Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking for a product to boycott?

The Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Apartheid state of Israel has re-issued it's call to the world:

Now, more than ever, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, calls upon international civil society not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel's massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions ( BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights. Without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.

There are many challanges to organizing, and more importantly sustaining, a boycott campaign. On the consumer level, the key is finding the right target. There is a new one to add to the list (for the ladies mainly): L'Oreal.

In this holiday season, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC*, calls upon people of conscience all over the world to boycott all the products of the French cosmetics giant, L'Oreal**, due to its deep and extensive involvement in business relations with Israel, despite the latter’s continued occupation and apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinian people.

L’Oreal’s operations in Israel began in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by political considerations. Since then, L'Oreal Israel, the company’s subsidiary in Israel, has operated a factory in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha'emek in the Lower Galilee. The settlement of Migdal Ha'emek was established in 1952 on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil, whose original inhabitants are still denied the right to return to their homes. Like almost all other Jewish settlements built in the midst of Palestinian villages in the Galilee, inside Israel, Migdal Ha’emek discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, denying them the right to buy, rent or live on any part of the town, simply because they are “non Jews.”

L'Oreal Israel manufacturers a line of products using Dead Sea minerals under the name "Natural Sea Beauty" that is exported to 22 countries. It should be noted that one third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While the entire shore and its resources are systematically closed to Palestinians by Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices, Israel exploits the Dead Sea for international tourism, mining, and improving its image.

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L'Oreal brands are listed on their website; they include The Body Shop (believe it or not!), Lancome, Diesel and Ralph Lauren.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is there a Purpose to Dialogue?

(For More on the picture read This American Muslim)

Salaam, Dear Muslamics readers I have to say I am quite disheartened these past four days. I am not in the mood to write because it just seems so pointless. I don't even have the heart to continue to watch or read the news, but to keep from loosing my humanity I have forced myself to keep "connected".

What I want to share is my reflection with you. Recently Muslim organizations took part in this "Twinning Project" where Jewish and Muslim congregations partake in matching up with each other and "were part of a national "twinning campaign" to establish synagogue-mosque partnerships to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism." Don't get things misinterpreted, I think the interfaith work is important and necessary.

However, what I am questioning is whether its worthwhile for us to set aside our principles- ie. distract ourselves from talking about the real issues in order to make friendly with the Zionists. The excerpt below is from LOS ANGELES TIMES article on "twinning":

"Jews and Muslims, as the children of Abraham, not only do we share a common faith, but we share a common fate," Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, told the gathering. His organization has coordinated the interfaith effort with help from the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the World Jewish Congress.


"We have to change ourselves, then we can change others," said [Dr. Muzzammil] Siddiqi, who is also chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, the highest body of Islamic jurisprudence in the United States. "Muslims and Jews of America can . . . show this is possible to work together. This is the message of the Torah. This is the message of the Koran. This is the message of the Gospel."
While I agree with the premise of what is being said by the Imam and Rabbi say, I question again American Muslims inability to understand the implications of our full participation.

Why are we as American Muslims bending over backwards to support such efforts in the face of Zionist (often with mainstream Jewish complacency) agenda of only working Muslim organizations that bend over backwards and go out of their to not criticize Israel. Why are Muslims being asked to hold "Israel as a holy cow" that can not be criticized in order to benifit from "interfaith" efforts? Why are interfaith efforts even premised on the idea that Muslims have to put aside something principled in order to participate.

That is what I question. That is what I fear we as Muslims are loosing sight of when we rush to this "joining hands"- joining hands is such a facade if we can not come to terms that we "can agree to disagree and still work together on other issues" when one side- Muslims- are told that the litmus test for them to even come to join hands is to sell out the Palestinians in blind support of Israel.

With Lebanon war just behind us and this atrocity currently in Gaza, HOW can we as American Muslims conciensly continue to keep this charade wanting to participate in such hollow proposals like the Twinning Project? Why should we dirty our principles in order to be present at the table?

If we really want to look at doing something, then lets work on long term changes, lets begin by sending a clear message to our leaders that as Muslims we need to stick up to our principles.

Gaza: Video

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What can you do about Gaza?

1. Pray for the people of Gaza

2. Send a letter to your local newspaper - click here for media contacts. Sample letter below (you can copy and paste however it would be more powerful if you change the words around a bit - don't forget your first & last name,phone number, and the city & state you live in if you want your letter published).

Dear Editor,

The situation in Occupied Palestine is unacceptable and the United State's reaction is appalling. Under international law, the occupying force must insure the safety of the occupied people. Israel has consistently failed to provide basic human necessities to the suffering citizens of Gaza and has even prevented others from providing such necessities. America was founded by a group of individuals who fought against the oppression of the occupying force of England so how is it that we continue to support Israel's oppression against a people who simply want to assert their human dignity?

The pitiful excuse that Israel is defending herself is a slap to the face of anyone with a grain of intelligence; It's mindboggling how journalists and other media personnel can claim journalistic ethics without actively rejecting such an excuse. The least the United States can do is stay out of it because the unconditional support of Israel contradicts the principles upon which the United States was founded and also taints the global image of the United States. Israel dragged us into a costly and unsuccessful war in Iraq so we should know by now that Israel's policies are not in the best interest of the United States.


3. Show your support - attend a protest near you. There's one happening in almost every major city in the world. The list below is of protests happening in the US (courtesy of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation):



Sunday, December 28, 2:00 pm
512 S. Brookhurst St. (between Orange Ave. & Broadway)
Initiated by a coalition with a large number of groups

Los Angeles

Tuesday, December 30, 4:30 pm
Israeli Consulate: 6380 Wilshire Blvd.
Contact: 213-251-1025,

San Francisco

Silent Vigil at Feinstein's Office
5PM Monday Dec. 29th
Contact: 415-821-6545,


Washington, DC
Tuesday, December 30, 4:30 pm
State Department: 22nd St & C St NW
Contact: 202-544-3389 x14,

Friday, January 9, 12:00PM
Lafayette Square and march to Upper Senate Park
Contact: National Association of Muslim Women,


Fort Lauderdale

Tuesday, December 30, 5:00 pm
Federal Building: 299 E. Broward Blvd.
Contact: 954-707-0155,


Details to be announced
Contact: 773-463-0311,


Wednesday, December 31, 2:00PM
Copley Square
Contact: Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights,, (617) 491-2313

Details to be announced
Contact: 857-334-5084,


Protests at Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Keith Ellison's offices
Tuesday December 30th 10 am-closing

Keith Ellison's Minneapolis office is located at 2100 Plymouth Ave NorthMinneapolis, MN 55411. For directions call 612-522-1212


New York City
Sunday, December 28, 2:00-4:00 pm
Gather at Rockefeller Center
March to the Israeli Consulate: 800 2nd Ave (b/w 42nd and 43rd Sts)
Initiated by Al-Awda New York

Monday, December 29, 5:00PM
Adalah-NY is organizing two meeting locations for fliering on Monday at 5:00:
The south end of Union Square, near the corner of 14th St and 5th Ave.
The triangular park at 6th Av. & 32nd Street.

Contact: 212-694-8720,


Sunday December 28th - 5:00 PM
Ohio State University - Committee for Justice in Palestine
15th and High St.
Columbus, Ohio

Saturday, January 3, 12:00 noon - 2:00 pm
Westlake Park: 4th and Pine
Initiated by Voices of Palestine

More here

4. Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress at 202-224-3121. You can also find contact info for your Members of Congress by clicking here.

5. Donate to support much needed relief efforts in Gaza - click here

Friday, December 26, 2008

Abu Dhabi hosts classes for US Muslims

I'm not sure travelling to the UAE is the best way for US Muslims to gain basic Islamic knowledge...

Also, why is helping US Muslims more important than educating converts in the UAE?

Anyone heard of the American Congress of Muslim Youth before?

Would like to find out more about this, but for now, this article is all I know (excerpts below):

A delegation of 21 professional women is the latest group to come to Zayed House for Islamic Culture as guests of the Government-funded institution for a month.

“They are mostly converts or second-generation Muslims. Many Muslims in America do not learn about Islam when they are growing up, and they fall susceptible to many influences,” Khaled al Mazrouei, the head of Zayed House, said.

“Women are the first educators in society so we brought these women, who represent a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and professions – they are all community leaders – and we’re teaching them the moderate and true middle way of Islam.”

The women in the current group, who are attending classes in Arabic and Islamic studies, include a nurse, a university professor and psychologist, a motivational speaker and activist in interfaith dialogue, the director of a shelter for abused women and a university student.

Zayed House used to provide minimal services to Muslim converts in the UAE but last year it started programmes for Muslims worldwide.

In the spring it taught Arabic to a delegation of Malaysian government workers. In December last year, it taught Islamic studies and how to address the needs of Muslims in the West to a group of US imams.

The current programme is run in co-ordination with the Washington DC-based American Congress of Muslim Youth.


Educators at Zayed House found there are many issues the women were unclear about because of the conflicting information they heard at home.

“Some of the things they are not clear on is how to maintain ‘silat al rahm’ with non-Muslim family members,” said Mr al Mazrouei, referring to one of Islam’s most important social pillars, the ‘relationship of the womb’, or family ties.

“Does giving money to non-Muslims count as zakat? And what about giving blood?” Zakat is a charity tax that all Muslims must pay every year.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

CTA Peace and Justice Caucus Youth Activist Awards

As a former recipient of one of these awards, I'd highly recommend nominating the activists in your lives to receive it. What better way to appreciate and encourage tireless young workers?

Honor our Youth!
The California Teachers Association (CTA) Peace and Justice Caucus is sponsoring its fifth annual Youth Activist Awards Program with an awards ceremony scheduled for Saturday, March 21, 2009 in Los Angeles. As our students develop their critical thinking skills and independent belief systems, we believe it is important that they understand that they can be instruments of change, and can find their own avenues for expressing their beliefs.

Please nominate a youth organization or individual youth activist who has been outstanding in the struggle for human rights, social justice, peace, and/or youth empowerment. You may nominate a student or group, elementary through high school age.

Please note that we have also added one new award (the Rachel Corrie Award) for college students or groups.

Students and/or groups selected will be invited to receive their awards at a ceremony at the CTA State Council meeting at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel on March 21, 2009.

Due date: January 19, 2009.

CTA Peace and Justice Caucus Youth Activism Award Nomination Form
Name of Nominee:  
Grade level/Age:
Phone (c):
Nominated by: 
Local Association:  
Phone (c):
Description of the nominee's activism and achievements: 

Please return this sheet and supporting materials by January 19, 2009. Supporting materials may include brochures, flyers, news articles, video or sound recordings.

Send to: Mary Prophet
1514 Chestnut Street,
Berkeley, CA 94702 
(510) 527 1222
or via email to Greta Benavides (
For more information, email or call (510) 527 1222.

Monday, December 15, 2008

National Lawyers Guild Launches "Give Bush the Boot" Shoe Drive



Contact: Marjorie Cohn, President, , 619-374-6923
Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director, , 212-679-5100, ext. 11

In light of the recent shoe-throwing incident in Baghdad, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) urges Americans to show their opposition to the policies of the Bush administration by donating pairs of shoes to their local homeless shelters and other organizations serving the needy. The gesture is also intended as a show of support for Iraqi reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi who remains in detention, accused by the Iraqi government of a “barbaric act.” Al-Zaidi threw his shoes at George W. Bush during his recent surprise visit to Iraq. Al-Zaidi has been hailed as a hero in the Arab world as thousands marched today to demand his release. A spokesman for the prime minister said that al-Zaidi may be sent for trial on charges of insulting the Iraqi state.

In a news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad yesterday, Mr. al-Zaidi shouted “this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,” then flung one shoe at Bush—the worst insult in the Arab world—forcing him to duck. A second shoe flew over Bush's head and hit the wall behind him.

“With that single brave act, Mr. al-Zaidi has inspired the Guild to transform one country’s negative symbol into a gesture of goodwill,” says Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive Director.

NLG President Marjorie Cohn says, “The support for al-Zaidi shown by many Iraqis demonstrates the depth of opposition to Bush’s war and occupation of Iraq. We call on all Americans to join in this campaign as we urge the Iraqi government to afford al-Zaidi his full due process rights.”

The shoe drive will run until January 19, 2009, President Bush’s last full day in office. The NLG asks you to visit to show your support for this drive.

To find a Salvation Army by entering your zip code:

To find a Goodwill location:

To find locations of churches or other facilities that provide clothing free-of-charge to the needy, please call the NLG National Office at 212-679-5100.

Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest / human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Price of Silence is...

...too high.

This is the theme of Amnesty International's song commemmorating 60 years of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (fancy title....makes it sound like it has some weight...wish that were true).

On Dec 11, a day after the UHR declartion, UN resolution 194 was passed affirming the Palestinian refugees' right of return. That too has been not much more than ink on paper...this Counterpunch article says some more (although I don't agree with the conclusion - another resolution will not make a difference).

Fancy meeting rooms and suits aside, it is the brave women and men risking their lives every day to stand up for the innocent, to stand up against injustice, to stand up for human rights, that makes a difference at the end of the day. Those people are in every city across the globe, working tirelessly in hope that someone else may have a chance at a better life. Many of them have probably never heard of the UN declaration; they don't need a UN declaration to know right from wrong. They don't need a man-made declartion to know justice from opression.

The one initiative that stands out in my mind at this moment is that of the Israeli conscientious objectors, the Shministim. These are young men and women who refuse to be part of the illegal occupation of Palestine. As a result, they are prosecuted by their own government, families, and communities and remain in and out of prison until they are 21. Read their stories and send a message of support here (Dec 18 has been marked the Shministim Day of Action).

Photo credit

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Women's Empowerment Vis-a-Vis Hajj

Hajjis are also more likely to back education for girls and work for women, the study found.

Khwaja suspects that is because men and women mix so freely on the hajj, even at prayer -- partly because it is impractical to segregate the sexes when more than 2 million people converge on Saudi Arabia en masse.

"Men and women interact with each other, actually praying side by side," he said.

That can be a new experience for many men from Pakistan, where women sometimes are discouraged from attending mosques.

But some responded positively, the researchers found.

"The fact that men and women can pray together is good," one 45-year-old man told them. "You cannot dislike anything about the Kabaa," the cube-shaped building within Mecca's Great Mosque toward which Muslims worldwide face during daily prayers.

Going on the hajj, which all Muslims must do at least once if they are able, can also embolden women to challenge religious authority when they return home.

"A woman may not be encouraged to go to the mosque or seek education or work in Pakistan -- in fact, she may face resistance in doing so, particularly by local clergy," Khwaja said.

Khwaja said if she has not been on the hajj, "she has no authority for challenging that."

"But on the hajj, she might see a woman who is leading her group, in control of a group, in this most holy of places. If she sees that this is allowed in Mecca and Medina, now she is armed to say to her local cleric, 'I saw this in Mecca, so who are you to tell me it is wrong?' " Khwaja said.

Full Story: CNN

This reminds me of how a few of us, women, were yelled at by some misguided men on my previous Hajj. It was a Friday afternoon, and there was literally no other comfortable location to situate ourselves at so we sat down where we found space. It was just our luck that the open space happened to be surrounded by men. We knew we were OK though, because there is no prayer segregation there and the guard who tried to move us backed off when I told him I was aware of these rules. This did not however, stop numerous men from numerous different ethnic backgrounds from trying to intimidate us into moving. We got a wide variety of responses, everything from dirty looks to being called "jahil". I think we stayed out of a combination of knowing that if we attempted to relocate we may not find another spot and indignation. It was indignation at the fact that people would attempt to speak to us so disrespectfully in the house of God. I'm thinking if I had been less empowered pre-Hajj, this incident would have done exactly what the CNN story describes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What to Make of the Bombay Massacre

Terror attack it is, but the questions of "why?" resounds loudly. I am not sure what exactly this is all about, Pakistan and India have been rocked by such attacks. While Pakistan, just days after my departure, my Mom was shopping in a open air market, an hour after her departure, that market was attacked by a suicide bomber.

I have seen articles about "marginalized Muslims of India" and "al-Qaeda" and on "Kashmir rebels". One thing I have to admit, in all the Indian reports, this attack is described in plain simple "terrorist" and "criminal" terms. No association with Islam or Muslims and when used, its largely in the Western Press.

Here is a run down that I got in an email on this issue. I havent read through everything provided, but found the end part to be more interesting.

Here are some excerpts from the news.

The whole affair smells like a false flag event designed to bring India into a more active role in the War on Terror, and rein in control of the Indian/Afghani/Pakistani region with NATO/US forces.

Then, the "foreign looking, fair skinned" men, as Mr Mishra remembers them, simply carried on killing.

1004: Maharashtra state chief minister says no evidence that Mumbai attackers are British citizens, Reuters news agency reports

The BBC reports <> that three men walked into the Leopold Cafe, drank beer, settled their bills and walked out. Then they fished out guns from their bags and began firing. Just one problem there, alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

The BBC further reports <>
an eye witness account from Gaffar Abdul Amir, an Iraqi tourist from Baghdad, stating he saw at least two men who started the firing outside the Leopold Cafe.

They did not look Indian, they looked foreign. One of them, I thought, had blonde hair. The other had a punkish hairstyle. They were neatly dressed.

The whole affair smells like a false flag event designed to bring India into a more active role in the War on Terror, and rein in control of the Indian/Afghani/Pakistani region with NATO/US forces. With much of the world now demanding Pakistan agree to inspections and an investigation, they seem to be winning the minds of those who don't bother to question what they are spoon fed on the television.

A high-level team of terrorism experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arrived in Mumbai yesterday and guided the Indian security forces fighting terrorists there, according to reliable sources in the state government.

They also said that Qasab is a 21-year-old and a fluent English speaker.

That description seems to be at odds with the general population in the village he is said to hail from.

They captured but one of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. Someone that they are claiming is from Faridkot, Pakistan. But there's just one problem, as McClatchy now reports, no one from Faridkot has ever seen or heard of this person that supposedly was born and raised there.

We are checking whether the gunmen had any local support. But what we are sure is that they were not from India, and had trained in and were carrying stuff - AK-56, AK-47 and 9mm revolvers and hand grenades possibly of Chinese make," said an investigator.

They also found lots of dry fruits, Indian and American currency, ammunition and fake Mumbai college student identity cards in the bags the gunmen had left behind during the attacks.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Catholic prosecutor quits Gitmo

For Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld, a devout Catholic, the twin responsibilities of religious faith and military duty led to a profound moral crisis.


In 2007, he became a prosecutor for the military commissions which tried terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, a role he took enthusiastically.

"I went down there on a mission and my mission was to convict as many of these detainees as possible and put them in prison for as long as I possibly could," he told the BBC.

"I had zero doubts. I was a true believer."

But his zeal did not last long.

When he arrived, he says he found the prosecutor's office in chaos, with boxes scattered around the floor, files disorganised, evidence scattered in different places and no clear chain of command.

And more seriously, he soon discovered that defence lawyers were not receiving information which could help clear their clients, including evidence that suspects had been "mistreated" in order to secure confessions.

A devout Catholic, Col Vandeveld found himself deeply troubled by what he discovered. But the classified nature of his work meant he was unable to share his growing doubts with friends and family.

A Jesuit priest tells how Darrel Vandeveld contacted him for advice before quitting. As a result, he took the unusual step of emailing a Jesuit priest called Father John Dear, who is a well known peace activist.

In his email, Col Vandeveld talked of having "grave misgivings".

Father Dear was initially unsure if the email was serious and fashioned a quick reply.
"I sort of didn't believe it. But on the off chance he was a military prosecutor I wrote back and said 'quit'."

Col Vandeveld says his jaw dropped when he read the email, adding: "I lived in dread of that answer."

But eventually he did resign and has chosen to speak out about what he saw, giving the BBC his first interview.

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