Saturday, June 30, 2007

Irvine Terrorist Plot

I had recently written on this issue at my blog- now its in the LA Times, crazy!

Worshipers say they reported him to authorities after he asked to become a convert and began talking about jihad.
By H.G. Reza, Times Staff Writer
June 30, 2007

At the beginning, worshipers at the Islamic Center of Irvine said, they thought Craig Monteilh was just an overzealous convert when he criticized U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. But when he started talking about jihad and dropped oblique references to violence, congregants contacted authorities.

On Friday, an Orange County judge issued a restraining order barring Monteilh from going near the mosque and its employees. Members of the mosque testified Friday in court that the FBI opened an investigation earlier this month.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny that an investigation was underway.

Monteilh, 44, has not responded to numerous telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment and did not appear at the hearing. He told mosque members he worked as a personal fitness trainer.

In interviews and testimony at Friday's hearing, four men said Monteilh appeared at the Islamic Center in September and said he wanted to convert.

Mohammad Elsisy, a mosque volunteer who teaches Arabic, said Monteilh wanted to be called Farouk Monteilh and appeared eager to learn about Islam.

But earlier this year, Monteilh began shifting religious discussions to jihad, or holy war, talking about "operations" against U.S. military targets, and suggested that he had access to weapons, said Ashruf Zied. No weapons were seen, Zied said in an interview.

"I said, 'Dude, stop right there, What are you talking about?' " said Zied, a software engineer who said that he was born in Ohio and that his father worked for NATO. "I was trying to steer the guy in the right direction. He was talking about something that's taboo."

Zied, who testified at the court hearing, said that he was frightened by Monteilh's rhetoric, and that it was the last discussion between the two.

They used to socialize, but after that talk, Zied said, he changed his phone number so Monteilh could not contact him.

Former Islamic Center president Asim Khan testified that several worshipers felt threatened by Monteilh and that he talked about getting involved "in a 9/11-type operation."

Some stopped attending mosque because of him, Khan said.

"We're members of the American community, and it's our duty as Americans to make law enforcement aware of these activities," he testified.

In an interview, Elsisy recalled driving Monteilh and another Muslim to Friday prayers at King Fahd Mosque in Culver City. The three men discussed the war in Iraq.

"It was a serious discussion. But when [Monteilh] asked if we knew of an operation because he was ready to help us, the conversation stopped," said Elsisy, an architect.

Elsisy said he and the other man reported Monteilh's comments to mosque officials.

The Islamic Center of Irvine has had a contentious relationship with the FBI. Members believe the mosque is under surveillance, a charge that the agency had denied.

J. Stephen Tidwell, FBI assistant director in Los Angeles, presided at a town hall meeting at the mosque in June 2006 and assured the community that there was no monitoring going on.


How DePaul is terrified of the "F-word"

By Evan Lorendo (Senior student at DePaul)

We came to DePaul’s graduation to hold banners saying, “Tenure for Finkelstein and Larudee” and we came to support the twenty five or so graduating seniors that were to hand the president, Fr. Denis Holtschneider, a letter of disapproval instead of shaking his hand. Our plan was to hold the signs up for as long as we could, but to do it silently so we would not be disruptive; and this was actually my biggest fear-not getting the message across with tact. My fears quickly went away as I noticed that the graduation was only fractionally as formal as I expected. There were signs, banners, and airhorns- it seemed more like a party than a graduation and the administration accepted this because the moment was about the students, not DePaul.

We were there as each name was read, A-Z, holding our signs and cheering after each graduate handed the president a letter. The process worked like clockwork- the announcer would read a card, the student would walk across stage, shake the president’s hand/ give him a letter, wave to the camera, and then the next person was up. One by one each graduating senior was allowed to express themselves any way they wanted to, be it having their middle name announced, wearing sunglasses, dancing in front of the camera, hugging the president, or slapping him on the behind. Everything was fair game because this was the student’s graduation. But halfway through the letter ‘S’, there was a long pause. As a bystander, there was an obvious problem and you could see it on the announcer’s face. The student had handed the announcer a card that read ‘Norman Finkelstein’ and she did not know if she should read it or not. Finally you could read her lips on the two jumbotrons- “I can’t read this”. So the student leaned over into the microphone and screamed the words- ‘Norman Finkelstein’. At that moment you could see the demeanor of every administrator on stage change. The student made her point.

Continue article here

Go DePaul students! I greatly respect all you have done to defend and support Prof. N. Finkelstein. Student activism at its best.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Brutal Fatwa's of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

The Brutal Fatwas in Israel
Fahmi Howaidi, Arab News —

While people in Muslim countries have been preoccupied with fatwas (religious rulings) concerning breast-feeding adults, the purity of the Prophet’s urine, and the legality of the recent different types of marriages such as Misyar and Mesfar, perhaps it would be appropriate to take a look at fatwas in Israel. It might give us a chance to compare the two, evaluating the circumstances on both sides.

It is worthy of further consideration to consider the Israeli fatwas that my Palestinian colleague Salih Al-Tuhami observed. Conservative Jewish thought and tradition say that in case the country’s laws contradict the rabbi’s fatwas, the fatwa must be implemented and anything the government says is worthless. That’s the opinion of Rabbi Elie — who is one of Israel’s senior rabbis — who is supported by the majority of his peers.

These Jewish fatwas are responsible for instigating religious Jews against Arabs. Last year, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief rabbi and an influential authority among conservative Jews, issued a fatwa asking the Israeli Army not to flinch from killing Palestinian civilians in the context of the ongoing military campaign against armed groups resisting the occupation. He mentioned in his fatwa, which received special attention from religious media outlets and hundreds of pamphlets distributed inside synagogues in Israel. that all Palestinians must be murdered, even the ones who are not participating in the war against terrorism. This wasn’t enough for the revered rabbi, who said that this was not only a fatwa, but a religious duty from God that Jews must follow.

After that, one of the most important Jewish rabbis issued a fatwa that allowed his students in one of the Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank to steal the agricultural produce grown by Palestinians. It said that everything in the West Bank belongs to the Jews, giving them the right to confiscate such properties. This fatwa was implemented and his students confiscated the agricultural yield of the Palestinians.

Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat-Arba, did the same when he issued a fatwa that allowed Jewish settlers to poison the livestock and water wells owned by Palestinians in neighboring cities and villages. The settlers didn’t hesitate in implementing the fatwa. Not a single day passed without Palestinians finding dead sheep and poisoned water.

On the other hand, a group of prominent Jewish rabbis addressed the Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, saying that killing enemy civilians was “normal” during wartime and that the Israeli Army should never hesitate to kill non-Jewish civilians in order to save Jewish lives. “There is no war in the world in which it is possible to delineate neatly between the population and the enemy’s army, neither in the US war in Iraq, the Russian war in Chechnya, nor in Israel’s war with its enemies,” the rabbis said.

The rabbis quoted a Talmudic ruling, which states “Our lives come first.” In their famous letter, the rabbis warned against what they called Christian preaching in dealing with conflict. “The Christian preaching of ‘turning the other cheek’ doesn’t concern us, and we will not be impressed by those who prefer the lives of our enemies to our lives,” they said.

These tense times have influenced a number of other fatwas from rabbis about underestimating the lives of Arabs and humiliating them. Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported on July 25, 2002 that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the current spiritual leader of the Shas political party in the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), said that until Christ the Savior arrives, he will send all Arabs to hellfire. “Why doesn’t Ariel Sharon do what needs to be done? He’s scared of the people of the world. But when the Savior Christ comes, he won’t fear anyone. He will send all the Arabs to hell.” Yosef described Arabs as snakes and said Jews should not trust them.

It’s no wonder that one of the rabbis — Isaac Ginzburg — published a book entitled “Baruch the Hero” to immortalize the name of Dr. Baruch Goldstein who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Arab attendants of the Ibrahimi Mosque (within the Cave of the Patriarchs) and wounding another 150 in a shooting attack.

As for Rabbi Eli Albaz, who is one of the distinctive Eastern rabbis, he never misses an opportunity to attack Islam and condemn the Prophet (pbuh). He insists on complaining in front of his audience by telling jokes that address Muslims and Palestinians and using filthy language to attack Muslims. And Rabbi Eliyahu Reskin continuously ridicules the reconciliation attempts to create dialogue between Jewish rabbis and Arab officials. He believes that the only language of dialogue between Muslims and Jews should be bullets. He feels that without convincing the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians specifically, settlement can’t be forced upon Israel so the efforts of peace are worthless.

It’s true that from a legal perspective, the rabbis’ fatwas concerning political issues don’t exert much influence. But their words, that come from their religious backgrounds, have a huge impact especially with the increasing dominance of religious parties that have developed tremendous political power that cannot be underestimated. Therefore, their fatwas influence more than religious people and are used to pressure political decisions. It’s true that conservatives, whether the followers of Zionism or from the ultra-Orthodox movement, make up 28 percent of the Israeli population, yet more than 50 percent of the inhabitants of the country introduce themselves as conservatives. These people empathize greatly with Jewish religious authorities and pay attention to what they say.

What’s interesting is that all the laws and systems in Israel have never tried, not even once, to address those rabbis or question them about their racial discrimination. Not only that, but these rabbis, who are involved in this discrimination, are given great prominence in Israeli politics. Decision makers in Israel compete with each other to earn the endorsement of rabbis, and to be close to them.

When one examines these fatwas and their influence in instigating and serving the Zionist schemes and its evil goals, one can’t help but feel sad and bitter when compared with the fatwas that are preoccupying Muslim scholars. The latter provoke gossip among people and divert their attention from what’s vital and fateful, making them regress instead of moving forward.

I pray to God to enlighten our scholars and guide them.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Three State Solution

I want to thank Dan Dan for a great article he forwarded to me. Brilliant analysis, worth taking your time to read:

Palestinians acting out a neocon script
Francis Kornegay

TO EXIST or not to exist: that is the question Israel and its backers cannot avoid revisiting as Hamas assumes full control of Gaza. The question of Israel’s right to exist is one that Tel Aviv and everyone else assumed had long been settled in the affirmative until the inconvenient electoral ascendancy of Hamas in occupied Palestine and its resolute refusal to recognise the Jewish state. No matter how much Hamas is made to suffer for its temerity in placing the question of Israel’s existence back on the table, it is a question not likely to go away no matter how much Tel Aviv, Washington, the European Union and “moderate Arabs” insist on making a puppet out of a compliant Mahmoud Abbas West Bank “emergency” regime.

Not everyone is buying this “divide-and-rule” script. It is widely recognised that there can be no Israeli-Palestinian settlement without the Hamas Islamists. However, before unpacking the political logic of revisiting the question of Israel’s existence, it is instructive to consider the ruthlessly cynical politics of manipulation that brought the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum to this juncture.

Israeli journalist Uri Avnery has alluded to US-Israeli collusion with Fatah in arming it to take on Hamas — against the wishes of Israeli army chiefs . Israel’s military brass feared, as Avnery puts it, “the arms might end up in the hands of Hamas (as is happening now). But (the Israeli) government obeyed US orders, as usual.” Well, there is more to this story. Does the name Elliott Abrams ring a bell?

Abrams, a flaming pro-Likud neoconservative fanatic of Iran-Contra infamy, is the key architect of this latest Israel-Palestinian “three-state” scenario. As deputy national security adviser on Middle Eastern affairs in the White House, Abrams reportedly greeted a group of Palestinian businessmen last year with the idea of executing a “hard coup” against the newly elected Hamas government by supplying US arms to Fatah. According to Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke, writing at the beginning of the year in Asia Times Online, “over the past 12 months, the US has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank”. Thousands of rifles and bullets poured into Gaza and the West Bank from Egypt and Jordan under the guise of “assist(ing) the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling its commitments under the road map to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order.…

“Arab moderates” in Cairo and Amman went along with the programme , even though they didn’t believe it would work and it came in for “attack throughout the Arab world — particularly among America’s closest allies.” Incredibly, this crackpot scheme went ahead despite virtually everyone in the US foreign policy, intelligence and security establishment disowning it. This is testimony to neocon resilience in the Bush administration, despite their rapid erosion over the past year.

Moreover, as Abrams’ positioning indicates, they continue to be strategically placed to render rearguard resistance to more moderate policies and strategies. The fact of the matter is, they do not want a peace settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict unless it is on Israel’s terms. This largely accounts for the rise of Hamas and the decline of Fatah. The script goes like this: US acquiescence in Israel’s humiliation and undermining of Yasser Arafat and his PLO/PA regime to the benefit of Hamas Islamism, which Israelis and Americans alike knew would take a rejectionist stance on recognising Israel. This, in turn, would give pretext to further degrade Palestinian statehood under the guise of not having anyone on the Palestinian side to negotiate with.

Use Hamas’s rejectionism to justify putting further pressure on Palestinians in an effort to undermine the Palestinian Authority while fomenting civil war between Hamas and Fatah. Back Fatah over Hamas with the aim of producing a US/Israeli-dependent Palestinian regime to accept “peace” on Israeli terms — or a continued “no war, no peace” situation of Israeli dominance and occupation given the possible destabilisation that could come from uprooting Israeli settlers in the West Bank. All of which has helped Hamas’s credibility on the “Arab street” throughout the Middle East, due to its incorruptible, resolute nationalism.

Worse for US credibility is the alignment of Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraqi Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army as the new nationalist pan-Islamic forces of democratic resistance against Washington and London’s sectarian geopolitics of pitting Sunni “moderates” against Shiites in the battle to reshape the region’s political terrain; a strategy new Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair helped shape as UK prime minister.

Israel’s relentless settler expansionism in, and evisceration of, Palestine effectively calls into question whether Palestinians will ever have their legitimate national rights within a viable state fulfilled. In short, if Palestine is to have no “right to exist” as a result of western acquiescence to Israel’s “facts on the ground”, Hamas rejection of Israel’s existence flows logically from the follow-up question of what “Israel” Palestinians are to recognise: pre-1967 Israel or post-Six Day War Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights?

Unless this question can be answered to the satisfaction of Palestinians, the ultimate default alternative is a non-sectarian, democratic binational Israeli-Palestinian state. This may be the only antidote available to the bane of religio-nationalism in the Middle East introduced by Zionism. Hence: to exist or not to exist, that is the begging question.

Francis Kornegay is a senior researcher on foreign affairs at the Centre for Policy Studies.

On the authority of Abu Malik Al-Harith bin Asim Al-Ashari said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

"Purity is half of faith. alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scales, and subhana-Allah [How far is Allah from every imperfection] and alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fill that which is between heaven and earth. Prayer is light; charity is a proof; patience is illumination; and the Quran is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin."


Monday, June 25, 2007

"This Week in Palestine"

By Guest Blogger Rose Mishaan

It has been a pretty eventful week and a half. After the Hamas "coup" of Gaza, the Fatah forces have been making their presence known in the West Bank -- mostly in the form of many armed guards standing around the main square and various government buildings in Ramallah and occasionally masked men with rifles riding around town in jeeps. The situation seems to have stabilized somewhat, at least here. I can't say much for those trapped in Gaza with no way in, no way out, no aid, no food, and no fuel.

Aside from the sectarian fighting, the occupation is alive and well. I cross the Qalandia checkpoint twice a day on my way to and from work in Jerusalem. Its a two-hour trek to get to Jerusalem, usually an hour to go back. The checkpoint ordeal can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45+ minutes, depending on the political climate, holidays, or just the mood of the soldiers at the time. Lately they've started adding another temporary checkpoint about 100 meters after the first one. here they come on the bus and check all the IDs again, sometimes just stand outside the door and hold the bus up and don't check IDs, and sometimes take people off the bus, even after they have cleared the main checkpoint.

As part of my internship, I went to survey the aftermath of 4 house demolitions last week, around Jerusalem. The tactic of house demolitions is one way that the [apartheid] Israeli government has been trying to "Judaize" Jerusalem and drive Palestinians off the land. They are devastating. The government can demolish a house with little or no warning on the basis that the family did not get a permit to build. The problem is, it is virtually impossible for Palestinians to get building permits from the municipality, even when they own the land and plan to do the construction themselves. ICAHD (the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), the organization I am working with this summer has started a campaign to rebuild every Palestinian house that is destroyed by the [apartheid] Israeli government this year. They are doing this as a political act of resistance against the occupation and the policy of house demolitions. At the campaign launch, we went to the house of a woman in the old city of Jerusalem. She had lived there for many years, after her family's house was destroyed when the Mughrabi Quarter of old Jerusalem was leveled to make room for a plaza in front of the Wailing Wall, in 1967. Those living in the Mughrabi Quarter were largely refugees from the 1948 Nakbe (catastrophe). She showed us her house and how she had tried to make improvements to the house, and how the army came and tore them down -- including the ceiling in her front room, which to this day she has not been able to rebuild.

The rubble of the houses was hard to take. strewn among the bricks, cement, and tiles, were personal possessions, bed sheets, toys, furniture. The first place we visited: the house had been destroyed that morning. The family was wandering through the ruins, somewhat dazed. They were building the house on land that they owned. The last one was on a family's property that they had owned for over 300 years. They had the deeds to prove this. Their main home was left standing, but the addition that they were building to house their extended family, was demolished.

Yesterday, I headed to the town of Bil'in in the West Bank, to go to a weekly protest by the villagers against the building of the wall through their land. Several hundred people participate in this protest weekly, waving flags, marching, and chanting. As we marched down the road, you could see the army and police convoys in the distance -- a solid wall of soldiers in the distance. The people stop as they approach the soldiers. They stand there with arms up to show they are unarmed and then continue to chant in Hebrew and Arabic. Eventually, the soldiers start shooting tear gas through the crowd. People run back. Some that are willing to risk arrest stay up front and refuse to be pushed back. As people run back, you can hear the tear gas canisters whizzing around, and see them landing in the midst of the protesters. For those of us new to the protest, like myself, this is a scary experience. The canisters can hit people and burn them or otherwise injure them. The gas is very uncomfortable and there are always a few people who need medical attention. The Red Cross/Crescent folks always accompany the protesters and assist those that are injured. For those that come here every week, this is normal. They are used to it. When the shooting subsides, they return to meet the soldiers again. Then the soldiers start firing live ammunition as "warning shots" and try arresting people. This week they got two. Then the jeeps drive down the road towards the town, as the protesters run back again. The soldiers fire more tear gas and start shooting rubber bullets (kind of a misnomer, since rubber bullets are just steel bullets with a layer of rubber around them. They can, and have, killed people. By this point, I have decided to hang toward the back, as I don't think my stomach, or my nerves, can take another round of tear gas and shooting.

At the end of the day, we are all weary from the ordeal. The villagers return to their homes, the internationals head back to their various centers of operation, and the wall stands. Next Friday they will try again.

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Cup Poems" from Gitmo: The Detainees Speak

Humiliated In The Shackles
By Sami al Hajj*

When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.

The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.

Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,

They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.

America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
Bush, beware.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.

I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?

My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.

Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous.

* "An Al-Jazeera cameraman, Sami al Hajj, a Sudanese, was visiting his brother in Damascus after the 11 September attacks when he got a call asking him to go to Pakistan to cover the impending war in Afghanistan. Instead, he ended up in Guantanamo where he claims he has been severely and regularly beaten, scarring his face."

Full story here

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Museum of [In]Tolerance

On June 19, 2007, the Museum of Tolerance in LA hosted a program commemorating the UN's Day in Support of Victims of Torture. S. Shaiq, an active member of the So. Cal. Muslim community (and a good friend of mine), decided to keep an open mind and check out the event. She posted her thoughts on her blog, part of which I copied below:

I really want to be a tolerant person...and I really pride myself on being very open minded and self-critical of even my own personal views...I'm obviously not perfect, but I'm trying.

I went to an event at the Museum of Tolerance this week and I was purely dismayed by how hypocritical they are. I had heard some rumors about them but I didn't want to believe them and went in with a very open/clean slate.

I really haven't felt like this in a long time but that day I really felt like I (or things I believed in or stood for) were being attacked or villanized. It was just unnecessary and it was so implicitly shown that to some it may seem like I'm just making a big deal out of nothing but when something can make an otherwise not sensitive person feel scrutinized or attacked than i think it should be looked at twice. I mean if we want to learn anything from history than we should really re-evaluate the demonization of and generalization of any set of peoples.

For example we watched this short film called 'In our time' that kind of went over different genocides in recent history and how we can never let these things happen again 'in our time'. So when they showed the genocide in the Balkans they had a caption up that said 'Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims all killed each other'- so why not mention Serb Christians, Croat Christians, and Bosnian Muslims if you're going to bring religion into it, especially since the Muslims were the ones that were offended the most in that situation. And then of course they brought in the Darfur situation and said that Arab Muslims were killing Darfurians, which implies that the Darfurians are not Muslim, when in fact they again villanizing Muslims as though they were the aggressors in this situation against innocent non-Muslims.

Continue here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Hamas Wants

THE events in Gaza over the last few days have been described in the West as a coup. In essence, they have been the opposite. Eighteen months ago, our Hamas Party won the Palestinian parliamentary elections and entered office under Prime Minister Ismail Haniya but never received the handover of real power from Fatah, the losing party. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has now tried to replace the winning Hamas government with one of his own, returning Fatah to power while many of our elected members of Parliament languish in [apartheid]Israeli jails. That is the real coup.
Read on at: NY Times

Monday, June 18, 2007

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee."
~Emily Dickinson

The season of freedom is upon us. Books closed, classes dismissed, exams taken and forgotten. Endless days stretching before us, the heat pressing in close, the laziness stirring in our bones. As students, we wile away our days away - taking vacations, working half-heartedly, relaxing in air-conditioned rooms.

Summer was once a flash point for passion and civic engagement - look at what one fateful summer in the '60s did - the passion of the people flowing into the streets, the heat creating tensions that found expression through violent upheaval. It changed the fabric of a nation, and affected generations to come.

Last summer, apartheid Israel invaded Lebanon and devastated a nation, while starving the Palestinians into extreme poverty. Thousands of innocents died. We stood out on the streets and waved flags and passed out brochures, and hoped our work on a grassroots level would mean something.

It seems as if we would rather forward emails and passionately discuss what we know little about then take this time to live our convictions. To learn, to grow, to stand for something. And so it seems empty - endless summer days, wasting away...while our world goes to hell.

What if apartheid Israel invades Palestine?
What if more Afghanis die?
What if the situation in Iraq gets even worse?
What if the Democrats running are atrocious, and the Republicans even worse?
What if more Guantanamo Bay detainees attempt suicide?
What if we continue to contribute to global warming?
What if our morals lose meaning, and our generation loses its way?
What if we cease to care?

Maybe we don't, already. Summer seems to be a time for passion, for heat, for light -let's hope we use it to do something with ourselves. To become catalysts for change in a world that desperately needs us.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Robert Fisk: Welcome to 'Palestine'

How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today "Palestine" - and let's keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise [apartheid] Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

No one asked - on our side - which particular [apartheid] Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" still left to negotiate over?

And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the "moderate" (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word "occupation", who always referred to Israeli "redeployment" rather than "withdrawal", a "leader" we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas's bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas's Fatah and the rotten nature of the "Palestinian Authority".

I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an [apartheid] Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer "Palestine" EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our "war on terror" in the wastelands of Helmand province).
Read on at: The Independant

Thursday, June 14, 2007

US House congratulates Israel for occupation

From this article by Stephen Zunes; June 8, 2007

In a flagrant attack on the longstanding international legal principle that it is illegitimate for any country to expand its territory by military means, the U.S. House of Representatives, by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, passed House Concurrent Resolution 152 congratulating Israel for its forcible "reunification of Jerusalem" and its victory in the June 1967 war.

The resolution, passed by a voice vote on June 5 -- the 40th anniversary of the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem and other Arab territories -- states that U.S. policy should recognize that Jerusalem is "the undivided capital of Israel." There is no mention that Jerusalem -- which has the largest Palestinian population of any city and which for centuries served as the commercial, cultural, education and religious center for Palestinian life -- should also be recognized as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The resolution was sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA), widely recognized as the Democratic Party's chief foreign policy spokesman, and co-sponsored by such Democratic Party foreign policy leaders as Howard Berman (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D- NY), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), and Middle East subcommittee chairman Gary Ackerman (D-NY).


Whatever the position of the U.S. Congress might be, however, the fact remains that the residents of East Jerusalem never voluntarily ceded sovereignty to Israel through a referendum or other methods; their part of the city was seized by military force. By any definition, this constitutes a military occupation.

To this day, Israeli occupation forces patrol the streets and engage in ongoing human rights abuses against residents who oppose Israeli rule continue. The Israeli government has confiscated or destroyed homes and other property belonging to longstanding Muslim and Christian residents of the city. Several UN bodies, along with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights organizations have frequently cited Israel for its ongoing violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in East Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Despite this, the House resolution commends Israel for having "respected the rights of all religious groups" during its 40-year occupation.


There is more at stake here than Israeli-Palestinian peace. It is very dangerous, in this era of American military dominance, for such a large majority of Congress to go on record challenging the principles enshrined in the UN Charter that international boundaries be recognized on the basis of law, not the force of arms.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brave Palestinian Child

32 second video with Qur'anic recitation by Shaykh Mishary Rashid Al-`Afasy

Monday, June 11, 2007

One less glass ceiling...

Benazir Bhutto is a controversial figure, and one whom I must admit I don't know much about. I've just started reading her autobiography and was inspired and moved by the stories she recounts in the preface. I do know that there are many dimensions to her story and to her life. Still, I cannot help but respect Bhutto for her courage and determination. Read with an open mind:

"I am a woman proud of my cultural and religious heritage. I feel a special personal obligation to contrast the true Islam - the religion of tolerance and pluralism - with the caricature of my faith that terrorists have hijacked. I know that I am a symbol of what the so-called 'Jihadists', Taliban and al-Qaeda, most fear. I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education, and technology to Pakistan. I believe that a democratic Pakistan can become a symbol of hope to more than one billion Muslims around the world who must choose between the forces of the past and the forces of the future."

"The political battles that I fought were always for an end. The goals centered on liberty and social justice. And those values are definitely worth fighting for. But I do believe my career has been more challenging because I am a woman. Clearly it's not easy for women in modern society, no matter where we live. We still have the extra mile to prove that we are equal to men. We have to work longer hours and make more sacrifices"

" Once the political opposition learned I was pregnant, all hell broke loose. They called on the President and the military to overthrow me. They argued that Pakistan's rules did not provide for a pregnant Prime Minister going on maternity leave. "

" I rejected the opposition's demands, noting that maternity rules existed in the law for working women (my father had legislated maternity leave)."

" Hardly mollified, the opposition drew up a plan of strikes to pressure the President into sacking the government. I had to make my own plans. My father had taught me that in politics timing is very important. I consulted my doctor who assured me that my child was full term and, with his permission, decided to have a Cesarean delivery on the eve of the call for strike action."

"I received thousands of messages of congratulations from all over the world. Heads of government and ordinary people wrote to me, sharing the joy. Especially for young women it was a defining moment, proving a woman could work and have a baby in the highest and most challenging leadership positions. The next day I was back on the job, reading government papers and signing government files. Only later did I learn that I was the only head of government in recorded history to actually give birth while in office. That's one less glass ceiling for women Prime Ministers in the future to have to break."

From preface of Benazir Bhutto's autobiography Daughter of The East, May 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

For All of the Brothers Out There

Diagnosis: 'Wiiitis'

It was only a matter of time. Twenty years after the dread "Nintendo thumb" swept through a then-NES-mad nation, a term for a new game-related ailment has been coined. The June 7 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine features an article describing a condition thousands of gamers are likely suffering from.

In a letter to the editor, Dr. Julio Bonis, a self-described "healthy 29-year-old medical resident," outlines how he "awoke one Sunday morning with intense pain in the right shoulder. " The good doctor had engaged in no athletic activity during the days prior, nor had he suffered any injuries or trauma that could cause the pain. However, a rheumatologist diagnosed Bonis with "acute tendinitis isolated to the right infraspinatus."

After picking his brain, Bonis "recalled that he had bought a new Nintendo Wii...and had spent several hours playing the tennis video game." He then diagnosed himself with "acute Wiiitis," a term he coined after hearing similar complains of aches from colleagues who had played Wii Sports.

"It is probably an under diagnosed condition," Bonis told the Retuers news service. He explained that, unlike real sports, Wii players might not become fatigued before they self-inflict repetitive-motion injuries. Also, due to the fact different Wii games work different muscles, joints, and ligaments, he warned that "physicians should be aware that there may be multiple, possibly puzzling presentations of Wiiitis."

Friday, June 8, 2007

“Women are the Associates of Men.”

Many of you see the students of knowledge on the web, read their works and hold them in high accord. I want to remind you all that there is someone more important behind many of these students of knowledge, Imams and teachers and that is the ladies in their lives. . . .

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Like Make-up?

For those ladies who like to wear makeup every now and then but don't want to sacrifice your commitment to social justice:

The Body Shop offers makeup that is fair trade, animal testing free, and raises money to stop domestic violence! They sell non-alcoholic scented oils too.

Check it out at: The Body Shop Values

Credit: Emaan T.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Pakistani Army

Last night we were watching PTV, and my mom made a really interesting observation to add to my list of 27 reasons why people choose to leave Pakistan bringing the total to 28.

A lot of vacant jobs are filled by ex-military personnel: retired major so-and-so, retired captain this-and-that, retired colonel whats-his-name.

So where do the young and extremely talented go? If they have the means, they leave the country. If they don't, they are forced to take up menial jobs, or they starve.

Does the Pakistani government see any of this?
Of course not, because the army IS the government.

Looking forward to reading Military Incorporated by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa.

While I am on the topic, why don't I just throw this question out there....

What is better for the people....a corrupt democracy or a righteous dictatorship?

Friday, June 1, 2007

The rare American imam

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. — Sheik Yassir Fazaga regularly uses a standard American calendar to provide inspiration for his weekly Friday sermon.

Around Valentine’s Day this year, he talked about how the Koran endorses romantic love within certain ethical parameters. (As opposed to say, clerics in Saudi Arabia, who denounce the banned saint’s day as a Satanic ritual.)

On World AIDS Day, he criticized Muslims for making moral judgments about the disease rather than helping the afflicted, and on International Women’s Day he focused on domestic abuse.

“My main objective is to make Islam relevant,” said Sheik Fazaga, 34, who went to high school in Orange County, which includes Mission Viejo, and brings a certain American flair to his role as imam in the mosque here.

As a previous member of "Sheikh Fazaga"'s community, I whole heartedly agree with many of the statements in the article. In fact, the OC Muslim community is a privileged one because of its many religious and community leaders who are going the extra mile to share the message of Islam in a relevant and refreshing manner; Sheikh Yassir is only one example, but an excellent one.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about communities in the Arab world. Although the issue of first- and second-generation immigrants is not present, religious sermons are still mostly superficial and completely irrelevant. One is likely to hear a khutbah (sermon) about respecting elders or performing prayers, but not about global poverty, hunger, AIDS, justice, corruption, democracy,... Many immigrant imams in the US are only reiterating what they are used to "back home", which is usually just as irrelevant there as it is in the US.

Even worse, in a growing number of countries in the Arab world, religious sermons are very closely scrutinized by the government to that extent that imams no longer have a say in what they discuss during their sermons. The text of the khutbah is distributed to the imams beforehand by the religious authority and most imams just read it out-loud.

No wonder I'm sitting here blogging away instead of getting ready for Friday prayer. I think I was spoilt by So. Cal. khutbahs.