Wednesday, December 31, 2008

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

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

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

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

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

But Israel does it any way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gaza: David vs. Goliath

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

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

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

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

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

Brothers in Misery: Muslim and Jewish Charities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muslim charitable giving continued unabated.

Jewish charities end the year on a sour note.

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Afghanistan War

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

An interview with the author is below.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mutaa and Other Nontraditional Islamic Marriages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

TPS for Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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