A New Day in Egypt


The Egyptian revolution has brought about a change in the attitude of many progressive minded Egyptian Muslims who recognize the importance of the cohesiveness of their society.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on Egypt’s ruling military ‎council to provide security for Christian churches during Coptic ‎Christmas celebrations on 7 January as it did for polling stations ‎during the first two rounds of parliamentary elections.‎

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the group also promised ‎to draw up “popular committees” to help protect churches ‎against “iniquitous hands” that might attempt to spoil Christmas ‎celebrations as happened more than once under “the corrupt ‎regime” of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.‎

Almost one year ago, on New Year’s Eve, more than twenty Coptic ‎Christians were killed when a bomb exploded outside a church ‎in Alexandria. One year earlier, on 6 January, eight Copts were ‎killed outside a church in the Upper Egyptian city of Naga ‎Hammadi.‎

In January of this year, only weeks before the popular uprising ‎that culminated in Mubarak’s ouster, Muslim activists formed ‎human shields around churches on Coptic Christmas in an ‎expression of national unity. ‎

In its Wednesday statement, the Muslim Brotherhood also ‎announced that a delegation headed by leading group member ‎Mahmoud Ezzat would attend Christmas mass.‎

Many have been led to believe the Muslim Brotherhood, or MB, is the next anti-christ and no matter what they do they will always be portrayed as such but this move in an Egypt which is lawless and leaderless is a step in the right direction. It won’t be long before people in the media, and the pundits, return to the rhetoric of hate and racism in an attempt to add lawlessness to the Egyptian society.

Positive Results from the Arab Spring


One of the biggest world wide problems has been how to bring peace to the Middle East and especially to the Holy Lands of the Fertile Crescent.  Parties on both sides of the conflict have obfuscated their goals and concerns, which has only led to slaughter and conflict for almost a century.  One of the points of contention has been what Israel claims is Palestinians refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to cease hostilities towards the Jewish state.

All of the Palestinian parties have met those conditions, except one, Hamas….so claim the Israelis, and now they too might have come around.

Jane’s, an internationally respected British security and defense risk-analysis firm, has recently reported that Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, is on “the brink of renouncing armed resistance and moving to a policy of nonviolent resistance to Israel.” Jane’s, with which I have been a monthly writer to three of its publications since 2007, has several hard-to-ignore quotes in its report of Hamas leaders saying that the move was not “tactical” but “strategic.” Also interviewed are Palestinian Authority intelligence officers who said that Hamas’s strategy was “gradual and nuanced,” with one senior officer telling Jane’s that Hamas “intends to keep its military and security units to control the situation in Gaza, not necessarily to fight the Israelis.” The interviewees’ names were not mentioned for obvious security reasons.

I urge every subscriber to Jane’s to read that groundbreaking piece of reporting because, even if it is not publicly confirmed yet by Hamas’s leadership, it has all the makings of a fascinating story which I am positive will generate an intense debate not only in the Arab world and Israel but also in Washington and other Western capitals. The story is starting to get serious attention in the international press with the Financial Times, Sydney Herald Tribune and other media outlets covering it.

The report, written by my friend and colleague David Hartwell, Jane’s Middle East and Islamic affairs editor, argues that the springboard for this new strategic approach by Hamas is the Arab uprising. More directly, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey reportedly played a key role in convincing Hamas to reconcile with its historical rival Fatah and end armed resistance against Israel. Hartwell writes that Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, in a meeting on November 24 in Cairo with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, accepted “in writing with a signature” the need to embrace peaceful activism. And if this is not controversial enough, echoing Syrian opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun, Hamas’s leadership also told Jane’s that it will be “downgrading its ties with Syria and Iran and forge new relationships with Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey.”

In some ways, perhaps, this development could have been foreseen. Even the most ideological and stubborn actors in the Middle East have been forced to adjust to the new political realities created by the Arab uprising. Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example, has been feeling increasingly vulnerable and isolated lately because of the escalating civil conflict in Syria and the threat that poses to its ally, the Syrian regime. Hezbollah recently made significant concessions at home, including its approval of funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon—an entity that Hezbollah’s leadership for years had viewed as a tool used by Israel and the United States to defeat it. Other signs of Hezbollah’s contemplation of life after Syrian president Bashar Assad include its decision to move most of its military hardware that has been stored in Syria back to areas under its control inside Lebanon, including the South and the Bekaa.

Yet despite its evident tactical adjustments, Hezbollah hasn’t suggested any intent to disarm, forge new strategic alliances or end its military struggle against Israel. In fact, in a rare public appearance this month, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah declared that his party will remain defiant, side with Assad’s Syria and never relinquish its arms. If Hamas, an ally of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran (the so-called Resistance Axis), truly intends to reinvent itself, that would be a historic development with massive political and security implications not just for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also for the whole of Middle East politics.

There are numerous questions surrounding Hamas’s reported decision, the most obvious being why it could have possibly adopted such a stance. It is one thing to say that Hamas felt motivated and/or pressured by Turkey, Egypt and Qatar to renounce violence. But it takes much more for an organization to abandon everything it has stood for and create for itself a new identity. After all, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have tried countless times in the past to shape Hamas and lure it, with financial and political rewards, to leave the pro-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah camp and give up armed struggle. The strategy did not work simply because Hamas felt it had much more to lose than gain. The Resistance Axis was always on the rise, especially after the 2003 Iraq war as Iran and Syria gained influence in the region at the expense of their rivals.

No more. Today, with Iran feeling more cornered by the international community (minus Russia and China) than ever because of its controversial nuclear program and with Syria’s regime fighting an existential battle against its own people, the balance of power is shifting in the Middle East, and this has not gone unnoticed by Hamas. It is foolish to deny that Hamas’s decisions and behavior have been partly driven by ideological convictions and motivations, but it is also wrong to argue the organization has not acted rationally, based on material interest. The decision it reportedly has currently taken may be further proof of that.

While it is important to remember that Hamas’s leadership has not gone public with its decision, it is worth noting that the majority of its external political staff has already evacuated Damascus, where it has a key office managed by Meshal. Their next destination is likely to be Cairo and Doha, where leaders there have committed to sponsoring the movement politically and financially. Unlike Hezbollah, Hamas has refused to say publicly that it is siding with the Syrian regime, a move that has angered not only the Syrian leadership but also the mullahs in Tehran—causing them, according to Jane’s and other sources, to stop providing financial assistance. With money drying up and winds of change rocking the region, it is no wonder Hamas was fed up with Syria and Iran. One also cannot exclude the sectarian underpinnings of Hamas’s decision. While Hamas never allowed its religious identity—Sunni—to prevent it from forming necessary and strategic alliances with Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, the party is pragmatic enough to realize that positioning itself against the Sunni Islamist tide that is currently sweeping the region (in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, possibly Syria and elsewhere) is against its long-term interests. Having operated in the Iranian strategic orbit in the past, Hamas might now wish to embrace its old identity as a branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas’s decision, if real, will take time to implement. Since its founding in 1987, the organization’s bread-and-butter stance has been armed resistance coupled with terrorist activity. Should Hamas’s leadership publicly state its new strategy, the first thing it will have to do is come up with a new charter as evidence to the world that its move is not propaganda. The organization will also need substantial help from Arab countries and others interested in such a development. The world, including the United States, will not accept Hamas’s transformation if it is half-hearted. In other words, Hamas will have to integrate its military into the security forces of the Palestinian Authority in order to get the attention and support it desires.

The implications of such a Hamas decision could be huge. Theoretically, it will create a united Palestinian front. In other words, there would be few divisions within Palestinian society to inhibit progress in negotiations with the Israelis, a major boost for the Palestinian cause. Two things remain unclear, however: how Hamas’s constituency and Israel would deal with this massive shift. It is not unreasonable to assume that Hamas would not make such a dramatic move without testing the waters and feeling the mood in the Palestinian street. Hamas knows its constituency well enough to realize that the costs it might suffer as a result of such a decision are likely to be tolerable. Furthermore, Hamas’s support base is not necessarily ideological. Many credible polls suggest that those who have voted for Hamas over the past few years have done so out of pragmatic reasons and anger toward Fatah for its governmental failures. As far as Israel is concerned, the suspicion is that moderates and those truly committed to peace and a two-state solution will be supportive of Hamas’s transformation. The hard-liners will remain critical and will always find an excuse to object. Marking its twenty-fourth anniversary this week, Hamas leaders did not even hint that they may switch strategy. They insisted instead that they will never recognize Israel. For Israeli hard-liners, this is reason enough to remain skeptical of any move by Hamas.

If Hamas actually seeks to pursue such a decision, the United States will be confronted with a crucial choice. It can lend its verbal and material support for the move and cite its concerns and reservations. Or it can stand against it and endorse whatever the Israeli government says and does on the matter. Hence, a large onus likely will rest on Washington as well as on Hamas.

Despite these hopeful pronouncements, Israel is still belligerent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented Sunday on the recent moves by Fatah and Hamas to set up a unity government, saying that Israel would not negotiate with the Palestinians should such a government be established.

“If Hamas joins the Palestinian government we will not hold negotiations with the Palestinian Authority,” said Netanyahu in a speech at a conference for Israeli ambassadors.

So it would appear, despite claims to the contrary, Israel is the impediment to peace in the region.  Because it is the most well equipped militarily and the most aggressive in incursions onto its neighbors territories, one should expect there will be more bloodshed and death at the hands of this recalcitrant US ally.

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We are NOT ready – the hypocrisy of patriotism


Two hundred, thirty six years after the Declaration of Independence America is still a slave to bigotry and intolerance even while it overthrows other governments that exhibit the same.  It is no surprise to read about the death of Private Danny Chen who was stationed in Afghanistan and who enlisted in the Army in response to what he considered his duty to his country.  A son of Chinese immigrants who believed in the call of the ideals of this country, Chen was either driven to suicide or as his family asserts murdered because he was different ethnically from the others with whom he served.  It is inconceivable that people in times of war against an enemy make enemies that in reality don’t exist, within their own ranks, but that’s what happened with Chen. Teased, hazed, singled out, harassed because of his ethnic background, even the Army says he was driven to the point of suicide.  His family recounted stories he told them

“They (other soldiers) ask me if I’m from China a few times a day. They also called out my name ‘Chen’ in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason,” the message said in part.

“I’m running out of jokes to respond back to them,” Chen wrote, according to OuYang.

His relatives said that Chen told them of being pelted with rocks and forced to hold liquid in his mouth while being hung upside down.

Hazing has become an increasingly worrisome practice, not only in the military, but within students of all ages.  University campuses have fought back with strict rules against it and it’s getting the attention it deserves on a national level.  Why it’s still acceptable in some quarters means we will continue to lose bright, intelligent, talented people driven to the point of insanity by their peers too immature to realize its dangers.

It’s that time of year again-time to incite divisiveness and add a little bit of victomhood with it


English: The 2005 White House Christmas Tree, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Every Christmas season, people on the Right of the political spectrum, and especially now with a black President with a funny sounding name or whenever the opposition party is in power, tell America how they are being denied their right to celebrate Christmas, or how the religious significance of the holidays is being taken away from it.  We won’t even talk about how rarely do those same self-righteous right wingers talk about spending time in their houses of worship or how extremely commercial the season of Christmas is and how important it is that people BUY things or SPEND all of their money and then more money that they don’t have to pull the economy out of its year long doldrums in order to keep alive the god of Capitalism.  The Right wants America to feel victimized that the lack of mentioning  the baby Jesus will get in the way of celebrating Christmas; saying Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays is akin to ethnic cleansing, racial bigotry, and makes the holiday season far less rewarding for them. Robert Parry of ConsortiumNews.com wrote about this phenomenon six years ago.

….the Right’s media has created another world for its followers – where Christians are persecuted for celebrating their faith, where they are repressed by cruel non-Christians and evil secularists.

This perceived persecution exists even as America’s downtowns and shopping malls are bedecked with the red-and-green Christmas colors and Christmas symbols are everywhere, even in cities like New York with large populations of Jews and Muslims.

Somehow, listeners to Fox News and right-wing talk radio are convinced that Christmas is threatened despite the fact that Christmas carols are pumped into nearly all public places, including elevators and grocery stores where both Christians and non-Christians must go.

Another major beef from conservative Christians is that the federal courts have restricted displays of the baby Jesus in the manger on government property and that public schools have replaced “Christmas concerts” with “winter concerts” and the “Christmas vacation” with a “winter vacation.”

Nevertheless, schools are closed for about two weeks to accommodate Americans wishing to celebrate Christmas. Despite the U.S. principle of separation of church and state, Christmas remains an official federal holiday, an exception to the rule that is afforded no other religious observance. Jews, for instance, don’t expect Christians to honor Yom Kippur by taking the day off, nor do Muslims expect the government to show undue deference to Ramadan.

In 2005, led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, some conservative Christians boycotted stores that offered their customers the non-sectarian greeting of “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” In some cases, “Merry Christmas” is now spit out as fighting words…

This season is no different.  Among some of the articles lamenting the absence of “Christ” in Christmas is this one from Conservative News Central

The 63-foot Sierra White Fir lighted at the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Dec. 6 as the official 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree includes a prominently displayed ornament paying homage to President Barack Obama, but includes no ornament readily visible to a person standing near the tree’s base that uses the word “Christmas,” or includes an image of the Nativity, or bears the name or image of Jesus Christ.

This very first paragraph speaks to the immaturity of the argument that follows.  Because no one sees an ornament of Christ while standing at the foot of the 63 foot tall tree but did see one for Obama means there is a war against Christian is an insanely absurd notion that in today’s America is too easily believed by far too many people.  It doesn’t matter to the purveyors of such filth that what was done to this tree is the same thing that has been done in years past, where a state theme is selected and citizens of that state determine what it is placed on the tree. For the previous three years, Wyoming, Arizona and Montana have had the honor, or rather distinction of doing the same thing, with the same results but no mention of the heresy of omitting Christ from their ornaments was written about.  Perhaps Terrence Jeffrey, the author of CNC’s article,  didn’t get the memo on how the Capital Christmas tree is decorated or maybe he was confused with it and the White House Christmas tree urban legend, categorically denied, that said the 2011 Christmas tree will be referred to as a “Holiday tree” and will not display religious themed ornaments.  Accuracy or truth is the first casualty in the war being waged by the Right for the soul of America.

Rachel Maddow uncovered another one of the war on Christians during Christmas themes, equally false and easily verified as such, with respect to Sarah Palin. You can read and hear about it here.  Instead of spreading holiday cheer, members of the Right want to spread dissension and discord…hardly the themes worth mentioning when celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.  So, my question is why are Americans so easily distracted from that fact by such charlatans of faith?  Not everyone in America is a Christian, that’s a fact.  Not everyone believes in Christ as the son of God…that’s a fact but that should not deter those who do from enjoying and celebrating this holiday.  Neither should they make non Christians feel they are any less citizens of this Republic for not joining them in that celebration.  That is the beauty of freedom of religion.  No one is a victim when it is practiced unfettered by each and every one of us.  Christians should tell those who make it a seasonal war of hate and division to get on with the celebration and spend less time with the fighting.

 

The Oppression of Egyptian women under military rule


We may never know the name of the woman pictured here who was brutalized by the Egyptian army in horrific ways, but she is symbolic of what happens to Egyptians, men and particularly women, under the military rule of the government of Egypt.  There is nothing that this woman could have done to merit the public treatment she received at the hands of the men in this picture.  We will never know if the men are Christian or Muslim……does it matter, they  disrobed her purposefully and publicly and beat her mercilessly and senselessly.    This is the fate of women who protest against the government of Egypt and it doesn’t matter to the thugs who participate in this mass orgy of violence and sexual humiliation whether their victims are Muslim, Christian, Jewish,  Egyptian or foreign, expressions of dissent of any form is not tolerated and public examples must be made of those who violate that unwritten tradition or culture.  This is the face of totalitarianism, not Islam, of autocratic militarism that has plagued Egyptian society, our ally, for over 30 years.  It is what Lara Logan saw and faced during her last visit to Tahrir Square.  It is raw, naked brutal, and it is ugly.  You can read about what else women in Egypt are facing and have faced from the military regime here.  The accounts there are demoralizing, and inhumane and characteristic of military rule which has its own precepts and pillars, in that part of the world.

Members of Muslim Paramilitary ‘Mahdi Unit’ charged for home invasion


Finally, news that every American should be concerned about.

Michael Schaffran and Cody Jacob Rogers, arrested after Gautier home invasion.

Two members of a Muslim paramilitary group called “The Mahdi Unit” were charged with kidnapping and burglary for allegedly conducting a home invasion while clad in ski-masks, military garb and bullet-proof vests.

Ahmed Abdulla, 32, and Abdulla Ahmed, 18, were arrested after allegedly breaking into a home on Tuesday night in Gautier, Mississippi. They were each charged with three counts of kidnapping and burglary of an occupied house, the Sun-Herald reports.

According to police, Abdulla and Ahmed dressed up in military gear, ski masks and bullet-proof vests, broke into the house, and attacked the three people who lived there. At the time of the arrest, Abdulla had a knife, though Ahmed was unarmed.

Authorities say Abdulla is the “commander” of a paramilitary group of teenagers called “The Mahdi Unit” or “The Tactical Support Unit,” and Ahmed is the “captain.” According to an operations manual allegedly confiscated from Abdulla and Ahmed, the goal of the group is to “promote Islam, obtain offenders who are a danger to society, do community service work for mosques and halfway houses, and do security for different functions.

You can read more about these miscreants and their threat to America  here.  Now that we know who the REAL enemy is here in America, why don’t we work together to eradicate it and get back to healing this society so that we can coexist peacefully!

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