Reflections

By Almas Akhter, TMO

Definition of “Me”

Quit looking at others …………………play your own character on the world stage

The most exciting, rewarding, and often challenging relationship in the world which we all have is with a person called “Me”,”Myself” or “I.” It is sometimes very hard to talk about “Me” or “I “ but can be easy to look in our heart and find our flaws………….

The biggest challenge and the most difficult job is to keep “Me” on the right path. The most rewarding thing is to improve “Myself”

“I” has to play a million roles in one lifetime ………..worker, healer, teacher, student, problem solver, story teller, chef, mediator, care taker, computer buff, author…………….

“I” has many looks baby, young, old………..

“I” enjoy playing these roles, want to be good in these roles……………..

“Me” can be happy, sad or tired……………..

“Me” is a work in progress, pray to be better every day………………

14-40

Matches

tufailA match is a tool for starting a fire under controlled conditions. A typical modern match is made of a small wooden stick or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface. Matches are usually sold in quantity; wooden ones are packaged in boxes, and paper matches are clustered in rows stapled into matchbooks. They are commonly sold by tobacconists and many other kinds of shops. The coated end of a match, known as the match “head,” contains either phosphorus or phosphorus sesquisulfide as the active ingredient and gelatin as a binder. There are two main types of matches: safety matches, which can be struck only against a specially prepared surface, and strike-anywhere matches, for which any suitably frictional surface can be used. Some match-like compositions, known as electric matches, are ignited electrically and do not make use of heat from friction.

14-40

Clinton to Take Iran Opposition Group Off Terror List

(AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to remove an Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, from a terror blacklist after 15 years, US lawmakers said Friday.

The move, sure to enrage Tehran, comes ahead of a court-set October 1 deadline by which Clinton had to decide whether to take the group, also known as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), off the list.

Clinton was sending “a classified communication” to the Congress on Friday “regarding designation of the MEK,” State Department official spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, but refused to detail its contents.

However, Republican lawmaker Ted Poe, a member of the House Foreign Affairs committee who has led calls in support of the MEK, said Clinton’s “expected decision to delist” the group was “long overdue.”

“The MEK long ago renounced violence, and in recent years, has been actively working with US intelligence agencies to get information on activities inside Iran,” Poe said in a statement.
“I am very happy to learn the State Department has agreed to de-list the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List,” added Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher.

“The MEK are Iranians who desire a secular, peaceful, and democratic government.”

The MEK was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and the delisting will end a complex legal battle fought through the US courts.

In June, the US Court of Appeals in Washington said that if Clinton did not decide whether to deny or grant the group’s request to be delisted within four months, it would issue a special writ and remove the group itself.

The leftwing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, but took up arms against the country’s new clerical rulers after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The State Department accused the mujahedeen of carrying out attacks that killed Iranians, as well as American soldiers and civilians, from the 1970s into 2001.

But MEK members and their supporters say the group long ago renounced armed violence, and aims to work to overthrow the Iranian regime through peaceful means.

Part of the conditions for delisting the group were that more than 3,200 MEK members living in Camp Ashraf in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, must move to another area called Camp Liberty.

Over the weekend, the last major group of the Iranian exiles relocated from the camp which former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had permitted them to use.

The exiles were moved as part of a December 25 deal between the United Nations and Baghdad that aims to see them eventually relocated to third countries.

14-40

Arsalan Kazemi Transfers to Oregon U.

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

alg_kazemiArsalan Kazemi, first native Iranian to Division I college basketball, is reportedly leaving Rice University in Texas to transfer to Oregon University.

At Rice, Kazemi posted impressive numbers. Last season’s 12.1 points (while shooting over 60 percent from the floor) and 10.3 rebounds had many thinking he would be the main Conference USA Player of the Year candidate to beat entering the 2012-2013 season.

But all of that came at Rice; a program that went 19-16 (8-8) last season, and hasn’t played in an NCAA Tournament game since 1970. Kazemi leaves behind a team and program that is in dire straits, as Rice has now lost six players from last year’s team.

While he was Owl during the past three years, we’ve known about this intriguing story tucked away in an apathetic basketball school in Houston, knowing that, while it was cool the first Iranian person to play Division I basketball was no hack, it did little to answer if he was truly a great basketball player or half neat story, half decent game.

We get to see what it’s like to face potential double teams from PAC-12 bodies, not Tulane. We get to see how he reacts to playing in a conference that just launched a shiny TV network, with ample opportunity for coast-to-coast exposure.

Simply stating that Oregon was “the best situation for me,” Kazemi officially enrolled at the University of Oregon on Monday for the start of the Fall Quarter. That he will apply for a hardship waiver in an attempt to be eligible to play this season instead of sit out a year is sort of a clever opportunity for a joke. Yet, Kazemi’s perceived talents come at the right time for Dana Altman’s program.

After finishing second in the PAC-12 last season, but just missing out on the NCAA Tournament, it feels as though there’s a certain cadence Altman is looking to build, and losing two of his top three scorers in Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim, and enigmatic but promising guard Jabari Brown will make that challenging.

Returning for the Ducks is senior E.J. Singler, and that’s about it. There’s a decent flow of prep talent coming in the next two seasons, but Kazemi is the coup for Oregon right now, meaning he’ll at least be expected to be the on-court team leader once he’s able to suit up and play.

14-40

Pakistan Edges Past Bangladesh into T20 Super Eight

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

2012-09-25T164111Z_1542063836_GM1E89Q01VC01_RTRMADP_3_CRICKET-T20 (1)

Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan reacts during their Twenty20 World Cup group D match against Pakistan at Pallekele in Sri Lanka September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown

Pakistan dismantled Bangladesh and sent them crashing out of the World Twenty20 to reach the Super Eights round with a ruthless batting display. Imran Nazir’s brilliant 72 and skipper Mohammad Hafeez’s 45 helped take Pakistan past Bangladesh’s challenging 175-6 in Pallekele, after already overhauling the target needed to go through on net run-rate.

Shakib Al Hasan had smashed a record 84 for Bangladesh, who needed to win by 36 runs to go through, raising the prospect of a shock upset against the former champions. But those hopes were quickly dashed by opener Nazir’s career-best knock, including nine boundaries and three sixes in 36 balls, which made up the bulk of Pakistan’s 124 for the opening wicket with Hafeez.

Even when both fell in one Abul Hasan over, Nasir Jamshed (29 not out) and Kamran Akmal (22 not out) ensured the win was achieved with eight balls to spare as Pakistan wrapped it up with 178-2, joining New Zealand in the next round.

Earlier it was left-hander Hasan who hit his second Twenty20 fifty and added 68 runs for the third wicket with skipper Mushfiqur Rahim (25) after Bangladesh won the toss and opted to bat. Hasan, whose previous T20 best of 57 came against Ireland at Belfast earlier this year, smashed 11 boundaries and two sixes during his 54-ball knock, improving Nazimuddin’s previous best of 81, against Pakistan at Nairobi in 2007.

Opener Tamim Iqbal hit five boundaries in his 12-ball 24 before he was unfortunately run out. It was Hasan who punished every Pakistani bowler, with Umar Gul going for 43 runs in his three overs.
Pakistan were sloppy in the field, with Sohail Tanvir dropping a sitter off Rahim and Shahid Afridi failing to hold on to a sharp chance off Hasan — both in one over by Yasir Arafat, who was best bowler with 3-25.

The Super Eights, which decide the semi-finalists, start in Pallekele on Thursday, with Sri Lanka taking on New Zealand and England playing the West Indies in Group One. Pakistan, India, South Africa and Australia are in a highly competitive Group Two, highlighted by the fact that all four teams are unbeaten so far.

14-40

Lower Your Taxes When You Move for Work

By Bill Bischoff

If you move for work-related reasons, you may be allowed to deduct some expenses on page 1 of Form 1040. Page 1 treatment is good, because you don’t have to itemize to reap a tax-saving benefit. Here’s what you need to know.

The Internal Revenue Code sets up two tests for moving expenses. You must pass both to claim a deduction.

The 50-mile test

The distance between your former home and your new job location must be at least 50 miles greater than the distance between your former home and your old job location. Oddly enough, the location of your new home doesn’t even enter into the equation. Go figure.

Anyway, when attempting to pass the 50-mile test, please understand that you don’t need to actually change jobs. For instance, your existing job might get transferred to a new location that’s farther away from your old home.

Example 1: Your former home was 10 miles away from your old office location. Your former home is 45 miles away from your new office. You fail the 50-mile test. So you can’t deduct any moving expenses. Sorry about that.

Example 2: Your former home was 10 miles from your old office. Your former home is 65 miles away from your new office. Since the difference is 55 miles, you pass the 50-mile test with five miles to spare. So far, so good.

The 39-week test

The second test generally requires you to be employed full-time in the area of your new job location for at least 39 weeks during the 12 months after you make the move. The purpose of this test is to disallow moving-expense deductions for folks who move for a change in scenery rather than for work-related reasons.

If you’ve re-entered the full-time work force, you can claim a moving-expense deduction if your former residence and the job location are at least 50 miles apart and you pass the 39-week test.

Recent college grads take note: When you snag your first full-time job, you can claim a moving expense deduction if your former residence and the job location are at least 50 miles apart and you pass the 39-week test.

If you’re a married joint-filer, only one spouse needs to pass the 50-mile and the 39-week tests.

Special rules apply to self-employed folks, to military personnel and for foreign moves. For details, see IRS Publication 521 at IRS.gov.

What can you deduct

If you successfully pass the 50-mile and 39-week tests, your allowable moving deduction is limited to only a few eligible expenses. Even so, the deduction can be meaningful.

•You can write off the cost to pack and ship your possessions and up to 30 days of storage and insurance.
•The cost of traveling to your new home (once) is also allowed, including lodging but not meals. If you drive, you can deduct actual gas and oil costs or claim a standard moving allowance (23 cents per mile for 2012).
•You can deduct costs to disconnect utilities at your old home and get hooked up at the new home.

There’s a longer list of things you can’t deduct: house-hunting expenses, transaction costs to buy your new home and sell the old one, payments to acquire or break a lease, apartment security deposits, losses from selling or abandoning club memberships, and driver’s license and car registration fees if you change states.

Once you’ve identified your deductible expenses, complete IRS Form 3903 (Moving Expenses). The resulting write-off shows up on page 1 of your 1040.

If you company pays for some or all of your moving expenses, you cannot deduct those costs. No surprise there.

There are two basic ways for employers to help pay moving costs. The company can give you a tax-free reimbursement for amounts you could have deducted if you had paid them yourself (see above), or it can simply give you a moving allowance and treat the whole allowance as additional salary.

If you receive a tax-free reimbursement that covers the expenses you could have deducted, you don’t need to do anything tax-wise. In effect, you’ve already received a deduction because the reimbursement wasn’t included in your taxable wages.

If you receive a tax-free reimbursement that covers only part of the expenses you could have deducted, you can deduct the difference by filling out the aforementioned Form 3903.

If your employer treats your entire moving allowance as additional taxable salary, you’ll have to fill out Form 3903 to claim your rightful deduction. Remember: You can only write off what the tax rules allow. So if your company pays for things you could not deduct if you paid them yourself, like house-hunting trips and temporary housing while you wait to move into your new home, those extra allowances count as taxable wages.

Your employer may give you an advance to cover anticipated moving expenses before you actually do the deed. So what happens if you get an advance this year (say in December) but don’t actually move until next year (say in January)? Do you have to pay taxes on the advance with this year’s return and then wait until next year’s return to deduct your allowable expenses? No. You can deduct the allowable expenses on this year’s return even though the move actually takes place next year.

Finally, you might pay deductible moving expenses this year and get reimbursed next year. In that case, you must include the reimbursement for expenses you deducted this year as income on next year’s return.

See IRS Publication 521 for full details on employer moving-expense reimbursements.

14-40

Interfaith Rally Against Hate

By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter

IMG_3958

Ghalib Begg speaks at the interfaith event, with Imam Qazwini of the ICA behind him to our right.  (Photo by Laura Fawaz)

IMG_4007

Guests and participants at the interfaith rally against hate. (Photo by Laura Fawaz)

Dearborn, MI–A large crowd gathered outside the Islamic Center of America on Friday to take a stand; they were all here for a rally against hate.

“We are here to tell the world that we are against bigotry and hatred,” said Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, the religious leader of the Islamic Center of America.

It was a meeting of many faiths coming together to rally against violence and to condemn the killing of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.  He was among those who were killed at the American Embassy in Libya on September 11th, 2012.  This movement is in reaction to an anti Islam film and cartoons that have sparked a rash of violence across many parts of the Muslim world.  Over the past ten days, over 40 people have died as a result of the video.  All while outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, MI, people are praying for peace.  They are leaders from different religious backgrounds standing together as a united front, rallying against hate.

“Yes we Muslims have to condemn this kind of film, but Muslims should not resort to violence by attacking innocent people and killing the diplomats,” said Imam Al-Qazwini.

The religious leaders at the rally call for an end to the violence while condemning the film as hate speech.  They also believe those behind the film should be held responsible, and hope that this demonstration of unity will show that people of all faiths can stand together, despite their difference.  In attendance was Pastor Charles Williams who spoke on unity among humanity, no matter your religious background.  “We stand together today to say that it is wrong to attack someone simply because they may not look like you, or think like you,” Pastor Williams said.

There has been a push to have this anti Muslim video pulled from the Internet, but our constitutional right of freedom of speech is the reason it is very difficult to block.  The Imams told the crowd that they support freedom of speech, but not the abuse of that right, or of the film that attempted to demonize a faith.  Imam Dawud Walid, the Executive Director of CAIR-MI spoke on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (s), and how any violent actions taken towards innocent people are against the teachings of the Prophet of Islam.  “Prophet Muhammad (s) never returned insults with injury,” Imam Walid said.

14-40

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery Address to the UN General Assembly

White House Press Release

New York City, NY–September 25, 2012

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

2012-09-25T185403Z_1_CBRE88O1GI800_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-UN-ASSEMBLY

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

amb_stevens_02_enl-f2bc7ed9c4b9e27c8131b867f11d27df8d8ee579

Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. He came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East, and he would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria; from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked – tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile. 

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship. As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for a future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. After the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and saw dignity in the people he met. Two weeks ago, he travelled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital. That’s when America’s compound came under attack. Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city he helped to save. He was 52 years old. 

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America. Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but stood up for a set of principles – a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and the Libyan people. And there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region – including Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen – have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm. So have religious authorities around the globe.

But the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded – the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.

Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. Since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that has taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.

We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy,  I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair. This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab World. Over the past year, we have seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society; a courageous dissident has been elected to Parliament; and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people. 

In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress – dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend upon the status quo; and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division. From Northern Ireland to South Asia; from Africa to the Americas; from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order. At times, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of faith, race or tribe; and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world. In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with. 

We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.

There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan. 

More broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World moving to democracy. Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue. Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals, represents the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims– any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.

However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is time to marginalize those who – even when not resorting to violence – use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence.

That brand of politics – one that pits East against West; South against North; Muslim against Christian, Hindu, and Jew – cannot deliver the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won’t create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children and creating the opportunities they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.

Understand that America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends. We will stand with our allies and are willing to partner with countries to deepen ties of trade and investment; science and technology; energy and development – efforts that can spark economic growth for all of our people, and stabilize democratic change. But such efforts depend upon a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. No government or company; no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered. For partnership to be effective, our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.

A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunnis and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos. In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. Extremists understand this. And because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They do not build, they only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. We cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support. 

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”  Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, and that is the vision we will support.

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard but the destination is clear – a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence. 

Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision – a Syria that is united and inclusive; where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed – Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians. That is what America stands for; that is the outcome that we will work for  – with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and legitimacy to lead.

In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government props up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

Let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights. That is why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict; that is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War; and that is the lesson of the last two decades as well. History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.

Nations in every part of the world have travelled this hard path. Europe – the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century – is united, free and at peace. From Brazil to South Africa; from Turkey to South Korea; from India to Indonesia; people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress I’ve witnessed that after nearly four years as President, I am hopeful about the world we live in. The war in Iraq is over, and our troops have come home. We have begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals. I’ve seen hard choices made – from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan – to put more power in the hands of citizens.

At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G-20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent.

New commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of leaders – it is the people I’ve seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away. The students in Jakarta and Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit humankind. The faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations. The young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men, women and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the globe who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us. That’s what we see on the news, and that consumes our political debates. But when you strip that all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people – and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people, and all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. And that is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.”

They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.

14-40

Pakistan, Iran, Israel and the Bomb:

By Waheeduddin Ahmed Ph.D.

September 2012–In the years following the Second World War, communism was advancing rapidly in Europe and in Asia. Churchill had said that an iron curtain had descended between Eastern and Western Europe. There was much talk of war and the Iron Curtain would have been smashed by a pincer attack from either side. It did not happen however, because in 1949 the Soviet Union had succeeded in producing the atom bomb. The threat of war receded but the talk remained. Soon the stockpiles of nuclear weapons mounted on both sides and the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction became engrained in the consciousness. No war, save proxy wars, was now possible.

In 1971 India and Pakistan went to war against each other yet once again. The Pakistani army surrendered in East Pakistan and West Pakistan itself came very close to being occupied by India. India had overwhelming superiority over Pakistan in the number of troops as well as in weapons. India could and would maintain this superiority forever. Pakistan’s hyped confidence in its fighting prowess would be of no avail.

I was in those days living and working in the U.K. as a scientist. I wrote a letter to the Pakistani ambassador in London – Pakistan had an ambassador instead of High Commissioner, since it had temporarily left the Common Wealth — General Mohammad Yousuf, suggesting that no matter what Pakistan did to increase its military strength, India would always maintain a five to one superiority. Only nuclear weapons could deter India from attacking Pakistan. The ambassador wrote back appreciating the suggestion and said that my letter had been forwarded to the highest authorities in Pakistan. Shortly thereafter news came out that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had gathered his scientists in a meeting in Multan and announced “Gentlemen, we are going for the Bomb.” I am not suggesting that my letter had anything to do with that announcement; It is on record that Professor Abdus Salam and Munir Ahmad Khan had suggested this to Bhutto long ago, when he was a minister under Ayub Khan, which the latter had rejected. I am merely mentioning a chain of events and their chronology. What happened next is history. Both India and Pakistan have reached a stage of Mutual Assured Destruction. No war is now possible and they are slowly and assuredly moving towards peace and reconciliation in spite of the saber rattling which goes on in some quarters.

There is one region however, where war and destruction are looming is the Middle East because there is a dangerous imbalance of power. Israel is hyped with weapons of mass destruction and is assured of having its way in every situation, as long as the nuclear imbalance prevails. Peace can be assured only when there is a counterweight to Israel’s weapons of mass destruction. Since peace and justice in the Middle East is not on anybody’s agenda, any move towards balancing the power equation is opposed by Israel and her “allies” with full coercive powers at their disposal. Iran and the sanctions and the threats of attack on her must be looked at from that perspective. The biggest coercive trick that the West uses is to try to convince the Arabs that their existence is threatened by Iran. Using the Shia/Sunni divide is another weapon in its arsenal.

Logic dictates that if Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is a threat to the Arab states then they must be allowed to acquire it also. In fact, the situation would demand that they did exactly that. Egypt and Iraq have scientists with considerable brainpower and expertise to achieve results in a short time. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have money to finance this. North Korea renounced the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty with very little fuss and consternation. These countries could do the same. There would be consequences and sanctions but if a large number of Arab states as well as Iran and Turkey acted together, no sanctions would have any effect. Besides, Russia and China wield the veto power in the Security Council. Ai least one of them could be persuaded to vote against any motion of sanctions by the West.

This brings me to the accusation of proliferation and covert operations by Pakistani individuals, notably Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. I only want to make two points in this respect: One: It is beyond any one’s comprehension that Dr. Khan could have carried out the alleged operations without the knowledge of the Prime Ministers and the military. If in fact the rulers of Pakistan claim ignorance then Pakistan becomes a confirmed non-state with questionable right to exist. Two: The countries, to which the transfer of knowhow is alleged to have taken place, are: Iran, Libya and North Korea, all of them strongest political allies of Pakistan at that time. If there was a country mentioned which was not an ally, then the question of commercial interests could have arisen but there is no other country apart from these three.

Transfer of knowhow to an ally is a common place thing in the history of nuclear weapons. In fact nuclear proliferation has been going on since the time of Manhattan Project. Close cooperation between the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom is considered natural and does not raise any eyebrows. As for France, French scientists working on the Manhattan Project were told that they could use their knowledge in France provided that they kept it a secret. The Soviets were using all their efforts expeditiously to acquire the bomb, including  espionage and co-opting Russian scientists working in the West, such as Peter Kapitsa, a student of Rutherford  in Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge. Subsequently, China was receiving active help from the Soviets in building the bomb until the relations between Khrushchev and Mao soured in the early Sixties.

The story of the Israeli bomb is nothing but a story of cryptic proliferation and espionage. In 1956, when Israel cooperated with Britain and France in attacking and occupying Suez Canal and then had to withdraw under pressure from Eisenhower, Israel was promised by the French Prime Minister Guy De Mollet, assistance in developing nuclear weapons as a reward. The promise was kept. Francis Perrin, a member of the French Atomic Energy Commission, who was a friend of his counterpart in Israel: Ernst Bergman, visited Israel and plans were drawn to give Israel everything that she needed to develop the bomb. Hundreds of French engineers and technicians were sent to Israel to work in the Dimona nuclear plant.

Apart from France, Norway and the U.S. provided the heavy water that was needed. Some of the yellow cake (uranium oxide intermediate) stockpiled in Antwerp, Belgium was transferred from one ship to another on the high seas and sent to Israel. Some 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium were stolen from Apollo, Pennsylvania, with suspected inside assistance from Zalman Shapiro, the director of the facility and president of the local chapter of a Zionist association. Nothing can be more significant than the frequent visits to Israel by Robert Oppenheimer, the Director of the Manhattan Project and Edward Teller, known as “the father of Hydrogen Bomb” in America. All the above mentioned gentlemen were of Jewish origin.

Why did Israel resort to such clandestine operations, when it had no dearth of scientists in the nuclear arena? The answer is the same as could be offered in case of Pakistan’s covert procurement efforts: expediency. It is senseless to start from manufacturing nuts and bolts if your object is to build a machine. You buy whatever starting materials you need in the open market and try to procure what is restricted, by covert means. You worry about indigenous industry later. To do otherwise is to delay the project indefinitely.

Pakistan’s success in making the quantum jump is more remarkable than Israel’s. Pakistan had no such friends as the Zionists in France and the U.S.A. nor did it have access to stolen materials as the Israelis had. It had to make its own enriched uranium and the centrifuges needed to make it. The Xerox machine in the Netherlands could not have been as useful as the knowledge and expertise of the researcher himself in designing and developing the gas centrifuges. The question of ethics never enters into matters of national security, be it the superpowers or weak powers under existential threats.

Besides,  Pakistan had world class physicists and mathematicians such as Abdus Salam, Raziuddin Siddiqui, Ishrat Hussain Usmani, Nazir Ahmed, Riazuddin, Ishfaq Ahmed and engineers such as Munir Ahmad Khan, Abdul Qadeer Khan and Parvez Butt, to name a few. Many of them are the unsung heroes of the “Islamic Bomb”. Given the right political and social climate, there is no reason why Pakistan, like India cannot harness its resources to rightfully participate in the development of science and technology and bring prosperity to its people.

Peace in the Middle East is beyond reach because of the arrogance of nuclear loaded Israel. During the first phase of the 1973 war, under the shock of the Egyptian/Syrian offensive, Israel is said to have activated its hitherto small nuclear strike force and would have used it if the military situation had further deteriorated. Moshe Dayan was reported to have said: “This is the end of the Third Temple”. So, of all the powers in the nuclear club, it is only Israel, which would go to the extent of using nuclear weapons without any regard to consequences. It is this nuclear ego and jingoism that need to be deflated, if there is any hope of the survival of the human kind. The western governments cannot and would not do it. The western civilization cannot afford the luxury of a no-conflict world, nor does it want the mutual assured destruction concept to touch the Middle East.

We hear the talk of Israel going to attack Iran’s nuclear facility. It sounds as if a police force is going to attack a band of hooligans sitting around the corner. Iran is supposed to fold up and cry foul. First of all, let us assume that Israel is going to commit such a folly. Any attack will be a onetime aerial bombardment of Iran’s nuclear facility. Then let us also suppose that Iran’s air defenses are paralyzed. What damage can such an attack cause? Israel’s Dimona plant is buried underground deep inside the Negev desert and is assumed to be untouchable; a great part of Iran’s nuclear plants must also be equally located underground, including, centrifuges, stocks of raw and enriched uranium and other paraphernalia unless the accusations of clandestine operations are false.

The technical knowhow and expertise remain buried in the brains of people, which cannot be destroyed, not even by a few assassinations. However, what the aftermath of the attack will be and how Iran, its allies and friends all over the world will retaliate is an open question. Let us hope the western world has an answer.

14-40

The Poverty of Our Intellect?

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO

One of the Suras of the Quran reminds believers of a known reality: “Grievously odious is it in the sight of Allah that you say that which you do not.” (61:3)

And in our masajid and Islamic centers, most of our speakers and religious scholars remind us “You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah…” (3:110)

Or:

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.” (3:104)

Yet when they are invited to get involved in the affairs of the country or the community they live in, some of them say, “we are either concerned about the life in heaven or underneath the ground.” Or they explain, “We do not want to get involved in worldly affairs.” Or, “how can we get involved in these issues when we are under attack.”

But:

Enjoining good would obviously mean; helping fight harm in issues that are grappling the society; issues such as:  prostitution, child pornography, unemployment, under employment, spousal abuse, drugs abuse, sexual perversion, child abuse, violence, value-less education, school drop outs, and broken families, etc, even though they may not be the issues, the community might be facing.

In the earlier days of Islam, the companions of the Prophet  (s) were involved in every sphere of their society’s life. Freeing of slaves was one of their passions. Other issues that drew their interest and resources included: protecting the rights of unborn babies, taking a stand against innocent victims of exploitation and oppression, gender inequality, protecting peaceful people from violence and so on so forth.

They were least concerned about what was being said about themselves. They did not create a taskforce to deal with Islamophobes of their time, even though there were many. They did not organize protests against their opponents. 

The negative feelings promoted by the power elite did not prevent them from getting involved in the society and their involvement in efforts to find solutions to people’s problem offered the best introduction of Islam.

It was a manifestation of the Quranic message: “To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) Towards all that is good. Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you Together. For Allah Hath power over all things.” (2:148)

And

He sends down water from the skies, and the channels flow, each according to its measure: But the torrent bears away to foam that mounts up to the surface. Even so, from that (ore) which they heat in the fire, to make ornaments or utensils therewith, there is a scum likewise. Thus doth Allah (by parables) show forth Truth and Vanity. For the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus doth Allah set forth parables? (13:17)

In the United States much of our Islamic work revolves around Islamophobes. A content analysis of the press releases of the last 10 years on behalf of Islamic Society of North America, (ISNA), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Council of Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), or Muslim Public Affairs Council, (MPAC) reveal that an overwhelming majority of them focused on concerns raised by Islamophobes or issues pertaining to the foreign policy of the US administration or issues related with hijab or beard or discrimination in places of work or vandalism against Islamic centers. Only a handful of them focused on issues faced by the society at large. Only a few of them identified with people at the grassroots levels with their struggles in everyday life.

Obviously, the society at large knows us through these statements that we put where we appear to be complaining or criticizing or condemning most of  the time. We are not seen as a people trying to identify with issues and problems of the society.

At an individual level, probably, many of our community members are involved in social work at the grassroots level. But at organizational levels, that involvement is very limited. Yet, in almost every sermon we are reminded of our role in bringing about positive changes in the society. How can we do that when we are not there?

How can we explain this dichotomy? We have become a reactionary community and many a times our actions have contradicted our own claims about religion. We need to examine our role and resources in this country and see how best we can use them to ensure that our community becomes a positive force in bringing about constructive changes to enhance the dignity of each and every human being. This will happen when we get involved in the real issues of our society throwing away the shell of isolation and apathy that we often justify in the name of our religion.

14-40

Eyes Wide Shut, World Watches Syria Bleed

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Thirty years ago Hafez al-Assad cut phone lines from Hama to stop word spreading of his bloody crackdown on an uprising in the city, ensuring that the 1982 Syrian revolt was crushed and many thousands killed before the world even knew of it.

Three decades on, his son is 18 months into a military campaign waged, despite efforts at censorship, in the glare of a global media spotlight; but Bashar too can rely on Cold War-era divisions among major powers, and a growing sense of impotence and indifference, to shield him from armed foreign intervention.

A bloody winter lies ahead, many observers believe, with each side short of a killer blow and little sign of restraint.

More than 1,000 people are now being killed in Syria every week, according to activists who collate reports from various sources. Some are rebels, some loyalists; many are civilians.
Instead of stirring ever greater outrage, the remorseless violence seems instead to have numbed an outside world which has no answers to Syria’s nightmare, giving Assad free rein to ratchet up the firepower against opponents who began protesting in the streets and are now fighting an ill-matched civil war.

Air raids by jet-bombers and strafing by helicopter gunships against residential districts have become a daily routine, while reports of hundreds killed in the town of Daraya three weeks ago elicited barely more than token condemnation abroad.

“There is a dwindling public engagement with the issue outside Syria and that reflects the grinding relentlessness of the conflict,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s not mobilizing Western populations to push governments to take action.”

Even if Western powers felt greater pressure to act, they are hamstrung by fears of stirring wider regional conflict, by reluctance to arm Assad’s foes and by deadlock at the United Nations where Russia and China have blocked moves against him.

The one case where the United State set a “red line” which might trigger a military response – Assad deploying his chemical weapons – may have served only to embolden the Syrian leader.
“They have effectively said: ‘We won’t intervene unless you use chemical weapons’,” Barnes-Dacey said. “Assad has felt liberated to use more violence.

“There has been a surge in government brutality and government-led violence and that hasn’t provoked any reaction.”

Underlining the apparent license which the Syrian government feels the global inaction has granted it, three members of a moderate opposition group which has operated with official permission were detained shortly after their return from Beijing with a promise of Chinese support, a group spokesman said.

“We’ve Lost Hope”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition body which collates reports of violence, estimates more than 27,000 Syrians have died since March last year and, on a typical day last week said 250 people were killed on Thursday. That included at least 30 in an air strike on a fuel station. Forty-six soldiers were killed by rebel attacks and in clashes, it said.
“The world is just not responding. We have lost hope that people are going to help us,” said one opposition activist who identified himself as Jacob, speaking from the southern Damascus district of Yarmouk where locals complain of frequent bombing.

The increasing use of the firepower of one of the Middle East’s larger armies does not ensure victory for the 47-year-old Assad, who has lost control of border crossings with Turkey and Iraq, large areas of the north and parts of most Syrian cities.

But after the assassination on July 18 of four top security officers he has clawed back control of most of the capital and his overwhelming military superiority, particularly in the air, means rebels have little prospect of driving him out.
Assad’s resort to air strikes in areas beyond his control created new waves of refugees and led Turkey to revive a call for ‘safe havens’ inside Syria – an idea which quickly faded since no government seems ready yet to defend the zones.
Another concern for Western powers stems from the sectarian slant of the mainly Sunni Muslim rebellion against Assad – who comes from the Alawite minority close to Shi’ite Islam – and the presence of Sunni Islamist and jihadi fighters in rebel ranks.
“No one wants to risk another Afghanistan, supporting rebels who turn out to be jihadi,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, referring to Western support for Afghan mujahideen who fought Soviet occupiers in the 1980s and then turned against the West.
Evidence of atrocities committed by rebel forces have also clouded Western talk of aid: “If you give support,” Perthes said, “Even just logistical, non-lethal and humanitarian – you cannot ignore it if the movement you are supporting starts to act in the same way as the regime they are trying to overthrow.”
“Shameful Inaction”
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said this week that Syria remained high on the international agenda, but that world powers were paralyzed by the impasse at the United Nations.
“I would not say that the world has lost interest. In fact, the whole world does not know exactly what to do,” Elaraby told reporters in Cairo. “And this is shameful, definitely this is shameful, because people are dying every day.”
For its part, Russia, backed by China, has resisted efforts to employ the United Nations against Assad. Moscow and Beijing say that is a cover for Western meddling in Syria’s affairs.
Closer to Damascus, regional powers have taken sides along lines that reflect a wider confrontation between Shi’ite Muslim, non-Arab Iran – Assad’s key sponsor – and Sunni leaders in the Arab League and Turkey giving the rebels aid and some weapons.
For all the human cost of stalemate, however, the specter of the turmoil and sectarian slaughter what followed the U.S. occupation of neighboring Iraq will give second thoughts to any European or American leader contemplating intervention in Syria.
Yet same critics say that standing entirely on the sidelines should not be an option for Western governments: “Doing nothing at this point is the worst thing,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“It will ensure our worst nightmare comes true.”
He said that U.S. reluctance to engage with rebel fighters as the uprising was taking on military form several months ago now left Washington without leverage over the armed groups – and unable to prevent weapons flowing to hardline Islamist elements.
That could increase a risk, he said, that Syria might be transformed from a state controlled by allies of U.S. enemy Iran to one run by equally anti-Western Islamists – albeit only after further, prolonged fighting.
“The regime is not going to go down easily, and we are staring into the abyss,” Tabler said.
“It’s going to be a very bloody winter.”
(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair in Cairo; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

The Importance of Pleasing Wives in Islam

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

tumblr_lpyzg3TTFv1qhapsjo1_500 copy-762099

“And among His signs is that He has created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may live in tranquility with them; and He has created love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.”         (Quran 30:21)

There have been several recent anthropological studies done on how feminism has influenced the goals of traditional Muslim women, and also a lot of discussion both private and public about the effects of Western influence on marriage and family within the Muslim community. When women marry young, with increasing frequency we find that around middle age, they start to feel like they have lost out on life because of their innocent devotion to husband, home and family. They start to regret that they never got their PhD, for example. The husband becomes in their mind like an obstacle to overcome in order to realize their true potential in life. One Arab woman commented to her husband that when she comes home, she doesn’t feel the same respect from him that she gets from her professors and the other students. An Iranian man whose wife left him after over 20 years of marriage was completely baffled by her decision. “I gave her everything. I bought her a car and let her drive all over the country. Maybe I gave her too much freedom?” An American woman abandoned her husband of ten years, leaving two young children behind for no reason other than to become a historical tour guide downtown.

These explanations for divorce focus on the lack of intellectual stimulation experienced by the majority of housewives and are no doubt partially true, but they overlook a key reason why some women might choose to focus excessively on personal or intellectual interests outside the home. Women around age 35 reach their biological sexual peak, while men begin to decline starting at 40. When a husband is older than his wife, this can become a serious problem, especially if he never studied the arts of love.

Imam Ali taught that “Almighty God has created the sexual desire in ten parts; He gave nine parts to women and one to men,” but that “God gave the women equal parts of shyness.”
“Many times this shyness makes the man ignore the desires of his wife,” writes Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi in Marriage and Morals in Islam. Fatima Mernissi has also written about the cultural tendency among many Muslim men to avoid emotional investment in women.

The Prophet (sa) said, “When one of you sees a woman and he feels attracted to her, he should hurry to his wife. With her, it would be the same as with the other one.” Yet a dawah pamphlet published in Pakistan summarizes this minimally offensive hadith in an astonishingly cheap way by stating that the man should hurry to his wife in order to “put his sperm in the proper receptacle.”
At a certain point, women who have been thought about or treated in such a way, if they have any intelligence, will become tired of it and want something more – whether or not they have been exposed to feminist theory. They will desire the passionate love that true Islam promises. A man should make love to his wife like he is worshipping Allah, with the same spiritual intensity.
The Prophet (sa) said, “When a man approaches his wife, he is guarded by two angels and he is like a warrior fighting for the cause of Allah. When he has intercourse with her, his sins fall like the leaves of the tree [in fall season]. When he performs the major ablution, he is cleansed from sins.”

Imam Jafar as-Sadiq said, “I do not think that a person’s faith can increase positively unless his love for women has increased… Whenever a person’s love for women increases, his faith increases in quality.”

There is no room in the prophetic tradition to regard wives as halal containers, like sacred toilets, for the collection of distasteful male emissions. Women in Islam are rather revered as spiritual pleasure mates whose physical enjoyment is regarded as a right.

The Prophet (sa) said, “Three people are cruel, [including] a person who has sex with his wife before foreplay.” The Prophet (sa) also said that the mutual foreplay of a man with his wife is haqq, in other words it is a means to the realization of Truth. Therefore, women who have learned how to actively pleasure themselves with their husbands are rewarded with high status:
“The best woman among you is the one who discards the armor of shyness when she undresses for her husband, and puts on the armor of shyness when she dresses up again,” stated Imam Muhammad al-Baqir.

Married people are described in the Quran as being “garments” for each other, because when people are satisfied at home, they can go out in the world with a clean heart and don’t attract sexual attention from others. They are spiritually “covered” because their chastity is protected by the love of their spouse. Yet many men are not aware of their Islamic duty to protect their wives spiritually by fulfilling their desires.

Imam Ghazali wrote, “The woman’s ejaculation is sometimes a much slower process and during that process her sexual desire grows stronger and to withdraw from her before she reaches her pleasure is harmful to her” (at-Tabrasi, al-Ihtijaj).

Imam Ali said, “When you intend to have sex with your wife, do not rush because the woman also has needs.” When Imam Jafar as-Sadiq was asked about this, he answered, “It means kissing and talking.”

According to a hadith related by Ubaydullah bin Zurarah, an old man owned a young slave-girl. Because of his old age, he could not fully satisfy her during sexual intercourse. She would therefore ask him to do some things to please her as she liked it.

It is remarkable to note that many Muslim wives today can only dream about the respect that even a slave-girl was given in the early days of Islam.

14-40

Netanyahu’s Iran Blunders

By Roger Cohen

LONDON — Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Israel’s centrist Kadima party, posed three questions this month to Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking in the Knesset, he said: “Prime minister, tell me, who is our biggest enemy, the U.S. or Iran? Who do you want replaced, Ahmadinejad or Obama? How low are you prepared to drag relations with our closest ally?”
Ouch.

Netanyahu has talked himself into a corner on Iran. He has set so many “red lines” on the Iranian nuclear program nobody can remember them. He has taken to fuming publicly over President Obama’s refusal to do the same. Of late he has juggled metaphors: Iran is now “20 yards” from “touchdown.” His cry-wolf dilemma comes right out of a children’s book. It was in 1992 that he said Iran was three to five years from nuclear capacity.

(One achievement of Netanyahu’s Iran obsession has been to relegate the critical question before Israel — the millions of Palestinian people on its doorstep — to somewhere between the back burner and oblivion. The best primer for Netanyahu’s thinking is these words from his coached buddy Mitt Romney: “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, ‘There’s just no way.”’)

The mistake Netanyahu has made is to believe he can go over the head of President Obama. He has tried through Congress, where his speech last year earned 29 standing ovations. He has greeted Romney in Israel as if he were on a state visit. He has said those “who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.” He has given critical interviews on U.S. TV networks in the midst of a presidential campaign. And he hath protested far too much that he has no intention — none — of swaying the outcome.

Some adjectives that come to mind are: brazen, reckless and irrational. Another is disingenuous: Obama has set a clear red line on Iran — he will not permit Iran to become a nuclear-armed state.
The president is angry. Not surprising that he has no time to meet with Netanyahu during his post-Yom Kippur visit to the United States this week for the United Nations General Assembly.

No Israeli prime minister should seek to circumvent the president, bet on his losing an election, and attack him publicly when the most strategically damaging course for a state as powerful as Israel is to alienate its unwavering ally, generous funder and military supplier — the United States.

Barbara Boxer, a senator and California Democrat, was outraged. In a recent letter to the Israeli leader, she said she was “stunned” and disappointed by his questioning of American support for Israel.
“Are you suggesting that the United States is not Israel’s closest ally and does not stand by Israel?” Boxer wrote. “Are you saying that Israel, under President Obama, has not received more in annual security assistance from the United States than at any time in its history?”

When Congressional support for Israel shows cracks, that is a seismic event.

The best reading ahead of Netanyahu’s U.S. visit is “Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action against Iran,” an excellent bipartisan paper [pdf] (and lesson in sobriety) from The Iran Project signed by two former national security advisers, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Senator Chuck Hagel, retired military leaders including Gen. Anthony Zinni and Adm. William Fallon, and a host of other experts.

Among its findings: “It would take Iran a year or more to build a military grade weapon, once the decision was made to do so. At least two years or more would be required to create a nuclear warhead that is reliably deliverable by a missile.” The United States does not believe that decision has been made by Iran’s supreme leader.

And this: Any Israeli military strike is “unlikely to succeed in destroying or even seriously damaging” the underground Fordow enrichment facility with its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. It could set back Iran’s ability to make a bomb “for up to two years.” Only an extended U.S. military campaign “carried out to near perfection” could delay it “by up to four years.”

And this: Iran is likely to retaliate and “we believe there are at least the preconditions for a major escalation and a bloody conflict in the Levant.” In addition, “We believe that a U.S. attack on Iran would significantly increase Iran’s motivation to build a bomb.” It might “end all cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors are in Iran. An attack would also “enhance the recruiting ability of radical Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda, to recruit” and give Muslims “even more reason to believe that the U.S. and Israel are at war with Islam.”

In short, the facts are against Netanyahu. After Iraq, Americans, if they are go to war in a third Muslim country, want that war to be fact-based. His headstrong behavior has been ungrateful to Obama and undermining of Israel’s true strategic interests.

14-40

The Enduring Friendship: Pakistan and the United States

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Part 2

III. The U.S.-Pakistani Relationship and the Film

Medford (Ore.)–Although produced in America secretly under private auspices, the disgusting inflammatorily and defaming film against the memory of the Prophet (PBUH) was done by an individual of North African descent residing in the Northern Continent within the Western Hemisphere.  The government of the United States has denounced it at the very highest levels, and has sponsored ads, etc. within the Islamic world to express their own disdainful position against this historical libel!  If anything, official policy is not culpable for the apostasy, but rather the irresponsibility and insensitivity of individual(s), and, further, the religious and cultural norms prevalent towards the one tradition to the other (e.g. Islamophobia).  If anything, this demonstrates that we have to develop dialogue and understanding. (In the San Jose area, during the height of the aftermath of the 9-11 crisis, Muslims invited outsiders into certain Mosques at pre-arranged times to explain what Muslims believe and how they worshipped, and that it is not that much different from the “Mainstream” American religious sensibility!  (After all, we are all children of Abraham!) This slander to the Prophet PBUH) himself, further, engendered the tragic demise of the U.S. envoy to Libya, Ambassador Stevens (whom, incidentally, studied at Berkeley at the same time as your author), who dedicated his career to correcting American foreign policy towards Muslims.  The incongruity of his untimely death should not go unnoticed by men of good will on both sides of our inauspicious contemporary divide.

Also, (drama) actors within the film have sued in the U.S. courts to have the film withdrawn, for the plaintiffs allege that they were misled upon its intent at the time of production. Even so, twenty-five individuals – including a newsman – have died during the past week of filing of this submission in demonstrations over the width of Pakistan.

Though, the Pakistani Railway Minister has offered $100,000 (U.S.) bounty upon the individual responsible for this murderous travesty, once the facts of responsibility are perceived the U.S.-Pakistani alliance should survive.

Since the YouTube cinema, derogatorily cartoons have appeared in Europe which has only exacerbated tensions between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ensconced across the Durand Line in Afghanistan.

IV. Dr. Joeck and the Enduring Geo-Political Friendship

Last week we went through Neil Joeck, a predominant expert intelligence analyst and advisor to the U.S.  Administration on South Asia, who is resident at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the University of California’s, comments in Berkeley on (D.C.’) current relationship with the Islamic Republic there.

He continued that there is a constant potential for the collapse of the Pakistani State, for the income generated to maintain that State is inadequate to meet its challenges.  A social breakdown would be most disastrous for all concerned – both internally and externally.  The Military has constantly stood between political disintegration and order.  “The Army [has] always took over when [it felt it] had the popular support” to do so.

At the same time, Pakistan has a robust civil society, but its International political vision is determined by its perception of its hostile bi-lateral relationship with India.  Neil stresses that Pakistan has to develop a more mature religio-political narrative with their eastern neighbor.

One of the chief factors in the evolution of the three nations (U.S., India and Pakistan) is each’s perception of the terrorist threat and how that relates to the other two.

Succinctly Joeck proclaims India and Pakistan must make economic peace with each other. Dr. Neil Joeck presented a grim assessment of the situation on the ground:  There is a one in five probability for a fifth Indo-Pakistani (if one counts the Kargil conflict of 1999 as a fourth out and out) war.

Further, China should take more responsibility for its interests (i.e., peace) within the Subcontinental geosphere.

Ultimately, though, the Obama Presidency has to realize how deeply the District of Columbia’s concerns lie within Pakistan’s perimeters themselves.

14-40

The Arab Spring: Yemen

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Arab Spring that broke out in the Middle East early last year became the favorite news story of the media and ignited the imagination of the public. Seemingly forgotten – or at least consigned to a minor role – was the political upheaval in Yemen.

Yemen, located in the southwestern end of the Arabian peninsula is one of the oldest nations in the world. In recent decades South Yemen was a Marxist state and a Soviet satellite while North Yemen was independent. Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, specifically in 1990, the two countries merged into the Republic of Yemen, albeit after years of clashing. In 1994 a civil war was fought ending the hopes of the South for separate nationhood.

In the early months of 2011 groups in Yemen, peopled by in many cases and certainly led by Yemeni youth, took a cue from Tunisia and Egypt and rallied against the 33 year reign of Ali Abdullah Saleh. He was persuaded to step down as part of a  brokered arrangement by neighboring countries. What followed was expected to be a period of reform as a step to a democratic Yemen.

If Yemen was the stepchild of the Arab Spring, a group of young people set out to work for its betterment, one element of which was to acquaint the American public with Yemen, its people and its needs.

The Yemen Peace Project (YPP) was formed in 2010 by four young people who met while studying Arabic at the Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies in San’a. If the revolution in Yemen was led by youth, then so were its champions in the United States.

The YPP was founded to acquaint the American people with the nation of Yemen and its needs. Last year during Ramadan, a Fast for Yemen was launched to raise money for field hospitals in Change Square (Sana’a) and Freedom Square in Ta’iz. One hundred percent of monies raised was delivered directly to the hospitals with no frictional losses.

In addition, the Los Angeles division has delivered several lectures—including a recent one at the Levantine Cultural Center—and hosted a photographic exhibit.

Of perhaps even greater importance the people of Yemen know that they have not been forgotten and that their needs and aspirations have been brought to the attention of the American people in a continuing educational effort.

One of the young leaders of the YPP, Will Picard, has agreed to be interviewed by The Muslim Observer.

Mr. Picard is the son of an attorney of international law who, during the 1990s, represented Yemen in a series of border disputes with its neighbors. Mr. Picard has lived and studied in Yemen as have the other founders of the YPP.

When discussing the manner in which the citizens of Yemen view their primary and secondary identities, Mr. Picard said that tribalism is much stronger in the north; in southern Yemen people still identify strongly with their regions, and sometimes with tribes, but it is a far less prominent feature of social organization than it is in the north. More importantly, it’s not tribalism that makes unity and progress difficult, it’s the corruption of the regime and the blatant repression of southerners, which has been a constant feature of Yemeni politics since unification.

The United States has not worked toward building the civil society needed in Yemen. Counter terrorism efforts have been our national priority resulting in a cruise missile strike that has killed women and children and further alienated the Yemeni people.

The Muslim Observer: Lets suppose that tomorrow you were appointed ambassador to Yemen. The President asks you what you would do for Yemen. What would your answer be?

Mr. Picard: The biggest problem in America’s relationship with Yemen today is the total lack of trust. The Obama administration has a decent relationship with President Hadi, but Yemenis, by and large, do not trust the United States; they see America’s policies as exploitive and destructive. This distrust can only be overcome with positive actions, but it has to start with honesty. America has to be open and honest with the Yemeni people about its goals and its interests. In the past two years we’ve seen the Yemeni populace rise up and demand to be included in political affairs; this popular mobilization must be met with popular engagement. As it stands, the US embassy in Yemen and the US Department of State have no public diplomacy effort to speak of. Effective communication with the people must be the first step in improving relations.

TMO: Please tell us of the groups in Yemen that you coordinate with.

Mr. Picard: We’ve worked with a few different groups in Yemen. In 2011, we coordinated with the House of Light Foundation in Aden to provide assistance to camps for people who had been displaced from their homes by fighting between the government and jihadi militants. We’re currently trying to help House of Light develop another major project in Aden. Last year we also raised money for the revolutionary field hospitals in San’a and Ta’iz. These hospitals, inside the protest encampments of those two cities, were established and staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses, and medics, and were funded solely by donations. The field hospital in San’a’s Change Square is still open, and provides free medical care to all.

For the most part we’ve worked with individual activists in Yemen. Some of these activists have helped us deliver funds to various causes. Others provided the photographs for our groundbreaking photography exhibition last year. And some have worked with us to establish our international pen-pal initiative, through which American and Yemeni youth gain first-hand knowledge about each other’s lives and societies.

TMO:  It is acknowledged that there is a radical Islamic presence in Yemen. How does the average Yemeni regard them?

Mr. Picard:  There is a wide variety of religiously-inspired activism in Yemen right now. Obviously militant jihadi groups like al-Qa’idah in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and their affiliate group Ansar al-Shari’ah get the most attention in the western media, but they don’t represent the mainstream. Most Yemenis reject that kind of militant, reactionary ideology and the violence that goes with it. But anger toward the government is widespread, so it’s only natural that AQAP is able to recruit some people to their cause.

TMO:  Would you describe the current condition of the revolutionary youth that were so instrumental in Yemen’s Arab Spring?

Mr. Picard: I think the two adjectives that best describe the revolutionary youth today are frustration and perseverance. They’ve succeeded in driving Ali Abdullah Saleh from the presidency, but none of their other original demands have been met. The international community has refused to listen to them, and Yemen’s political parties and other established factions have worked to co-opt and fragment the revolution. But even with these challenges, most of them remain committed to their goals, and are trying to find new ways to drive the revolution forward. The revolutionary youth stood fast in the face of Saleh’s thugs, snipers, and tanks; they won’t be discouraged by political bickering and elite power struggles. That said, they have a lot of work to do to figure out how to make their voices heard and establish themselves as permanent fixtures in the political scene.

TMO:  Former President Saleh is still in Yemen and much of his entourage is still embedded. Can you describe what he has left behind and how it persists under now President Hadi?

Mr. Picard: Ali Abdullah Saleh has a great deal of personal wealth obtained over more than three decades of corruption and theft. He still has the loyalty of many in the ruling party he built. That party still has more than half of the seats in Yemen’s transitional government, and a great deal of informal power as well. His son, Ahmad, commands the Republican Guard, Yemen’s most well-funded military outfit; his nephew, Yahya, controls another powerful organization, the Central Security Forces. Though President Hadi is doing what he can to weaken these forces, and has removed other Saleh loyalists from military commands, Saleh’s influence is undeniable. What’s more, the international community—which claims to be dedicated to a successful transition in Yemen—is doing nothing to change this. President Obama issued an executive order threatening to freeze the assets of anyone interfering in the transition or defying President Hadi’s efforts, but that has turned out to be a completely empty gesture. Not a penny of Saleh’s wealth—in Yemen or overseas—has been touched.

14-40

The ‘Pro-Israel’ Network Behind the Innocence Video

By Justin Raimondo

godfather_puppet_stringsIf someone had planned to upend US foreign policy — to utterly destroy the very basis of all our diplomats (and military personnel) have been working to achieve in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world — they couldn’t have done a better job of it than whoever put together Innocence of Muslims.

As violent protests spread, the consequences continue to roll in: the suspension of joint US-Afghan military operations, the suspension of US aid talks with Egypt, the rapid decline of US prestige in the region, and the growing influence of the radical Islamist movement US support for the “Arab Spring” was designed to counter. The Obama administration’s effort to split the Islamist upsurge and lend its support to “moderates” has been stopped cold.

Was the release of the video a random event, one of those unpredictables that can arise at any moment to foil the best-laid plans? Perhaps. Yet one is hard-pressed to explain what the makers of Innocence sought to accomplish, if not precisely what has occurred. According to various explanations floated in the media — primarily by anti-Muslim agitator Steve Klein — the idea was to promote the video to Muslims. In one account, Klein says he hoped the video would “smoke out” Muslim radicals in the US, who he is convinced have organized secret “cells” that will strike on command. On the other hand, we are told the film’s authors and promoters hoped to “convert” Muslims.

Neither explanation is very convincing. The video itself is so crude, so inept, and so deliberately insulting it is hard to believe anyone thought it could convert anyone to anything. And as for the prospect of “smoking out” secret Islamist cells — if there were such cells, one would hardly expect them to reveal themselves because of a YouTube video.

In order to understand the real motives and goals of the makers of Innocence, it is necessary to take a good look at the people who have, so far, been identified as the film’s authors and promoters.

The central figure in all this is reported to be one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 56-year-old Egyptian immigrant: although Nakoula presented himself in an interview with the Associated Press as “Sam Bacile,” a 56-year-old “Israeli-American” real estate developer, he is a Coptic Christian, a member of a persecuted minority in Egypt — and a convicted felon. Media reports portray him as the central figure in the making of Innocence: he denies this, and describes his job as arranging “logistics” for the film. Nakoula’s role seems to have been that of a facilitator — gofer — rather than “creative director,” and in any case he hardly seems the type to have originated the idea for the movie. Having been released from jail — where he was serving a sentence for bank fraud — barely a month before filming started, Nakoula was hardly in a position to undertake such a project. Chances are he was recruited by someone else, the real originator and driving force behind Innocence— but who is that someone?

Public records show a filming permit was taken out by “Media for Christ,” an outfit run by one Joseph Nasrallah Abdelmasih. His group sponsors Christian programming in Arabic, including “The Way,” a production that has featured such prominent Islamophobes as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. The Geller-Spencer collaboration goes back to the protests against the New York City “Ground Zero” mosque in which the duo achieved national notoriety: Nasrallah was one of the speakers at their rally. The idea for just such a movie as Innocence showed up on Geller’s blog in February, in a post entitled “A Movie About Muhammad: An Idea Whose Time Has Come.” (s) Ali Sina, an ex-Muslim and board member of Geller and Spencer’s “Stop the Islamization of Nations,” exhorted Geller’s readers to support his movie project:

“The other good news is that I have been promised a substantial angel financing. I have been daydreaming about this movie for ten years. It was this promise that prompted me into action. I put everything aside for five months, read everything I could about my protagonist, selected the most salient episodes and wrote the script.

“The seed is now sown. Now it’s time to nurture it. What I need is an experienced executive producer, someone who shares my values, to make it happen with professionalism and missionary zeal.
“I am not thinking of a high budget movie, but given the subject matter, it can become one of the most seen motion pictures ever. (Recall Danish cartoons?)”

This may or may not be the same movie as Innocence, but what’s important here is that the idea of such a provocation — “recall Danish cartoons?” — was percolating in these circles when the movie was in production.

Nasrallah has now issued a non-denial denial, in which he claims he was duped — along with the actors — by Nakoula who “did not make the movie we thought he was making.” However, he admits Nakoula called him and that Media for Christ lent him their facilities: and, one has to ask, what movie did Nasrallah think his buddy Nakoula was making?

Nasrallah’s recent involvement with the Geller-Spencer crowd coincided with a very profitable time for his organization: Media in Christ’s income has recently skyrocketed, according to public records, with receipts totaling under $200,000 in 2009 and prior, rising to $633,516 in 2010 and $1,016,366 in 2011. Where did all that money come from — was it Mr. Sina’s “substantial angel”? Nakoula claims he funded his movie project with money from “over 100 Jewish donors.”

When Nakoula spoke to the Associated Press, he described himself as an “Israeli-American” real estate developer operating out of California: this was soon debunked, however, when inquiring reporters outed him as an Egyptian of the Coptic faith. They also discovered he’s a convicted felon — not only for a check-kiting scheme, but also for drug-dealing (methamphetamine). He’s an unlikely hero for the right-wing Christians who have made a martyr out of him, although to ostensible “libertarians” like Matt Welch, who thinks Nakoula & Co. are on the same level as Salman Rushdie, the meth conviction is doubtless a plus.

The idea that these vermin, who deliberately set out to make a “movie” that would inflame the Muslim world, are “free speech” heroes is worse than nonsense: it is valorizing villains. We don’t yet know where the money, or the impetus to make the film, came from, but what we do know is this: the driving force behind Innocence was a desire to create an international incident that would bring discredit on the United States, and empower radical Islamists who hate America and everything it stands for. And the promoters of this garbage pose as “patriots”!

Free speech has nothing to do with this issue: the President requested of YouTube that they reconsider the video’s place on YouTube in light of their terms of service. YouTube refused, and that’s the end of it. Unfortunately, however, that’s not the end of this imbroglio, the consequences of which we’ll be living with for a long time to come.

There is an ugly sore festering under the skin of the West, and its first manifestation — or should I say symptom? — surfaced when Andre Breivik committed his ghastly crime, slaughtering the attendees at a Norwegian Labor Party youth camp. He, too, wanted to “stop the Islamization of nations,” and his online manifesto cited Geller, Spencer, and the writings of the movement their hateful rantings have energized. The English Defense League — a sorry collection of skinheads, neo-Nazis, and soccer hooligans — which Geller endorses, has mounted a campaign of violent intimidation aimed at British Muslims, inspiring imitators in several European countries. These groups feed off the more radical elements of the Zionist movement: Geller and her supporters claim to be “defending Israel,” and the EDL regularly flies the Israeli flag at their hate rallies.

Defense of the Jewish state is a major theme of the Islamophobe network: they use it as a shield to deflect criticism. A key leader of this network is former New Leftist and Black Panther groupie David Horowitz: his “David Horowitz Freedom Center” (formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), sponsors Spencer’s “Jihad Watch.” Horowitz’s “Frontpage” site — ablaze with stories decrying the “betrayal” of Israel by the American government and the perfidy of all things Islamic — recently speculated Innocence was created by the very Salafists now leading the protests. Since the video sprang from the same bigoted milieu of which Frontpage is the online Jerusalem, this “theory” isn’t merely ironic — it’s a moral obscenity.

It isn’t hard to imagine where the money to create this deadly provocation came from. Of the many millions in neocon money sloshing around this country, it’s hardly inconceivable a hundred thousand or so would find its way into the hands of a twice-convicted felon and all around dubious character like Nakoula, who is, I suspect, just a con man rather than an ultra-Zionist ideologue like the promoters of his “work.”

Although, to be sure, the difference is altogether negligible.

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].

14-40

The Princess, Pink Spray Paint, and the Protest

By Nadia B. Ahmad

When a photographer Valerie Suau captured topless shots of Kate Middleton, the royal couple’s lawyer Aurelian Hamelle argued in French court that they shared a “healthy and profoundly” intimate moment while vacationing in the south of France. The couple sought an injunction against the French tabloid The Closer and filed a criminal complaint for the intrusion on their privacy. The venerated public image of the royal couple remained intact, but slightly marred, as they continued on their multi-country Asian tour because of their stealth handling of a PR nightmare.

On the other side of the Atlantic, derogatory depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (s) made their rounds from America to the Muslim world. Protests ensued. It was calamitous.

Yet stricter blasphemy laws will only embolden hate speech. What is needed to counter hate is the onslaught of knowledge and enlightenment, a tradition not unknown to Muslims. The trouble is that between our own bickering and trivial debates, the true essence of Muslim scholarship and good will have been cast aside on a corner of a bookshelf or buried deep within our own nafs and mass discontent. The problem is not about East or West. Muslim or Christian or Jew. Hindu or Sikh. It is about preserving our common humanity.

I cannot speak for Muslims in the East. I cannot apologize for a situation I did not create, but I can as a Muslim in the West say that I benefit from unprecedented freedoms to practice my religion, to express myself, and to live without governmental intrusion.  I also have no reason to be offended unless I allow myself to be offended. Regrettably, as Muslims we must admit that the image of Prophet Muhammad (s) is less hallowed because of our own failures and not that of a shoddy video depiction.  

Hearing the broken record of Islam-does-not-preach-hate is tiresome. I have grown weary of listening to Islam-condemns-violence in the face of hate. Terrorism, anger, rage, and conflict are symptoms of deeper societal problems. What does exasperate me, though, is the loss of life due to hunger and preventable diseases, dismal literacy rates, deteriorating infrastructure, unreliable energy, lack of women’s rights, and the list goes on.  

It is easy to trounce on an image. Throughout her life, Princess Diana was marauded by the media. I remember when I first learned of the death of Princess Diana and was upset. Princess Diana was a loss to the world because of her unrelenting work on fighting AIDS and campaigning for removal of land mines. Kate Middleton has heavy shoes to fill of her mother-in-law. In understanding the British royals, we must look beyond the pomp and glitz to the barrage of unrealistic expectations and senseless commitments. We are all the same whether we want to admit it or not, more specifically whether we like it or not.

In a similar vein, it is helpful to look at the Muslim protestors through the lens of dreams deferred and shattered hopes. Economist Jeffrey Sachs in his 2008 book, Common Wealth: Economies for a Crowded Planet, highlights the importance of reinvigorating global cooperation. He points out the disparity of American spending on foreign aid ($2.3 trillion) and military expenditures ($17 trillion) in the last 50 years. Imagine if those two figures were switched. What if the U.S. had spent $17 trillion on eradicating worldwide disease, hunger and poverty instead of protecting its geo-political interests and killing? For one, there would be fewer protests. The Muslim protestors are demonstrating against a racist worldview, a worldview which considers them less than human.

On Wednesday Egyptian-American journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for defacing anti-Muslim subway ads with pink spray paint. The inflammatory ads were posted this week in 10 New York City subway stations after the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) lost a court battle on the basis of agency policy against demeaning language. 

“Our hands are tied,” New York subway spokesman Aaron Donovan told The Guardian. “Under our existing ad standards as modified by the injunction, the MTA is required to run the ad.”

Ironically, Eltahawy hands were cuffed.

14-40

Fatimah Waseem Wins TMO Foundation Essay Contest

By TMO Stringer

MWIA Art ExhibitFatimah Waseem is a very impressive young woman.  While she was not able to attend the TMO Foundation fundraiser and awards banquet this past Sunday, she did send a videotape which showcased her brilliance and ability to use words in unique and powerful ways. 

She said in her video from Virginia that one of the main benefits of the awards banquet was the very fact of hundreds of Muslims being together in a room, “forced to network.”  She explained the benefit of having many diverse Muslims in one place for one purpose. 

One of her quotes was “We all like to champion these phrases of filling the so called void of Muslim journalists.  We talk about how we must give a voice to our youth.  That we have to step back in and put the “new” back in “news.”

The last words of her video were a clever tribute to The Muslim Observer, saying that as a Muslim observer, speaking to Muslim observers, she thanked The Muslim Observer for the award.

Fatimah is a student at the University of Maryland.  She won a scholarship for $1,250.

14-40

HAJJ: The Global Annual Congregation of Muslims

by Taj Siddiqui

kaba

The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca and Muslims are obligated to make it at least once in their lifetime, if they are healthy and can financially afford to do so. It represents a very high religious attainment and the spiritual apex of a Muslim’s life, and to be the pilgrim of God is the dream of every Muslim. Over three million Muslim men and women, old and young, rich and poor, travel to Saudi Arabia each year to attend this annual congregation. This 5-day global assembly of Muslims is named Hajj and this year it will take place in October.

Diversity, Equality and Unity

The most magnificent characteristics of Hajj are the diversity, equality, and uniformity in Islam. All races and nationalities come together with tolerance and respect in a demonstration of fairness and harmony. Islam has no place for discrimination and Hajj provides a vivid display of this essential code.

Malcolm X, an American human rights activist, describes the sociological atmosphere he experienced at Hajj as follows:

“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood …….  You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held.”

Unity and oneness is the fundamental principle of Islam. Once a year millions of Muslims elevate themselves from the differences of financial status, color of skin, ethnicity, country of origin, social rank, and cultural pride.  To show that all men are created equal, they stand together praising God, wearing only two pieces of unstitched white cloth, eliminating any obvious distinction. Their goal is to set aside their political, social, and other disagreements and endeavor for the spiritual unity of Islam. Muslims try to experience the significance of life on this planet, and attempt to focus on the life after death.

In addition, Hajj is a great opportunity to mingle with other Muslims from various parts of the world. You can experience their traditions, admire their clothing, and enjoy their food. The tent next to yours may occupy Muslims from a small village in Turkey, from a remote town in Sudan, or from a big city in Australia.

The Impact of Hajj

Hajj is a spiritual journey in which the man tries to make a passionate and humble connection with God. From the moment you make the intention to go to Hajj, an unseen bond is established between yourself and God. This bond reaches its peak in the enormous valley of Arafat on the second day of the 5-day event. The love for God inside you has become dormant over a life time of worldly trapping. When you start preparing for your journey this love takes over your heart and your eyes sparkle and your face glows with its intensity. Your thoughts and actions are changing. You seek forgiveness for the past mistakes and ask for God’s refuge. You contact your family members, friends, and loved ones, and ask for their forgiveness, if you have offended anyone.

Leaving behind your assets, your family, your business, your job, and the comfort of your home, you are now on your way to walk on the grounds where prophets have walked before and you are going to be face to face and literally touching the Kaaba, the House of God. On this journey, you do not want to abuse anyone, and stay away from back-biting, rage, indecency, and arguments. You have been invited to the House of God, and only the chosen ones receive this honour. You are becoming a different person, peaceful, calm, and nice, who wants to do good to others and stay away from bad deeds. You are a pilgrim to God.

On the second day of Hajj, when you stand together with three million other Muslims in the valley of Arafat, by your own self, without  any worldly attachment, with your hands spread above your head, asking for the forgiveness of God, the Creator connects with His creation and shower you with His blessings. You do not care for how big your house is or how much is your bank account. You are only crying for His mercy.

At the end of the Hajj, you become a different person, with new set of values, goals, and morals. You have just experienced a once in a life-time transformation, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You are proud to be a human being, and a devoted Muslim, who has just been in the attendance of God. You are humble, compassionate, helping others and your view of the worldly assets and pleasures has changed. The pilgrimage to Mecca will make you a better practicing Muslim, devoted to the prayers, fasting and other exercises of Islam.

“A 2008 study on the longer-term effect of participating in the Islamic pilgrimage found that Muslims’ communities become more open after the Hajj experience. Entitled Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam’s Global Gathering, a study conducted in conjunction with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government found that the Hajj experience promotes peaceful coexistence, equality, and harmony. Specifically, the report states that the Hajj increases belief in equality and harmony among ethnic groups and Islamic community and that “Hajjis (those who have performed the Hajj) show increased belief in peace, and in equality and harmony among adherents of different religions”

The Rites of Hajj

Hajj is associated with the life of Prophet Ibraheem, peace be upon him, and was reinstituted for Muslims by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  The following is just a brief synopsis and omits several crucial details.

The Kaaba is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. All Muslims around the world face towards the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are. It is a cuboid-shaped stone structure consisting of a single room, and stands close to 60 feet high and each side is about 60 feet in length. It is the center for spreading the universal movement of Islam, and a world-wide gathering point for Muslims.

Hajj is a 5-day spiritual mission, however travelling, glitches, and the visit to Medina makes the total duration to be two to four weeks, and requires months of preparations. The journey begins outside Mecca, where pilgrims bath, put on the Ehram, and make the intention. For men, Ehram consists of two unstitched sheets of white cloths. Women are allowed to wear proper stitched Islamic dress. During Hajj, you must obey the following restrictions: No sexual activity, cannot cut hair or nails, can not use perfume, can not kill animals, can not fight or be angry.

First Day : Pilgrims walk seven times round the Kaaba at the Great Mosque in Mecca, in a counter-clockwise direction, known as Tawaaf. After completing the Tawaaf the pilgrims go to the Zamzam well, which is inside the Great Mosque, and drink water coming out of this well. Muslims believe this is where God provided water for Hajera, and her son, Ismail, peace be upon them, when they were wandering in the desert. Following this, the pilgrims slowly run or walk seven times along a passageway in the Great Mosque, between the mounts of Safaa and Marwah, commemorating a search for water by Hajera, wife of the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon them. From Mecca the pilgrims travel 5 miles to Mina and offer prayers, and spend the night in the tents.

Second Day :This is the main event and a mandatory step of the Hajj. When the sun rises, the pilgrims go to Arafat, a plain about 9 miles from Mina. They may listen to a sermon delivered from Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon. They remain in Arafat until sunset. The entire day is spent remembering and addressing God and deeply and profoundly engaging in intense prayers and supplications as the supplication on the day of Arafat are the best. This is the day of Hajj, and pilgrims must attain this once in a life-time opportunity.

At sunset the pilgrims start moving from Arafat and travel 4-1/2 miles to the open field of Muzdalifah and spend the night there on the ground and under the sky, without any comforts, offering prayers, making supplications and remembering God till dawn.

Third, Fourth & Fifth Day : Upon sunrise, the pilgrims go from Muzdalifah to the temporary make-shift tent city of Mina where they spend the next three days without worldly comforts, and perform the following rituals.

•         They perform stoning of the devil by throwing seven pebbles at each of the three monuments representing the devils. These are three spots where devil is believed to have tempted Prophet Ismail, peace be upon him.
•         They offer the sacrifice of an animal, usually a goat or sheep. This commemorates the incident when Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was about to sacrifice his son and God substituted and accepted a sheep. The meat is not wasted, it is frozen and donated to many countries.
•         Men shave their heads or clip the hair, women clip their hair. The pilgrims then remove the Ehram, take shower, and wear normal cloths.

Prior to leaving Mecca, the pilgrims make the farewell Tawaf, which is walking seven times around the Kaaba. Congratulations, the pilgrims have completed their Hajj. After this, most of them will  go to the City of Medina, about 210 miles from Mecca, and pay attendance  to the Mosque of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. This is the second most sacred holy site in Islam.

Prophet’s (s) Last Sermon

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, delivered his farewell sermon on the second day of Hajj in the valley of mount Arafat. It is a very renowned address to the humanity and highlights the fundamental guidelines of Islam. Following is the English translation of a portion of this sermon.

“O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds.

Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has Judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due shall henceforth be waived…

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. ….

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.

Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

14-40

Who Will Tell Your Story?

By TMO Stringer

IMG_9108bw

Joe Grimm presents an award to Yusuf Halabi. (Photo by Furqan Khan)

Novi–September 23–The TMO Foundation, which strives to tell your story and to support the development of Muslim institutional capacity by supporting fledgling writers and journalists, held its third annual banquet honoring students of journalism and communications who received top score in a national essay writing completion. The event was held on Sunday, Sept 23 at the Sheraton Detroit in Novi, a suburb of Detroit.

About 300 guests attended the event. Many prominent Muslims from Southeast Michigan and central Michigan graced the occasion. They came from as far as Lansing, Jackson, Flint, the Downriver area and other far away places.

The Chief Guest and the keynote speaker was one of the former editors of the Detroit Free Press, Joe Grimm, now visiting editor in residence at MSU.

The evening began with recitation of Qur`an by Imam Achmet Salie, program developer in Islamic studies at the University of Detroit.

Imam El-Turk welcoming the guests spoke on the vital role of TMO in providing a Muslim newspaper not based on a racial or ethnic subset but designed to appeal to all Muslims.

El-Turk argued that TMO is “vocal on local, national, even international issues,” and exposes the media bias.  He said that he was able to make arguments in favor of Islam based on the profiles of accomplished Muslims-contributing so much to the society- that appear on the cover of the paper every week.

El-Turk also noted that TMO encourages young people to go into journalism, saying that while it is good for people to become doctors, engineers and dentists, “we need more kids in journalism,” saying TMO could serve the role of training them before they go on to work at CNN, Fox, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

Professor Sadaf Ali of Eastern Michigan University introduced the new TMO webcast, whose announcer is Laura Fawaz and for which video editing is done by Yusuf Begg.  Professor Ali pointed out that the webcast performs the vital function of connecting Muslims–and she explained that this connecting of Muslims, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, was what made the Arab Spring possible.

A TMO webcast was displayed, showing visits by TMO to four area mosques, IAGD, ICA, AICC, and Bloomfield’s MUC, by Laura Fawaz.

Almas Akhtar, one of TMO’s writers, spoke briefly of her journey into journalism and her thankfulness to TMO for supporting her in that progression.

Dr. Nakadar and Joe Grimm then presented awards to many of the scholarship recipients from this year–scholarships of thousands of dollars were granted to the students, and scholarships were also given to many of the runners up.

The winner was Fatimah Waseem (Maryland). She sent a video message. The second winner was Sonia Kassam (Chicago) from Illinois University, Champaign and third place wimner was Fuad Shalhout (Detroit), Wayne State University.

The runners up were Noor Salem (Dearborn); Dana Afana (Novi); Zaineb Al-Kalby (Ann Arbor); Jumanah Abusalah (Canton).

Two school students received appreciation awards for writing in The Muslim Observer (TMO) Mr Ahmad Al Hilali from ICA, Deraborn-MI  a sixth grader, and Yusuf Halabi from the Crescent School in Canton, Michigan.

Joe Grimm started his speech by a question: “Who will Tell Your Story”? He spoke at length on the importance of Muslims being present in the media newsrooms, first to make non-Muslims shy to present misguided caricatures of Islam instead of truthful representations, and also to allay the prejudices of non-Muslims.  He cited the experiences of many Muslim employees who had worked for him in the past, including their own painful brushes with disdain for Muslims and Islam in Grimm’s own newsroom.

He spoke of the recent Newsweek cover highlighting “Muslim  Rage,” arguing that no such cover would have been produced had there been a Muslim in the editorial staff helping to make decisions about what would go on the cover.

“Some people are willfully telling the story of Islam inaccurately,” argued Mr. Grimm, and he argued his central point, “I wanted to come with one question–who will tell your story–today we are seeing the story of Islam told by non-Muslims, people who hate Islam.”

Dr. Nakadar echoed Joe Grimms central theme of “who is going to tell your story”? He appreciated and recognized many of those in the audience who had supported the TMO Foundation fundraiser, and argued that the building of media institutions is vital in developing a vibrant community.  “Those communities with media rule the world today,” he said.

Dr. Nakadar also focused on the recent examples of hate speech directed at Muslims, and argued that such hate speech has become socially acceptable, whereas in Europe it has been made illegal to even deny the holocaust.  Dr. Nakadar echoed the sentiments of many in the Muslim world that there should be some more control to stem the spread of virulent incitement by hate speech against Muslims.

He also chided the politicians who demonize Muslims and Islam for their political expediency. He said it is important to recognize that each community in America represents the nuts and bolts that provide the support to a structure called society. And it is this structure on which the edifice of the US stands. By demonizing any community, Christains, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or any others, one is attacking at the roots of the US edifice and its constitution that stands for justice, peace, equality and religious freedom.

Dr. Ramzi performed the fundraising and activists Faiz Khan gave a vote of thanks.

14-40