Thursday, May 31, 2007

Funny, America is the LEAST peaceful nation between Iran and Yemen, how Ironic


Published on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 by Reuters

New Peace Index Ranks US Among Worst Nations by Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON- The United States is among the least peaceful nations in the world, ranking 96th between Yemen and Iran, according to a new index released on Wednesday that evaluates 121 nations based on their peacefulness.According to the Global Peace Index, created by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Norway is the most peaceful nation in the world and Iraq is the least, just after Russia, Israel and Sudan.

"The objective of the Global Peace Index was to go beyond a crude measure of wars by systemically exploring the texture of peace," said Global Peace Index President Clyde McConaghy.

He said the inaugural effort proves "peace can and has and will continue to be measured."

The index was compiled based on 24 indicators measuring peace inside and outside of a country. They included the number of wars a country was involved in the past five years, how many soldiers were killed overseas and how much money was made in arms sales.

Domestic indicators included the level of violent crimes, relations with neighboring countries and level of distrust in other citizens.

The results were then reviewed by a panel of international experts.

"We were trying to find out what positive qualities lead to peace," said Leo Abruzzese, the North American editorial director of the intelligence unit that is part of The Economist Group that publishes the well known magazine.

He said they found in general the most peaceful countries were the smallest, the most politically stable and democratic.

"Democracy didn't actually correlate with peace, but a well-functioning democracy did. Efficient, accountable government seems to be the leading determinant of peace. Beyond that, income helps."

Fifteen of the top 20 most peaceful nations are in Western Europe, and countries with higher income appeared to lead to higher levels of peace, he said.

The United States ranked 96th out of 121 nations, just worse than Yemen and just better than Iran, Honduras and South Africa.

Abruzzese said the United States' score was pulled down by the number of wars it is involved in, large numbers of soldiers killed on the battlefield and high defense spending.

He said the fact the United States has the world's largest prison population per share of overall population also pulled down the score.

"It also has relatively high levels of violent crime,"
he added.

McConaghy said the index would be revised each year and increase the number of countries included. Some countries like Afghanistan and North Korea were not included in the first index because reliable data for all 24 indicators was not available.

121 GPI rankings

Countries most at peace ranked first
1 Norway 1.357
2 New Zealand 1.363
3 Denmark 1.377
4 Ireland 1.396
5 Japan 1.413
6 Finland 1.447
7 Sweden 1.478
8 Canada 1.481
9 Portugal 1.481
10 Austria 1.483

22 Oman 1.641

25 Australia 1.664

30 Qatar 1.702

37 Malaysia 1.744
38 United Arab Emirates 1.747
39 Tunisia 1.762

46 Kuwait 1.818

48 Morocco 1.893
49 United Kingdom 1.898

58 Libya 1.967
59 Cuba 1.968
60 China 1.980
61 Kazakhstan 1.995
62 Bahrain 1.995
63 Jordan 1.997

73 Egypt 2.068

77 Syria 2.106
78 Indonesia 2.111
79 Mexico 2.125

89 El Salvador 2.244
90 Saudi Arabia 2.246

92 Turkey 2.272
93 Guatemala 2.285
94 Trinidad andTobago 2.286
95 Yemen 2.309
96 United States of America 2.317
97 Iran 2.320
98 Honduras 2.390

109 India 2.530

114 Lebanon 2.662
115 Pakistan 2.697

119 Israel 3.033
120 Sudan 3.182
121 Iraq 3.437

Who is this famous Qur'an Reciter?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cindy Sheehan "Resigns"

FORT WORTH, Texas - Cindy Sheehan, the soldier's mother who galvanized an anti-war movement with her month-long protest outside President Bush's ranch, said Tuesday she's done being the public face of the movement.

"I've been wondering why I'm killing myself and wondering why the Democrats caved in to George Bush," Sheehan told The Associated Press while driving from her property in Crawford to the airport, where she planned to return to her native California.

"I'm going home for awhile to try and be normal," she said.

In what she described as a "resignation letter," Sheehan wrote in her online diary on the Daily Kos blog: "Good-bye America ... you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it.

"It's up to you now."

Sheehan began a grass roots peace movement in August 2005 when she camped outside Bush's Crawford ranch for 26 days, demanding to talk with the president about her son's death. Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was 24 when he was killed in an ambush in Baghdad in 2004.
. . .
When Sheehan first took on Bush, she was a darling of the liberal left. "However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used," she wrote in the diary.

She said she sacrificed a 29-year marriage and endured threats to put all her energy into stopping the war. What she found, she wrote, was a movement "that often puts personal egos above peace and human life."

She said the most devastating conclusion she had reached "was that Casey did indeed die for nothing ... killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think."
Read the full story at: Yahoo News

Monday, May 28, 2007

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

Workers of the World Unite Against Starbucks
Last week Starbucks faced legal and political trouble from its own workers. On the third anniversary of the founding of the IWW Starbucks Union, baristas in Chicago marched into a shop and told the manager they were signing up. (Starbucks workers have chosen to organize without government-mediated elections, through an interesting model called "solidarity unionism.")
. . .
The baristas are asking for better wages (some make as little as $8.75 an hour even in costly Manhattan), guaranteed hours with the option to work full-time and more affordable health insurance. (Despite widely-believed corporate spin to the contrary, Starbucks insures a smaller percentage of its workforce than Wal-Mart.)
Read on at: AlterNet

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lead in Kohl !!

In recent months, the Health Department has investigated five lead poisoning cases among children and pregnant women who used these products. They can cause lead poisoning when accidentally ingested. Children are at special risk because they may put hands in their mouths after touching these cosmetics on their faces. Lead is a toxic metal that damages the brain, nervous system, kidneys and reproductive system. Lead poisoning can also cause problems in pregnancy and can lead to learning and behavior problems in young children.
For complete press release, please check out: NYC Health

Friday, May 25, 2007

In the year that ends with a "6"

Immigration has been a hot button issue. 1776...we saw the creation of the United States and an effective immigration policy began (yeh, being sarcastic). 1846, the US declares war on Mexico and a peace treaty is signed where the US buys what is now California, Nevada, New Mexico, parts of Colorado and also Texas from Mexico for what is now an estimated 276 million dollars- that was a bargain deal! In 1946 over half a million European displaced peoples were allowed into the US with no hold bar...The Immigration Act of 1966 ended the Chinese Exclusion act which barred any Chinese from entering the US and also opened the doors to my parents and many other skilled and well educated immigrants to come to the United States...1976 Amnesty program offered by Carter and once again in 1986 Reagan thought he could solve the program...fed up in 1996 Clinton militirized the border by building a forty mile fence starting at the Pacific Ocean and heading 40 miles inland...then we got 2006 where the immigrants take to the streets, so is this going to be a lucky year this year in 2007 are we going to have immigration reform? Not certain, the bill is far from reasonable, but the Senate has began to debate the issue.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stanford and Davis students need your help!

I received an email with the below calls of action. Stanford and UC Davis students, if you have more details on the situation please keep us updated. MSAs, please represent.

Students, Alumni, and Community Members are Sitting In at UC Davis!
Today at noon, 15 students, alumni, and community members fromUniversity of California Davis entered their Chancellor's office,refusing to leave until UC Davis commits that both career and studentworkers currently contracted out will become directly employed by UCDavis. These students are still there, and they need our support.Please call and email the Chancellor of UC Davis, Larry Vanderhoef,and tell him that UC Davis needs to give the workers direct UC Davisemployment and refrain from taking any disciplinary action against the15 students.

Support Arrested Students at Stanford!
Yesterday, 11 students at Stanford were arrested for peacefullydemonstrating inside of their president's office. Instead of listeningto their students, and taking steps to ensure that the rights ofworkers producing for their university were respected, theadministration responded by silencing students and having them removedfrom the building. Please call and email President Hennessy to letStanford know that silencing students and condoning sweatshopexploitation is unacceptable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


While the movie has met with high praise at the festival in France, Moore himself is quite aware of the trouble brewing back home.

''I know the storm awaits me back in the United States,'' said Moore to journalists and critics at Cannes after the film's screening.

Moore may now be legally liable for the trip undertaken to Cuba for the purposes of the movie. The director is under investigation by the US Treasury Department for possible violations of the US trade embargo on Cuba.

While some argue this is good publicity, Michael Moore takes a different view, ''I'm the one who's personally being investigated, and I'm the one who's personally liable for potential fines or jail, so I don't take it as lightly,'' he said.

Moore expects that audiences are "not going to focus on Cuba or Fidel Castro" but are going to be more interested that "al Qaeda detainees are receiving better health care" than 9/11 rescue-workers, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

Yet the trip itself is only a small part of the documentary that questions why 45 million people in the richest country in the world cannot afford health care.

Read on at

Food Update

Earlier this month, Frito-Lay updated their website. Check this out for a list of their products that are free of "porcine enzymes." The products listed are essentially free of ingredients derived from pork, not all animals. So if you are a Zabihah adherent, this information is of no use to you!

(Please note: certain favorites like the Flaming Hot Cheetos are NOT on the pork free list. So make sure to read carefully.)

"Some of the UK's best-selling chocolate bars, such as Mars and Twix, will no longer be suitable for vegetarians.

Also affecting brands such as Snickers and Maltesers, owner Masterfoods said it had started to use animal product rennet to make its chocolate products.
. . .
Masterfoods said it had started using rennet from 1 May and non-affected products had a "best before date" up to 1 October."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

PewResearch Center today published on their website a survey on American Muslims. The results shows that "Muslim Americans are a highly diverse population, one largely composed of immigrants. Nonetheless, they are decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes. This belief is reflected in Muslim American income and education levels, which generally mirror those of the public." If you are really curious, check out the full 108 page report.

The full report is sliced and diced so many different ways, I will have to get back to this to comment.

Palestinian camps in Lebanon under attack...again

"The situation has calmed down now – from a half hour ago. For the past two days, and since 4 am this morning, there have been lots of attacks. Homes attacked. Homes burned. People injured. Children hit. Youth killed. The situation is very bad. No electricity for the past 2 days. There is no water. There is nothing. We don’t have a hospital in the camp. There is a small clinic – that people can’t access – there is nothing in the clinic to cover the casualties and the wounded. The camp is 1 km2 – 35,000 people living in this space. And if you can imagine, 35,000 people living in the camp and their homes are being attacked/bombed. The situation is very bad. And very difficult.As you know, there are attacks and people are getting injured – the children are scared. The young children want to play; they don’t understand that there is a war; they can’t play; there is fear; it cannot be described, it is beyond description.As I told you, there is no water. The food supplies are decreasing. People can’t leave the camp; people can’t come into the camp. And the camp is very small and people weren’t expecting that this would happen; people weren’t taking their precautions [referring to stocking up on supplies]"

Read more here (including insightful analysis of situation).

How much more will the civilians have to suffer? How much longer will politicians continue to toy with Lebanon's stability to futher their own interests? This is insane.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

At the Rafah border...

Rafah, Gaza

Young children blissfully flew handmade kites above the iron wall separating them from the Egyptian Rafah. Their atbaq (frisbees) flirted in the infinite sky above with kites flying their way from the Egyptian side. "We play a game with the Egyptian kids" they explained of their unseen counterparts. "We meet here, through our kites, and see who can catch the other's kites quicker by entangling. So far we're winning -- we've got 14 Egyptian kites," he announced proudly.The children are small enough that they can wiggle their way through the cracks of the large iron gates along the wall, where once Merkava tanks made their unwelcome entrance to battered camps here. And so they can call out to their Egyptian friends, and learn their names and new kite flying techniques.

Here for more including what the grown-ups were doing in the meantime.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Senators Strike Immigration Deal

The "Deal" Offers:
  • New renewable four-year Z visa to be created for illegal immigrants allowing employment. After renewal, worker may be eligible for green card
  • Temporary worker program to allow 400,000 workers three renewable two-year visas but require them to go home before they can return each time. Their time in the US would earn points towards permanent status
  • Stiffer penalties
  • Tighter border security
  • Merit-based system to gauge skills of future immigrants

UCI Student Threatened by FBI

UCI economics student Yasser Ahmed said he was driving a borrowed truck up onto the Ring Road near the library loading dock Monday night, on intending to haul away the wall, when he noticed a silver Ford Taurus with blackened windows following him.

Ahmed said he stopped the truck in view of other campus observers and stood in front of the Taurus, trying to look through the blackened windshield and asking the driver to identify himself. When he would not speak, Ahmed said he tried to take a photo of the car's license plate with his camera phone.

"He could have just rolled down his window and said, 'I'm an FBI agent,' and that would have been the end of it," Ahmed said. "There was nothing improper going on."

Instead, according to Ahmed, the driver revved his engine threateningly and began pushing him backward with the car's front bumper. Ahmed said he then began calling for help, and dozens of other students ran over to assist.

"I was frightened," Ahmed said. "I felt I could have been killed or seriously injured if I hadn't jumped out of the way."

Sociology student Marya Bangee, a member of the Muslim Student Union, said the incident was frightening.

"The car was revving its engine to look as intimidating as possible," Bangee said. "I thought it was going to come and hit the (mock Palestine) wall."

Eventually, the car roared off, according to witnesses, chased by students on bicycles and a campus police car. Later, Ahmed said a police officer told him that the car had "cold" license plates, meaning they could not be checked through normal computers.

The next morning, Ahmed said, he went to the campus police station and was told by the police chief that the man in the car was an FBI agent.

Read on at OC Register: FBI Actions Questioned at UCI

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back in 1099...

Israeli missile leaves destruction in Gaza (17/05/2007)

"On Friday 19 August 1099 he [qadi of Damascus Abu Saad al-Harawi] led his companions into the great mosques of Baghdad. In the afternoon as the faithful were converging from all over the city to pray, he began eating ostentatiously, although it was Ramadan, the month of obligatory fasting. Within a few moments an angry crowd passed around him. But al-Harawi then rose and calmly asked those surrounding him how it was that they could feel so indignant at the violation of the fast whereas the massacre of thousands of Muslims and the destruction of the holy places of Islam met with their complete indifference. Having thus silenced the crowd, he proceeded to describe in detail the evils that had overwhelmed Syria, Bilad al-Sham , and especially those that had just befallen Jerusalem. The refugees wept, and they made others weep, Ibn al-Athir writes."


"Wearing no turban, his head shaved as a sign of mourning, the vulnerable qadi Abu Sa'ad al-Harawi burst with a loud cry into the spacious diwan of the caliph al-Mustazhir Billah, a throng of companions, young and old, trailing in his wake.

'How dare you slumber in the shade of complacent safety', he began, 'leading lives as frivolous as garden flowers while your brothers in Syria have no dwelling place save the saddles of camels and the bellies of vultures? Blood has been spilled! Beautiful young girls have been shamed, and must now hide their sweet faces in their hands! Shall the valorous Arabs resign themselves to insult, and the valiant Persians accept dishonour?'

'It was a speech that brought tears to many an eye and moved men's hearts', the Arab chroniclers would later write. The entire audience broke out in wails and lamentations. But al-Harawi had not come to elicit sobs.

'Man's meanest weapon', he shouted, 'is to shed tears when rapiers stir the coals of war.' "

From Amin Maalouf's The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No more sermons for Jerry Falwell

The NYT reports: "The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist preacher who founded the Moral Majority and brought the language and passions of religious conservatives into the hurly-burly of American politics, died yesterday in Lynchburg, Va. He was 73."

I don't know why, but the news of Falwell passing away really struck me. Maybe its because I finally found one thing in common between us: mortality.

Even Jerry Falwell dies. At the end of the day, after all the media storms and controversies, it's the final judgment that really matters.

Contrast Falwell's stance on the civil rights movement with his stance on the "war on terror":

“Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners,” he said in a sermon titled “Ministers and Marchers” in March 1964. “If as much effort could be put into winning people to Jesus across the land as is being exerted in the present civil rights movement, America would be turned upside down for God.”

I was also struck by the description of Falwell's "movement":

"He envisioned one [a movement] that would also include other Protestants, Catholics, Jews, even atheists, all with a similar agenda on abortion, gay rights, patriotism and moral values."

"The movement, he said, would be pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-moral and pro-American — precisely the kind of broad agenda that could unite conservatives of different faiths and backgrounds. His agenda also included fervent support for Israel, even if his relations with Jews were often rocky; in 1999, for example, he apologized for saying that the Antichrist was probably alive and if so would be in the form of a male Jew."

How can someone be pro-moral and pro-injustice (pro-racism/preemptive war/Islamophobia) ? Can one's blindness and arrogance drive one so far away from the good he/she set to reach?

May Allah (swt) help us remain steadfast on the straight path.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dedicated to All Students Fighting For Justice

This week, many universities will see their Muslim Student Associations, Arab Student Unions, Students for Justice and Peace, International Solidarity Associations, etc. hosting events dedicated to exposing the injustices that are occurring on a daily basis to Palestinians and Arab Israelis at the hands of a theo-democracy aided and supported unconditionally by the United States government.

There will be lectures by intellectuals from all different ethnic and religious backgrounds speaking out for justice, for fairness, for equality, for humanity.

There will be supporters from all different groups, religious and non-religious, who believe that all people, no matter what their faith tradition, ethnic background, political preferences, or physical features, should be treated as humans. They will urge their classmates to listen to the message of tolerance, equality, and respect.

There will also be protestors – Zionists who believe that the “Holy Land” is the birthright of the Jewish population and that Israel, as a nation, has a right, not only to exist, but to expel non-Jews, namely Muslim and Christian Palestinians from their homes and establish settlements that have been deemed by the international legal community to be illegal.

These protestors don’t see Palestinians as human beings, with families, birthdays, soccer balls, toys, goals, aspirations, first loves, favorite ice cream flavors, glowing smiles, memories, family photos, keepsakes, role models, corner markets, tea cups and saucers, music and dancing, shining eyes.

They dehumanize the Palestinians, take away their dignity and their dreams, take away their history and their future, take away their education and their careers and their families and turn them into animals, unfeeling, spiteful, hateful, barbaric, vicious, as if every Palestinian who has ever walked the face of the earth is a slobbering, rabid dog, destined to attack, feared, loathed, spat upon, abandoned and left to wander and die.

This is the way with all supporters of injustice. They are all the same, no matter who they are persecuting. This is not just unique to the Palestinians. The Native Americans were savages, as were the Africans. The Asians were mysterious and sly, conspiring and not to be trusted. The Italians, the Irish, the Eastern Europeans, the Russians, the Aboriginees, the Hispanics. They have ALL been dehumanized.

The Jewish population has also been stripped of their humanity in the past. After the Holocaust, however, the Jewish population made sure that they would not fall prey to oppression ever again. They remind us in magazine advertisements, in lobbyist groups, in the creation of the Anti-Defamation League, in Holocaust Remembrance Day. They remind us of their humanity, of their daily suffering at the hands of brutal oppressors.

They remind us that the world sat by idle while they were stripped of their livelihoods, their families, birthdays, soccer balls.... In an attempt to recapture some of that humanity , members of the Jewish community around the world read the names of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust, to give their life a voice, a heartbeat, a soul.

However, their slogan, “Never Again” cannot be monopolized by the Jewish population. “NEVER AGAIN” is for us all. I pray to God that the Jewish people of this world never experience the oppression and deadly scourge of hate that they dealt with prior to and during World War II. I pray that they never experience ANY oppression or injustice at all. But they also can’t dish it out on anyone else. At all. Ever. Especially since they know what it’s like.

This week is not just about Palestinians. It’s about right and wrong. It’s about humanity. It’s about every human being given the chance to allow his heart to sing and his soul to take flight and his mind to extend past the bounds of imagination. It’s about supporting the idea that NO ONE should be able to take ANYONE’S humanity away from them, ever.

To all the students and organizations sponsoring this week’s events, I dedicate my prayers to you. You are the lights in the darkness, the beacons of hope for the future, the strength in this time of global weakness and temerity. Stand firm and never waver.

To all those who come out to show your support for justice and humanity in Palestine, I applaud you for being bold enough to stand up for what is right in a world that blurs the lines and allows hypocrisy to plague the landscape of our world and policies.

To all those who come out in protest of these events, I quote our current President, “Bring it on!” Every time you protest events that seek only justice, equality, and the freedom to live without fear, torture, terrorism, and dehumanizing policies, you show your true colors – the blackness of your soul.

Keep protesting, keep dehumanizing, keep supporting injustice – it only makes our job that much easier. To quote Eminem (wow, I’m on a role), “I’m glad cuz they feed me the fuel that I need for the fire to burn, and it’s burnin’” and we will continue to return until justice reigns supreme for all and humanity is a staple for every person on the face of the earth.

Israeli Independence Day

Excerpt from Blog Post By Yasmeen Nour:
To some people reading this post, this may seem to be old news--after all, Israeli Independence Day was weeks ago...right?

Wrong. Israeli Independence Day is celebrated on the 5th day of the Jewish month Iyar, which this year happened to fall on April 23, and was postponed to April 24 for religious reasons involving the Sabbath. However, the actual day of Israeli Independence, according to the Gregorian calendar (which we generally use for all secular purposes), is May 14.

Establishing the difference between these two dates is of fundamental importance. Israel Independence is not a religious occasion. Rather, it is a purposely publicized event (one need only have visited any larger American university on April 24 and seen the dancing Zionists oh so “coincidentally” waving American and Israeli flags at every university to see this point), designed to erase the line between being Jewish and supporting Israel.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

`Uthman Ibn `Affan (rA) said:
I am surprised at a person who knows the world to be temporary yet loves it, the person who knows death to be certain yet does not take it seriously, and a person who believes in the hell fire and yet he commits sin, and a person who believes in the existence of Allah and yet he seeks assistance from others besides Allah, and a person who is aware of paradise and yet he is engaged in the worldly pleasures, and a person who knows shaytan is his enemy and yet he obeys what he dictates, and a person who believes in predestination and the divine decree of Allah yet feels aggrieved when something happens to him.

from "The Fitnah" CD Set by Kamaal El Mekki - CD 1 - Track #4

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Amr Khaled in "The TIME 100"

Amr Khaled
By Asra Nomani

Amr Khaled is not a household name in the West. But for a segment of the Islamic world, the 39-year-old Egyptian is a rock star. At a time when conservative clerics have become primary arbiters of power, Khaled, a layman, has one of the Arab world's most popular websites; regular shows on Iqra, a Saudi-owned religious satellite channel; and an influence that prompts comparisons with everyone from Dr. Phil to Pat Robertson. But Khaled may be most like Rick Warren, who has built an empire around his "purpose driven life" philosophy. Khaled's model, "life makers," encourages Muslims to implement action plans for transforming their lives and communities through Islam. It also urges them to get along peacefully with the West.

What really put Khaled on the world stage was his decision to host an interfaith conference in Copenhagen in March 2006, after the controversies over the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Muslim clerics criticized him for extending an olive branch to the Danes. But Khaled didn't back down. An accountant by training who favors Hugo Boss shirts and designer suits, he maintains some traditional views—he believes women should wear headscarves, for example—but Khaled is a needed voice for moderation from within the Muslim world. "[Osama] bin Laden is saying he is talking on behalf of Muslims," he says. "Who asked him to talk on behalf of us? Nobody."

(Nomani, a journalist and author, wrote Standing Alone in Mecca)

I'd have to say, I think the most interesting thing about this is that they chose Asra Nomani (of all people) to write his blurb. Maybe there is hope for unity with the "Progressive Muslim" crew?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Hiding our heads in the sand: domestic violence in US Muslim communities

This recent Washington Post article sheds light on a dangerous issue within the US Muslim community, yet one that is often deliberately ignored.

First, I think a few clarifications are in order. I think the author confuses Islamic teachings with cultural traditions several times in the article. There is no Islamic teachings that justifies domestic violence, especially not spousal abuse. To the contrary, it is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

"The most perfect believers are the best in conduct. And the best of you are those who are best to their wives." [Sahih at-Tirmithi].

That is not to say that some "Muslims" do deliberately misconstrue Islamic teachings to justify the horrendous actions they commit against their own family members, but that is a different story.

Also what the author refers to as "Muslim culture" (gossip, arranged marriages, living with in-laws) has nothing to do with Islam. In fact the first two aspects are specifically and strictly forbidden in Islam. However, unfortunately, no one can deny that such characteristics are present in Muslim-majority communities, especially abroad.

One of the most inspiring first-hand accounts I have ever heard was from a friend of mine who reverted to Islam a few years ago. She is an American from Asian descent and was raised a Christian. She was in an abusive marital relationship for over 10 years. The day she accepted Islam and truly put her complete trust in the One and Almighty God, she filed for divorce. In my friend's case, it was her true understanding of Islam and its teachings (away from 'middle-eastern' cultural nonsense) that gave her the confidence to finally stand up for herself.

Her story is the exception though. From talking to community leaders and imams in Southern California who have to deal with domestic violence issues on a daily basis , I can safely say that the Washington Post article in not exaggerating the problem. It is definitely there in our communities, but is largely neglected and sometimes covered-up. And yes, in some parts of the US, like in some parts of the Middle East, it is the community and religious leaders who choose to protect the husband rather than the abused wife.

How can we begin tackling this issue? Let's start by facing it. Once we can agree and acknowledge that this is indeed a serious problem, we can start educating our communities as to ways of avoiding an abusive relationship, and under worst circumstances, leaving one.

Fortunately, there are already many individuals and organizations out there that have committed their time and efforts to helping victims of domestic abuse in the Muslim community. One organization that sticks out in my mind is NISWA. If you are involved in such work please leave a comment about it and suggestions of how people can contribute to your efforts.

And He Wasn't an "Islamist" or . . .

. . . a "jihadist," a "militant" or even a "terrorist!"

"You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders & decrees.
An evil system never deserves such allegiance.
Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil.
A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul."

I can think of several ways in which this may be relevant. The first few that come to mind are:
  • Should we as people of conscience be partaking in pledges of allegiance to nation-states?

  • For US taxpayers, is it OK that we pay taxes knowing a significant percentage of that money is then re-rerouted to apartheid Israel?

  • Are we really doing the utmost to resist the "evil system" or is there more we can do?

Since 2000, Innocent Children have died , and children have known nothing but violence

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs put together this thought provoking project called "Remember these Children and countless others". They present that since 2000, 118 Israeli children have died from the violent conflict that is the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process"- or maybe the lack of peace or process. They also point out that 934 Palestinian children have been killed in the conflict since 2000.

I want to take the time and remember those children killed since 2000 during the month of May. Its my way of allowing them live on and teach us in the west a lesson of what a blessing Peace is.

May 2007

We are at a precarious place. The reports have not compiled the names of the children who have passed away this month. But its time to take action and make change, children should not die and growing up with so much death only perpetuates hatred and anger and feeds the cycle of pain.

Please contact your local political leader and tell them enough is enough!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Even under occupation, life goes on...

Kids playing in one of Nablus's public parks

I just got back from a short visit to my hometown city Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The visit was for personal reasons and I didn't get much of a chance to snoop around. Still, there is one thing that any visitor to the occupied territories cannot help but notice: despite all the chaos and brutality and against all odds the people's determination to live and enjoy life prevails.

Despite being aware of the situation in the West Bank and having seen dozens of photos of the daily humiliation that goes on, especially at check points, witnessing it was a different story. Crossing the Hwara checkpoint on our way into Nablus and seeing the lines of people waiting to be searched in what looks like animal cages just to get out from Nablus to a neighbouring Palestinian town was heart-wrenching, I couldn't even reach for my camera.

But a few minutes past the checkpoint we were already going through the familiar streets of Nablus, and there it was a different story. We happened to arrive right when the schools were out. The streets were swarming with boys and girls in uniform with their colorful backpacks giggling, laughing, chatting; care free and full of energy and optimism. It was a stark contrast to the dark image a few minutes earlier. Life goes on after all and the Palestinians are not leaving or disappearing anytime soon.

School girls going through Nablus's "old town" on their way back from school

Overall, life in Nablus hasn't changed much since I last visited in 1999. People expected a lot from the new government and were very disappointed to see very little change. The Israeli checkpoints that choke the city's economic and civil life, and the nightly visits by the Israeli Occupational Forces to arrest more young Palestinian men are a constant reminder of the occupation. However, beyond that, there is also a complete lack of security. Hardly a day passes by without gunshots fired by some Palestinian "gang" at another, and the authorities can do little besides stand by and watch.

Even the main market place, the "dawwar" (roundabout), is a mess: cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bags everywhere. It seemed to me that the municipality wasn't doing its job at keeping the place clean, but I was wrong. Every night the streets are cleaned only to be trashed by the shop owners and customers the next day.

The "dawwar" right before closing time at sunset

With the rapidly deteriorating economic situation, mainly due to the international boycott and the Israeli checkpoints that limit travel to and from the city, the market place is very quiet compared to how it used to be. Many shop owners don't even bother opening their stores anymore.

The market place in the "old town" relatively empty even at midday

The city has definitely grown though and it seems there are people that are managing to live comfortably despite everything. There are whole new areas of houses and buildings and there promises to be more to come.

Below are a couple more photos of "Jabal Innar" (the mountain of fire), the nickname given to Nablus because of its courageous resistance to the Israeli occupation.

A view of the down town area and the southern mountain

A view of the northern mountain. An Israeli military settlement is visible at the very top of the mountain.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Democratic Israel- an oxymoron?

"Why then does the U.S. government continue to fully support a country whose very identity and institutions are based on ethnic and religious discrimination that victimize its own citizens?"

That is an amazing question. I can not even begin to explain why we in the United States continue to support a country that has broken more UN resolutions then Saddam, or why we in the West continue to believe the lie that Israel is the only Democracy in the Middle East- if elections make a nation democratic then by all means we have more democracies in the Middle East then we readily admit to- but unfortunately democracy is not just about having elections. It is about freedoms and rights that are protected, it is about institutions and civil structures.

For those of you who do not know, Israel is a Jewish state, and any who are not Jewish are second class citizens. If we in the West continue to feed into the this idea and support a state that is not truly in line with Democratic principles then we are fooling ourselves and setting up for a catastrophe of great magnitude.

We can not champion democracy in the Middle East- ARAB NATIONS- and continue to hold Israel as a exemption. If Israel is to be truly considered a liberal democratic society then it needs to be held to higher standards then we currently hold it as. We can not lower the bar for this nation or any other. Israel has to be criticized and brought into line with all liberal democracies. No more special treatment.

Get rid of the Pharaoh in Egypt along with the Prince of Israel.

Read more about the second class status of non-Jews in Israel.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Lawyers Predict More Suicides
By DAVID McFADDEN, Associated Press

Lawyers envision more suicides and despair at Guantanamo Bay if the U.S. Justice Department succeeds in severely restricting access to detainees by defense attorneys, virtually the only contact inmates have with the outside world.

The Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to limit the number of lawyer visits allowed to three after an initial face-to-face meeting, to tighten censorship of mail from attorneys and to give the military more control over what they can discuss with detainees. Lawyers for detainees believe that if their visits are limited, detainee desperation will deepen and more will try to kill themselves. On June 10, 2006, two Saudi detainees and one Yemeni hanged themselves with sheets, the first and only suicides since the 2002 opening of the detention center that now holds about 380 inmates.

"Visits by lawyers are one of the few bright spot these men have," attorney Zachary Katznelson told The Associated Press from Guantanamo, where he is spending two weeks to meet with 18 client detainees. Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for several Guantanamo detainees, said curtailing lawyer visits would likely lead more prisoners to attempt suicide.

"The level of depression is soaring, I am afraid," he said over the weekend.

Many detainees are kept in isolation in small cells with no natural light. With no prison sentence having been pronounced — except for one Australian detainee — the detainees do not know when they will get out, if ever. Many have been there for more than five years. Attorney Stephen Oleskey, who represents six Algerians, said more suicides are "a real risk" if the court restricts lawyer-client contacts.

"I've seen firsthand the mental conditions of my clients deteriorate in isolation," Oleskey said from Boston. "And I think the impact of further restrictions would be dramatic."

Meanwhile, Katznelson sees the move to restrict attorney access as an attempt to seal the facility from critics.

"If we cannot come in, the only news getting out of here will be the government's carefully crafted version," Katznelson said in an e-mail Saturday.

It is the attorneys, arriving at the base in southeast Cuba aboard military planes or tiny commuter flights, who provide the world with information about hunger strikes, solitary confinement and other details about the detainees. Journalists can visit but are barred by the military from interviewing detainees. The Red Cross, which occasionally visits, keeps its findings confidential. But military commanders at Guantanamo and the Justice Department view the lawyers with suspicion. Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, told the AP the military has been giving broad lawyer access to many detainees — even though they are accused of having al-Qaida or Taliban links and the United States is still at war.

The mail system was "misused" to inform detainees about military operations in Iraq, activities of terrorist leaders, efforts in the war on terror, the Hezbollah attack on Israel and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, the Justice Department said in this month's court filing. Barry M. Kamin, president of the New York City Bar, called the assertions "astonishing and disingenuous" in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Lawyers for detainees also dismissed the claims, calling them a pretext to deprive detainees of proper legal representation.

"There have been a lot of extreme statements made," said Oleskey, referring to U.S. government criticism of legal defense efforts. "I think it's unfortunate and it should stop."

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Progressive Christians Uniting - Experience with LAPD Brutality

May 1: Violence in MacArthur Park
dancersThis is what happened.

The march ended at Wilshire and Alvarado, and the last organization in the march was a Native American drumming and dancing troupe. They stopped in the street to dance, and a huge circle, mostly of families with small children, gathered around them to watch, cheer, and clap. It was peaceful and jubilant, a celebration, not a protest. The police were there, but no one was paying any attention to them.

Suddenly there were sirens, very loud and close. Police motorcycles drove into the crowd around the dancers. There was no announcement - or if there was, no one could hear it over the sirens. Imagine the deafening noise of many sirens only a few feet from you, the motorcycle driving towards you, pushing you forward. Imagine the panic of women with small children in strollers. People tried to get away from the motorcycles, but the police would not allow you to walk through them. When I tried, I was pushed roughly back in front of the motorcycles. I saw three middle school girls standing hugging each other in front of a motorcycle, the wheel pushing against their feet and legs, the sirens blasting in their ears, the policeman screaming at them. I saw people being pushed off their feet. When I saw the police start striking someone, I ran over to try to put myself between them. I saw people dragging their friends away from the police.

Eventually they pushed us back onto the sidewalk. No one knew why they were doing this or what was happening. A line of police in riot gear faced us as we crowded on the sidewalk, bewildered and bruised and angry. We hadn't been doing anything wrong. They hadn't asked us to move, or tried to communicate with us in any way other than violence. The noise was deafening, terrifying, disorienting. Teenagers with piercings yelled at the police. I pointed at the ground, trying to tell the police, look, I'm on the sidewalk. The police yelled at us. You had to yell to be heard.

police lineBut the tension faded. The National Lawyers Guild passed the word along that as long as we stayed on the sidewalk, there would be no problems. Most of the teenagers had calmed down. There was nothing to see - just the people lined up on the sidewalk, the police in the street. People were a little bewildered. Why were the police here? What were they doing? Why were there so many of them? Why did they have guns and canisters? But no one was doing anything. We just stood there, talking, laughing, drinking water, eating corn, taking pictures. We wondered what on earth there were so many police for.

And then suddenly the kids - the same teenagers that had been yelling at the police - ran along the sidewalk, yelling get back, get back, they've declared unlawful assembly, they're going to arrest everyone. We heard shots. Within the park, from the corner of Alvarado and 7th, I saw people running. I ran towards them. I wanted to make sure that people were not responding violently to the police, that no one was being hurt.

No one was violent, but people were indeed being hurt. Keep in mind that there had been no announcement - or at least, no effective announcement. I had been in the front the entire time, less than two feet from the police. Surely I would have heard an announcement if there was one. The only announcement had been rumor. Later on, I would hear a completely unintelligible announcement from a helicopter. I could tell that it was in English. Even if I had been able to understand it, many in the crowd would not have. There were no requests to disperse. There was no warning to the crowd. There was no explanation. There was no effort to communicate.

The police entered the park shooting gas or smoke canisters. People panicked, running in all directions. I saw a couple, bewildered, start walking in the wrong direction. I held up my hands and said to the police, I'm going to get those people, I am going to help those people there, and went down to them, guiding them in front of the line and towards the exit. They didn't speak much English. I continued to walk slowly in front of the police. Suddenly I saw a homeless man, sleeping under a tree. The police line approached, screaming at him. He woke up, confused. Someone with a camera tried to help him, but was beaten off. He tottered to his feet, trying to grab his suitcase and blanket. The police screamed at him. He held out his hands to them. Perhaps that seemed threatening. I saw two policemen start hitting him with their batons, one to his legs, one to his chest. I started back towards him, thinking I could put myself between him and the police, but that's all I saw, because then the police had me.

I was thrown to the ground . . .

Read on at: May Day in LA