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!

American Muslim voices-Things you might not have heard from them before


Racism and Islamophobia are hideous, counterproductive, provincial inventions that afflict our society and reduce its effectiveness.  It is meant to nominalize the voices of its victims and dehumanize them and de-value  anything they have to say.  The following article written by an American Muslim expresses a view probably shared by a majority of non Muslim Americans which they might never hear coming from an American Muslim, and while it should not be a deal clincher, should emphasize the commonality that Americans have with one another.

What’s Up With Muslims and Dogs?
I’m not a big follower of reality television, but was happy to hear about TLC’s new reality show “All-American Muslim.” We know that personal contact is the best way to break down stereotypes, but with Muslims less than 2% of the U.S. population, many Americans will never get to know a Muslim. Meeting us through reality television might not be ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

After watching “All-American Muslim” for a few weeks, I now believe that the show is good for our community beyond the way it might lessen prejudice against Muslims. The additional benefit is that the show has engaged our community in discussing some of the many challenges we face making distinctions between critical religious values and flexible cultural practices. In the fourth episode, the issue of Muslims having dogs in the home came up, and this is worth further discussion.

In this episode, newlywed Arab-American Shadia tells Jeff, her Irish-American convert husband, that she does not want his dog to move with them to their new home. Shadia has allergies, and her asthma is exacerbated by the dog’s hair. This is an understandable and common dilemma. But Shadia bolsters her position with statements about the impermissibility for a Muslim to have dogs in the home. Her father will not pray in the house if the dog is there, she says, because dog hair is impure and a prayer space needs to be pure. Later, Shadia backs off from the religious argument, admitting that the main reason she doesn’t want a dog in the house is “I wasn’t raised with dogs; I’m not used to them.” I appreciated this moment of honesty. The use of a religious norm as a trump card in an argument we want to win is a temptation we all face.

So what is the Islamic position about dogs? In fact, there are a variety of opinions according to different legal schools. The majority consider the saliva of dogs to be impure, while the Maliki school makes a distinction between domestic and wild dogs, only considering the saliva of the latter to be impure. The question for Muslims observant of other schools of law is, what are the implications of such an impurity?

These Muslims should remember that there are many other impurities present in our homes, mostly in the form of human waste, blood, and other bodily fluids. It is fairly common for such impurities to come in contact with our clothes, and we simply wash them off or change our clothes for prayer. When you have children at home, it sometimes seems you can never get away from human waste. But we manage it, often by designating a special space and clothing kept clean for prayer.

Some Muslims object to having a dog in the home because of a prophetic report that angels do not enter a home with dogs in it. If a Muslim accepts this report as authentic, it still requires an analysis of context to determine its meaning and legal application. Ordinary people are not recipients of divine revelation through angelic messengers, so it is possible that this statement, although in general form, might suggest a rule for the Prophet’s home, not all homes. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact the Qur’an states that angels are always present, protecting us and recording our good and bad actions.

Whatever the implications of this report, there is no doubt that the Qur’an is positive about dogs. The Qur’an allows the use of hunting dogs, which is one of the reasons the Maliki school makes a distinction between domestic and wild dogs – since we can eat game that has been in a retriever’s mouth. But most compelling is the Qur’anic description of a dog who kept company with righteous youths escaping religious persecution. The party finds shelter in a cave where God places them in a deep sleep; the Qur’an (18:18) says:

You would have thought them awake, but they were asleep And [God] turned them on their right sides then on their left sides And their dog stretched his forelegs across the threshold

This tender description of the dog guarding the cave makes it clear that the animal is good company for believers. Legal scholars might argue about the proper location of the dog – that he should stay on the threshold of the home, not inside – but home designs vary across cultures. In warm climates, an outdoor courtyard is a perfectly humane place for a dog – its physical and social needs can be met in the yard. This is not the case in cold climates, where people stay indoors most of the day for months at a time.

Extreme concern about the uncleanliness of dogs likely arose historically as Islam became more of an urban phenomenon. In medieval cities, as in modern cities in underdeveloped countries, crowding of people and animals leads to the rapid spread of disease and animal control is not a priority. A few run-ins with an aggressive or diseased animal can result in excessive caution, fear and negativity.

I have long felt badly that many Muslims fear dogs as a result of negative experiences and that they resort to confused religious reasoning to shun them. It is one of the reasons why I try to introduce my students and friends to my very sweet, very large dog Ziggy.

2011-12-13-Ziggy.jpg

Ziggy came into our home to be like the dog in the cave: to keep company to my child who lies in exile from the world because of a debilitating illness. He has been nothing but a blessing – guarding the house while we sleep, forcing me to exercise daily, and showing us, as he happily follows our tiny cat around the yard, that if cats and dogs can get along so well, then we people have no excuse.

There is another reason why I love having my dog around. Ziggy came from Tennessee. He was rescued by an animal control officer who uses her own resources to save dogs who would otherwise be destroyed in a few days. Tina saves as many dogs as she can by bringing them home and putting them up for adoption on the internet. When I called Tina to speak about adopting Ziggy, she had 65 dogs she had rescued out in her yard. After being disheartened by some terrible things that have come out of Tennessee lately – mosque burnings and anti-Shari`ah legislation among them – I love looking at Ziggy and thinking about the woman with the thick southern accent and big heart who saved his life.

 

All American Muslim


A lot has been said and written about the TLC channel’s new reality television show, All American Muslim.  TLC claims the show’s intent is to “look at life in Dearborn, Michigan–home to the largest mosque in the United States–through the lens of five Muslim American families….offering an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community” and in this day and age of Islamophobia and bigotry becoming so acceptable and widespread a phenomenon, such goals are noble, righteous and worth pursuing.  Being categorized as aa ‘reality television show’ has already put the show at an extreme disadvantage for such ambitious objectives.  A look at the reality shows lists that are are now or have been on television is a rather dismal look at American society….not necessarily because America is bad, but because the track record of reality television certainly is.  Reality shows are staged, scripted and heavily edited to offer to the viewing public a sleazy, seedy slice of human life.  Staged means producers and those who put such shows together encourage cast members to take on personae meant to either enforce stereotypes or appeal to as wide a segment of the population in order to keep such shows financially profitable.  In other words acts of violence, nudity, sex or simulated sex become the mainstay of such shows in order to keep viewers which in turn prompts advertisers to buy advertisement on such programs, no matter how deleterious the effects such programming may have on the public.  Already web denizens have been treated to fatuous discussions and pictures about one of the cast members’ change of hair color and other assorted body parts; this is what reality tv brings to the table, in order to quench the insatiable appetite for sex and titillation for which we in America have become accustomed.  No one should be happy that a value system, belief, faith, culture, heritage, ethnicity to which they belong has found a home in such a genre considering its track record.  Moreover, why do we need television to drive home the point that American Muslims are just like any other group of Americans; that they encompass a wide spectrum of ideals, loyalties and types of people like any other group of people who’ve inhabited our shores.

For the last decade we’ve been besieged with notions of our exceptionalism, which should include among other things our excellence in intelligence and enlightenment, but it seems we are below average in exhibiting these characteristics which are essential in building and maintaining an exceptional society.  Rather we are plagued with the Islamophobic notions expressed by politicians and pundits alike which incite Americans to ever lower depths of bigotry and fratricide, racism and depravity that encouraged a fringe group of bigots and extremists, the Florida Family Association to pressure some advertisers, notably Lowes, to withdraw advertising from All American Muslim.  FFA is practically irrelevant to 99% of Americans and that fact, along with inherent prejudice compelled it to send letters to advertisers on the program complaining about the lack of negative portrayals of Muslims on a show entitled, All American Muslim.  The name itself speaks to positive values and shared interests, something bigots and racists rarely extend to anyone or anything different from themselves, and so it is that some advertisers bought FFA’s argument and stopped advertising on the show.   The very notion that All American Muslim must show jihadists and sharia minded Muslims is as ridiculous as asserting any other reality tv show must showcase the errant behavior of members of its group in order to be more life like, especially when that group is a tiny microcosm, but this is what is expected, what must be done when talking about Muslims. ‘When did you stop beating your wife’ is the cornerstone of such an illogical argument that says in order to be socially acceptable you must show us all of your adornment in order to accept your totality, even down to your underwear.  This is an age old, biblical concept that extends to the whole body the ignominy of a few.  In today’s climate….it is simply too easy for Lowes to reject the argument and cave in.  Being headquartered in North Carolina, a state which had for 30 years Jesse Helms as its US senator, who too was  anachronistic  made it even easier.

FFA’s David Caton, the one who spearheaded this advertising ploy didn’t’ take into consideration the fact that not EVERYONE agrees with his backward values.  His track record as an author should have toned down his proclivity for social activism, since his attempts to get people to forgo his own former passions of pornography and masturbation did more harm than good, judging by reviews written about his book, Overcoming the addiction to pornography.  However, media, by design is a very powerful aphrodisiac and Caton, just like the cast members of All American Muslim is unable to see the pitfalls of being so vocal AND so wrong when thrust in front of the bright television lights.  The backlash to the Lowes announcement to stop advertising has been swift and immediate AND productive.  Now, Caton is faced with the proposition that advertising is sold out for the show which insures it will stay on the air espousing the very message he doesn’t want seen.  It has also led to a boycott by some citizens of conscience of Lowes at a time of year when retailers make most of their money in sales.  Ouch! Whether the Lowes boycott will be successful or not won’t be known, if ever, until after the Christmas season’s sales figures are released, but the effectiveness of boycotts as a means of social protest is highlighted by this  boycott and its organizers.  Lowes, caught in the middle of two opposites is a loser as long as it stays in this current position while those who are calling for a boycott of Lowes are going to have to prove it has adversely affected the company’s bottom line. The FFA has already lost the ideological fight because the show will air its scheduled 8 episodes and advertising picked up after they inserted themselves into this ideological fight, but the fact they even got this far is a side commentary on where this country is.  Two cast members had this to say about what’s happening surrounding their show and addressed their comments to the well known racist Islamophobe Pamela Gellar

Gellar’s response was equally deadly obsequious, pointing out how much she has in common with them. The fact that a predatory persecutor like Geller can find something in common with a despised, taunted, hunted persecuted religious minority is the essence of reality television.

 

 

 

 

No Comment-Feeding a movement


Ron Paul and Israel


 

Ron Paul was not invited to the The Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC)  forum on Wednesday, December 7 because the hosts think Paul is  “too extreme” or has views they think are not consistent with the GOP.  However if you listen to the above video, Paul says all the right things; he supports Israel’s right to say whether or not Iran is an existential threat to Israel and should be attacked, he agrees that Israel has the right to determine its own borders, independent of outside influence or pressure….he claims to have supported Israel’s strike against the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, purporting to be the only voice of support within the US government at that time. So why is it that such a candidate would receive a snub from a group of Republicans when he so clearly has consistently supported Israel?

The reason for Jewish Republican ire is the very first statement he made in the video above when he said he is a non-interventionist.  Despite all the things Paul believes in vis-a-vis Israel he is not willing to lend that country unconditional support for things that are not shared, mutual interests.  He is able to separate American interests, the political entity he is seeking to lead, from Israeli interest and where the two do not meet, he’s not willing to sacrifice American interests for Israel, and that is a problem for Israel firsters.  Paul, until now, has been able to resist the conflation of the two countries into one all encompassing, inseparable  interest.  In so doing he’s acknowledged American financial, military, and human resources will not always be available for Israeli capriciousness and that seems to be the problem with Jewish supporters of Israel here in America. It seems Israel would prefer the political infighting and strong arming that has come with previous Republican administrations that opposed, on the face of things, Israel policies with respect to her borders and neighbors, but who would at some point caved and gave them the money and materiel requested to continue Israeli expansionist policy.  Paul’s policy statements on Israel are indeed consistent with Israeli interests, except for  American financial and military support and oddly enough just as Paul asserts,  these ideas are consistent with the GOP platform.  However, today’s body politic has taken such a far turn to the right and American politicians go through such extremes to genuflect before Israel and her supporters here and there in Israel, Paul can be successfully painted as an outsider or even an anti-Semite due to his stance.

One last interesting note to make about the forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition is none of the other GOP candidates expressed support for Paul’s presence at the event.  It would appear that there is no possibility of dialogue when it comes to Israel….it is not welcomed, supported, or even sought after.  It is  a self imposed censorship the participants seem to be particularly interested in maintaining.  Not one voice was raised to protest Paul’s exclusion from the forum, yet the ever clownish Donald Trump “debate” has already had three GOP candidates say they will not attend, Ron Paul being one of them, amid cries that the debate is no more than a publicity stunt for Trump, in a way to legitimize and insert himself into the political process.  That Trump debate however, has received round condemnation from at least 3 candidates and various pundits.  For the moment, America’s politics have been taken hostage by naked Israeli self-interests which spare no dissent from a complete and total surrender thereof.  Ron Paul is another recent victim of this trend.

Call ‘em out!


 

This is a fairly decent video that tries to point out the Islamophobia network in America as well as give positive suggestions on how Muslims can combat it.  We’ve railed against the bigotry inherent in today’s one sided assault on Islam and Muslims but rarely have we pointed out who is behind this trend.  Rather we’ve focused on how consistent has been the trend throughout America’s history while at the same time maintaining that America is a country that has far more potential and greatness if it lives up to its core values it only gives lip service to today.

A more focused criticism of the Obama assault on liberty


The last several posts here have been very critical of the Obama administration’s approach to domestic politics and particularly it’s heavy handed approach to dissent.  Unfortunately, it’s so extensive one article posted here listed 20 examples of the Administration’s assault on domestic liberties.  I began to think perhaps such a long article which underscores so many points might be as oppressive as Obama’s policies so this one very concise piece by Coleen Rowley from one of my favorite sources, Consortium News makes the point very well about a very frightening trend started by Bush and solidified by the current administration.

U.S. intelligence says the terror threat from al-Qaeda is receding, but Congress keeps on expanding the scope of this “war” so as not to look “weak on terror,” now adding new military powers that could be used against American citizens.

The political, military industrial, corporate class in Washington DC continues to re-make our Constitutional Republic into a powerful, unaccountable Military Empire.

The U.S. Senate has just voted 93 to 7 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which allows the military to operate domestically within the borders of the United States and to possibly (or most probably) detain U.S. citizens without trial.

Forget that the ACLU called it “an historic threat to American citizens,” this bill is so dangerous not only to our rights but to our country’s security that it was criticized by the Directors of the FBI and the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Defense Secretary!

For the first time in our history, if this Act is not vetoed, American citizens may not be guaranteed their Article III right to trial. The government would be able to decide who gets an old-fashioned trial (along with right to attorney and right against self-incrimination) and who gets detained without due process and put into a modern legal limbo.

Does anyone remember that none of the first thousand people the FBI rounded up after 9/11, and who were imprisoned for several months (some brutalized) were ever charged with terrorism? Does anyone remember that hundreds of the Gitmo detainees who were handed over to their American military captors in exchange for monetary bounties were found, after years of imprisonment, to have no connection to terrorism?

When in doubt about a case, what do you think the government will again do? Does it prefer to submit its evidence to a jury’s scrutiny and its witnesses to the trouble of being cross-examined in court by a defense attorney or would it be easier to have no questions asked and dump the accused into detainee prison without rights? I think we already know that answer from the nearly ten years of experience at Guantanamo.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, declared that suspected citizens open themselves up “to imprisonment and death” He added: “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”

Of course, the politicians will say we are just talking about a few cases. But in fact the sky’s probably the limit given the current legal ambiguity in the Patriot Act expansion of “material support for terrorism” to now include humanitarian aid and even mere advocacy speech without any need to prove an accused person intended to support any kind of terrorist violence.

The Department of Justice has been currently using this ambiguity for over a year to investigate 23 American citizens who are anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. Additionally, the “war on terror” will undoubtedly expand even more when it is de-linked from 9/11.

See “The War on Terrorism Congress Never Declared — But Soon Might” by Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor, expert on these issues and associate dean for scholarship at American University Washington College of Law, which states:

“An individual may be detained for providing ‘direct support’ (which, in the government’s view, may be nothing more than minor financial or logistical assistance) in aid of ‘associated forces’ that are ‘engaged in hostilities against … coalition partners.’

“Thus, the NDAA effectively authorizes the military detention of any individual who provides such assistance anywhere in the world to any group engaged in hostilities against any of our coalition partners, whether or not the United States is in any way involved in (or even affected by) that particular conflict.”

Given this expansion of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force contained in the 2012 NDAA to encompass undefined “associated forces,” we could witness the U.S. government targeting a large range of political dissidents, human rights activists, humanitarians, and maybe even “occupiers.”

The NDAA is deliberately confusing for political purposes but much is at stake. President Barack Obama’s determination as to whether or not he will veto the problematic 2012 war funding bill will determine how Benjamin Franklin’s glib response to the woman waiting outside the Constitutional Convention is ultimately answered. Franklin and other founding fathers had created “a Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

But a lawless Military Empire could now await where U.S. “emergency war powers” trump the Constitution, where the Commander in Chief becomes king for a term(s), the military enters into domestic police-state actions in violation of 130 years of Posse Comitatus law, and the Constitution becomes as quaint as the Geneva Conventions were for Alberto Gonzalez and the Bush Administration.

Corrupted, compliant politicians have already allowed their fears to get the better of them by going along with pre-emptive war in violation of the Nuremberg Principles and international law and torturing in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture.

So why should they also not go for detaining American citizens without constitutional rights or trial?

You can tell President Obama he needs to live up to his threat to veto this legislation or you can sign Sen. Mark Udall’s petition.

This abdication to repression on Obama’s part led me to ask is it the position or our political system that makes presidents abuse their power and totally disregard the Constitution.  Indeed, Obama a Constitutional lawyer has turned out in many ways to be as bad as his predecessor even after suggesting, as Rowley points out, that he would be different.  I’m simply not at the stage where I believe in the lesser of two evils concession, although there are surely some good points made on that theory’s behalf.  We should hold our elected officials to their words; if they promise they will not abuse the rights of American citizens and then it turns out that they have picked up the baton of state sponsored, government endorsed oppression, they should be voted out of office and it should be made explicitly clear to them the reason is because of their betrayal.  I wish Obama supporters would get on board with this idea; his misuse of his executive powers should be no more acceptable to the electorate than Bush.

Twenty Examples of the Obama Administration Assault on Domestic Civil Liberties


by Bill Quigley

The Obama administration has affirmed, continued and expanded almost all of the draconian domestic civil liberties intrusions pioneered under the Bush administration.  Here are twenty examples of serious assaults on the domestic rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience that have occurred since the Obama administration has assumed power.  Consider these and then decide if there is any fundamental difference between the Bush presidency and the Obama presidency in the area of domestic civil liberties.

Patriot Act

On May 27, 2011, President Obama, over widespread bipartisan objections, approved a Congressional four year extension of controversial parts of the Patriot Act that were set to expire.  In March of 2010, Obama signed a similar extension of the Patriot Act for one year.  These provisions allow the government, with permission from a special secret court, to seize records without the owner’s knowledge, conduct secret surveillance of suspicious people who have no known ties to terrorist groups and to obtain secret roving wiretaps on people.

Criminalization of Dissent and Militarization of the Police

Anyone who has gone to a peace or justice protest in recent years has seen it – local police have been turned into SWAT teams, and SWAT teams into heavily armored military.  Officer Friendly or even Officer Unfriendly has given way to police uniformed like soldiers with SWAT shields, shin guards, heavy vests, military helmets, visors, and vastly increased firepower.  Protest police sport ninja turtle-like outfits and are accompanied by helicopters, special tanks, and even sound blasting vehicles first used in Iraq.  Wireless fingerprint scanners first used by troops in Iraq are now being utilized by local police departments to check motorists.  Facial recognition software introduced in war zones is now being used in Arizona and other jurisdictions.  Drones just like the ones used in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan are being used along the Mexican and Canadian borders.  These activities continue to expand under the Obama administration.

Wiretaps

Wiretaps for oral, electronic or wire communications, approved by federal and state courts, are at an all-time high.  Wiretaps in year 2010 were up 34% from 2009, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts.

Criminalization of Speech

Muslims in the US have been targeted by the Obama Department of Justice for inflammatory things they said or published on the internet.  First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, most recently stated in a 1969 Supreme Court decision, Brandenberg v Ohio, says the government cannot punish inflammatory speech, even if it advocates violence unless it is likely to incite or produce such action.  A Pakistani resident legally living in the US was indicted by the DOJ in September 2011 for uploading a video on YouTube.  The DOJ said the video was supportive of terrorists even though nothing on the video called for violence.  In July 2011, the DOJ indicted a former Penn State student for going onto websites and suggesting targets and for providing a link to an explosives course already posted on the internet.

Domestic Government Spying on Muslim Communities

In activities that offend freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and several other laws, the NYPD and the CIA have partnered to conduct intelligence operations against Muslim communities in New York and elsewhere.  The CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans, works with the police on “human mapping”, commonly known as racial and religious profiling to spy on the Muslim community.  Under the Obama administration, the Associated Press reported in August 2011, informants known as “mosque crawlers,” monitor sermons, bookstores and cafes.

Top Secret America

In July 2010, the Washington Post released “Top Secret America,” a series of articles detailing the results of a two year investigation into the rapidly expanding world of homeland security, intelligence and counter-terrorism.   It found 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence at about 10,000 locations across the US.  Every single day, the National Security Agency intercepts and stores more than 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications. The FBI has a secret database named Guardian that contains reports of suspicious activities filed from federal, state and local law enforcement.  According to the Washington Post, Guardian contained 161,948 files as of December 2009.  From that database there have been 103 full investigations and at least five arrests the FBI reported.  The Obama administration has done nothing to cut back on the secrecy.

Other Domestic Spying

There are at least 72 fusion centers across the US which collect local domestic police information and merge it into multi-jurisdictional intelligence centers, according to a recent report by the ACLU.  These centers share information from federal, state and local law enforcement and some private companies to secretly spy on Americans.  These all continue to grow and flourish under the Obama administration.

Abusive FBI Intelligence Operations

The Electronic Frontier Foundation documented thousands of violations of the law by FBI intelligence operations from 2001 to 2008 and estimate that there are over 4000 such violations each year.  President Obama issued an executive order to strengthen the Intelligence Oversight Board, an agency which is supposed to make sure the FBI, the CIA and other spy agencies are following the law.  No other changes have been noticed.

Wikileaks

The publication of US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks and then by main stream news outlets sparked condemnation by the Obama administration officials who said the publication of accurate government documents was nothing less than an attack on the United States.  The Attorney General announced a criminal investigation and promised “this is not saber rattling.” Government officials warned State Department employees not to download the publicly available documents.  A State Department official and Columbia officials warned students that discussing Wikileaks or linking documents to social networking sites could jeopardize their chances of getting a government job, a position that lasted several days until reversed by other Columbia officials.  At the time this was written, the Obama administration continued to try to find ways to prosecute the publishers of Wikileaks.

Censorship of Books by the CIA

In 2011, the CIA demanded extensive cuts from a memoir by former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan, in part because it made the agency look bad.  Soufan’s book detailed the use of torture methods on captured prisoners and mistakes that led to 9-11. Similarly, a 2011 book on interrogation methods by former CIA agent Glenn Carle was subjected to extensive black outs.  The CIA under the Obama administration continues its push for censorship.

Blocking Publication of Photos of U.S. Soldiers Abusing Prisoners

In May 2009, President Obama reversed his position of three weeks earlier and refused to release photos of US soldiers abusing prisoners.  In April 2009, the US Department of Defense told a federal court that it would release the photos.  The photos were part of nearly 200 criminal investigations into abuses by soldiers.

Technological Spying

The Bay Area Transit System, in August 2011, hearing of rumors to protest against fatal shootings by their police, shut down cell service in four stations.  Western companies sell email surveillance software to repressive regimes in China, Libya and Syria to use against protestors and human rights activists.  Surveillance cameras monitor residents in high crime areas, street corners and other governmental buildings.  Police department computers ask for and receive daily lists from utility companies with addresses and names of every home address in their area.  Computers in police cars scan every license plate of every car they drive by.  The Obama administration has made no serious effort to cut back these new technologies of spying on citizens.

Use of “State Secrets” to Shield Government and Others from Review

When the Bush government was caught hiring private planes from a Boeing subsidiary to transport people for torture to other countries, the Bush administration successfully asked the federal trial court to dismiss a case by detainees tortured because having a trial would disclose “state secrets” and threaten national security.  When President Obama was elected, the state secrets defense was reaffirmed in arguments before a federal appeals court.  It continues to be a mainstay of the Obama administration effort to cloak their actions and the actions of the Bush administration in secrecy.

In another case, it became clear in 2005 that the Bush FBI was avoiding the Fourth Amendment requirement to seek judicial warrants to get telephone and internet records by going directly to the phone companies and asking for the records.  The government and the companies, among other methods of surveillance, set up secret rooms where phone and internet traffic could be monitored.  In 2008, the government granted the companies amnesty for violating the privacy rights of their customers.  Customers sued anyway. But the Obama administration successfully argued to the district court, among other defenses, that disclosure would expose state secrets and should be dismissed.  The case is now on appeal.

Material Support

The Obama administration successfully asked the US Supreme Court not to apply the First Amendment and to allow the government to criminalize humanitarian aid and legal activities of people providing advice or support to foreign organizations which are listed on the government list as terrorist organizations.   The material support law can now be read to penalize people who provide humanitarian aid or human rights advocacy. The Obama administration Solicitor General argued to the court “when you help Hezbollah build homes, you are also helping Hezbollah build bombs.”  The Court agreed with the Obama argument that national security trumps free speech in these circumstances.

Chicago Anti-war Grand Jury Investigation

In September 2010, FBI agents raided the homes of seven peace activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and Grand Rapids seizing computers, cell phones, passports, and records.  More than 20 anti-war activists were issued federal grand jury subpoenas and more were questioned across the country.  Some of those targeted were members of local labor unions, others members of organizations like the Arab American Action Network, the Columbia Action Network, the Twin Cities Anti-War Campaign and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.  Many were active internationally and visited resistance groups in Columbia and Palestine.  Subpoenas directed people to bring anything related to trips to Columbia, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Israel or the Middle East.  In 2011, the home of a Los Angeles activist was raided and he was questioned about his connections with the September 2010 activists.  All of these investigations are directed by the Obama administration.

Punishing Whistleblowers

The Obama administration has prosecuted five whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all the other administrations in history put together.  They charged a National Security Agency advisor with ten felonies under the Espionage Act for telling the press that government eavesdroppers were wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on misguided and failed projects.  After their case collapsed, the government, which was chastised by the federal judge as engaging in unconscionable conduct allowed him to plead to a misdemeanor and walk.  The administration has also prosecuted former members of the CIA, the State Department, and the FBI.  They even tried to subpoena a journalist and one of the lawyers for the whistleblowers.

Bradley Manning

Army private Bradley Manning is accused of leaking thousands of government documents to Wikileaks.  These documents expose untold numbers of lies by US government officials, wrongful killings of civilians, policies to ignore torture in Iraq, information about who is held at Guantanamo, cover ups of drone strikes and abuse of children and much more damaging information about US malfeasance.  Though Daniel Ellsberg and other whistleblowers say Bradley is an American hero, the US government has jailed him and is threatening him with charges of espionage which may be punished by the death penalty.  For months Manning was held in solitary confinement and forced by guards to sleep naked.  When asked about how Manning was being held, President Obama personally defended the conditions of his confinement saying he had been assured they were appropriate and meeting our basic standards.

Solitary Confinement

At least 20,000 people are in solitary confinement in US jails and prisons, some estimate several times that many.  Despite the fact that federal, state and local prisons and jails do not report actual numbers, academic research estimates tens of thousands are kept in cells for 23 to 24 hours a day in supermax units and prisons, in lockdown, in security housing units, in “the hole”, and in special management units or administrative segregation.  Human Rights Watch reports that one-third to one-half of the prisoners in solitary are likely mentally ill.  In May 2006, the UN Committee on Torture concluded that the United States should “review the regimen imposed on detainees in supermax prisons, in particular, the practice of prolonged isolation.”  The Obama administration has taken no steps to cut back on the use of solitary confinement in federal, state or local jails and prisons.

Special Administrative Measures

Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) are extra harsh conditions of confinement imposed on prisoners (including pre-trial detainees) by the Attorney General.  The U.S. Bureau of Prisons imposes restrictions such segregation and isolation from all other prisoners, and limitation or denial of contact with the outside world such as: no visitors except attorneys, no contact with news media, no use of phone, no correspondence, no contact with family, no communication with guards, 24 hour video surveillance and monitoring. The DOJ admitted in 2009 that several dozen prisoners, including several pre-trial detainees, mostly Muslims, were kept incommunicado under SAMS.  If anything, the use of SAMS has increased under the Obama administration.

These twenty concrete examples document a sustained assault on domestic civil liberties in the United States under the Obama administration.  Rhetoric aside, how different has Obama been from Bush in this area?

Muslims have a right to remain silent, and they have a right to retain attorneys.


In response to Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks about the NYPD being his personal army the following op-ed piece in Al-Jazeerah deserves a look

New York, NY – The Associated Press recently reported on know-your-rights trainings happening in New York City’s Muslim communities. This was one of the latest installments in the wire agency’s series confirming what Muslim New Yorkers had long suspected – that the New York Police Department has engaged in indiscriminate surveillance on ethnic and religious grounds, without concrete suspicion of criminal activity. Curiously, the AP’s latest story turns the series on its head, giving the dangerous impression that Muslim communities are refusing to share with law enforcement tips on actual criminal activity. This could not be further from the truth.

Through the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at CUNY School of Law, we provide know-your-rights trainings in response to the NYPD and FBI’s broad-based surveillance of Muslim communities. We advise targeted communities about their rights when law enforcement knocks on their doors, asking questions about mosque attendance, political opinions and charitable giving that are unconnected to any suspicion of criminal activity.

We were therefore quite surprised to read the AP’s latest article, beginning with its headline, “Muslims Say: ‘Don’t Call NYPD’”. Our work focuses on a very different scenario: what to do when the NYPD calls you. And, in that context, the advice we offer is standard and uncontroversial fare, such as the rights to silence and to retain a lawyer, rights that apply to all within the United States.

The NYPD’s seeming suspicion of entire communities seems to be based on the notion that when Muslims live their faith and identity or associate with other Muslims, they pose a danger to American society. Like everyone else in the US, and especially given pervasive ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim communities, Muslims have a right to remain silent, and they have a right to retain attorneys.

This basic rights awareness message is important in Muslim communities where law enforcement has interrogated at least tens of thousands of people not suspected of any crime. The government seems most concerned about legally protected activity. Agents have attempted to question our clients about the mosques they attend, about what is said in those places of worship, about what they make of recent events in the Middle East, and about the websites they visit to get their news.

Of course, the government has no business prying into protected activity or fishing for opportunities to pressure people into sharing information about their families, neighbours and communities. Accordingly, we advise the clients and communities we serve to do what any American senator, president or public figure has done when law enforcement knocks: to exercise their right to remain silent and to retain an attorney.

The AP article misses an essential distinction between the reporting of criminal activity and participation in law enforcement’s indiscriminate efforts to collect information on the expressive and lawful activities of Muslim communities. To call Muslims “uncooperative” for exercising their rights in the face of such broad-based surveillance programmes is unfair and absurd.

In fact, there is no support for the claim that Muslims do not share information with law enforcement when they suspect criminal activity. It was a Muslim community in California, for example, that reported Craig Monteilh to the police when he started talking about blowing up buildings in the name of Islam. It turned out Monteilh was an informant on the FBI’s payroll. Taxpayer dollars were funding his efforts to collect the names, phone numbers, email addresses and licence plate numbers of Muslims in southern California.

The FBI and NYPD’s covert surveillance programmes in Muslim communities rely heavily on the deployment of undercover agents and informants such as Monteilh. Many informants are vulnerable community members themselves, who are pressured by the government to report voluminous amounts of information on the lawful activities of Muslims. In the cases that we know of, the government has used money, the threat of deportation or imprisonment and other forms of coercion to recruit its informants.

Though this may come as a surprise to a segment of the general public, informants are not typically sent into Muslim communities when law enforcement fears criminal activity is afoot. Instead, often without any suspicion of criminal activity, they are dispatched to countless mosques and community spaces around the country on fishing expeditions. Sometimes, as in the case of Monteilh, the informants actually promote violence.

A recent rally organised against NYPD surveillance in Manhattan signals that there remains great reason to hope. Even in this age of surveillance and fear, Muslims joined fellow New Yorkers to reject, collectively and publicly, the hallmarks of a police state. Together, they stood, prayed and chanted so that Muslims, too, can enjoy and exercise a full panoply of rights, including the right to express political opinions, to organise and, yes, to remain silent and to retain attorneys.

A Political Reality


Those who support democracy must welcome the rise of political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Wadah Khanfar

Andrzej Krauze 2811

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the “problem” of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists, who feel anxious about Islamic groups. Many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. In the Arab world, a secular anti-democracy camp has emerged in both Tunisia and Egypt whose pretext for opposing democratisation is that the Islamists are likely to be the victors.

But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists’ gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.

First, we must define our terms. “Islamist” is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end – thus Jihadist Salafism, exemplified by al-Qaida, is called “Islamist” in the west, despite the fact that it rejects democratic political participation (Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council, and has repeatedly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence).

This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead.

Second, we must understand the history of the region. In western discourse Islamists are seen as newcomers to politics, gullible zealots who are motivated by a radical ideology and lack experience. In fact, they have played a major role in the Arab political scene since the 1920s. Islamic movements have often been in opposition, but since the 1940s they have participated in parliamentary elections, entered alliances with secular, nationalist and socialist groups, and participated in several governments – in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. They have also forged alliances with non-Islamic regimes, like the Nimeiri regime in Sudan in 1977.

A number of other events have had an impact on the collective Muslim mind, and have led to the maturation of political Islam: the much-debated Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the military coup in Sudan in 1989; the success of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front in the 1991 elections and the army’s subsequent denial of its right to govern; the conquest of much of Afghan territory by the Taliban in 1996 leading to the establishment of its Islamic emirate; and the success in 2006 of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Hamas win was not recognised, nor was the national unity government formed. Instead, a siege was imposed on Gaza to suffocate the movement.

Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. It has been a source of inspiration for many Islamic movements. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.

These varied political experiences have had a profound impact on political Islam’s flexibility and capacity for political action, and on its philosophy, too.

However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.

Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali’s regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement’s leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women’s participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.

The Islamic movement’s approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes. Islamists know the importance of international communication in an economically and politically interconnected world.

Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.

The region has suffered a lot as a result of attempts to exclude Islamists and deny them a role in the public sphere. Undoubtedly, Islamists’ participation in governance will give rise to a number of challenges, both within the Islamic ranks and with regard to relations with other local and international forces. Islamists should be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling overconfident: they must accommodate other trends, even if it means making painful concessions. Our societies need political consensus, and the participation of all political groups, regardless of their electoral weight. It is this interplay between Islamists and others that will both guarantee the maturation of the Arab democratic transition and lead to an Arab political consensus and stability that has been missing for decades.

Muslims are the most loyal American religious group, new poll says


Bet you didn’t know this did you?

Muslim Americans are loyal to the US and optimistic despite facing high levels of discrimination, a Gallup poll on American religious groups finds.

A poll released Thursday revealed curious contradictions in the Muslim-American community, which is more enthused about its country and president than any other religious group, yet is the least politically active and faces the greatest discrimination.

The Gallup poll on American religious groups offers a counterpoint to the stereotype that Muslims in the US lead isolated lives because they do not feel comfortable fitting in or associating with mainstream American culture. Moreover, it also offers insights into the Muslim-American experience – from how dramatically the election of President Obama affected them to how little they trust the activists who work on their behalf.

In total, the poll paints a picture of a community characterized by optimism but still seeking acceptance among its fellow citizens.

For instance, 93 percent of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to America. They have the highest confidence in the integrity of US elections (57 percent), and they are the most hopeful about their lives over the next five years, compared with other groups.

Yet 48 percent of Muslim Americans report they experienced some kind of racial or religious discrimination, a finding that places them far ahead of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and atheists/agnostics.

One reason for the optimistic outlook despite discrimination could be that Muslim Americans see their financial fortunes improving. Some 64 percent of Muslim Americans in 2011 reported their standard of living got better, compared with 46 percent in 2008.

But the presidency of Mr. Obama has arguably had an even more powerful affect on Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans give him the highest approval rating – 80 percent – of any religious group. American Jews are a distant second, giving Obama a 65 percent approval rating.

The number is even more striking when compared with Muslim American support for George W. Bush in 2008, which was 7 percent.

The shift in leadership in Washington was “truly transformational” for US Muslims in how they viewed their loyalties to democratic institutions and the nation at large, says Dalia Mogahed, director and senior analyst of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, based in the United Arab Emirates.

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans faced intense scrutiny, both individually and from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Obama is credited with helping smooth tensions through his outreach to the US Muslim community and his effort to end the Iraq war responsibly. The poll shows that 83 percent of Muslim Americans – more than any other religious group – say the war was a “mistake.”

Despite the positive signs, “there are still obstacles” for Muslim Americans, Ms. Mogahed says.

“They embrace American values and democratic principles but aren’t sure if the rest of American embraces them,” she says.

Some 56 percent of Protestants said American Muslims had no sympathy for Al Qaeda, the lowest number of any faith group. By comparison, 63 percent of Catholics and 70 percent of Jews thought Muslim Americans had no sympathies for Al Qaeda.

“That’s certainly a challenge for the [US Muslim] community – to have their loyalty questioned by such a large number of their fellow Americans,” Mogahed says.

Those challenges, however, have not led Muslim Americans to try to affect change at the ballot box. They are the least likely religious group to vote, with just 65 percent of Muslims in America are registered. One reason is age: The average age of a Muslim-American is 35, while the average American Protestant is 55. Younger people tend to be less politically active, Mogahed says.

Another reason is affiliation: Poll findings show that the majority of Muslim Americans say that none of the leading Muslim organizations in the US, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations or the Islamic Society of North America, represents their interests.

With the 2012 election around the corner, Mogahed says political parties that want to reach out to Muslim-American voters might be better off establishing partnerships with local mosques than focusing on winning endorsements from national advocacy organizations. This is especially relevant considering that Muslim Americans who attend a religious service once a week are two times more likely to be politically active than those who attend less frequently, the poll found.

“The mosque should be more the mobilization engine” for get-out-the-vote drives than it has been in the past, she says.

The poll surveyed 2,482 adults, 475 of whom were Muslim. For Muslims, there was a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 7 percentage points.

Which begs the question, where does everyone else rank in comparison?  This article addresses that with respect to Christian evangelicals, one of the groups largely responsible for the current Islamophobic public attacks going on in America today.  Citing a Pew Research Center poll the article makes the point that Christian evangelicals are far less patriotic than American Muslims

Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

so the upshot of this is the next time you hear someone ranting about the Muslim fifth column or taqiyah or any other cliches used by people on the right to justify casting suspicion of members of the Islamic faith remind them that they are more a threat to the national security than the Muslims against whom they rail.

Isn’t this all America needs


There isn’t even any pretense anymore that Israel shares America’s values, unless you want to harken back to the days when America was an apartheid like state that discriminated against its own citizens (Unfortunately some of that racism still goes on in the land of amber waves of grain.) but Israel is signifying a clear and distinct break from America by encouraging its Jewish citizens not to marry American Jews and or return to their ancestral homeland!  It’s so bad that even the very Jewish and Zionist Jeffrey Goldberg finds it distasteful which is saying a lot. Is it too much to wonder if terrorist violence against Jews in America will be next on tap for those presently reluctant to take up the call in a bid to get them to come to their senses?

Now is the ideal time for America to release itself from the hold, the mystique, the Jewish homeland has had on America and her politicians.  Israel has clearly demonstrated to the world that it holds everyone in contempt, even its fellow Jews, if they are not willing to capitulate totally to the Zionist dream of an expansionist state which by its very nature has no respect for the territorial integrity of its neighbors.  It is willing to risk any and all political fortune it has, as well as the life of its citizens to pursue a suicidal doctrine that puts it at war with everyone and it’s pursuing this lifestyle in broad daylight under the scrutiny of the world’s press.  It’s time America kick this obdurate, petulant country to the curb.

 

Hat tip to Tikun Olam

No Comment-How Long Has America Been At War?


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