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.

Americans Should Not Remember 9/11


The memory of 9/11 should be buried in a time capsule and sent to the earth’s core to be forever forgotten.  As we approach September 11, 2011, what happened 10 years ago should be blocked from the Nation’s conscience.  At the very least, if not, then we should also remember what we did and have done since 9/11.

We have invaded two countries whose governments had nothing at all to do with the events of that day.  We oversaw the assassination of one country’s president/ruler/leader and attempted to kill or murder another.  We fostered an entire administration of international war criminals who went about justifying everything that before 9/11 we opposed and fought against ourselves.  We re-elected a president who was responsible for the plunder of the national treasury at the hands of greedy, despotic bankers who felt no remorse nor sense of responsibility to the welfare or anyone but themselves.  We became cannibals on September 11, 2001, turning against ourselves, engaging in demagoguery and hatred that haven’t been seen since the days of Reconstruction; pitting one religious community against another in nonsensical, fabricated assertions that are not even remotely connected to reality.  We have exaggerated the political differences among us to heights of disrespect and rude discourse to the point the Nation’s interests are no longer important, only partisan political gains.  Whereas just 5 short years ago we were demanding the country respect its president, we now heap scorn upon him with sophomoric imagery becoming of elementary illiterates and all this under the gaze of an omnipotent media which spun the corporate line to make it palatable to an angry country that wanted nothing more than blood…….anyone’s blood, even the blood of innocents.

We will be regaled with images and orchestral music evoking the pain and suffering we experienced that day, while our own war criminals’ victims have no place in our national conscience  and the crimes which they suffered go unpunished.  We were once a nation that demanded justice, yet we willingly want to see our criminals spared that process.  We no longer have leaders who inspire us, we elect and want leaders who frighten and anger us, who push us towards hatred of our fellow citizens who are different than us because of faith or skin color.  We have gone backwards in time…..to the time of our primal ancestors who killed their brothers for no apparent reason than jealousy or envy and that seems to be ok with a great many of us who want to “remember” 9/11.

I want to forget 9/11 and  all that because our country is greater than all the things previously mentioned in this piece.  Born out of hope and struggle we achieved greatness until we started remembering 9/11 at which time we fell out of Grace.  We cannot continue down the paths we started on 9/12 without negative consequences, yet we seem to not even consider what those consequences are, focusing instead on our suffering while ignoring what we have reaped on others.  In other words, we’ve become a country of cry babies….bellyaching about every perceived injustice we’ve had while forgetting about our own criminality.

I want no part of remembering 9/11 because I remember everything that happened after 9/11 and it was/is just as much a nightmare for me as the events on that awful day.  But unless we as a Nation make amends for what happened on 9/11 and beyond there will be more 9/11s, not by unknown, foreign, dark skinned people with funny names invading our shores, but rather at the hands of people we elect to office, or listen to or watch on our ever present media, or our neighbors unemployed for years with no sign of hope, or business people who either want more or don’t have enough and on and on it goes.  I want no part of that America and I want no part of anything that brings it on.  I want to forget 9/11.

Terrorism: I am a Muslim; I am a victim of terrorism


By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Those who try to make the word ‘terrorism’ a synonym of the word ‘Islam’ try to brainwash us these days by the phrase “I am a Muslim, I am against terrorism”, which many Arabic-language TV stations have started to use during the month of Ramadan, when TV viewing becomes a dominant pastime in the Arab world. This phrase is coined neither by Muslims nor by the real enemies of terrorism; and the objective of funding the intensive broadcasting of this phrase in Ramadan is not exonerating Islam of an accusation levelled against it by Zionists and their allies among the neo-cons in the wake of 9/11. This is clear from the political connotations of this phrase which suggest that “although I am a Muslim; yet, I am against terrorism”. In this sense, our enemies accuse a billion Muslims of terrorism; while Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and others are exonerated of any link with terrorism.

One is entitled to ask: how many terrorist crimes the Zionists commit against Muslim and Christian Arabs in and outside Palestine, including murder, assassination, home demolition, setting mosques on fire, etc. Yet, have we ever seen a phrase saying “I am a Jew, I am against terrorism”?

How many war and terrorist crimes have the invading American and Western allied troops have committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, including genocide, torture and assassination which claimed the lives of over a million Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of Afghanis and Pakistanis. The victims are always Muslims: civilians, women and children. Yet, have we ever seen a phrase such as “I am a Christian, I am against terrorism?”

The fact is that the intensive racist campaign since 9/11, 2001 has targeted Islam and Muslims. If measuring events by their outcomes is the right way, it can be said that 9/11 aimed in principle at finding an excuse for waging a war on Muslims and covering up all the crimes committed by the Zionist and racist Israeli troops in Palestine, like Judaization, expulsion, killing, imprisoning, torture and displacement.

One cannot but ask, are not 1.3 billion Muslims capable of facing this racist campaign through well-informed and open-minded research institutes capable of addressing the West in its own language and style and conveying to it the sublime message of Islam? If this message is spread and soundly implemented, it will be a genuine savior to humanity of all sins and tragedies which destroy spiritual peace and social cohesion.

NetworkLet us remember how the word ‘terrorism’ was coined and how it was used by of the Apartheid regime to brand Nelson Mandela as terrorist; and how all resistance movements have been branded as terrorist by Fascists and Nazis until they triumphed and achieved freedom and independence for their nations.

What we read today on Wikileaks shows that the United States exports terrorism to the world: “Wikileakes releases CIA paper on U.S. as ‘exporter of terrorism’” (Washington Post, 25 August 2010). Three papers described as ‘classified’ by the CIA’s red cell name the Pakistani David Headley and others to show that the U.S. government has become an exporter of terrorism. Headley acknowledged his responsibility for the Bombay attack which claimed the lives of 160 people. The paper adds that “Such exports are not new. In 1994, an American Jewish doctor, Baruch Goldstein, emigrated from New York to Israel, joined the extremist group Kach and killed 29 Palestinians praying at a mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron”.

It should be recalled that last month Wikileakes published 76,000 secret documents, part of American military files and field reports about the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon asked for the documents to be withdrawn because they make the American troops and their Afghani agents liable to the charge of terrorism. This coincided with the scandal of Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for the National Security Council about whom the New York Times published an article entitled “Key Karzai Aide in Corruption Inquiry Is Linked to C.I.A.” (25 August 2010). Reports confirm that Salehi was released upon Karzi’s intervention because he knows everything about corrupt deals inside the Karzi’s administration. An American official stated that it was common practice to deal with corrupt people in Afghanistan. He adds: “If we decide as a country that we’ll never deal with anyone in Afghanistan who might down the road — and certainly not at our behest — put his hand in the till, we can all come home right now,” the American official said. “If you want intelligence in a war zone, you’re not going to get it from Mother Teresa or Mary Poppins.” (New York Times, 25 August 2010).

This is a clear acknowledgment of the absolute separation between morality and what American troops are doing in Afghanistan. In an article entitled “Making Afghanistan More Dangerous,” Jason Thomas asserts that American troops use mercenaries they call ‘security firms’ in protecting “foreigners, civil-society organizations and aid,” but also corruption money sent in cash in protected vehicles”. (The Herald Tribune, 25 August 2010).

What do these people have to talk about Islam as a source of terrorism? And how could they accuse Muslims of terrorism, while thy themselves are major exporters of terrorism? Can those who use torture, assassination, corruption and wars as their declared method of occupying one Muslim country after another and killing millions of innocent Muslims accuse those who defend freedom, dignity and sovereignty of terrorism?

The phrase which should be promoted on Arabic-language TV channels should be “I am a Muslim, I am a victim of terrorism”. As to our enemies, the stigma of terrorism, war, Judaization, settlement building, home demolishing, assassination and other crimes will haunt them throughout history, because they are the makers of terrorism regardless of their religion.

Cordoba House’s Developer in exclusive interview


Please take 18 minutes of your time to look at this unedited interview with Sharif El-Gamal, the developer of the        proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, who ripped his critics and said he has no plans to move the proposed location of the project.

Human trophies


Much has been written about the photo appearing here of the female Israeli soldier sitting next to a bound and blind folded Palestinian prisoner.  You can read where she defends the pictures taken, claiming she doesn’t see anything wrong with what she did here; meanwhile not much outraged was sparked with the release of the photos in Israel.   In fact there are a series of photos taken which include the one to the left, that you can find here.  For Israelis, steeped in a war culture, posing with live or dead Palestinians is  normal, they or the attitudes behind taking the pictures are not an anomaly for Israeli soldiers.  Witness what these former soldiers had to say about their experience serving in the IDF.

The New War of the Christian Crusaders


By David Rosen

The building of a Muslim community center in an abandoned building two blocks from the site of New York’s former World Trade Center has become the latest controversy in America’s long fought religious wars. The construction of the center, often referred to as a mosque, has become the latest rallying issue for the Christian right, Tea Party proponents and Republican operatives in their war to impose moralistic and corporatist values on America.

It is too early to know how the Muslim center issue will be resolved, but it is clear that the rantings of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Abe Foxman (of the Anti-Defamation League) and others have played an important role pushing a local issue into the center-stage of national politics. Since the horrendous attacks of 9/11, Muslims in general and American Muslims in particular have been the targets of an undeclared religious war promoted by Christian fundamentalists and self-serving Republicans. For some among these religious zealots, Islam is a threat to their belief that the U.S. is a white Protestant nation. Over the last four centuries, Quakers, Mormons, Catholics, Jews and many others have been targets of religious persecution, often the victims of imprisonments, hangings, lynchings and other acts of violence.

Rightwing ranters might well not know the history of religious intolerance in America, but they are surely aware that they are fueling a deep-seated rage among a certain scary segment of the Christian populous. This round in the ongoing religious culture wars has yet to explode into the ugly violence that took place in the aftermath of 9/11, and one can only hope that the current controversy will not lead to attacks on Muslims.

Sadly, like the attacks the followed 9/11, rightwing ranters like Palin and Gingrich will act “shocked” by the violence if it occurs and will claim innocence as to their roles fomenting it. With a knowing sneer, they will wash their hands of the blood they have caused and seek out other innocent victims.

In an excellent article on Tomdispatch, Stephen Salisbury details the current Manhattan Muslim center controversy and the spreading anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up around the country over the opening of new local mosques. As Salisbury opines, “The angry ‘debate’ over whether the building should exist has a kind of glitch-in-the-Matrix feel to it, leaving in its wake an aura of something-very-bad-about-to-happen.” [tomdispatch.com, August 11, 2010]

Salisbury discusses the ongoing protests against mosques also taking place in New York’s Brooklyn and Staten Island as well as in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin. He connects these controversies to the headline-grabbing opportunist comments by Palin (in true Palin-speak, “peaceful Muslims” need to “refudiate” the center) and Gingrich (who calls on Saudi Arabia to open churches and synagogues).

He also draws attention to the pernicious role played by Rick Lazio, New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate, who assails the center as subverting the right of New Yorkers “to feel safe and be safe.” Because New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Attorney General (and likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo have come out in support of the Muslim center, it will like be a major issue in the November election.

Most importantly, Salisbury provides an invaluable overview of the anti-Muslim campaign that arose in the wake of 9/11, reminding readers just how alarmingly vicious good-old Christian love can be.

Part of the “glitch-in-the-Matrix feel” that Salisbury notes is the absence of a recognition that the current Muslin center controversy is part of a long history of religious intolerance in American.

In the days following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush, a born-again Christian, in a spontaneous and unscripted statement blurted out the unspoken truth that guided the U.S.’s initial military counter-attack campaign in Afghanistan: “This crusade,” he said, “this war on terrorism.” While Bush’s admission was later repudiated and disappeared from the public discourse, it define the unstated goal of the ultra-reactionary Christians who were his core-constituency and knew full well what he meant.

At the heart of Bush’s crusade agenda was an invocation of the “shock and awe” tradition that defined religious wars since the grand crusades of the Middle Ages and an acknowledgement that they needed to be applied in Afghanistan. The grand crusades waged by the Roman Church were against Muslims and Jews to capture and hold ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Lands, and to defeat Orthodox or Eastern Christianity. Many perished. Similar, crusaders were waged against Christian heretics, including early Protestants, and done so in the name of their absolutist god.

This tradition was brought over to the New World with the Pilgrims and other early British settlers. The worst and most sustained form of religious war in America has been waged against the Native people. For all the annual whitewashing that takes place at Thanksgiving Day parades, early Puritans fought the Pequot Indians in Eastern Connecticut until 1637 when the General Courts of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colony launched a war of extermination against them. (Native people found that the Pilgrims stunk, literally; Europeans rarely bathed, believing it unhealthy, and seldom were naked, believing it immoral.) The white Christian race and religious crusade against Native North American people persisted for centuries.

Pilgrims also imposed religious intolerance on themselves. Early Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers were aligned with the Church of England and looked badly upon those who contested their orthodoxy. Those challenging Calvinist dogma were subject to banishment, whipping, branding, ear-lobbing and even hanging. Early leaders like Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished. Early Quaker settles in Plymouth were also banished and four were hung publicly.

Over the subsequent centuries, Americans have witnessed repeated bouts of religious intolerance. Not surprisingly, these episodes were often accompanied by the same shrill rhetoric we find shouted today by those opposing the Muslim center.

The Know Nothing movement grew out of the Second Great Awakening or the Great Revival of the 1830s and became the American Party that flourished during the late-’40s and early-’50s. It got its name when members where asked the party’s positions and simply said, “I know nothing.” It drew together Protestants who felt threatened by the rapid increase in European immigrants and, most especially, Catholics, flooding the cities. It felt that Catholics, as followers of the Pope, were not loyal Americans and were going to take over the country. It had strong support in the North that witnessed large-scale Irish immigration after 1848. The American Party captured the Massachusetts legislature in 1854 and, in 1856, backed Millard Fillmore for president, who secured nearly 1 million votes, a quarter of all votes cast.

The Ku Klux Klan was established in 1866 and, during Reconstruction, began a systematic campaign against freed African Americans. However, by the ’80s, it had lost its way as a racialist organization. It was revitalized in the wake of the Atlanta trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who had been falsely charged and convicted of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old white Christian girl, in 1913. In 1915, after the Georgia governor commuted his sentence, Frank was forcibly removed from the state penitentiary where he was being held by a mob of white Christians and lynched. Subsequently, many of those who participated in Frank’s murder came together to re-launch the Klan.

In the late-’10s, the Klan aligned with nativists, eugenicists and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) to not only promote temperance but racialist and anti-immigrant policies. As WWI hysteria mounted, ASL’s New York representative, William Anderson, equated being pro-German with being anti-American: German beer, saloons and breweries were the unnamed enemy. He had a deep antipathy toward Catholics, accusing the Church of mounting an “assault on law and order,” of opposing Prohibition because it was promoted by Protestants and accusing it of engaging in “efforts to destroy [the Prohibition] victory and bring back the saloons.” Anti-Catholic antipathy contributed to the defeat of the country’s first Catholic nominee, Al Smith’s, in the 1928 presidential election.

Many other episodes of religious intolerance have taken place since the ’20s. However, John Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory marked the moment in American history when anti-Catholic appeals in national election were no longer acceptable. Similarly, the growing acceptance among Christian evangelicals of the notion of the “last days” has lead to a weird embrace of Jews and Israel and may have contributed to a moderation in anti-Semitism.

In the days before 9/11, most informed people accepted Islam as a variant within the Abrahamic tradition. However, in the aftermath of the attacks, even this claim came under suspicion. Earlier this summer, Ron Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee, claimed that Islam is a “cult” that did not deserve First Amendment protection: “You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or a cult — whatever you want to call it… .” Challenged by a diverse assortment of Tennesseans, including traditional conservatives, Ramsey has backed off this assertion.

If truth be told, the Manhattan Muslim center is both a real issue and a fictitious spectacle. It is real in the sense that its being built at the designated site on Park Place will be a victory for religious tolerance. America is undergoing a profound economic and cultural realignment. Traditional white society is giving way to a truly multi-cultural America; conventional Protestantism is giving way a significant increase in the Catholic populous (mostly Hispanics) and growing Muslim, Hindu and Sekh communities.

The Muslim center story, like that of Michelle Obama’s holiday in Spain, is a false issue, a spectacle promoting social deception. Since Obama’s victory, the Republican right has implemented a very effective wrecking-ball strategy, attempting to destroy every issue considered. Its guiding principle is simple: Obama and the Democrats can do no right. To realize this goal, it did anything and everything in its power to make sure as little as possible got through Congress, got honestly assessed in the media and got to help ordinary Americans. Sadly, the Christian Republican right is succeeding and the Obama leadership remains clueless.

A century-and-a-half ago white Protestants came to accept Irish immigrants as white. While hard to imagine today, early Irish immigrants, those who came to America in the wake of the 1848 famine, were seen by many traditional Protestants as “niggers,” not really different from African Americans. Faced with the inevitabilities of post-Civil War modernization, old-world Protestants changed. And with it, racism changed.

The challenge that faces today’s Anglo-American Protestant descendents, those who see Muslims as “niggers,” is whether then can change and accept America as a multi-cultural society.

The Zionist Strategy of Demonizing Islam


I thought this was a very good article and decided to excerpt it here

On August 4, 2010, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine and chair of the Interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, published an article in Sabbah Report, entitled “Shame on ADL for Opposing Mosque 2Blocks from Ground Zero.”

Rabbi Lerner’s position on the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) objection to building an Islamic Community Center in Manhattan, near Ground Zero is praiseworthy. But his interpretation of ADL’s reasons for resisting such a project lacks insight. ADL leader Abe Foxman’s statement: “In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” spells out the real reasons behind the decision. That decision cunningly reinforces the notion that Muslim fundamentalists were behind the attacks of 9/11 – a position also perpetrated by the architects of those attacks.

Rabbi Lerner’s statement: “It was not ‘Muslims’ or Islam that attacked the World Trade Center, but some Muslims who held extreme versions of Islam and twisted what is a holy and peace-oriented tradition to justify their acts and their hatred,” echoes George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 20, 2001, whereby the blame for 9/11 was put on “a fringe form of Islamic extremism … that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.” Unfortunately, both positions – the first, explicitly, the second, apologetically – demonize Islam.

As rightly noted by Jack G. Shaheen in his book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilified a People (see, also Reel Bad Arabs – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5), a consistent stereotype of Arabs and their religion existed since the earliest, most obscure days of Hollywood. Perhaps, this was the continuation of European fascination with Orientalism. However, in the hands of Hollywood, it acquired a new malicious bend that increased proportionally with the number of Jewish entrepreneurs in Hollywood. Arabs were typically presented as rich and stupid, and their Western captives as victims of prejudice, manipulation and oppression. This pattern was further exploited by Zionists to include violence and acts of terrorism.

Hollywood’s groundwork was certainly useful to all that planned on instigating a clash of civilization between Muslims and non-Muslims. Huntington’s civlizational conflict between “Islam and the West” became the cornerstone of Zionist propaganda. But long before the establishment of Israel, the Zionist intellectual Maurice Samuel in his You Gentiles of 1924 polarized the Gentile and the Jewish worlds: “There are two life-forces in the world I know: Jewish and Gentile, ours and yours … Your outlook on life, your dominant reactions, are the same to-day as they were two thousand years ago. All that has changed is the instrument of expression” (pp. 19-20). Samuel admits that the “surface credo of a Jewish faith” imposed on a gentile way of life did not make a fundamental difference: “But in the end your true nature works itself into the pattern of the borrowed faith, and expresses itself undeniably” (p. 22).

According to Samuel there is a “clear and fateful division of life – Jewish and Gentile,” with an “unsounded abyss between” them. Gentiles have a “way of living and thinking” that is distinctly different from Jews: “I do not believe that this primal difference between gentile and Jew is reconcilable. You and we may come to an understanding, never to a reconciliation. There will be irritation between us as long as we are in intimate contact. For nature and constitution and vision divide us from all of you forever…” (pp. 22-23).

Samuel’s description provides a classic example of a real “clash of civilizations.” The notion of a clash also fits Samuel’s final solution, based on the destruction of the existing world order: “A century of partial tolerance gave us Jews access to your world. In that period the great attempt was made, by advance guards of reconciliation, to bring our two worlds together. It was a century of failure. … We Jews, we, the destroyers, will remain the destroyers forever. Nothing that you will do will meet our needs and demands. We will forever destroy because we need a world of our own, a God-world, which it is not in your nature to build” (p. 155).

The modern equivalent of Samuel’s “God-world” and “destroyers” is religiously motivated terrorism – the accusation conveniently hurled at Muslims. After 9/11 – a false flag operation, no doubt – every Mossad-induced terrorist hoax, from shoe-bombers to crotch-bombers, is blamed on Muslims. Meanwhile, terrorist attacks on civilians of a humanitarian aid ship are dubbed as self-defence. There certainly is a clash of civilizations, witnessed by its concomitant double standard. But the clash is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, as the Zionists claim. Rather, the real clash, as Samuel described so promptly, is between Jews and Gentiles. The bogus clash, conveniently induced through tags like “Islam has bloody borders,” is of Zionist origin. It fits the Zionist strategy of demonizing Islam, and is an expedient cover for the real clash between Jews and Gentiles.

First Person Account of Racism in liberal France


A Jewish Voice Against the Burqa Ban

Even as a Jew in New York, I know of what it is like to be Muslim in France.

While studying abroad in the French city of Strasbourg in 2007, I decided to grow a bushy beard. Little did I know that in France, only traditional Jewish and Muslim men don anything but the most finely trimmed mustache or goatee. Since I did not wear a yarmulke or other head covering, people who saw me on the street assumed that I was Muslim.

I felt that police officers and passersby treated me with suspicion, and even on the crowded rush hour bus, few chose to sit next to me if they could avoid it. On one occasion someone followed me home and tried to start a fight, only to find that I was a bewildered American, not a French Muslim.

Never before, and never since, have I experienced disdain of this sort. On a daily basis, I was made to feel badly because of my appearance — and what was presumed to be my corresponding religious affiliation. So when I read of the effort by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his supporters to criminalize the burqa (and other garments that fully cover a woman’s body, head, and face) in France, I understood it to be far more than a measure to protect women’s rights or preserve the concept of a secular society, on which the modern French state is built.

In my opinion, it is easy to see how the “burqa ban” might be misused as a part of a broader effort to stigmatize a religious population, one that already perceives itself to be on the margins of society.

Admittedly, I am fundamentally opposed to any garment or religious practice — including those found in my own Jewish tradition — that suggests that women hold a different or subservient position. But the burqa ban in France will not achieve the aim of gender equality. If anything, it will strengthen religious conservatives in France’s Muslim population by convincing members of the moderate majority of Muslims that the rest of French society will never accept them.

While there are said to be only 2,000 women who wear burqas in all of France today, the entire Muslim population, estimated to be around five to six million, will take umbrage at another measure that singles out their community.

If we assume that Sarkozy is genuinely motivated by the belief that the burqa “hurts the dignity of women and is unacceptable in French society,” according to an April 21 article in the New York Times, his best response would in fact be to enact measures welcoming Muslim citizens more fully into French society. Such affirmations would undercut efforts by the small minority of religiously conservative Muslims to gather a following among disaffected coreligionists who feel unable to overcome anti-Muslim prejudice.

The need for the French government to treat religious minorities with respect is bolstered by its own history. In 1781, the enlightened German thinker Christian Wilhelm von Dohm made what at the time was a revolutionary suggestion: “Certainly, the Jew will not be prevented by his religion from being a good citizen, if only the government will give him a citizen’s rights.” But it was the French who first put Dohm’s prophetic vision into action.

In 1806, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte emancipated French Jews by passing laws to improve their economic and social status. He invited them to live anywhere they pleased and recognized their religion, affirming its permanent place within the private sphere of French life. Though he did renege on several of his early commitments, Napoleon’s efforts ultimately enabled Jews to become a full part of French society.

Through these acts of profound tolerance over 200 years ago, France set an example for all of Europe and proved that its open-mindedness was more than rhetorical.

Modern France would do well to follow its own admirable example and truly treat Muslim citizens as equal participants in society. Foregoing the burqa ban would be a sensible first step.

Jerusalem Belongs to More than One Tribe


The battle for Jerusalem goes on but Miscellany101 wants to highlight some voices that too often get drowned out in the cacophony  that is designed to confuse and distort.  Before getting to the heart of the refutation that Jerusalem belongs only to Israel’s Jews, it’s necessary to excerpt the post that started it all.

For me,(Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor,  who took out full page ads in major American newspapers to express his views on the city of Jerusalem) the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture — and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple. It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, “Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart.”

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

There is so much wrong with Mr. Wiesel’s claim that Christians and Muslims are allowed to build anywhere in the city it’s laughable.  However, one Reverend Frank Julian Gelli took it seriously enough to write this scalding rebuttal to Wiesel’s soliloquy.

‘For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics’, you declare. As a priest, a messenger of peace, I could not agree more. But you add that Jerusalem ‘belongs to the Jewish people’. Astonishing. Because that is an exquisitely political statement. To belong to means to be the property of someone. Jerusalem belongs to, is the property of the state of Israel, you therefore must mean – unless some occult, cabbalistic meaning is intended. How can you then say that Jerusalem is above politics? You are contradicting yourself, methinks. Being illogical is not being unethical, no. Just a little intellectually inconsistent. Join the club – but, from a messenger to mankind I would expect a tad more rigour.

Jerusalem ‘is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Koran’ you assert, inferring politics straight from theology. Puzzling contention. Because statistical and numerical arguments are tricky. Consider: Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, is named explicitly only twice in the whole Qur’an – a third time under the name of ‘Bakka’. Would you then conclude that Mecca is only of minor importance to Muslim? Absurd.

‘Jerusalem must remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital’, you contend. Once again, I wholeheartedly agree. But two points. First, a spiritual capital is not the same as a political capital. Rome is the spiritual capital of Roman Catholics. It is not, however, their political capital. Canterbury is Anglicanism’s spiritual centre but Anglicans have no political allegiance to it. Orthodox Christians still regard Constantinople as their spiritual navel, but few would ask the Turks to give it back…..

Second, spiritual imperialism must have limits. Jerusalem is not sacred only to Jews. This is not a political claim. It is a straightforward factual, historical statement. In the New Testament – as you are fond of statistics – Jerusalem is named 159 times – a very high number, given also that the NT is much smaller than the OT. You might have heard a Jew called Jesus of Nazareth once preached, taught, suffered, was crucified and arose from the grave in the very city of David.

You know, my heart overflows with emotion and my eyes with tears when I think about my beloved Lord’s life, his ministry, his passion, his agony in Jerusalem. So you see, you are not the only one to be moved, anguished or rejoiced, by ancestral memories connected with the holy city. Christians are, too.  And amongst mankind, Christians – nominal or actual – number 2.1 billion. It is fair to conclude they too have at least as rightful and as strong a claim to the spiritual Jerusalem as 1.5 billion Muslims and 14 million Jews.

It’s sad that the apartheid state of Israel where nationality is a religious not a civil designation somehow or another enlists the support of a Nobel Peace prize, 1986 winner to wax eloquently about the importance of Jerusalem to Israeli Jews while the homes of Palestinian Christians and Muslims are being destroyed and their lives wantonly disregarded. A state that uses such internationally reknown mouthpieces to mask its death and destruction should not be the recipient of American largesse or respect.

Americans Kill Muslims Like Roaches


The American attitude about war in Islamic lands and the genocide nature of that action is so apparent to even the most casual observer, I want to post this article from another observer.

The current American imperial offensive “has all the characteristics of a race war,” and is viewed as such by much of the world. “In Muslim nations, the U.S. treats the inhabitants like roaches, stomping human beings underfoot and cursing them when they scurry to get out of the way.”

The latest American atrocity in Afghanistan – the wanton slaughter of civilians on an inter-city bus near Kandahar – is yet more bloody proof that the United States military offensive in the Muslim world has all the characteristics of a race war. The men, women and children in the packed, full-size bus found themselves suddenly boxed in between two American convoys on a highway of death – a place where the natives are instantly liquidated if they are unfortunate enough to find themselves in proximity to U.S. soldiers. Such highways of death inevitably appear whenever U.S. troops are deployed among populations that Americans think of as less than human.
In Iraq, the road between central Baghdad and the airport was also known among the natives as the “highway of death.” American convoys routinely fired on commuters on their way to work if they felt the Iraqi vehicles got too close. Civilian employees of the United States share in the imperial privilege of killing Muslims at will. In 2005, British mercenaries took a leisurely drive along Baghdad’s “highway of death” playing Elvis Presley records while shooting Iraqi motorists for sport. So confident of impunity were the soldiers of fortune, they videotaped their ghoulish joyride, to entertain friends and relatives back home. And they were right; neither the mercenary killers nor their corporate employers were punished.
In 2007, Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on commuters trapped in a traffic jam in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 and wounding at least 20 – apparently because they were bored. But, why not? U.S. troops had been committing mass murder in villages like Haditha for years. Early in the war, they leveled Fallujah, a city larger than Birmingham, Alabama, after first bombing the hospital. Casual killing is a prerogative of imperial occupiers when the natives are considered sub-human.
“They would never behave in such a manner in European.”

In the newly-released WikiLeaks video of a 2007 aerial human turkey-shoot over a suburban Baghdad neighborhood, the voices of the American helicopter pilots and gunners are testimony to the endemic, pathological racism of the U.S. occupying force. The Americans beg their commanders for permission to kill Iraqis milling about on the street below, presenting no threat to anyone. They are thrilled when their cannon fire rips into over a dozen men, including two journalists. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one G.I. When they fire on a car that stopped to aid one of the victims, severely wounding two children, the Americans crack that it served the Iraqis right for bringing children into a battle. But there was no battle, just Americans bringing casual death into an Iraqi neighborhood.

Americans seem unable to resist raining death from the skies on wedding parties in Afghanistan. Apparently, any gathering of Afghans, anywhere, for any reason, is sufficient cause for Americans to unleash high-tech weapons of destruction. They would never behave in such a manner in European countries because, well, people live there. But in Muslim nations, the U.S. treats the inhabitants like roaches, stomping human beings underfoot and cursing them when they scurry to get out of the way. This is race war, pure and simple. The fact that it’s commander-in-chief is a Black man does not alter the character of the crime, one iota.

First in America, now in Israel


Another gang of fraudsters has been caught buying, selling and stealing organs but this time they were based in northern Israel. Some of the criminals were members of the Israeli Defense Force, IDF as it is commonly known, who promised donors huge sums of money, flew them to destinations outside of Israel, harvested their organs and returned them to Israel and didn’t pay them the money they promised.  Many of the victims of this scam were Israeli Arabs, which goes to prove that racism is skin deep; it doesn’t cut across internal organs.  Organizers of the scam received a minimum 1,000 %  profit on the organs they procured from their victims which begs the question, ‘who were they selling the organs to?’  This latest news comes on the heels of a claim by Palestinians that organs were taken from Palestinians taken prisoner and or later killed by IDF.

No Comment


‘Nuff said!

All in the family


In a previous post I alluded to how people in media with a certain interest are neglectful of trends that are staring them in the face when those trends don’t suit their agendas, such as advancing the notion that one group of people has invested in it all the anti-social behavior and negative traits are the worse while ignoring the very same inclinations in other groups.   Here is an article written by Alison Weir that states that case far better than I could.

Recent exposés revealing that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times’ Israel-Palestine bureau chief, has a son in the Israeli military have caused a storm of controversy that continues to swirl and generate further revelations.

Many people find such a sign of family partisanship in an editor covering a foreign conflict troubling – especially given the Times’ record of Israel-centric journalism.

Times management at first refused to confirm Bronner’s situation, then refused to comment on it. Finally, public outcry forced Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt to confront the problem in a February 7th column.

After bending over backwards to praise the institution that employs him, Hoyt ultimately opined that Bronner should be re-assigned to a different sphere of reporting to avoid the “appearance” of bias. Times Editor Bill Keller declined to do so, however, instead writing a column calling Bronner’s connections to Israel valuable because they “supply a measure of sophistication about Israel and its adversaries that someone with no connections would lack.”

If such “sophistication” is valuable, the Times’ espoused commitment to the “impartiality and neutrality of the company’s newsrooms” would seem to require it to have a balancing editor equally sophisticated about Palestine and its adversary, but Keller did not address that.

Bronner is far from alone

As it turns out, Bronner’s ties to the Israeli military are not the rarity one might expect.

• A previous Times bureau chief, Joel Greenberg, before he was bureau chief but after he was already publishing in the Times from Israel, actually served in the Israeli army.

• Media pundit and Atlantic staffer Jeffrey Goldberg also served in the Israeli military; it’s unclear when, how, or even if his military service ended.

• Richard Chesnoff, who has been covering Mideast events for more than 40 years, had a son serving in the Israeli military while Chesnoff covered Israel as US News & World Report’s senior foreign correspondent.

• NPR’s Linda Gradstein’s husband was an Israeli sniper and may still be in the Israeli reserves. NPR refuses to disclose whether Gradstein herself is also an Israeli citizen, as are her children and husband.

• Mitch Weinstock, national editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune, served in the Israeli military.

• The New York Times’ other correspondent from the region, Isabel Kershner, is an Israeli citizen. Israel has universal compulsory military service, which suggests that Kershner herself and/or family members may have military connections. The Times refuses to answer questions about whether she and/or family members have served or are currently serving in the Israeli military. Is it possible that Times Foreign Editor Susan Chira herself has such connections? The Times refuses to answer.

• Many Associated Press writers and editors are Israeli citizens or have Israeli families. AP will not reveal how many of the journalists in its control bureau for the region currently serve in the Israeli military, how many have served in the past, and how many have family members with this connection.

• Similarly, many TV correspondents such as Martin Fletcher have been Israeli citizens and/or have Israeli families. Do they have family connections to the Israeli military?

• Time Magazine’s bureau chief several years ago became an Israeli citizen after he had assumed his post. Does he have relatives in the military?

• CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, while not an Israeli citizen, was based in Israel for many years, wrote a book whitewashing Israeli spying on the US, and used to work for the Israel lobby in the US. None of this is divulged to CNN viewers.

Tikkun’s editor Michael Lerner has a son who served in the Israeli military. While Lerner has been a strong critic of many Israeli policies, in an interview with Jewish Week, Lerner explains:

“Having a son in the Israeli army was a manifestation of my love for Israel, and I assume that having a son in the Israeli army is a manifestation of Bronner’s love of Israel.”

Lerner goes on to make a fundamental point:

“…there is a difference in my emotional and spiritual connection to these two sides [Israelis and Palestinians]. On the one side is my family; on the other side are decent human beings. I want to support human beings all over the planet but I have a special connection to my family. I don’t deny it.”

For a great many of the reporters and editors determining what Americans learn about Israel-Palestine, Israel is family.

Jonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth, writes of a recent meeting with a Jerusalem based bureau chief, who explained: “… Bronner’s situation is ‘the rule, not the exception. I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”

Cooks writes that the bureau chief explained: “It is common to hear Western reporters boasting to one another about their Zionist credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children.”

Apparently, intimate ties to Israel are among the many open secrets in the region that are hidden from the American public. If, as the news media insist, these ties present no problem or even, as the Times’ Keller insists, enhance the journalists’ work, why do the news agencies consistently refuse to admit them?

The reason is not complicated.

While Israel may be family for these journalists and editors, for the vast majority of Americans, Israel is a foreign country. In survey after survey, Americans say they don’t wish to “take sides” on this conflict. In other words, the American public wants full, unfiltered, unslanted coverage.

Quite likely the news media refuse to answer questions about their journalists’ affiliations because they suspect, accurately, that the public would be displeased to learn that the reporters and editors charged with supplying news on a foreign nation and conflict are, in fact, partisans.

While Keller claims that the New York Times is covering this conflict “even-handedly,” studies indicate otherwise:

* The Times covers international reports documenting Israeli human rights abuses at a rate 19 times lower than it reports on the far smaller number of international reports documenting Palestinian human rights abuses.

* The Times covers Israeli children’s deaths at rates seven times greater than they cover Palestinian children’s deaths, even though there are vastly more of the latter and they occurred first.

* The Times fails to inform its readers that Israel’s Jewish-only colonies on confiscated Palestinian Christian and Muslim land are illegal; that its collective punishment of 1.5 million men, women, and children in Gaza is not only cruel and ruthless, it is also illegal; and that its use of American weaponry is routinely in violation of American laws.

* The Times covers the one Israeli (a soldier) held by Palestinians at a rate incalculably higher than it reports on the Palestinian men, women, and children – the vast majority civilians – imprisoned by Israel (currently over 7,000).

• The Times neglects to report that hundreds of Israel’s captives have never even been charged with a crime and that those who have were tried in Israeli military courts under an array of bizarre military statutes that make even the planting of onions without a permit a criminal offense – a legal system, if one can call it that, that changes at the whim of the current military governor ruling over a subject population; a system in which parents are without power to protect their children.

* The Times fails to inform its readers that 40 percent of Palestinian males have been imprisoned by Israel, a statistic that normally would be considered highly newsworthy, but that Bronner, Kershner, and Chira apparently feel is unimportant to report.

Americans, whose elected representatives give Israel uniquely gargantuan sums of our tax money (a situation also not covered by the media), want and need all the facts, not just those that Israel’s family members decree reportable.

We’re not getting them.

Another Face of Terrorism


There’s no doubt about it in this observer’s mind Joe Stack was a terrorist, and his act of flying an airplane into a building which contained the offices of a government agency (and I don’t care which acronym like agency it was) was straight out of the book of terror that this Nation went through a decade ago, yet very few people in corporate media or in government want to label him as such. Wonder why?

There’s been a certain amount of self-righteous discussion among media types why this is the case but in the end those who are self-indulgent simply say Stack doesn’t meet the criteria of a terrorist. There are even some who claim, such as Stack’s daughter that he was a hero of sorts, protesting against government. Wonder why?

Stack’s singular act of protest doesn’t even begin to meet the definition of the legally acceptable form of dissent, but it fits perfectly into the definition of terrorism. Yet there are people who are determined to not call it that and the simple reason why is because the West has been gripped by a virulent form of racism that is ethnocentric in nature towards people of color.  This indignation attempts to dress itself in a cloak of preserving a Judeo-Christian ethic, but when the results of such preservation have included diminishing the progress of that ethic, subversion of the rights of those who enjoy that ethic, such as privacy rights, free speech, et.al that excuse too falls by the wayside and is as hypocritical as media’s refusal to be inclusive in the terrorism appellation.

The refusal of corporate media to label Stack the terrorist he was has allowed all the other fringe groups to come out in support of his action in their opposition to the Nation’s first black president.    The Tea Party movement is nothing more than the 21st century Ku Klux Klan dressed up with the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, et.al who are used to give such a movement legitimacy.  There is this symbiotic relationship, therefore, between corporate media and these racists.  They give rationale  to one another; the racist relish the media attention to their cause of opposing the first black, “foreign born”, “Muslim” president and the media loves the sound bites such idiots the likes of Stack, and Scott Roeder (the murderer/terrorist who stalked legally licensed American physicians) give them ignoring  their, media’s,  own responsibility to this collective hypocrisy and morass.   At the same time corporate media plunges headlong into their racist diatribe against Muslims, Arabs and especially Palestinians justifying any and all forms of state sponsored oppression against them because to media types the designation “terrorist” is appropriate and they have no hesitation at all using that term to describe them.

This way of doing business means the  Joseph Stack story is merely a mention in the headlines of the day, social titillation at best not worthy of any real consideration or reflection about the role of government, the impact of violence in society, the responsibility of citizens to social cohesion, the role of media if any in all of this, nothing to see just move along.  We should now expect this social irresponsibility from a upper middle class mostly white media with a strong affection for power and those who wield it in defense of their, corporate media’s interest.  However, the public, infinitely smarter than given credit by that same media, has to realize the impact media’s dereliction has on the over all society, in the form of their, corporate media’s, justification for wars of occupation and the sublimation of the rights of citizens, legal residents, and yes, even foreigners living in America to the wishes of government and corporate entities.

A Nation that is immersed in healthy not stifled debate is much more informed and enlightened.  Corporate media mimics its forefathers of old who sought to keep people in the dark by allowing only those deemed worthy the right or ability to read and get an education.  That dispensation of rights and responsibilities by the wealthy and often oppressor class became a rejected standard of living, and societies were better off for doing away with such notions.   Joseph Stack was a terrorist, no more and no less, who committed the same heinous act as those on 911, in his rejection of government policy and it resulted in the loss of human life, his and other(s) and that’s that.  Corporate media’s refusal to simply say that says more about them than Stack.  Perhaps its time we did away with them.

Dissecting an Assassination


Dubai has given the international community a lesson in how the rule of law is supposed to be upheld when the sovereignty of a country is violated.  Reacting to the murder of a Palestinian figure last month, the chief of police for the Emirate of Dubai put on a text-book show of how you gather and present evidence to make your case to the world in calling for justice.  Without calling names but merely showing the facts, forged or fake passports and incontrovertible CCTV evidence from all over Dubai, Khalfan Tamim laid out all of the details surrounding the assassination/murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh and in so doing gave the international community a methodical lesson in the rule of law.  It remains to be seen whether the international community will respond in the same measured and civilized manner that the UAE did  in making the case for the arrest of the 11 individuals.   Releasing the names, photographs and nationalities of all they say are responsible for Mabhouh’s death has forced the hands of those countries named, Ireland, Germany and the UK  to admit their  passport bearers were using phony passports, while France admitted it was “not able to confirm the nationality” of the one suspect said to have used a French passport.  Those admissions alone are enough to lead to the conclusion as Tamim correctly  has that the UAE is on the right track of the killers.  While Tamim did not accuse Israel of the murder others even some in Israeli media have certainly come to that conclusion and it’s a reasonable conclusion to make.  Israel has said repeatedly it will violate any and all international law and state sovereignty to kill its opponents, political or military, and it has been able to act on  that threat with impunity. Below are three parts of the case made by Dubai/UAE authorities.  It’s fascinating to watch and reveals the underbelly of an assassination that was this time ‘caught on tape.’

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France’s Fascism Rears it’s Ugly Head Again!


Twenty-first century France  has  replaced 20th century  Nazi Germany as  the European hotbed of political fascism, climbing on the backs of its Muslim population to claim this distinction much like German socialism climbed on the graves and skeletons of the European Jewish minority in the 30s and 40s.  Nationalism and secularism are the reasons given for this decision on the part of French government  to curtail the rights of a vibrant Muslim minority,  making a mockery of the French motto of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ while inciting its citizens to turn against one another based on the clothes they wear and the religion they profess.  While the tombstones of French Muslims are desecrated,  French feminists, who claim advocacy of  a woman’s right to choose, bemoan and denounce the candidacy of a French women who supports contraception and abortion rights because she chooses to wear a scarf on her hair!  The hypocrisy of the French position, so steeped in bigotry and irrational hatred have led Ilham Moussaid to point out

It is with great sadness that I watch … my life reduced to my headscarf. It is with great sadness that I hear that my personal beliefs are a danger to others while I advocate friendship, respect, tolerance, solidarity and equality for all human beings.

It would appear based on what she says above, Moussaid is more French than any of her detractors.  Touche!

European Racism=War on Islam


I received a letter from a friend which said the editor of the Danish newspaper who published the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist died in a fire. While there was no rejoicing about the matter on the part of my friend, he did seem to indicate that’s what happens to people who abuse religious figures, an act of retribution from God Almighty and that he was satisfied, not rejoicing, with what he thought was the end of this editor’s life. I had to break the news to him that it was just a rumor and that no one associated with the cartoon fiasco had died a terrible death; indeed it appears no one at the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten , had died at all. I think he’ll get over his disappointment, but I began to wonder about that whole issue of the cartoons for it was meant to trigger an emotional response from people in order to highlight an already preconceived notion the editors and owner of the paper had about Muslims. Unfortunately, some Muslims reinforced the stereotypes brewing in the heads of the folks at JP, but what happened at that newspaper also underscores the terrible hypocrisy employed by them and their martyrdom complex of freedom of speech.

It must be noted the newspaper published this set of 12 cartoon panels about the Prophet twice, in late 2005 and again in 2008. It’s kind of interesting the publications occurred during campaigning season for American elections, but it took almost six months for the controversy to come to a boiling point and become an international issue after the first cartoons were published in ’05. The Muslims in Denmark handled it quite well for the most part, organizing and holding peaceful protests to make their feelings known on an issue of importance to them, but with regards to all things dealing in religion, anti-religious forces came into play and distorted what is a very real issue. The newspaper said it was a free speech issue, but it wasn’t.  Earlier the paper had declined to publish a cartoon about Jesus, the son of Mary, offering as an “excuse” the quality of the cartoon wasn’t good enough for their paper.  (Shouldn’t that have been up to the readers of the paper to decide?)

Fleming Rose, the cultural editor of the paper at the time of the publication of the caricatures of Islam’s prophet, went on to say later his paper would publish Holocaust denial cartoons in conjunction with an Iranian newspaper, but that idea too was nixed by the editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten, although they did go on to publish the winning and runner up submissions of the “contest” sponsored by the Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri. Quite naturally, this opened up the newspaper to accusations of a double standard, it is, and hypocrisy on freedom of speech, which again it is.  Of course the editors of the paper don’t see it that way, and they never will.  That Muslim groups were not given the right to edit or decide what should have been printed in the paper about their religion should be given the say weight as it was given to Christian and Jewish groups, otherwise talk of freedom of press and or freedom of an editor to decide what he/she puts in their newspaper is only lies.  Europe is awash in anti-social behavior from religions and religious extremists across all divides; hyping one group’s extremists while ignoring another’s is demagoguery at its finest and all at the hands of an active, partisan press.  That said, I’ve found the perfect cartoon to express all the 600 plus words of this post.  Enjoy.

revisionism_v_cartoons

More Iran News on a personal level


I received a copy of this interview between two friends, one of whom is an Iranian studying to be a religious scholar.  The interview took place after the elections amidst the turmoil  and furor over the election results.  There are some interesting revelations in this interview which I took the liberty to highlight in bold.  What the interview reveals is the Iranian street’s  perspective to the recent events taking place there and it differs greatly from what we have been told by corporate media.

Q: Based on the media and resources that you have access to, can you give us a general idea about what you think is happening in Tehran ?

Al: There are several factors in this situation that have come together. There is one segment of the population that did want Mousavi to win the election. These people had done some propaganda to make it seem like Mousavi will get most of the votes. In particular, Tehran … because Tehran is a metropolitan city, you have people with all kinds of backgrounds and thinking. In Tehran itself, [Mousavi] had a lot of supporters. Tehran is part of what we call “Ustan-e-Tehran”, where Tehran is the central city and the “ustan” includes the suburbs and smaller towns surrounding Tehran . An ustan is bigger than a district, but smaller than a province. If you look at the election results, in
these suburbs and small towns in Ustan-e-Tehran, Ahmadinejad got more votes than Mousavi. But in the central city of Tehran, Ahmadinejad got fewer votes than Mousavi.

But you see, Tehran isn’t all of Iran . People in Tehran sometimes think that because they are all supporters of Mousavi, all of Iran must be supporters of Mousavi, but this is not true. Overall, in 2
ustans, Azerbaijan-e- Ghardi and Ustan-e-Sistan- e-Balochistan, Mousavi got more votes than Ahmadinejad. In the rest of the ustans … I think Iran has a total of 24 ustans … in the rest of the 22 ustans, Ahmadinejad took more votes. Even in Ustan-e-Tehran, Ahmadinejad has more votes than Mousavi, but in the Tehran city, Mousavi has more votes.

So what happened is that the people in Tehran thought that he would win, Mousavi, because they had created a sort of atmosphere where they thought that the newspapers there, the Western media, and the American media was supporting him. But if you look at the rest of Iran,
Ahmadinejad has done a lot of good work. I mean, there were projects that would take 7 or 8 or 9 years to complete, and he completed these projects in 2 or 3 years. He brought electricity to places that had none, clean water to places where water wasn’t clean, and many things like this. He has greatly helped the poor people of Iran . The majority of Iran, therefore, was with Ahmadinejad.

That leaves Tehran, the Tehran city particularly. Now here there were groups led by important people like Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [a powerful cleric who chairs Iran's Assembly of Experts, and a former president] and others who said they would support Mousavi. They said they would protest, but they wanted to protest peacefully. They never had the intention to come to Tehran and damage property, break things, or burn things, because in Iran, overall, this is not something that’s in our history. It’s very rare and even if it happens once in many years, it’s done by small groups and it is considered very bad. Whoever you are protesting against, doing these things, damaging and breaking things is considered very bad.

Now Tehran has millions of people, and bringing out a few thousand to protest is not such a big feat. When some of these people were going back recently, they were arrested by the Iranian intelligence and questioned. They said that they were neither with Ahmadinejad, nor
with Mousavi. In fact, they said they hadn’t even voted at all. They said that they had specifically received orders from a lady in England named Zohra, which I think is a fake name, who had given them orders to do all of this breaking and damaging and violence. They recorded her phone calls, and showed it on TV here. I saw it myself. She would call them and give them orders to go out and destroy things, set fire to gas stations, and so on. And now the foreign minister of Iran has
done a press conference and openly said that these people in England are calling people over here and telling them to go out and commit vandalism and violence. They had all of this planned ahead of time, well before the election.

Q: What are the people you know saying about Ayatollah Khamenei’s sermon on Friday?

A: If you noticed, in the khutba [sermon] by the Rahber [the title used to address the Supreme Leader], he mentioned Rafsanjani by name and criticized him, but he also supported him and said good things about him. He also criticized Ahmadinejad, but also supported him. So after
this, Rafsanjani and the other leaders who were supporting Mousavi withdrew from the protests. They said that after the Rahber’s speech, we don’t think it is right to continue this opposition, and the Rahber has now shown us the right path. But some of the small parties and groups supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi continued their protests.

Another thing that happened was that during the debates, Ahmadinejad accidentally criticized Rafsanjani and portrayed him in a negative light. As a result, some of Ahmadinejad’ s supporters began to have a negative image of Rafsanjani. On the other hand, Rafsanjani’s people also became angry, saying that Ahmadinejad’s people have maligned them. But then, in his khutba on Friday, the Rahber admonished both Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad. He scolded Ahmadinejad for saying negative things about Rafsanjani without any proof. Of course Khamenei and Rafsanjani have differences in their opinions. This is normal in politics. It happens everywhere. It does not discredit the other person entirely. Once the Rahber brought everyone together in this way, Rafsanjani’s group withdrew and decided that they will not continue the protests.

The protests that continued after the speech were not done by people here. They were done by foreign influences, like this woman Zohra in England . I saw on the news that yesterday [Saturday], they even burned a mosque. Can you imagine that? You can completely forget about
the idea that any real Iranian, even a supporter of Mousavi, would ever burn a mosque. Anyone who would burn a mosque … this means that he is not even a Muslim. When this news came out over here, everybody became completely convinced that the people doing all of this have been planted from outside Iran. Nobody burns a mosque! I told you before that even burning a bank or another building is something that is considered very bad over here. People here are very educated and civilized.

Q: What about the reported bombing of Ayatollah Khomeini’s tomb? Do you think that this was also carried out by people planted from outside Iran? Could Mousavi’s supporters have done this?

A: See, this is what I’m telling you. This is not the kind of thing that Mousavi’s supporters could have done. They may have had minor grievances with the other side, like the disagreements between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani, but these incidents of bombings and destruction are all being done by people outside Iran that have been planted by foreign powers. They were showing on TV here that these are people who were given training in Iraq and then were sent over here to
do these things. These people have been hired and paid.

What do these people want? They want to delegitimize this record-breaking election we’ve had where 85% of people came out and voted. They want people to think that this report of an 85% turnout is fraudulent, that there is all this infighting going on in Iran and people don’t have faith in the system. But the world has seen on the day of the election here, that there were endless lines at the voting stations before voting had even started … in such a big democracy,
where 85% of people came out to vote.

Look, Ahmadinejad got 24 million votes, and Mousavi got about 13 million, and with the rest of the candidates, it’s a total of 39 million people who came out and participated in the process of democracy. Think about that… why would so many people come out and vote if they did not have any faith in the system? Who votes? It is those people who know that they can get justice and a better life through the process. If a person thinks there is corruption and
deception in the system, he wouldn’t bother to vote, he would just stay home. People participated in this election and came out to vote because they accepted the system and had faith in it.

But there are some parts of the process that are very suspicious. First, by law, the final results of the election cannot be certified by the Supreme Leader for a period of at least three days, in order to allow for any grievances that participating candidates may have.
Second, voting was done on paper ballots and counted by hand. How is it possible that 39 million votes were counted in such a short time, just a few hours?

As far as the three day law goes, I have to look into this myself and see what the methodology was exactly. But I will explain what I know to you about the vote counting. During the election, there were about 47,000 polling stations for voting. [I have independently confirmed that this is accurate.] For each station, every candidate was allowed to have a representative
present to oversee the process. Mir Hossein Mousavi had 47,000 representatives, one at each station, and Ahmadinejad I think had 42,000 or something like that. The other candidates had fewer representatives. When the voting ended at 11 pm, they immediately started counting. Once they had the final tallies at each station, the representatives were made to sign off on them, and the numbers were fed into a centrally computerized system where the tallies were collected.

Now, if you divide 39 million votes by 47,000 stations, it comes to 893 votes per station on average. This is a very small number of ballots that can easily be counted in a short period of time, and the final tally from each station was submitted to the central computerized system immediately. They reported the results live on TV as the final tallies came in. Again, remember that the representatives of both candidates at each polling station were required to sign off
on the final tally at that station.

Also, the ballots were present in a booklet, like a checkbook where you can rip out the checks. This is how the ballots were distributed, and like a checkbook, each booklet had a fixed number of ballots. As soon as a booklet was exhausted, they would enter that record into the
computer, so that the computer would keep track of how many booklets had been used up. Even after all of this, the Guardian Council allowed for people to come forward and report any irregularities in writing so that they could be investigated. This was not done at first, but
later, on prompting, when a complaint was filed, the Guardian Council agreed to a partial recount of 10% of the votes.

Q: Speaking of the Guardian Council, Ali Larijani, the pro-Khamenei Speaker of Parliament, has implied that some members of the Guardian Council are taking sides in the situation, which takes away from Khamenei’s statement that this was a clear victory for Ahmadinejad, and even contradicts it–

A: Ali Larijani said this? Really?

Q: Yes, this is what was reported here on Sunday morning.

A: No, no. It’s not true. I watched Ali Larijani on TV just last night [Saturday] and he said that the Western media wants to take our great success in this election with record turnout and portray it in a negative light. He said to the public of Iran that we should be celebrating our wonderful success as a democracy. I saw this myself, on TV, and everyone in Iran saw it, so no one here will ever believe this report. I think the Western media may have taken his words and edited them to quote them out of context.

Q: I also wanted to ask you about your access to the media. Apart from state-run television broadcasts, do you have complete access to the internet, sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for instance?

A: Yes, we have complete access.

Q: Well, over here, because of the ban on foreign journalists covering the events in Tehran, a lot of the major media outlets have started to broadcast web-based images and videos that are being sent in by people on the ground in Iran . There are literally hundreds of videos and pictures that have come in this way showing large numbers of people protesting, and many of them show brutal violence, home invasions, and so on. There is one particularly gruesome video of a woman named Neda who was shot and killed on camera by paramilitary forces, and it has evoked widespread reaction. Are you familiar with these kinds of events?

A: Look, in Iran, we have a few sources. We have two TV channels, radio, and then we have the newspapers, which are particularly popular among Iranians. Now, we also have the internet, and yes, we are familiar with these videos showing the murders of these people and the violence against them. I can tell you the impression of the people here… they believe that it is the people who are damaging and vandalizing, these planted forces from outside, that are committing these murders. This is what people believe in Iran . You know, one of the biggest pieces of propaganda is that the forces here are allowed to use firearms. They’re not. If you look closely at
these videos, you’ll notice that the legitimate police and officers are using clubs, tear gas, and water canons to control the crowd, not firearms. If you are seeing people using guns and firearms, these are the rogues from outside Iran who are terrorizing the people and vandalizing property. I’m telling you, all of Iran is against these people who are committing these acts of violence and vandalism.
I’ll tell you something which I’m not sure you know. Last week, the
office of the Rahber called on hundreds of thousands of people to celebrate at a place called Meydan-e-Wali- Asr, not because Ahmadinejad won, but to celebrate Iran’s democratic process, to
celebrate our momentous election with a record-breaking turnout. A few days later, people were called out again to demonstrate against these people who were committing acts of violence and vandalism in the protests, and again hundreds of thousands of people came out for that
demonstration. But the international media never covers these kinds of things. Instead, the media is taking a few protests with a few hundred or a few thousand people in Tehran and making them out to be much more significant than they are. And then you have seen the huge crowd that attended the Rahber’s speech at Friday prayers. Again, there were hundreds of thousands of
people who came to hear him and support him, from all over the country. You have seen them on TV. People were so energized and so excited to see the Rahber that the first twenty minutes were just them cheering and chanting slogans praising him.

Who are these people? Are they not Iranians? Just because the media never shows this side of things, everyone thinks that these protesters committing violence is all that is going on here, while the rest of Iran is silent, and there is no other point of view. In fact, most Iranians are upset with the government for not being more aggressive in cracking down on these people.

Q: In that case, why do you think the government isn’t cracking down on these people more aggressively?

A: Because they are mixed in with the normal people. If you know 100% that the people standing in front of you are your enemy, you can be aggressive. But these people are in regular clothing, they are in the middle of the city, where there are also regular people mixed in, working, in the shops, walking around. So you have to be careful in how you go about tackling the situation. This is also why the government forces are not allowed to use firearms. If they fire at them, the rogues will fire back, and they won’t care if the public is in the way. So you have to be careful.

Q: You’re speaking a lot about these videos on the internet that are being exaggerated to mean more than what they are, and you’re also complaining that the media is not covering your side of the situation. However, if the government bans all foreign media outlets as they have, it forces them to rely on these videos, images, blogs, and Tweets as their primary source of information, which you claim are misrepresentative. Does the government understand that this works
against them? Also, why hasn’t your side organized events and made their own videos to present your side of the story?

A: This thing that you’re saying is absolutely right. This is something that is lacking on our side. The supporters on our side should do this more of this kind of work. The people who are supporting Ahmadinejad, our government, and our police force need to express what they think, make videos, and send them out so that people can see the other side. We were discussing this among ourselves the other day. It has been shocking to us to see that what we are witnessing here is so different from what the international media is showing.

Q: There are two websites you should read and let me know what you think, pakalert.wordpress.com and prisonplanet.com. On the second one, there is an article about how the BBC took a picture from a pro-Ahmadinejad rally and claimed that it was a Mousavi rally.  In past protests like the one in 1999, the establishment in Iran was united. However, now there are reports of powerful figures like Rafsanjani and Khatami moving away from Khamenei. Neither of the two was present at the Friday sermon even though they were summoned by Khamenei to attend. Also, on Sunday morning Ayatollah Montazeri declared a period of mourning for those killed in the protests from Wednesday to Friday. Rafsanjani has made a statement saying that the protests and the voice of the people should be respected and supported. Mousavi has also reportedly declared that he is ready for martyrdom. Do you believe that there is a genuine rift in the clerical
establishment?

A: [Expresses surprise at statements from Montazeri and Rafsanjani.] Look, there is no doubt that there are disagreements among some of these men. They are nothing new. Montazeri, although he is respected because he is a mujtahid [the highest rank achievable in Shia religious training], does not have much of a following here. As you know, he was originally selected by Imam Khomeini as his successor, but later the Imam denounced him because of a corruption scandal. It was a dark spot on his character, and although he is learned and respected, he was not qualified to become the next Rahber. He is a controversial figure who gets a lot of attention from the foreign media, but the media and the people here consider him insignificant.

Q: But what about Rafsanjani? There are reports that Jawad Shahristani, the representative and son-in-law of Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, met secretly with Rafsanjani and the Assembly of Experts in Qom to consider redrafting the system of clerical rule in Iran by establishing a collective ruling body instead of a single Supreme Leader. Are you familiar with this? [Note: Sistani, based in Iraq, is one of the most influential Shia spiritual leaders in the region.]

A; Well, yes, we have heard something like this, that they are considering introducing the system of shoora-e-rahbariya, or a council of mujtahids that act as a supreme authority instead of one supreme leader. But you see, this is nothing new. The late Shaheed Muttahari, who was considered to be … well, you can think of him as number 2 to Imam Khomeini, also suggested the idea of having a mujtahid council. But this idea was not welcomed or accepted among the people. We do have a report from authentic sources that Rafsanjani, on his last trip to Iraq, met with Ayatollah Sistani, who advised him to obey Khamenei. He said that it was not in the interest of Iran to not obey the Rahber, who provides excellent leadership for the country.

The second thing is that if several people get together to float ideas … well, that is the job of the Assembly of Experts, which Rafsanjani is the chairman of. These are people who are mujtahids and are elected by the people of Iran . They keep watch over the supreme leadership, and God forbid if the Rahber makes a mistake or makes a wrong decision, they have the authority to replace him. So there already is a body that oversees these things. If there was a council of people to issue fatwas and edicts, without a singular figure of authority, it would not have as much authenticity and credibility among the people.

At our institution in Qom, in the Imam Khomeini Madrassa, we have many seminars, where ulema [scholars] from around the world come to speak and debate. They disagree very often and have open debates, where they sometimes have completely antithetical views on things. Open academic
discussion and debate are very normal and encouraged here. This does not mean that there are any serious enmities within the clerical establishment.

Q: Do you think, then, that despite their differences, eventually Rafsanjani and Khatami will end up supporting Khamenei?

A: Look, all of these men understand, accept, and revere the system. This is not something they disagree on. They’re united on this. The difference is in their preference of methodology in order to get things done. For example, they often discuss how we should deal with the Western world. One group says that we should be firm and outspoken in our approach. The other says that we should be softer and more diplomatic. For example, Mohammad Khatami may be more open to engaging
in talks and making concessions with the West about Iran’s nuclear program to avoid sanctions and other headaches. Others believe that we should take a harder stance and stand our ground. These disagreements on policy are very normal. They happen in every country in the world.
Remember, even when Mohammad Khatami was president, it was still Khamenei who was the Supreme Leader. Khatami did try his soft approach on the nuclear issue. The Rahber told him to make concessions, but if there is no response or accommodation on the other side, he should go
back to being aggressive. So at the end of his presidency, after Ahmadinejad was elected, Iran returned to the aggressive stance.

Q: Regarding the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad has said that he wants to develop the nuclear program for energy, not to make a bomb. Khamenei has also issued a fatwa against building a nuclear bomb. Why should the rest of the world believe them?

A: You know, there is one fundamental thing that people in the West don’t understand about Iran, and if they can understand this one basic concept, they will understand many other things. Look, the government of Iran is an Islamic government. Their view is, if there is something that isn’t even allowed in Sharia, something that Islam does not allow us to do, how can we even think of doing this thing? The Rahber has said this many times, and as you said, issued a fatwa against making a nuclear bomb. He has said that if this is something I give permission for, it can jeopardize my own faith and my own stature as a Muslim. It’s against our moral and religious beliefs. America looks at this issue according to their own mentality. They think, we’re lying, so they must be lying too. You can look through all of the speeches of the Rahber, and you will not find a single instance of deception or lying. He cannot do it. If he lies or does something wrong, he cannot stay the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts would have to replace him.

A: One of the biggest problems that people here have with Ahmadinejad is his stance on Israel and his denial of the Holocaust. It is one thing to be critical of Israeli policy, but what purpose does denying the Holocaust and holding conferences dedicated to Holocaust denial serve
in helping Iran’s interests and relations with the rest of the world?

A: Look, if you listen to his words carefully, he doesn’t say that he accepts or denies the Holocaust. He is a university professor, an academic. He looks at it as a historical event, like any other. He doesn’t understand why each event in recorded history is subjected to research and re-evaluation except for this one. In Denmark, they can make cartoons insulting the Holy Prophet and this is defended as freedom of opinion. But in this case, it is taboo to have any opinions
on this issue.

Q: You do see, though, that there are parallels in the way Muslims feel about the Danish cartoons and the way Jews feel about the Holocaust? It is a very personal, emotional issue for them. Academic debate is one thing, but do you think it serves any kind of purpose when people
in powerful political positions express these opinions? If the goal is to try and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, why should people in political positions highlight an unnecessary issue that would only inflame the other side and complicate the potential for a solution? Wouldn’t it be more effective to put the Holocaust issue aside and just focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

A: Again, many of Ahmadinejad’s statements have been misunderstood. He does not reject the Holocaust. Okay, suppose he says the Holocaust happened just as it is recorded in history, without challenging it. It still happened in Europe, right? Why then are the Palestinian people being punished for it? That is the real question.
Also remember, we have 30,000 Jews living in Iran very peacefully. They like the Iranian government. We have always made a clear distinction between Judaism and Zionism. This is very important. Our opposition is to the Zionists, not to the Jews. We have a lot of respect for Judaism … it is also a religion of God, from Abraham.

Q: What kind of approach do you think the people of Iran want to see from President Obama and the United States during this time?

A: The Iranians have always maintained that that the United States should communicate with them at a level of equality, with mutual respect. They should remember that just as they are a nation, we are also a nation. If the United States talks down to Iran like they are our boss, and want to tell us what to do, we will not listen to a word they say. The same goes for Obama. Obama needs to be more honest.. One one hand, he says that we should improve our relations with Iran, and
on the other, he comes out and says he is very upset with the unjust treatment of these people who are committing violence and vandalism in Tehran. He should open his eyes and see how many supporters there are of the government and the Supreme Leader. These 85% that came out to
vote … whoever they voted for, they are still supporters of the Rahber and the government. They vote because they have faith in the system. He should look in the United States . When has the United States had an 85% voter turnout? What do you have, maybe 40%?

Q: Last year, it was around 60%.

A: Okay, 60%. Why was it higher than usual last year? Because people in America had some hopes and expectations in the last election. They had faith in the system and thought that Obama would come and change things. Iranians have the same support for their system. This is why there was such a high turnout. So Obama needs to be more honest, especially with his own people. He is taking their taxes and sending American soldiers into different countries where they are dying for no
reason, to protect the interests of the rich people in the United States. If Obama can stop this and just take good care of his own people, that is good enough, we will not have any problems with him. The American government spends more time protecting the interests of Zionism than it does the interests of its own people. We have never been against the people in America, just the policies of its government.

Q: My last question is a personal one. You still enjoy a very close relationship with your brother, who lives in the West, is non-religious, and has strong secular beliefs. You on the other hand
live in Qom, and are a few years shy of being a religious scholar at the highest (mujtahid) rank. To what extent, if any, have your stark ideological differences had an effect on your relationship?

A: You know, as I’ve lived and studied here, I have learned many things. My faith teaches me that human beings are the creations of God, and God has created this world and everything in it for human beings. This is very important. God has given human beings a great stature, and thus humanity is of great importance. If there is any ideology that is against this universal concept of humanity … this is what we are at war with. This concept is present in all belief systems. These other systems and religions only differ in how they translate this concept of humanity. We may try to help them understand our beliefs and they will try to help us understand theirs, but we will never fight them. We will only fight those who are enemies of humanity, those who humiliate others, abuse them, make mental and physical slaves of them, or think of them as lesser beings.

I believe that as human beings, we should worship and praise our Creator. But this service to God shouldn’t be of the kind that harms others. For example, you can say that you’re secular, that you don’t believe in a god, and you don’t believe in worship. You don’t think it’s required of you. So your ideology is different. But based on this, we will never clash with each other. Whoever truly understands Islam will never wage war against you for not believing. This is why I will never have a conflict with my brother.
However, if someone’s ideology says that I am a lesser person, that he rules over me, or he’s my boss, we will probably clash with each other. This is what I mean when I say our conflict is not with Jews or Judaism, but with Zionism. We place great importance on this difference.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

A: Thank you. Read more of this post

Interesting insight into the Israeli national mentality


No matter what they say about nuclear weapons possessed by Iran or hostile Arab neighbors who want to drive the Jews into the sea, it’s the least of Israeli worries, just as  Saddam Hussein’s WMDs were no threat to Israel or anyone else for that matter, because they simply didn’t exist. What is interesting is reading what Israel thinks are their problems and why and the list is far more revealing than any I’ve seen to date.  Here they are in the order mentioned in this article Seven Existential Threats.

1.The Loss of Jerusalem; partly due to the absence of Zionists living in the city.

2.The Arab Demographic Threat; Israel must be 70% Zionist in order to be legitimate and Arabs are having too many children

3. Delegitimization; Israel’s sins are receiving world wide attention which is bad for it’s reputation.

4.Terrorism; we’ve heard it all before.

5. A Nuclear-Armed Iran; we’ve heard this all before too.

6.The Hemorrhaging of Sovereignty; Israel doesn’t exert its control over people under its authority.

7.Corruption;The breakdown of public morality especially among it’s leaders.

The blog, War In Context,  does a decent job dismantling some of the above notions but looking at Oren’s list, the originator of the 7 deadly threats to Israel, it appears his biggest complaint and remedy for it is the absence of Zionism and the need for more Zionism.  Not much mention of Judaism as a religion, but rather Zionism as a political movement.  One other line in his piece that brought about a chuckle was this assertion:

Israel, the Jewish State, is predicated on a decisive and stable Jewish majority of at least 70 percent. Any lower than that and Israel will have to decide between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. If it chooses democracy, then Israel as a Jewish state will cease to exist. If it remains officially Jewish, then the state will face an unprecedented level of international isolation, including sanctions, that might prove fatal.

Is he saying democracy is a threat to and not consistent with Israeli interests?  Ohh, America, are you listening?

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