10 dead as Israeli forces storm Gaza aid convoy

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — International condemnation poured in Monday after Israeli soldiers stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid intended for Palestinians in Gaza, leaving at least 10 people dead in the resulting violence.

Israel claimed it was defending itself, with the Israel Defense Forces saying the soldiers’ lives were in danger after they were attacked with “severe physical violence, including live fire, weapons, knives and clubs.”

IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibowitz said light weapons and handguns were confiscated. “We basically encountered a lynch,” she said. “We had to control this violence.”

But other nations condemned the military action and called for an investigation.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said the United States “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”

World reaction

The Spanish and French governments called the action “disproportionate.” The Italian foreign minister asked the European Union to investigate, and several nations, including Greece and Sweden, were summoning their Israeli ambassadors.

An indignant Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel, canceled three planned military exercises with the Israeli military and called home its youth national football team, which had two games scheduled in Israel, said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.

Q&A: What is the blockade about

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Chile, but will return after meeting with the Chilean president, Arinc said. The chief of the Turkish military was cutting short a trip to Egypt. The Turkish foreign minister, in Venezuela, was calling the United Nations Security Council to an emergency meeting, Arinc said.

“This operation will leave a bloody stain on the history of humanity,” Arinc said. A Turkish group, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation or IHH, was one of the organizers of the flotilla, but people from various nations were aboard.

In a statement, Bahrain called it a “barbaric attack” on the part of Israel.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, an envoy for the Middle East Quartet, a group of nations working toward peace in the region, said in a statement Monday: “There obviously has to be a full investigation into what has happened. Once again I repeat my view that we need a different and better way of helping the people of Gaza and avoiding the hardship and tragedy that is inherent in the present situation.”

Current Foreign Minister William Hague said: “We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.”
“This operation will leave a bloody stain on the history of humanity.
–Turkish Deputy PM Bulent Arinc

Five Israeli soldiers were wounded, the military said. The ships of the flotilla were being taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod, according to IDF.

The Free Gaza Movement, one of the groups sponsoring the flotilla, disputed Israel’s claim of violence by people aboard the ships.

“At about 4:30 am, Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto deck of Turkish ship, immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians,” said a post on the group’s Twitter page.

Video aired on CNN sister network CNN Turk showed soldiers abseiling onto the deck of a ship from a helicopter above. The boarding of the ships took place more than 70 nautical miles outside Israeli territorial waters, according to IHH.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the incident “might cause irreversible consequences” in the nation’s relationship with Israel.
“They wanted to make a political statement. They wanted violence.
–Israeli spokesman Mark Regev

“Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians,” the statement said. “We strongly condemn these inhuman acts of Israel.”

Meanwhile, a protest that began outside the Israeli embassy in Istanbul on Sunday continued into Monday. Although largely peaceful, police did use water cannons at one point to keep demonstrators at bay. Israel issued a “serious travel warning” for Israelis visiting Turkey. Those planning to travel to Turkey were asked to postpone their trip, while those in Turkey were advised to stay indoors.

The Israeli PM office has issues a serious travel warning for Israeli travelers visiting Turkey. The warning calls Israelis who are about to travel into Turkey to postpone their trip and for Israelis in Turkey to remain indoors and avoid presence in the city centers.

In Gaza, where the flotilla was headed, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called for global support of the Palestinian cause.

“The Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla is an ugly crime and against international law and this reflects the nature of the criminal Israeli occupation,” Zuhri said. “We call upon the free world Arab and Muslim world to stand in support and help and support the international activists who have been subjected to killing in the middle of the sea.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for three days of mourning in the Palestinian territories to honor the lives lost.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev accused the leaders of the flotilla of looking for a fight.

“They wanted to make a political statement. They wanted violence,” according to Regev, who said Israel wanted a peaceful interception of the ships trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. “They are directly responsible for the violence and the deaths that occurred.”

The convoy of boats approached Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade and had been shadowed by three Israeli warships. Free Gaza had reported Sunday that they had been contacted by the Israeli navy.

The boats left European ports in a consolidated protest organized by two pro-Palestinian groups to deliver tons of food and other aid to Gaza to break a blockade imposed by Israel in 2007.

The maritime convoys were organized by both the Free Gaza Movement and the IHH, a humanitarian relief foundation affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood religious group.

Israel said Sunday that Western and Turkish authorities have accused IHH of having “working relations” with different terrorist organizations.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman in Cairo, Egypt, and Ivan Watson in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Warning: Crash Dead Ahead.

Sell. Get liquid. Now.

Commentary: ‘Game’s in the refrigerator.’ Power’s turning off. Dow sinking below 6,470

By Paul B. Farrell

May 25, 2010 “MarketWatch” — ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. — “This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling …”

That was legendary Lakers’ radio announcer Chick Hearn’s signature way of calling a game early, telling fans the home team won … you can head for the exits before the final buzzer. Chick wrote the book with popular sports phrases like “slam dunk,” “air ball,” “charity stripe,” and a “bunny hop in the pea patch” for a traveling violation.

No, no, “it’s a buying opportunity,” says another legend, hedge fund manager, Barton Biggs. Buying opportunity? For who? Remember, Biggs isn’t advising Joe Lunchbox about what to do with his little 401(k). Biggs’ customers are mega-millionaires in his $1.5 billion Traxis Partners Fund. Main Street investors like Joe are prey in his casino.

Read on, you decide: As you stare from high up in the nose-bleed bleachers watching the game, staring at a Dow that not long ago was above 11,000 and heading for 12,000. Now the Dow’s sitting on the bench, ready for the showers, weak after a couple air balls around 10,000. No more timeouts. “This game’s in the refrigerator.”

How bad is your bookie’s point spread in this game? A blowout? Will the Dow drop below 9,000 again? Now that it’s broken technical supports, will it drop below 6,470, where the last bull rally started in early 2009? Can you handle the nerve-racking volatility generated by Wall Street’s high-frequency traders playing the game at warp-speed with algorithms making thousands of micro-bets in milliseconds, betting billions daily?

So who should you listen to? Barton and I arrived at Morgan Stanley about the same time. He stayed decades longer, became one of the world’s leading strategists, advising the kind of high-rollers who also bet at private tables in a Vegas casino.

You remember Biggs: In his book “Wealth, War & Wisdom” he advises his high rollers to prepare for a “breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” Buy a farm: “Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food … It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson.” Biggs is not advising small investors on what to do with their 401(k)s.

If you’re gambling at Wall Street’s casino, folks, the odds-makers are betting against Biggs. It’s “game over.”

Main Street lost 20% last decade … yet like sheep keep going back

Yes, if you’re channeling Chick, here’s your “mixed metaphor” cue card: “This game’s in the refrigerator … Wall Street won (proof, Goldman’s $100-million-profit trading days and Blankfein’s $68 million bonus) … Main Street’s headed for another losing streak … Congress’ lights are out … the refrigerator door’s closing on financial reforms … the lobbyists are laying some rotten eggs, poisoning capitalism … the Tea Party-of-No-No ideologies are hardening … the bull’s Jell-O is jiggling to a flat line … and this market’s going into hibernation, with the bears … run, don’t walk, to the exits, folks.”

But will Main Street exit? Will we ever learn? No. The Wall Street casino makes mega-billions for insiders like Blankfein and the Goldman Conspiracy. Yet “The Casino” is still below the 2000 record of 11,722. So after accounting for inflation, Wall Street lost over 20% of Main Street’s 401(k) retirement money between 2000 and 2010. Yes, Wall Street’s a big loser the past decade. Their advice is self-serving. Period.

Given their miserable track record, only a fool would bet with Wall Street. Betting odds are Wall Street will lose another 20% in the next decade from 2010-2020. Yes, today’s market is a “buying opportunity,” but only for Wall Street casino insiders like Biggs, Blankfein and even low-level staffers inside “The Casino.” But not for our 95 million Main Street investors, there’s more pain ahead, this market’s dropping.

Correction? New crash imminent, worse than 2008

More proof: Earlier economist Gary Shilling said price-to-earnings ratios are at a “nosebleed 22.5 level.” The Dow was around 11,000. Money manager Jeremy Grantham recently said the market’s overvalued 40%. That could mean a collapse to 6,600. Last week in Reuters’ “Markets Could Be Derailed Again,” George Soros echoed a “game over” warning with a “stark warning … that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.”

Now Dow Theory’s Richard Russell is warning the public of an imminent crash: “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country.”
A bigger meltdown than the credit crisis? Yes, Bush’s team drove America into a ditch. But now Obama and his money men, Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, are digging the hole deeper. Soros says we have not learned “the lessons that markets are inherently unstable.” As a result, “the success in bailing out the system on the previous occasion led to a super-bubble.” Now “we are facing a yet larger bubble.” Worse than 2008?

Yes, the game may be “in the refrigerator,” the lights will go out, but as Soros hints, the electricity may get turned off too. Get it? This may not be a correction. Not even a bear. What’s coming could be worse than the 2000 dot-com crash and the 2008 meltdown combined, a “Super-Bubble” says Soros. And the biggest reason, Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm tell Newsweek, is that “the president’s half-measures won’t fix our failed financial system” because he refuses to “bust up the too-big-to-fail banks.”

Yes, Congress will pass something. But unfortunately, as reported on MSNBC, Senator Dodd, the reform bill’s sponsor, is a turncoat, working overtime with Wall Street lobbyists “to weaken financial reform,” leave us vulnerable to a new, bigger crash in the near future. And Wall Street lobbyists are spending hundreds of millions to kill reform.

‘White Swans:’ 2000 and 2008 crashes were predictable, next one too

Recently Roubini was interviewed by Charlie Rose in BusinessWeek. His message confirms the worst. Roubini was questioned about his new book, “Crisis Economics.” Rose began by asking, “what have we learned from these crises of capitalism?” Roubini could easily have said, “nothing, we learned nothing.” His actual reply:

“The first lesson is that crises are not ‘black swan’ events … they’re not just random outcomes. They are the result of a buildup of financial and policy vulnerability and mistakes — excessive risk-taking, leverage, debt, and so on.” They are ‘White Swans’ “because these events are predictable. But generation after generation, we seem to forget the past. When there’s a bubble, there’s euphoria. There’s irrational exuberance. Consumers can use their homes like ATM machines. Governments and policy makers are happy because they get reelected. Wall Street makes billions of dollars of profits. Everybody’s delusional.”
Sound familiar? Yes indeed, in “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly,” economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff pinpoint the key signal that will blow the whistle and call the game: The “90% ratio of government debt to GDP is a tipping point in economic growth.” For 800 years “you increase it over and beyond a high threshold, and boom!”

Warning, fans, the numbers on the game-clock are flashing wildly. America’s ratio is now 92%, thanks to Obama’s $1.7 trillion budget, future deficits, exploding debt. Soon, Ka-Booom! Another great nation bites the dust. Depression follows. Goodbye retirement.

Warning: 800 years of history are calling ‘game over’

But can’t we change destiny? Or are Dodd, Congress, Obama, Wall Street, the Party of No-No and 300 million Americans all just playing their parts in a historical script well-known to historians like Reinhart and Rogoff, Kevin Phillips, Niall Ferguson and others? The message of “This Time Is Different” is very simple:

“We have been here before. No matter how different the latest financial frenzy or crisis always appears, there are usually remarkable similarities from past experience from other countries and from history. … no country, irrespective of its global importance, appears to be immune to it. The fading memories of borrowers and lenders, policy makers and academics, and the public at large do not seem to improve over time, so the policy lessons on how to ‘avoid’ the next blow-up are at best limited.”

So please listen closely: All the TARP bailouts, stimulus debt and Fed loans won’t work. Neither will a new conservative government. This is not a basketball game. We are not channeling Chick Hearn, calling this game before the final buzzer. While we prefer the illusion that “this time really is different,” eight centuries of history suggest otherwise:

“The lesson of history, then, is that even as institutions and policy makers improve there will always be a temptation to stretch the limits. … If there is one common theme to the vast range of crises … it is that excessive debt accumulation, whether it be by the government, banks, corporations, or consumers, often poses greater systemic risks than it seems during a boom. … Highly indebted governments, banks, or corporations can seem to be merrily rolling along for an extended period, when bang — confidence collapses, lenders disappear and a crisis hits. … Highly leveraged economies … seldom survive forever … history does point to warnings signs that policy makers can look to access risk — if only they do not become too drunk with their credit bubble-fueled success and say, as their predecessors have for centuries, ‘This time is different’.”

No, “this time” it’s never different. Get it? In the end, it doesn’t matter what happens to the Dodd-Obama financial reforms. The endgame’s never a Black Swan, it’s a very White Swan well known to historians — guaranteed, inevitable and inescapable. This time is never different.

The clock’s flashing. Huge point spread. Think bear, think crash, think end of capitalism, think Great Depression II … This is no buying opportunity, this game’s in the refrigerator, call it.

No, no, “it’s a buying opportunity,” says another legend, hedge fund manager, Barton Biggs. Buying opportunity? For who? Remember, Biggs isn’t advising Joe Lunchbox about what to do with his little 401(k). Biggs’ customers are mega-millionaires in his $1.5 billion Traxis Partners Fund. Main Street investors like Joe are prey in his casino.

Read on, you decide: As you stare from high up in the nose-bleed bleachers watching the game, staring at a Dow that not long ago was above 11,000 and heading for 12,000. Now the Dow’s sitting on the bench, ready for the showers, weak after a couple air balls around 10,000. No more timeouts. “This game’s in the refrigerator.”

How bad is your bookie’s point spread in this game? A blowout? Will the Dow drop below 9,000 again? Now that it’s broken technical supports, will it drop below 6,470, where the last bull rally started in early 2009? Can you handle the nerve-racking volatility generated by Wall Street’s high-frequency traders playing the game at warp-speed with algorithms making thousands of micro-bets in milliseconds, betting billions daily?

So who should you listen to? Barton and I arrived at Morgan Stanley about the same time. He stayed decades longer, became one of the world’s leading strategists, advising the kind of high-rollers who also bet at private tables in a Vegas casino.

You remember Biggs: In his book “Wealth, War & Wisdom” he advises his high rollers to prepare for a “breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” Buy a farm: “Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food … It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson.” Biggs is not advising small investors on what to do with their 401(k)s.

If you’re gambling at Wall Street’s casino, folks, the odds-makers are betting against Biggs. It’s “game over.”

Main Street lost 20% last decade … yet like sheep keep going back

Yes, if you’re channeling Chick, here’s your “mixed metaphor” cue card: “This game’s in the refrigerator … Wall Street won (proof, Goldman’s $100-million-profit trading days and Blankfein’s $68 million bonus) … Main Street’s headed for another losing streak … Congress’ lights are out … the refrigerator door’s closing on financial reforms … the lobbyists are laying some rotten eggs, poisoning capitalism … the Tea Party-of-No-No ideologies are hardening … the bull’s Jell-O is jiggling to a flat line … and this market’s going into hibernation, with the bears … run, don’t walk, to the exits, folks.”

But will Main Street exit? Will we ever learn? No. The Wall Street casino makes mega-billions for insiders like Blankfein and the Goldman Conspiracy. Yet “The Casino” is still below the 2000 record of 11,722. So after accounting for inflation, Wall Street lost over 20% of Main Street’s 401(k) retirement money between 2000 and 2010. Yes, Wall Street’s a big loser the past decade. Their advice is self-serving. Period.

Given their miserable track record, only a fool would bet with Wall Street. Betting odds are Wall Street will lose another 20% in the next decade from 2010-2020. Yes, today’s market is a “buying opportunity,” but only for Wall Street casino insiders like Biggs, Blankfein and even low-level staffers inside “The Casino.” But not for our 95 million Main Street investors, there’s more pain ahead, this market’s dropping.

Correction? New crash imminent, worse than 2008

More proof: Earlier economist Gary Shilling said price-to-earnings ratios are at a “nosebleed 22.5 level.” The Dow was around 11,000. Money manager Jeremy Grantham recently said the market’s overvalued 40%. That could mean a collapse to 6,600. Last week in Reuters’ “Markets Could Be Derailed Again,” George Soros echoed a “game over” warning with a “stark warning … that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.”

Now Dow Theory’s Richard Russell is warning the public of an imminent crash: “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country.”

A bigger meltdown than the credit crisis? Yes, Bush’s team drove America into a ditch. But now Obama and his money men, Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, are digging the hole deeper. Soros says we have not learned “the lessons that markets are inherently unstable.” As a result, “the success in bailing out the system on the previous occasion led to a super-bubble.” Now “we are facing a yet larger bubble.” Worse than 2008?

Yes, the game may be “in the refrigerator,” the lights will go out, but as Soros hints, the electricity may get turned off too. Get it? This may not be a correction. Not even a bear. What’s coming could be worse than the 2000 dot-com crash and the 2008 meltdown combined, a “Super-Bubble” says Soros. And the biggest reason, Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm tell Newsweek, is that “the president’s half-measures won’t fix our failed financial system” because he refuses to “bust up the too-big-to-fail banks.”

Yes, Congress will pass something. But unfortunately, as reported on MSNBC, Senator Dodd, the reform bill’s sponsor, is a turncoat, working overtime with Wall Street lobbyists “to weaken financial reform,” leave us vulnerable to a new, bigger crash in the near future. And Wall Street lobbyists are spending hundreds of millions to kill reform.

‘White Swans:’ 2000 and 2008 crashes were predictable, next one too

Recently Roubini was interviewed by Charlie Rose in BusinessWeek. His message confirms the worst. Roubini was questioned about his new book, “Crisis Economics.” Rose began by asking, “what have we learned from these crises of capitalism?” Roubini could easily have said, “nothing, we learned nothing.” His actual reply:

“The first lesson is that crises are not ‘black swan’ events … they’re not just random outcomes. They are the result of a buildup of financial and policy vulnerability and mistakes — excessive risk-taking, leverage, debt, and so on.” They are ‘White Swans’ “because these events are predictable. But generation after generation, we seem to forget the past. When there’s a bubble, there’s euphoria. There’s irrational exuberance. Consumers can use their homes like ATM machines. Governments and policy makers are happy because they get reelected. Wall Street makes billions of dollars of profits. Everybody’s delusional.”

Sound familiar? Yes indeed, in “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly,” economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff pinpoint the key signal that will blow the whistle and call the game: The “90% ratio of government debt to GDP is a tipping point in economic growth.” For 800 years “you increase it over and beyond a high threshold, and boom!”

Warning, fans, the numbers on the game-clock are flashing wildly. America’s ratio is now 92%, thanks to Obama’s $1.7 trillion budget, future deficits, exploding debt. Soon, Ka-Booom! Another great nation bites the dust. Depression follows. Goodbye retirement.

Warning: 800 years of history are calling ‘game over’

But can’t we change destiny? Or are Dodd, Congress, Obama, Wall Street, the Party of No-No and 300 million Americans all just playing their parts in a historical script well-known to historians like Reinhart and Rogoff, Kevin Phillips, Niall Ferguson and others? The message of “This Time Is Different” is very simple:

“We have been here before. No matter how different the latest financial frenzy or crisis always appears, there are usually remarkable similarities from past experience from other countries and from history. … no country, irrespective of its global importance, appears to be immune to it. The fading memories of borrowers and lenders, policy makers and academics, and the public at large do not seem to improve over time, so the policy lessons on how to ‘avoid’ the next blow-up are at best limited.”

So please listen closely: All the TARP bailouts, stimulus debt and Fed loans won’t work. Neither will a new conservative government. This is not a basketball game. We are not channeling Chick Hearn, calling this game before the final buzzer. While we prefer the illusion that “this time really is different,” eight centuries of history suggest otherwise:

“The lesson of history, then, is that even as institutions and policy makers improve there will always be a temptation to stretch the limits. … If there is one common theme to the vast range of crises … it is that excessive debt accumulation, whether it be by the government, banks, corporations, or consumers, often poses greater systemic risks than it seems during a boom. … Highly indebted governments, banks, or corporations can seem to be merrily rolling along for an extended period, when bang — confidence collapses, lenders disappear and a crisis hits. … Highly leveraged economies … seldom survive forever … history does point to warnings signs that policy makers can look to access risk — if only they do not become too drunk with their credit bubble-fueled success and say, as their predecessors have for centuries, ‘This time is different’.”

No, “this time” it’s never different. Get it? In the end, it doesn’t matter what happens to the Dodd-Obama financial reforms. The endgame’s never a Black Swan, it’s a very White Swan well known to historians — guaranteed, inevitable and inescapable. This time is never different.

The clock’s flashing. Huge point spread. Think bear, think crash, think end of capitalism, think Great Depression II … This is no buying opportunity, this game’s in the refrigerator, call it.

12-22

Kuwait Is Moving Ahead, So Are Kuwaiti Women!

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent (in Kuwait)

KUWAIT: Within less than two decades of liberation by a multi-national force from seven months of Iraqi occupation on February 26, 1991, Kuwait and its people present the image of a nation moving ahead in all walks of life, including the progress of women. Certainly, the people here and the leaders have not yet forgotten the traumatic experience they had, but they have not let history of Iraqi invasion prevent them from getting back to life with a yet greater zeal and a brighter vision for a new tomorrow. Invited to visit Kuwait, this scribe learnt through interaction with men and women from various walks of life about the country having developed tremendously in an extremely short period from the devastating crisis the nation faced in early nineties. “We have put history behind us and are moving towards future,” seems to be guiding force behind most Kuwaitis’ approach towards their country’s development. The spirit is reflected by the well-constructed roads, flyovers, huge malls, numerous towers, beautiful coastal area and of course the people themselves chalking out their priorities for a yet brighter future.

Their vision for future, among many issues, includes strengthening of ties with India, lesser dependence on oil, an alternative to oil income, independence of Palestine and progress of women.

Tracing Kuwait’s ties with India to history, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Ahmad Rashed Al Haroun said: “India has been a major partner for trade in Kuwait not just for the past 10 or 50 years, but this relationship is more than 100 years old.” There prevails immense potential for strengthening and expanding Kuwait’s ties with India, he said.

Indians working in Kuwait, form the largest expatriate community here, numbering six million. Bilateral trade between Kuwait and India has been steadily increasing in recent years. During 2008-2009, the trade was $10.4 billion, of which non-oil trade accounted for approximately $1.2 billion. Oil from Kuwait constitutes 11-12 percent of India’s annual import of crude oil. In addition to petroleum and its products, India imports salt, sulphur, stone, plastering materials, cement, iron & steel, fertilizers, plastic, aluminum and copper from Kuwait. The key items of Indian exports to Kuwait are rice, iron/steel products, meat, eggs, tea/coffee, fruits & vegetables, engineering goods & machinery, vehicles, etc.

With the balance of bilateral trade in favor of Kuwait, India has the “opportunity” to invest in Kuwait as well as attract Kuwait investment in India, according to Commerce & Industry Minister. It is for India to “compete with others” and “attract Kuwaiti investment,” Al Haroun said.

Suggesting that Kuwait and India have still many avenues to strengthen their relations, Assistant Undersecretary for Administration & Financial Affairs, Ibrahim Abdulmuhsin Alnouh said: “We still need to take it (bilateral ties) further.”

Describing India’s ties with Kuwait spread over several centuries, as “exemplary,” Indian envoy in Kuwait Ajai Malhotra said: “We will continue this tradition. India has so much to offer, but most important of all is – friendship.”

“There are so many things we need to strengthen to meet our ambition,” that is of taking Kuwait-India ties to yet greater heights, Director of Media Information Department (Ministry of Information, International Media Sector), Khaled H.D. Al-Razni said. With Kuwait being an oil-rich country, Kuwaiti leaders do not deny the fact that India has to compete with other countries to strengthen its economic ties with it. Nevertheless, Kuwait is open to India. “We need more offers from you (India),” Al-Razni said.

“India is a friendly country,” according to Counselor (Asian Department), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rashed Al-Hajri. When questioned on Kuwait’s stand towards India’s ties with Israel, he replied: “India is a very important country. Kuwait is hopeful of India supporting the “Palestinian people against the inhumane violence they are facing,” he said.

Barges Hmoud Al Barges, President of Kuwait Red Crescent Society, described relationship between Kuwait India as “more than excellent.” “The bilateral ties are very special. We are brothers,” he said. He drew attention to his society providing aid to India when it was hit by the Tsunami disaster.

Interestingly, several Kuwaitis hold the opinion that “America is not honest with problems faced by Arabs.” With US being controlled by Zionist lobby, they don’t expect Washington to play a major role to solve the Palestinian issue. In their opinion, India can contribute significantly.

Due to cultural similarities and traditional ties continuing to the present age, Kuwaitis “trust” India strongly, according to Yacub Haji and Sulaiman Abdullah Al Onaizi, consultants at Center for Research & Studies on Kuwait. “Arabs and India had maritime relations even before Islam came,” Haji pointed out. Describing Kuwait culture as a part of “West Indian Ocean culture,” he said: “We want our relations to prosper.” To a question on whether greater diplomatic importance being accorded to developing stronger ties with India is a post 9/11 development, he replied: “I am talking of relations between nations, Kuwaiti nation and Indian nation, not between governments.”

Nevertheless, at the governmental level too, both Kuwait and India are keen to strengthen their ties. The invitation to visit Kuwait extended to a delegation of a few Indian journalists, of which this scribe was a member, by the Kuwaiti government is a part of steps being taken to enhance interaction between the two countries.   

Besides, relations between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and India have been steadily increasing. “GCC-Indian economic and commercial relations are on an upward trend to the point that the GCC became India’s number one commercial partner in 2009,” Kuwaiti envoy in New Delhi, Sami Al-Suleiman stated. The commercial exchange rose to $100 billion in 2009 from $7 billion in 2001, and is expected to reach $114 billion in 2010, he said.

In today’s Kuwait, the women feel that they have succeeded tremendously in gaining rights that they had earlier been denied. They owe this success to a movement they began in 1960s, which was formally marked by several educated ladies forming Women’s Cultural & Social Society (WCSS) on February 3, 1963. It was the first women’s society to be established in Kuwait. The active members of WCSS highlighted their views on several key issues during an interaction with Indian delegation of journalists. Interestingly, the Kuwaiti women do not believe in “feminism” or in fighting with men, but aim to achieve their goals with cooperation of men. As expressed by Lubna A. AlKazi (sociologist): “I am against the word feminism, but am in favor of the word activism.”

Among the most outstanding success of Kuwaiti women is their entry into the Parliament. Four ladies won elections for the first time in 2009 and became the country’s first lawmakers. Certainly, the success was made possible by what the women activists achieved in earlier years, gradually but definitely, according to Lulwa Al-Mulla, Secretary General, WCSS. Earlier, they did not even have the right to vote. But from seventies onwards they started campaigning for it. They drew attention to difference between what the Kuwaiti Constitution said and the country’s election law. According to the Constitution, “All Kuwaiti men and women are equal.” But the election law permitted only men to vote. They tried getting themselves registered as voters and finally got the right to vote in 2005.
Kuwaiti women are pleased at the entry of women in the Parliament. At the same time, they support only those candidates – whether women or men – who talk of what is best for Kuwait. There are still certain areas, such as the judiciary, where women are not permitted. Kuwaiti women, however, are confident that they will achieve success on this front also sooner or later. They don’t want to rush for too many changes at the same time as that may lead to conflict. They believe in “evolutionary” and not “revolutionary” changes.

Today, Kuwaiti women have the right to dress as they want to, whether in abaya, jeans or skirts. No dress code is imposed on them. They can drive cars, travel around alone or with people, without any compulsion to have an escort with them. At the same time, they have not questioned the Islamic law, where as witnesses- two women’s stand is equated with that of one man. When questioned on this, a Kuwaiti lady categorically pointed out: “We don’t interfere with what Islam says. But where business (politics, etc) is concerned we are for equal rights.”

The WCSS members also pointed out to career-oriented women contributing to the household expenditure. “Dual income (husband and wife) is now needed to run an average household because of increasing expenditure. Earlier, women’s contribution to family income was not favored. Now, it is being gradually accepted as a necessity,” a WCSS member said. Among other WCSS members who participated in this discussion, were Shamael Al-Sharekh (Board Member and Media Head), Suhaila Al Salem (Media & Culture) and Fatima Al Umran (Undersecretary, Ministry of Education).

This is minor but a definite reflection of Kuwait progressing ahead, without leaving women behind. The women too are playing a major role in the country’s success!

The Indian journalists were in Kuwait for around a week. They returned to India on May 26.

12-22

“Muslim Americans for Palestine” Event

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The suffering of the people of Gaza under the boot of Israeli occupation continues. While there are many organizations dedicated to the cause of Palestine, a relatively new one, Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP), has, in less than half a year, established itself as a front runner.

Muslim Americans for Palestine held a well attended and educational fundraiser at Masjid Al Ansar in Anaheim, Ca. this past Saturday evening. Titled: “1948 Nakba: Independence or Occupation, What the New Generation Should Know”, the event  observed the anniversary of the Palestinian Holocaust few know about. As part of this observation the dinner that was served was a typical Palestinian meal one might be served if a visitor today in the oPt. There was no meat, and the fare consisted largely of lentils, rice, yogurt, cucumbers and radishes. The evening was a learning experience, and the meal was no small part of the education. “It will help us understand the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Palestine” said Mohen Azuz, the Master of Ceremonies and one of the organizers of the evening.

A film titled “I Am Israel” detailing the suffering of the Palestinian people and the arrogance of the Israeli occupying powers played before the formal part of the evening began.

After a reading of the Holy Koran by Sheikh Muhib of Masjid Al Ansar and a translation, the program began with presentations by Alison Weir director of “If Americans Knew” and Emad Al Bahri, expert and lecturer on the subject of Palestine.

Ms Weir presented herself as a person who was relatively uninterested in the Middle East prior to the first Intifada, a person who was willing to accept the standard analysis of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict presented by the main stream media. In early 2001 she travelled to Palestine and found things to be entirely different from her original perceptions. She found ethnic cleansing, wanton destruction by Israelis and brave resistance by the Palestinians. She not only internalized what she saw, but she spoke to the victims of Israeli military action and, in many cases, to their survivors.

She has made subsequent visits to the oPt and has founded an organization with the following website:www.ifamericansknew.org.

Ms Weir said that her initial experiences led her to research the origins of Israel and the Zionist movement. She began by detailing the friendship between US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and President Woodrow Wilson and the former’s influence on Wilson in favor of Zionism. She surprised her audience by saying that most American Jews – particularly religious ones – did not support the founding of the state of Israel. To the religious Jews it was a political act masquerading as a religious one and therefore bordering on blasphemy.

President Harry Truman, rather than being an ardent supporter of Zionism, gave his support under extremely coercive pressure and the pragmatic realization that while Jews vote in a bloc, no such Arab bloc existed.

She further surprised her audience by stating that World War Two hero and cabinet member General George C. Marshall so opposed the creation of Israel that he told President Truman that he would not vote for him in 1948 if he supported a Zionist state. She detailed the suffering of the Palestine people when they lost their homes, their property and their homeland.

Mr. Bahri traced the history of Jerusalem to a period more than 4000 years ago, demolishing the claim by Israelis that Jerusalem is their city by reason of history. Palestine, said Mr. Bahri, has always been an Arab land. He detailed the work of a British Zionist who went to Palestine to oversee trade and commerce. The Palestinians were largely farmers and, when he saw to it that a bank they were dependent on was closed, they lost their livelihood. He created jobs with a technical component, jobs that European Jews were qualified to hold, and that facilitated their immigration.

On a personal note, Mr. Bahri said that his grandmother was forced to leave Haifa under Israeli bombardment. He detailed other Israeli massacres, a matter of historical record but virtually unknown to the average American.

Mr. Bahri spoke of the work of Muslim Americans for Palestine and its essential component of community action.

Mr. Bahri warned his audience that Al Quds and Al Aqsa are in grave danger.

Mr. Abdullah Omreish, a producer of the well received film “Occupation 101” was also a guest. The award winning film documents the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.

“I learned so much tonight” said one young woman in the audience.

Muslim Americans for Palestine seeks to educate Americans about Palestine; to empower the Muslim community, and preserve Palestinian history and traditions.They seek justice, dignity and self determination for the Palestinian people. They may be accessed at: www.mapalestine.org.

12-22

Here We Go Again…

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent, Reporting from Karachi

Past week Karachi was once again burning with target killings. Reports say that over 36 people were murdered over the span of two days. The rangers have been given special powers to maintain law and order under the Anti terrorism act; they have also been given 3 months complete control of the city. This control started with one month and then when it seemed like things were not under control the time limit was increased to 3 months. The possession of arms and weapons unlicensed or licensed is now restricted as well.

The police have been completely unsuccessful in catching the culprits and bringing them to justice. The rangers were also given control because the police was not able to control the situation. The police claimed that they did catch the murderers, however every time they would catch someone orders from high places would free the culprits and put them right back on the streets. The government and other political parties claim that these accusations are unwarranted.

The target killings are a result of two parties not being able to get along and tolerate one another. The dispute is between ANP (Awami National Party) and MQM (Mutahida Quami Movement). However, the people who have been a target of these killings were not a part of any organization.

It all started when one MQM supporter was gunned down; in retaliation the MQM started to target all Pathaans and killing them ruthlessly. The Pathaans also retaliate from time to time and kill Mahajirs who may or may not be a part of MQM. This fight between two parties for power is hurting the innocent people who are afraid to leave their homes.

The law and order decisions were taken in a high level meeting which was chaired by Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah at Chief Minister House on Saturday. Also in the meeting all parties and organizations were urged to help in keeping peace in the city. People have been banned from putting up flags and banners of any organization in the city; this law also applies on private properties.

Both MQM and ANP have condemned these acts of violence and have agreed to not give statements against one another in order to curb the violence.

The meeting attendees included; Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, Chief Secretary Sindh Fazalur Rehman, Inspector General Police Sindh Babar Khattak, Director General Rangers Sindh Major General M Aijaz Chaudhry, Home Secretary Sindh Arif Khan, CCPO Karachi Waseem Ahmed, all DIG’s of Karachi and officers of law enforcement agencies.

People however are hopeless they feel like this will never end and Karachi will remain a hot zone for violence and criminal activities. They have decided that they will live their lives in as normal a fashion as they can. The people worry and get upset but they keep moving forward. This attitude has two different outcomes.

One outcome is that the people of Karachi have become bold and brave. They are ready to face anything and they are now the type of people who will not let events like these bring them down. This attitude can be an asset to the country because in tough times like these we need tough people who are willing to fight for what is theirs and try to keep the freedom.

On the other hand many people have become insensitive to the situation and this makes them a danger to themselves and others. While the violence was taking place young men left their homes to party and have fun. Even though the parents were worried sick and the situation was seriously bad they had their fun. When asked they said, this happens all the time we can’t stop our lives for it.

These people are endangering their lives and also becoming a problem for the society when they become targets. Now they have gotten to the point where they don’t care about the fact that there are people dying in the city. They are eager to keep living their lives and not worry about what happens to others. They say that things are not going to change but they have to keep living their lives.

The bottom line in both scenarios is the same but the attitudes and actions this scenario creates is very different. We can clearly see which one is the better attitude that can result in helpful course of action. What we don’t realize is that in both cases there will be dead bodies and families that are torn apart. So no matter how you slice it this situation is extremely damaging.

12-22

Dr. Tariq Ramadan speaks at Shura Council Event

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

tariq_ramadan_2 At a time when Islamophobia is rampant, and Muslims are the victims of continuous lies and distortions, one of the most valuable assets that truth possesses is a spokesperson who is both learned and articulate. Dr, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss academic and Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, is such a person. He is the author of many books and papers and is a renowned lecturer.

A poll conducted by Prospect, an English political journal, and Foreign Policy, its American twin, ranked Dr, Ramadan as eighth in a list of the world’s 100 contemporary intellectuals.

Dr. Ramadan spoke this past weekend in Garden Grove, Ca. at a banquet and fund raiser for the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC). He spoke to a dining room filled to capacity – tickets had been sold out weeks prior to the event. To the delight of the audience he raised funds to help the ISCSC launch its 16th year.  The title of the evening’s event was “Islam in the 21st Century.”

Imam Yousuf Edghouch began the banquet by reciting from the Holy Koran.

Dr. Ramadan was denied entry into the United States in 2004 and was unable at that time to accept a proffered teaching position at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. As he took the podium and thanked the ISCSC for its invitation, he spoke of his struggle for his rights, rights denied to him until early this year. He acknowledged the role in his struggle for justice played by the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN and, of course the prayers and support from Muslims and non Muslims willing to stand for human rights.

“Allahu Akhbar”, he said, is not just a slogan. “It should come from the heart.” In a particularly touching personal aside, Dr. Ramadan recognized Dr. Maher Hathout and his late brother, Dr. Hassan Hathout, as the teachers of his older siblings.

He cautioned his audience not to confuse unity with uniformity. We must as Muslims unite around our principles. “How can I be true to my principles and effective in the United States”, he asked. He mentioned his recent travels to Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa and praised the rich diversity found in Islam.

Dr. Ramadan urged his listeners not to confuse spirituality and emotion. Emotion is how your brain reacts to signals; spirituality is what you get at the hollow of your heart.

We need to educate ourselves to be less emotional and more spiritual; more critical and less reactive.

We must take care not to confuse ends and means, and we must nor confuse the ways with the limits Again, he emphasized that Islam is based on ethics.

Dr. Ramadan also emphasized the Prophet Mohammed’s (s) continuous interaction with the poor. To be close to those who are poor is to purify one’s heart.

e spoke of a class problem in this country and warned his audience that if you are rich and forget about the poor, there will be a link with God that is missing.

Shame on the recent Arizona anti immigrant law and shame on disregard for immigrants who come to the US, said the speaker. He spoke with approval of the recently passed health care bill.

Islam is always on the side of the victim, and never on the side of the oppressor. We are here, he said, to reform the United States for the better. “This is our future.”

“What a wonderful speaker” said one young woman. “You get the idea that he is speaking to you individually.”

During the event the audience watched a short film detailing the work and accomplishments of the ISCSC. Featured were the beautiful exteriors and interiors of local Islamic centers and interviews with Imams and members of the congregations. Featured also were interfaith events such as the popular Open Mosque Day.
During the fundraising portion of the evening Imams Taha Hussane and Muhammad Faqih spoke of expanding the interfaith work of the ISCSC and initiating an Islamic Muslim Youth Shura Council.

ISCSC Chairman, Dr. Maher Hathout, presented Dr. Ramadan with a humanitarian award.

During the event ISCSC Board Members Edina Lekovic, representing the Muslim Public Affair Council, and Imam Ameen Omar of Masjid al-Shareef shared the M C duties.

The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California is an umbrella organization of mosques and Muslim organizations in the Southern California area. The ISCSC has worked since 1995 to foster the spirit and culture of working together at every level in a geographic area that is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the US. The ISCSC liaises with other faith groups, public sector organizations and community based organizations to serve, in addition to Muslims, the community at large.

The ISCSC has been a template for other Shura groups formed since its inception. With the stated vision of being “a leading organization for unity and excellence”, the ISCSC has virtually achieved this goal and is moving forward still in its role as communicator, advocate and leadership developer.

12-22

Facebook Controversy

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

Criticize Israel and you would be condemned, you might be called anti-Semitic.

Promote Hitler’s Mein Kampf and you would be called a Nazi, a holocaust revisionist, and a reactionary. Question US aid to Israel and you might lose elections if you happen to be a congressman or even a councilor.

Yet, when you draw Prophet Muhammad (s) in an offensive manner, people are hailed as champions of free speech; you are told that the issue is not about Prophet Muhammad (s), but about the inalienable right of every human being to exercise free speech.

Is it really about free speech–and is free speech really threatened in the USA or Europe?

Do Muslim objections really constitute a violation of free speech? Does it really threaten this value?

Who in his or her right mind can oppose what has been the most precious divine gift, the freedom?

The drawing of cartoons is really not about freedom of speech, because the champions of freedom do not usually defend the rights of Israeli opponents to challenge the apartheid like policies of the Jewish state.

They were silent when France punished Mauric Buccaile for questioning the holocaust claims.

The drawing of cartoons is deeper than that. Perhaps no single explanation that can provide a comprehensive understanding of the trolling frenzy by Western atheeists in response to the Facebook controversy that germinated from cartoonist Molly Norris’ first “Draw Mohammad Day” poster, to Jon Wellington’s Facebook page dedicated to the event, to the thousands of internet trolls who have pounced on the opportunity to commit sacrilege from the apparent safety of (apparent) anonymity.

Atheists are in the crowd because they reject God in principle. Any symbol that glorifies God is unacceptable to them. To them, the concept of God is the most primitive idea that human mind has continued to promote.

Christian extremists are in the race because of their prejudiced and ill-considered opposition to competing religions.

Some Jewish fundamentalists are enjoying the controversy because it undermines the respect and dignity of Muslims, whom they fear because of Israel’s systematic persecution of Muslims.

Anarchists support it because it helps create more chaos in our already chaotic world.

Muslim fanatics oppose it because they see in it a conspiracy on the part of the West to hurt Muslims.

The whole controversy is being played in an environment where Islam and Muslims are under a microscopic surveillance on the part of every religious and non religious group and a large number of Muslims feel they are living under an intellectual siege.

How should Muslims in general respond to these types of controversies?

First of all, they must not allow their emotions to dictate their response. They should look at the whole issue within the context of the divine message and the life of the Prophet (s).

An emotional response usually leads to actions that defy the very purpose of the response. The point that Muslims usually make when responding to this situation is simple. “We feel hurt when our faith or the most prominent figure of our faith is disfigured.” We feel offended when our faith is ridiculed by others.” They have been making this point through their protests and in some situation through extreme measures. But others are not listening. If Muslims want others to take their views seriously, they have to change their attitude towards their fellow Muslims and towards others as well.

Muslim Introspection

In general, there exists a culture of intolerance in Muslim ranks and files. The every day killing in Iraq among Shias and Sunnis, the disrespect to human life in countries ruled by Muslim dictators, the indifference to the dignity of average citizen in a Muslim dominated country, the racism that exists unashamedly in the Gulf, the disenfranchisement that is rampant in most Muslim ruled places, clearly indicate that the Muslims are not serious in giving priority to their religious teachings concerning the dignity and respect to human life. How can the world take them seriously, when they themselves are not serious to their own faith.

Secondly, when was the last time Muslims expressed their displeasure when great prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses or Jesus were made fun of by the so called proponents of free speech. If they had a track record of standing for every act of indecency that exists against religion, an average person might have taken them seriously.

Thirdly, the character of the Prophet (s) demonstrate a tolerance to all acts of intolerance or hatred or ridicule. Never did he retaliate against those who were making fun of him or humiliating him. On the contrary, he showed concerns for them when told about their misfortune.

We ought to realize that the character of Prophet Muhammad (s) is not weak to be tarnished by a few cartoons or articles against him. After all, for almost 1,400 years his opponents have tried every tick in the trade to denounce him, yet he remains the most influential person in human history.

Why should we be bothered about this latest tirade against him? Those who are in the forefront will wear themselves out. We do not have to invest our energies in fighting them. All that we need to do is live the example of our Prophet (s) in our response, be patient and walk with humility when confronted with such a situation.

By banning Youtube or Wikipedia or Facebook in Pakistan or other places, Muslims would not serve Islam. It is counter productive and it would divert us to negative action. We need to preserve our energy and emotions for something that is more noble then responding to those who do not understand us: living the teachings of our Prophet (s) in every walk of life.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor of the Detroit based English weekly, Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, Las Vegas and the recently elected General Secretary of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relation. He is also the vice President of the Muslim Council of America, MCA.

12-22

Lost and Leaderless

By Rafia Zakaria, Dawn

AmericanMuslim.img_assist_custom The drill is polished to perfection. As soon as news of a terrorist attack or arrest emerges in the American media, the public relations wings of organisations such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) spring into action.

Crisp press releases are dispatched immediately to large media outlets, whoever is implicated is condemned and a plea is made to the larger American society to not blame the acts of a few on the country’s millions of peace-loving and law-abiding Muslim Americans.

During the past year alone, the Muslim American media machine has had many unfortunate opportunities to put its crisis response plans into action. Last November brought the Fort Hood tragedy in which Major Nidal Hasan, a Palestinian American, opened fire killing 13 people. Barely a month passed before the arrest of the ‘DC-Five’, a group of Pakistani American youths who were apprehended in Pakistan where they were allegedly intending to obtain terrorist training. And recently, of course, came the case of the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, whose very ordinariness and seemingly assimilated life has thrown up questions about the intentions of the Muslim next door.

In the days following this incident, arrests were made all over the East Coast of the United States and nearly every news headline focused on aspects of the case, from Shahzad’s fashion-loving wife to the money trail to the foreclosure of his home, in an effort to profile what motivates a terrorist.

All speculations lead, inevitably and predictably, to the one issue that is at the source of American consternation: the potential of the Muslim Americans living and working in the United States to organise and enable a terrorist attack. And it is to this crucial question that Muslim American organisations have failed to respond in any meaningful way.

The reasons for the catatonia that has not permitted Muslim Americans to truly assess the potential of radicalisation within their own communities are complex.
One dominant factor is that the 9/11 paradigm has determined much of the Muslim American community’s organisational responses to terror arrests. The specifics of 9/11, and the fact that it was a plot hatched and executed by non-Americans who had little familiarity with American life and culture, has thus been a cornerstone of the means through which the community has defended itself.

In distinguishing Muslim Americans as a separate breed from Pakistanis or Palestinians, and promoting white converts or African Americans to leadership roles, it was thought that a degree of insulation would be achieved and the community would be shielded from taking on responsibility for the nefarious acts of those in faraway Muslim lands.

With the emergence of the Muslim American terrorist, this strategy seems doomed to failure. While American-born Muslim Americans openly turn up their noses at those like Faisal Shahzad who were born and raised in the Muslim world, this distinction is lost in the American mainstream which increasingly perceives Muslim Americans born in America or elsewhere as having divided loyalties.

As reactions to the Times Square plot illustrate, the Muslim American community and the organisations it has produced since 9/11 remain largely reactive. They spring into action only in response to a crisis, thus entrenching the very apologetic paradigm that is most harmful to the Muslim American image. The community’s concerns have not been to develop a theology or leadership of its own that is accepting of its immigrant dimension.

Instead, Muslim Americans remain concerned primarily with availing themselves of the American dream of amassing wealth while at the same time ensuring that the open social culture of the United States does not claim their future generations. Large mosques with crystal chandeliers and luxurious carpets are thus housed in the rich suburbs of many American cities, their parking lots crammed with luxury cars.

The apathy inevitably bred by affluence has meant that few, if any, prominent community members are bothered with issues such as the increasing alienation of young Muslim Americans — except when mainstream Americans become suspicious of them. Few Muslim American parents, for example, pause to consider the dualities in their children’s lives, where they must keep themselves apart from mainstream American culture to maintain their Muslim identity and yet try to excel in every form of academic achievement.

Another misstep that has become visible in recent months has been the community’s lack of initiative in understanding the racial as well as religious dimensions of the Muslim American identity. Last month, when the state of Arizona passed shockingly discriminatory laws against immigrants (most of those affected are people of Hispanic origin) the Muslim community remained largely silent and unconcerned. While national organisations such as CAIR issued several press releases, the concern remained restricted to statements, with few Muslim Americans interested in organising solidarity marches or boycotts.

In other words Muslim Americans, either due to their own incipient racism against illegal Hispanic immigrants or lulled into apathy (the Faisal Shahzad case had yet to happen) failed to create linkages with Hispanic organisations and recognise that the roots of discrimination against the two groups are the same. In doing so, they failed to strategically link the racism that would force, for example, those of Hispanic origin to produce identity documents proving their legal status to discrimination against Muslim Americans that forces the latter to undergo extensive checks every time they board an aircraft.

Undoubtedly, 9/11 produced a drive for civic awareness in the Muslim American community that has led to much organisational progress. However, as the outcry following the Faisal Shahzad case demonstrates, the economic and ethnic diversity of the Muslim American community has become a hitch in developing a cadre of leadership and a willingness to take on thorny issues that go beyond apologetic press releases.

Rich Muslims with children born in the United States consider themselves an intra-community elite, one that sneers at recent immigrants that drive cabs and do not attend Ivy League universities. Similarly, Muslim Americans of Middle Eastern descent show little concern for those from places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. The internal politics of mosques and Muslim American organisations are defined by these differences, which inevitably stymie progress and point to a communal reality that is confused and lacking in leadership at a difficult time.

The writer is a US-based attorney teaching constitutional history and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria @ gmail.com

12-22

Stay Away from that Apple, Snow White

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“Beauty always promises, but never gives anything.” 

~Simone Weil

Snow_White_ate_the_apple____2_by_Lilou1984 A recent study conducted by economists in the US reveals that Americans spend around $12 billion on tanning products and services per annum, which is not surprising given that 81% of Americans feel that they look better with a tan. Those statistics are pretty alarming given that skin cancer is on the rise in America despite years of warnings against exposure to the sun as well as the use of tanning beds. Researchers from Advanced Dermatology in Connecticut discovered, back in 2006, that 2 million Americans had developed various cancers on their skin.

One might think that simply staying out of the sun or tanning beds can fend off the threat of skin cancer. However, this notion is not necessarily plausible. In the Middle East, for example, where temperatures in the summer months often skyrocket to over 115F, most people shield themselves from the sun simply because it is unbearable to bask in. Yet, besides the sun, there is an even deadlier enemy that is threatening the very lives of some of the denizens of the Gulf. And it comes beautifully packaged and often smelling of fresh flowers.

Nonetheless looks are definitely deceiving, as Shazia Manal will tell anyone that has an open ear to listen. She fell prey to whitening, or skin bleaching, products back when she was in high school. Now the housewife and mother to three boys, who lives in Kuwait, waits anxiously to get the results back from a biopsy she had done earlier in the week. Manal has been plagued with health problems the past couple of years that has left her weak and on the brink of obesity. Last year, she noticed a bump on the side of her neck. It would take her several months for her to muster up the courage to seek medical attention. And when she finally did the prognosis was not good. “The doctor immediately asked if I applied skin bleach to my face and neck. And I said that I have been using skin bleach once a month for the past 20 years.”

There is an unspoken expectation for both men and women in the Middle East to be fair skinned. Bleaching products, of various strengths, flood the Middle East marketplace. Some even bear celebrity endorsements such as the fairness cream “Fair & Handsome” endorsed by Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan. The cream is a recent addition to the wildly popular “Fair & Lovely” which is a staple in most Arab and Asian women’s beauty regimens. In addition to the mainstream products, there are also countless budget-friendly bleaching creams that line store shelves. Most of the products come from China where regulations are often absent or not enforced. The majority of skin bleaching creams contain Hydroquinone, which is a chemical known to cause cancer. The percentage in most creams is estimated to be between 2-4%, however some Chinese brands have been found to have much higher levels.

The price of beauty, whether to be tanned a golden shade of brown or to have skin as fair as Snow White, is often too high to pay when one’s very life hangs in the balance. For Manal, maintaining a perfect shade of skin that was whiter than what she was born with might have cost her not only her life, but also the family that she holds so dear.

12-22

Flirting with Islam

By John-Paul Flintoff, Times Online

TMO Editor’s note:  although he is avowedly not Muslim, John-Paul Flintoff’s writing about Muslims in England from the point of view of an outsider is still not an attack against Islam, and is an interesting look at different Muslim lives in England.

London Central Mosque, near Lord’s cricket ground. I have passed it 1,000 times. Years ago, on the bus, I stared admiringly at the golden dome. More recently, pushing my daughter on the swings at nearby Regent’s Park, I’ve noticed the gold needs touching up. But in the past few weeks I’ve been wondering whether I dared to step inside, as if it were a church, for a spot of peace and reflection.

Like many other people brought up in no particular religious tradition, I’ve dabbled – attended a wide variety of Christian churches, married into a substantially Jewish family and looked extensively into Buddhism. But I’d never tried Islam, although the Central Mosque is one of more than 1,500 in Britain, serving a fast-growing British Muslim community that already numbers some 2.4m people – rather more than the 1.7m Anglicans who attend church each week. And I am intrigued by the thought that there may be lessons I could learn. Like it or not, mosques are a part of our landscape that’s here to stay. And they’re open to the public – so what stopped me before?

Despite thinking of myself as open-minded, I’ve come to believe that getting close to Islam can be dangerous. After all, extremists like Abu Hamza recruited through mosques such as Finsbury Park, and I’ve interviewed people who told me that went on at other mosques too. But one reformed extremist, Ed Husain, now runs a counter-extremist think-tank and strongly encouraged me to visit a mosque. Who knows, I might discover that the prayer mat and the pew have much in common.

And so, on a Friday in spring, I took myself to the Central Mosque for lunchtime prayers. A vast, largely male crowd gathered, like at football grounds. Inside the great hall, I sat on the carpet like everyone else, at the back. I admired the geometric design inside the domed roof and watched the men around me – poor Bengalis from nearby estates, prosperous Arabs up from Edgware Road, and assorted Kosovars and Bosnians. Here and there, small children rolled about quietly.
After half an hour of Arabic, the imam spoke in English on the need to apologise after doing wrong. He addressed us as “dear brothers and sisters” – somewhere unseen, women were listening to him too.

Then the call to prayer began, and people behind me pushed forward to fill gaps. A few, having secured a place, turned and beckoned me to join them. But I was only here to observe, so I smiled and stayed where I was – until an angry-looking man stepped out of line and beckoned more forcefully. I meekly followed – only to find myself on a mat facing Mecca, bending at the hips as if to inspect my shoes, then dropping to my knees to rest my nose on the mat, bottom in the air, holes in socks for all to see, muttering “Allahu akbar” (God is great).

It wasn’t the most spiritual moment in my life. When it finished, I got up and joined 8,000 other people in a mad rush to retrieve shoes.

The past 15 years have seen a phenomenal growth of Islam within Britain’s indigenous and African-Caribbean communities, according to Batool Al-Toma, who runs the Leicestershire-based New Muslims Project. Born Mary Geraghty, she’s a former Catholic who embraced Islam three decades ago. She wears a headscarf and a long floral coat modestly buttoned up to her neck, but retains a feisty, bustling quality not uncommon in middle-aged Irishwomen.

Hundreds of people have come to Al-Toma’s office to convert to Islam, which involves no more than reciting the shahada (a conviction that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet). “People ask how many I’ve converted,” she said. “They ask that all the time, as if I’m out there with my net.” She told me she discourages would-be converts if she thinks that they – or their families and friends – are not ready. And that can take a very long time: her own children were born into Islam and have embraced it as adults but when she went to Ireland recently to visit family with her son, he was constantly rebuked for wearing a beard “to promote Islam”.

Sarah Joseph is the editor and CEO of a Muslim lifestyle magazine, emel. Like Al-Toma, she was brought up Catholic but converted 22 years ago after losing her faith. It was very painful.

A priest said, don’t worry, we all have doubts.” Meanwhile, her brother married a Muslim and converted. Joseph looked into Islam and was surprised to find “intellectually satisfying answers”. Like Al-Toma, she knows it can be hard to keep the support of friends and family. “Some families can feel a degree of bereavement,” she says. “It’s as if your child has given up on the right path, the middle-class dream. People think, ‘Oh my God, what have they become?’”

Another convert, Yahya (formerly Jonathan) Birt – son of the former BBC director-general John Birt – agrees that embracing Islam can cause upset. “Converts can be labelled traitors or, more kindly, eccentrics.” So why bother? What can possibly be the attraction?

Birt is reluctant to talk about his own conversion, in 1989, because to people who are cynical about religion it can sound deluded or pretentious. It’s a personal matter, he stresses. His own interest arose after meeting somebody who seemed to embody the religious life at its best: “It took me over three years to get past my own lack of interest in all things religious to ask him about his faith. I was presented with no argument but simply with holiness, with the possibilities of contentment, integrity and wholeness that the religious life offers. Saintliness is its own argument.”

Impressed, I wondered if it might be possible to get some taste of Islam – but without actually converting. To practise, if you like, some kind of Islam-lite – like dipping into Christianity by trying the Alpha course.

To begin, I spent weeks reading about Islam, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him, as the books said). Jemima Khan, perhaps the most prominent convert of recent times, spent six or seven months reading Islamic scholars such as Gai Eaton, Alija Izetbegovic and Muhammad Asad. “What began as intellectual curiosity slowly ripened into a dawning realisation of the universal and eternal truth,” she said. I tried those authors, and others too.

But I didn’t read the Koran. People say it’s fundamentally untranslatable, and I don’t have time to learn Arabic.

On Google I found my local mosque, the Islamic Centre of Brent. Its website listed daily prayer times that were a couple of months out of date. Elsewhere, the site offered audio files for the whole Koran, and forms to download for child benefit, housing benefit, jobseeker’s allowance and visas for Pakistan.

After phoning ahead, I wandered over and met the manager. Yasir Alam was quietly spoken, with a mild Pakistani accent. When I mentioned the calendar on the website he looked pained: he’d just got back from his father’s funeral and hadn’t updated the site. I regretted mentioning it.

Shoes off, we entered one of the empty halls. I asked Alam about prayer. He looked pained again, torn between the wish to refer my questions to a greater expert and a polite desire to help out. Tentatively he outlined the mechanics of prostration and offered the idea that prayer is about being thankful. What did that mean? He said that if I was a poor man with no shoes I could still thank God that I had feet, unlike (even) less fortunate people.

I asked if he had many visitors like me. He nodded. Perhaps Alam saw through the superficial matter of my ethnicity and social class, glimpsing the seeker within; but in half a dozen visits to the mosque in the weeks that followed, I would see few white people, and meet only one who spoke English as a first language. It seemed that the Islamic Centre of Brent has yet to be woven into the fabric of British life.

But some rituals are universal: “Would you like a cup of tea?” Alam asked.

In his office, a screen monitored numerous CCTV cameras. Many people believe they are not allowed to enter mosques, he said. He often sees them standing outside, hovering, then walking off. Sometimes, he goes out to explain that they are welcome to step in.

Alam took me downstairs and left me to watch lunchtime prayers, promising I would be left alone this time if I sat at the back. One man sat to the side, reciting the Koran, another lay asleep, snoring audibly. Then all at once people flooded in, muttered “Salaam aleikum” (peace be upon you) to nobody in particular and started prostrating anywhere. But after the call to prayer, with about 40 people in the room – most dark-skinned, none female – they shuffled forward to fill spaces on the prayer mat.

A young man with a long beard came to join me. A sweet-smelling Bosnian named Mo, he spoke imperfect English but managed to explain that, during prayer, worshippers look over one shoulder, then the next, to greet angels recording our good and bad deeds.

My heart sank. TJ Winter, a lecturer in theology at Cambridge and himself a convert, better known among Muslims as sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad, believes that Islam, once we have become familiar with it, is the most suitable faith for the British.

“Our doctrine could not be more straightforward,” he says. “The most pure, exalted, uncompromising monotheism. A system of worship that requires no paraphernalia. Just the human creature and its Lord.” But Mo seemed to suggest there was more to it. I was not sure that I believe in God. How could I believe I had an angel on each shoulder?

The point, Mo stressed, was to think always of judgment day. Alas, I didn’t believe in an afterlife, except in the sense that my body would one day be consumed by worms, so I would “become” a worm, and then be consumed by a bird, and so on.

Mo looked blank but recovered his poise by opening his Koran, and shortly afterwards actually offering to give it to me to keep.

I was overwhelmed: we had met only moments before. But he reduced my sense of gratitude a teeny bit by suggesting that I shower before reading this holy book.

I wasn’t fitting in as I’d hoped. The Muslims I met were friendly, but I felt detached, like a tourist. So one Saturday night I went back to Brent mosque. It was 10 in the evening, but Alam had particularly said this was the time to learn more about Islam.

I found a man brushing his teeth outside the prayer hall. He didn’t look surprised to see a visitor at this hour, and took me to the kitchen, where a group stood drinking tea but said they were about to leave, and suggested I look for another group. So I walked round the building. Through a door, I heard voices. I knocked, and someone shouted: “This door is locked, brother.”

It was nice to be called brother. But not to be locked out and lost. In frustration, I climbed a fire escape and found an open door. Inside, shoes lay scattered everywhere – a promising sign. Pushing through, I came to some stairs and another door. I knocked, coughed, shouted hello – but no reply. I pushed through, only to find myself in… somebody’s bedroom. I dashed down the stairs, put my shoes on as fast as I could, and returned to the bottom of the fire escape.

I went back to the group in the kitchen, who gave me spiced tea and HobNobs, then led me to find the people I was looking for in the ladies’ prayer hall – not somewhere I’d dared to look. Twelve men sat in a semicircle chanting Arabic hypnotically. They seemed delighted to see me.

The group was ethnically mixed, with members whose origins appeared to lie in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and southeastern Europe. Some wore clothes from those parts, others could have been dressed at Gap. In age they ranged from early twenties to late fifties. I was placed next to a young man I assumed to be Arab: he had dark hair, a wispy black beard and Islamic hat, and prefaced every utterance with “Alhamdullilah” (praise be to God). But in fact he was English and an ex-Catholic.

Joseph had told me that converts to Islam, particularly if they are cut off by friends and family, find themselves pressured by the established Muslim community to conform to standards that are not Islamic but cultural. Jemima Khan experienced something like this, adopting traditional Pakistani clothing after marrying Imran Khan. “I over-conformed in my eagerness to be accepted,” she said. I wondered if the same applied to my neighbour.

Over the next hour or so I joined the group’s meditative practice, using a bilingual text to chant the 99 most beautiful names of Allah, then the 201 names of the Prophet, and praise each one to the utmost – as much as there are stars in the sky and drops of rain. Nobody complained about me, a non-Muslim, doing this. By comparison, I remember being rebuked, gently, by my grandfather after taking communion though I’d not been baptised or confirmed. And that was in the easygoing Church of England.

While somebody lit incense, I confessed to my neighbour that I’d inadvertently joined the prayers at Regent’s Park. He didn’t quite manage to suppress a broad grin, but recovered swiftly by saying “Alhamdulillah”. Allah would know if I’d done it with a good intention, he said.

The chanting ended. I was given fruit juice, dates and baklava, and introduced to several members of the group, who extended the eastern courtesy of touching their hearts as they shook my hand. I may have been feeling light-headed, but the room seemed to be charged with celebration and a strong sense of brotherhood – as if we were a sports team that had just won an important fixture.

When it came time to leave, one of my brothers called out: “Have a good evening!”

It was nearly one o’clock in the morning.

At home, I looked up the group I’d met and discovered that they were an order of Sufis. According to my books, Sufis aspire to detachment, patience and gratitude, using techniques that include chanting and prayer but also walking on hot coals, wearing a hair shirt, lying on a bed of nails and spinning on the spot for hours on end. This might be a promising area for somebody dabbling in Islam.

I found a group in the whirling dervish tradition and emailed a couple who host meetings at their home. A few days later I met Amina Jamil and her husband, Hilal, at a cafe, where they explained more. They were dressed in western clothes – no headscarf on Amina – but possessed what I can only describe as a kind of nobility, as if from another time.

Hilal explained that their Sufi sessions start with silent mantras. These included “There is no God but God,” to be repeated 100 times. Then “Allah” 300 times. “Then we ask for our faults to be forgiven, and we forgive others,” he said.

“We end with ‘Hu’, which is the divine pronoun.”

“The work of Sufism is to embrace and discover the self,” said Amina.

It gradually dawned on me that there was to be no whirling. After the mantras, the group reads a portion of poetry by Rumi, the 13th-century Persian mystic, theologian and founder of the dervishes. Amina handed me a copy of Rumi’s poetry, slightly worn at the corners. She wanted me to have it.

It was the second time I’d been offered a book that somebody loved. I mentioned Mo, the Bosnian, and my concerns about reading the Koran in translation. Hilal agreed that some translations were better than others. “But more important than the language is what you bring to the text. Do you have an open heart? If you are cynical, that is what you will find.”

Days later, at their smart mansion block, Hilal introduced me to six members of the group – mostly women. I didn’t catch everybody’s names, but they included an economist, two doctors and a psychiatrist. Some were born to Islam, but one was a former Catholic (another!). We sat in a circle on chairs and sofas. The women put scarves on their heads and we began the silent mantras.

After the poetry reading, the chanting began. I noticed that my own voice was deeper than others, but gradually lost my thoughts to the harmony. Then Hilal laid out prayer mats. I took my place beside the women. Prostrating mechanically was easy. But praising a God I didn’t necessarily believe in? I kept in mind something Rumi wrote. “Stop trying to be the sun and become a speck,” I told myself. “Don’t pretend to be a candle, be a moth.”

The following Saturday I went back to Brent mosque to find out more about the group I’d met briefly in the kitchen – Sufis from yet another order, whose worship relies heavily on music.

I was introduced to a Sudanese man wearing what the ignorant might describe as a long white dress, and a fur hat. This was the sheikh, or teacher. He was obviously held in great esteem because people stooped to kiss his hand. As we talked, another man started to sing ecstatically, while others tapped out an irresistible rhythm on the kitchen’s stainless-steel counter. Scarcely able to stop myself swaying to this hypnotic music, I asked the sheikh what it was about.

They’re praising Allah, he said. All Sufi groups do this. “You can go on British Airways and I can go on Pakistan Airways, but we are all going to the same place. Daily life makes you blind. This opens your eyes.” I told him I was trying to get a taste of Islam. He approved, said the only way to do that was to try it, and told me a story about the Prophet holding a jar and asking his followers what it contained. One guessed it was honey, as did a second. But a third actually dipped a finger in and tasted it: “Honey!”

I decided to try fasting, which isn’t only done at Ramadan: one of my Sufi brothers had told me he won’t touch food or drink during daylight on Mondays and Thursdays – not even water.

I rose early. I still hadn’t mastered the routine for prayer but did my best, remembering what Al-Toma had told me about prayer: “It’s not what other people think. It’s between you and God.”

I ate a bowl of yoghurt, a banana and a slice of toast – and glugged a litre of warm water. Went back to bed, rose again at seven to get my daughter ready for school, dropped her off, and returned for an hour of desultory typing.

But I wasn’t thinking straight, and at exactly 9.42am I decided I would have to break the fast for a coffee. Managing somehow to restrain myself, I crept back to bed at 9.58 to doze for 90 minutes, and rose, for the third time that day, only marginally refreshed.

After lunchtime prayers, I needed help. My wife suggested I give up. But that wouldn’t do. I emailed Hilal to say I couldn’t imagine how he copes doing this for a month. He sent back a poem on fasting by Rumi, and encouragement. “It’s tough when you’re doing it for the first time, and only for one day.” (Apparently, it gets easier after four or five days.)

Shortly after, something magical happened. I stopped feeling hungry, tired and frustrated and became instead terrifically excited at the prospect of my first bite of food, my first sip of water. Just as, in the mosque, by the physical act of prayer I’d achieved an overpowering sense of humility, so by fasting I’d struggled for self-control and worked up a powerful feeling of gratitude.

It was true what the sheikh said: only by actually trying it would Islam make sense. Of course, dipping my toes in was never going to be the same as converting properly.

One convert who later gave up on Islam told me he’d been put off after being pressured, at his local mosque, to change his name and adopt Pakistani clothes. “There’s nothing un-Islamic about my name,” he said. “And as for my clothes, Islam is supposed to be a universal religion.”

He stopped going to mosque and, lacking any wider Muslim support network, gradually lost faith. He felt scared even to speak of this, he said, because the penalty for giving up on Islam, in some countries, is death. Others who converted and then quit Islam told me they should really have looked into it more beforehand. “I truly believed in Islam at the time,” said one, “but the more I learnt, the more I disagreed with.” Specifically, he felt uncomfortable about the different treatment of men and women in Islam.

I, too, was troubled by a number of questions. Will the Koran always seem alien to people who don’t speak Arabic? At her north London offices, Sarah Joseph reassured me by stating that she’d not found it necessary to master Arabic (nor to change her name) though she takes care to research the meaning of key passages (and, for the record, she chooses to wear a headscarf). Trumping even the generosity of Mo and Amina, Joseph gave me a monumentally beautiful copy of the Koran, translated with commentary – and without suggesting that I wash before reading it.

Will mosques ever become, like some churches, places that ordinary Britons wander into for spiritual sustenance and quiet time?

I doubt it: mosques aren’t sacred spaces in quite the same way – what matters, so I’m told, is for Muslims to pray together, all pointing towards Mecca – and that could just as easily happen elsewhere. What’s more, there’s the gender divide: if I brought my wife to the mosque we’d be separated – not something we’re used to, unless to change at swimming pools. But is separation so bad? After living in Pakistan for years, Khan concluded that “Islam is not a religion which subjugates women while elevating men”. Who am I to argue?

I’ve found the practice of Islam surprisingly familiar – energising as a yoga class, meditative as Zen, worshipful as the most happy-clappy Anglicans. Did I ever feel uncomfortable? A bit, when I was propelled forward to join the prayers at Regent’s Park, and later when I travelled with Al-Toma to Iranian-owned TV studios in west London for a discussion show on converts, only to be left in the lobby because the producers considered me a security risk.

On my last visit to Brent mosque, I bumped into Mo, the Bosnian. He was delighted to see me, but wanted to know if my frequent reappearances meant I had accepted Islam. Unsure what to reply, I said I was still trying it out.

This seemed to satisfy him. I left the Islamic centre happy to have been accepted. But as I stood outside, my warm feelings were dashed. A neighbour – a white man in his forties – opened his window and shouted, hoping I would do him a favour and burn the mosque down.

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Obituary: Dawud At-Tauhidi

tauhidi Plainfield, IN 05/24/2010) – Muslims in North America lost a visionary and inspiring leader in education. Dawud At-Tauhidii passed away on Sunday, May 23rd after battling cancer for two years.

To Allah we belong and to Him we return (inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon).

We pray that Allah (SWT) will shower His mercy on him and grant him the highest level of Paradise – Jannat Ul-Firdous – and give his family patience in this difficult time. Ameen.

ISNA salutes the great contribution that Br. Dawud At-Tauhidi made toward advancing Islamic education in North America.  Tauhidi had dedicated his life for Islamic education in North America.  For more than two decades, Tauhidi was involved in various aspects of Islamic education – as a teacher, researcher, administrator and curriculum developer.  His most recognized work was the Tarbiyah Project, a ground breaking effort that aims at translating Islamic values into practical and implementable programs that enable Muslim students to live Islam.  “I mourn brother Tauhidi not only as an educational leader and a pioneer in Islamic character education, but also as a dear brother whom I worked with for over 5 years when the school I was principal of was chosen as a pilot program for the Tarbiyah Project,” said Safaa Zarzour, current ISNA Secretary General and former principal of Universal School of Bridgeview, Illinois.  “He was such a selfless and dedicated soul that you could not help but to admire and respect,” he added.

A native of Philadelphia, Tauhidi, who embraced Islam in 1972, studied at Lehigh University and later studied Arabic at the University of Pennsylvania.  In 1980, he graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt with a degree in Usul ad-Din and taught at the Islamic Community Center School in Philadelphia.

In 1983, Tauhidi completed his master’s degree in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan and in 1985 completed his doctoral candidacy examinations in the same field. During that time, he served as a teaching assistant, research assistant and studied toward a second master’s degree in Teaching Arabic as a Second Language. His research interests included “Towards a Model of an Islamic Philosophy of Education”, “Educational Institutions in Early Islam”, “The Affective Domain in Second Language Acquisition”, “Statistical and Lexical Studies of the Qur’anic Lexicon”, “Semantic Structures and Worldview of the Quran”, and other topics.

Since 1985, he was actively involved in establishing Islamic schools in North America and was a founding member of the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA). In 1985, he co-founded the Michigan Islamic Academy in Ann Arbor, MI, where he served as its founding Principal, serving for three years. In 1988, he helped form the Michigan Education Council and co-founded Crescent Academy International, a college-preparatory, Islamic school in suburban Detroit, where he served as Director since 1988.

Tauhidi was experienced in the planning and establishment of schools, policy development, school administration, curriculum development, Teaching Arabic as a Second Language, holistic education, character education, public relations, computer programming, multimedia and graphic design, and fundraising for Islamic schools.

During the past twelve years, Tauhidi worked on developing an integrated curriculum for Islamic education, known as the Tarbiyah Project. The aim of this project is to provide a more effective paradigm for teaching today’s Muslim children based on a holistic and integrated approach to education known as the Integrated Learning Model (ILM2).

Tauhidi is survived by three sons and two daughters.

The Janazah prayer for Dawud At-Tauhidi followed Dhuhr prayer at 2pm Monday, May 24th at the Canton Mosque, (MCWS), followed by burial at Knollwood Cemetery on Ridge Road in Canton.

Remembrances can be sent to Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA) at info@isna.net. Some of these may be published on CISNA’s website http://www.cisnaonline.org. Contact: Mohamed Elsanousi, Director Community Outreach; melsanousi@isna.net; 202-544-6767

Based on ISNA Press Release

Facebook Hypocrisy

One Facebook, Two Faces

By Saad Mustafa Warraich, Karachi – Pakistan

TMO Editor’s Note:  Facebook’s policy concerning freedom of speech obviously has an underpinning of anti-Islamic bias, since Facebook obviously has the capacity and will to immediately ban pages supporting Hitler but on the other hand stands idly by while miscreants insult the holiest person to 1.2 billion Muslims.  The experience below demonstrates Facebook’s naked hypocrisy.  At TMO we of course decry the terrible outrages committed by Hitler and the fascists, however the relevant point on this issue is the fact that Facebook protects the honor of certain sacred cows, while protecting at the same time the people who commit the very worst atrocities against other groups that are protected by their own policies regarding religious hate speech.

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I had been banned from Facebook and my account had been disabled a night before Facebook was banned in Pakistan. Before all this happened, I visited the blasphemous page “Draw Muhammad Day” and the content on the page hurt me badly.

Once again a certain group of westerners called it the “freedom of expression” and went on to show extremism – something they always verbally disassociate themselves from.

As a response to this lunacy, I thought it best to find out how they respond to others’ right of freedom of expression – I created an Adolf Hitler page right away and it read, “To all those who think they can ridicule Islam in the name of freedom of expression and yet punish those who speak of the genius of Hitler.”

The comment on the wall read, “Let’s hit them where it hurts them the most.” Further I added some photos of the Fuhrer, Nazi Party and the Italian Footballer Paolo Di Canio who was banned and fined by FIFA two years ago for performing the “controversial” Roman Salute which, according to him, gave him a sense of belonging to his people.

Within an hour tens of people joined the Hitler page which was named “H | T L E R”. The very next time I tried to log in I found out that my profile had been disabled for ‘violation of Facebook Regulations.’

Facebook’s reply for my inquiry was as follows:

Hi Saad,

After reviewing your situation, we have determined that your violated our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. One of Facebook’s main priorities is the comfort and safety of our users.

We do not tolerate hate speech. Targeting people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or disease is a serious violation of our standards and has resulted in the permanent loss of your account.

We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason.  This decision is final.

Kimmie
User Operations,
Facebook

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Now how is it that Hitler is termed the most evil person in the history of mankind while those that bomb Muslims, commit heinous crimes in their countries, ridicule their Prophet (s) and Quran and as a result hurt the sentiments of 1.2 billion Muslims are hailed as heroes? And I wonder why the victims of Holocaust are more important than victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Despite the protest of a large number of Muslims, Facebook has not removed the blasphemous page from the website.

According the statement issued by Facebook their policy is to withhold such content in countries where it is controversial. The statement specifically says that we do not remove Nazi content from Facebook because it is illegal only in a few countries. As two-faced statements go, this one takes the prize. Perhaps before issuing the statement the Facebook did not realise that words like “Adolf Hitler”, “Sieg Heil” and “Nazi” are not allowed to be used on Facebook to create new pages.

And if all this and the removal of Hitler page and the permanent deactivation of my profile isn’t enough, here is a testament to Facebook’s vile hypocrisy. The statement issued by Facebook on 20 May says, “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”

While, in another instance, Facebook replied to me in an entirely different way. Excerpt and screenshot is given above.

Now these two conflicting statements speak volumes about the discrimination by the Facebook. It simply means that Facebook through its official statement to global media wants the world to believe that they are the torchbearers of freedom of expression and allow everyone to speak their minds out. On the other hand the face that individuals like me get to see is a much horrible one. It talks about hate and intolerance and all forms of so-called equality and unshakable resolve. While Facebook is portraying itself as the silent and innocent onlooker for the entire world, I wonder what gives them the right to remove a major chunk of my life from the web.

I don’t think Facebook should come up with any clarification statements for the Muslim world over what happened. It is clearer than crystal that as long as we are labelled as extremists, we are not going to enjoy the equal rights in this world. And those that are trying to play God love to label us that. While reporting the Facebook ban in Pakistan in different articles, guardian.co. uk mentions the brutality of Pakistan Army in Swat while Yahoothinks it’s necessary to unveil Al-Qaida’s plans of attacks on Danish and Dutch football teams. It is a blatant attempt to criticize Pakistan for placing the ban, link the country to extremism and terrorism and thereby justifying this sacrilegious act of Facebook users.

12-22

Community News (V12-I22)

Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, CEO Fresh Del Monte

D4C5 Mention Del Monte and the first thing that comes to mind is its variety of fruits and produce. The company’s chairman and CEO is Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh who has been serving in the position since 1996.

Born on February 2nd 1942 in Jerusalem, Mohamad Abu Ghazaleh was the eldest of 9 children. In 1948 and due to the war in Palestine, his family moved to Cairo, Egypt, with the idea it was temporary until the war ended. The family would never return to live in Jerusalem leaving everything they owned behind. With a BBA from the American University in Cairo, he joined the family business which was struggling at the time in Kuwait. January 1971 would see Mohamad Abu Ghazaleh import the first shipment of Latin American banana’s in the history of the gulf region.

During those times most of the bananas being imported into the region came mostly from Somalia and other parts of Africa. These bananas were much smaller in size. This shipment was a huge gamble and was very risky but it paid off and the Abu Ghazaleh family soon came to dominate the banana import business in Kuwait and later Dubai. Little did Mohamad Know that this first step would lead to him acquiring the largest and most prestigious fresh produce company in the world. Actually, his largest accomplishment came in 1996 when he bought fresh Del Monte from the Mexican government for 435 million US$. In 1997, Del Monte’s fortunes turned around and Mohamad was able to sell 30% of Del Monte’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange for 300 million US$. Today Del Monte is the largest fresh produce company in terms of Market capitalization. It has sales of over 3.8 billion US$ dollars and employs over 38,000 employees around the world.

Investigation launched into pork shoving harassment of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD, MN–The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into allegations of harassment of Muslim students at St. Cloud and Owatonna public schools in Minnesota.

Among a list of racist incidents is the allegation that two students approached a group of Muslim high school girls and asked them if they would like some pork bacon.

When the girls informed them that their religion prohibited pork, the students made disparaging remarks about their religion. A week later, the two students brought pork bacon to school and shoved it in the faces of Muslim students and chased after them when they tried to get away.

The Council on American Islamic Relations had called for an investigation based on Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance.

Mosque expansion plans denied in Alpharetta

ALPHARETTA, GA–The Alpharetta City Council voted to deny a request for a mosque expansion. Both sides made passionate pleas before city council before the decision was made.

“My concern is quality of life and property values,” said one man opposed to the expansion.

“It feels like if you deny us a decent place to worship, you might as well hang a banner downtown Alpharetta that the Muslims are not welcome in this city,” said a member of the mosque.

The Islamic Center of North Fulton has been on Rucker road for 12 years. Since people began worshiping there, the membership has grown from 25 to 600. At the heart of the matter is expansion and growth of the center. In the beginning, the center said they had no intent to expand past 25 members.

NYPD investigating attack on Muslim man

NEW YORK, NY–New York City police say a Muslim man was attacked from behind outside a Brooklyn housing project and they are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the construction worker in East New York was walking through a park near a housing project after getting some food when he was attacked from behind by a group of young men.

The Muslim man is from Bangladesh and was wearing a prayer cap at the time. Kelly says no robbery took place and there seemed to be no other motivation for the attack so the Hate Crimes Task Force is looking into the incident. The man’s family has said his attackers yelled anti-Muslim insults.

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Houstonian Corner (V12-I22)

Iman Academy Islamic Schools Houston Graduates Equipped With Skills Which Are Being Utilized by Fortune 500 Companies: 14th Annual Fundraising Gala

Picture AAI A well-attended 14th Annual Fundraising Gala of Iman Academy Islamic Schools in Houston was held on Sunday, May 9th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. More than $400,000 was raised, as guest speaker Sheikh Abdul Rauf AL Khawasldeh inspired everyone. Despite no proper playing area and other facilities, Iman Academy students have excelled in education as well as extra-curricular activities. Top students were given awards, including: Southwest: Leena AL-Sharouf; Shafiq Gyagenda; Zainab Abidiogun; Alia Duamni; Mariam Mohamed; Asad Hussain; Anim Shoaib; and Zeeshawn Wani – Southeast: Rabia Shaik; Khalid Choucair; Yazeed Radwan; Nuzhat Tasneem; and Sana EL-Bakry.

Later on the Southeast campus hosted Enrollment Day on May 15th from 1-4pm and the Southwest campus did it on May 16th from 2-5pm.

For more information on Iman Academy and/or Open Enrollment, please visit www.imanacademy.org or join Iman Academy’s Facebook group. Iman Academy can also be directly contacted at: 281-498-1345 (Southwest Campus) and/or 713-910-3626 (Southeast Campus).

Iman Academy Combines Secular Education with Islamic Foundation to Provide Unique Opportunity for Muslims in Houston. Muslim parents often struggle with striking a balance between their children’s secular education and religious foundation. In a city as diverse as Houston, Iman Academy stands out as an Islamic school that marries a stellar curriculum with a strong focus on Islam. In fact, Iman Academy is one of the top Islamic schools in Texas, making it a unique opportunity for Muslim residents in Houston.

Iman Academy, a SACS accredited school, was founded in 1996 and combines an Islamic environment with innovative educational methods to nurture noble character, academic excellence and strong leadership skills. Iman Academy’s students have repeatedly demonstrated a strong academic performance at district, state and national level examinations and positive involvement in extra-curricular activities. Iman Academy equips its students with the tools needed for real-world success – many of its graduates have gone on to complete degrees from major universities, join medical school and find careers with fortune 500 companies.

Why consider Iman Academy? Simple – to give your child not only the academic education they need, but also a strong Islamic identity that will serve them well throughout their lives. Iman Academy provides a unique environment for students with a special emphasis on nurturing, caring and teamwork. Specifically, Iman Academy integrates Islam into the curriculum so students learn in the context of Islamic teachings. For example, energy conservation is a topic that is front of mind for everyone these days. However, most students in secular schools will not be exposed to the fact that it’s also an Islamic principle. Iman Academy is proof that Islamic schools are a viable alternative for parents who are seeking high quality education integrated with a strong character development program.
For more information on Iman Academy, please visit www.imanacademy.org or join Iman Academy’s Facebook group. Iman Academy can also be directly contacted at: 281-498-1345 (Southwest Campus) and/or 713-910-3626 (Southeast Campus).

12-22

Abi Olajuwon: A Chip Off the Old Pillar

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

340x Her full name is Alon Abisola Arisicate Ajoke Olajuwon, with the full name meaning “born in wealth, and loved by all.” But just call her Abi. And oh by the way, her father just happens to be Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, one of the greatest Muslim athletes of all time. And Abi’s career has been a dream as well so far, masha`Allah.

She was born in Houston, Texas, but eventually went to high school in Southern California, where she led the Marlborough School to three consecutive Southern Section titles. She earned four varsity letters during her time there, and by her senior season she earned McDonald’s All-American status in 2006, making her one of the elite high school basketball players in the country. She then took her considerable skills to perennial power Oklahoma University.  But what drew her to Oklahoma? It was the family values of the coach, Sherri Coale. “When I met her in person, I saw how intertwined her family and basketball were. They weren’t separated; they coincided. Everything was together… There was no separation between her family and basketball, how that family environment was. And then, her seriousness when it came to the basketball perspective and practice, I knew that was something that I wanted. I know that when my four years are up, I don’t need to worry that I’m not still part of that family,” Abi told Sooners Illustrated. There, she gradually worked her way into the starting line-up, and finally ended up starting every game at the center position during her senior season. Also in her senior season, she led the team to the Final Four of the Women’s NCAA Tournament.

She ultimately was drafted by the Chicago Sky of the Women’s National Basketball Association in the 3rd round, 28th over all, in the 2010 draft. So far with Chicago, she is only averaging 7 minutes per game, but she is once again working her way into a prominent role with the team.

Abi’s mother, Lita Richardson, is an entertainment executive and attorney, having been a vice-president for Magic Johnson Enterprises and now a movie and television producer and agent for several prominent stars including Vivica Fox. Abi herself graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism in May.

Her father Hakeem still lives in Houston, but he is still close to his daughter and provides welcome counsel on basketball and life. “We talk about basketball. Of course, it’s harder because we don’t live in the same state,” she told Sooners Illustrated. “My parents are always very supportive of my talents. If I ever need anything, there’s never a hesitation. He’s a very active part of my life at school and otherwise.” To hear such a young person focus on family values is a blessed thing. That shows a wealth of wisdom, that cannot help but be loved by all.

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Pakistan’s Ace: Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

aisam These days just about the only Muslim tennis player that achieves headlines is the great Sania Mirza from India. But Pakistan boasts the second most noteworthy Muslim among active professional players in the world today. Meet Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi: a man with a long first name, a strong first serve, and yet a higher purpose both on and off the tennis court.

Aisam was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. He clearly has tennis in his genes, as his mother, Nausheen Ihtisham, was a 10-time national champion, and his maternal grandfather, Kwaja Iftikhar, was the All-India tennis champion before India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947. Aisam began playing at the age of 14, and by 16 he was the number one junior tennis player in Pakistan. His junior career included winning the Pakistani International Junior Championships as well as numerous other impressive victories including one over current world top ten player Andy Roddick. Finally, by 1998, at the age of 18, Aisam had achieved a world number 7 junior ranking, the highest ever world junior ranking for a Pakistani, and he was ready to turn professional.

Aisam at one point reached as high as 125 in the ATP world men’s singles rankings. But, his calling card quickly became the doubles game. By 2007 he finally reached his first ATP doubles final with partner Rohan Bopanna from India, but they lost in the finals of that tournament in Mumbai. They reached another final the next year, losing in the finals of a tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. Notably, in November of 2009, Qureshi teamed with American James Cerretani to defeat world number one singles player Roger Federer and his partner at a tournament in Federer’s home town of Basel, Switzerland. But a doubles title did not arrive until this year, when Qureshi, once again paired with Bopanna, broke through and won the South Africa Tennis Open in February. They have reached two more finals since then, so the future appears to be bright for this Subcontinental duo.

Aisam has also represented his country quite well, having captained the Pakistani Davis Cup team. He has officially won the most Davis cup singles and doubles matches in Pakistan’s history.

He first entered the world’s consciousness in 2002 when he paired up, in controversial fashion, with Israeli Amir Hadad. Despite pressure from both the Pakistani and Israel governments to break up, the two went on to reach the third round of Wimbledon and the second round of the U.S. Open that year. That experience earned them the Arthur Ashe Humanitarians of the Year Award. He has also become a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’ club, a group of famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sports. Qureshi is now up to number 46 in the world doubles rankings, but he should be number 1 in the hearts of Muslims everywhere.

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Shahid Khan Trying to Buy the Rams

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By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Pakistani billionaire Shahid Khan continues in his efforts to purchase a controlling share of the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams. He first entered into an agreement to purchase 60% of the team in March of this year. But, there is now an attempt underway by the 40% owner of the team, Stan Kroenke, to buy the entire team. So, brother Shahid is waiting to see how things turn out.

Shahid Khan was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States when he was 16. He graduated from the University of Illinois School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering with a BS in 1971. While in college he worked at Flex-N-Gate, a diversified auto parts maker that is based in Urbana, Illinois. And by 1980 he had earned enough money in his private venture, Bumper Works, to buy Flex-N-Gate, and the company has taken off since then under his stewardship. The company ranked No. 229 on Forbes’ list of America’s Biggest Private Companies, with an estimated $2 billion in revenue as of 2008, and 9,500 employees.

Khan has received numerous awards from the University of Illinois, including a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1999 from the Department of Mechanical Science and Industrial Engineering, the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 2006 from the College of Engineering, and the Distinguished Service Award in 2005 from the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

But one of his passions is football, and he has frequently attended Rams home games over the years. Stan Kroenke is currently trying to buy the team out from under Khan. Current NFL rules prohibit one of their owners from owning teams in other sports, and Kroenke owns both the Denver Nuggets basketball team and Colorado Avalanche hockey team. So, Kroenke is trying to seek avenues such as having his wife buy the Rams, or divest the other two teams to his son Josh. So, Khan patiently waits on the sideline for his chance to achieve his football dreams.

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Hezbollah Stronger?

Israel fears stronger Hezbollah 10 years after pull-out

By Heather Sharp, BBC News

2010-05-23T161325Z_1278011529_GM1E65O00OT01_RTRMADP_3_ISRAEL-LEBANON

A tourist visits Rosh Hanikra border crossing with Lebanon, in northern Israel May 23, 2010. Monday marks the 10-year anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon.        

REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Metulla, north Israel–Barely 100m from a picnic spot in Israel’s northern-most village, the yellow flag of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah flutters in the breeze.

It was through Metulla that the last Israeli soldiers drove as they withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon in 2000, ending their 18-year presence in the country.

The troops had held a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, aiming to protect Israel’s northern border from militant attacks.

Now 10 years later, the scene is tranquil, although a major war was fought across this border in 2006, and the regional media is full of talk of Iranian-backed Hezbollah’s growing arsenal.

“In Metulla, it’s always business as usual,” says local resident Jonathan Javor, 28. “You still have to pick fruit, you still have to open your hotel, no matter what’s going on.”

Metulla forms a finger of land jutting into Lebanon.

Its green orchards back right onto the border, overlooked by Lebanese villages on the hills beyond.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, pushing as far as Beirut in an attempt to target Palestinian militants, but then drew back to hold a zone varying from about 5-20km (3-12 miles) into Lebanon, to protect border communities such as Metulla.

While many Lebanese civilians from the buffer zone crossed into Israel daily to work, Hezbollah and other militant groups fought a war of attrition against the Israelis and their Lebanese Christian allies, the South Lebanon Army.

On average, about two or three Israeli soldiers died each month.

The Four Mothers activists say soldiers were dying “for nothing’ in south Lebanon

Sitting on a sunny veranda in Kibbutz Ashdot Yaacov, an hour’s drive south, three friends reminisce together about the campaign they waged, as part of a group called Four Mothers, for the withdrawal.

“Many people called us saying ‘Please take my child out of Lebanon, I want him alive,” says Amalia Dayan.

The women are at pains to point out their commitment to sending their sons and daughters to defend Israel.

But Mrs Dayan says they felt losses in Lebanon were a sacrifice “for nothing,” in a long-standing occupation “with no goal.”

Ten years on, the women have no regrets. Smadar Ben-Porat believes it is just a matter of time until the next war with Hezbollah, but she thinks the movement would have grown stronger whether or not Israel had pulled out.

“I believe it’s better for us to defend our country from legitimate borders,” she says.

Israeli President Shimon Peres recently accused Syria of transferring Scud missiles to Hezbollah. The US says the group now has more missiles than most governments.

There is a UN presence in south Lebanon, which was expanded as part of the 2006 ceasefire agreement, but few Israelis believe it has stopped Hezbollah rearming.

Alon Ben-David, military analyst for Israel’s Channel 10 television, believes Hezbollah has 40,000 rockets and long-range precision missiles with which it could strike targets such as military bases and power stations, which “makes the equation completely different”.

“From a local guerrilla organisation, we’ve created a monster,” he says.

In 2000, the troops were pulled out ahead of schedule, in what was perceived on both sides as a hasty scramble. Hezbollah claimed it as a major victory.

“We boosted the radical axis – Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – we gave them a lot of encouragement in the withdrawal and I think we’re still paying the price for it,” says Mr Ben-David.

At present, he believes neither side has the incentive for another war, “because they realise what devastation it would cause on both sides”.

But, he says, if Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear programme, Hezbollah would be likely to hit back.

‘Necessity’

In Metulla, town mayor Herzel Boker dismisses talk of imminent war as “manufactured by journalists.”

A commander in Israel’s south at the time of the withdrawal, he believes the pull-out was “a necessity”, but says it left the security situation “effectively without control”.

Few Israelis argue that the troops should have stayed, but many wish they had left differently – as part of a peace deal with Syria and Lebanon, or at least without creating the impression of weakness.

Mr Boker is also angered that Israel did not make better provisions for the SLA fighters and their families. Some were able to rush across the border to begin new lives in Israel, but others were left behind and captured by Hezbollah.

The 2006 war began when Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers from the border region. Israel struck back, mainly at south Lebanon and Hezbollah areas in Beirut.
Some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, most of whom were soldiers, were killed.

Now, there are two Hezbollah ministers in Lebanon’s unity government and Israel has said it will hold Lebanon as a whole responsible for the activities of Hezbollah.

“If Lebanon creates an escalation, the state of Israel will react, and as we saw in 2006 it could react aggressively… if we will not live in peace, neither will they,” Mr Boker says.

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Brandeis Commencement Draws Protests

By Michael P. Corcoran, Globe Correspondent

Outside Brandeis University’s commencement ceremony yesterday, about 20 students protested the college’s choice for its keynote speaker, Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

The selection of Oren, who critics say is a polarizing figure due to his role in defending controversial Israeli policies occupied territory, such as the building of settlements in Jerusalem and the invasion of Gaza in 2008-09, sparked controversy when the school announced its choice last month.

It was not the first time a speaker with ties to turbulence in the Middle East has angered students. In 2007, there was intense debate on campus over whether to host President Carter following the release of a book that was critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Last November, some students objected to a campus appearance by Richard Goldstone, who oversaw a United Nations report that accused Israel of war crimes.

“Oren’s far-right positions reflect only a small part of the opinion of the Jewish community, and his selection privileges that part as the embodiment of the Jewish people,’’ said a letter signed by 140 Brandeis students. “This marginalizes the significant (and growing) segment of the Jewish population that does not agree with him on these issues, as well as the larger Brandeis community that feels similarly.’’

Outside the commencement ceremony yesterday afternoon, students showed mixed feelings about the controversy.

Some students said they were proud of the student protesters. “I congratulated them because they had a focus on human rights,” said Bimal Gadal, who earned a master’s degree in international development. “This school is about social justice, and they got attention to their issues. I thought it was the right thing to do.’’

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Antibiotics

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In common usage, an antibiotic (from the Ancient Greek: ἀντί – anti, “against”, and βίος – bios, “life”) is a substance or compound that killsbacteria or inhibits its growth. Antibiotics belong to the broader group of antimicrobial compounds, used to treat infections caused bymicroorganisms, including fungi and protozoa.

The term “antibiotic” was coined by Selman Waksman in 1942 to describe any substance produced by a microorganism that is antagonistic to the growth of other microorganisms in high dilution. This original definition excluded naturally occurring substances that kill bacteria but are not produced by microorganisms (such as gastric juice and hydrogen peroxide) and also excluded synthetic antibacterial compounds such as the sulfonamides. Many antibiotics are relatively small molecules with a molecular weight less than 2000 Da.

With advances in medicinal chemistry, most antibiotics are now semisynthetic—modified chemically from original compounds found in nature, as is the case with beta-lactams (which include the penicillins, produced by fungi in the genus Penicillium, the cephalosporins, and the carbapenems). Some antibiotics are still produced and isolated from living organisms, such as the aminoglycosides, and others have been created through purely synthetic means: the sulfonamides, the quinolones, and the oxazolidinones. In addition to this origin-based classification into natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic, antibiotics may be divided into two broad groups according to their effect on microorganisms: those that kill bacteria are bactericidal agents, while those that only impair bacterial growth are known as bacteriostatic agents.

Many treatments for infections prior to the beginning of the twentieth century were based on medicinal folklore. Treatments for infection in ancient Chinese medicine using plants with antimicrobial properties were described over 2,500 years ago. Many other ancient cultures, including the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks used molds and plants to treat infections. The discovery of the natural antibiotics produced by microorganisms stemmed from earlier work on the observation of antibiosis between micro-organisms. Pasteur observed that “if we could intervene in the antagonism observed between some bacteria, it would offer ‘perhaps the greatest hopes for therapeutics’”. Synthetic antibiotic chemotherapy as a science and the story of antibiotic development began in Germany with Paul Ehrlich, a German medical scientist in the late 1880s. Scientific endeavours to understand the science behind what caused these diseases, the development of synthetic antibiotic chemotherapy, the isolation of the natural antibiotics marked milestones in antibiotic development.

Originally known as antibiosis, antibiotics were drugs that had actions against bacteria. The term antibiosis, which means “against life,” was introduced by the French bacteriologist Vuillemin as a descriptive name of the phenomenon exhibited by these drugs. (Antibiosis was first described in 1877 in bacteria when Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch observed that an airborne bacillus could inhibit the growth of Bacillus anthracis.). These drugs were later renamed antibiotics by Selman Waksman, an American microbiologist in 1942.

Bacterial antagonism of Penicillium spp. were first described in England by John Tyndall in 1875. The significance to antibiotic discovery was not realized until the work of Ehrlich on synthetic antibiotic chemotherapy, which marked the birth of the antibiotic revolution. Ehrlich noted that certain dyes would bind to and color human, animal or bacterial cells, while others did not. He then extended the idea that it might be possible to make certain dyes or chemicals that would act as a magic bullet or selective drug that would bind to and kill bacteria while not harming the human host. After much experimentation, screening hundreds of dyes against various organisms, he discovered a medicinally useful drug, the man-made antibiotic, Salvarsan. In 1928 Fleming made an important observation concerning the antibiosis by penicillin. Fleming postulated the effect was mediated by a yet unidentified antibiotic like compound which could be exploited a naturally occurring antibiotic although he initially characterised some of its antibiotic properties he didn’t pursue its development. In the meantime, another synthetic antibacterial antibiotic Prontosil was developed and manufactured for commercial use by Domagk in 1932. Prontosil, the first commercially available antibacterial antibiotic was developed by a research team led by Gerhard Domagk (who received the 1939 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his efforts) at the Bayer Laboratories of the IG Farben conglomerate in Germany. Prontosil had a relatively broad effect against Gram-positivecocci but not against enterobacteria. The discovery and development of this first sulfonamide drug opened the era of antibiotics. In 1939 discovery by Rene Dubos of the first naturally derived antibiotic like substance named gramicidin from B. brevis. It was one of the first commercially manufactured antibiotics in use during World War II to prove highly effective in treating wounds and ulcers.[16] Florey and Chain succeeded in purifying penicillin. The purified antibiotic displayed antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacteria. It also had low toxicity and could be taken without causing adverse effects. Furthermore its activity was not inhibited by biological constituents such as pus, unlike the synthetic antibiotic class available at the time the sulfonamides. The discovery of such a powerful antibiotic was unprecedented. The development of penicillin led to renewed interest in the search for antibiotic compounds with similar capabilities.[17] Because of their discovery of penicillin Ernst Chain, Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Florey credited Dubos with pioneering the approach of deliberately, systematically searching for antibacterial compounds. Such a methodology had led to the discovery of gramicidin, which revived Florey’s research in penicillin.[

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