Monday, April 28, 2008

Zakat in America

Zakat is arguably more important for the Muslim faith than prayer itself.
The situation facing American Muslim charities puts American Muslims in a bind. Whom to give?
American citizens have a constitutional right to give zakat, organizations don't have a constitutional right to take zakat.

Either alternative American Muslim organizations that the US government trusts should be set up to meet the religious need to give or American non- Muslim organizations should establish Zakat compliant funds that spend the money on needy Muslims in the world, just like some American banks have been offering Sharia compliant mortgages.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alimony for Men: the Blessings of Gender Equality

"Men Receiving Alimony Want a Little Respect- Modern Males say Living off the Ex-Wife is no cause for Shame"- Wall Street Journal 4/1/08 by Anita Raghavan.

It is rare that a WSJ article makes me laugh. This one did.

Alimony for men. Great.
Only fair.

Marriage is a partnership and if a partner wants out- that’s their right- but economic fairness is gender blind.

One woman who has to pay alimony, $9,000 a month, Rhonda Friedman, a supervising producer of the Bold and the Beautiful, is extremely unhappy with having to pay alimony to her ex husband whom the Journal described as "stays in phenomenal shape and looks much younger than his 50 years."

With $9,000 a month he has a lot of time to work out.

Ms Friedman voiced what men have for many years been screaming in anger in objecting to alimony.

She is quoted saying:

“I feel financially raped”
“I don’t understand why someone becomes your financial responsibility just because you married them.”

The article reads “so distasteful are the monthly payments she makes to him that after filling out the check she used to spit on it. Especially galling, she says, is that she was required to pay a substantial portion of the legal fees he racked up while securing a lucrative divorce agreement”… Ms Friedman hotly denies that he [her ex- husband] had anything to do with her success.”

When the shoe is on the other foot…..

The UN Food Progamme

One billion people live on a dollar a day.
The Economist of 4/19/2008 writes that “the UN World Food Programme is the largest distributor of food aid and its most important barrier between hungry people and starvation.”
There is a low opinion of the UN in the US. The UN does a lot of good that is not advertised enough.

http://www.wfp.org/english/

NWFP and Sadr City: The Myth and the Reality

Poverty does not cause radicalism.
Reading the news on Pakistan and Iraq one would think just because the residents of some area have no access to basic services there is a situation ripe for anti American sentiment.
The fact that Sadr city in Baghdad does not have many basic services, that garbage is not picked up or there is no electricity, services that we take for granted, does not explain why the Mahdi army is active in Sadr city.
[ See, for example, CSM story, U.S. pushes utilities to counter Moqtada al-Sadr
US general in Baghdad says bringing basic services to Sadr City to weaken Sadr and his militia can work this time.
By Howard LaFranchi


http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0428/p01s03-wome.html]

The fact that the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan is poor and lacking almost everything does not explain why the Al Qaeda finds refuge there.
The US spent billions of dollars on aid to Pakistan. This will not destroy the Al-Qaeda in NWFP. The answer is not spending more money on the problem.
There are huge needs for services in poor areas of the world. If the thinking is bettering the lives of the dirt poor in order to fight radicalism, we will go bankrupt before we make a dent in the poor areas.
I was in the NWFP almost two years ago. I was at an area that was flooded. The residents of the area were dirt poor as is, before the flood. The flood melted away their homes and destroyed their meager possessions. Trash was strewn everywhere. People’s belongings, what’s left of them, were piled next to the homes.
Despite that I did not see angry people. The kids were running around playing. The parents were walking around smiling back when we greeted them. I saw a few people sitting next to a flooded house, drinking tea, and chatting. We greeted them and they smiled and invited us for tea despite the fact that the area had a really foul smell.
We distributed blankets. There was a long line for the blankets. It was humid and everyone was sweating profusely. Not one fight or argument broke out. People gladly took the blankets. We could have spent ten times more on them that day and they would have acted the same.
Eradicating poverty is a huge undertaking and thinking of it as a way to fight terrorism is setting ourselves for a hugely expensive undertaking on a good cause that is not really the cause of terrorism and radicalism.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Schlussel Lies about Siblani

The Internet is the Wild West of the news business.
There is no regulation and info. is thrown in- there is the good, the bad and the ugly.
The ugly is those who spread lies. The lies get carried by other sites and the lie, unchallenged, becomes "the truth."

Right- wing extremists, and their subgroup of Muslim radicals, have used the internet to spread lies, hate and to recruit to their hateful messages.

One of these right wingers is a Detroit local, Debbie Schlussel, who is obsessed with American Arabs and Muslims. She, like the late terrorist Meir Kahane, is concerned about their presence and their influence. Kahane saw this presence as a threat to the pro Israel monopoly on the national dialogue on Israel. They want it a monologue of pro –Israel "Amen corner" monopoly as Pat Buchanan put it. To keep the monologue going on, they make sure to vilify and demonize activist Arabs and Muslims. 911 boosted their efforts tremendously.

Below is an excerpt from Schlussel. The subject is Osama Siblani, a well-known Arab American activist whose involvement in Arab and Muslim issues have earned him the hate of Debbie Schlussel. She hates him enough to spead lies about him.

Schlussel writes:

“My favorite part of this story is that extremist Osama Siblani--Shi'ite Muslim publisher of the Arab American News, open supporter of Hezbollah and HAMAS (he praised them at Hezbollah rallies and elsewhere), and identified as an agent of Hezbollah by Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Seyassah--is all over Detroit TV, saying that he's calling for Kilpatrick's resignation.
PUH-LEEZE.
Osama Siblani:
Hezbollah's American Agent Hung w/ Kwame "The Kingpin" Kilpatrick
Siblani and the Muslims in town were in bed with Kilpatrick for the last five years, taking him to Dubai on a lavish trip, getting him to make Dubai a sister city of Detroit, and getting him to agree to nix profiling of Muslim illegal aliens by Detroit Police, making Detroit a sanctuary city for them.
Siblani's crocodile tears over Kilpatrick now are pure, oozing snake oil.” http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2008/03/d-day_in_detroi.html

I am a native speaker of Arabic- I read the Kuwaiti Alseyassah article more than one time- the linked article neither mentions Siblani’s name nor says anything remotely about him, directly or indirectly. The newspaper did not identify anyone as an agent of Hizbullah.

Attorneys are sworn to uphold the truth.

Schlussel spreads lies out of hate of Arabs and Muslims.

Iran's Open War

Another pro-Iran Arab militant declares “open war.”
Moqtada Sadr, from Iran, declared open war unless the pro-Iran Maliki government of Iraq ends its assault on his rag tag army of thugs and illiterates, a group of thugs specialized in burning Sunni mosques, and torturing and killing innocent Sunnis .
Another Iranian creation in Lebanon, months before, declared “open war all over the world” after the high profile Hizbullah leader Imad Moghnieh was assassinated in Damascus.
The political language is interesting- “open war”-
Both are empty threats unless the Mullahs in Tehran deem the timing right.
Iran is not ready now for an open confrontation with the US.

Pope Benedict and the War on Terror

According to the Wall Street Journal, at the UN Pope Benedict “told diplomats that a lack of respect and economic fairness for all nations will provoke violence.”
Another headline in the paper on the Pope visit reads: “Benedict, in New York, warns on poverty”
This is what the Pope does best- speak out against poverty and violations of human dignity. He can be a powerful voice for the underprivileged- just like John Paul II was.
The comments and actions of Pope Benedicts about Islam have been very harmful to the cause of fighting extremism. His infamous quote on Islam and the high profile baptism of a Muslim Italian only emboldens the extremists who are preaching that there is a Crusade against Islam. The Pope’s actions and words have been very helpful to the extremists.
The Dalai Lama, another religious figure of international stature, on a visit to Ann Arbor said that people should seek contentment and peace.
These are messages that need to be said and heard- over and over.
The Pope can do the world a big favor if he stays away from playing into the hands of the extremists and continue on the well-trodden path of John Paul II that made the Pope the conscience of the world.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The PLOing of the Hizbullah

Hizbullah is on the path of the PLO.
The PLO clashed with the Jordanian government and the Lebanese government for exactly the same things that Hizbullah is irresponsibly doing now.
Hizbullah is claiming the right to make decisions of war, usurping the state’s monopoly on violence, and standing in the way of enforcement of law and order.
They are the same transgressions on the State that the PLO stood accused of in Jordan and in Lebanon. In both countries it ended real ugly.
Syria under Hafiz Assad made sure not to fall in the same situation by putting onerous restrictions on the different Palestinian factions it hosted/captured. It is undreamt of that any group would even dare do in Syria what the PLO did in Jordan and Lebanon and what the Hizbullah is doing now in Lebanon.
The Hizbullah took Lebanon to war and imposed a massive armed conflict on the government and its people.
Hizbullah is stopping the government from enforcing laws, such as building codes, in its islands of lawlessness. The Hizbullah is allegedly detaining and interrogating government security personnel while they are enforcing the law!
Hizbullah has intelligence and armed services that exist independently from the Lebanese state. In many ways they are stronger than the government itself.
This cannot continue.
A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hizbullah and Sunni-Shia Tension in Lebanon

I have always wondered how relations between the Shia and Sunnis of Lebanon have deteriorated so badly.

Hizbullah is mainly to blame.

In the modern history of Lebanon, the assassination of PM Hariri stands out as the key defining event for the Sunni Lebanese community.

The Lebanese and Syrian security agencies are suspected of collusion in the assassination.
The Hizbullah was part of the security arrangement that included the Syrian and Lebanese security forces.

PM Rafic Hariri was assassinated by a huge bomb after months of being vilified by Syria’s stooges, such as foul-mouthed Suleiman Franjieh and Weam Wahab, having his security detail reduced, and after a taped tacit threat from the Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem.

PM Hariri was not sectarian or confessional. He was an open- minded modern statesman. However, with his savage killing in Beirut, while a sizeable segment of the Lebanese people across the confessional spectrum rose in protest of this death, the Lebanese Sunnis, given that PM Hariri belonged to their sect, took ownership of his cause and were mobilized into political action by his death. The Sunnis felt that killing the great man was aimed at snuffing what’s left of Lebanese freedom as well as dealing their community a deadly blow.

There were whispers that Hizbullah is involved somehow due to its security ties to the accused Lebanese and Syrian security structures. However, the focus of the outpouring of anger was on the Lebanese and the Syrian security forces. After the Syrians were forced to leave Lebanon, the heads of the Lebanese security agencies were arrested on suspicion of complicity with the murder.

Despite the pro-West 14th of March effort to defuse Shia –Sunni tensions, Hizbullah’s actions kept fanning the flames.

Two main deeds stand out.

First, Hizbullah arranged a massive (Shia) demonstration thanking the Syrian regime suspected of killing the Sunni PM. Hizbullah also gave the “rifle of the resistance” as a gift to the forced-out Syrian intelligence chief who is a prime suspect in the murder.
As a result, Sunni anger and sense of betrayal reach a boiling point. A number of sectarian clashes erupted here and there over the subsequent years.

Lately the tension had stabilized at a tolerable level until lately Hizbullah in spearheading the effort to release the four heads of the security agencies charged with the murder of PM Rafic Hariri again kicked the tension sky high.

Friday, April 18, 2008

President Nijad and the Israeli Extremists: The Death Wish Club

Yesterday Iran celebrated its “Army Day.”

In a speech President Nijad humbly declared Iran the “strongest country in the world.”
Of course the Iranians can't have a ball without the usual Death to America and Death to Israel chants.

I can’t think of anything that shocks the conscience the same way as these chants do. Only someone with a depraved heart would stoop to this level.

Israeli extremists are on the same page as President Nijad.

Mr. Ali Anunimah in "Anti-Arab Racism and Incitement in Israel" writes about the equally repugnant "Death to Arabs" chants in Israel that are becoming common in Israel. Palestine Center Information Brief No. 161 (25 March 2008)

‘One particularly disturbing indicator is that the chant "Death to the Arabs" is voiced not just by mobs of right-wingers angered by this or that Palestinian attack. Rather, "in the late 1990s and onwards," writes Amir Ben-Porat, a professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Ben Gurion University, "'Death to the Arabs' became a common chant in almost every football [soccer] stadium in Israel." Ben-Porat, who authored a study on the use of the chant, says that because of the importance of soccer in Israeli society and its high profile in the media, "This chant is heard far beyond the stadium."[Amir Ben-Porat, "Death to the Arabs: the right-wing fan's fear," Soccer & Society, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 1-13]. http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/world/2008/03/395067.html


Extremists of all types are the same- they hate people (kind of get high on hate) that are different from them and think that they themselves are inherently better than others due to ascriptive qualities.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Iran and Google Earth: Arab or Persian Gulf?

In President Bush’s last speech on Iraq, Iran was a big part.

In the Arab world- Iran is an item on the top of the public and government agendas.
In an interview with a Saudi newspaper, the pro-West Prime Minister of Lebanon, the courageous and honorable Mr. Fouad Saniora said that Iran should stay away from Arab issues. Well stated.

In an article in the Al Arabiya news site about the reaction of Iran to Google Earth’s naming the “Persian Gulf” the Arab Gulf ( http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/04/16/48377.html) the Iranians got mighty angry at the perceived slight and they threatened legal action since the naming of the Gulf “Arab” is nothing but a “crime” as one official stated!

This new item generated 490 responses. Almost all very harsh on Iran. Common themes:

“Iran was defeated by the Iraqis in the 8 year war.
There are Arabs on both sides of the Gulf- the residents of the Iranian side are ethnic Arabs. The Persians are historically mountain people and not sea people.
Iran is like Israel- trying to resurrect its empire in the Arab world.
There are more Arab states on the Gulf- therefore it’s the Arab Gulf.
We should call it neither Arab nor Persian- let’s call it Islamic [Iran refused this offer at one Muslim League meeting]
Iran is not a Muslim county. It is an enemy of Islam. The Iranians worship fire. They should thank the Arabs who led them to worship God.
Iran is the enemy of Islam. Hope the US attacks them and nukes them.
The Iranian language has many Arab words and its people have many Arab names. Why the sensitivity to the word Arab in Arab Gulf?”

Obviously-

The Iranians are antagonizing the Arabs by their policies.
Overwelmingly- if the commenters reflect wider public opinion-there is no love for them.
I remember in high school in the 80s one of my classmates was excited about Iran. He is a Sayed, a descendant of the Prophet’s family. He was so excited about Iran that he was studying Persian, hoping for a victory of Iran over Iraq, and claiming that he is actually of Iranian and not Arab origin [God forbid]! The Prophet himself was Arab and if he is a descendant he should be Arab too.

The response of Iran to Google Earth reminded me of Persian Pilgrimages: Journey Across Iran, a book by Iranian American Afshin Molavi. He wrote that the Iranians- even in the Islamic Republic he visited- have an inferiority complex toward the West and a superiority complex toward the Arab.

I remember also hearing from the fans of Iran frequently that Saudi Arabia is “the holiest ground, the worst people.” It’s odd but the Prophet himself hailed from modern day Saudi Arabia? And what the Shia Muslims call “Ahl Al Bayt” also came from there! What does that say of them!
This is not good Iranian influence.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lebanon: Building codes and the Rule of Law

An item in today’s Lebanese al Akhbar caught my attention. http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/70439.

The Lebanese security forces are having trouble enforcing building codes- basically they are increasingly unable too. The writer, Reema Hoteit, states that this difficulty is especially acute in the Southern suburbs of Beirut, an area dominated by the Shia Islamist group Hizbullah.

Human beings everywhere need government. A building code means safety. On many occasions, the police enforcing building codes are faced by angry mobs that include children and women.
In the future if these structures fall on the occupants the outcry will be why the government is not doing its job. PM Fouad Saniora would be blamed!

It’s appalling that the safety of human beings is not being paid enough attention too. The Beirut suburbs are dominated by the Hizbullah. Hizbullah claims to be the defender and protector of the Lebanese Shia. However, their lack of interest in this safety issue is deeply troubling. You would expect them to value life and have their motorized activists who appear out of nowhere when there are street riots, to be on the street explaining the importance of safety to their natural supporters.

It did not happen.

Maybe people need a fatwa to tell them to respect building codes!

The lack of political support, across the political spectrum, for police enforcement of building codes tells us a lot. Lebanon is still a developing country and the rule of law is not an established value that is accepted by the populace.

Without the rule of law, there is no democracy.

Misery in Lebanon: The Palestinian Refugees' 60th Year

60 years.

This is the age of the State of Israel and the age of the Palestinian refugee situation.
The birth of Israel resulted in the fleeing or forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. They sought refuge in neighboring countries. One of these countries is Lebanon.

There is no country of refuge that the Palestinian refugees fared worse- and are faring worse-than in Lebanon.

In the history of Palestine two massacres stand out in the international conscience- one is Deir Yassin in today’s Israel and the other is the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut.

Every other day a Lebanese politician comes out of no where to state how the "conspiracy of naturalizing the Palestinians" would only succeed on his dead body. Each politician goes out of his way to show he is more against than anyone else the solving of the "Palestinian problem" by settling the Palestinians in Lebanon.

A Shia Islamist leader, not too long ago, said that the conspiracy is to remove the Lebanese Shia from the South and replace them with the Palestinian refugees!

During the civil war, the Christian rightist militias entered the civil war under the slogan of fighting the naturalization of the Palestinians. Of course, "Palestinian" here means the Sunni Muslim ones, the Christian Palestinians were overwhelmingly naturalized time ago and it’s a non-issue now- an American reporter of Palestinian Christian descent went to Lebanon to write on this issue and found it a taboo. During Elias Hrawi’s Presidency few thousand Shia Palestinians were naturalized.

The Christian rightists, until now, refuse to acknowledge that the problem they had with the Palestinian guerrilla groups is an issue of the difficulty of coexistence between a state and a revolutionary armed force. Until now, the rightist Lebanese groups go with that slogan of "no settlement" despite its discrediting by renowned scholars of Middle East politics.

The late Palestinian leader, PA President Yasser Arafat, was asked many times about the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. One time he answered that Lebanon is not the only country in the region that has Palestinian refugees, another time that in any future settlement of the refugee problem, those in Lebanon are first in line.

The way the issue of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are dealt with is a scandal. They are dehumanized and those dehumanizing them have no shame. The refugees are talked about as a "problem." They live in squalor, in crowded camps that are practically under siege by the Lebanese security forces and with tight restrictions on their movement. The Palestinian refugees, despite all international laws and norms, are denied basic civil and economic rights.
Very few politicians have the courage and conscience to speak out against the denial of basic rights to the Palestinian refugees. One of them is Walid Jumblatt.

But the Mother of all Scandals is the duplicitous dishonest position of the Islamists who speak day and night about their love of Palestine and Jerusalem but ignore the plight of the Palestinian refugees.

Friday, April 11, 2008

President Bush: Unequivocal on Iran and Iraq

It is too tempting to focus on the Iraq war as a mistake as Senator Obama likes to do.
The war happened.

The aftermath of the war is a reality that imposes itself on the US and the world.
President Bush’s Iraq speech summarized the reality that the world faces in Iraq, succinctly and clearly, in ways better than any of three candidates so far have.

The quotes below are from President Bush’s speech quoted in The New York Times.

“Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century: Al Qaeda and Iran”

“If we fail there, Al Qaeda would claim a propaganda victory of colossal proportions, and they could gain safe havens in Iraq from which to attack the United States, our friends and our allies,” “Iran would work to fill the vacuum in Iraq, and our failure would embolden its radical leaders and fuel their ambitions to dominate the region.”
President Bush is right on point.

If the US leaves Iraq, Al Qaeda would claim credit for “liberating Iraq,” just like they claimed it for the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

The claim of the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan emboldened al Qaeda to target the US; another claim in Iraq would be a powerful recruitment tool for the al Qaeda and only increase the world’s vulnerability to its terrorism.

On Iran- unlike the now retired Admiral Fallon- President Bush laid out to the Mullah regime clear choices and consequences for Iran.

“If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq”

“If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests and our troops and our Iraqi partners.”

Clear unequivocal language is what the Iranians need to hear from the US. This is what
President Bush served the Mullah regime.

Mixed signals would propbably have Iran make the same mistake of Saddam’s Iraq- doubting whether the US would resort to war for Kuwait. Iran should have no doubt now where the US stands on its role in Iraq.

Clarity on Iraq and Iran reduces the chance of another war. Those who are in the peace camp should be rejoicing that Mr. Bush was this clear.

Despite its rhetoric, the Mullah regime is a scheming and calculating regime that given its internal weaknesses is definitely not looking for a fatal confrontation with the US. Clarity in outcomes helps one calculate risk. One only hopes for the sake of peace that the mullahs in Tehran have good English interpreters.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Baghdad Five Years After: The Failure of Vendetta Governance

Today is the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

Baghdad is near and dear to all Arabs and Muslims. It was the capital of the Muslim world for many years. It is the capital of the glorious Abbasids who encouraged arts and learning. It is the home of Imam Abu Hanifa al Nauman, a great Muslim scholar, whose shrine is in the town of Al- Azamiyeh.

The fall of Baghdad was a traumatic experience for Arabs and Muslims.

Yet- Many hoped that the fall of Baghdad is a new beginning for freedom in the Arab world from police states that have suffocated all creativity. The hope was that an entrenched dictatorship would be be replaced by an enlightened unity government and a representative government that is guided by the American values that are universal. The hope was that the new government of Iraq would bring rule of law, economic and political freedom, and fight corruption.

Also, it was hoped that the oil riches would be spent to modernize Iraq instead of this wealth being squandered on military adventures. The Iraqis, well educated and modern, deserved better.

They, just like President Bush said, deserved the God-given gift of freedom.

These hopes were dashed.

Instead of seeing a modern unity government, inspired by American values, a government trying to replicate the success of Dubai or Qatar, instead what emerged in Baghdad is a “Vendetta government."

A government intent on settling scores, punishing and killing its adversaries and enemies.
This Vendetta governance, alien to American political culture, made Iraq descend into the abyss of chaos and mass killings.


It’s a choice Iraqis in charge made and Iraq and the US paid for.

The governments that followed, in particular Al Jaafari’s and Al Maliki's, are government more interested in looking back with bloodthirsty eyes than in looking to the future with hopeful eyes.

Once you keep that fact in mind, all events in Iraq are easy to fathom.

The insistence on Debaathification was designed to get rid of the professional competent Sunni seculars in government to be replaced by inexperienced sectarian incompetents. The Vendetta government insisted on dismantling the national professional Iraqi army but left intact and in fact empowered the sectarian fanatical militias with Iranian loyalties.

The Vendetta government, despite US pressure, refused to spend money in Sunni areas, thus deepening and hardening the grievances of the Sunnis of Iraq, who were being wooed by the Al Qaeda terrorists.

The Vendetta government insisted on killing the former President of Iraq on the eve of the Eid Al Adha, in violation of its new Constitution that required the signatures of other officials who have refused to sign on the killing. One Vendetta government official responded to an inquiry on why his government would kill Mr. Hussein on the eve of al Adha that the Eid in Iraq is on the (Shia) Eid day not the Sunni day of about 1.1 billion Muslims! This short sightedness and foolishness, born of a vendetta outlook, had dire consequences for Sunni-Shia relations in Iraq and Sunni-Shia relations across the Muslim world. Even The New York Times, no fan of Saddam Hussein, had a scathing editorial about the way the former President of Iraq was killed.

In Iraq, the Vendetta Government is unable to realize President Bush’s vision of a democratic Iraq.

The ball is in the Iraqi’s court- again.

In the upcoming elections, they have a choice. They can continue empowering visionless small politicians that dwell on the past and its real and imagined grievances or they can elect politicians that focus on the present and the future.

The US gave Iraqis an undreamt of chance to rebuild their country- at great expense. They so far have squandered it.

Vendetta governance has failed Iraq. The US hasn't.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Arab American Gets Navy Medal of Honor

A question is often asked: Are Arab Americans doing enough for their country?
We are.
Today, the Navy held a meeting with community activists and leaders in the Lebanese Heritage Club in Dearborn to raise awareness of the Navy, to listen to community concerns and to talk about the upcoming navy Seal Fitness Challenge scheduled in Dearborn on May 10, 2008.
(To register for the Fitness event visit http://www.sealfitnesscahllenge.com/)

Today also was Petty Officer Mike Monsoor, an Arab American, posthumous Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House. This medal was given to petty officer Monsoor who, while serving in Iraq, sacrificed his life to save his teammates.

There are many other Arab and Muslims American serving honorably in the US armed forces such as Ms Heather K. Charara, NCI (SW), Navy Representative in Charge, Westland, MI Recruiting Station.

Excerpts from the Navy Press release on the Medal of Honor Ceremony:

“Mike Monsoor exemplified the SEAL ethos,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan, the Commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego. “He led by example and protected his teammates to the very end. But more than that, Mike was a brother in our family. We will honor him every day by upholding the values he shared with us as SEALs.”
Monsoor is the first Navy SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and the second Navy SEAL to receive the award since Sept. 11, 2001. The other recipient, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, was recognized posthumously last October for his valor in combat alongside three other SEALs during a battle with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2005. Monsoor is the fifth armed forces service member to receive the Medal of Honor since the beginning of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Alqaeda, Iran: Why Sen. McCain is Right?

Presidential candidate McCain singled out Iran as sending al Qaeda terrorists to Iraq. Senator McCain was criticized for confusing the Shia terrorists with the Sunni Al Qaeda terrorists.

Given the verbal attacks of the Al Qaeda on the Iran, it was argued that Iran does not tolerate al Qaeda- let alone harbor it and send its terrorist to Iraq!

Mr. Abdel Rahman Al Rashid’s article in the Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper titled "Al Qaeda, Iran and Israel: What Relationship?” reads that despite the verbal attacks of Al Qaeda on Israel and Iran, the organization never attacked either country or their interests. http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/NewsPapers/2008/4/319595.htm.

The Al Qaeda attacked US and Saudi interests, but not Iranian or Israeli ones. Mr. Al Rashed writes that Saad Osama Bin Laden and Sayf Al Adl, another A Qaeda figure, are in Iran, where they sought refuge from the American onslaught on Afghanistan. These two Iran-based Al Qaeda terrorists, he states, plotted for terrorist attacks on Saudi Arabia. Phone calls made by these two and other al Qaeda terrorists were traced back to Iran- these calls ordered bombings in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Al Rashid concludes that this means Iran is involved in at least some of the operations of Al Qaeda- as McCain stated. Below is a quote from the Al Rashid column.

اي ان القاعدة تتحاشى التعرض لايران لانها تمسك بابن ابن لادن وبعض كبار قياداته. المؤكد انهم نشطون، بدليل انهم خططوا لعمليات في الخارج، حيث التقطت اتصالاتهم الهاتفية من ايران وهم يعطون الإذن بالتفجير الذي وقع في الرياض. فهل هذا يجعل ايران ضالعة في توجيه بعض عمليات القاعدة، اي تعمل معها وليسوا مجرد رهائن؟ هناك ادلة كثيرة ضد ايران من بينها ان العمليات الهائلة في العراق نفذت بألغام وأسلحة ايرانية

Monday, April 7, 2008

An Iranian in Umayyid Damascus Insults the Arabs

---And does not get kicked all the way to Tehran.

Mr. Rajih Al Khouri, in the Lebanese Daily An Nahar of April 5, 2008, wrote about the Iranian awful arrogant attitude concerning the UAE islands occupied by Iran. An attitude expressed at the Damascus “Arab Summit” by the Mullah regime foreign minister.
http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/NewsPapers/2008/4/318740.htm

The three UAE islands occupied by Iran have always been a permanent item on the agenda of Arab summit meetings. The Arab countries always advocated a peaceful end to this occupation. The Arabs proposed resorting to internationally accepted channels to resolve the matter.
Iran, under the Shah and under the Mullahs, has flatly refused any sort of process to deal with the issue of the islands.

These islands were occupied in 1971 by the modestly titled Shah, whose name in Persian translates into English as King of Kings, not just the lowly title of “King”.

It’s remarkable that Iran, a non- Arab country that fought Iraq for eight years in a bloody war with Israeli armaments, was invited to the Damascus “Summit.” It’s a testament to the miserable status of Syria, the capital of the Umayyids, and the bankruptcy of the Damascus regime, that the Persian Muttaki could stand on both his legs and insult the Arabs.
Despite the diplomatic language used by the Arab leaders, the Persian minister flatly told the media that these islands are Iranian and “the Arabs need to focus on liberating Palestine.”

Mr. Rajih al Khouri goes out of his way to be nice to the Iranians by speaking of their being the Arabs' neighbors, how they are not like Israel and compares their occupation to Israel's occupation of Arab lands. I disagree.

Iran continues to be a terrible neighbor to the Arabs. It continues to incite sectarian tensions in the hope of leveraging chaos for its benefit. Its support of the sectarian militias and death squads in Iraq have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and the destruction of hundred of mosques. The thugs allied with Iran, out of their hatred for Arabs and for Sunnis, engaged in ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian refugees of Iraq- some of these refugees found refuge in Brazil!
In Gaza, the Mullah regime incited and funded the Hamas thugs to overthrow the legitimate authorities and try to impose a Taliban- style governance on the Palestinians.
Iran continues to oppress the ethnic Arab minority in Arabistan, as well as the other minorities, such as the Iranian Kurds.
The Iranian Mullah regime should not be invited to Arab meetings. The only meeting they should be invited to is an Arab-Iranian peace process that deals with all the outstanding issues.

Fitna, Dutch Jews and Dutch Muslims

Muslims increasingly find themselves between two groups of extremists. One group is the Muslims extremists who allege that the Muslims are being targeted by a Crusade that the Muslims extremists by their violence are attempting to repel. The other groups includes non-Muslims who vilify all Muslims and declare the religion guilty for the deeds of a tiny percentage of the world's Muslims.

Added to this mix is the non-Muslim misguided. Those misguided take real issues, such as freedom of speech, and test its limits on Muslims. This is done at a time when the global situation is so tense and there is no need to add more tension. They ridicule and attack the Muslim religion in the name of freedom to insult. Those misguided, unwittingly, end up helping the extremists by providing material to their case that the West is out to "destroy Islam." While the misguided define their works as an issue of freedom, the extremists use these works as propaganda to recruit for the war against the "Crusade against Islam."

The overwhelming majority of Muslims, who are neither violent nor extremists, find themselves between these two groups of people, with the third group occasionally jumping in to make things worse.

But the issue of how Muslims in the West are treated is not only a Muslim issue. It is the issue of “the other.” The classic other in the West is the Jew. The Jewish communities in the West are in a position to understand the situation of the Muslims.

There is an article in Haaretz entitled “Dutch Jews louder than Muslims in condemning 'Fitna' film that captures well the complexities of the situation and the arguments made show that the issue is not only Islam and Muslims but how the other is treated as well as other issues as generalising, fairness, speaking out, and government outreach.” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/970768.html.

Below are excerpts form this article:

“Ironically, Dutch Jews are more outspoken than local Muslims in their criticism of the newly released anti-Islam film by rightist legislator Geert Wilders, says Dr. Ronny Naftaniel, head of the pro-Zionist Center for Information and Documentation (CIDI).”

"I was surprised by the silence of the local Muslim leaders," Naftaniel added. "If I were a Muslim, I would speak out and I would blame Wilders for this film. I wouldn't stop shouting about it. I don't understand their silence, I really don't. I think they are scared." “The 15-minute film, which drew millions of viewers since its release Thursday, contains footage of Muslim clerics and protesters calling for the slaying of Jews, verses from the Koran, videos from scenes of suicide bombings and executions, illustrations of the demographic increase in the number of European Muslims and archive material from the Dutch media about Islamic terrorism-related incidents.”

Naftaniel stressed that it's not the criticism of Islam that prompted him to condemn the film, but the linking of that criticism of Koran-inspired violence with the demographics. Naftaniel said that is tantamount to suggesting all Muslims are terrorists. "We are never afraid to speak out in the harshest of terms against what we think is wrong, be it against Muslim extremism here in the Netherlands, or the Dutch or Israeli governments," he said. "But this movie portrays all Muslims as The Enemy. And this is just not true."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rabbi Yoffie Exposes and Confronts America's Christian Extremists

I read with interest the press release issued by the Union for Reform Judaism regarding the comments of their President Rabbi Eric Yoffie on April 2, 2008. Reasonable people say reasonable things and make peace possible.
See below the press release. No need for comment from me.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie confronts extremist Christian Zionist: Reform Jews should not engage in alliances with Hagee’s Christians United for Israel
CINCINNATI, OH – April 2, 2008 –The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, tonight made clear his disagreement with those in the American Jewish community who have embraced Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United for Israel (CUFI), saying that the views of Pastor Hagee and many other Christian Zionists “may advance their theology but they do so at the expense of Israel’s security and well-being.”
Rabbi Eric Yoffie , who over the past two years made headlines when he spoke at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America, drew a sharp distinction between dialogue and political alliances which he said “demand of us a higher standard and which require both common values and common interests.” Yoffie made his comments during a panel discussion before the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) meeting here this week.
Hagee founded CUFI two years ago and has, since then, run “Night to Honor for Israel” events across the country, where he has been warmly received by Federation audiences. In his address tonight, Yoffie focused on the problems with Hagee’s form of Christian Zionism and why the Jewish community needs to reject it.
Yoffie gave two primary reasons not to engage in alliances with Hagee. The first is Hagee’s vitriolic attacks on other religious traditions, particularly Muslims and Catholics. But even more important, Yoffie said, is Hagee’s stance on Israel.
“What [Hagee and his allies] mean by support of Israel and what we mean by support of Israel are two very different things,” Yoffie said. Their vision of Israel rejects a two-state solution, rejects the possibility of a democratic Israel, and supports the permanent occupation of all Arab lands now controlled by Israel,” he continued. “If implemented, in fact, these views would mean disaster for Israel, and would lead to diplomatic isolation, increased violence, and the loss of Israel’s Jewish majority.”
Rabbi Yoffie noted that some of his rabbinic colleagues claim that relationships with CUFI are necessary in a time where Israel needs all the friends she can gather. “The concerns expressed here are reasonable,” said Yoffie, “but I would draw precisely the opposite conclusion.”
Throughout the history of Israel, the central principle of pro-Israel advocacy in America is that it must be moderate and bi-partisan, he said. Additionally Yoffie noted that the majority of the American Evangelical community is beginning to move away from the likes of Pastor Hagee’s politics and theology. “All the evidence that we have indicates that Evangelicals are tired of stridence and desire more pluralism and moderation…they see their future far more with Rick Warren than they do with John Hagee,” he said.
“On Israeli-Palestinian politics, John Hagee and the CUFI are extremists,” Rabbi Yoffie argued. “They do not represent most Evangelicals, do not represent most Republicans, and do not represent the American heartland. In expressing contempt for other religions and rejecting territorial compromise under any and all circumstances, their views run against the American grain. Those who advocate embracing them now are misreading in a monumental way the American political and religious landscape.”
Although Rabbi Yoffie made clear that he is not planning on launching a campaign against Hagee or CUFI, he called for Reform congregations to not participate in CUFI’s events and to continue to call for public condemnation of inflammatory and bigoted statements from Christian Zionist leadership.
“We should refrain from participating in ‘Night to Honor Israel’ road shows that Pastor Hagee sponsors, Yoffie told the rabbis. “I have listened to my colleagues who have chosen to do otherwise and have tried to understand. But my view is that most of the time, these evenings will not increase our political clout. They will reduce our political clout and drive away our allies. And I cannot accept the argument from Jewish leaders that they can endorse CUFI events, appear as speakers at these events, accept CUFI money, and still distance themselves from the positions that CUFI embraces.
This issue is at its core about support of Israel, he explained. “And it is important to remember that Israel’s greatest friends and most important defenders are not the fundamentalists and extremists and those who take their orders directly from God, but those who work for an end to this terrible conflict, and who pray for peace for all who live in the land that we all call holy,” Rabbi Yoffie said as he finished his speech.
The Union for Reform Judaism is the synagogue arm of Reform Judaism in North America, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 congregations across the United States and Canada. Union programs and services include youth camps, music and book publishing, adult education opportunities, Outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mr. Shamoun Comes to Washington (and Michigan)

Mr. Dori Shamoun, the leader of the Christian political group Hizb alAhrar, the National Liberal Party, is on a visit to the US. Before him was the visit of another Lebanese Christian leader, Dr. Samir Geagea.
Both of them are members of the 14th March Movement, a Lebanese movement that is standing in the face of the Syro-Iranian killing machine and its hegemonic designs.
Both Dr. Samir Geagea and Mr. Dori Shamoun are true voices of the Lebanese Christian community that the US should receive well and listen to as the true speakers in the names of the Christians of Lebanon. They have been consistent in their embrace of a national pro-Western outlook, Lebanese national unity, dialogue, and refusal to be drawn into a civil war or other wars in service of other countries.
They are very different from the post- Lebanon- return- from- exile Aoun, the new but unimproved MP Michel Aoun. The old Michel Aoun is a man who visited the US numerous times before his Syrian engineered and approved return to Lebanon from years of exile. Mr. Aoun used to say many harsh things about the Syrians and the Iranians- and the Hizbullah. There is an Arab saying that captures the intensity of what old Aoun used to say of the Syro-Iranian axis- what he said about them is worse than what Imam Malik said about alcohol.
The unimproved new Aoun is an MP of advanced age who in his feverish pursuit of the Lebanese Presidency has become a member of the Syro-Iranian axis via a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hizbullah- thus wiping out his past of being pro-West and anti "totalitarianism."
Mr. Geagea and Mr. Shamoun are no old or new Michel Aouns.
They are more stable and dependable- partly because of being free from the curse of wanting to be a President at all costs.
The US should receive Mr. Shamoun as well as it received Dr. Geagea.
The coming elections in Lebanon will prove that they, not new MP Aoun, are the true voices of the Lebanese Christians.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mr. Perry's Freedom and NIMBY's New Low

NIMBY ‘s Injustice

The Detroit Free Press's April 2nd, 2008 headline on the ex-teacher Perry case is cause for a new level of concern over the NIMBY phenomenon.

Mr. Perry, a school teacher, is accused of sexually abusing young students. Mr. Perry was tried before and convicted. New evidence resulted in a second trial. Eleven of the jurors voted to acquit. One juror held out.
This juror held out for personal reasons.
This juror lives 200 feet from Mr. Perry’s house and walks his dog by Mr. Perry’s house. This juror did not want Mr. Perry in his back yard. To this juror NIMBY trumped an innocent man’s freedom and reputation.
Bad social policy is sometimes pursued because of NIMBY. Inefficiencies result. But it’s a different ball game when NIMBY results in sacrificing an innocent person’s lifetime freedom.
That juror violated the trust the Constitution and society put in him to evaluate the facts and make a decision. There should be a way to hold this juror accountable and to set an example.