Sunday, March 30, 2008

The West Bank: 50 checkpoints down, 530 more to go

In The New York Times of March 31, 2008, Helene Cooper writes in “Israel Agrees to Ease Access for Palestinians” that Israel agreed to remove 50 checkpoints and roadblocks from the West Bank and Gaza.

This is a baby step in the right direction- a step that needs a major push by the US.
Israel has done very little and needs to do a lot more. A lot more is needed to increase the numbers of the moderates that believe that peace is possible after all.

My late father- in- law hailed from El Bireh in the West Bank. My wife, often and despite the Israeli- created inconveniences and obstacles, visits there. I have never been there. A few years ago she was there for her brother’s wedding. When she got back she told me how harsh Palestinians’ life is under the forty-year Israeli occupation.

The Israeli occupation visits many hardships on the almost defenseless, colonized, and occupied Palestinians. One of the major hardship is the checkpoints and roadblocks. There are so many of them. They create long lines and long waits in the open cold or open heat. Women deliver their babies and patients die while waiting to go through.

These checkpoints are usually manned by young Israeli soldiers, many of them recent immigrants. Communicating with these soldiers is difficult. The recent immigrants have difficulty speaking English, speak no Arabic at all, and speak little Hebrew. This causes frustration on both sides, frustration that is often expressed by verbal and physical abuse by the soldiers.

These soldiers are there serving their draft. They are often bored and hate their job. Many take it out on the defenseless occupied Palestinians by verbal or physical abuse or by shutting the road for reason or no reason, just to spite the Palestinians. The Palestinians, as an occupied people, have no recourse.

The Palestinians face daily indignities from the occupying, easily excitable, and bored teenagers with Uzis. Generations of Palestinians grew up experiencing the indignities visited on their parents by the occupiers. According to the CIA Factbook, 42.4% of the Palestinians of the West Bank are 14 and under. Almost half the population is being socialized in an environment that by design or by default humiliates them and their parents.

Israel has agreed to remove 50 roadblocks.

Ms Cooper writes that Israel also promised, after forty years of occupation, to “upgrade its checkpoints to reduce the waiting time for Palestinians who have been hampered in their efforts to go about their daily lives.”
Nice word. Hampered!
Ms Cooper writes that“[T]hese days, Israel has more than 580 checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank and at Gaza crossings, including an additional 30 that have gone up since the peace conference in Annapolis, Md., late last year, when Israel promised to take steps toward a peace agreement, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which closely tracks movement and access in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Almost all these checkpoints are in the West Bank, an area the CIA Factbook describes as “slightly smaller than Delaware.”

That’s way too many checkpoints- it makes moving people and material a nightmare. It increases the cost of everything for the already impoverished Palestinians. It is a form of collective punishment.
It is an injustice that needs to end.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Leader of JAM lectures on soccer

The US is helping the Iraqi government face down the Sadrist militia (Jaysh al Mahdi or JAM). Dealing with the Sadr group, which is represented in the Iraqi parliament, has been a challenge to the US. There is a video of Moqtada Sadr on youtube that might help understand why the US finds it difficult to reason with the group. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Os4ojDDE6Dc

In this clip Mr. Sadr argues that the hugely popular sport, soccer, is forbidden in Islam.

He states:

"Shariah forbids soccer…The West creates these things— why a grown up Muslim man runs after a ball?
Why run after a lowly target, the so-called goal?
Why not run after high and noble goals? Why not run after a path leading to God’s blessing? Israel and the Jews do you see them playing soccer like we do? Have Israel or the US won any international trophies in soccer? No! they make us indulge in soccer, smoking, singing, watching haram/forbidden satellite programs, while they turn to science.
Are they better than us? If you want to exercise, go swim or jog.
Why run after a ball, Habeebi/dear one? "

Jordan's Islamic Front False Witness on Lebanon

There is a joke about the mental patient who goes to the psychiatrist for help. The patient can’t stop thinking of sex. Everything is sex to him. So the doctor starts showing him pictures and asking him what does he associates the pictures with. The patient answers” sex” for everything. The doctor is frustrated and ask the patient how is it that all his answers are about sex. The patient responds: “it’s not my fault; you are the one showing me all the dirty pictures.” [ I heard this joke from the character of Bob in the classic comedy What About Bob].
When it comes to Lebanon, Jordan’s Islamic Action Front is the mental patient and the unhealthy obsession is the US.
The King of Jordan has made crystal clear statements about Lebanon, supporting the international tribunal and the government of PM Fouad Saniora. Jordan’s Islamists go out of their way to disagree for "ideological purity."
The Islamic Action Front, as to Lebanon, in a press release asked the Arab Summit to:
“…end the American intervention in Lebanese internal affairs… an intervention that is paralyzing political life and increasing the disagreements between the parties.”

In all religions, being a false witness carries a hefty threat of afterlife penalty. In Islam too- It’s either Jordan’s Islamists don’t know what’s going in Lebanon but still are taking a position (a damning offense), or they know but are blinded by ideology (another damning offense).
The events taking place in Lebanon are plain to see.
Mr. Hariri was assassinated after challenging Syria’s hegemony over Lebanon. A string of assassinations of Lebanese independent leaders and thinkers, who also challenged Syria’s hegemony, followed. The leaders and thinkers assassinated after Mr. Hariri are accused of being pro Israel. But these liars also claim that it is Israel that is assassinating them! Interesting logic that appeals only to the true believers that Eric Hoffer wrote about.

Jordan’s Islamic Front should ask themselves the following questions:
-Who shut down the Lebanese parliament?
-Which country (hint: it makes Persian carpets) did the Speaker of the Parliament visit and this visit changed his evaluation of the Saniora government from a “resistance cabinet” to an “illegitimate government”?
-Are there pro- US or pro- Iranian-Syrian axis surrounding the cabinet’s compound[with a real threat of sectarian massacres if the compound was breached], and thus paralyzing the heart of downtown Beirut ?
-Which country is sending weapons and fighters across the border in breach of all international norms and rules?
-Which country does the Mufti of Lebanon, Rashid Kabbani, single out as challenging Lebanon's sovereignty?
- Which leader, President George Bush or Ayatolllah Khameini, did Mufti Kabbani criticise for volunteering Lebanon to be the grounds for defeating his adversary?
-Which country advocates civil and human rights for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon- is it the US, Iran or Syria?

President Assad: Let the Political Prisoners Go

Syria is an Arab country that is hosting the Arab Summit.
Syria is also an Arab country that has thousands of Arab political prisoners: Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and others.
The Lebanese have been the most vocal on the issue of their political prisoners. Prime Minister Saniora pointedly and honorably raised the issue in his Summit address. But there are others.
For endless painful years they linger in the prisons of the dizzying alphabet soup of Syrian intelligence services. At the same time, Syria alleges to be holding the banner of Arabism of unity, freedom, and socialism!
Freedom, yes, freedom!
The Arab leaders should demand that Syria translate its inflated rhetoric of Arab brotherhood and unity into action. The prisoners, many who have been thrown in prison to be forgotten, should be released to be free or to serve the balance of their sentence in their home countries.
It is time to end the agony of the prisoners' families who don't know if their children are dead or alive even.
The scandal of these prisoners, a crime against decency and humanity, should come to an end. A step of this nature may help mend the relations of Syria with its Arab neighbors.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Damascus Summit:

The Syrian government refused to air Mr. Saniora’s speech to the attendees of this year’s low –profile Arab Summit.
This is a mistake reminiscent of the refusal of the Syrian-imposed President of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, of airing the address of PA President Yasser Arafat. At the time Mr. Arafat was imprisoned in Ramallah by Israeli troops. Similarly, Mr. Saniora is surrounded by Syria’s allies who wish him the same end that Israel imposed on PA President Arafat. External pressures stopped Israel from storming Arafat’s compound and arresting or killing him. Saniora is surrounded too- surrounded by [tents donated for humanitarian reasons now used for political reasons] the Syro-Iranian axis groups. They would storm the Ministerial compound had it not been for serious external and internal pressures.
One of the things that Lebanon and Palestine have in common is the fact that the Syrian regime thinks of them as lowly spheres of influence that should have the independence of a mukhtar/mayor of a small village in the Syrian region of Houran. That is no independence whatsoever.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan stood up for Lebanon by their leaders’ refusal to sit at the same table with those that have colluded to paralyze Lebanese political life-by having its Parliament closed and keeping the position of President of the Republic vacant.

Iraq and the Sectarian Militias: Only If

One can only hope that it is true that the Iraqi government is taking on the militias.
It is not possible to have the rule of law, or even the appearance of it, with private armies running amok. It is even harder to have the dignity of a state when the militias are sectarian and the minions of foreign regimes.

Looking back one wonders how things in Iraq would have turned out if, in the aftermath of the brilliant military conquest, the militias were disbanded and the Iraqi army reconstituted and strengthened.
Would there have been the nihlist alQaeda, with its hate and thirst for blood ideology, in Iraq offering itself as a protector of the Sunnis? Would it have had any appeal of significance?

Much of the bloodshed and chaos would have been avoided. Only if.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spitzer Brings Back Memory of Two Hours with the Johns

The sex scandal of Eliot Spitzer reminded me of the few solicitation cases I handled. Particularly one case. My client, a married man in his late forties, living away from his wife and children, was caught soliciting a prostitute. The “prostitute” was an undercover police officer. My client screamed entrapment since the alleged “prostitute” was really good looking and therefore hard for a red blooded man like him to say no to. I told him while I completely understand his point, that defense would not fly in court.
When he was arrested his car was impounded. He had to pay a few hundred dollars to reclaim it. It’s a lot more than he would have had to pay for the sought after service. There is money for everyone in the prostitution business-the workers, the lawyers and the government as well. Counties bring in money from forfeiture of the vehicle used to advance the crime even if the car belonged to the unknowing wife, girlfriend or a George Fox.
Since my client had rudimentary command of English I had to go through the process with him.
I went with him to the forfeiture office in the county to pay, if I recall right, nine hundred dollars to get the car used in the crime back. Part of his plea included a sex education class. He asked me to sit in the class with him- he insisted. He paid me to sit with him, the Johns, as well as the sex workers. It was some experience. I was there in the middle of the supply and demand. In that room there were no Kristens or Ashley Dupres.
Both the instructor and I were imposing ourselves on the money for sex market. I wondered if some in the demand contingent knew the ones in the supply group or that the setting provided grounds for future interaction.
The instructor was a woman in her fifties, dressed all in red, red shoes as well, with red lipstick; discussing the danger of sex, diseases. She asked the attendees what are ways, other than sex, for a man and woman to enjoy each other. She answered herself by saying I am not talking about masturbation here! She explained that the other ways are watching movies and having dinner together.
It really felt like being a member of the audience of a live show. The attendees were three classes- the mildly annoyed, the mildly amused, and the indifferent. The instructor marched on. She talked about HIV, about needles, and about AIDS.
In the end of the class they had to answer a few multiple choice questions . Then she went over the answers with the class.
No class, no fine, and no embarrassment will change prostitution. The forces and motivations for becoming a sex worker as well as a sex customer are not going to be changed by government intervention, by religion, or by societal disapproval. The penalties, the fines, the embarrassment, the humiliation, will not change the market. Government and society can vilify and sanction the participants but nothing will change. The oldest profession will continue to survive and the seekers will continue to find. And society will keep pretending that the problem is being taken care of.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kilpatrick: Undone by Age and Advisors?

Mayor Kilpatrick stands charged of violating criminal laws.
Too bad for him and the city.
I moved to Michigan in 2000 and started practicing law in 2001.
I occasionally handled cases at Detroit’s 36 district court. I have noticed positive changes that happened under the leadership of Mr. Kilpatrick. As a graduate student who commutes to Wayne State in Detroit I also noticed the changes in the city. The man deserves credit for the developments in the city and the new confidence in the city.
He finds himself in this painful situation because of his age and some of the people around him. There is a logic for setting a minimum age for public office. With age usually come experience, wisdom, and balance. Mr. Kilpatrick is an ambitious young man who had a lot of potential.
Politics is not for the faint hearted. Ambition requires risk taking and he is a risk taker. But too much risk is foolhardy- there is a lot one can do but would be crazy or foolish to do. Political office brings power. Powerful people are usually surrounded by people who tell them how great they are. Sometimes powerful people bring their friends as their advisors and the challenge is that the friends, who owe all to their buddy, to tell the powerful that they are not infallible. This is hard for young friends to say.
With age, a politician can see through the actions and the words of those around him/her and thus keep a balance.
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Add youth to the equation and you have a real high risk of self-destructive behavior.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mr. Cheney Goes to Jerusalem

Vice President Dick Cheney, on his visit to the Middle East, made strong statements on the extremists and on the stalled peace process.
He correctly singled out the extremists’ camp in Gaza, Syria and Iran and the need to confront them.
He also stated that peace requires “tremendous effort” and “painful concessions on both sides.”
To deal effectively with the extremists, the reality on the ground has to be changed and the moderates have to be empowered. It is not enough to confront those who leverage the misery of the Palestinians for their own political agendas. It is important to change the Palestinian reality on the ground- a reality that presents ample opportunity to the extremists. One only hopes that Mr. Cheney was as forceful on the peace part of the equation as he was on the confronting extremists' theme.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq After Five Years-The Failure of "Sunni Defeat" and the Chance for Building Democracy

The US invaded Iraq, removed the regime of Saddam Hussein, and promised a democracy that would serve as a model for the Arab world.
It is a well-intended but a naïve project since to build democracy you need democrats and a democratic mindset. Undemocratic regimes breed oppositions that are not themselves democratic. The national atmosphere is not conducive to breeding democratic tendencies.
The regime of Saddam Hussein was, until the sanctions period, a staunchly Arab nationalist secular regime. This regime dealt harshly with opponents of the regime especially the Islamists, the Shia and the Sunnis. While Saddam Hussein himself was a Sunni Muslim, it was not a Sunni Muslim regime in any meaningful way. The most wanted from the regime of Saddam were at least 40% Shia officials. Another evidence of the falsity of the “Sunni regime” label is the fact that the Kurds, themselves Sunnis, were also at odds with the regime.
The US promoted the war as a democracy project. Others promoted it, or at least perceived it through their prism of biases and prejudices, as a settlement of scores between Sunnis and Shia on the basis of historical grievances, real and imagined. Those, like Dr Vali Nasr and Dr Fouad Ajami, incidentally both of Iranian Shia extraction, saw and promoted the war as a part of the historical conflict between the Shia and Sunnis and not, as the US promoted , a historic movement toward free markets and free people that seems to have evaded the Arab world for the longest time.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dr. Fouad Ajami writes in “No Surrender,” again playing on the Sunni Arab-Shia theme (as if the Turkmen, Chaldeans and Kurds in Iraq are footnotes) and not the democracy theme that President Bush repeatedly emphasized. [Dr. Ajami is a cheerleader for the war and has an inability to hide or even tone down his disregard for the Arabs, particularly the majority Sunnis of them. Read anything written by Dr. Ajami and it is written in a well-reasoned scholarly tone- the exception is his writing on Arab issues, there you find a condescending tone and glee over failures and setbacks].
In the Wall Street Journal article, Dr. Ajami writes:
“The [Arab] Sunnis had all, but wrecked their chances in the new order. The American strategy in the year behind us worked to cushion the Sunni defeat. The US now sustains a large force of “volunteers” the sons of Iraq, drawn mainly from the Sunni community. This has not met with the approval of the Shiite –led government, but the attempt to create a balance between the two communities has been both deliberate and wise.”
I have just listened to President Bush make a statement on the fifth anniversary of the war and he did not mention “Sunni Defeat.” In fact he mentioned the defeat of Al Qaeda and the Shia extremists that so conveniently seem to evade Dr. Ajami’s writings on Iraq.
Unfortunately for Iraq and the alliance forces, the Shia pro-Iran Islamists understood the removal of Saddam, just like their cheerleader Dr Ajami did, as a “Sunni defeat”and dealt with the Sunnis as a defeated community. The Iraqi national professional armed forces were dismantled, prominent national secular Sunni officials were removed under the guise of debaathification, and the Sunni community found itself treated as a defeated community and at the mercy of fanatical sectarian militias. the new government was infused by sectarian militias and sectarian mindsets. In this setting, the Al Qaeda presented itself as the defender of the Sunnis.
Only a realization of these unfortunate and unintended developments, seen with the keen eyes of ambassador Khalilzad (the sectarian Shia leaders hated him and alluded to his Sunni faith by calling him Abu Omar al Buluchi), along with the surge, changed the course of events in Iraq. The US had to give a crash course in what democracy and majority rule mean to the pro-Iranian Shia Islamists, a course that until now they have not passed. The US, losing hope in the ability to reform the Shia militia infiltrated Iraqi government forces helped create the Awakening groups to fight both the Shia and the Sunni extremists attacking the Sunni Iraqis.
The Shia dominated government of Iraq refused to meaningfully include the Sunnis or to spend money in the Sunni Majority areas. On the other hand, Sayed al Hakeem, of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said Iraq should pay Iran $200 billion in compensation for the 8- year war that Saddam unleashed but the late Ayatollah Khomeini refused to end until eight years of carnage had passed (See Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival for the conversation between the Ayatollah and another Shia religious leader about the war, the massive casulaties and Khomeini’s response).
The Shia-dominated government, instead of rebuilding the country on unifying symbols, chose instead to impose narrow sectarian symbols on state institutions across the board. The national TV station emphasized Shia occasions and broadcast Ashura lamentations, with occasion and no occasion. Huge Shia flags and pictures of Ayatollahs, adorned government ministries with loudspeakers blaring Shia leaders speeches and lamentations. Shia sectarian militias ran government hospitals and Sunnis avoided them to escape abduction and death. I recall watching CNN and seeing an Iraqi army tank with the Shia black flag on it. Even the preamble of the Constitution of Iraq talked about Shia religious leaders, Shia-specific icons.
To build a nation as diverse as Iraq one needs unifying symbols that appeal across communal spectrum. The Baath government was at least able to produce symbols of the Iraq state that could appeal to all- Chaldean, Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. None of its symbols were “Sunni symbols.” Many of its heroes were even pre-Islamic such as Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar.

I recall one of the Islamist Shia leader Al Hakeem’s visits to the US to meet with President Bush in order to discuss the more meaningful inclusion of the Sunnis in Iraqi government. Hakeem’s reaction was that Iraq's problem is that the Shia are the new rulers of Iraq and the Sunnis do not seem to understand this. This is the problem. The change in the regime was not intended by the US as a “Sunni defeat.” But Dr Ajami and the Shia Islamiists characterized it as such (unlike the secular Shia Allawi, for example). The US thought of it as a war to remove a dictatorship and spread democracy. Not Ajami and the Shia Islamists.
Dr. Ajami and the Islamists pro-Iran Shia Iraqis thought of it as a Sunni defeat and a historical chance to settle scores with the Sunnis. This mindset, in large part, led to the chaos and bloodshed in Iraq. The surge, alongside US realization of this unintended consequence of the Iraq war, mean that President Bush's war to bring democracy to Iraq and the Arab world might have a fighting chance after all.

Vali Nasr, the Shia Revival and President Nasser of Egypt

I am often asked to explain the differences between the Sunnis and the Shia.
A small book that does a good job of laying out the differences is Dr. Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival. The book has a good chapter- length discussion of the differences that is very useful to grasp the differences between the two groups.
But I think Dr. Nasr is too pessimistic in his presentation and focuses too much on the negative in the history of the two groups.
However, the most unfair treatment in his book is that of Arab nationalism. It is caricatured as a Sunni ideology despite the fact that the key text of Arab nationalism, The Arab Awakening , is written by George Antonious, an Arab Christian, and that the Baath ideology is primarily Michel Aflaq’s creation, another Arab Christian.
Dr. Nasr seems to refuse to see any positive in Arab nationalism. For example, Dr. Nasr argues that one period where the differences of the Shia and Sunnis was deemphasized was a time of reaction to secularism. He writes that “the challenge of secularism manifested by Nasser’s pan Arab nationalism” made Egypt's Azhar’s rector Shaykh Mahmoud Shaltout recognize Shia law as the fifth school of Islamic law. Nasr argues that this was a response to secularism that “necessitated sectarian harmony.” P. 107
Dr. Nasr gives too much credit to Shaykh Shaltout and no credit where it’s due, to the hero of Arab nationalism, President Nasser of Egypt. It was President Nasser’s “guidance” as Aburish put it in his biography of President Nasser that made the Azhar do so. It was not an independent Azhar response to secularism. It was the secular Arab nationalist Nasser pressuring the Azhar to take that stand. And the fatwa was not merely limited to the Shia but included other groups as well such as the Druze.
Said Aburish writes:
"But perhaps the most far reaching change [initiated by Nasser’s guidance] was the fatwa commanding the readmission to mainstream Islam of the Shia, Alawais, and Druze. They had been considered heretics and idolators for hundreds of years , but Nasser put an end to this for once and for all. While endearing himself to the majority Shia of Iraq and undermining Kassem [the communist ruler of Iraq at the time] might have played a part in that decision, there is no doubting the liberalism of the man in this regard." Nasser, p.201

This reality does not sit well with the narrative of Valis Nasr’s The Shia Revival. But it is a fact. The fatwa was secularism's response to the historical communal tensions and not a religious institution's response to secularism.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hariri Murder Suspect Twists Lebanon Country Report

The State Department’s Lebanon Country Report on human rights practices for the year 2007 issued on March 11, 2008 reads in the section“Arrest and Detention":
"At year's end four Lebanese generals, who in 2005 the UNIIIC arrested and declared as suspects in the assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri, remained in custody. According to an August 28 Daily Star report, one of the detainees, General Security Major General Sayyed, reported that State Prosecutor Said Mirza informed UN Chief Investigator Brammertz that "local political considerations" were the cause for their continued detention without charges.”

Mr. Sayed, a detainee with an active press office, had his “press office” issue a statement that completely twisted the Report. Sayyed’s office states that the Annual Country Report described Sayyed’s detention as unlawful and that the US named political intervention as a factor in the unlawful detention.

There is an Arabic saying that the guilty in their deeds and actions inadvertently indict themselves. Sayyed's misrepresenting the Report’s quoting of what Sayyed himself said to a Lebanese newspaper as a statement and position of the US government on his detention is very dishonest.

The man is either desperate, guilty or both. See below Sayyed's press release as published in the communist newspaper al- Akhbar of March 18., 2008.

صدر أمس عن المكتب الإعلامي للواء الركن جميل السيد بيان جاء فيه «إن تصنيف التقرير السنوي الصادر عن الخارجية الأميركية اعتقال الضباط الأربعة بأنه تعسفي، إنما يثبت بأنه، حتى الولايات المتحدة الأميركية التي كانت قد أشادت في السابق باعتقالهم، والتي ترعى بصورة مباشرة السلطة الحاكمة في لبنان وقيام المحكمة الدولية، لم يعد بمقدورها التستّر على تجاوزات هذه السلطة، أو حماية ممارسات قضاتها، وتماديهم بالاعتقال السياسي التعسفي للضباط الأربعة ومدنيين آخرين منذ سنتين ونصف سنة إلى اليوم». وأضاف البيان إنه «كان لافتاً جداً في التقرير الأميركي إدانته لانصياع القضاة للسياسة وتسميتهم شخصياً»، كما كان لافتاً «أكثر تطرق التقرير بالاسم إلى المدعي العام التمييزي القاضي سعيد ميرزا، لجهة اعترافه أمام القاضي سيرج برامرتس، بأن الاعتبارات السياسية للسلطة اللبنانية هي التي تطلب استمرار الاعتقال التعسفي للضباط دون أيّ تهمة».

Kamal Jumblatt

Kamal Jumblatt. A member of the small but influential Druze minority was assassinated on March 16, 1977.
His murder was, as Al-Shiraa wrote last year, a part of a scheme to incite sectarian violence and position the Syrian regime as a force for law and order in Lebanon. Typical Syrian regime behavior. It creates conflicts and offers itself as a restorer of order in a game of open blackmail that has sub zero regard for human lives.
Kamal Jumblatt is one of the victims of this regime, a man that regime deemed too dangerous to remian alive.
Jumblatt's loss is a loss to Lebanon, the Arab world and all humanity. From a small village in Lebanon he rose to national and global prominence. A politician, a philosopher, a mystic, a writer, he was all, and did all well.
One of his timeless legacies is his belief in the importance of human freedom. In his writings he strongly criticized communism and the rigid quasi-fascist ideology of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SNNP), mainly on the basis of their position on human freedom. Despite that, as Interior Minister he legalized both the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social National Party.
Kamal Jumblatt is as relevant today as he was when he was assassinated. The deficit of freedom remains at the heart of all Arab problems.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Other Denounced Occupier of Arab Land- Iran and the UAE Islands

Despite all the rhetoric of the Iranian regime, it remains, along with Israel, an occupier of Arab lands.
The Iranians invited themselves to the Arab Gulf Summit and now want to be invited to the Arab Summit in Damascus. It we are inviting Iran we might as well invite Israel since both occupy Arab lands- and, in Israel's favor, at least we have a peace process with the Israelis and Iran refuses even a process to discuss its occupation of Arab land. Arab countries should translate their rhetoric on the occupation of the UAE islands into action. Maybe the regime in Tehran would have enough sense to end its occupation and colonization of UAE territory.
Below is a letter from the Arab League that summarizes the issue well.

Letter dated 13 March 2006 from the
Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council

Pursuant to Article 54 of the Charter of the United Nations, I have the honour to transmit to you herewith a decision adopted on 4 March 2006 by the Council of the League of Arab States at its meeting, held at the level of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, during its 125th regular session in Cairo, the seat of its secretariat. The decision is entitled “Occupation by Iran of the three Arab islands of the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abou Musa in the Arabian Gulf belonging to the United Arab Emirates” (decision No. 6616-125-3/4/2006).
I should be grateful if you would arrange for the text of the present letter and its annex to be circulated as a document of the Security Council.


(Signed) Yahya MahmassaniAmbassador



decision adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States

Occupation by Iran of the three Arab islands of the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa in the Arabian Gulf, which belong to the United Arab Emirates


The Council of the League of Arab States, at the Ministerial level,
Having considered:
• The note of the General Secretariat,
• The report on the activities of the General Secretariat between sessions,
• The recommendation of the Political Affairs Committee,
Guided by the decisions of the previous summit, the last of which was decision 300 of the Algiers Summit, dated 23 March 2005, concerning the occupation by the Islamic Republic of Iran of three Arab islands in the Arabian Gulf, namely the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, which belong to the United Arab Emirates,
Reaffirming its earlier decisions on the same matter, the most recent of which was decision 6554 of 8 September 2005,

Decides

1. To reaffirm without qualification the absolute sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates over its three islands of the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa and to support all peaceful measures and means adopted by the United Arab Emirates to regain its sovereignty over the occupied islands;
2. To denounce the continued consolidation by the Iranian Government of its occupation of the three islands and its violation of the sovereignty of the United Arab Emirates, which can only undermine security and stability in the region and pose a threat to international peace and security;
3. To condemn the building by the Islamic Republic of Iran of housing facilities to settle Iranians on the three occupied Arab islands;
4. To condemn the Iranian military manoeuvres being conducted also on the three occupied islands of the United Arab Emirates, namely the Greater Tunb, the Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, and those islands’ territorial waters, airspace, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, which constitute an inseparable part of the United Arab Emirates; and to request that Iran desist from such violations and acts of provocation, which constitute interference in the internal affairs of an independent, sovereign State; do not promote confidence-building; threaten security and stability in the region; and endanger the security and safety of regional and international navigation in the Arabian Gulf;
5. To appeal once again to the Iranian Government to end its occupation of the three islands of the United Arab Emirates, refrain from trying to impose a fait accompli by force, desist from establishing any installations for the purpose of modifying the islands’ demographic structure, revoke all measures and remove all installations unilaterally put in place on the three Arab islands, inasmuch as such measures and claims are null and void, lack any legal effect and do not diminish the established right of the United Arab Emirates over its three islands and are acts that run counter to the provisions of international law and the Geneva Conventions of 1949; and to call upon it to adopt peaceful means for resolving the dispute existing with regard to those islands in accordance with the principles and norms of international law, including agreement to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice;
6. To express the hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran will reconsider its position of rejecting the effort to find a peaceful solution to the issue of the three occupied islands of the United Arab Emirates either through direct, earnest negotiations or through recourse to the International Court of Justice;
7. To call upon Iran to translate its stated desire for improved relations with the Arab countries and for dialogue and détente into concrete steps, both in word and in deed, in the form of a genuine response to the earnest appeals launched by the United Arab Emirates, the States members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab States, the international community, friendly nations and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, calling for a solution to the dispute over the three occupied islands by peaceful means in accordance with customary practice and the covenants and rules of international law, either through direct, earnest negotiations or through recourse to the International Court of Justice, so as to build trust and enhance security and stability in the Arabian Gulf region;
8. To have all Arab States undertake, in their contacts with Iran, to raise the issue of Iran’s occupation of the three islands in order to stress the need to end it, based on the fact that the three islands are occupied Arab territory;
9. To inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the Security Council of the importance of maintaining the issue on the list of matters of which the Security Council is seized until Iran ends its occupation of the three Arab islands and the United Arab Emirates regains its full sovereignty over them;
10. To request the Secretary-General to follow up this matter and report to the Council at its next session.

Syria and Lebanon: Let's Talk Normal

Syria and Lebanon have to be two of the closest countries in the world. But they do not have diplomatic relations, yet.
There is so much interdependence and connections between the two. This interdependence between the two would have made them good neighbors were it not for the behavior and attitude of the Syrian regime.
The two peoples get along well. They have extensive relations, family and business. But unfortunately for both countries, the Syrian regime does not accept, more accurately “swallow,” the fact that Lebanon is an independent country- with a flag and all the other symbols of statehood.
The Syrian regime thinks of Lebanon as a province of Syria rather than as a modern nation-state. For some reason the statehood of Lebanon is a reality that is not sinking in the minds of the ruling clique of Damascus.
Apologists for this denial of reality resort to a selective and superficial reading of history and how the West “divided us.” The historical record does not settle this matter. Anyway, it does not matter what historically existed in the nature of relationship between the two- that line of thinking would threaten many states that were born from the breakup of preceding political incarnations. The fact is that Lebanon is a state that is a member of the Arab League and the UN. It has a right to exist, just like all the other Arab states have the right to exist. Syria has a seat in the UN and Arab League, Lebanon too has the same.
The Arab League and the international community should pressure Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Diplomatic relations are the normal relations between independent countries.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Qatar Gets Its First Catholic Church

Today in Qatar the first Catholic church opens its doors. Again tiny Qatar makes big news.
The land the church was built on was donated by the impressive Prince of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifeh al- Thani. Prince Hamad is the same visionary that gave the world al-Jazeera, a TV station that revolutionized the TV news business in the Arab world.
This is a great step that some see as going against established cultural practices. However, it is a step forward toward more religious tolerance that is true to the letter and spirit of Islam. For many years hundreds of thousands of Christian expatriates living in Qatar had to worship in private places. The sensitivity toward building a Christian house of worship, or any non- traditional Islamic one for that matter, is a cultural and not religious issue. Islam itself, in an unequivocal Koranic verse, advocates no compulsion in religion. Therefore, freedom to worship according to one’s beliefs should be allowed and it should be the standard in dealing with all faith groups.
Other Arab Gulf states such as Kuwait and the UAE have long had Christian churches.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Talal Chahine and the Hizbullah- A Community Question?

The famed La Shish Middle Eastern restaurant chain built by Lebanese Shia immigrant Talal Shahin was closed recently. The Free Press story written by David Shenfelter and Niraj Warikoo emphasized that the demise of the chain was caused primarily by the government’s labeling the owner a “terrorist sympathizer” for alleged support of the Hizbullah, a group the US classifies as a terrorist organization.
Talal Chahine, a prominent figure in Dearborn, is not known to be a religious person or a hard liner in any way. The government alleges that he broke tax laws. But his case was not labeled as a criminal tax case. The picture of him sitting next to Sayed Fadlallah, the alleged one-time spiritual leader of Hizbullah made the government accuse him of being a Hizbullah sympathizer and his criminal tax case a terror-related case.
The choice of the label “sympathizer” is interesting. The label “sympathizer” is not a legal term. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sympathize as “to be in accord or harmony with” or “to be in sympathy intellectually.” The fact that the government slapped this label on Mr. Chahin and that this label is the primary force dooming his restaurant, is troubling.
Most Lebanese Shiites, public opinion polls show, are sympathetic to Hizbullah, a group that is involved in a political struggle inside Lebanon to secure more political power to the Shia community in Lebanese politics.
It has long seemed odd how Hizbullah appeals to the Lebanese Shiites, of all classes, backgrounds and degrees of religiosity. I have come across Shiites who have married outside the faith, have no connection to Shiism in any way other than their heritage, rooting for Hizbullah and some getting emotionally scarred by any criticism of the group which the US classifies as a foreign terrorist organization.
One explanation offered for the appeal of the group is its success in driving the Israelis out of Southern Lebanon. Another explanation is its network of human services organizations that employs thousands of people and have benefited hundreds of thousands of Shia that allegedly the Lebanese government seems unwilling or unable to help.
While pride and the economic factors help in understanding the appeal of the group, these factors do not fully explain why the group appeals to most Shia Lebanese, even wealthy non- observant individuals who were born and raised in the West and have never stepped foot in the Arab world, strongly support Hizbullah (Overwhelmingly- this support is emotional and not of the illegal type).
Professor Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh, previously of the American University of Beirut, has an explanation in his excellent book, In the Path of Hizbullah. In this book, Dr. Hamzeh goes over the history of the Lebanese Shiites to make an argument for a Shiite “identity crisis” that made the community ripe for the appeal (some say crafty manipulation) of the Hizbullah.

Dr. Hamzeh writes that the Shia see themselves the legitimate interpreters of Islam that have been wrongly marginalized historically. Shiite Islam’s dominance in the 10th century had the Shiite Buyids dynasty ruling Iran and Iraq while the Shiite Fatimid Ismailis ruled Egypt, North Africa and Syria. This dominance ended with the conquest of Salah al Din Al Ayyubi and the Turkish Mamluks ending Shia rule with no signs of resurgence until the revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.
The defeat of the Shia rulers resulted in the Shia of Lebanon, Professor Hamzeh states, being pushed off lands in the coastal areas and Mount Lebanon. The beneficiaries of the loss were mainly the Druze, the Sunnis and the Maronites.
Today Hizbullah in its rhetoric alludes to this unfortunate history and positions itself as the protector of Lebanon’s Shia from possible uprooting. The Shia of Lebanon, partly due to Hizbullah’s rhetoric and actions, feel insecure and the Hizbullah offers itself as their protector. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the group, in his “divine victory” speech made the patently dubious allegation that the Lebanese government was slow in rebuilding the South because the pro- West government of Mr. Fouad Saniora and the West want to remove the Shia from their villages and replace them by the Palestinian refugees. While this allegation is wild and unfounded, it achieved its intended purpose of making the Lebanese Shia feel insecure. In this insecure environment, Mr. Nasrallah presented Hizbullah as the protector of the Shia who would rebuild their homes with “clean” Iranian money and thus stand in the way of their alleged forced removal.
The reality of it is that the Hizbullah group appeals to the overwhelming majority of the Shia Lebanese. However, this appeal is not a statement on American domestic or even foreign policy. Chahine is not the only American Shia Lebanese with some picture next to some Hizbullah symbol. Southern Lebanon is littered with pictures of Hizbullah icons or destroyed Israeli tanks with Hizbullah flags on them. Many of the Shia Lebanese and other Lebanese as well have taken pictures next to these symbols. A picture next to a Hizbullah symbol; and/or a blood, village or even a marriage relationship to a Hizbullah member, should not be construed as a relationship to a terror group or support to its goals.
A citizen's patriotism should not be questioned on the basis of internal politics of a foreign land. The appeal of the Hizbullah group is more a statement about the Shia and Lebanese politics. For this, mere sympathy to the group, is not a threat to the US and should not be a label used to bring demise.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Iran and the US: Where Adm. Fallon Went Wrong

Admiral Fallon, the top US commander in the Middle East resigned.
It’s good that he resigned and what he said could only hurt US national interests and the cause of peace.
His statements that challenged the President are improper. He is a soldier and soldiers follow orders. In a democracy the civilian officials make foreign policy decisions and war decisions. Not the men in uniform no matter how high ranking they are.
Esquire writing that he is “brazenly challenging his commander in chief” regarding a possible war with Iran is just plain constitutionally wrong. Again because he is a soldier and Mr. Bush is his commander in chief and soldiers do not brazenly challenge” their commander in chief- not publicly, at least
Gen. Fallon does not want the US involved in more wars. This is a good mindset for soldiers. But Iran is an aspiring regional power that stands accused of supporting the enemies of the US- financially and otherwise. Mixed messages can only embolden this adversary. Adm. Fallon stating that war with Iran is “strategically unsound” and his playing down the possibility of an American strike on Iran and characterizing a possible attack as “a mistake” can only embolden the Iranians to take more risk in dealing with the US. This emboldening makes armed conflict much more probable, if not necessary.
An Iran that is not afraid of a possible American attack is an Iran that makes an attack inevitable.
President Bush handled the situation with dignity in thanking Adm. Fallon for serving his country “with honor, determination and commitment.”

Monday, March 10, 2008

Israel Aids and Abets the Extremists

Israel declared that it plans to build hundreds of homes in the occupied lands of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The moderate Abbas government called this action a blow to peace.
It’s more than that.
It’s a giant boost to the radicals and extremists and another Israeli blow to the moderates.
The world wants the moderates in charge in the Arab world. Israel wants extremists in charge. While its words indicate otherwise, Israel’s actions allow only this reasonable reading.
The building of more Jewish-only housing on Palestinian occupied land is part of the Israeli scheme to empower the radicals. It is a fitting next step to the barbaric attack on the civilians in Gaza- meant to inflame and harden Arab and Muslim opinion by promising the Palestinians, of all things, a Holocaust.
Both steps are meant to boost the extremists and weaken the moderates.
Only one conclusion from these two steps- Israel does not want peace.
Israel wants the extremists to win so that there is no pressure to give back occupied land and it has a voracious appetite for occupied land.
Also, with extremists in charge the world opinion, especially in the West, would have a higher tolerance for Israel’s excessive use of violence and collective punishment of the Palestinians.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On Iran- Ideology and National Interest

Iran is a pragmatic country that is aspiring for a regional role but uses ideology to achieve this role. Despite its hard rhetoric, it is seeking recognition of a dominant role in the Middle East, alongside Israel and the US.
This is the gist of Treacherous Alliances- the secret dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States by Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council.

The zealot pro- Israel advocates call anyone who criticises Israel an anti- Semite. The Iranians and their tribe of followers call those who criticise their policies a Nassibi {this is a vintage label in its anachronism], an enemy of Ahl al Bayt (family of the Prophet), or a Baathist. This accusation can not be levied against Parsi.( The Iranians, though, can come up with a self-hating label to those Iranians who say disagreeable things, like Parsi does).

Anyway- Parsi writes that Iran “uses ideology to achieve hard headed national interest objectives, rather than sacrifice national interests on the altar of extremist ideological goals.”
This perhaps explains why President Nijad of Iran addresses the Iranian Umma not the Muslim umma or the Shiite Muslim umma even.
Iran basically uses militant Shia Islamism to advance its national interests- regardless of how much trouble, namely Shia- Sunni tension, it is causing in the Arab Middle East.
The eight- year war with Iraq that ended August 20, 1988 and cost hundreds of billions of dollars and one million casualties, most of them Iranians was an attempt to expand influence and advance Iranian national interests.
As to Lebanon and Israel, Parsi writes “Tehran badly needed progress in exporting its revolution. It had failed in Iraq and Bahrain, in spite of the majority Shia populations of those countries. Now, thanks to the Israelis invasion of Lebanon, Iran was given the opportunity to plant the seeds of an Islamic revolution in the Levant….Not only did Hezbollah provide Iran with a foothold in the Levant, it also presented Iran with an even more valuable card: an abundance of potential American hostages .” p. 111
Iran used these hostages to get weapons parts that it needed. These came through Israel and this came out in the Iran -Contra scandal.
Parsi writes that “as the full extent of Iran’s dealings with Israel came to light, Iranian denunciations of Israel rang increasingly hollow” P. 128.

The Shia and Hizbullah: What explains the Appeal?

It has long seemed odd how Hizbullah appeals to the Shiites, of all classes, backgrounds and degrees of religiosity.
I have come across Shiites who have married outside the faith, have no connection to Shiism in any way other than their heritage, rooting for Hizbullah and some getting emotionally scarred by any criticism of the group which the US classifies as a foreign terrorist organization
This has puzzled me and others.
The Lebanese Shiites are a rural community with about 85% of them living in the underdeveloped areas of South Lebanon and the Bekaa.
My friend Professor Imad Salamey of the Lebanese American University (LAU aka BUC) of Beirut co-wrote an article emphasizing that economic issues have played a major role in the appeal of the group to the Shiites who live mainly in underdeveloped areas or in the largely impoverished suburbs of Beirut called Dahyeh.
Along the same thinking, Mr. Ahmad al Asaad, the son of the previous Speaker of the Parliament, Kamel al Assad, in his recent visit to Washington spoke about massive Iranian financial support and how about 37,000 Shiite families are direct beneficiaries of Hizbullah. This level of support has built a major constituency for the group, Mr. Al Asaad argued.
The economic factor is definitely important. But the economic argument cannot explain why wealthy non- observant individuals, even those born and raised in the West and never having stepped foot in the Arab world, strongly support Hizbullah. (Overwhelmingly- this support is emotional and not of the illegal type).
Professor Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh, previously of the American University of Beirut, has a better explanation that he provides in his excellent book, In the Path of Hizbulah.
In this book Dr. Hamzeh goes over the history of the Shiites to make an argument for a Shiite “identity crisis” that made the community ripe for the appeal of the Hizbullah.
He begins his book by a short but highly informative overview of the emergence of Shiism. He writes “The most outstanding aspect of the Shiite belief system is their conviction that their community, because of its lineage from the prophet through the Imams, is he legitimate interpreter of Islam” (p. 8)
Then he goes over the history of the sect that dominated the Muslim world in the 10th century, a dominance that receded and had no signs of resurgence until the revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Shiite Islam’s dominance in the 10th century had the Shiite Buyids dynasty ruling Iran and Iraq while the Shiite Fatimid Ismailis ruled Egypt, North Africa and Syria. This dominance ended with the conquests of Salah al Din Al Ayyubi and the Turkish Mamluks.

As to Lebanon, the Sunni Mamluks distrusted the Shiites and pushed them away from Kisrwan, replacing them by the Christian Maronites and in the coastal areas replacing them by the Sunnis. Historically, the Shiite community lost land and associated privileges to the benefit of the Druze, Sunnis and the Maronites. Even Fakhr al Din, a giant of Lebanese history, is said to have persecuted the Shiites.
I think Dr. Hamzeh's explanation carries water.
It is the only analysis that explains why Haifa Wehbe’, the half- Shiite Lebanese, half Egyptian artist (famous for the Wawa song, among other classics) would declare that she supports Hizbullah and its leader! She neither wears a chador nor wants economically.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

The Lebanese secular al Safeer newspaper.
The Lebanese leftist/ secular/communist Al Akhbar
Both called the individual who attacked the Jewish religious school in Jerusalem a “shaheed” or martyr.

When Arab seculars and communists, in addition to Islamists, call this person a martyr, it is further proof that the conflict is, not surprisingly, a political conflict between Jewish nationalism and Palestinian nationalism- not a religious conflict.

Neither party in this conflict is respecting international law. It's a fact regardless of who has the big guns- and it's Israel who has the big guns here.

Noncombatants continue to suffer.

divine tragedy and divine comedy

The ongoing bloodshed in Palestine is a divine tragedy.

The celerations of "divine victories" a divine comedy.

The puppeteers in Damascus and Tehran- only a similar "divine victory" for them, like Gaza's and Lebanon's, would be divine justice.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Enemies of Freedom Unite!- Arab communists and their Radical Islamist bedfellows

It has been a mystery to me- why do many Arab Communists attack Arab liberals.
Why do they support Islamists of all stripes: radical, half- radical, extremist, terrorist, of any and all flavors and incarnations.
Come one, come all- rain or shine. Support is what you get.
You see Arab communists, for example, attacking the legacy of PM Rafic Hariri. You wonder-The late PM Rafic Hariri and his thinking would let them speak their minds. The radical Islamists they support would pull what the late Ayatollah Khomeini pulled on their friends in the Iranian communist party. The radicals would blow them up or shoot them up. The liberals would let them speak as they do. How active is the Iranian communist party these days?
The communists are not afraid of the liberals harming them. They know that no one with a machine gun would be hiding to kill them for attacking a liberal. It is always safe to attack liberals- but we all know what happens to those who attack the others.
So attack they do- enjoying the safety of their attack.
I solved this apparent riddle, the love of Islamists of all stripes, the hate of liberals of all stripes, when I looked into what the Islamists and the leftists have in common- both don’t believe in free people and free markets. Both believe in a dominant state that imposes choices on its subjects in then name of a rigid and utopian ideology.
Oddly, they think that what failed in the Ukraine and Bulgaria would work in Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian occupied territories.
They believe that the Islamists would take over the state, fail miserably and then the people would, magically, discover that Marx after all, not God, has all the answers- economic, social, political, etc.
Had there not been an Iran, one would have excused them. But even with the Iranian theocratic state, they seem unable to learn.
Why?
This is because they are fundamentalists just like the Islamic fundamentalists. Economics, history and experience don’t mean a thing.
Ideology does.

The Persian Cat that Roared

I read today that Iran is sending a warship to the Mediterranean to show support for its allies.

Iran sending a message to the West! With all the support of Israel and Iran could not defeat Saddam's Iraq in an 8- year bloody war. Eight years fighting a smaller country and Iran could not win.
Iran is a country that loves superlatives with everything that is Persian. Even the Shah's name was king of kings. But the reality is that Iran is a country whose people have to deal with corruptiona and lack of freedom- the same handicaps that other less developed nations have.
The Iranian pistachio and carpet economy would make them another struggling corrupt and unfree country if it were not for oil. An awareness of their size can only serve the cause of peace.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Suehaila Amen

On March 3, 2008, our state resident Islamophobe, Debbie Schlussel wrote:
“And, to make matters worse, Wal-Mart hired Suehaila Amen, an openly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, pro-Hezbollah Shi'ite Muslim to give ethnic sensitivity training to Wal-Mart employees. Yup, an anti-Semite supporter of Islamic terrorists giving sensitivity training. Sounds about right.”
Anti- Semitic? Please, she is a Lebanese Arab. As Semitic as you can get. And we all know she does not hate herself.
Anti-Israel? Yes- anti occupation, checkpoints, targeted killings, illegal flights over Lebanon, collective punishment, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee or be evicted from their homes, having the longest ongoing occupation in the world, that of the West Bank and Gaza- among other bad acts. What else is there to “love” about Israel!
Suehaila Amen! Again- a member of the community pays a price for political participation.
And she admires the success of Hizbullah in chasing Israel out of Lebanon. What a crime! If she does admire the group’s success, it’s not a crime.
Ms Amen is an amazing person.
I met her when I moved to Dearborn in 2000. She is involved in some many groups. Almost everyone in Dearborn knows her. With an open heart and open mind, she is willing to extend a hand and help. She volunteers her time to serve her community selflessly and for that she has been recognized and awarded.
She also wears a hijab or headscarf.
Anyone that entertains any ideas that Muslims dominate their women and make them wear a hijab, I invite you to meet Suehaila. Tread carefully. She is a confident, outgoing and likeable person, but don’t assume that because she wears that headscarf and has a wide smile fool you and make you think that you can cross her and get away with it. Cross her and you are in real trouble.
I am glad that she is going to be conducting sensitivity training. The fact that Wal- Mart chose her means that Wal-Mart knows the community well. I wish Wal- Mart and Suehaila much success.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner, was interviewed by Emily Parker of the Wall Street Journal in “Subprime Lender” March 1-2, 2008.
Parker writes in “Subprime Lender”:
‘“They said we are destroying their religion because we are giving money to women.”
Some protested that women shouldn’t work outside, or get involved with money. The man, the argument goes is supposed to be the breadwinner of the family. Mr. Yunus told his critics to go back and study Islamic history. “The prophet’s first job was to work for a woman [Khadijah], who was a businesswoman,” he explains. Some critics said that in Islam, women are not supposed to go out. Mr. Yunus response? ‘That’s not true. In Islamic history women were everywhere. “’