Melding Muslims?

Muslim Americans must meld into U.S. society before suspicion and mistrust lingering since the attacks on New York and Washington isolates them and sparks radicalism in their ranks, a study said on Tuesday.

“There is an urgent national need for Muslims and non-Muslims to work together to create full and equal opportunities for civic and political participation of Muslim Americans,” the report said.
For the first time since World War Two when the U.S. government rounded up and interred Japanese, many are questioning the loyalty “of a largely unfamiliar and largely immigrant American community,” said the report written by a task force of 32 individuals from business, government and academia.

Six years after the September 11 attacks focused attention on them, Muslim Americans remain “largely outside the U.S. mainstream,” the report said, even though they are an often well-educated and diverse group with the potential to make important contributions to civic life.
“The Muslim American community lacks strong institutions and recognizable public or political voices to gain regular access to government and media circles,” the report’s executive summary said.

“Some existing Muslim American institutions have avoided foreign policy issues for fear of drawing unfavorable scrutiny,” it added.

While independent studies found little evidence of widespread extremist activity with links to al Qaeda or similar organizations, efforts to counter perceptions to the contrary have not been effective, it said.

“Many Americans perceive Muslim Americans as not having fully and readily acknowledged the potential for radicalism within their community,” added the report prepared after a year’s study under the sponsorship by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“The climate of suspicion and mistrust and the lack of engagement threaten to marginalize and alienate some elements among Muslim Americans to the point that the danger of radicalization becomes a real possibility,” it concluded.

Farooq Kathwari, co-chair of the task force, said in an interview that a radical response is always possible, “especially among the young. They are hot blooded and they don’t want to be alienated.”

“Fortunately in America there is more chance to be integrated,” he said, but “a pro-active engagement makes a lot of sense. We need to be extra careful that we don’t create a situation that is a self-fulfilling prophecy…”

The Kashmir-born, Brooklyn-raised Kathwari is the president and chief executive officer of furniture maker Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. Others on the task force included former congressman Lee Hamilton, who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, and former labor secretary Lynn Martin.
Kathwari said the historic pattern of assimilation for immigrants that sees later generations woven into the fabric of society was disrupted for Muslim Americans by September 11.

“This process of integration has to be accelerated,” he told Reuters, to counteract both the perception that Muslims are one monolithic force and to ease fears among Muslims, some of whom have become targets of violence.

A recent Pew Research Center poll estimated there are 2.35 million Muslims living in the United States, a tiny fraction of the U.S. population of more than 300 million. Other estimates range as high as 7 million.

That same survey, based on a sample of 1,050 Muslims and released in May, drew a contrasting picture of U.S. Muslims, saying they were largely assimilated, happy with their lives and more moderate than Muslims in other countries.

9-27

Adhan in Egypt

Courtesy Abeer Anwar, Al-Ahram, Egypt

Cairo–The Ministry of Religious Endowments and the People’s Assembly Religion Committee are at loggerheads over plans to unify the call to prayer, reports Abeer Anwar

During a meeting last week, the Religion Committee of the People’s Assembly voted unanimously against moves to unify the adhan (call to prayer), first proposed by the Ministry of Religious Endowments in 2004. The committee said the failure of the experiment, introduced last September in selected Cairo mosques, had influenced its decision. At the time members of the public joined preachers in complaining that the voice of the mu’zin was sometimes blurred.

“If the aim behind the call for the adhan to be unified was to prevent those with awful voices from calling prayer then a competition could be held to choose the best voices,” suggested Ahmed Omar Hashem, head of the People’s Assembly’s Religion Committee, during the meeting. He added that the money allocated to the project would be better spent on providing services to the homeless, particularly street children.

While many religious scholars and preachers have welcomed the Religion Committee’s stand — they had opposed moves to unify the call to prayer as soon as they were mooted, claiming the real aim was to muzzle religion — the Ministry of Religious Endowments seems unlikely to back down.

Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, the minister of religious endowments, insists it falls within his ministry’s mandate to decide whether or not to continue with the project. Zaqzouq’s advisor, Hazem El-Guindi, has severely criticized the decision of the Religion Committee which is, he says, a recommendation with no statutory force.

Ministry officials point out that the sheikh of Al-Azhar, the mufti and the 40- member Islamic Research Council all approved the project, with the proviso that the call to prayer can be heard by everyone. Given the approval of religious authorities, El-Guindi said, the ministry will plough on with implementing the project.

“Abu Dhabi, Amman, Sanaa and Istanbul have had a unified call to prayer for years,” said Zaqzouq. “Together with the sheikh of Al-Azhar I visited some of the mosques where the system is implemented and it works beautifully. If we want to improve the image of Islam outside we have to start by improving at home.”

The aim of unifying the adhan, say officials, is to ensure the best voices are used and to avoid the din created by thousands of loudspeakers in Cairo.

Last September, the ministry moved to bring Cairo’s 4,000 mosques and prayer halls into line by broadcasting a live, centralized call to prayer.

A group of muedhineen with outstanding voices were chosen, including the celebrated Sheikh Ne’na’, to perform the adhan from Cairo’s major mosques, including Omar Makram and Al-Azhar. Complaints, say officials, were a result of teething problems. Volume settings at some mosques were not readjusted, with the result that the call to prayer could not be heard over the whole of Cairo.

With the ministry insisting that it will continue with the project, the arguments that greeted its launch suddenly have a new lease of life. The opposing camps seem irreconcilable. On one side are those who see the move as an attempt to replace the daily torture caused by loudspeakers and terrible voices with something more melodious, on the other those who see it as part of a wider conspiracy, claiming that it is just the opening gambit in a plan to replace individual Friday sermons with a single text approved by the authorities.

Mustafa Mahmoud, a Cairo resident, suggests that a return to the days when technology played no part at all in religion would be the best solution. “The easiest thing would be to ban all amplifiers and return to the era of the prophet when the muedhin would call the faithful to prayer, using just his voice,” he said.

Ahmed El-Sayeh, a professor at Al-Azhar University, worries that the project will lead to an estimated 200,000 muedhineen losing their jobs. Yet Zaqzouq says the ministry itself employs only 827.

But what about the thousands of muedhineen not employed by the ministry? Sheikh Akef Hussein, who works at a small mosque in Cairo’s Faisal district, is worried that if he is stopped from issuing the call to prayer then the mosque will no longer need his services.

9-27

Gaza & Hamas

Courtesy Al-Ahram, Egypt

While temporary security in Gaza might have been restored under the control of Hamas, the economic conditions continue to deteriorate and the future for all and sundry remains under threat, writes Saleh Al-Naami in Gaza

Opinions from both sides

Ismail Al-Hamsi had another reason to rejoice over the fall of Gaza into Hamas’s hands. The Palestinian security people who used to extort money from his father, a fruit importer, were out of commission. “The official in charge of the Mintar crossing point would take 110 Shekels ($25) for every tonne of apples my father brought in from Israel,” the 23-year-old Palestinian said.
He was sitting outside the entrance of his father’s store in Souq Al-Faras, the largest market district in Gaza. The sense of relief over Hamas’s gaining control was palpable throughout the market, which is frequented by thousands of shoppers every day, and for very much the same reasons that the young Al-Hamsi mentioned. People had long been subjected to the financial bribery of the security officers.

Salim Abu Murshid, 54, a farmer from the agricultural district to the east of the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, planned to celebrate. He was going to distribute all the melons he’d harvested to his neighbours and to all those who showed up at next Friday’s prayers in his neighbourhood mosque. “From now on, the security people won’t be able to steal the sand from my fields and sell it to construction contractors,” he said.

Certainly not all Gazans were similarly affected. But if there is a general unanimity over any issue, it is that Hamas’s control will put an end to one of Gaza’s worst nightmares: the breakdown in security and the chaos resulting from the infighting of rival militias. Ali Ibrahimi, 35, works as a civil engineer for a construction company. He is a Fatah supporter, but he believes that Gaza will become much safer than it had been before the recent events. Gamal Nassar, 29, a taxi driver from the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, agrees. He attributed the anarchy which had prevailed primarily to a government at odds with itself, with the cabinet dominated by Hamas and the security agencies controlled by Fatah.

Some Palestinians, however, see the clouds rather than their silver lining. Specifically, they predict further economic deterioration and humanitarian suffering. Much as he supports the Hamas movement, Mahmoud Darwish, 48, a school teacher from the Maghazi refugee camp believes that Hamas will never be able to run Gaza in a way that fulfils the needs of the people. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s recent statement that his government would continue with its duties made Mahmoud laugh. “Sure Abdul-Abd, [Haniyeh’s nickname] we’ll wait until you open up the borders to let food in, so people don’t starve to death,” he said caustically.

Interestingly, many of those who fear that economic and humanitarian conditions will worsen following Hamas’s take over hail from the youth leaders and intellectual elites associated with the movement. Hamas field leader Ali Abu Nusseir, 47, urged Hamas officials to back down on their refusal to relinquish in power and to try to strike an agreement with the new emergency government formed by Salam Fayyad. “Under the current conditions, this is the only way that the people’s basic needs will ever be met.” Abu Nusseir described Hamas’s situation as follows: “Hamas is like a starving man who grabs a loaf of bread. But the bread has come right out of the oven, so all he can do is toss it from one hand to the other, because it is too hot to eat.”

Nahad Al-Sheikh Khalil, an academic with ties to Hamas, put it another way: “Because of the limited margin for manoeuvrability, Hamas must find a way to come to terms with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. If they do not, people here will be without the bare minimum for survival.”

It is clear from the reactions of people in Gaza that their greatest hope is for law and order to prevail, which will be quite an undertaking. According to figures released by the Mizan Centre for Human Rights, 655 people died between 2002 and the beginning of June 2007 as a consequence of the security breakdown in Gaza. Of these, 81 were children. During the same period, 127 people were kidnapped, among whom 30 foreigners. The source of optimism for Gazans lies in their hope that there will be a turnaround in this tragic situation and that the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah will cease.

It was obvious to all that the reason why the national unity government’s security plan had not been put into effect, in the period before the recent outbreak in hostilities between Fatah and Hamas, was that security officials loyal to Abu Mazen had refused to cooperate with Hamas as part of a power struggle against it.

The anxiety over further economic deterioration, too, is not without grounds. Gaza is the most densely-populated area on earth (one and a half million people living on 360 square kilometres) which does not have economic resources of its own. Not only is this small area penned in by Israel from the land, air and sea, but, as well, the Paris Protocol that the PA and Israel concluded in 1995 has inextricablly tied the Palestinian economy to that of Israel: Gaza gets all of its water, electricity and fuel from Israel, and all of Gaza’s imports and exports have to pass through Israeli ports.

To top all of this, the PA has to pay the salaries of some 150,000 government and security service employees at the end of every month from taxes withheld by Israel and donations from the international community which ceased following the economic embargo. Even before the recent crisis, these employees had been receiving only a portion of their salaries and only intermittently at that. Now it appears that the situation for them could get even more drastic.
The signal to this effect came from the Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh who announced on Friday that the US administration and Israel had agreed to take action to double the economic pressure on Gaza, while easing conditions for the Palestinians in the West Bank so that the people in Gaza would realise that their situation would only get worse under Hamas’s rule.

The intent is clearly to foment popular discord in Gaza against Hamas, and the chances of this happening are not remote. According to Palestinian economic analyst Hani Habib, the recent US and EU decision, after the Fayyad emergency government was formed, to re-open the flow of financial aid to the PA would have little impact on the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. “Even supposing that the emergency government could pay civil servants their salaries, they still won’t be able to get the basic necessities because of the Israeli blockade. What’s the use of having money if there’s nothing you can buy with it?”

As though this prognosis was not already gloomy enough, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that Israel would not hesitate to cut off water, electricity and fuel to Gaza if Palestinian resistance movements continued to fire missiles at Jewish settlements across the border from Gaza. In a television interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Sunday morning, the head of the ultra-right Yisrael Beitenu party said, “why should we give them the electricity to run the machines which produce the crude missiles they fire at us?”

Talal Okal, writer and political commentator for the Palestinian Al-Ayam newspaper, also wondered whether the emergency government would be able to improve the situation for the people in Gaza. With the Hamas takeover in Gaza, this government no longer possesses the means to function as a ruling authority and to fulfil its responsibilities, he said. He then raised another problematic issue, which is that the emergency government has only a one month remit. “This division and this perverse situation cannot be expected to come to an end in such a short time. So is there a way to overcome the challenges that have arisen?” Okal asked.

To Hamas parliamentary spokesman Salah Al-Bardawil, many of the abovementioned problems fall under the heading of alarmism. He feels confident that neither Israel, the Americans nor the Arabs want to tighten the blockade against the Palestinians in Gaza. Such a blockade would not be in their interests because of the repercussions this would have throughout the region.

The dramatic turn of events which led to Hamas’s seizure of control in Gaza is an unprecedented turning point in the history of the Palestinian people. Beyond optimism in regard to an improvement in the security situation, nobody, whether in Hamas, Fatah including Abu Mazen’s inner circle, Israel or the Arab countries — which are deeply disturbed by these developments — has a clear idea where events will lead.

Still, it may be useful here to recall the words of Israeli writer, B Mikhael when he cautioned his government against depending on the exertion of economic pressure to topple the Hamas government. The experience so far, he said, demonstrates that the more Israel pressures the Palestinians to turn against Hamas, the more they cling to it. Conversely, the closer the Americans and Israelis embrace the Abu Mazen government the more this government appears, in Palestinian eyes, like the Vichy government in France during World War II.

Other Israelis have warned their government against taking any military action in Gaza or the West Bank. Hamas could take advantage of any Israeli aggression to mobilise Palestinian support as it mounts attacks against Israel, creating a scenario that would throw everything into further confusion, they argue.

The Hamas leadership has shown itself savvy to where the possible ends and the impossible begins. For this reason, it is important for Hamas to reach some compromise with Abu Mazen. Even now, the movement might not reject the idea of holding early elections, which Abu Mazen would find difficult to reject, having himself decided earlier to call for these before putting this decision on hold after the Mecca Accord was reached.

On the other hand, if Hamas feels that the other parties intend to drive it into a corner, it may be moved to act desperately. In this case, we cannot rule out more attempts to attack Israel, which in turn could lead to the Israeli re-occupation or partial re- occupation of Gaza. Such a development would prove deeply embarrassing to Abu Mazen and many Arab governments and it would do more than anything else to unite the Palestinian factions, once again, behind the option of armed resistance, probably under Hamas’s leadership.

9-27

Pakistani American Wins GOP Nomination: VA State Assembly Election

An upcoming Pakistani American leader, Faisal Gill, has won Republican party’s nomination to run for a House of Delegates seat from Virginia Assembly’s 51st district. An attorney and a former Department of Homeland Security official, Gill was declared Republican nominee at the party’s convention after a stiff competition with Julie Lucas, a member of the Prince William County School Board.

Faisal Gill will now face Democratic candidate Paul Nichols in general election in November. The 51st district is mainly composed of Wooedbridge and some parts of Manassas area.
A cheering Gill thanked residents of the area for expressing trust in him and vowed to work on issues he stressed in his campaign including transportation, immigration, lower taxes and family values.

He thanked Lt Governor Bill Bolling, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, Corey Stewart and many other prominent Americans of the area for their endorsements. He also thanked Pakistani Americans for their encouragement throughout the campaign, particularly community activists Johny Bashir, Chaudhry Akbar, Rashid Gill, Jamal Baloch, Insaf Khan, Farid Khalid, Anwar Iqbal and members of National Association of Pakistani Americans including Hafiz Habib, Malik Gulbaz, Zafar Syed, Hanif Akhtar and Chauhdry Abdullah and Saqib Ali who contributed significantly to success of his campaign.

Meanwhile, members of Pakistani American community have hailed Faisal’s nomination and expressed their continued support for the candidate, who, they say, has earned respect of all communities for his hard work, commitment to duty and integrity over the years.

9-27

Basmati Rice Fraud in U.S. Markets–Exposed

India Post, News Report, Srirekha N. Chakravarty

NEW YORK: In a major case of ‘Food Fraud’, more than 30 percent of the ‘Basmati Rice’ sold in the retail markets of the US and Canada has been found to be adulterated with inferior quality grains.

Basmati adulteration, it is estimated, is a $15 million hoax on the consumers in the US, according to Ricesearch, a one-of-a-kind DNA rice authenticity verification service in India. The state-of-the-art testing facility has been exclusively set up by Tilda, exporter of premium Basmati, with a major footprint in the US, Canada, UK and Middle Eastern markets.

Acting in public interest, a survey on Basmati rice conducted by Ricesearch revealed that only 68 percent of the so-called Basmati Rice sold in the US and Canada is unadulterated.

In the survey, 27 percent of the samples failed to meet rice export standards prevailing in India and Pakistan – the UK and US standards would reject 32 percent.

Even more shocking is the revelation that one in every five samples drawn from the market had adulteration levels of over 25 percent; over 25 percent of the samples had complex mixes of three or more varieties, which result in inconsistent cooking; and less than 15 percent of the samples were of pure traditional Basmati.

“Less than 15 percent of the samples had 100 percent pure basmati, 85 percent was adulterated,” reiterated TP Mahesh, President of Tilda Marketing. “The worse thing about the US market, it has been found, is that different lots of the same brand had differing percentages of admixtures, presumably going by the tolerance levels of consumers say in New York or Houston.”
“Based on that we have come to the conclusion that every year consumers are losing $15.7 million, because they think they are buying pure Basmati rice, but they are not,” pointed out Mahesh.

Scientists have recently deciphered the rice genome allowing them to identify the “finger print” of individual rice grains and specific rice varieties.

“At Ricesearch, we collect samples of Basmati rice from the market, put it in packets without labels, including our own brand of Basmati, and then do the testing,” explained Mahesh. “We work very closely with finger print experts in India (the Center of DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, India), Food Standards Agency, UK and the University of Bangor, Wales, UK.”

Tilda started its rice testing facility in 1993. In 2000 Ricesearch as well as the Food Standards Authority of the UK tested samples of ‘Basmati’ in the UK, and shared the results. “When results came in, they were aghast,” Mahesh said.

Consequently, in 2004, the UK government made it mandatory that only certain qualities of rice can be called Basmati and brought into the country. Consequently today in the UK Basmati imports have been regulated to ensure that only the traditional and patented variety gets in. Fines are being imposed on people who adulterate, and such DNA based testing for rice has precedents of successful convictions where two rice importers were convicted after pleading guilty to the offense of selling ordinary rice as Basmati rice.

“The BBC’s Channel 4 recently did a story on food fraud and in that connection talked about Tilda’s DNA testing techniques to ensure the purity of our Basmati supply,” informs Mahesh.
Interestingly, the British Retail Consortium has also come up with a Code of Practice on Basmati Rice agreed upon by The Rice Association, British Rice Millers Association and British Retail Consortium, in consultation with, among others, the All India Rice Exporters Association.

Further investigations are on-going while the European Union has implemented DNA testing on imports of Basmati entering the European community since 2003.

Following the UK experience, Tilda carried out a similar exercise in the Middle East, where more than 40 percent of the so-called Basmati available in the UAE retail market was found to be adulterated with inferior quality grains.

After creating a media buzz to educate consumers in the Middle East, Tilda has now launched a similar exercise in the US. “We just want to tell consumers that you cannot be ripped off on food,” said Mahesh. RiceSearch does an on-going research on rice samples collected from the traditional farmers’ mandis, and other emerging varieties before they become commercially significant.

“The whole idea is to pick up the threats below the radar to preserve the authenticity of Basmati,” says Mahesh. The rice DNA testing lab does continuous collaborative work with the Center of DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnospitcs, India, the FSA in UK (equivalent of the FDA in the US) and the University of Bangor, Wales, UK. The authentic Basmati varieties selected from historic land races and patented are Basmati 370, Basmati Type 3 (Dehradun Basmati), Haryana Basmati Collection 19 (HBC, Taraori Basmati, Karnal Local), Basmati 386 and the Pakistani variety – Kernel Basmati. Although several cross breeds have been recognized, Mahesh points out that they are simply not the same in terms of the qualitative characteristics of 100 percent pure Basmati.

According to Mahesh, at least 15 percent of the major US retailers stock Indian Basmati. Tilda intends to make these US retailers aware of the fraudulent varieties of ‘Basmati’ and work with them for testing samples, similar to what it did with the FSA in the UK. “But first, our aim is to educate the consumers and tell them not to buy blindly. There are brands which are being sold on ‘Buy One Get Two Free’ scheme, which should make the consumer question the authenticity because Basmati is a premium product and cannot be sold at such cheap rates,” says Mahesh.
The problem is difficult to stem unless there is widespread consumer awareness, feel Tilda officials. “The rice that gets imported from India may be pure, but it is at the US end that it gets adulterated, packaged and sold as Basmati. The controls have to happen at the port of entry,” says Mahesh. Implying that there is no ulterior motive on part of Tilda in exposing the food fraud, Mahesh says: “We have no issue on the consumer getting the product at a cheaper price. The problem is when consumers are led to believe that what they are getting for that price is pure Basmati, when it is not.”

9-27

Pres. Bush Seeks Permanent Military Bases in Iraq

Courtesy The Final Call, News Report, Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) – President George W. Bush appears to have rejected the Iraq Study Group’s call to pledge not to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

White House spokesman Tony Snow recently confirmed that Pres. Bush favors a “Korean model” for Iraq in which Washington would provide “a security presence” and serve as a “force of stability [for] a long time.” Mr. Snow’s statement spurred new questions about the administration’s aims in Iraq and whether Bush intends to set up a permanent military presence there.

Adding to the speculation were remarks made May 31 by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the overall field commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, wherein both officials suggested that Washington favors a protracted, if not permanent, troop presence in Iraq similar to the U.S. presence in South Korea. A minimum of 30,000 U.S. soldiers have been deployed to bases in South Korea since the Korean War more than 50 years ago.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Lt. Gen. Odierno told reporters during a video conference from Baghdad, when asked about following a similar strategy in Iraq.

“That would be nothing but helping the Iraqi security forces and the government to continue to stabilize itself and continue to set itself up for success for years to come, if we were able to do that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Secy. Gates said the presence of “some force of Americans … for a protracted period of time” would help reassure U.S. allies in the region that Washington would not abandon them.

The Korea analogy has spurred some consternation among analysts in Washington. Most experts are aware that when Iraqis have been surveyed on their views about permanent military bases in their country, the response—except among the minority Kurdish population—has been overwhelmingly negative.

Experts also reject the notion that the situation in Iraq, where U.S. forces find themselves in the middle of a number of internal sectarian conflicts, bears any relation to that of South Korea, where a minimum to 30,000 U.S. troops have been deployed as a “trip-wire” along the demilitarized zone to deter North Korean forces on the other side for more than 50 years.

The analogy is “either a gross oversimplification to try to reassure people [that the administration] has a long-term plan, or it’s just silly,” said retired Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, a former deputy national security adviser who served two tours of duty in South Korea.

In recommending that Pres. Bush explicitly renounce a permanent military presence in Iraq last December, the 10-member Iraq Study Group, which was co-chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., argued that such a declaration would reassure two key constituencies.

“The United States can begin to shape a positive climate for its diplomatic efforts, internationally and within Iraq, through public statements by President Bush that reject the notion that the United States seeks to control Iraq’s oil, or seeks permanent military bases within Iraq,” it said, urging Pres. Bush to affirmatively “state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases” there.

Congress has also implicitly encouraged the administration to make such a commitment. In the last two years, it has passed two laws that prohibit the government from spending any money to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Yet, as the latest statements suggest, Pres. Bush has ignored these calls, while the Pentagon, which has been turning over smaller military bases to Iraqi forces in a number of provinces in the past year, has built up and retained four “super-bases” around the country. The bases are capable of housing tens of thousands of military personnel.

In congressional testimony in early 2006, then-chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, laid out a number of reasons why Washington would want to retain at least permanent access to those bases. At the time, however, he stressed that a policy regarding the United States’ long-term presence in Iraq had not been formulated.

In particular, he cited the “need to be able to deter ambitions of an expansionistic Iran,” to ensure the “free flow of goods and resources on which the prosperity of our nation and everybody else in the world depend,” and to carry out counterterrorist operations.

Given prevailing popular sentiment in Iraq, maintaining a permanent military presence there could also undermine Washington’s ostensible goal to promote democracy there, according to Charles Smith, an expert on the Gulf at the University of Arizona.

“This model requires the approval and cooperation of an Iraqi government, the gaining of which is highly doubtful. So if the U.S. wants official approval, it will have to place its own man in power and keep [him] there by force,” he said. “In that case, the model to refer to is South Vietnam in the early 1960s, and we all know what happened there.”

9-27

Palestinian Issue: Concern Voiced In India

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

NEW DELHI–The Palestinian problem as of now is not limited to Palestinians living perpetually under war clouds. It extends to their being deprived of the right to live normally within their own territory. Without a region that they can call their own state, what should be regarded as Palestinians’ passport is viewed as a travel document. Numerous check points faced by them in their own territory have made travel problematic and cumbersome for them. For the average Palestinian earning less than two dollars a day, just the expense of traveling for medical help can cost around $70. War, war-threats, infighting or violence in any form is certainly not the answer to these problems, so what makes it continue? These were some of the questions raised at a seminar organized here last week by Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and League of Arab States’ Mission (June 22). The seminar on Palestine: 1967 and After was held marking the 40th anniversary of the June 5 war leading to Israeli occupation of Palestine.

In his opening address, Talmiz Ahmed, director-general of ICWA, described the crisis affecting Palestinians at present as “worst of worst.” It was imperative for the world community, he said, to be “sensitive to aspirations of Palestinian people.”

With numerous conflicts affecting the entire area from Pakistan to Palestine, he pointed to the region facing a “very serious human cost.” On the manner in which extremist designs were used to crush the same, describing the former as “mirror-image” of the latter, Ahmed pointed to there being a “resurgence of imperialism.” Commenting on “extremist” measures being used to crush what Israel and United States’ top leadership “view as Islamic terrorism,” Ahmed raised the question: “How should we approach these issues?”

Even the so-called “peace” measures carry little importance for Palestinians as they are “nothing but reconfirmation of the occupation process,” Ahmed Salem Saleh Al-Wahishi, ambassador, League of Arab States Mission, said in his address. Until a “genuine attempt” is made for peace, giving due importance to Palestinians’ interests, “The entire region will continue to be conflict-ridden,” he said. “Any step (in the peace process) being taken to satisfy Israel should also satisfy Palestinians and Arabs,” he asserted. Describing the 1967-war as a “wake-up call” to what the region has faced since then, Al-Wahishi emphasized the need for Palestinians to “unite.” “I look forward to Palestinian unity, to the narrowing of the gulf between them,” he said.

Tracing Palestinian sufferings to sixty year-period, Palestinian envoy Osama Musa said: “We are victims since 1947.” Dismissing the role played by the United Nations in settling the Palestinian problem as a “failure,” Musa said: “The UN was for peace, but there is no peace, only disaster. There has been one foolish resolution after another from the UN.” On the diplomatic “concern” displayed by the US regarding peace, human rights, justice and similar issues, Musa said: “They have no justice. They believe in justice through tanks and missiles. They talk of human rights but Americans are biggest violators of human rights.” Musa pointed out that even serious attempt made by Israel and Palestine would not be supported by the US, because he said: “Israel and Palestine’s peace is illogical for American interests because then Arabs would not need USA.”

King Abdullah (Saudi Arabia) was credited for the Makkah accord, which brought the two Palestinian factions (Fatah and Hamas) together, though for a little while, by C.R. Gharekhan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy for West Asia and Middle East peace process. “India agrees that President Mahmoud Abbas’ hands should be strengthened. But that is not enough,” he said.

During discussions, views were also aired on whether the involved parties had erred in not giving adequate importance to the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections 18 months ago and what should be the approach towards them now. Giving personal account of his experience in Palestine, P. Harish, Indian bureaucrat who has lived there for several years, pointed to Palestinians being without a state. “Statelessness – the defining characteristic of Palestinians, that is the worst crime, worst humiliation of people beyond poverty, that of living in occupied territories,” he said.

Since the Palestinian problem began six decades ago, “Israel is violating the resolutions of international legitimacy by rejecting the demand of international community for its withdrawal from occupied territories in West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syrian Golan height and what is left from Lebanese territories,” League of Arab Nations stated in a press release. Israel has “ignored vividly,” the release said: “The international humanitarian law, particularly the 4th Geneva agreement of 1949 – in relation to protection of civilians at time of war,” and other international conventions related to foreign occupation, through its “inhumane violation” and “oppressive measures including policies of racial discrimination, exploitation of population and construction of the wall which was denounced by the International Court of Justice.” Based on the Beirut Summit and the recently held Riyadh Summit (March 2007), the release called for peace in the region, “to fulfill the legitimate right of Palestinian people to return to their home land and to establish their independent state with its capital Jerusalem and to establish peaceful relations between Israel and Arab states.”

India’s concern about Palestinian problem is strongly reflected by holding of the seminar in the capital city. India has officially expressed the hope that the situation would soon “return to normalcy.” At a separate gathering, in response to questions, an Indian ministry of external affairs’ spokesperson said (June 22): “The need of the hour is to work towards meeting legitimate aspirations of all the people of Palestine, including their right to live in peace with their neighbors, within secure and recognized international borders.”

9-27

Darfur and the Sudan ‘Hustle’

Courtesy Washington Informer, Commentary, Askia Muhammad

Editor’s note: Now that Darfur has gained notoriety if not prominence as an international concern, the battle for who will define the issues is sure to become more heated.

I confess that at first I was a little embarrassed that I did not join the pack with my own full-throated condemnation of Sudan over Darfur.

So now, here comes President George W. (For “worst in history”) Bush, slapping more sanctions on Sudan, and the chorus screaming “genocide” getting louder still. Uh-oh.

Recently I talked to several Black folks who visited Sudan, including Darfur this Spring. More than one of them defended Sudan citing Paul Joseph Goebbels, the German Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda during the Nazi regime, and his “Big Lie Technique.”

To wit: “never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.” They said someone is practicing “The Big Lie” against Sudan.

Hmmm, I thought.

That certainly was the case in the story of so-called “slavery” in Sudan five or six years ago, when people–even well-meaning Black Civil Rights leaders–insisted that the Arab-Muslim government in the North of Sudan was practicing slavery against the Black-African-Christians in the South of the country.

Some of my friends went to the region and even claimed to have “bought” slaves and set them free. That was all a hoax. There never was any “slavery” where people were bought and sold as chattel. There was a decades-old civil war raging in Southern Sudan, and often the various warring parties engaged in kidnapping and ransoming captured members of opposing tribal groups, but people weren’t being bought and sold into slavery.

Someone was using The Big Lie Technique to influence Blacks in America, knowing how sensitive we are to and unforgiving we would be of anyone practicing “slavery.” After all, if Black folks turn against an African government, that government can’t count on any friends in the U.S. public opinion.

But Darfur is no “slavery hoax,” although there are many similarities to be found. There is a huge humanitarian crisis, compounded by years of drought, and an old-fashioned “range war” where nomadic camel herdsmen are competing for arable land and water to graze their animals, with farmers trying to grow crops. It’s a bloody fight, a fight which neither side can win outright.

So that’s the pretext and the context. A fight with the Arab-Muslim government on one side, and Black Africans on the other.

And then, a “smoking gun” was revealed. The Save Darfur Coalition, started to unravel from within. Questions were raised about whether or not the now deposed executive director of the organization–David Rubenstein–had wisely used a huge influx of cash from a few anonymous donors, in an advertising blitz, which included full page ads in metropolitan newspapers and in Black media. After Rubenstein walked the plank, Save Darfur board member Ruth Messinger, whose day-job is as president of the American Jewish World Service, said of him: “we wish him the best in his search for new opportunities for public service,” according to a report in the June 2, 2007 edition of The New York Times.

The Save Darfur Coalition, with its $15 million annual budget, wasn’t sending a dime to the refugee camps in Darfur or in neighboring Chad. They were spending big bucks, waging war against Sudan’s “radical Islamic regime,” composed of Arabs, obviously bent on “ethnic cleansing” of Black Africans.

The only thing is, 99.9 percent of all the people of Darfur, are Islamic. And as far as the Arab-government- business goes: they’re all Black! There’s not one person in the Sudanese government, who looks anything like your typical “Arab.” Not President Omar al Bashir, nor any of his cabinet, nor most of his country’s ambassadors, could pass the fabled “paper bag test.” They’re all too dark-skinned!

But we have heard, thanks to the Save Darfur “Big Lie Technique” ads, that the Arab-Muslims have been practicing “genocide” against the Black-Christian-Africans.

More sanctions they insist. Send in U.N. peace-keeping troops. Impose a “no-fly zone” over Darfur. Why that’s just what the U.S. did before invading Iraq, in what is now a luckless war of aggression, which the U.S. can never win.

Why is all of this going on? You might wonder. Oil. Huge un-developed oil reserves.

That Islamic government in Khartoum just happens to preside over the largest, and one of the most mineral rich countries on the African continent. Did I say they have lots of oil?

That Islamic government has ports on the Red Sea, and includes the head waters of the Nile River which can provide electricity all over the country. It has rich agricultural potential, and it borders on nine—count them—nine other African nations.

Sudan has the potential of being a bridge between Islamic Arab North Africa and Bantu Black Sub-Saharan Africa. In my book, that makes Sudan, an “enemy” of Western Imperialism, by simple definition.

I am not embarrassed any more to openly question the Save Darfur movement, because it is just the same old anti-Sudan movement, just dressed up in a different coat, a coat of many colors, including well-meaning conservatives, liberals, and even Blacks, all of whom have been duped by someone’s anti-Sudan “Big Lie” which has also proven to be a very profitable hustle.

Askia Muhammad is Editor of National Scene News Bureau, which provides editorial, audio and photographic content for broadcast and print clients, including The Final Call, National Public Radio, Soundprint, WPFW-FM and this newspaper [The Washington Informer].

askia99@verizon.net

9-27

Editorial: Recent Reports on Islam and Muslims

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars recently released a study on Muslim Americans with several questionable conclusions and dubious assertions.

The conclusions that it has drawn contradict some earlier surveys’ findings and create a climate of unrealistic uncertainty among Muslims. Based on the interview The Muslim Observer conducted among 50 Muslims in Nevada and California, it can safely be said that 85% of Muslims think that the findings are not based on realities, and exaggerate facts. Some 60% said that the survey lacks credibility as it fails to identify the sources that are determined to isolate Muslims. Interes tingly the survey advises Muslim Americans to meld into US society before they are isolated and turn to radicalism.

The report concludes that the Muslim Americans lack strong institutions and public and political voices to gain access to the media and government. The report also says that Muslims are outside the national mainstream. It also says that some existing Muslim American institutions have avoided foreign policy issues for fear of drawing unfavorable scrutiny.

The report contradicts last month’s PEW Survey based on a sample of 1,050 Muslims and released in May, saying that Muslims were largely assimilated, happy with their lives and more moderate than Muslims in other countries.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center ignores the following fundamental facts.
1. Some 33% of Muslims are of African American descend. They are fully integrated in the society. Some of them are members of various legislative bodies. Many are active in community and social life and they do matter in the politics of the African American community.

2. In several states, Muslims are actively involved in state and local politics; many playing an active role in affairs of the state.

3. The report says Muslims are afraid to raise foreign policy issues. The fact is that Muslim organizations and institutions run by immigrant Muslims have raised only foreign policy issues during the last 15 to 20 years.

4. The report says that Muslims must meld into the US society before they are isolated. The fact is that some 70% of Muslims are already assimilated into US society.

They are the ones who do not come to the mosque, who have changed their names, and who have forsaken their Islamic identity. One can easily find pockets of such Muslim communities all over the country.

The report failed to identify the impact of the Christian right and the Zionist extremist in orchestrating anti-Islam campaigns in the country. These two groups, with some clandestine efforts on behalf of some well known intelligence agencies, have invested huge resources in orchestrating an intense anti-Muslim campaign to make them isolated and alienated. The report fails to give any details of these groups.

It also fails to give a correct assessment of Muslim institutions and organizations.
It seems that the Center had the good intention to produce a quality document, but those who ran the project ran it down as their methodology was faulty and their conclusions were even more unrealistic.

9-27

Real Returns

By Bob Wood, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

We see no lack of stock market bulls in the mainstream media these days. Perhaps regular readers of this column return for their predictable weekly blast of cold water to the face! This strategy is the best I know to help investors wake up to the reality of what the stock market is — and what it is not.

Today’s bullish stock market promoters repeat over and over again that the stock market is a road to riches. Just look at those new record highs for major indices like the Dow or the Russell 1000, and there you go. What more evidence would you want?

Well, a couple more pieces of evidence would help convince me of the bullish case, but those pieces are still missing. And they are big ones, too! One such piece of corroborating evidence would be the existence of wealthy stock market investors. While I am sure that some people out there have generated fortunes from investing in stocks, no one that I ask seems to know exactly where they are. Do you?

On the face of it, this is truly odd, isn’t it? Bullish “experts” like Jeremy Siegel, who wrote Stocks for the Long Run, assure investors that all they need do is diversify and let time work in their favor. In the long run, they purport, stocks always head higher. So if you wait long enough, you will enjoy the fruits of your patience and sacrifice.

Corroborating evidence includes those wonderful, long-term, historic returns earned by mutual funds. Data tables are full of positive gains earned over long time periods by the more popular funds. So obviously, any investor who rode patiently along with any of them made big money, right? The only thing wrong with this statement is that we seem to have a glaring lack of patient investors.

And while these long-term returns look impressive, no one seems to see them actually add up in their accounts. This result applies to major market indexes like the Dow, for which we have a long data set to examine.

Let’s examine some other pieces of evidence to determine whether I might be onto something here. First, consider some data brought to light by Ed Easterling, quoted in a book, Just One Thing, by John Mauldin. He points out that, while the average annual return on the Dow shows a gain of close to 10%, calculating the Dow’s compound return over the past 106 years produces an average annual gain of about 5%!

We can easily replicate his method by plugging a few numbers into our financial calculators, using 66 as the Dow value in 1900 and then comparing it with today’s value. I just did the calculation and got a result of 5.14%. Do you still wonder why we find so few wealthy stock market investors? Doesn’t this simple math help illuminate the answer a bit?

Let’s add to our discussion some recent evidence offered by Barrons. In the mutual fund section of the June 18, 2007 edition, an article reports returns advertised by funds companies versus actual returns realized by buyers of shares in them. Oddly enough, a big discrepancy exists between the funds’ records and the experience of many fund investors.

One fund mentioned is the Calamos Growth A Fund, a mid cap fund. While the fund sports a 10-year return average of 18.75%, the average return realized by its investors is 9.76%. For the Vanguard Growth Index Fund, the gain advertised for the past 10-year period is 6.29%. However, the fund’s average investor profit is just 1.81%. For the Legg Mason Partners Aggressive Growth A Fund, gains posted by the fund average an annual 14.33%, but the average investor earned only 7.83%!

Now, those are big differences, aren’t they? This variance is becoming enough of a concern that Morningstar now offers data on both the average annual return earned by many funds and the average annual gain earned by their investors. For some funds, big differences exist. For others, we see little, if any, difference. Interestingly, the fund family advertising on this page seems to cater to very patient investors, showing return numbers that are almost identical. (And no, I don’t know these people, nor have I spoken with them. Whether you invest in that fund or not doesn’t concern me in the least. I’m just passing along an observation.)

Also in the Barrons’ piece is an attempt to assign responsibility for the lowly investor returns as compared to average annual gains made by the funds themselves. Can you guess who gets the blame? Why, of course, it’s you! Well, it’s that “nervous” investor, who apparently buys high and sells low with alarming consistency.

The investment research company Dalbar also does some great work in this area. That firm’s Lewis Harvey added to the Barrons’ article that ‘’the average equity investors’ annualized return between 1986 and 2005 was 3.9%, while the Standard and Poor’s return was 11.9%.’’

This information provides an update to citing of the Dalbar work, which I first read a few years ago in the book Why Smart People make Big Money Mistakes, written by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich. In it, they quoted gains earned by the average investor compared to market averages.

‘’From 1984 through 1995 the average stock mutual fund posted a yearly return of 12.3%, while the average bond mutual fund returned 9.7% a year. From 1984 through 1995 the average investor in a stock mutual fund earned 6.3%, while the average investor in a bond fund earned 8%.’’

I’ll wait while you take time to read those numbers again.

Now keep in mind that the period cited above was one of very favorable returns, albeit with that nasty bear period in 1987 included. But one could be easily led into thinking that because the average annual gain posted by many mutual funds was so positive, their investors must have done quite well. But this is clearly not the case!

In fact, during both time periods shown by the Dalbar work, the average investor would have fared better by avoiding stocks altogether — and that was during bull markets! The average investor would have earned more by investing in bonds for the whole time!

As mentioned above, the investor gets the blame for the difference in realized gains over long time periods. They tend to chase performance and take the easy way out when analyzing their investments. And for the most part, this concept is true. How many still invest in companies they know nothing about, having heard a hot stock tip from a friend or by listening to financial media promoters touting this stock or that?

Where I have a hard time assigning all the blame to the investor is that this accusation seemingly assumes that all investors manage their own accounts. But what about the millions of accounts managed by “professional” brokers and advisors? Is there any difference in the gains made by the class of investor who pays the costs of professional advice?

In the short list of funds provided above, where major return discrepancies are shown, two of the three funds are “load” funds. How many “do-it-yourself investors” buy mutual funds requiring an up-front sales fee? I don’t have that exact number at the moment, but I’d guess it must be close to zero!

But the investor still gets the blame! Why do you suppose that happens? Could it be that many investors shove their brokers and advisors around, telling them what to buy and sell in spite of strenuous objections from their seasoned professional’s best advice? Yeah, that looks like a pretty weak argument, doesn’t it?

But you didn’t expect the brokerage community to accept any of the blame, did you? Yes, the big brokers have been around for decades, yet we still find an amazing lack of successful investing stories. And with huge amounts of broker-assisted mutual fund and stock buying and selling occurring in the past 50 or more years, we still find few examples of really successful investing.

It’s not that investing is an impossible pursuit. Finding low cost, no-load mutual funds with strong managers still makes sense for patient investors. But recognize, going into the game, that no magic formulas or short cuts apply. Investing takes time and patience. If you find a fund you are happy with, stick with it for as long as you can justify it. Don’t let short-term disappointments push you into making bad decisions.

If you are using the services of brokers or advisors, start asking hard questions about their track record and how many of their investors have made small fortunes over the past 20 years. I think you will find that professional advice always has its costs — but often offers little benefit.

This evidence seems to prove itself again and again, over long time periods — and even during the best bull markets of the recent past. Don’t let promoters’ claims fool you into thinking that the stock market offers the easy road to riches. It does not — even in the best of times.
Have a great week.

Bob

Bob Wood ChFC, CLU Yusuf Kadiwala. Registered Investment Advisors, KMA, Inc., invest@muslimobserver.com.

9-27

SE Michigan (V9-I27)

Low Turnout for Dearborn Heights City Council Candidate Forum

By Dana Inayah Cann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Dearborn Heights–June 25–Including the press (which consisted of Dearborn Heights Cable TV, channel 12 and WOW channel 10) and the Dearborn Heights City Council Candidates, about 40 people were in attendance at this open forum held at the Dearborn Heights City Council Chambers. The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters for Dearborn and Dearborn Heights (LWVDDH), a non-partisan, political organization who’s mission “encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding on major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.“

Of the eight candidates, only seven were present: Barbara Langlois, a retired city worker; George C. Landry, a veteran of the United States Military; Elizabeth Agius, Council Chair for Dearborn Heights and program evaluator and research analyst at Wayne State University; Rose Tripepi, a retired UAW Ford employee; Kenneth Baron, Councilman for the last 12 years and a business owner; Bob Brown, executive director of the Senior Alliance Area Agency; and Ned Apigian, a licensed builder, city planner and self-employed architect.

Candidate Maria Ellul Langlois, a patient advocate and emergency department representative at Oakwood Healthcare System was not able to attend.

The forum began at approximately 7pm. After a welcome and introduction of the forum given by the president of LWVDDH, Mona Hammoud, candidates introduced themselves prior to answering questions developed by audience members and LWVDDH.

The forum covered issues such as the upkeep of the city, ordinances, wildlife, outsourcing, top three concerns for the city and hopes for the city’s future. For each question, three to four candidates were given the chance to respond.

“It’s a complicated issue,” said George C. Landry, 35 about the city‘s upkeep. Landry, a 33 year resident stated that numerous houses are going up for sale along with vacant houses and others going into foreclosure. “Homeowners need to be outspoken to keep up their properties,” said Landry.

Ned Apigian, 62 and a 36 year resident wants the city to create more ordinances. “The city of Dearborn Heights needs a tree ordinance,” said Apigian, expressing his frustration with people who trim and cut down trees without following the proper procedures. Apigian also spoke about people who violate trash day procedures, saying that no one wants to drive down a street where residents line the curbs with trash before time. “We don’t seem to have enough money to enforce this,” said Apigian.

“Some neighbors can’t afford to upkeep their property,” said Barbara Langlois, a 47 year resident. Langlois suggested that neighbors help each other by cleaning and fixing up properties, especially those of senior citizens.

Over the years, wildlife have become an annoyance for the residents of Dearborn Heights. Bob Brown and Kenneth Baron both agreed that wildlife in Dearborn Heights is here to stay, noting that the animals are everywhere in the city and if people refrain from feeding them, the animals won’t be prompted to emerge on their properties.

Apigian said of the issue that he can think of more issues to be concerned with other then the animals. “We’re surrounded by the woods,” said Apigian. “ I don’t think it’s a problem unless it’s a nuisance.”

As for the outsourcing of union jobs, Elizabeth Agius, a 20 year resident, thinks that outsourcing is not yet an issue. Retired union worker Rose Tripepi stated that she is against outsourcing.
When asked about their three top concerns for the city and hopes for the future, Landry concerns are for the budget, safe guards for children and that every concern by the citizens is taken care of. He hopes that in the next ten years, the value of properties in Dearborn Heights will increase. Agius’ concerns are for the residents quality of life, the city budget and bringing in new businesses to the city. She hopes that in the next ten years the city will have a stable funding base. Tripepi’s concerns are for the care of seniors, abandon homes and the children.

Tripepi’s hopes that in the next ten years the city is rejuvenated and that the more businesses come to the city.

At the end of the forum, candidates expressed their love for the city and how their past and/or present job skills can be used to fulfill the position as City Council.
Election day is November 4, 2007.

For more information of the League of Women Voters for Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, log onto lwvddh.org or call (313) 278-6476.

Press Releases: Metro Detroit Mosques to House Mini Jewish Libraries

The American Jewish Committee, Metropolitan Detroit Chapter, will present small Jewish book collections to two metro-Detroit area mosques on Thursday, June 28. The first Building Bridges Thru Books presentation is scheduled for 2:00 pm at the Detroit Muslim Center located at 1605 W. Davison in Detroit and the second ceremony will be held at 4:00 pm at the Islamic Organization of North America, IONA at 28630 Ryan Road in Warren.

Both Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin of the Detroit Muslim Center and Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk of IONA will address members of their mosques upon accepting the gifts.

The two collections include books about the Jewish faith, customs and holidays, Jewish literature, Jewish codes of law and ethics and sacred texts.

Sixteen books appropriate for young adults and up will be housed in special areas of the mosques and made available to those who are serious students of the Abrahamic faiths. This project has been generously underwritten by Suzy and Burton Farbman.

“Recent events in the Middle East and in America have challenged many members of the Jewish and Muslim communities who value the cultivation of positive relations between the two faith communities,” reflects Brenda Rosenberg. As the co-chair of the Chapter’s Interreligious Affairs Commission, Brenda Rosenberg feels that Building Bridges Thru Books is a model for strengthening interfaith outreach and understanding.

“Together with Muslim leaders, we are paving the way to breaking down the barriers of misumderstandings, incorrect information and prejudice that so easily can divide us.”

Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin was the first imam to be approached by the American Jewish Committee leaders and enthusiastically accepted. He has already begun setting space aside for the mini-library. Imam Mustapha Elturk has designated space in IONA’s library’s comparative religion section and has expressed appreciation for the gift. “We value this contributionnd we hope that these books will indeed help build bridges among those who follow the Abrahamic faiths.” Other area imams and their congregants have agreed to accept mini Jewish libraries and presentations in Dearborn and in Oakland County will be scheduled for August.

Book titles: Biblical Literacy, Essential Torah, The Book of Jewish Values, The Jewish Book of Why, The Torah, The Jewish Study Bible, The Student’s Guide Through the Talmud, The Torah–JPS Standard Edition, To Pray as a Jew, Inside Judaism, The Jewish Holidays, Symbols of Judaism, The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, American Judaism, Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims, This Jewish Life.

AJC Interreligious Affairs Commission, Co-chairs Brenda Rosenberg (248) 790-1544 and Sheldon S. Toll (248) 613-3188.

ACCESS, NNAAC: Historic Visit to Capitol Hill

Representatives from six member organizations of the National Network of Arab American Communities (NNAAC), convened in Washington D.C. to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. On June 20, participants joined top civil rights and immigrant rights leaders from throughout the country at the Rights Working Group meeting to discuss due process and immigration reform.

NNAAC members then made a historic trip to Capitol Hill, where they met with senior staff from Representative Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) office and Representative Nydia Velazquez’s (D-NY) office. In this first ever NNAAC Hill visit, participants discussed the impact of immigration reform on the Arab American community and advocated for a just and comprehensive immigration reform bill. NNAAC would like to thank Rebecca Abou-Chedid from the Arab American Institute for facilitating these Hill visits.

A day earlier, on June 19, participants joined thousands in a march to the White House. Taleb Salhab, ACCESS National Outreach Director, moderated the rally.

Participants included representatives from ACCESS, the Arab Cultural and Community Center in San Francisco, the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, the Arab American Community Center in Orlando, the Arab American Family Support Center and the Arab American Association of New York, both based in Brooklyn.

For more information about the immigration reform effort, contact Nadia El-Zein at (313) 842-4763 or nelzein@accesscommunity.org.

Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Meets with Arab American Community

On June 26, ACCESS hosted a reception in honor of Daniel Loepp, President and CEO or Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The event took place at the Arab American National Museum, and in attendance were leaders from various segments of the Arab American community. Mr. Loepp was recognized for his dedication to serving the local population in his role.

“Dan clearly evidences a commitment to the betterment of our society,” said ACCESS Board President, Noel Saleh. “Through his leadership and coalition building, the Michigan Blue has helped to preserve coverage to individuals year-round regardless of medical condition. He clearly has a deep concern for the well being of all people.”

Also recognized was ACCESS Board Member Cathy Mozham, Director of Community Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Her contributions and support as a board member have become at tremendous asset to ACCESS and its work.

ACCESS Services for the Elderly

ACCESS provides assistance to the elderly in getting through the maze of services, programs, and options available for seniors. Our Social Services case managers provide information and referral services to seniors, to increase awareness and access to Senior Network Services that are available to them by The Senior Alliance and Detroit Area Agency on Aging.

Services include: Adult Day Services, Caregiver Support, Care Management, Case Coordination and Support, Chore Services, Congregate Meals, Elder Abuse Services, Gatekeeper Program, Health Screening, Hearing Impaired Services, Home Delivered Meals, Homemaker and Personal Care Services, Caregiver Assistance, Legal Assistance, MMAP (Medicare/ Medicaid Assistance Program, MI Choice Waiver Program, Refugee Support Project, Respite Care, Transportation, and Vision Services.

In partnership with ACCESS, the DAAA (Detroit Area Agency on Aging) and TSA (The Senior Alliance) are on a mission to find, educate, and enroll 1000 eligible individuals into the low income subsidy (LIS) program offered through the Social Security Administration known as “Operation Extra Help” to provide them with benefits they may be eligible for.

For more information, please contact Enam Abraham at (313) 945-8109 or Hala Ancouni at (313) 842-6755.

9-27

Community News (V9-I27)

Hoover Muslim center faces opposition

HOOVER, AL–Opponeents of an Islamic center in Hoover organized a meeting to stall its plans to build a place of worship.

Residents from several neighborhoods near the 4.7-acre site at the intersection of Sulphur Springs and Al Seier roads said they oppose the project because of the traffic it would bring.
Lee Strickland, who lives in the Village at Highland Crest, said hundreds of new houses already planned in the area will cause traffic congestion that a church would make worse.

“You’ve got a traffic problem you can’t resolve if you just keep adding to it,” Strickland said.
No one at the hour-long meeting spoke in favor of the worship center.

On Friday, the Hoover Planning and Zoning Commission postponed until Aug. 13 its consideration of the project. The commission, which meets the second Monday each month, had been scheduled to consider the proposal on July 9.

‘Takin’ It to the Streets” festival in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL–The Inner-City Muslim Action Network organised a one of a kind festival in Chicago which was attended by thousands of people from Greater Chicago Area. The festival was intended to show the diverse face of young and vibrant Muslim America and engage society in an effort to improve their communities and show solidarity among all races and culture.
This year marked the sixth year of holding the festival which featured talks on Islamic topics as well as presentations by socially conscious rappers.

“People need to be brought together because we live in a society that continues to be segregated, and I think that segregation is something that Muslims suffer from in a way that became ever more apparent after 9/11,” said “Streets” organizer and IMAN Director Rami Nashashibi in an interview to Chicago Tribune.

Looking out over the mix of people at Sunday’s event, Nashashibi said that Muslims could set an example of how to peacefully bring together and improve communities.

“What’s most lasting for me is not just the fact that you have all these people here from all these different backgrounds, but that the Muslim community has something to offer not just Muslims but the larger society.”

Annual Muslim conference in Dallas on Saturday, June 30

DALLAS, TX–The Islamic Society of North America will be holding a day-long conference in Dallas, Texas on June 30th. There will be a press conference on Saturday, June 30 at 12 p.m. in the Chinaberry Room of the Crown Plaza Dallas Galleria.

The conference will center on Prophet Muhammad as a role model and how the prophetic tradition can be incorporated into modern daily life. The program will include many prominent scholars and leaders including the keynote speaker by Dr. Merve Kavakci, former member of the Turkish Parliament.

“We want to share and educate people of all faiths, the entire life of Prophet Muhammad whose whole life was to promote peace and justice,” says Conference Chair, Azhar Azeez.

Bohra Muslims celebrate their leader’s birthday

The Bohra community in Chicago celebrated the 96th birthday of their spiritual leader Dr.Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s birthday at a glittering ceremony at their Willowbrook mosque. A reception was hosted with the Indian and Pakistani Consul Generals and other political dignitaries from Chicagoland. The event featured songs by children in praise of their leader.

Dr. Nasrullah Khan named distinguished professor

Dr. Nasrullah Khan, a faculty member of Chicago’s Truman College, has been named as the college’s distinguished professor. He is a professor in Biology Department and served as Chairman of Biology, Biotechnology and Physical Education for two years.

He received Ph.D. and M.S. from Louisiana State University and graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in India. He received a research fellowship from Ford Foundation for training in reproductive physiology and had been a recipient of research assistantships, teaching excellence award and the Nizam’s educational grant.

He practiced veterinary medicine as Government Veterinarian in India.Because of his clinical educational background and experience he had been associated with different hospitals as Adjunct Professor for several years, teaching Nursing and Radiology students. He taught at Michael Reese Hospital, Little Company of Mary Hospital, South Chicago Hospital and Ravenswood Hospital. He also taught at two Veterinary Colleges, Livestock Inspector Training Center, National College of Education, Northeastern University, Central YMCA community College & Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

9-27

Houstonian Corner (V9-I27)

Distinctive Pakistan Community Center Opens in Houston

Located at the intersection of South Dairy Ashford at Bissonnet in Southwest Houston, the first full-fledged “Pakistan Community Center ” of the USA has been established in a former H-E-B Grocery Store.

The First Annual Gala Fundraising Dinner was held at the Center this past week, while the Center will be officially inaugurated by Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan, Mr. Mohammed Mian Soomro on July 05, 2007.

The fundraiser was attended by three Congresspersons: Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green and Nick Lampson.

Mr. Ghulam Mohammad Bombaywala, President of the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), talking to local media, said that he is most happy to be given an opportunity by God and the community to be the caretaker of this project.

This project was envisioned way back in the 1980s and several individuals and committees have worked on various options and plans. However, it was during the presidential tenure of Mr. Bombaywala that PAGH Pakistan Center Trustees and PAGH officials came with the unique idea of a self-sustaining Community Center. There was debate within the community on this issue and some were not in favor of combining business interests with a community services center.

Mr. Ghulam Mohammad Bombaywala and his team continued with the plan of using the funds generated by the sale of earlier Pakistan Center Land, the funds raised by the team plus taking out loan to purchase the old H-E-B Grocery Store and renovate it to make seven shops facing Bissonnet (the commercial and self-sustaining part of the Center) and Pakistan Community Center facing South Dairy Ashford.

All seven shops have been leased, and it is expected that the loan of $1.5 million for the property will soon be paid-off.

The 37,000-Square-Foot building has seven shops, a 16,000-Square-Foot Banquet Hall and Seminar Room (which both can as well be rented to generate funds), a community clinic, library, after-school activity room, elderly people’s room, and separate prayer halls for ladies and men.
PAGH can be reached at: Pakistani Community Center, 12638 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099, Phone: 281-684-4231.

Chinese Language Needs To Be Learnt: China Town Hall Meeting

The Asia Society Texas Center for the past twenty-eights years has operated as a medium for perspectives and deliberations on subjects related to Asia. Hundreds of programs are offered each year on Asia, with economics seminars, USAID Reports, health issues, cultural exhibits and salons, the annual Tiger Ball, and much more.

The Asia Society Texas Center, in collaboration with the National Committee on US-China Relations and the University Of St. Thomas Center for International Studies, brought web-cast at the Cullen Hall of the St. Thomas University Houston. This web-cast was part of Local Connections–National Reflections China Town Hall Meetings, which were held simultaneously in 30 Cities across the US.

The first thirty minutes were addressed by Dr. Thomas J. Christensen, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with responsibility for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

Mr. Stephen A. Orlins, President and CEO of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, was the Webcast monitor. After the webcast, each of the 30 cities had a local
program.

In Houston, the panel included Ms. Naila Qureshi of the Asia Society, Dr. Gustavo Wensjoe of the University Of St. Thomas Center for International Studies, and Kein G. Nealer of The Scowcroft Group, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Thomas J. Christensen emphasized the necessity of developing an articulated and coordinated plan towards the People’s Republic of China that can integrate all the concerns like economic, security, diplomatic, and human rights. China’s brisk appearance as a salient constituent of today’s strategic environment has considerable connotations for the US, the Asia, and the world. He said Chinese is one of the most important languages for everyone (especially entrepreneurs and the youth) to learn.

According to Dr. Thomas J. Christensen, China’s over dependence on oil can create a world crisis, especially since China is relying on countries for oil who are not in friendly terms with the USA (like Sudan, Iran and Venezuela).

He said when he visited China in the previous decades the number of cycles and automobiles he saw have interchanged their numbers; meaning there are as many automobiles now on Chinese roads as there used to be bikes in the previous decades. And as the numbers swell at astronomic rates, the world can get engulfed in energy crisis very soon.

About the economy and China-US Trade Deficit, it was mentioned that China’s policies of market liberalization have resulted in rapid export-led economic growth, prompting increased foreign investment; development of China’s manufacturing capabilities; and integration into the global supply chain. China’s abundant and inexpensive labor supply has made that country an obvious place for multinational companies to expand their production. According to Dr. Christensen’s assessment, five of eight factors identified as major drivers of China’s comparative advantage—for example its ability to undercut the prices of global competitors—are considered unfair trading practices. These include its undervalued currency, counterfeiting and piracy, export industry subsidies, and lax health, safety, and environmental regulations. These practices violate China’s WTO commitments, especially regarding workers’ rights, market access, currency manipulation, subsidies, and the protection of intellectual property rights. These violations and unfair practices also contribute to a growing U.S. trade deficit with China; one that U.S. Census Bureau statistics confirm increased 177 percent in the past six years from $83.8 billion in 2000 to $232.5 billion in 2006.

Dr. Thomas J. Christensen concluded by saying that in all spheres like the economy, the environment, military spending and innovations, China needs to become more transparent and show willingness to work together with the world community.

At the conclusion of the half-hour webcast, Kevin Nealer lead the discussion with the Houston audience on “China ’s Energy Demands and Implications for U.S.” Remember Nealer is the author of the Council on Foreign Relations Report Beginning the Journey: China, The United States and the WTO.

He is a consultant to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities on trade and economic security issues.

For more information on future Asia Society Texas Center Programs, contact: Ms. Susie Works, 4605 Post Oak Place, Ste. 205, Houston, Texas 77027 – Tel: (713) 439-0051 Ext. 12 – Fax: (713) 439-1107 – E-Mail: susiew@asiasoc.org.

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30 Days in Afghanistan–Arrival

By Naeem Randhawa

“God gave me travelling shoes,
God gave me the wanderer’s eye,
God gave two gold coins to help me to the other side.
He then turned around and said–be careful how the small things grow,
When God gives you travelling shoes,
You know that it is time to go.”
“Home,” by Simple Minds

Kam Air Touchdown at Kabul Airport

Afghani owned, the Kam Air flight left Dubai, and is touching ground in Kabul in less than 3 hours. The Boeing 737 dips under the mountain range, and the pilot circles the plane to position for landing at Afghanistan’s Kabul Airport. Outside I see the blue sky blending into the gray shale clay mountain ranges surrounding the city, the mountains descend into a pale brown dirt that covers most of the land. For the last hour, I’ve been glancing through the window, and can’t figure out how anyone can possible tame this rugged and desolate land, and yet, here is a bustling city. Dry and dusty, rugged and scarred, and beautiful in its remoteness and wildness – a reflection of the land and people.

We’re taxiing to the small terminal, on our way, we pass a dozen or so American and Russian military helicopters and fighter jets. There’s only one other commercial plane I see on the ground, I wonder if I made the right decision to come and work here. The crew, I think they’re Russian, open the door as we come to a stop. I’m surrounded by families who are returning to their land, and by other foreigners, or expats as their known here, like me. We stand out from the crowd, it’s in our clothing, in our faces. Even though we’re trying to act casual, I know we’re all somewhat nervous. You can feel the vibe.

Outside, the midday Sun is beaming. It’s hot and dry, the heat’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but the dryness is harsh, I’m breathing in dust. The small building that is the main terminal is badly in need of renovations. I make my way into the building, my name is on a cardboard, carried by a young Afghani, my fixer. He greets me, and grabs my carry-on, I tell him I’ll carry it myself – he insists, I let him have it. A second man is waiting for my on-board luggage, he tells me the beltway is broken again, so the airline guys are carrying in the suitcases from the plane. We gather my stuff, a third man meets us as we exit the secure area, a company man. He extends his hand, I shake it, he hands me a charged cell phone, and proceeds to give me a de-briefing on company policies and security. I grab the phone, start dialing Sonia, and grab a seat into the back of an armor protected vehicle. As I look away from the hand guns and machine guns in the vehicle around me – I tell Sonia, I’m fine, all’s well, I’ve arrived.

Arrival in the Heart of Kabul

I’m not fearful, I’ve talked with people on the ground, I know its relatively safe, I’m more curious than anything else. Well, curious isn’t quite the right word, I’m flat out alive with electricity. I try not to act like school boy on a field trip, but I’m taking everything in, I’m scanning everything in front of us, around us, the first people I see on the street, the buildings, the other vehicles. I’m drinking it all in. What does a country look like that’s been at war for almost 30 years? What are the people like? How have they survived? I am wondering all of these things as we weave, bob and race on roads that are dirt, paved and full of potholes and obstacles.

I arrive at my assigned company house, which is rented at an exorbitant rate, because demand and inflation have gone through the roof. Demand has sharply increased from all the expats coming in to work on re-structuring projects. I enter through the gate to the house, which is surrounded by 20 feet high fencing, covered with rings of barbed wire, and privately hired security gunmen, inside and outside the front gates. The security guards are local, and most of them are smaller than me, but I know that they are probably as tough as hell – you’d have to be. They greet me, “Hello”, I respond “Aslam Alaikum”, I get a slight smile back – they know I’ve got a past here somewhere.

My room, along with a half dozen others, is pretty luxurious in comparison with local standards, clean, a big bed, a desk and chair, an A/C unit, a fridge, and a private bathroom. I put my bags down, and jump in the shower to wash all the dust off. After, I open my window blinds, and look up at the blue sky, it’s the same sky I’d stare at in Dallas, except for the barbed wire on my horizon, and the Afghani guards 30 feet from me, standing in the afternoon sun, with Kalashnikovs slinging from their shoulders.

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International Urdu Conference held in Chicago

By Mohammed Ayub Ali Khan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

CHICAGO, IL– “Urdu is a language of unity and brotherhood and negates the theory of clash of civilizations. Efforts should be made to propagate its message of amity and inclusiveness in order to defeat the divisive forces,” said renowned critic, linguist and Urdu scholar Dr. Gopi Chand Narang. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the fourth International Urdu Conference in Chicago on Friday, June 22. The three day convention consisted of nine sessions were more than two dozen papers were presented on Urdu fiction, Urdu literature & Feminism, the role of Naat & Marsia in Urdu literature, and the Contributions of the Progressive Movement, etc.

Continuing on the importance of Urdu as a unifying force Dr. Narang said that its role is similar to the one of the mystics. He cited an anecdote of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who was once gifted a pair of scissors. The great mystic declined to accept it and said that he should rather be presented with thread and needle so that he can do something constructive. “Urdu has the vast potential to patch up the civilization, religious, and other differences,” Dr. Narang added.

Dr. Taqi Abidi, president of the Central Committee of the Urdu Conference, said over 60 per cent of the Urdu literature consists of devotional poetry like Naat & Marsia and that it will be foolhardy to ignore this discipline. He claimed that there are over seven thousand Marsias in Urdu. In a powerful rebuke to those who claim that Marsias are exclusively the domain of the Shi’ah community, Dr. Taqi Abidi said that each Marsia ends on the Naat which is universally accepted by Muslims and even non-Muslims. “If one wants to get a glimpse of pristine forms of poetry in which chivalry, devotion, faith, suffering, and other noble characteristics are discussed then one cannot ignore the disciplines of Naat & Marsia.”

Dr. Ali Ahmed Fatimi of Allahabad University in his paper on the Progressive Movement said that it introduced the genuine emotions,concerns, and aspirations of the suffering masses in Urdu poetry which was predominantly occupied with mundane subjects. He said that this movement should be revived to meet the modern day challenges of poverty, hunger, and war.

Dr. Abidullah Ghazi, educationist & author, pointed out that the Progressive Movement had played an influential role in socialist countries. He claimed that the literature of Communist China had borrowed heavily from the subcontinent’s progressive writers.

Dr. Qamar Raees clarified that the Progressive Movement wasn’t necessarily anti-Islam or anti-religion and that many poets of this movements were deeply religious. He said that even Sajjad Zaheer was highly appreciative of the revolutionary message of the Holy Qur’an in his book Roshnai which was written while he was incarcerated. While in jail Zaheer and other prisoners were denied the books of Marx, Engels and other revolutionary writers but were provided with copies of the Holy Qur’an. At this he apparently remarked that perhaps the jail authorities do not know that the Holy Qur’an is the most revolutionary book on the face of the earth.

Dr. Abdul Jaleel Pathan, Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad Urdu University, said that Urdu is not an impediment in the learning of modern subjects and his university offers a diverse array of subjects including business management and communication. Many graduates of the university are now employed in many mainstream businesses and the university will soon offer more courses in Science and Arts streams.

Khalil ur Rehman, publisher & chief editor of Urdu Times, stressed on the need to develop new educational techniques and methods for the teaching of Urdu in the modern context. He said that the internet holds vast potential in imparting Urdu literacy in North America due to its widespread penetration. Urdu Times, the largest Urdu language newspaper in North America, is the organizer of the conference and has held successful Urdu conferences in the past years in New York, Toronto, and London. He urged the lovers of Urdu to join the movement for its propagation. He proposed the formation of a ‘Urdu Foundation’ as a not for profit organization to promote Urdu language & literature, commission research activities, and develop technologies for learning and teaching of the language.

The convention concluded with a grand Mushaira in which more than thirty local and international poets participated including Dr. Qamar Ra’ees, Dr. Mohsin Ahsan, Dr. Taqi Abidi, Dr. Khaliq Anjum, Nayyar Jehan, Sayyid Hanif Akhgar, Dr. Ziauddin Shakeeb, etc.

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General Zinni on Iraq: The Battle for Peace

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Berkeley–Two months ago from the day of this important public talk below at Berkeley in the form of a Q and A discussion, I find myself finally writing this article down. (The subtitle of this article is the title of his recently published book.) Zinni has become the most critical (former) brass on the Iraq War. As the Commander of Central Command (CENTCOM) from 1997-2000, the retired Marine Corps General was the chief liaison between the American Armed forces and those in the Islamic World.

Concerning the Iraqi Liberation Act that the United States Congress voted in and was signed by our president under pressure of the future corrupt President Chalabi of Mesopotamia before the War, Zinni commented that “I [viewed this] as a step… into… something…we would regret…” Also, the collapse of the U.S.S.R (the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics) “…encouraged the raise of instability…” internationally.

“The Islamic world…[is] now undergoing a tremendous transition…They’re trying to observe modernity…and see [from it] what they can benefit…but…[at the same time won’t] compromise their beliefs…” We should not impose our customs over theirs. We win hearts and minds by understanding the culture of those who could oppose us. “The military is well aware of this now.” Serving generals and colonels in Iraq are currently saying there is not a martial solution to this war in the Middle East.

Regarding mediation, “If you don’t have the depths of [cultural] understanding …then you’re less effective…to bring them [the parties]…toward…resolution…”

The general bluntly alleged, “…the military is not the…answer…” Regarding World War II, “…the real victory came in reconstruction…” which Bush’s War has utterly failed to do. In Iraq, the military was left to fill in for Bremer’s [the first American Chief Administrator in Baghdad’s] failures. “…[If] we become the instruments of …change…[it] may be more than we want our military to do…” Iraq is a bad example, but other instances may be more humanitarian. [Kosovo, for instance.]

The Administration “…began by calling this the War on Terrorism. We declared a war on a tactic. It doesn’t make sense!” Thinking at a tactical level makes you fight at that level. Bin Laden’s strength comes from the support of angry young men. Their fury approaches from the impoverishment within their society. Now, Osama’s organization is an ideology. “If you don’t get the context …you can’t overcome it!”

We have not articulated a contemporary strategy to our citizens, and, therefore, we are still in the mentality of the Cold War. “There’s nothing…in our government that has…a long-term perspective…we have failed…” in that.

“The [G.W] Bush Administration…[was] misguided by the unilateral approach and the…military as the lead element…In Iraq we had a war plan…than the…hip-pocket ineffective one…the flaw[ed one dominated]…We didn’t have a reconstruction plan…Part of the problem is…politics…and [the] political leaders…” Unfortunately, politics is short-termed. “The first problem of political leadership is politics [itself].”

“…[It’s comes] down to the reason [the Iraq War]…[has] reduced our image in…people’s eyes…Yet, Our…purpose is…[still] to build…global institutions!”
In the Middle East, the General is continually told that we don’t hate Americans, but “we…hate your policies!”

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Well-Educated Immigrants Powered U.S. Tech Boom: Study

Courtesy India West, Richard Springer

The wave of immigrants who energized the high tech sector from 1995 to 2005 were well-educated and came to the United States mainly for further education and employment, not to launch new start-ups, according to a recently-released study.

Also, among Indian American entrepreneurs during the decade, graduates of the famous Indian Institutes of Technology played a less dominant role than previous media reports have implied.
These are two of the more surprising findings in a new report, “Education, Entrepreneurship and Education,” issued June 11 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley.

The survey was a follow-up to a January 2007 report, “New Immigrant Entrepreneurs,” which found that in 25.3 percent of technology and engineering companies started in the U.S. from 1995-2005, at least one key founder was foreign-born and 26 percent of those immigrant-launched firms had an Indian co-founder (I-W, Jan. 5).

In a teleconference with reporters June 11, lead co-author of both reports, Vivek Wadhwa, executive in residence at the Pratt School, said he was not surprised that the Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs were so well educated, but the “extent” of their education was an eye-opener.

Of the 144 company founders surveyed (including 87 Indians and the rest from China and Taiwan), 96 percent held bachelor’s degrees and 74 percent held graduate or postgraduate degrees, including 26.8 percent with Ph.D.s and 47.2 percent with master’s degrees.

About 52.3 percent of the immigrant founders initially came to the U.S. for higher education, 39.8 percent for job opportunities, 5.5 percent for family reasons and only 1.6 percent to start a business.

More than 53 percent of immigrant founders of tech and engineering firms completed their highest degrees in U.S. universities and about 72 percent of these degrees were in three fields: engineering (43.5 percent), computer science/information technology (18.5 percent) and applied sciences (10 percent).

“The U.S. economy depends on these high rates of entrepreneurship and innovation to maintain its global edge,” Wadhwa said in a statement.

“Our higher education system has historically attracted talented immigrants from around the world to the United States to study. We now face a choice – to encourage more Americans to complete higher degrees in these fields, or to encourage foreign students to stay in the United States after completing their degrees. We need to do both.”

Of the Indian American founders, 91.3 percent completed their undergraduate degree in India, but only 15 percent at one of the seven IITs. “No single university stood out,” Wadhwa said, adding that both Delhi University and IIT-Bombay accounted for seven percent each.

Since a BusinessWeek article and a “60 Minutes” profile some years ago highlighted the accomplishments of graduates of the IITs, it has been thought that they played the primary role in the Indian American contribution to the tech boom. This report may lessen that perception.
Wadhwa, founder and former chief executive officer of Relativity Technologies in Raleigh, N.C., joked to reporters that he might have to endure the wrath of some IIT grads because of the finding.

The study also determined that immigrant entrepreneurs tend to move to cosmopolitan areas, and regions with the largest immigrant population also tend to have the greatest number of technology startups.

About 31 percent of the engineering and technology companies founded from 1995-2005 in the 11 technology centers surveyed had an immigrant as a key founder. This compares to a national average of 25.3 percent.

Robert Litan, vice president of research and policy at the Kansas City, Mo.-based Kauffman Foundation, told reporters that the study argues the U.S. immigration policy “should be more liberal in accepting more high-skilled immigrants as well as allowing those who want to upgrade their skills” to do so.

Wadhwa pointed out that many of the more recent group of immigrant founders must wait six to 10 years, or even longer, to get their green cards.

Faced with such delays, “they might as well go back to Delhi and Bangalore” to start up their companies, he added.

Immigration law needs to be changed to help persuade foreign-born entrepreneurs to remain in the U.S., Wadhwa insisted.

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Norman Mineta Confirms That Dick Cheney Ordered Stand Down on 9/11

See this video on our website.

Former Transportation Secretary Disputes 9/11 Commission Report Timetable for Dick Cheney and Reveals Lynn Cheney Was Also in PEOC Bunker Before Attack

Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta answered questions from members of 9/11 Truth Seattle.org about his testimony before the 9/11 Commission report.
Mineta says Vice President Cheney was “absolutely” already there when he arrived at approximately 9:25 a.m. in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) bunker on the morning of 9/11. Mineta seemed shocked to learn that the 9/11 Commission Report claimed Cheney had not arrived there until 9:58– after the Pentagon had been hit, a report that Mineta definitively contradicted.

Norman Mineta revealed that Lynn Cheney was also in the PEOC bunker already at the time of his arrival, along with a number of other staff.

Mineta is on video testifying before the 9/11 Commission, though it was omitted in their final report. He told Lee Hamilton:

“During the time that the airplane was coming into the Pentagon, there was a young man who would come in and say to the Vice President…the plane is 50 miles out…the plane is 30 miles out….and when it got down to the plane is 10 miles out, the young man also said to the vice president “do the orders still stand?” And the Vice President turned and whipped his neck around and said “Of course the orders still stand, have you heard anything to the contrary!?
Mineta confirmed his statements with reporters, saying “When I overheard something about ‘the orders still stand’ and so, what I thought of was that they had already made the decision to shoot something down.”

Norman Mineta made it clear to reporters– who verified his quotes in written text alongside him– that Mineta was indeed talking about a stand down order not to shoot down hijacked aircraft headed for the Pentagon.

After no shoot down took place, it became clear that Cheney intended to keep NORAD fighter jets from responding– evidence that Cheney is guilty of treason, not negligence for allowing the Pentagon to be hit.

The idea that “the order still stands” matches up with a change in NORAD and Pentagon orders– issued on June 1, 2001, only months before 9/11. The document revoked the default standing orders to shoot down errant or hijacked aircraft and instructed them instead to stand down until they were given orders by the President, Vice President or Secretary of Defense.

SEE ALSO: Did Dick Cheney Lie About His 9/11 Whereabouts?

Mineta was still in the PEOG bunker when the plane was reported down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“I remember later on when I heard about the Shanksville plane going down, the Vice President was right across from me, and I said, ‘Do you think that we shot it down ourselves?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Let’s find out.’ So he had someone check with the Pentagon. That was about maybe, let’s say 10:30 or so, and we never heard back from the DoD until probably about 12:30. And they said, ‘No, we didn’t do it.’”

Of course, Donald Rumsfeld has stated before that the plane over Shanksville was “shot down,” though whether it was a mistatement or a freudian slip of the truth is arguable. It certainly would seem that the story presented in United 93– a dramatized account of the official government story– is much, much less plausible than the plane simply being shot down.
Norman Mineta’s Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission– which was NOT included in the final report and which DISPUTES the Commission’s timetable for Vice President Dick Cheney on 9/11
Also, the two hour time delay is suspicious given the Vice President’s own account of the dedicated video communications available that morning, as he told it to Tim Russert of Meet the Press on September 16, 2001.

“We had access, secured communications with Air Force One, with the secretary of Defense over in the Pentagon. We had also the secure videoconference that ties together the White House, CIA, State, Justice, Defense–a very useful and valuable facility. We have the counterterrorism task force up on that net. And so I was in a position to be able to see all the stuff coming in, receive reports and then make decisions in terms of acting with it.”

At a bare minimum, this confirmation by Norman Mineta is in gross contradiction to the 9/11 Commission Report and poses serious questions about the Vice President’s role in ordering NORAD to stand down on 9/11.

See this video on our website.

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Basra Problems Bode Ill for U.S. Iraq Strategy – Report

Courtesy Alister Bull

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Violence and infighting among Shi’ites in Basra are a warning that a last ditch U.S. plan to improve security in Iraq is badly flawed, a think-tank said in a report.
“The answer to Iraq’s horrific violence cannot be an illusory military surge that aims to bolster the existing political structure and treats the dominant political parties as partners,” said the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

The report, issued late on Monday, said that Operation Sinbad, in which British forces tried to tackle armed militias and support Iraqi security forces in the southern oil-rich city of Basra, offered important lessons to learn from.

The current U.S. strategy in Baghdad — a four-month-old offensive aimed at ridding neighbourhoods of gunmen, deploying soldiers to hold the areas and then reviving economic activity — appears similar to the British plan launched last September.

Sinbad initially helped calm Basra, Iraq’s second largest city and its economic hub, but violence has since mounted and British forces have come under increasing attack there.

Britain recently reduced its troops to around 5,500 soldiers from about 7,000. The forces are also withdrawing to a single base outside the city at Basra airport.

Armed militias in Basra have meanwhile joined local security forces, but remain loyal to the Shi’ite political factions that dominate southern Iraq, the report said.

It said part of the Basra police was under the sway of the Mehdi Army of fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, while the intelligence service was influenced by the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, previously the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and the Oil Protection Force was controlled by Fadhila.

“Far from being a model to replicate, Basra is an example of what to avoid. With renewed violence and instability, Basra illustrates the pitfalls of a transitional process that has led to the collapse of the state apparatus,” the ICG report said.

Much of the tension in Basra revolves around competition for control of southern Iraq’s vast oil reserves as British forces draw down.

U.S. President George W. Bush has sent 28,000 extra troops to Iraq in a major effort to reduce violence that has pushed the country to the brink of all-out sectarian civil war.

U.S. public opinion has swung against U.S. involvement in Iraq and there is growing pressure to start bringing troops home.

The lesson from Basra was that political parties did not respect the law and were part of the problem, the ICG said.

“Basra teaches that as soon as the military surge ends and coalition forces diminish, competition between rival factions will surge,” the ICG said.

“Prolonging the same political process with the same political actors will ensure that what is left of the Iraqi state gradually is torn apart… The priority is to confront the power structure … by insisting on genuine political compromises.”

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