Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Becoming a Religious Extremist in the United States, Embracing Moderation in Saudi Arabia

On Al Arabiya website there is an interview with a TV show host, Ahmad Al Shoukairy who recalled his extremism in the US being changed to moderate religiosity in Saudi Arabia.
He came to study in the United States and was not religious. He became religious in the United States and started praying in 1994.
He told the interviewer: "my religion started extreme...I used to argue with my mom and raise my voice because she trimmed her brows[ ultra conservatives think trimming brows is haram].” He said his religiosity began in the United States.
He abandoned extremism in Saudi Arabia. When he went back to Saudi Arabia, an Imam, Shaykh Adnan Al Zahrani, changed him and made him understand that” religion is not as narrow as he thought and there are other opinions.”

وتحدث الشقيري عن بعض نواحي حياته الشخصية المبكرة، معترفا أن "لحيته في مرحلة ما كانت طويلة"، مشيرا إلى أنه كان شديد البعد عن الدين ولم يكن يصلي، وفي عام 1994 بدأ الصلاة "ولكن بدأ تديني متطرفا.. أتشاجر مع أمي وأرفع صوتي عليها من أجل نتف الحواجب"، كما يقول.وقال إن تدينه بدأ عندما كان يدرس في أمريكا، وبعد عودته إلى السعودية تلقى دروسا عند الشيخ عدنان الزهراني، وهي التي غيرته كما يقول، حيث "استوعب أن الدين واسع وهناك آراء أخرى".http://www.alarabiya.net/save_print.php?print=1&cont_id=63215

Monday, December 29, 2008

From Southfield With Hate: Barbaric Attack not Enough, Michigan Attorney Calls Palestinians Cancer and Calls for Ethnic Cleansing of Gaza

The world is shocked at the barbarity of the Israeli attacks on Gaza.
There is no courage or honor in unleashing a huge killing machine on the besieged and almost defenseless Gazans.

But Israel does it any way.

The worshippers of hate and mayhem are never satisfied. It's not enough to besiege and murder in cold blood. To the lunatic fringe of Israel supporters, this is not enough. The Palestinians are dehumanized and called a cancer that Israel needs to exterminate. To the hateful faithful it is not enough to bomb Gaza, Gaza needs to be ethnically cleansed as well. The Arabs of Gaza are a "cancer."

Mission accomplished Meir Kahane- your American disciples are marching on.

When I read the hateful rhetoric of blogger Debbie Schlussel, the image of the five dead Palestinian young sisters killed by Israel "precision bombs" came to my mind. The image of the five dead sisters was broadcast and rebroadcast in the Arab media to advertise the human cost of Israel safety for South Israel operation.

If only these kids could be alive to face Debbie Schlussel, a woman living in the safety and comfort of the United States, and ask her what they have done to her to be called a cancer that needs to be exterminated by ethnic cleansing. Their spirits must be wondering why this American woman is so tribal in the worst sense of the word that she is dancing over their graves and asking for more.


The Michigan openly hater in chief, wrote on the 28th of December:

"If Israel really meant business, it would have invaded and attacked Gaza long ago. Or rather, it would never have pulled out of there in the first place. It would have expelled the Gazans to Arab countries, the way the residents of Sderot's parents--who are once again under attack by Muslims--were kicked out by those countries. All of these things would have saved Israeli lives. But that's not what this is about.
You do not kill cancer by occasionally going through chemo or radiation when you want to look good at a Bar Mitzvah, after the metastasis is already happening. You kill cancer through regular treatment of the attacking cells, not by self-amputating your arm and leaving the cancer cells to fester on the remaining stump. That is what this ephemeral "war" on Gaza/HAMAS is. Nothing more."

This is pathetic in its hate and is reminiscent of the late terrrorist Meir Kahane's rhetoric.

But what is really nauseating is that the mainstream media has been recognizing this hateful bigot and responding to her campaign of open hate as evidenced by the email exchanges with the Free Press she posted on her blog.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gaza: David vs. Goliath

Israel has unleashed its massive war machine on Gaza. After years of keeping the Gazans prisoners in the Gazan big prison, the Israelis are flexing their muscles on the impoverished and virtually defenseless Gazans. Israel is promising the Gazans more death and destruction.

The Arab and Muslim world is not amused. There is, predictably, more hate and outrage directed at Israel, the moderate Arab governments and at the West.

It's a classic David vs. Goliath. And Israel is Goliath with all the might, fury and lack of balance.

Israel is using excessive force to deal witht the Hamas group. Israel is flounting all international norms of decent behavior. The siege of Gaza resulted in massive human suffering for civilians- imposing on them collective punishment that only radicalizes them. Stopping shipments of food and medicine in no way harms Hamas. It is ordinary Gazans who are starved, denied medicine, and bombed by the most powerful military and the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

Watching the Arab media and hearing the reactions of the Arab public, one clearly sees the immense harm Israel is dealing to the cause of peace by its savage war on Gaza. It is inflaming the Arab and Muslim publics and drowning the voices of peace and moderation in the Arab and Muslim world. It will only be a matter of days before the radicals and terrorists use the Gaza images as promotional material for their hate and terror campaigns

Brothers in Misery: Muslim and Jewish Charities

2007 has not been a good year for charities. With the economic downturns, charities across the board are getting hit with decreasing donations.

Two types of charities stand out for losses- American Muslim and American Jewish charities. They both end the year with major losses.

Granted, Muslim charity pales in comparison to Jewish charity. Jewish charity totals in the billions, the combined budged of all Muslim NGOs and charities is probably less than 50 million dollars. All the big deal made about American Muslim charities misrepresents the reality of their being bit players in the charity business.

But despite being bit players, they brought the best in people- their small budgets made a huge difference in Gaza, Pakistan and Afghanistan where a dollar goes a long way. I have seen the Muslim working poor giving a single dollar and 5 dollar bill to help alleviate suffering overseas.

Unfortunately, this hard earned money got either frozen or got subjected to unrelated lawsuits- or spent on attorneys defending these NGOs from an assortment of charges. A number of charities got raided, prosecuted, among other legal problems.

Despite that, American Muslims kept giving and giving. Some, who never gave before the wave of prosecutions, asserted their faith, defiance and identity by giving.

Muslim charitable giving continued unabated.

Jewish charities end the year on a sour note.

In the Wall Street Journal of December 26, 08, Lucette Lagnado writes in “When Big Spenders Fail, Who Will Save Jewish Charity?” about the impact of the Bernie Madoff scandal on Jewish charities. She writes:

“The pain is being felt especially intensely in philanthropic circles, which may never fully recover. Some Jewish nonprofits- such as the Robert Lappin Foundation, which tried to enhance Jewish identity among the young; the Picower Foundation, which funded asserted Jewish medical and cultural causes; and the Chais Family Foundation, which promoted, among other endeavors, educational excellence in Israel- have shut down. Several large institutions, Hadassah and the American Jewish Congress among them, have been seriously wondered. Then there is the blow to the community’s sense of self- the confidence and prosperity that enabled it to build magnificence houses of worship Jewish day schools that rivaled the finest secular ones and, more recently, charities with impressively large endowments. "

Lagnado hopes that the tradition of more numerous small giving will return. I have no doubt that it will.


The millions lost by Muslim charities and the billions lost by Jewish charities are a true loss of hope to the most needy. Despite these challenges, giving will continue. Neither massive fraud nor prosecutions will stop people from giving. It’s an American, Jewish and Muslim tradition to help the less fortunate.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Afghanistan War

Charile Wilson's War the book by George Crile should be a must read. The movie version is excellent.

An interview with the author is below.

http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/events/2005-10-06-georgeCrile.jsp

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mutaa and Other Nontraditional Islamic Marriages

The Mutaa, Misyar, and Urfi marriages are becoming more common arrangements in the Muslim world. These arrangements pose legal and social challenges that different societies are developing different strategies to cope with. I am not aware of studies that examine these forms practice in the United States. There is anecdotal evidence that they are being practiced. In Sex and Reason, Judge Richard Posner mentioned in passing Islamic practices such as the Mutaa and polygamous marriages and I am not aware of extensive legal studies of Muslim practices in America.

While I am not aware of legal cases making arguments for the validity of these arrangements as marriages in a court of law, it does not seem that any of them would qualify as marriages in the common American law understanding of a legal marriage.
Family law is a matter of state law. This is a reason cousins can marry each other in some states but not in others. The age of consent for sexual activity and marriage is different to from state to state as well.

Valid Marriage
The general rule is that a marriage which is valid where it was held is valid everywhere. If an immigrant from Yemen or Poland comes to live in the US, they don't have to marry their spouse again. The exception to this rule is if the marriage is against public policy then it would not be recognized. An example is someone's marriage to an 11 year old child. Such a marriage would probably be held invalid in all the states.
In the Muslim world, three forms of marriage, the Mutaa/pleasure or temporary marriage [an excellent book on the subject is Shahla Haeri's Law of Desire], Misyar/traveler's marriage, and Urfi/unregistered marriage.

A Tripod of Unconventional Marriages
Mutaa marriage is a marriage that is recognized by the Shia Muslims only- it requires no witnesses and has a set expiration date. The nontraditional marriages recognized by Sunni scholars include the Misyar and the Urfi which unlike the Mutaa marriage require witnesses and have no set expiration date. In a Misyar/travelers marriage as the name hints, the couple travels to meet each other and do not live with each other as husbands and wives usually do. Additionally, a Misyar husband is not required to support his fellow traveler wife.

URFI Marriage
An Urfi marriage, on the other hand, is a marriage that is witnessed by two witnesses and has no expiry but is unregistered with the state and thus not declared to the world. An Urfi marriage is officiated by a clergy and a copy of the marriage contract is given to both parties but not registered with the state. The relationship is usually kept secret due to family resistance or the presence of another wife whom the husband wishes to keep in the dark.

Least Common Denominator: Women's Fewer Rights, Fewer Protections
From an Islamic law viewpoint, what the three forms of marriage have in common is one important thing - the three of them provide fewer rights and protections to the wives and any children born into the arrangement than an ordinary Muslim marriage do. From an American law standpoint, these three marriage forms lack critical requirements of a valid marriage. The Mutaa has an expiration date and no witnesses. It is usually done in secret. For these reasons it has no chance whatsoever for qualifying as an American legal marriage- not even a common law one. The second form, the Misyar, is trickier. The couple has no intention of living together as husband and wife or supporting each other financially/ provides maintenance. Urfi is undocumented and usually secret. In an Urfi marriage there is the living together element, support, and permanence element but it is kept secret and unregistered. It would not be deemed as common law marriage in states that recognize common law marriage since Urfi is intentionally unregistered marriage to keep knowledge of it from the world. Common law marriage requires that the couple act as husband and wife in public and present themselves as husband and wife. In Urfi marriage the intent behind not registering it is hiding it from the world

Saturday, December 13, 2008

TPS for Iraq

In an article in the Free press by Niraj Warikoo, "Top Chaldean says US efforts in Iraq fall short- people need better security," Iraqi Cardinal Delly states: "The occupying powers could do a lot more to help bring about peace, reconciliation and security,""We are puzzled as to why they have not done more to bring about peace and security in Iraq." Cardinal Delly described the post invasion reality in Iraq as "The absolute worst time that I've seen in my life has been the last five years." He added that "There is a complete breakdown of security and "that about 40% of Iraq's 1.25 million Christians have fled the country during the past five years, but he said that Christianity will continue to survive in Iraq.

Cardinal Delly said "there is no official persecution" from the Iraqi government, but that the attacks against Christians come from "individuals in the country who are antagonistic."
A number of Iraqis who applied for asylum after the 2003 invasion were denied asylum. To qualify for asylum, an individual has to show that they have a subjective fear of persecution that is reasonable that makes them unwilling to go back to the country of habitual residence. The persecution has to be on the basis of a protected status such as religion, race, national origin, or political opinion. A number of Iraqis have had their asylum denied because immigration judges have found that while there are random acts of violence in Iraq, the applicants for asylum have not been able to show that they are singled out for persecution. A number of immigration judges have not been giving weight to the fact that the government is unwilling or able to protect Iraqis.

I recall one case I had in the post- invasion period, at the height of the unrest and chaos. My client was a Chaldean who came to the US as a child. The judge, who is not on the bench anymore, denied him asylum. After the trial, off the record, I told the judge, who has been always nice, that my client is sent to die in Iraq. The judge got angry and told me about a soldier he knows that was shot in Iraq and is now paralyzed. I was taken aback by the judge's response. basically, the judge was saying if an American is going to be paralyzed in Iraq, he would not feel for an Iraqi going back there.

US invasion of Iraq, regardless of whether it was a good idea or bad idea at the time, has brought a lot of pain and suffering to millions of Iraqis. It is not totally the fault of the US government- the terrorists, the sectarian fanatics, the small Iraqi politicians who are unable to rise to the occasion are all to blame.

It's not Obama's war. The US as a country has an obligation to the Iraqis.

Millions have fled their country seeking safety in neighboring countries. We should do more to help the Iraqis. The asylum route is not the most efficient way of dealing with the Iraqis. The asylum process has been inconsistent in dealing with asylum applications across the board. Research on immigration courts have determined that the odds of winning or losing an asylum case is largely a function of the immigration court location. A better way to deal with Iraq is to grant Iraqis Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Cardinal Delly wisely noted that "Even an earthworm, when somebody tries to touch it, shrivels, sensing danger. So, it is normal for an intelligent human being to protect himself when there is danger around. This is a natural thing that the good Lord instilled in all of us to try and protect all creatures." Iraqis should not be forced to go back to a country that is in the situation Cardinal Delly aptly described. Iraqis deserve TPS status.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

CAIR: Unequivocal Condemnation of Terror and Clear Support for American Muslim Integration

Terror has struck India and the suspects seem to be radical and violent Islamists. In response to the terror attacks, CAIR executive director, Nihad Awad, stated in CAIR's press release: “We condemn these cowardly attacks and demand that all hostages taken by the attackers be released immediately and unconditionally. We offer sincere condolences to the loved ones of those killed or injured in these senseless and inexcusable acts of violence against innocent civilians. American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens of all faiths in repudiating acts of terror wherever they take place and whomever they target.”

This is a clear and unequivocal condemnation of terror that reminded me of a conversation with a former longtime FBI agent. The former agent told me that the people at CAIR "don't get it.," they condemn terror and in the same press release they mention political issues or disputes and link the two together. He added that this linkage in the context of condemnation gives the impression that they are not sincere in their condemnation and gives the appearance that they are somehow justifying the terror act. I disagreed with the man because I give CAIR the benefit of the doubt but I sensed that he was sincere in his critique of CAIR. The press release on the India terror attack leaves no room for speculation on where CAIR stands on the issue of terror.
This might not pacify its many enemies but it does help their friends defend them.

Another criticism of CAIR has been that they are a civil rights group that does too much foreign policy and not enough domestic policy. CAIR is also sending a clear message on that as well. On the 23rd of November CAIR held its annual banquet in Arlington, Virginia. The emphasis of the event was on American politics. The theme of political engagement was hard to miss. Speakers emphasized the need to engage the American society at large and get involved in the political process. Debbie Almontaser, a guest speaker demonized by the anti Muslim bigots spoke of the support she received from her" Muslim, Christian and Jewish brothers."

It is clear that CAIR is pushing hard the theme of engagement and integration . This is important because a community that is politically engaged is not a marginal community ripe for radicalization. It's important when these themes are heard from individuals like Nihad Awad, a man who is trusted and liked by the grassroots supporters of CAIR and by Muslims overseas. Awad stated that "America is not the enemy of Islam and the Muslim world is not the enemy of America." This is a message that is diametrically opposed to what the hate mongers in the US and abroad are selling. The US government has been repeating what Mr. Awad said albeit the government did it unconvincingly as far as the Muslim world is concerned. It means a lot to the Muslim world when this message comes from Nihad Awad himself. CAIR was, as result of a political witch hunt, listed, in addition to a long list of who's who in Islamic advocacy in the US, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case.

The India press release and the banquet themes show that CAIR is becoming sensitive to its critics. Instead of investigations and prosecutions, the Obama administration should engage CAIR to make sure that their stands of condemnation of terror, rejection of Islam-US confrontation and advocacy of American Muslim engagement and integration are heard clearly in the US and abroad

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is that a Bomb in your laptop or Bad Speech? Laptop Searches at the Border

I am attending an international conference in Washington, DC this week. I received an email containing this alert: “There is recent controversy regarding the search and seizure of laptops… by border and customs agents for people entering the US from abroad. This applies to US citizens and non-citizens. Agents seem able to make arbitrary seizures of laptops and these devices for indefinite periods of time based upon any criteria they choose…What does this mean? It is recommended that all laptop data be backed up in a secure location before you travel. Further, sensitive research data should be encrypted, and references to research participants should be encoded in such a way as not to identify or harm them. Consider the practical aspects of having your laptop seized at the border. What will you do if your laptop is seized and kept for an indefinite period of time (days, weeks, or even months)?”
Another email that I have seen on this issue is from an attorney concerned about traveling to Canada with attorney- client privileged material and whether to allow the border agents to see it and if they are to see privileged material, does this sharing breach the ethics rules. These e-mails come close in time to a local related laptop seizure at Detroit international airport. On November 7, Greg Krupa of the Detroit News wrote an article “Airport Laptop Seizures Angers Muslims” on an incident that occurred with Imam Elahi of Dearborn Heights. Imam Elahi was returning from a trip to his native Iran when he was subject to secondary inspection. His laptop was seized and searched away from his sight. It was returned to him with a damaged hard drive. What I found most troubling is that he was questioned about an article on his hard drive. This questioning about content usually occurs in countries like North Korea and Cuba, not the United States.
Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post wrote an article on the issue of laptop searches on August 1, 2008 entitled “Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border-No Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies.” Ms Nakashima wrote under DHS policies “federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies” and that “officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons.” Agents can seize and search "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes.” The search and seizure power also applies to “all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "
Of course there is a need for security at international borders and the government has an intrinsic sovereign power to search those coming into the country. Federal courts have set border searches and seizures as an exception to the fourth amendment requirements- border searches are different because they occur at the border. However, if safety and smuggling of contraband are the issues and not bad speech, what the border agents need to know then is that the laptop or other electronic devices international travelers have are not in fact a bomb or hiding contraband. They can tell if a laptop is a shell or a bomb by simply turning it on. I personally have travelled overseas a number of times and had my laptop put through the scanner as well as infrequently turned on and off to check that it is in fact a functioning laptop and not a bomb. I had no problem with that. But for an agent to turn on a laptop or other electronic device, without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and read articles to search for content protected by the first amendment, this is a completely different matter.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama's Rahm

The appointment of Congressman Rahm Emanuel as President Elect Obama’s chief of staff made headlines in the Arab media. His Israeli roots were emphasized and his service in a civilian capacity in Israel during the first Iraq war was noted. This raises the issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Obama and Mr. Emanuel, as to the Arab-Israeli conflict, deserve the benefit of the doubt.

In an interview in the weekend November 8-9 Wall Street Journal Mr. Emanuel told Mr. Jason L. Riley

“I think the country is incredibly pragmatic” “Pragmatic and progressive. But you still have to mix and match different objectives. You have to be flexible.” “I don’t think the country is yearning for an ideological answer.”

When speaking about policy change, he did not mention the Arab-Israeli politics. The elections, he noted, provided “clear directions” to change health policy and energy policy. On energy- “to change an energy policy that has been exporting $700 billion of our wealth to countries overseas.”

This is good. The man does not think ideologically- he values pragmatism. And when he talked about energy policy he did not do what others have commonly done-link oil exclusively to Arab countries (leaving Canada, Mexico and Venezuela who are key exporters of oil to the US) and to terrorism.

This is a reasonable man who would help move along the peace process.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ralph Nader Owes America an Apology

Ralph Nader is a remarkable activist and citizen.

His impact on American life is tremendously good. As an Arab American, I am proud of his achievements.

Yesterday, however was not good.

While America was celebrating this historic moment, Nader made a racially insensitive remark about President Elect Barak Obama, saying that President Obama should not be an Uncle Tom.

Nader does not have a racist cell in his body. No one can doubt this fact. The Uncle Tom comment was just unbelievable in its insenstivity and harshness given that day.

That was a terrible offense. At a time of historic moment, when especially Black Americans are overjoyed by Obama's achievement, to have Nader make that remark was appalling and infuriating.

He rained on America's parade and gave the impression that he is a sore loser who is hating.

Ralph Nader should apologise.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Free Speech and Self Censorship: Arab Americans in the Street and in the Classroom

On 10/28/08,the London- based Asharq al Alwsat newspaper published a report on the US elections. The reporter, Raghida Bahnam, interviewed a number of Michigan Arab Americans for the story: "Arab Americans Strongly Support Obama…Hope he will understand their Concerns." The story emphasized how Arab Americans are excited about Obama's candidacy. One interviewee told her that he wants to vote for Obama because Obama is Black and as a Black American he would understand the fears and concerns of other minorities such as Arab Americans.
It was a good report but what concerned me in the story was the response of a man named Hassan. Hassan told the reporter that he is not interested in politics, that though he lives in the US, he does not get involved in politics. He said after 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, there is no longer freedom of speech and we can't speak freely or we get dragged for questioning and get thrown in jail for no reason. ..I don't discuss politics and I don't vote.
Hassan is an alarmist. His fears are overblown. He is paranoid.
I am not sure how many people think like Hassan. Driving to my office on Warren Avenue, I know that Hassan is in the minority. Anyone driving down Warren Avenue between Greenfield and Wyoming would see all these Arab Americans for Obama signs. Arab American excitement about Obama is obvious.
But the fear of adverse consequences for free speech seems to be present on college campuses as well. Last week, I was speaking with a friend of mine who teaches political science at a state university in Michigan. The professor told me that he thinks that his Arab and Muslim students are self censoring themselves in their assignments and in classroom discussions. While there is normal variation in the responses of non- Arab and non- Muslim students, he noted, his Arab and Muslim students almost uniformly have positions that are strongly pro- national security over civil liberties and civil rights. It seems, he said, that these students think this is the pro-American position and they need to prove their patriotism by taking 100% pro national security positions.
This is troubling. College is where future leaders learn important skills. Freedom of speech is a core value of higher education in universities and is vital for democracy. The Arab college students of today are the future leaders of the Arab American community. The fact that some are self censoring themselves instead of expressing themselves intelligently and freely is an issue of concern. Government and community organizations should take note of this reality.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Victims of Legal and Social Discrimination

What do the famous singer Majida Al Rumi, Fatah commander Sultan Abu Al Aineen and Hanan Ashrawi have in common? They are Palestinians but have key differences. Majida al Rumi is the child of a naturalized Palestinian refugee and has become a major singer who sings patriotic Lebanese songs. Sultan Abu Al Aineen is a Fatah commander and a Palestinian refugee residing in Lebanon. Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian from the West Bank and Gaza and a member of the Palestinian parliament.
Hanan Ashrawi lives under occupation and has lived under occupation since 1967 when Israel occupied and began the process of colonization of the West Bank and Gaza. Majida Al Rumi is a well off and accepted Lebanese citizen who makes a good living singing classic music and patriotic Lebanese songs. Sultan Abu Al Aineen is a Palestinian refugee denied of the most basic of human rights in the democratic republic of Lebanon.
An estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon. They live in a number of refugee camps facing legal and social discrimination. A number of laws discriminate against them. The US State department 2007 Lebanon human rights report states:
"Most Palestinian refugees were unable to obtain citizenship and were subject to governmental and societal discrimination, particularly in the area of employment; however, Palestinian women who married Lebanese men could obtain citizenship. According to a credible international human rights group, Palestinian refugees faced severe restrictions in their access to work opportunities and diminished protection of their rights at work. Very few Palestinians received work permits, and those who found work usually were directed into unskilled occupations. Some Palestinian refugees worked in the informal sector, particularly in agriculture and construction. Palestinian incomes continued to decline. In 2005 the minister of labor issued a memorandum authorizing Palestinian nationals born in the country and duly registered with the MOI to work in 50 (out of 72) professions banned to foreigners. However, there were no indications that this memorandum was implemented consistently." According to Wadie Said "they represent the poorest sector in all of Lebanese society and the poorest grouping of Palestinian refugees in any Arab country." This is the result of de facto and de jure discrimination by Lebanon. Wadie Said writes:"The Lebanese work permit requirement does not merely impose an onerous burden on Palestinian refugees looking for work in Lebanon. In actuality, it effectively rules out their prospects for employment, except within the narrow sphere of employment permissible without a work permit—UNRWA, the Palestinian Red Crescent (the PLO's medical relief service), NGOs and fields not requiring official permission (“agriculture, animal husbandry, or small enterprises within the camps,” according to the statute). In 1994, 4.86 percent of a potential workforce of 218,173 worked in these fields. A mere 0.14 percent of the workforce—an estimated 350 workers—obtained work permits. The remaining 95 percent were unemployed or temporarily employed in the informal sector, which is characterized by unsteady, low-paying, dangerous, and non-regulated work in such fields as construction and seasonal agriculture." One can appeal for ending discrimination against the refugees in the name of Islamic solidarity or pan Arabism. After all, the Palestinian cause has been used by Islamists and nationalists alike to promote their ideology. However, as Lebanese human rights activist and Swiss citizen Suha Bishara observed to the Lebanese paper al- Safir, there is a curious lack of attention to this matter from those who claim a love of Palestine. Ideology aside, ending discrimination fulfills an obligation of Lebanon under international law. Said writes:" In 1972, Lebanon became a party both to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. While not specific on the issue of the refugees' right to work, the former recognizes “the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and [that the states that are party to the covenant] will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right” (Article 6). The Convention guarantees the right to “work … [and] form and join trade unions” (Article 5). By virtue of becoming a party to the treaty, Lebanon has a duty, if not a legal obligation, to preserve and afford the right of employment to “everyone,” refugees included."

Samaa Abu Sharar conducted a field study of the Palestinian refugees. She wrote:
"There is a general feeling that reigns amongst the Palestinian refugees that the
Lebanese state has no intention of improving their conditions. This feeling of skepticism is
the result (as we understood from our long conversations in the camps) from long years of
intentional negligence as they say, practiced by the Lebanese state towards them. A
commonly heard phrase was that “The Lebanese state never felt we are its responsibility,
the UNRWA was the one in charge when it came to solving our problems. But at the same
time, the state always restricted the UNRWA with the limitations it imposed on the
international organization to solve these problems since the UNRWA does not always have
the final say in solving them.”
The Economist of May 8, 2008 noted that Lebanon denies the refugees "the right to own property or to work in dozens of white-collar professions" and even "the third-generation refugees in Lebanon" run the "risk losing their right to re-entry if they stay abroad longer than six months." The Economist explains that this ill treatment is result of the fear that "naturalising the country's 350,000 Palestinians, most of them Sunni Muslims, would tip the delicate sectarian power balance." But a work permit, the right to own property and move freely, are not the same as citizenship as surely the Lebanese government would know. The only reasonable explanation for this ill treatment is that these restrictions are callously designed to compel the refugees to leave Lebanon seeking a better life elsewhere.
It's nothing short of a scandal how the Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon. Arab Americans and Palestinian Americans need to mobilize to change this reality.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Coptic Priest Zakaria Botros: Holy War of Words

Driving from Ann Arbor today, I felt like listening to the ethnic programming radio station 690 AM.
It happened that an Egyptian Coptic priest I read about in the Arab American News, Zakaria Botros, was speaking about Islam. I listened to the whole show. He brings up controversial topics on Islam, from Islamic texts, to argue that Islam is a false religion and that (Coptic Orthodox) Christianity is the one true faith. After poking fun at their faith with his Egyptian humor and demeanor that is ideally fit for entertaining, he invites his Muslim listeners, to embrace Christianity!
In his demeanor and self righteousness he has no air of doubt about the supremacy of his faith. He reminded me of another Egyptian that mixes humor, promotion of one's faith and ridicule and attack of others' faith- the Egyptian Al Qaeda # 2 terrorist Ayman Al Zawahiri when he goes on rants against Christianity and the West.
What Zawahiri (who is a medical doctor by training) and the priest have in common is rejection of the other, inability to see any good in others, and a call for the other group to convert to the one true faith or be ridiculed and damned forever.
The Western ideas of tolerance and co-existence skipped both Mr. Zawahiri and the priest.
Back to the Arab American News report:
The priest Botros received a coverage of a whole page in the Arab American News of August 16-22, 2008. Reporter Khalil Alhajal wrote:
"Local religious leaders believe they 've successfully convinced a local AM radio station to force a regular guest on one of its programs to tone down his intense, often strange commentaries critical of the Islamic faith" and that "Muslim leaders feared the weekly programs could cause tensions between local Christian and Muslim communities, and sought out talks." Mr. AlHajal quotes Ghalib Begg the Chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan stating that "It seems that the hate speech has stopped" as a result of talks with the station owner."
Father Shalhoub of the Orthodox Church of Livonia is a frequent presence at Arab American events in Dearborn. Father Shalhoub played therapist for the priest. Just like psychologists who try to explain bad acts by trauma in childhood, Father Shalhoub basically argued that the priest's behavior is explained by the trauma of persecution of Copts in Egypt. Shalhoub stated:
"Botros' outbursts may come from a bitterness felt by many Egyptian Christians who he said have struggled to practice their faith in that country for years." "Historically, Christians in Egypt have been persecuted," he told reporter Al Hajal.
A Dearborn based Shia Imam, Imam Baqir Berry stated " [T]his is really dangerous. When he is defaming all those people in the community , they want to speak out . We cannot just close our eyes to it."
I know that Imam Baqir is not an attorney but his sister Huda is. He should ask her what defamation is. What priest Botros is saying on the radio is not defamation. He is preaching his faith by knocking down the competition- glorifying Christianity by mocking Islam and bringing attention to controversial issues in Islam.
And closing eyes is not relevant here- one can either cover his ears or turn off the radio/change the station.
This is a country that protects free speech and free speech includes offensive and hateful speech as well. One fights bad speech with good speech or by ignoring bad speech.
A visit to a local bookstore's religion section shows that the bulk of offense against established religious beliefs actually is focused on Christianity.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Criminal Attorney and the Blogger: You Call that Evidence?

The blogosphere is the wild west of journalism. Anyone can have a blog. Barriers to entry are almost nonexistent. There is no editor to do any kind of quality control. This is good and bad.

It's good because it allows an unfettered exchange of ideas. It can be bad because it's easy to unfairly focus negative attention on a cause, a person, or a group, making allegations that sully reputations. If no other evidence to the contrary is out there, the negative information end up defining a cause, a person or a group.

In the balance between freedom of speech and reputation, freedom of speech trumps in the US- unlike for example, in the UK. Therefore, legal recourse is very hard.

The other day a friend of mine involved in a high- profile case told me that his lawyer approached him with a stack of printouts from a blogger's site. This blogger is known for being a rabid Islamophobe and a zealous Zionist to the right of Ariel Sharon. She has no credibility and her mental fitness is seriously questioned. She stoops to the level of calling our governor Granholm a name, "Granho," our US attorney/Judge Steve Murphy, "Abu Porno." She also had a picture of well- known journalist digitally enhanced with human excrement on the journalist head because he crossed her. Not a civilized discourse from a learned human being.

Still this learned attorney, who is rightly well- respected and experienced, made the grave mistake of facing his client with that blogger's pile of garbage- columns from her blog- to argue for the weakness of his client's case.

This attorney is deservedly well -respected. But he could be in the client's situation with his integrity and reputation sullied by a blogger and having no recourse to deal with it since our law making protecting the reputation of public figures very difficult. He should have known better- way better.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shaykh Safar Needs a State to Humiliate the People of Falsehood

The relationship between state and Mosque is one of the hottest topics in the world today.

The Islamists across the board believe in a role for Islam in government though they disagree on the details. But the concept of citizenship and the modern state is absent from at least some of the discourse, if not most of it.

Shaykh Fadel al Safar, a professor of Islamic law in Iraq, wrote a book on the subject entitled the Jurisprudence of government in Islam. He starts the book with a wish and a prayer. The wish is for an Islamic state.

But the prayer--This is not a prayer for the end of hunger, corruption, and torture and death squads -God forbid.

Instead he starts his worthy book by asking God for a State that honors Islam and its followers and humiliates falsehood and its followers…

A state is for all its citizens. Not Mr. Safar's. It’s a state that is used to "humiliate the other." The other is anyone who does not belong to the privileged faith group.

This is one of the reasons why political Islam is troubling to those who value civil rights and equality.

See below the relevant Arabic text and the link.

شبكة النبأ: ورد في دعاء الافتتاح: ( اللهم إنا نرغب اليك في دولة كريمة تعزُّ بها الاسلام وأهله وتذل بها النفاق وأهله، وتجعلنا فيها من الدعاة الى طاعتك والقادة الى سبيلك وترزقنا بها كرامة الدنيا والآخرة).

المؤلف: الشيخ فاضل الصفار
الكتاب: فقه الدولة.. الدولة الإسلامية في المنظور الفقهي
عرض: الباحث حميد جاسم الغرابي

http://www.annabaa.org/nbanews/71/276.htm

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Suha Bishara: on Palestine and Sunni-Shia Tensions

The late PA leader Yasser Arafat once answered a question about his governance of the Palestinians by telling The New York Times, give me the Swiss to rule and I will rule like Switzerland does.

It seems he was onto something. Switzerland does have a good influence on people.
Leave it to a woman, a Christian, a communist Lebanese, married to a Swiss and living in Switzerland, to speak freely and clearly about Lebanon- in particular about the Palestinians and about Sunni-Shia tensions.

On Palestine:

On the occasion of the release of the Lebanese prisoners from Israel in an exchange between Hizbullah and Israel, the Lebanese daily al- Safir interviewed Suha Bishara. Many years ago-Suha Bishara tried to assassinate Antoine Lahd, the head of the Lebanese militia set up by Israel to guard its Northern border-- the South Lebanon army. Suha Bishara was part of the secular national and leftist resistance movement that was fighting Israel before the Syrians colluded with Iran and its Islamists to limit guerrilla warfare to the Hizbullah.

In this interview she is asked what can a Lebanese, living in Lebanon, do for Palestine these days?

She replies: They don't need our direct support. The most important support for them is for the Lebanese to be united. The second issue is the civil rights of the Palestinian refugees. Nobody has really struggled for this issue. It’s not acceptable that a Palestinian refugee cannot work in Lebanon. And if he builds, we destroy. I am not talking about citizenship here. Though I do believe that a person is entitled to the citizenship of the country of his birth. Period. Palestinian or non Palestinian. (for a video on the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xog_gXYGx3o

Below is the Arabic text:
برأيك، كيف يمكن للبناني أن يعمل من هنا لأجل فلسطين؟ [ هونيك، ليسوا بحاجة إلينا بالشكل المباشر. الدعم الأهم بالنسبة إليهم هو أن نحصّن أنفسنا داخلياً أولاً. ثانياً، قضية الحقوق المدنية للفلسطينيين في المخيمات. لم يناضل أحد فعلياً لهذه القضية! مش مقبول فلسطيني ما يقدر يشتغل، وإذا عمّر حجر نهدّه نحن! هذا من دون الدخول في موضوع الجنسية، علماً أنني أؤمن بحق الإنسان بحمل جنسية الأرض التي يولد فيها، نقطة على السطر، فلسطيني أو غير فلسطيني

On Sunni-Shia relations:

She is asked "What reservations about Hizbullah you have?"

She replies:

No political party can get involved in internal politics and limit its program to the resistance slogan. This means as if your existence is a function of the enemy's existence. Question? does this mean that if Israel ceases to exist then Hizbullah would think of economic issues and get involved in Lebanese law making? Hizbullah should declare an economic program to get the country out of its economic crisis. Second, there is a huge gap between the leadership and the supporters of the Hizbullah. When they talk about the sectarian war being an impossibility, this is true as to the leadership thinking. The leadership thinks of sectarian war as serving the US designs. But the Hizbullah supporters, since the death (martyrdom) of Imam Hussein, have been raised on the basis of "who killed me?" My brother's name is Omar and all the family suffered a lot because of that. What happens when you have political parties and incitement included in the equation with this kind of background? You would have out of hand chaos, violence and bloodshed.

ـ ما هي المآخذ؟ [ أولاً، لا يوجد حزب سياسي قادر على بناء سياسة داخلية واختزالها بالمقاومة. كأنك موجود من خلال العدو. سؤال: إذا راحت إسرائيل، منفكر ساعتها نشتغل بالاقتصاد، ونصوّت على قانون؟ يجب أن يعلن سياسة واضحة لإخراج البلد من الأزمة الاقتصادية، وذلك كي يتكامل. ثانياً، هناك شرخ بين القيادة والقاعدة. عندما يتحدثون عن استحالة الحرب الطائفية، هذا صحيح طبعاً على مستوى القيادة لأنها اتخذت هذا القرار على المستوى العقائدي وتقرأ الحرب الطائفية كخدمة للمصالح الأميركية. أما القاعدة فمنذ مقتل الإمام الحسين تمت تربيتها على أساس »مين قتلني«. أخي اسمه عمر وكلنا نعاني لأن اسمه عمر منذ ولادته. فكيف إذا دخلت في المعادلة أحزاب وشحن؟ ستعود التربية و»بتفلت الفالوتة«.



http://www.assafir.com/WeeklyArticle.aspx?EditionId=991&WeeklyArticleId=43223&ChannelId=5677&Author=%d8%b3%d8%ad%d8%b1-%d9%85%d9%86%d8%af%d9%88%d8%b1

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lebanon War Memoir: Cobra's book

A controversial book on the Lebanon war from the Christian militias' experience as told by a former militia man is posted online.

http://www.aceviper.net/members/cobra/intro.html

Friday, July 11, 2008

When Not to Sue the Bastards?

Why Do Bigots Defame Arabs and Muslims and Get Away with It?

It is often said that the US is a highly litigious society. Individuals are suing and being sued at a rate that surprises many people- the US has way more lawsuits than China, for example.

Sue the bastards. It's a classic response that a person that is wronged hears. However, many times suing is not the best way of dealing with a problem. One of the areas where suing might not be the best way to go is in cases of defamation of a "public figure"- a celebrity, a politician or even anyone who injects themselves in the "public eye."

Take the case of a number of Arab and Muslim leaders that are being targeted by American bigots. Arab and Muslim personalities involved in public affairs find that the American bigots are targeting them with a campaign of organized libel (written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation). The labels are terrorist, terrorist sympathizer, former terrorist, terrorist apologist, Hizbullah agent, defender of Hamas, etc. The goal of the zealots is to cause the libeled individuals to be either intimidated and thus become silent on issues important to Arabs and Muslims-- or to cause non- Arab and non- Muslim Americans to avoid dealing with them either due to the sensational and serious accusations or to avoid the attacks that might extend to them by having associated with the victim.

One is tempted to think that these bigots targeting the Arabs and Muslims are nothing more than ignorant and marginal bigots who seem to suffer of one form of mental illness or another.
This is a big mistake. These bigots are highly driven, well organized and focused individuals who are driven by a clear agenda. This agenda is the marginalization of American Arabs and Muslims. The emergence of the web and the blogs has made their job much easier. Pick a high profile Arab American or Muslim American and Google their name. The odds are you would find some bigot attacking them with wild accusations that are laughable. But to non- Arab and non- Muslim Americans who have not dealt with the victim before these wild accusations raise a red flag. The result is the innocent victim loses an important contact or even money because of the defamation that is spread by one web site connecting to another and since there is no other information online dealing with the accusations head on- these allegations end up painting the reality of the victim.

The question is: why not sue? Cost is one reason. Litigation is very costly. Second, litigation takes time- the wheels of justice are slow and this can be very frustrating. Third, the person perpetrating the lies might have nothing to their name which means an expensive legal victory that amounts to little gained. Fourth, litigation opens the gates of discovery. And this discovery can be very wide in scope- depending on the judge. This discovery is susceptible to become a tool for further harassment of the victim. Also, a lawsuit might be welcome by the attention craving bigots and might even rally the zealots together. The defamer is also likely to grab the opportunity to get free media exposure while playing the victim of "an attack on the first amendment." Also, media coverage is a sure way that the lies would be repeated over again in the mainstream media.

The biggest hurdle though is that under American law it is very difficult for a "public figure" to win a defamation suit. The victim has to show that the defamer acted with "malice" - that they made untrue statements knowing that they are untrue or with reckless disregard of the truth.

This malice element keeps many - even libeled attorneys from suing their defamers. It is an awful situation that can be remedied by generating good speech. If those who libel Arabs are using blogs to spread lies, then the Arab and Muslim activists and their friends should also create web sites and blogs. This can achieve two goals: exposing the defamer and telling the truth about the defamed people.

(originally appeared in the Forum and Link Volume 5, issue 2 July 10, 2008)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Wall Street Journal Matchmaker Cabbie Story

The media can fairly represent Arabs and Muslims in the US when they cover them as ordinary people-and sometimes extraordinary people.

Stories about bad Arabs and bad Muslims, even when true, help perpetuate biases and prejudices when not balanced by the overwhelming other reality- the non- terror or foreign policy reality.


One story of the other reality is in the weekend Wall Street Journal of June 5-6, 2008, the Fourth of July weekend, about an Egyptian cab driver who plays matchmaker in Manhattan.
"These Singles Just Wanted a Taxi, But Mr. Ibrahim Drove Them to' I Do'" by Jane Spencer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Jerusalem attack and the Failure of Hamas

Today a Palestinian from Jerusalem used a bulldozer to run over a number of cars and people in West Jerusalem area.

Two died and a number of people were injured.

This was a classic act of terrorism. Indiscriminate violence against noncombatants. A despicable crime. No nuancing needed.

I watched a Hamas spokesperson on Aljazeera speaking from Gaza say that this attack is "understandable."

Understandable?

It 's impossible for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state without the support of fair minded Israelis and world public opinion. Condoning such terrorism is not only immoral- it is also foolish politically.

Hamas seems intent on keeping the label of a terrorist organization and ruling over an isolated and impoverished Gaza strip.

I can't recall how many times I heard and read that Islam does not condone indiscriminate attacks of this nature.

Regardless of the politics of the matter and the legitimate grievances of the wronged and occupied Palestinian people- plowing into noncombatants goes against Arab and Muslim values.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Haykal's Monolgogues- Boring and Wrong

I am not one of those who listen to Mohamed Hasanyn Haykal's monologues on al Jazeera as if it is revealed truth of the sage of sages. I tried to listen for more than ten painful minutes and failed miserably. My graduate education had me sit through many many lectures- some quite boring. Haykal gets the cake with his boring run on sentences and monotnous monologues.

The man, however, is considered one of the best analysts in the Middle East. This is understandable if his competition is the Baath and Thawra newspapers- papers that are only good to wrap street vendors goods.

I think this reputation is a legacy of the dismal history of Arab media. However, the internet and satellite tv changed the rules of the game creating what one scholar called Arab Public Space. The quantity and quality available now makes Haykal's analysis pale in comparison.

The worst analysis he provided- according to Hassan Sabra of Lebanese weekly Al Shiraa- is on the May 2008 conflict in Lebanon. It's amazing how much Haykal does not know and his bigoted and ignorant view of MP Walid Jumblatt. He had the gall, without citing any logic or sense, to defend the Hizbullah attack on the defenseless Beirutis and the Druze of theMountain.

http://www.alshiraa.com/alshiraa/details.asp?iss=1346&cat=2&art=1&id=13862.

One conclusion from reading Sabra's column is Haykal is another reason to ditch al Jazeera for the Al Arabiya TV.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lebanon's Divided Public Opinion

Pew Global Attitudes Project titles its report on Lebanon "Lebanon's Precarious Politics
Many of the Country's Sectarian Differences Do Not Run along a Straight Muslim-Christian Fault Line" -November 15, 2007.

The Precarious Republic is a title of a book by Michael Hudson that was written before the breakout of the civil war in Lebanon. The book pointed out the weaknesses of the Lebanese consociational political system and its increasing stresses, due to internal and external pressures, that made him call Lebanon a "precarious republic."

Today Lebanon is divided on issues of importance- perceptions of itself and regional and international powers.

On favorable views of foreign powers, PEW reports:

Christians: 82 % favorable views of the US- 14% favorable views of Iran

Sunnis 52%- 8%

Shia- 7%-86%

The most remarkable of these are the favorable views of the US held by Lebanese Sunnis- 52%. The Iraq war, the Palestine conflict and the war on terrorism made the US have a dismal record of approval in the Muslim world. It seems for the majority of Lebanese Sunnis, the US policies toward Lebanon trump all these other concerns. As to Iran, all the talk of pro-Iran Sunnis, all the money and effort exerted led to a dismal record of support- less than 10%.



http://pewresearch.org/pubs/636/lebanon-politics

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sex, the City and Dearborn Arab Women

I went to the movies with my wife. I wanted to see "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," my wife wanted to watch Sex and the City.


Sex and the City turned out to be as good as she expected. My wife and I spent three of our precious free time to watch this movie. Once you have children, their needs make it almost impossible to have free time.

One scene in the movie reminded me of Dearborn Arab women.

Carrie was about to move in with her boyfriend. She expressed anxiety that the place she would call home, in the event of a falling out she would have no legal rights to.

Then they decide to get married.

As an attorney who practices family law, I have come across a number of Arab Muslim women who put themselves in a situation that Carrie wanted to avoid.

A number of local couples opt to have a religious marriage but not a civil marriage. (This is a phenomenon worthy of a systematic study).

They go to an Imam who marries them, does Katb al Kitab for them.

Imams, as well as other clergy, have the legal authority to marry couples provided the couple has a marriage certificate issued by the county clerk. Without a marriage license, any document issued by the Imam does not make a legal marriage.

This legal document protects women in the case of a falling out.

Michigan, with few narrow exceptions, does not recognize common law marriages. However, I heard a judge say once that she would be willing to recognize as a legal marriage a religious marriage that extends over a number of years and results in children- it would be an issue of equity.

But this would be an uphill battle and a bad situation that could easily be avoided by getting a marriage license.

The unfortunate reality is that without a civil marriage, I have seen and heard a number of women end up with nothing. The women that have put themselves in this bad situation have included first as well as second generation Arab Americans; women with little education and women with graduate degrees.

The Islamic "marriage contract" stipulates an amount of money or other thing of value to be given to the woman in the event of a divorce. However, the women are unable to get that since the agreement is usually not properly executed to survive a challenge by the putative husband.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Advice for Muslim Women: The Maid or the Partner?

Today three entries in the Islamist website Islam Memo in the "Happy home" section show why the Islamists raise serious concerns about gender equity and gender equality.

The three entries are:

"If you do not take care of your husband, he will find someone else who will"

"clean house= happy home"

"obedience and marital happiness."

Sounds like a wife is considered a maid and not a partner.

http://www.islammemo.cc/

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Imam, the Danish Cartoons and Piss Christ

In today's Al Arabiya website there is a news item on the suicide bombing against the Danish embassy in Islamabad.


The PM of Denmark called it an "unjustified attack."

The Danish Deputy PM called it "an attack on Denmark and the values it defends."

The Muslim League denounced it as an act of "violence and terrorism."

The Aljazeera Arabic news channel reported on this issue interviewing Pakistanis on the subject. The interviewees basically said that "Denmark is to blame for publishing the insulting cartoons and then for not apologizing for them."

Going over the comments' section in Al Arabiya website, a number of commenters said that the Danish deserve it for "insulting the prophet," others said that it is wrong to use violence. Some blamed Israel and the US for the bombing. One commenters accused Denmark of bombing its own embassy so that the Muslims are placed in the position of apologizing to Denmark instead of the opposite.

Most voices disapproved the deed but asserted that "Denmark is wrong" and should be boycotted or their embassies shut down for insulting Muslims with the cartoons.

The Danish are defining this matter as an attack on freedom of expression. Many Muslims see the cartoons as an attack on their faith and its symbols.

Both are inaccurate positions.

The Danish are wrong because the Muslims feeling insulted do not care what freedoms the Danish have. The issue is that they perceive the cartoons as "Christian Denmark" and not one individual or a groups of individuals "attacking their faith."

The Danish government is painting the attackers as haters of the freedom of expression and other Western values.

But anyone who peruses a Western cultural product will not fail to note that the sacred is not sacred. How many times you see God's name taken in vain, you hear "holy shit," "Jesus f--ng Christ" among other choice terms. An African American actor, Morgan freeman, played God in Bruce Almighty and Jim Carrey having the powers of God for some time used the powers to make Jennifer Aniston's breasts bigger and to have his dog use the toilet.

I am not a religion scholar but for Muslims and other followers of Monotheistic faiths insulting God is a bigger offense than insulting the Prophet.

But we have not seen demonstrations and violence in response to Bruce Almighty?

The Pakistanis who bombed the embassy probably haven't heard of Piss Christ- the award- winning "Piss Christ" controversial picture by photographer Andres Serrano. Mr. Serrano won an award for that picture- an award partially supported by the US government agency, the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Serrano took a picture of a Crucifix submerged in a cup full of his yellowish urine. The artistic community thought it great art, many Christians felt insulted.

It was not an attack on Christianity not by the artist, not by the US government nor by the arts' community.

By asking the Danish government to apologize and blaming the controversy on Denmark the government and people many Muslims show an acute lack of understanding of Western society and government- that is the respect or lack thereof to the sacred in the public space and the role of the government.

Muslims who live in the West know better than those in Karachi and Khan Yunis. However, unfortunately, this issue is not explained to the Muslim world. Understanding and having an explanation does not mean excusing or justifying. But some voices actually add fuel to the fire. After the film Fitna came out, a local Imam in Dearborn told a newspaper reporter that Fitna is part of a Western Crusade against Islam while other Imams had no comment.

Muslims deserve better.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Merkava and the Fulbright Scholar: The Israel "security" sham

In Today's Wall Street Journal "What's News" an item on Palestine reads:

"The White house predicted Israel will relent on its decision to deny visas to Gazan recipients of Fulbright scholarships."


This is irrefutable evidence of the irrationality and vindictiveness of the Israeli government in its dealing with the Palestinians.

Denying the visas to the Fulbright scholars is further evidence that Israel takes measures against Palestine under the pretext of security when in fact these measures are taken out of a sense of entitlement, colonial supremacy, fear of international scrutiny and transparency.

The "security" sham must not be allowed to continue.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tolerant Nasrallah, Intolerant Malkin: It's More than a Garment Thing

McCain's daughter is pictured wearing a scarf that looks like the Arab scarf, the Kaffieh.

Rachel Ray wearing the same scarf in a Dunkin Donuts commercial led to pressure from right wingers. This pressure resulted in Dunkin Donuts withdrawing this commercial. Too bad. Ms Ray looked great in the scarf.

But Dunkin Donuts did not want to deal with the controversy and Rachel Ray did not need the headache of a tiny minority of zealots using the web to call her "Jihadist Sympathizer" among other things.

Thousands of miles away, Hizbullah held a rally in Beirut.

The news item of the event had a picture of a young woman, dressed in Jeans and T shirt, holding Sayed Nasrallah's picture. This young woman looked like any average young woman in a Western city.

As any visitor to the areas dominated by the Hizbullah finds great diversity in dress from the ultra conservative chador to the tight Jeans and T- shirt. Unlike the Taliban, the Islamists of Hizbullah, surprisingly but smartly, have a liberal dress code for those living in their areas.

I am not surprised that the right wing goes after anything that puts Arabs or Arab symbols in a positive light. They hate Arabs and hate their symbols and want to make sure that nothing of Arabic origin be seen as normal and part of American culture (they should be consistent and stop using our Arabic numerals). The right wingers engage in a holy war against this scarf under the pretext that it is a symbol of radicals or terrorists. Millions of ordinary people wear these scarves in the Arab world. The fact that a few radicals and terrorists wear it does not transform its nature as an Arab garment. I have read that a number of those accused of hate crimes against Arabs in Chicago have a flag post on their lawn. Does this fact diminish the American flag?

I am not surprised. This is the same country where some elected officials had French fries renamed Freedom Fries. But the key difference between the campaign against French products and the Arab scarf is that the campaign on the scarf is a part of the effort to feed an image of the Arab as foreign, threatening and dangerous. An Arab scarf or something that looks like it worn by Ms McCain and Ms Ray takes away from that and that can never be allowed by the merchants of the Arab is evil and the Arab is the other.

When Hizbullah shows more tolerance to personal dress than Michele Malkin, we know that there is something wrong in the land of the First Amendment.

The Sunni- Shia Fitna: Two Fatwas-Shaykh Naim Qasim's and Shaykh Mawlawi's

Is there a Sunni Shia Fitna in Lebanon or not? It's good to know. Because if there is one, it should be dealt with before it festers and grows out of hand into something real ugly like what happened in Iraq.

MP Saad Hariri stated that the Fitna has happened due to the violations and trauma of May 7 events.

These comments have been faced with cynicism by the Hizbullah and its allies. Since MP Shaykh Saad Hariri and the 14th of March group are allied with the US- the charge is that it is the US (with its junior team member Israel), the convenient suspect for ALL Arab and Muslim ills, that is pushing for an alleged "Shia- Sunni Fitna."

The claim is that the US wants this Fitna and that its allies and friends are "shamelessly irresponsibly" etc. promoting this idea.

However, today in al Safir the leader of a Muslim Brotherhood group, al Jamaa al Islamiya, (which has the [bad] habit of other Islamists, that it blaming the US for everything and not giving it credit for anything,) told al Safir basically the same thing as Shaykh Saad of the Future Movement did.
(http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionId=951&ChannelId=21579&ArticleId=2871&Author=عمار%20نعمة)


In this Al Safir interview Shaykh Faysal Mawlawi stated that "the chief responsibility for the events of May 7 conflict is Hezbollah's and that Hizbullah should have preserved the sacredness of its weapons."

Shaykh Mawlawi stated that the [Sunni-Shia] Fitna has happened already.

"To us the heart of the matter is that Hizbullah is not realizing that the [Sunni-Shia] Fitna has already occurred. It's now in [people's] hearts. It would have increased multiple fold had it not been for the Doha agreement."

Shaykh Mawlawi is not a friend of ex- US ambassador to Lebanon Feltman nor a frequent guest at the US Lebanon embassy events. I doubt he is on their A, B or z list of invitees.

Shaykh Mawlawi's concern about Hizbullah's failure to realize what happened was validated in the same paper by Hizbullah's second in command, Shaykh Qasim of Hizbullah.

In the same paper, Shaykh Naim Qasim, is quoted from an interview with Satellite TV station Orbit that:

"we assure Arabs and Muslims there is no Sunni-Shia Fitna."

He stated: "There is no Shia Sunni Fitna. We don't want it and we are not contributing to its creation."

(http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionId=951&ChannelId=21579&ArticleId=2885&Author=)

Add this to the litany of Shia- Sunni disagreements and differences that keep ordinary Muslims puzzled and at a loss.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Palestine Supporters and the State of Palestine

Where is the support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza among Arab Americans, Muslims Americans and their friends?

Where are the massive grassroots campaigns to create a momentum for a Palestinian state?

From Madrid to Oslo- the formula agreed on is land for peace, as to Palestine- a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

This is the Palestine struggle today.

The real struggle today is the creation of a state in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, their friends and supporters, need to keep the goal of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital, the center of their efforts.

But this is not the case.

There is too much energy spent on the Nakba and the issue of the refugees. These are core issues and should be focused on. However, the issue of a state on the West Bank and Gaza should be the centerpiece of action of the pro- Palestinian groups, Arab and non- Arab, Muslims and non Muslims.


Look at the events supporting Palestinians. See for yourself how much energy and effort is spent on activism for this goal. Not much.

For the Palestinians to have their state, supporters of their cause have to keep their energy focused on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's "a Kind of" Apartheid- Haaretz & President Carter

In "Our debt to Jimmy Carter," The Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorializes on the Israeli debt to President Carter for the peace agreement with Israel writing in part:

"Israel is not ready for such comparisons [with South Africa], even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel's control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to "full autonomy" for the occupied territories, not to settle there."

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/974893.html

Sunday, May 25, 2008

President Michele Suleiman : "Defensive National Strategy" and "Syria Diplomatic Relations"

It's official.

Army Commander Michele Suleiman is the President of the Republic.

In his acceptance speech, he emphasized the need for "diplomatic relations "with Syria and for a "national defense strategy."

This is remarkable.

These two echo the demands of the 14th of March coalition.

President Suleiman called for a "calm dialogue" on the issue of the weapons of Hizbullah in order to develop a "national defense strategy."

In effect, this is what MP Jumblatt has been saying- a "defensive" strategy (not offensive) where Hizbullah does not solely have the country's war decision.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f0nktMjWjA

This is an auspicious beginning for the Presidency of Mr. Suleiman.

The impressive turnout of Arab and other dignitaries means that the days of Lebanon being monopolized by one medium power are gone.

The future of Lebanon is an Arab and international responsibility.

Hope the events of May 7 never happen again.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=related&v=9VUdKhjfwRU

King Solomon and Splitting the Baby

Al Arabiya TV has a program on Palestine.

In this program Arabs and Jews are interviewed about the 1948 war and its aftermath. At one point, the interviewer, to illustrate the refusal of the Palestinians to accept the UN partition plan, asked a Jewish Israeli if he knew the story of King Solomon and the two competing claims for a baby.

The Jewish interviewee says yes. He told the traditional reading of the story. There is a more reasonable reading of the story.

As a judge facing competing claims for a baby, the common thinking is that King Solomon devised a plan to find out who the real mother is.

King Solomon proposed splitting the baby with the understanding that the real mother would not accept the splitting of the baby while the false mother would.

King Solomon, the story goes, figured out that the woman that accepted spliting the baby is not the real mother so he gave the baby to the other woman- the real mother.

A more reasonable reading of the story is that King Solomon took what we now call the best interests of the child test. He reasonably concluded that a woman who would agree to splitting a baby is clearly unfit to raise a baby.

Splitting a baby means the baby would die.

Presumably, anyone even at that time knew that. The fact that the other woman would agree shows that either that she is mentally challenged and/ or mentally ill. In both circumstances, she would be unfit to take care of the child.

King Solomon gave the woman to the fit mother- his test did not reveal who the real mother is.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Sunni and the Shia Urban Myths and the Challenge of Coexistence

The Sunnis and the Shia: Adventures in Medieval Thought in the age of SMS


After the misadventure of May 7, the question being asked is how can the tension between the Shia and the Sunnis be reduced in Lebanon and in the Arab and Muslim world.

It is going to be a very difficult job. Take Lebanon for example.

In Lebanon they embrace modernity- they love Western toys of all kinds.
In a nation of about 4 million people, there are more than one million cell phone lines. It seems that almost everyone has a cell phone and a satellite television access.

The internet is widely used with no censorship.
But education and modernity do not change medieval outlooks.

The Amal and Hizbullah supporters, for example, had to place their flags on the light poles in majority Sunni areas. The sight of these men gave their tribe members feelings of power over the Sunnis while the other tribe felt that the Shia are out to humiliate them.

That sight, to me, reminded me of Neil Armstrong's moon moment.

When Neil Armstrong placed the American flag on the moon and made his one small step, one giant leap statement it was a moment of triumph for science, technology, humankind and rationality.

On the other hand, the flags on Lebanese poles stand for the opposite of everything that that American flag placed on the moon by Mr. Armstrong stood for.

It's a big problem we have in the Arab world.

I remember a wealthy engineer - a Shia- saying in the 1995 that PM Rafiq Hariri wants to kick the Shia out of Beirut! That simple. That successful millionaire with an engineering degree believed that his tribe in threatened by the Sunnis. No explanation and logic was needed.

Iraq is worse.

A highly educated Sunni Iraqi who lived in the West for years and dealt with scientific issues relayed to me, in all seriousness, what is obviously to me, not him, is an urban myth.

He told me, in all seriousness, that a Sunni woman told him that she was going through a Shia area in Baghdad when she saw a baby on a grill. She asked what's going on and she was told that this is a Sunni baby being cooked for the feast of Imam Hussein. I had to muster all my self control not to burst laughing at the idiocy of this anecdote.

What’s interesting is that both the Sunni and the Shia who shared urban myths of the threat against their communities are highly educated people. One only wonders what kind of myths the less educated classes are hearing and sharing.

The issue then is not an education and ignorance issue where the lesser educated and worse off have their grievances directed at the other group.

The issue is a lot deeper and scarier.

Super modern toys, medieval times.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Egypt's Mehdi Akif's Mujahid

The Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, always criticize the US for not recognizing them and for distust of them (with the rare exception of the Turkish modern and democratic Islamists).

For example, the Palestinian Hamas always protests that the US is hypocritical for not recognizing them despite their gains in the Palestinian elections. They protest that the US as a believer and promoter of democracy should recognize them and engage them.

Voices from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood have called for the US to pressure Mubarak’s government to ease the pressure on the Brotherhood.

The Arab Islamists also have protested that not all of them are terrorists and that the US and the West should deal with them as the up and coming force in the Arab and Muslim world after the nationalists and the secular groups have been allegedly discredited.

Today an interview in Elaph, (if the interviewer has been accurate and truthful), raises serious questions about the Brotherhood's position regarding terrorism and engagement with the US.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mehdi Akif, told an interviewer from Elaph that Usama Bin Laden is “a Mujahid whose sincerity he does not doubt” and that he supports “Al-Qaida’s activities in response to oppression and corruption.”

For the interview see

http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/AkhbarKhasa/2008/5/332823.htm

Jumblatt in Al Shiraa

See in Al Shiraa of this week Hassan Sabra's analysis of the role of MP Jumblatt in managing the crisis of May 7.

http://www.alshiraa.com/alshiraa/details.asp?iss=1342&cat=1&art=1&id=13718

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Gains and the Losses of May 7 and the Doha Agreement

The May 7 2008 Hezbollah military misadventure in Sunni Beirut and the Muslim Druze Mountain and the Doha Agreement have handed the Saniora government and its allies major achievements.

Think of the reality before Doha.

The following is the reality of the political and economic stalemate that existed before the Doha agreement:

The Speaker of the Parliament, an ally of the Hezbollah had the parliament shut down thus making electing a President of the Republic impossible and precipitating the constitutional crisis of the vacancy in the top political position in the Republic.

Second, the Hezbollah and its allies erected about 1200 tents in the middle of downtown Beirut thus greatly suffocating the economic life in this economic and tourist hub and undermining investor confidence in Lebanon.

The Doha agreement has resulted in the decisions to reopen the parliament, and to elect the candidate nominated by the very same pro- government coalition, General Suleiman, as President of the Republic. The agreement also involved the decision, already implemented, to remove the 1200 tents choking the economic life of downtown Beirut.

In addition, and most importantly, Hezbollah’s misadventure of May 7 and the Doha discussions have changed the Lebanese and regional perceptions of Hezbollah.

On May 7 Hezbollah broke its pledge of not using its "holy and sacred weapons" against other Lebanese and as such, as US officials put it, “undercut its self- proclaimed mantle as a resistance movement against Israel.”

Before May 7 and the Doha agreement, Hezbollah opposed any discussion of its weapons on the pretext that its weapons are solely for the defense of Lebanon and were not and would not be used against other Lebanese. That is these weapons shoot only "South of the South" as the hugely popular singer Mr. Khalifeh's song has it.

These weapons to the shock and awe of the Arabs and Lebanese were used against largely defenseless other Lebanese- even the Sunni Mufti of the Republic highlighted this fact when he pointedly made an appeal addressed to the Arab and Muslim world against the group.

The effect of the May 7 misadventure can be seen on the regional level by a recent online poll by the satellite news Alarabiya channel where of 60,000 participants 70% said that the weapons of the Hezbollah have lost their legitimacy(http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/05/22/50283.html)


True the Hezbollah and its allies got a veto power in the cabinet. But Hezbollah has lost much of its soft power in Lebanon and in the Arab and Muslim world and its weapons are going to be an item on the national government and public agendas.

What the Hezbollah gained in the cabinet is quantifiable and limited but what it lost in soft power is priceless.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Doha Lebanon Agreement: Many Winners and One Loser

The Doha success has winners and a loser.

MP Aoun emerges as the biggest loser.
He insisted on a “transitional government.”
He wanted so bad to become President and thought the juvenile but deadly move of the Lebanese Opposition would lead to his coronation over Lebanon. He comes back from Qatar a broken old man. Good. No President of the Republic title for him -he deserves the title the Don Quixote of Lebanese politics.

Lebanon will have a President and the Camp of shame in Downtown Beirut will be dismantled and the filth left cleaned by Sokleen. I was a witness to what the squatters in the tent city wrote on the walls of the beautiful downtown- filthy words from filthy dark minds and hands. The words and the filth should be pictured and documented so that we do not forget.

As to MP Saad Hariri the success in Qatar shows that militias and street people with guns are not the key to political participation and political influence. MP Saad Hariri emerges from Doha a modern leader with hands unsullied by the dirt of street battles. He promised to rebuild again- he is to be believed, it seems to be the destiny of the Hariris to rebuild what others have destroyed.

As to the Arab world and Qatar- there were too many naysayers. But- Arab positive engagement - from Saudi Arabia , Egypt and Kuwait specifically, was the key to the halt of the descent into civil war and Iraqization.

As to Qatar-The Qataris have shown, again, that despite their country’s tiny size, they can play a big positive role in the Arab world.

They deserve much of the credit for the political agreement reached in Doha.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Holy Violence and Unholy Politics: Radical Islamists from Gaza to Beirut

The radical Islamist violence in Beirut, aided by a motley crew of has- been leftists, quasi fascists and nationalist groups, directed inwards, highlights the threat the radical Islamists pose to their own societies. Societies that have been sleeping while the radicals have been growing like wild and poisonous mushrooms on a spring lawn.

Despite their rhetoric that plays on legitimate national and economic frustrations, their goal is political power- unchecked- except by their own thoughts of what God really really wants.

Once in power, by ballot or by the gun, they would rule ruthlessly against others- just as their secular revolutionary predecessers communists did.

Some of yester year's communists have re-emerged, with the same old bearded face of leftist youth and folly, as radical Islamists. That seems odd but not really.

Both ideologies are rigid, absolutist, totalitarian and violence prone.

It’s disgusting the naïve and misguided support that they get from Western sources and a few Muslims and Arabs in the West.

These supporters live in a democracy, enjoying civil rights and civil liberties, while supporting groups that are clearly and violently against both.

These supporters and apologists defend a regime for others to live under- a regime that they would not accept for themselves for even one day.

The radical Islamists, whatever the brand name, share adverse positions on freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, religious minorities, women’s rights and representative government as we know it.

In this day and age these rights are taken for granted as the norm- but the radical Islamists refuse them, mock them, fight them and oppress their compatriots that support them-

They have their own ideas of a utopia that never really existed except in their heads.

The use of “holy violence” stands out as another common theme- and people are "martyred" whether they want to be or not.

This use of violence is in many ways the post- modern religious incarnation of the radical Arab nationalist and leftist “revolutionary" violence to force one marginal, but well organized and fired up with zeal, group’s will on the rest of society.

As to the US- a common theme among these radical Islamists is an unhealthy obsession with America and an almost- comical kneejerk anti-Americanism.

This is true for all the radical Islamists from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas to the Jordanian Islamic Action Front to the Hizbullah and its lesser Islamist allies in Lebanon.

Lebanon Vigil pictures

For pictures of the vigil held in Dearborn to protest the violence in Lebanon, check

www.futuremovementusa.com.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Western Islam and the Jewish Experience

In Migrations and Cultures: A World View, Thomas Sowell writes about the great migrations- among them the Chinese (the largest diaspora in the world) and the Jews.

It is interesting that his arguments on the Jews, in many ways, apply to the Moslems in the US today- explaining why they are better off as a group in the US than they are in Western Europe.

Sowell writes:

“Where anti- Semitism was strongest and most implacable- Eastern Europe being again a prime example- Jews tended to be least assimilated in language or culture. Where acceptance was greater in Western Europe and their offshoot societies in North America and Australia-Jews tended much more to become culturally assimilated, citizens and patriots.”

Now about the Jews in the Muslim world, Sowell writes:

“Among the factors influencing the better treatment of Jews in Muslim lands during the early Middle Ages was that Jews were less conspicuous , or only one of a number of non-Moslem minorities in the Islamic world, while they stood out sharply as the only non-Christians in Europe- at a time when religion was an enormous influence.”

In an odd twist of fate-the same logic applies to the Muslims in the US.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Arab American News Report on Pro- Government Vigil in Dearborn

See below a report in the Arab American News on the Vigil held in Dearborn on Tuesday in support of the government of PM Fouad Saniora and against the violence there.


The reporter, Khalil AlHajal, wrote a balanced and thorough report. Kudos to him and the Arab American News for this fine reporting that is on par with reporting by any of the renowned national media:

http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/index.php?mod=article&cat=Community&article=1062


Pro-government Lebanese demonstrate in Dearborn By Khalil AlHajal
- The Arab American NewsFriday, 05.16.2008, 02:25pm

Local supporters of both sides of the conflict weigh in on crisis in Lebanon


Dearborn — About 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall here on Tuesday to protest violence in Lebanon over the past week that has left at least 65 dead and 200 wounded.
The protestors were supporters of the Lebanese government's ruling March 14 coalition, which has faced demands to step down from a Hizbullah-led opposition for the past 18 months.
Last week's violence saw  Hizbullah fighters take over west Beirut, overrunning Sunni supporters of the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
"We need Lebanon, not another Iraq," said protestor Walid Nassif, Coordinator General of the Future Youth Association in the U.S. The Future Movement is the largest party in the March 14 coalition, Lebanon's majority bloc in parliament.
"I hope that this will not result in a Shi'a-Sunni conflict," Nassif said.
Fighting broke out in Beirut last Thursday after the cabinet announced plans to probe a private Hizbullah communications network and reassign the head of airport security over allegations he was close to the powerful Shi'a group. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah called the moves a declaration of war and when they were not rescinded, opposition gunmen went on the offensive in Beirut. Fighting spread to north Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and Druze areas south and east of Beirut.
Nassif said a cousin of his, a 26 year-old housewife, was killed in the Bekaa valley during one of the clashes.
"If this continues like this, we will not have Lebanon. It's very simple," he said.
Local college students who identified themselves as sympathizers of the opposition observed the demonstration from a distance.
"They have the right to freedom of speech… But the current government in Lebanon is illegitimate, and really, it's time for change. It's time that there's equal representation," said Rashid Baydoun, a Lebanese American pre-law student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Bilal Dabaja, another Lebanese UM-D student opposed to the Western-backed government, said he doesn't believe the conflict is about sectarian strife, but political alignments.
"This conflict is purely political," he said. "There’s no sectarian basis. All sects can be found on both sides… In any other country in the world, when there is such a strong opposition, you would see the prime minister resign and they would have elections."
He said that U.S. influence and support for the Siniora government has been the only thing keeping it in power in the face of massive, paralyzing civil disobedience campaigns over the past year and a half.
But Nassif said support from the U.S. has been limited to words.
"These past few days shows who has support from who," he said.
He said that if the U.S. had been deeply involved in the Lebanese government, there would have been more weapons to fight Hizbullah with.
"Where are the weapons from the U.S.? They have the weapons and we don't. Iran is helping to destroy Lebanon. If Iran really cares about Lebanon, they will support Lebanon," Nassif said. "We never want any other interference. We don't want no United States, we don't want Syria and we don't want Iran. It will not happen."
Dabaja said March 14 forces did have weapons, referring to reports that the Future Movement used a security firm to assemble a private force.
"They do have weapons. Weapons were found," he said.
He said the government is illegitimate because supporters of Hizbullah and its Shi'a and Christian allies that oppose the government make up a majority in Lebanon.
"Trust me, the majority of the people are not with the opposition," said Nassif in response.
"We respect Hizbullah when they fight Israel, but when they kill people in Lebanon, you know this is wrong," he said. "That's not the goal of a resistance… Because they disagree with their [opponents'] opinion, they want to kill them off."
Dabaja said elections should be held immediately to show who does have more support among the people.
"If you claim you have the majority, let's have elections," he said.
Edward Moussawer, a protestor from Troy who identified himself as a U.S. representative of the pro-government Lebanese Forces party, said the opposition should play by the rules.
"They should go through the legal way, to take [the government] down by voting," he said. "After two years, there's elections. Just wait. You should not use force."
Nassif said Lebanese people can no longer explain the existence of Hizbullah as a necessary entity to protect the county from Israel, now that the militia's weapons have been used against fellow Lebanese.
"We can't say that anymore. How are we going to explain this to our children, about what they did? How are we going to explain it to America, the officials? Shame on them. To kill their brothers and sisters… We live together. Shi'a and Sunni are brothers and sisters. If we disagree, we don't need to kill each other. If they disagree, they should sit down and have a dialogue… We want Hizbullah to go to the south and protect us from Israel… If [Hassan Nasrallah] believes that the weapons are more important than people, he is wrong… I hope that he doesn't mean that… I know that Hizbullah knows they made a mistake and are reflecting on what they did."
Dabaja said the violence was low-intensity, describing the clashes as being carried out by "individuals who are saying enough is enough."
Dearborn attorney and blogger Ihsan Al-Khatib, who demonstrated with the March 14 supporters, said he was glad the group could demonstrate peacefully in Dearborn with supporters of the opposing side looking on.
"They're not angry. Even though ugly things are happening in Lebanon," he said.
He said what troubled him most about the week of violence was the targeting of media outlets.
"It's unacceptable what happened to Future TV," he said.
Militants burned down the offices of Future TV, a television channel owned by parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri's family, on May 9. The station began broadcasting again on Tuesday.
During the clashes, the Lebanese army refused to engage in the fighting in order to maintain its neutrality as a multi-sectarian institution that the rival camps both support.
Nassif said he was upset the army didn't intervene.
"The role of the army is to protect the civilians," he said. "I really don't agree with the army staying neutral. By them not doing that, they really are taking sides."
Baydoun said the actions of the militants and the neutrality of the army were justified.
"In the case of a legitimate crisis, there comes a time for change," he said. "The current government have yet to prove themselves. They haven't reached out to the opposition… The people of the south have been disenfranchised for decades. It's time for us to come together as a country."
Hizbullah officials said Thursday that it would return things to normal in Lebanon, reopening the airport and removing roadblocks, after the government reversed the decisions that triggered the bloodshed.
The announcement came after a high-powered Arab League delegation arrived in the country seeking a solution to the crisis, Lebanon's worst since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.By Khalil AlHajal - The Arab American News -->

Youtube Muslim Voters in the US- CNN clip

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0ZguEEAG5s

Hassan Sabra's "Second Invasion"

In this week's Al Shiraa, the Editor of the magazine Hassan Sabra analyses the new developments in Lebanon:

http://www.alshiraa.com/alshiraa/details.asp?iss=1341&cat=2&art=1&id=13706

It's al Nakba, Just Like It's the Holocaust

The Israelis are mad that the UN Secretary General used the word al nakba.

Strange is the logic of the Israeli government.

The Palestinians were uprooted and transformed into refugees, their homes and land taken forcefully.

Palestinian heritage, many parts of it, is being stolen and called Jewish Israeli heritage. Even the Middle Eastern dish of Hummus they want to call it "Israeli dip."

1948 is the year of the Nakba/national catastrophe for the Palestinians.

This fact does not negate the need for a political solution to the conflict. This does not mean that peace is not achievable. This does not mean that the Palestinians are not ready for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The Israelis and their friends and supporters can celebrate all they want- and call the creation of Israel any and all they want- a miracle, the best thing to ever happen to humanity, etc.

But for the Palestinian people it was and is a catastrophe. For the refugees living in camps and for the occupied colonized Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza it is nothing other than an ongoing nakba that happened in 1948.

By going after the word Nakba the Israelis are attempting to rewrite history for the Palestinians- trying to steal the memory and the name of the event.

That they can never succeed at. It is itched in the collective conscience of the people and no declaration will change that. The Palestinians live the Nakba every day.

Does the name al Nakba put Israel in a negative light? Yes it does. But it is the truth and the reality of what happened to the Palestinian people. Israeli historians have written about it. Those who read these Israeli historians will agree that the term Nakba is fitting.

Historian Ilan Pappe in his book Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine calls what happened in Palestine "ethnic cleansing." This cleansing, he argues,happened long before Slobodan Milosovic and his murderous Serbian thugs, driven by religious and ethnic hate, made ethnic cleansing a household term and endured a sustained bombing campain by the US for it.

The Israelis asking the Palestinians to call the loss of 1948 other than a Nakba is a travesty on par with the Germans asking the Jews to change the name of the Nazi slaughter of the Jews from Shoah/Holocaust to "the Unfortunate Incident."

Neither will happen.

Rightly so.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Debbie Schlussel: Lone soldier Pollard is better than Served her country with Honor Prouty

Kudos to the American legal system.

Today in the Free Press, reporter David Ashenfelter writes that the Judge in the case of ex-agent Nada Prouty “blasted [her] depiction as Hizbullah agent” by “one national media outlet.
Judge Avern Cohn stated that she had served her country with distinction in Iraq and imposed a minor fine on her.

On the other hand, Michigan’s resident Islamophobe and spy apologist, missing even an ounce of honesty or patriotism, has the gall of favorably comparing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard to Ms Prouty.

Ms Prouty violated her oath by making unauthorized inquiries in the FBI database. But-evidence was offered from other agents that she "repeatedly placed herself in harm's way and never compromised national security," the Free Press reported.

However, clearly Jonathan Pollard stole over one million classified documents and called himself a lone soldier for Israel in enemy territory [the nation of his birth and generous feeding, the USA].

Pollard is hugely popular in Israel- Israel recognized him as an agent and gave him Israeli citizenship. Israel uses any opportunity to pressure the US into releasing this man- to the great anger of the US intelligence community.

And- according to “conservative commentator” Schlussel, Prouty is worse than Pollard! Good God.

And they say conservatives are strong on defense!

Our federal judges are not elected. They have lifetime tenure because our Constitution sought to insulate them for political and popular whims. Judge Cohn is a courageous and honorable man. He refused to be influenced by the right wingers who have dishonorable motive and spread lies with no shame or moral inhibition.