Kabul officials who had been trying to arrange broader negotiations with the Taliban charged Pakistan with trying to sabotage the peace talks and said Baradar’s arrest could destroy all chances of reconciliation, especially if he is abused by U.S. and Pakistani interrogators. Other analysts believe Pakistan is holding Baradar in order to be assured of playing an influential role in those talks. (See “Jailed Taliban Leader Still a Pakistani Asset” by Gareth Porter, April 2010 Washington Report, p. 25.)

The Taliban have long been open to negotiations, on condition that foreign soldiers leave Afghanistan. In the Feb. 25 issue of the New York Review of Books, Pakistani analyst Ahmed Rashid cited a statement issued by Mullah Omar in November 2009 pledging that a future Taliban regime would bring peace and noninterference from outside forces—a clear implication that al-Qaeda would not be returning to Afghanistan under the Taliban. In a later speech that Rashid cites, Omar said the Taliban were fighting only for Afghanistan’s independence, and were ready “to take constructive measures together with all countries for mutual cooperation, economic development, and a good future...”

Kai Eide, former head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, warned in early March that a military victory was not possible. “A political process is indispensable for finding a solution to this conflict,” he said. “I believe the focus is too much on the military side.” Yet as he left the country in early March, U.S. forces were preparing for another major offensive, this time in Kandahar province, a stronghold of the Taliban. The Taliban responded to news of the operation by setting off a series of bombs in Kandahar that killed 35 people, And so the slaughter continues, even as Afghans wonder why.

Rachelle Marshall is a free-lance editor living in Mill Valley, CA. A member of A Jewish Voice for Peace, she writes frequently on the Middle East.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ICNA Relief launches Muslim Response to Tennessee Flood

Taken from here.

ICNA Relief joins hands with other faith based organizations to help the people affected by the flooding in Nashville, Tennesse.

“In a matter of 30 minutes, everything you worked for, everything you thought was valuable, it all looks like trash” Mayor Karl Dean estimates the damage from weekend flooding could easily top $1 billion in Nashville alone. Many of the families affected by flood are Somali and Kurdish Muslim Families, who are still struggling to stand on their feet after divesting blow to their households. Masjid Salahuddin and Islamic School were also badly hit.

ICNA Relief has started the flood cleanup project in full swing. More volunteers needed! Visit

Jews, Muslims, Christians unite in flood cleanup project

Faithful put others first


Disasters don’t discriminate, says Dan Hoeft of the Jewish disaster relief group Nechama.

The Nashville flood hit Jews and Baptists, Methodists and Muslims, believers and nonbelievers alike.

That’s why Hoeft will work with anyone who’s willing to lend a hand to flood victims.

“I don’t care what religion someone is,” said Hoeft, while overseeing an interfaith volunteer project at the Wynstone Apartments on Millwood Drive in Nashville on Monday. “We have a job to do, and that’s to help as many people as possible.”

Hoeft is part of a volunteer project that’s brought Muslims, Jews, Methodists and Baptists together. Monday, the interfaith volunteers cleaned flood-damaged apartments and distributed food and other supplies. The Jewish and Muslim volunteers also are living together at a house owned by a local Methodist agency. This all comes at a time when relations between Jews and Muslims are strained because of the recent Israeli attack on a boat carrying supplies to Gaza.

“We’re tearing down stereotypes one person at a time,” Hoeft said.

The interfaith project is a first for Abdulrauf Khan, a member of the disaster relief team for ICNA Relief USA, a Muslim charity. Khan, who’s based in Melbourne, Fla., has worked in that state and in Texas on disaster relief in the past. But he usually worked only with other Muslims.

When he arrived in Nashville, Khan met with Hoeft and other volunteer groups and offered to help them reach Muslims affected by the flood. That offering was a blessing, said Brandon Hulette, interim flood recovery coordinator for the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Having Muslim volunteers trained in disaster relief means that volunteers can help flood victims who may have been overlooked.

“There are pockets like the Kurdish and the Somali communities that we aren’t able to get into,” Hulette said.

Loving other people

Khan tapped into local mosques to recruit volunteers such as Mohammed Khoshnaw of Antioch. Khoshnaw, who prays at the Salahadeen Center of Nashville on Elysian Fields Court, volunteered on Monday along with his wife, their two daughters and some teenage volunteers from the center.

When it comes to helping flood victims, religious differences don’t matter, he said.

“God created us to love each other. It doesn’t matter what religion they are,” he said.

Khoshnaw said he heard about the controversy over the Israeli raid but that shouldn’t affect what happens in Nashville, he said.

“That’s the Middle East, and we are here,” he said. “Here is not like the Middle East.”

Elie Lowenfeld, founder of the Jewish Disaster Response Corps from New York City, agreed. He said volunteers have more pressing tasks. And helping flood victims gives the volunteers a common purpose, rather than focusing on their differences in faith.

“It’s not, ‘Let’s talk about politics,’ ” he said. “It’s ‘How do we get this sheetrock out of here and not get jabbed by a rusty nail?’ We talk to each other as people. We work, and then we have lunch.”

That impressed David Myers, director of the Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives for FEMA.

“In being able to still come together even though the wider world politics are still tense — I think is a real testament to how disasters bring people of all faiths together,” said Myers, who was in Nashville on Monday and stopped by the project.

Working together

Living and working together also have created a sense of camaraderie, said Matthew Mazur, a Jewish volunteer from New York. During a lunch break, Mazur gave Iman Khoshnaw, a 9-year-old volunteer, a ride in a wheelbarrow while other volunteers watched and laughed. Earlier the two had teamed up to toss a door into the Dumpster. Iman Khoshnaw carried the door part of the way by herself, but was stymied when she got near the Dumpster.

“I’m not tall enough,” she said.

Monday’s project started out with the different faith groups wearing their own T-shirts — blue and green shirts for the Jewish volunteers, neon green for Muslims, red for the Methodists. By the end of the day, volunteers had begun swapping shirts.

Hoeft said that he and other leaders of disaster groups had been talking about doing an interfaith project for several years. The Nashville flood made that a reality, he said.

“We’ve moved from talking to doing,” he said. “And that’s a good thing”

Article Courtesy: The Tennessean

Monday, June 14, 2010

Israelis and Palestinians both created by God

Taken from here.

Q: In a statement Monday, Vice President Biden said the U.S. is consulting with other nations "on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza." What are the religious and moral considerations in determining those "new ways," especially in light of Israel's raid on an aid flotilla from Turkey bound for Gaza.

Since Israel's commando raid on a flotilla of ships bearing humanitarian aid to Gaza, much real and virtual ink has been spilled analyzing Israel's action and the motivation of the activists seeking to break the long siege of beleaguered Gaza. This is not the place to reiterate all the points made on both sides of the debate; there is keen commentary available on all topics related to the situation: international law; Geneva conventions; security; resistance; dueling definitions of what constitutes a humanitarian crisis; dueling definitions of what constitutes an "Occupation;" in fact, dueling definitions of just about everything!

And that is the crux of the problem. As Israeli politician Naomi Chazan once said in my hearing, "The problem here is that there are two competing narratives of the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and they are both true - and they don't meet!" Just look at the Gaza situation.

Much of the world sees in that densely populated and poverty-stricken strip of land a terrible humanitarian crisis. Israel's leadership says there is more than adequate humanitarian aid going in. Gazans experience a total land, air, and sea enclosure - a continued "occupation" by Israel; Israel speaks of having withdrawn from Gaza and given it a chance to flourish. Israel justifies its draconian policies in Gaza by pointing to the launching of Qassam rockets into Israel and the terrorizing of its citizens; Gazans point to the right of "self-defense," resistance, and the "terror" of Israeli strikes.

The list could go on and on - and extend into the broader conflict, and should. Gaza is not an isolated incident in the struggle for peace with justice in the region. Gaza is a vital part of a future Palestinian state - and the current Israeli government is struggling mightily to separate it from the West Bank, turn it into the "model" of what a Palestinian state would look like, and relegate the West Bank into isolated pockets of Palestinian populations, similar to the American Indian reservations that much of the policy of Occupation has been modeled after - that and South African Apartheid on steroids. And to this, there is another "narrative" rejoinder: "disputed" territory rather than occupied territory; security measures rather than subjugation; moral high ground and biblical precedent versus violent resistance.

So, that said, back to the question of the week: What "new" can be done in the world's response to the Gaza crisis?

How about a return to something "old"? Speaking truth. Cutting through the fog of dueling narratives to recognize a basic truth: both Israelis and Palestinians are human beings. Both are created by G-d and deserve the right to live in peace with justice and security. An Israeli life is not worth more than a Palestinian life. A Palestinian life is not worth more than an Israeli life. To quote Arab Israeli religious leader "Abuna" Elias Chacour, "We're not born Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Israeli, or Palestinian. We're born babies."

The ability to recognize this truth, however, is inhibited by what Jewish author of "Compartments," medical doctor Steven Feldman of Wake Forest University, calls our tendency to see the world only through our own narrow lenses. Growing up orthodox Jewish, in a "compartment" that saw all Arabs as terrorists, Israel as having been created out of barren, uninhabited swamps and desert, and Palestinian resistance as evil, Feldman's "epiphany" came when he visited Israel and simply asked the obvious question: "If this land was empty before my people came here, then where did 700,000 Palestinian refugees come from?"

As a scientist, he began trying to get at the facts and was shocked to discover a far more complex history to the conflict than he had been compartmentalized into.

And what is the result of our being in our isolated "compartments"? Palestinians can be seen as "less than," as subhuman. Israelis can be seen as "evil," brutal oppressors. And the nature of the region today, with Apartheid walls, fences, checkpoints, by-pass roads, and travel prohibitions - fiery sermons, recent grudges, and dueling histories, only exacerbates it.

The result is random rocket fire into civilian population centers under the guise of "resistance." The result is an air force pilot asked if he "felt anything" when his F-16 dropped a one ton bomb on a Gaza apartment, killing the targeted "terrorist" but also killing 15 civilians - many of them children: "Yes; I felt a slight bump when the bomb was released."

How about the "new" being getting out of our compartments and viewing both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs as human beings, not deserving of "terror," ghettoization, stereotyping, marginalization, and humiliation? And here, I have to say, the major change will have to be in both how we see Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Palestinians must be recognized as having legitimate rights to living in peace with justice, security, and the benefits we all seek in life. No American would tolerate fellow Americans being kept in the conditions Israel imposes on Gaza. No Israeli would tolerate a Jew anywhere in the world being treated like Palestinians in Gaza. Nor should we view Israeli Jews as heartless occupiers; their narrative, influenced by a sense of "siege" wherever they have lived in the world, affects their visceral response to threats against their existence. Nor should we view Israel any more as "David" versus "Goliath," "Good" vs. "Evil".

Palestinians and Israeli Jews are equals. Both are humans. Both deserve dignity and freedom. It's time for the "something new" to be a recognition of that fact, to stop treating Israel as something "special" and hold it to the same standards of international law and human rights that are defined by the rest of the world; to stop justifying violence by "security" and "resistance;" to seeing the loss of a Palestinian life as equal to the loss of a Jewish life.

Not as easy as it would seem, of course. We are firmly ensconced in our "compartments." But G-d is in the boundary-breaking business. And perhaps the events of the past week might just be the "epiphany" we need to begin hearing the "other" narrative in this conflict. Maybe then we'll recognize that there should be just one "narrative:" all humans are children of G-d; all humans deserve our respect, care, love, and assistance in living into a hopeful future.

By Max Carter
A recorded Friends minister, he serves on the Board of the American Friends Service Committee and the Advisory Board of the Earlham School of Religion.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Managing a More Assertive Turkey

Taken from here.

F. Stephen Larrabee, Distinguished Chair in European Security, RAND Corporation
Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor,

June 3, 2010

Turkey's recent diplomatic differences with the United States and its sharpened deterioration of relations with Israel come from Turkey's desire to reestablish its role as a major influence in the Middle East and Central Asia, says F. Stephen Larrabee, an expert on Turkey at the RAND Corporation. "Turkey is returning to a more traditional role, one in which it was closely involved in the Middle East for centuries, going back to the Ottoman Empire," says Larrabee. He says the days when Turkey was a "junior partner" of the United States are over.

"We're dealing with a new Turkey, one that is more assertive and self confident," says Larrabee. "That doesn't mean our interests don't coincide in some areas, but we have to recognize that when it comes to the Middle East, U.S. and Turkish interests only partially coincide." He says the United States is "in danger of finding itself in a very weak position" unless it issues a stronger criticism of Israel for its attack on the Turkish ship headed to Gaza. And on Iran, he believes the Turks will abstain in the Security Council on new sanctions, which will only further strain relations with the United States and Turkey's European allies.

What has led to the widening split between Turkey and both the United States and Israel?

The downward spiral of relations over the last eighteen months goes back to the Israeli Gaza offensive in December 2008, which marked an important turning point. Relations since then have really gone downhill. Turkey appears to be on a strongly anti-Israeli course, but in a broader sense one has to see this in a historical perspective because this represents the adjustment of Turkey to the aftermath of the Cold War. Turkey became less dependent on the United States for its security. The end of the Cold War opened up new opportunities for Turkish policies in areas Turkey historically has had strong political and economical interests, particularly in the Middle East and Central Asia. Turkey is returning to a more traditional role, one in which it was closely involved in the Middle East for centuries, going back to the Ottoman Empire

Turkey's reaction has both internal and external components. Internally, it's been very popular. It has shown everyone that it wants to be a strong leader. Externally, it's been popular with the Arab countries and enhanced its prestige in the Arab world. Turkey eventually wants to be an important regional player in the Middle East. There's a vacuum there, and it's trying to fill that vacuum.

I've always thought that the U.S. problems with Turkey really began when the United States asked Turkey to let American troops come into Iraq from Turkey at the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 and Turkey's parliament narrowly turned it down.

That obviously was an important catalyst. The decision of the Turkish parliament not to allow the United States to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq was an important turning point in the relationship with the United States, but then again you have to see it a little bit from Turkey's perspective. Turkey never had any love for Saddam Hussein. They considered him a dictator just like the United States did. But Saddam kept the Kurds, which have a rebellious minority in Turkey, under control and he represented stability. They regarded the American invasion of Iraq as very detrimental to their own security.

The decision of the Turkish parliament not to allow the United States to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq was an important turning point in the relationship with the United States.

You mean the Turks were concerned about the Kurds getting more independence from Iraq and festering Kurdish independence?

Yes, but I would say there were three things that they feared. First of all, they feared that the invasion would lead to the destabilization and fragmentation of Iraq, which it did. They feared that it would also lead to an increase of Iranian influence, which it did. And they most of all feared that it would lead to an increase of Kurdish nationalism and a thrust for independence, which would affect the integrity of the Turkish state itself, creating its own large Kurdish minority. So in other words, the strategic framework on which Turkish policy was based was really undermined and destroyed by the invasion, which as I said, they had great reservations about and tried to restrain.

More recently, Turkey and Brazil negotiated an agreement to trade Iran's low-enriched uranium for higher enriched fuel bars to be used in a research reactor in Tehran, a project which the United States and other powers proposed last October. Now the United States is hostile toward the deal because it gets in the way of a new sanctions vote in the Security Council. What prompted Turkey to take a lead role in these negotiations?

It's part of their general feeling that they want to be a major player in the Middle East. They've shown that by their willingness to act as a mediator in the dispute between Israel and Syria, and they've continued to play a role as a mediator between the United States and Iran. What they did with the nuclear deal was again to become the broker, but it's part of the larger dimension of Turkish policy. This is part of the changes since the end of the Cold War, which opened up new opportunities for Turkey.

In essence, this doesn't have much to do with Islam. It has much more to do with the change in the Turkish security environment. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of the security problems that Turkey has are now in the south, in and around its borders. That includes the fragmentation of Iraq; the possibility that Iran will get nuclear weapons; the Palestinian problem, which, of course, [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is taking a major role in and siding openly with the Palestinians. It's an important break with previous Turkish policy.

What do you think will come first in the dispute over the agreement with Iran--the sanctions vote in the Security Council or the Iranians sending this agreement to the IAEA and the Vienna Group?

It's hard to say, but I would say that frankly the situation over Israel is going to be really a much harder one for the United States in many ways because Turkey's determined.

And what is Turkey seeking? To get Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza?

Not only that. They've set up a number of criteria that they want. They want a formal apology; they want them to return the bodies of the dead; they want them to return the protesters. They're playing hardball because they know that they have quite a bit of support.

They're threatening to make [this] into a bigger thing in the UN, to put Israel in the defensive, politically and internationally. The Turks see this as an opportunity to enhance their role in the Middle East, particularly with the Arab nations. They know Israel's in a weak position so they want to exploit as much as they can to their political advantage.

Do you think that Erdogan and the foreign minister's anger at Israel really stems from the 2008 Gaza attack?

That was a turning point, but something that had been mounting over the years. This is not the first time that Turkish foreign officials called Israeli actions "state terrorism." This is part of an evolving process where Turkey, and Erdogan himself, has moved in an anti-Israeli direction. The Gaza offensive was a turning point, but it wasn't the beginning. It was just the climax of a deterioration of a relationship which has been going on for some time.

On the Gaza blockade, the United States is faced with a delicate internal problem. It's in danger of finding itself in a very weak position if it doesn't come out with a stronger statement on the Israeli action.

It's interesting that when the previous Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in power, Israel agreed to have Turkey mediate with Syria. So relations must have been pretty good at that point.

They were better, but under the surface there were still an awful lot of difficulties. But they hadn't really sprung out into the open as viscerally as it did after the Gaza invasion. And part of what many people feel was a springboard was the fact that Olmert was in Turkey for three or four days meeting with Erdogan before the offensive and he didn't mention a word to Erdogan, and Erdogan felt as if he'd been double-crossed. That's what a lot of Turks say.

Some people think perhaps the whole problem began when Erdogan had this public confrontation with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Davos conference at the end of January 2009.

But it didn't begin then. That was just, again, the culmination of the rising frustration that had been kept up for several years. [Davos] came right after the Gaza invasion, and Erdogan simply exploded. It was only a few weeks after the offense. Emotions were still very, very raw.

This week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, presumably to discuss the Iran agreement, but clearly the whole Gaza blockade came up.

There was no joint press conference, but Davutoglu made very clear to reporters afterwards he was quite disappointed with the American response to the Israeli raid on the Turkish ship, which he felt was far too tepid.

Actually, the American reaction on the blockade was balanced, calling for an investigation. It criticized the actions of the Israelis, but in relatively mild terms. It tried to take a balanced position, saying, "We have to get all the facts," and Davutoglu made quite clear this was unsatisfactory.

What would you say if you were giving advice to the State Department or the White House on what to do with Turkey?

Generally, they should start from the point of recognizing that we're dealing with a new Turkey, one that is more assertive and self confident; we shouldn't expect Turkey to act as it did during the Cold War when it was sort of a junior partner. That doesn't mean our interests don't coincide in some areas, but we have to recognize that when it comes to the Middle East, U.S. and Turkish interests only partially coincide. The real issue is to manage those differences. It does not mean that Turkey is turning its back on the United States or on the West. It does not mean its policies are becoming Islamized, but we have to recognize the changes that have taken place structurally since the end of the Cold War and try to manage those divergences as best as we can.

And on Iran and the Gaza blockade?

They are separate issues. On the Gaza blockade, the United States is faced with a delicate internal problem. It's in danger of finding itself in a very weak position if it doesn't come out with a stronger statement on the Israeli action. We are very much apart from a lot of our allies, let alone from Turkey. I think the Turks have overemphasized their influence in Iran. But they're not likely to back down, and in the Security Council, they are likely to abstain, which will further exacerbate relations between Turkey and the United States. Although here, it's not just between Turkey and the United States, but between Turkey and its Western allies.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tragedy in the Middle East. Call for Emergency Meeting

By Othman Shibly, DDS

It is another sad day where the loss of innocent lives happened. Few > days
ago it was in Pakistan and today in the Middle East. Where our > civilians
and peace activists were killed in their mission to bring humanitarian
aids to a 1.5 million people in Gaza who are suffering from siege and
blockade by Israeli government.

Israeli government justification for the siege is that Hamas is ruling
Gaza. So they want to put pressure on Hamas by making the life of
civilians miserable. Israeli government is trying to do political > change
in Gaza through inflecting suffering on civilians. This is > perceived to
be an act of terrorist state when groups or states use civilians to > reach
out to their political goals.

This attack on the Freedom Flotilla is unjustifiable. We may have
different stories how the tragedy happens. Nevertheless, the facts are
that Israeli army boarded the Turkey ship in the International water > with
force and deadly weapons. This perceived to be a piracy act of a > state.
The results were 15 peace activists dead. Let us not forget that > Turkey
ships in the middle ages went to Spain and saved Jews from the > inquisition
period. And yesterday Israeli army attacked those Turkish ships. > Let us
remember that Jewish leaders in the middle ages used to tell Jews in
Europe to move out from Europe and seek the country the carry > cresent flag
(Ottomans) to save themselves from oppression in Europe. And now > Turkish
people have been killed.

This collective punishment against all population of Gaza is > inhumane and
lack passion and caring for children, women and elderly. This must be

I know talking about Israel is sensitive to some of our Jewish > friends. I
really value your friendship and part of my value is to share my > honest
feeling and draw your attention to your moral obligation in such
tragedies. I respect and value every one of you. It is > understandable to
have different historical perspective of the story of conflict in the
middle east nevertheless we should have similar story for peace for > both
sides based on the International and UN agreements. The board of > Rabbis
was very vocal in criticizing the WNY peace Center because of the > feeling
that WNY peace center was critical of Israel. I want to see now > will the
board of Rabbis be critical and vocal to Israeli government when they
approved the attack on the ships, when Israeli government continue
inhumane treatment of civilians in Palestine. This is a moment of > truth.

Our country is the most supporter and contributor to Israeli > economical
and military power. So as Americans we are guilty by letting our US > aid
goes toward an inhumane treatment and siege and blockade of 1.5 > million in
GAZA. It is our military equipments that were used on the attacks on
unarmed civilian ships the Freedom Flotilla.

I would like to call upon an emergency meeting for the Board of > governors
and the executive counsel to discuss this human tragedy and steps > that are
necessary to be taken based on our moral and spiritual values. These
steps may include a request of our government to ask Israeli > government
1 to lift more than 3 years of inhumane blockade and siege of Gaza
2 to avoid using our military equipments against civilian targets > such as
Freedom Flotilla.
3 independent investigation of the tragedy and bring those > responsible for
the killing or ordering the killing to the court for justice

Let us pray and. Hope that peace overcome war and love overcome hate > and
freedom for all overcome occupation. Let us pray that promoting of > hate
against any religion or culture be stopped.
Peace and love for all


Attached notes and references:
"The Muslim Public Affairs Council today called upon the Obama
administration to condemn Israel's deadly attack on a convoy of > unarmed
international peace activists bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, > which has
at least 10 people dead. Media reports indicate over 60 people were > also
wounded after Israeli Defense Forces descended on the aid convoy in
international waters while sailing for the Gaza Strip."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ahmadi Mosques Attacked in Pakistan

By Othman Shibly, DDS

It is so hurtful to see the loss of innocent lives as a result of
extremism and intolerance. The worse kind of crimes are those > crimes that
committed against other communities for the sole reason that they > differ
in their color, or race or religion belief. We see these crimes are
happening in all parts of the world. In this last event where > militants
entered two mosques and start killing innocent worshippers just > because
they differ in their belief is the worse kind of crimes. Also we > saw this
in the past when some entered shittes mosques and killed worshippers > and
also when extremist jewish entered a mosque in Hebron and killed
worshippers in Ramadan and extremist Jews built a shrine for him In > Israel
We all have seen mosques, churches, synagogues and many other > temples have
been attacked and bombed and innocent people died. Lately a mosque in
Florida have been bombed but luckily no one was hurt.

However, it is more hurtful destroying a life of any single human > being
than destroying the most scared temple or mosque. Because the > temple or
the mosque was created by man while any single life it was created > by God.
Destroying what God created is more hurtful to what man created.

This killing is not hurting to Ahmadieh community alone but it is > hurtful
to every Muslim and to every human being in this wrold.

Muslims in general and muslim scholars in particular should do more to
confront these idiologies of extremisms and intolreance and they > should
revive the true teaching of Islam. The teaching that value and > respect
our diversity and promote peace and understading among all humanity.
Equally important all other religions and cultures to do the same.

I pray to Allah for his mercy to the families of the victims and I > pray
for God's guidance for all of us to value and spread peace to all

Salam and Peace

Monday, June 7, 2010

American Muslim History


A Chronological Observation By Fareed H. Numan (December 1992)
(Edited by Ishaq Zahid for
Unquestionably, Muslims have made an impact on the evolution of American society. Historically Muslims have made major contribution, e.g. humanities, the sciences, and art. They explored North America 300 years before the so-called "discovery" of the New World by Christopher Columbus. They used the Mississippi river as their access route to and from the continent's interior. Here are a few glimpses of Muslim life in American History:
A Chinese document know as the Sung Document records the voyage of Muslim sailors to a land know as Mu-Lan-Pi (America). Mention of this document is contained in the publication, the Khotan Amiers, 1933.
Abu Bakari (Abu Bakar), a Muslim king of the Malian Empire, spearheads a series of sea voyages to the New World.
African Muslims (Mandinga) arrive in the Gulf o Mexico for exploration of the American interior using the Mississippi River as their access route. These Muslim explorers were from Mali and other parts of West Africa.
Pri Ries completes his first world map, including the American, after research maps from all over the world. The practicality and artistry of his map surpassed any from his time or before.
African slaves arrive in America. During the slave trade, more than 10 million Africans were uprooted from their homes and brought to American shores. Many of these slaves were from the Fulas, Fula Jallon, Fula Toro, and Massiona as well as other areas of West Africa. These areas were governed from their capital, "Timbuctu." These slaves were sent to Mexico, Cuba, and South America. More than 30 percent of these 10 million slaves were Muslim. They became the backbone of the American economy.
Estevanico of Azamor, a Muslim from Morocco, lands in Florida with the ill-fated expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez in 1527. Estevanico remained in America to become the first of three Americans to cross the continent. At least two states owe their beginnings to this Muslim, Arizona and New Mexico.
Ayyub ibn Sulaiman Jallon, a Muslim slave in Maryland, is set free by James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, and provided transportation to England. He arrived home (Boonda, Galumbo) from England in 1735.
Moors from Spain are reported living in South Carolina and Florida.
United States Congress prohibits the importation of slaves into America after Jan. 1, 1808. Despite suppression of the slave trade during the next 60 years, slavery reached its peak between 1840 and 1860. The last Slave ships to be confiscates by the federal government were Wildfire, Storm King, Williams, Erie, Echo, Cora, and Binita, all of which violated the ban on importing slaves.
Yarrow Mamout, an African Muslim slave, is set free in Washington DC, and later becomes one of the first shareholders of the second chartered bank in America, the Columbia Bank. Yarrow may have lived to be more than 128 years old, the oldest person in American history. Two portraits of Yarrow done by well known artists are on public display. The first, painted by Charles W. Peal in 1819 was done when Yarrow was 100 years old. It hangs in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. A second portrait completed by James Simpson in 1828, almost a decade later, can be seen in the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Public Library, Washington DC.
Al Haj Umar ibn Sayyid is enslaved in Charleston after running away. In jail, he is visited by John Owen and taken to Blade County and placed on the Owen plantation. John Owen later became Governor of North Carolina. It has been reported that Umar lived to be 100 years old.
Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, a former prince from West Africa and now a salve on a Georgia plantation, is freed by the order of Secretary of State Henry Clay and President John Quincy Adams. He was known to many during his lifetime as "The Prince of Slaves." A drawing of him, done by Henry Inman, is displayed in the Library of Congress. His life has also been well-documented.
Sayyid Sa'id, ruler of Oman, orders his ship The Sultana to set sail for America on a trade mission. The Sultana touched port in New York, April 30, 1840. Although the voyage was not a commercial success, it marks the point of successful friendly relations between the two countries that continue to this day.
The United States cavalry hire a Muslim by the name of Hajji Ali to experiment with raising camels in Arizona.
The American Civil War ends. During the war, the "scorched earth" policy of the North destroyed churches, farms, schools, libraries, colleges, and a great deal of other property. The libraries at the University of Alabama managed to save one book from the debris of their library buildings. On the morning of April 4, when Federal troops reached the campus with order to destroy the university, Andre Deloffre, a modern language professor and custodian of the library, appealed to the commanding officer to spare one of the finest libraries in the South. The officer, being sympathetic, sent a courier to Gen. Croxton at his headquarters in Tuscaloosa asking permission to save the Rotunda. The general's reply was no. The officer reportedly said, "I will save one volume as a memento of this occasion. The volume selected was a rare copy of the Qur'an.
The Reverend Norman, a Methodist missionary, converts to Islam.
Edward W. Blyden, noted scholar and social activist, traveled throughout the eastern and southern parts of the United States, proclaiming Islam. In a speech before the Colonization Society of Chicago, Blyden told his audience that the reasons Africans choose Islam over Christianity is that, "the Qur'an protected the Black man from self-depreciation in the presence of Arabs or Europeans."
Muslim immigrants from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. arrive in North America. They are mainly Turks, Kurds, Albanians, and Arabs.
Timothy Drew (Noble Drew Ali) establishes an organization in Newark, NJ, known as the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA). Drew Ali reportedly was commissioned by the Sultan of Morocco to teach Islam to Negroes in the United States. The MSTA is also responsible for many of today's African-American converts to Islam.
Albanian Muslims build a Masjid in Maine and establish an Islamic association. By 1919, they had established another Masjid in Connecticut. Theirs was one of the first associations for Muslims in the United States.
The Red Crescent, a Muslim charity modeled after the International Red Cross, is established in Detroit.
A branch of the Ahmadiyya Movement is founded in Chicago by Dr. Mufti Muhammad Sadiq. This movement converted many African Americans to their deviant brand of Islam.
Duse Muhammad Ali, mentor of Marcus Garvey and the person who had a considerable impact upon Garvey's movement, establishes an organization in Detroit known as the Universal Islamic Society. Its motto was: "One God, One Aim, One Destiny."
Polish-speaking Tatars build a mosque in Brooklyn, NY which is still in use.
African American Muslims establish the First Muslim Mosque in Pittsburgh, PA.
The Nation of Islam (NOI), one of the most significant organizations in American Muslim history, is founded. A high percentage of African Americans who were members of Nation of Islam later converted to Islam. NOI was also effective in highlighting American Christians' difficulties combating the effects of slavery and racism among African Americans. The NOI's philosophy was introduced in the United States by Fard Muhammad (Wallace Ford), a mystic who disappeared in 1933. The late Elijah Mohammed, who succeeded Fard in 1933, helped build the organization into a strong ethnic movement advocating a deviant brand of Islam as a way of life. Two of the most famous African Americans, Muhammad Ali, and Al Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X), were early adherents of this movement. Both later embraced the true Islam.
The Lebanese Community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, opens its first Masjid.
The Islamic Mission Society is founded in New York City by Sheikh Dawood. It publishes a magazine entitled "Muslim Sunrise."
Muslims in the Armed Services sue the federal government to be allowed to identify themselves as Muslims. Until then, Islam was not recognized as a legitimate religion.
The State Street Masjid in New York City is established by Sheikh Dawood Ahmed Faisal. It is still in use today and represents a special point in the development of the American Muslim community. From this Masjid was born the Dar-ul-Islam movement.
The NOI's University of Islam schools flourished and drew the attention of the American media. Coverage focuses upon the Black Muslims' self-help programs for Blacks, but considered them a "threat" to the white establishment.
The Dar-ul-Islam movement, another important groups among the African American Muslim community is born. Until its disappearance in 1982-1983, it made a serious impact upon the development and practice of traditional Islam in America.
The newspaper Muhammad Speaks is launched. It later becomes the largest minority weekly publication in the country and reached 800,000 readers at its peak. In subsequent years, it underwent some name changes, and the NOI itself underwent various transformations. It has also been know as Bilalian News the A.M. Journal and currently, the Muslim Journal.
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is established as an organization to aid foreign Muslims students attending schools in the United States. MSA now has more than 100 branches nationwide. In the 1970s, it gave birth to the Islamic Medical Association (IMA), The Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), and the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE).
Al Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X) is assassinated in New York . He was one of the most outstanding Muslims in American history as well as a dedicated fighter for justice and equality for African Americans and other oppressed people.
The Hanafi Movement is founded by Hamas Abdul Khaalis. The Hanafi Madh-hab Center was established in New York, but later moved to Washington DC. This movement had a membership of more than 1000 in the United States. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a famous basketball player, is one of the Muslims who first came into contact with Islam through this movement. In 1977, Khaalis and some of his followers seized control of three District of Columbia buildings, holding hostages for more than 30 hours. One man was killed. Khaalis is now incarcerated in Washington DC, serving a sentence of 41 to 120 years. This movement marks a challenging period in American Muslim History.
The Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers is established.
The Association of Muslim Scientists is launched.
Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, dies and is succeed by his son Warith Deen Mohammed, who has been credited with moving the NOI toward the broader universal concepts of Islam. He is now regarded as one of the leading Muslim spokesmen in the United States.
The first American Islamic library is established in Plainfield, Indiana.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is established in Plainfield, IN. ISNA is now an umbrella organization for many active Islamic groups seeking to further the cause of Islam in the United States.
Dr. Isma'il R. Al-Faruqi and his wife are murdered in their home outside Philadelphia. Dr. and Mrs. Faruqi are the authors of the Cultural Atlas of Islam as well as many other books and research papers. Dr. Faruqi is the founder of AMSS and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, located in Northern Virginia. This truly remarkable Muslim family is responsible for some of the most constructive programs to promote Islam in the United States.
Muslims hold the first solidarity conference called "Muslims Against Apartheid." This was the first conference of its kind in support of Muslims for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The conference was organized by the American Muslim Council.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj offers an invocation (opening prayer) to the United States House of Representatives. He was the first Muslim to do so.
The Muslim Members of the Military (MMM) organization hold their first "Unity in Uniform" conference. The conference took place at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington DC. According to the Untied States Department of Defense, there are more than 5000 Muslims in uniform on active duty in the military.
Charles Bilal, Kountze, TX becomes the nation's first mayor in an American city.
Imam Warith Deen Mohammed gives the invocation in the Senate.
Information Resources
The University of Alabama, A Pictorial History by Suzanne Rau Wolfe History of the First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Jameelah A. Hakim, 1989
African Presence in Early America by Ivan Van Sertima, 1987
Deeper Roots by Abdullah Hakim Quick, 1990
Arab America Today (A Demographic Profile of Arab Americans) By John Zogby, 1990
A Survey of North American Muslims by El Tigani A. Abugideiri, June 1977
A Century of Islam in America by Yvonne Y. Haddad, 1986
Ethnic Distribution of American Muslims and selected Socio Economic Characteristics by Arif Ghayrur, 1984
The Demography of Islamic Nations by John Weeks, 1988
Islam in the United States: Review of Sources by Dr. Sulayman S. Nyang, 1988
Demographic Consequences of Minority Consciousness: An analysis By Salaha M. Abedin, 1980
World Population Data Sheet Population Reference Bureau, Inc. Washington DC, 1990
Statistical Abstract of the United States U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census, 1990
Muslim Peoples , A World Ethnographic Survey Edited by Richard V. Weeks, 1984, vol. II
Muslim Peoples, a World Ethnographic Survey by Richard V. Weeks, 1978
The 1991 Almanac 44th Edition , by Houghnton Mifflin Company, 1991
The Islamic Society of North America Directory of Islamic Centers, Schools, Masjids, and MSA Chapters 1989 Revised Edition
The Islamic Struggle in America by Hijrah Magazine, Oct./Nov. 1985
Seven Muslim Slaves by Abdul Hakim Muhammad 1983
Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford, 1977
Nature Knows no Color Line by J.A. Rogers, 1952
African Muslims in Antebellum American by Allen Austin, 1984
The Arab World Published by the Arab-American Press, 1945
The United States and the Sultanate of Oman Produce by the Sultan Qaboos Center, The Middle East Institute Washington DC, 1990

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Islam: The Next American Religion?

August 2, 2007 by TMO
By Michael Wolfe wolfe3.htm

The U.S. began as a haven for Christian outcasts. But what religion fits our current zeitgeist? The answer may be Islam.

Americans tend to think of their country as, at the very least, a nominally Christian nation. Didn’t the Pilgrims come here for freedom to practice their Christian religion? Don’t Christian values of righteousness under God, and freedom, reinforce America’s democratic, capitalist ideals?

True enough. But there’s a new religion on the block now, one that fits the current zeitgeist nicely. It’s Islam.

Islam is the third-largest and fastest growing religious community in the United States. This is not just because of immigration. More than 50% of America’s six million Muslims were born here. Statistics like these imply some basic agreement between core American values and the beliefs that Muslims hold. Americans who make the effort to look beyond popular stereotypes to learn the truth of Islam are surprised to find themselves on familiar ground.

Is America a Muslim nation? Here are seven reasons the answer may be YES.

Islam is monotheistic. Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians. They also revere the same prophets as Judaism and Christianity, from Abraham, the first monotheist, to Moses, the law giver and messenger of God, to Jesus–not leaving out Noah, Job, or Isaiah along the way. The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition only came to the fore in the 1940s in America. Now, as a nation, we may be transcending it, turning to a more inclusive "Abrahamic" view.

In January, President Bush grouped mosques with churches and synagogues in his inaugural address. A few days later, when he posed for photographers at a meeting of several dozen religious figures, the Shi’ite imam Muhammad Qazwini, of Orange County, Calif., stood directly behind Bush’s chair like a presiding angel, dressed in the robes and turban of his south Iraqi youth.

Islam is democratic in spirit. Islam advocates the right to vote and educate yourself and pursue a profession. The Qur’an, on which Islamic law is based, enjoins Muslims to govern themselves by discussion and consensus. In mosques, there is no particular priestly hierarchy. With Islam, each individual is responsible for the condition of her or his own soul. Everyone stands equal before God.

Americans, who mostly associate Islamic government with a handful of tyrants, may find this independent spirit surprising, supposing that Muslims are somehow predisposed to passive submission. Nothing could be further from the truth. The dictators reigning today in the Middle East are not the result of Islamic principles. They are more a result of global economics and the aftermath of European colonialism. Meanwhile, like everyone else, average Muslims the world over want a larger say in what goes on in the countries where they live. Those in America may actually succeed in it. In this way, America is closer in spirit to Islam than many Arab countries.

Islam contains an attractive mystical tradition. Mysticism is grounded in the individual search for God. Where better to do that than in America, land of individualists and spiritual seekers? And who might better benefit than Americans from the centuries-long tradition of teachers and students that characterize Islam. Surprising as it may seem, America’s best-selling poet du jour is a Muslim mystic named Rumi, the 800-year-old Persian bard and founder of the Mevlevi Path, known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. Even book packagers are now rushing him into print to meet and profit from mainstream demand for this visionary. Translators as various as Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, and Kabir and Camille Helminski have produced dozens of books of Rumi’s verse and have only begun to bring his enormous output before the English-speaking world. This is a concrete poetry of ecstasy, where physical reality and the longing for God are joined by flashes of metaphor and insight that continue to speak across the centuries.

Islam is egalitarian. From New York to California, the only houses of worship that are routinely integrated today are the approximately 4,000 Muslim mosques. That is because Islam is predicated on a level playing field, especially when it comes to standing before God. The Pledge of Allegiance (one nation, "under God") and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (all people are "created equal") express themes that are also basic to Islam.

Islam is often viewed as an aggressive faith because of the concept of jihad, but this is actually a misunderstood term. Because Muslims believe that God wants a just world, they tend to be activists, and they emphasize that people are equal before God. These are two reasons why African Americans have been drawn in such large numbers to Islam. They now comprise about one-third of all Muslims in America.

Meanwhile, this egalitarian streak also plays itself out in relations between the sexes. Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, actually was a reformer in his day. Following the Qur’an, he limited the number of wives a man could have and strongly recommended against polygamy. The Qur’an laid out a set of marriage laws that guarantees married women their family names, their own possessions and capital, the right to agree upon whom they will marry, and the right to initiate divorce. In Islam’s early period, women were professionals and property owners, as increasingly they are today. None of this may seem obvious to most Americans because of cultural overlays that at times make Islam appear to be a repressive faith toward women–but if you look more closely, you can see the egalitarian streak preserved in the Qur’an finding expression in contemporary terms. In today’s Iran, for example, more women than men attend university, and in recent local elections there, 5,000 women ran for public office.

Islam shares America’s new interest in food purity and diet. Muslims conduct a monthlong fast during the holy month of Ramadan, a practice that many Americans admire and even seek to emulate. I happened to spend quite a bit of time with a non-Muslim friend during Ramadan this year. After a month of being exposed to a practice that brings some annual control to human consumption, my friend let me know, in January, that he was "doing a little Ramadan" of his own. I asked what he meant. "Well, I’m not drinking anything or smoking anything for at least a month, and I’m going off coffee." Given this friend’s normal intake of coffee, I could not believe my ears.

Muslims also observe dietary laws that restrict the kind of meat they can eat. These laws require that the permitted, or halal, meat is prepared in a manner that emphasizes cleanliness and a humane treatment of animals. These laws ride on the same trends that have made organic foods so popular.

Islam is tolerant of other faiths. Like America, Islam has a history of respecting other religions. In Muhammad’s day, Christians, Sabeans, and Jews in Muslim lands retained their own courts and enjoyed considerable autonomy. As Islam spread east toward India and China, it came to view Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and Buddhism as valid paths to salvation. As Islam spread north and west, Judaism especially benefited. The return of the Jews to Jerusalem, after centuries as outcasts, only came about after Muslims took the city in 638. The first thing the Muslims did there was to rescue the Temple Mount, which by then had been turned into a garbage heap.

Today, of course, the long discord between Israel and Palestine has acquired harsh religious overtones. Yet the fact remains that this is a battle for real estate, not a war between two faiths. Islam and Judaism revere the same prophetic lineage, back to Abraham, and no amount of bullets or barbed wire can change that. As The New York Times recently reported, while Muslim/Jewish tensions sometimes flare on university campuses, lately these same students have found ways to forge common links. For one thing, the two religions share similar dietary laws, including ritual slaughter and a prohibition on pork. Joining forces at Dartmouth this fall, the first kosher/halal dining hall is scheduled to open its doors this autumn. That isn’t all: They’re already planning a joint Thanksgiving dinner, with birds dressed at a nearby farm by a rabbi and an imam. If the American Pilgrims were watching now, they’d be rubbing their eyes with amazement. And, because they came here fleeing religious persecution, they might also understand.

Islam encourages the pursuit of religious freedom. The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is not the world’s first story of religious emigration. Muhammad and his little band of 100 followers fled religious persecution, too, from Mecca in the year 622. They only survived by going to Madinah, an oasis a few hundred miles north, where they established a new community based on a religion they could only practice secretly back home. No wonder then that, in our own day, many Muslims have come here as pilgrims from oppression, leaving places like Kashmir, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where being a Muslim may radically shorten your life span. When the 20th century’s list of emigrant exiles is added up, it will prove to be heavy with Muslims, that’s for sure.

All in all, there seems to be a deep resonance between Islam and the United States. Although one is a world religion and the other is a sovereign nation, both are traditionally very strong on individual responsibility. Like New Hampshire’s motto, "Live Free or Die," America is wedded to individual liberty and an ethic based on right action. For a Muslim, spiritual salvation depends on these. This is best expressed in a popular saying: Even when you think God isn’t watching you, act as if he is.

Who knows? Perhaps it won’t be long now before words like salat (Muslim prayer) and Ramadan join karma and Nirvana in Webster’s Dictionary, and Muslims take their place in America’s mainstream.