Saturday, October 25, 2008
Hope for America, hope for Muslims
HOPE FOR MUSLIMS, HOPE FOR AMERICA
Edmund Burke said something to the effect that the crimes continue unabated NOT necessarily because of the criminals but because of the good people not doing anything about it.
When we hear wrong things, we may remain silent, because it may suit our agenda; wrong or right. What if every one remains silent because it suits them? I am sure you are aware of the Martin Niemöller’s poem he wrote during the World War II - He said, first they came for the communists and I did not say anything about it because I was not a communist, then they came for Jews, I did not say anything because I was not a Jew..... And it continues on and ends with.... finally they came after me and there was no one left to speak for me.
The McCain gang is doing just that, being silent when some one is abused. Thank God, General Collin Powel spoke, and then Campbell Brown has spoken up. We need more of them, as ultimately peace and prosperity comes when we are just and not consumers of evil.
Watch the Fox news, the men there find it convenient to ignore the evil words as it suits their evil agenda of creating chaos. Are they evil? You judge when you hear O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh and their likes talk. I have no idea why CNN has kept a hate spreader Beck among them.
Here is a wake up call from Gen. Collin Powell to the opportunist Republicans who have no shame in silently watching hate take over and destroy ournation. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/27265490#27265490
Here is Campbell Brown of CNN tearing the hate mongers apart. The Journalists owe it to themselves to learn to question and not be the sycophants.
God bless Collin Powell and Campbell Brown
Please do read the comments - which will include article on the same subject.
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: Good for Muslims and good for the world. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website www.MikeGhouse.net. Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com
Domestic Violence in Muslim Families
The Resources and material for peaceful families
It is not just the Muslim thing, it is a human thing, it has nothing to do with the faith, race, ethnicity or gender. Insecure individuals in general and men in particular resort to violence to express their in-capabilities. They find sources to justify their behavior. No religion, including Islam permits such behavior. Let's refrain from placing the blame on intangibles like religion, it is not the religion, instead let's work on bringing justice to individuals.
Men in general including Muslim Men dig in their heels when they hear the technical words describing their behavior, they receive these words as loaded with blame rather than knowledge, and they get defensive. We need not touch this issue as an issue of the community, but rather as an issue of a couple living in a stressed environment.
It ought to be handled as an effort towards making families to live in peace, or efforts to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill between members of the families. The reception to this language is little more open from Men or women. That should be the goal of our efforts to communicate with the family to live a better life.
The man or woman should feel that seeking the friendly guidance is a joy to receive from a neutral person, who is not blame prone. And both of them ought to feel that it not about finding the blame, but finding the solutions for the wellbeing of both. I have had some success in playing this role with my friends in a variety of communities as a friend to them.
It’s nice to see the consistent passion to serve the needs of the community with enthusiasm. My support for this effort will remain intact and Insha Allah will be on the e-groups as well as the websites.
Let the emphasis be on Muslim families and highlight the individual responsibility for the well being of the families. We cannot blame Muslims, Islam or cultures, as the wrong is done by individual. You, I and our friends are product of the same faith and culture and we have not done wrong, what some others have done.
Here are some resources found at this website http://www.peacefulfamilies.org/publications.html
Please share other resource to share with others at this website.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Taqlid, Ijtihad and Democracy
A few self proclaimed guardians of Islam by virtue of their heading Shari’ah and Fiqh councils have been able to keep the lid on the box and do not show any sort of independence. They do not believe that Shari’ah was man-made interpretations of God’s words and Hadiths. To them Shari’ah is the absolute law from God, and they have successfully dumped this idea on to average Muslims (ones who does not have the time to question, but gulp what is given) who believe in it. Continue
Wary of Islam, China tightens rules
By Edward Wong
Saturday, October 18, 2008
KHOTAN, China: The grand mosque that draws thousands of Muslims each week in this oasis town has all the usual trappings of piety: dusty wool carpets on which to kneel in prayer, a row of turbans and skullcaps for men without headwear, a wall niche facing the holy city of Mecca in the Arabian desert.
But large signs posted by the front door list edicts that are more Communist Party decrees than Koranic doctrines.
The imam's sermon at Friday Prayer must run no longer than a half-hour, the rules say. Prayer in public areas outside the mosque is forbidden. Residents of Khotan are not allowed to worship at mosques outside of town.
One rule on the wall says that government workers and nonreligious people may not be "forced" to attend services at the mosque a generous wording of a law that prohibits government workers and Communist Party members from going at all.
"Of course this makes people angry," said a teacher in the mosque courtyard, who would give only a partial name, Muhammad, for fear of government retribution. "Excitable people think the government is wrong in what it does. They say that government officials who are Muslims should also be allowed to pray."
To be a practicing Muslim in the vast autonomous region of northwestern China called Xinjiang is to live under an intricate series of laws and regulations intended to control the spread and practice of Islam, the predominant religion among the Uighurs, a Turkic people uneasy with Chinese rule.
The edicts touch on every facet of a Muslim's way of life. Official versions of the Koran are the only legal ones. Imams may not teach the Koran in private, and studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools.
Two of Islam's five pillars the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own.
Government workers are not permitted to practice Islam, which means the slightest sign of devotion, a head scarf on a woman, for example, could lead to a firing.
The Chinese government, which is officially atheist, recognizes five religions Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism and tightly regulates their administration and practice. Its oversight in Xinjiang, though, is especially vigilant because it worries about separatist activity in the region.
Some officials contend that insurgent groups in Xinjiang pose one of the biggest security threats to China, and the government says the "three forces" of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism threaten to destabilize the region. But outside scholars of Xinjiang and terrorism experts argue that heavy-handed tactics like the restrictions on Islam will only radicalize more Uighurs.
Many of the rules have been on the books for years, but some local governments in Xinjiang have publicly highlighted them in the past seven weeks by posting the laws on Web sites or hanging banners in towns.
Those moves coincided with Ramadan, which ran from September to early October, and came on the heels of a series of attacks in August that left at least 22 security officers and one civilian dead, according to official reports. The deadliest attack was a murky ambush in Kashgar that witnesses said involved men in police uniforms fighting each other.
The attacks were the biggest wave of violence in Xinjiang since the 1990s. In recent months, Wang Lequan, the long-serving party secretary of Xinjiang, and Nuer Baikeli, the chairman of the region, have given hard-line speeches indicating that a crackdown will soon begin.
Wang said the government was engaged in a "life or death" struggle in Xinjiang. Baikeli signaled that government control of religious activities would tighten, asserting that "the religious issue has been the barometer of stability in Xinjiang."
Anti-China forces in the West and separatist forces are trying to carry out "illegal religious activities and agitate religious fever," he said, and "the field of religion has become an increasingly important battlefield against enemies."
Uighurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, accounting for 46 percent of the population of 19 million. Many say Han Chinese, the country's dominant ethnic group, discriminate against them based on the most obvious differences between the groups: language and religion.
The Uighurs began adopting Sunni Islam in the 10th century, although patterns of belief vary widely, and the religion has enjoyed a surge of popularity after the harshest decades of Communist rule. According to government statistics, there are 24,000 mosques and 29,000 religious leaders in Xinjiang. Muslim piety is especially strong in old Silk Road towns in the south like Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan.
Many Han Chinese see Islam as the root of social problems in Xinjiang.
"The Uighurs are lazy," said a man who runs a construction business in Kashgar and would give only his last name, Zhao, because of the political delicacy of the topic.
"It's because of their religion," he said. "They spend so much time praying. What are they praying for?"
The government restrictions are posted inside mosques and elsewhere across Xinjiang. In particular, officials take great pains to publicize the law prohibiting Muslims from arranging their own trips for the hajj. Signs painted on mud-brick walls in the winding alleyways of old Kashgar warn against making illegal pilgrimages. A red banner hanging on a large mosque in the Uighur area of Urumqi, the regional capital, says, "Implement the policy of organized and planned pilgrimage; individual pilgrimage is forbidden."
As dozens of worshipers streamed into the mosque for prayer on a recent evening, one Uighur man pointed to the sign and shook his head. "We didn't write that," he said in broken Chinese. "They wrote that."
He turned his finger to a white neon sign above the building that simply said "mosque" in Arabic script. "We wrote that," he said.
Like other Uighurs interviewed for this article, he agreed to speak on the condition that his name not be used for fear of retribution by the authorities.
The government gives various reasons for controlling the hajj. Officials say that the Saudi Arabian government is concerned about crowded conditions in Mecca that have led to fatal tramplings, and that Muslims who leave China on their own sometimes spend too much money on the pilgrimage.
Critics say the government is trying to restrict the movements of Uighurs and prevent them from coming into contact with other Muslims, fearing that such exchanges could build a pan-Islamic identity in Xinjiang.
About two years ago, the government began confiscating the passports of Uighurs across the region, angering many people here. Now virtually no Uighurs have passports, though they can apply for them for short trips. The new restriction has made life especially difficult for businessmen who travel to neighboring countries.
To get a passport to go on an official hajj tour or a business trip, applicants must leave a deposit of nearly $6,000.
One man in Kashgar said the imam at his mosque, who like all official imams is paid by the government, had recently been urging congregants to go to Mecca only with legal tours.
That is not easy for many Uighurs. The cost of an official trip is the equivalent of $3,700, and hefty bribes usually raise the price. Once a person files an application, the authorities do a background check into the family. If the applicant has children, the children must be old enough to be financially self-sufficient, and the applicant is required to show that he or she has substantial savings in the bank. Officials say these conditions ensure that a hajj trip will not leave the family impoverished.
Rules posted last year on the Xinjiang government's Web site say the applicant must be 50 to 70 years old, "love the country and obey the law."
The number of applicants far outnumbers the slots available each year, and the wait is at least a year. But the government has been raising the cap. Xinhua, the state news agency, reported that from 2006 to 2007, more than 3,100 Muslims from Xinjiang went on the official hajj, up from 2,000 the previous year.
One young Uighur man in Kashgar said his parents were pushing their children to get married soon so they could prove the children were financially independent, thus allowing them to qualify to go on the hajj. "Their greatest wish is to go to Mecca once," the man, who wished to be identified only as Abdullah, said over dinner.
But the family has to weigh another factor: the father, now retired, was once a government employee and a Communist Party member, so he might very well lose his pension if he went on the hajj, Abdullah said.
The rules on fasting during Ramadan are just as strict. Several local governments began posting the regulations on their Web sites last month. They vary by town and county but include requiring restaurants to stay open during daylight hours and mandating that women not wear veils and men shave their beards.
Enforcement can be haphazard. In Kashgar, many Uighur restaurants remained closed during the fasting hours. "The religion is too strong in Kashgar," said one man. "There are rules, but people don't follow them."
One rule that officials in some towns seem especially intent on enforcing is the ban on students' fasting. Supporters of this policy say students need to eat to study properly.
The local university in Kashgar adheres to the policy. Starting last year, it tried to force students to eat during the day by prohibiting them from leaving campus in the evening to join their families in breaking the daily fast. Residents of Kashgar say the university locked the gates and put glass shards along the top of a campus wall. After a few weeks, the school built a higher wall.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Sharia Laws in America
For the sake of convenience, Sharia Laws can be divided into private and public – The private Sharia deals with how one performs prayers, observes fasts, performs Hajj, and participates in Zakat (tithe – charity). Individuals follow those guidelines and appreciate the existence of such guidelines.
Whereas the Public Sharia deals with the community affairs; such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, conversion, apostates and other rules that deal when more than one individual is involved in the issue. The intent is always Justice and fairness to members of the society. The American civic laws are founded on Justice and most Muslims feel that the American laws work for them and are a great substitute. Hence, they do not feel the need for another set of laws for public governance. It ain’t going to happen. The Neocons need not fear and create imaginary war scenarios to cash in from the gullibles.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This Qazi is a woman
This Qazi is a woman - A Muslim woman making history.
The story is not if a Muslim woman can oversee a wedding, or if the wedding is between a Shia or a Sunni denomination. It is about Men in general who need to feel secure in themselves in accepting women as equals. Every one is a Muslim who pledges in the existence of God and Muhammad (pbuh) as his prophet. If we don’t speak out against these, we are not fulfilling our obligation as a Muslim.
Activist Ms. Syeda Hameed in New Delhi, India has challenged the fortress traditionally guarded by men; The Qazi-ship, a function that oversees the ritual wedding vows and ceremony of Muslims. She performed the wedding ceremony of a Muslim couple, making history in the Muslim world.
The burden of proof lies with the rejecters of the idea; Men. They have to prove that a woman cannot be a Qazi. There are plenty of mis-translations to support them but that should not cut it. It has to be reviewed in the light of what is fair and just with participation from both Men and Women.
We have to work to create societies of justice and this is a good first step. Morocco has led the world in opening a seminary to train women to be scholars and Imams. It is time for us to think about this issue seriously. Rejecting an idea is an easy thing to do; debating it is the hallmark of civil societies.
Please remember that, the insecure men are afraid to lose control over the only thing left for them; religion. Muslim Men are no different in their insecurities than Jews, Hindus, Jain, Christians, Americans, Arabs, Zulus, Mongolians or the Mayans. In the ugly words of a few cultures “Women need to be put in their place” and other statements like “woman is like man’s footwear”. I am embarrassed even to write this, but these statements are real and are made in the subcontinent regardless of their religion.
If men cannot square with women on common sense and logic, they will resort to quoting, rather misquoting traditions or the holy book. Men have to learn to shed years of conditioned attitudes and become free again. Life would become more enjoyable.
Men and women are each others protectors, saviors and serve each other in living a purposeful life. One is incomplete without the other, adds the Qur'aan, "Men and Women are each others garments". Just as the garments shield one from the cold and heat, the metaphor encompasses every aspect of life including the vows; in happiness and sorrow, sickness and health, poverty or wealth, weakness or strength, difficulties and comforts, men and women are indeed each other's garment. No matter what faith or culture you follow, the essence of the vows is the same; justice.
Justice is the basis for peace, be it between spouses, family members, business partners, stockholders and consumers, president and the public, minorities and majorities, communities, nations or the globe. Whenever one takes advantage of the other, the balance is lost and the unit is crippled. In personal relationships, the disadvantaged ones are patiently waiting for the moment to get even or get justice. Justice is the hope that keeps the life moving forward.
For a relationship to flourish and be sustainable, it must be anchored in justice. The feeling where neither one feels being taken advantage of or taken for granted. Islam is about justice where not only men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but all other humans are to be treated as equals.
The article is reported in Times of India. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sunday_Specials/This_Qazi_is_a_woman/articleshow/3585185.cms
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: Good for Muslims and good for the world. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website http://www.mikeghouse.net/. Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@aol.com
This Qazi is a woman
12 Oct 2008, 0239 hrs IST,
Mohammed Wajihuddin,TNN http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sunday_Specials/This_Qazi_is_a_woman/articleshow/3585185.cms
Yojana Bhavan, at leafy Parliament Street in Lutyen's Delhi, is known more for planning the nation's destiny than housing a person whose heart beats for poetry. But enter Room Number 111 at the Planning Commission's headquarters, and a poetic aura engulfs you. On a wall, complementing photographs of a woman captured in many moods are Urdu couplets by poet Kamla Bhasin. A couplet ponders: 'Desh mein aurat agar beaabru nashaad hai/Dil par rakh kar haath kahiye desh kya azaad hai? (If the country's women feel belittled and disheartened/ Put your hand on your heart and tell me if the country is free).'
It is in this room that Planning Commission member and activist Syeda Hameed spends most of her waking hours; that is, when she is not touring the backwaters of Muzaffarnagar in UP and Mewat in Haryana, chronicling the horror of 'honour' killings or scouring the villages of Orissa to fight the communal fires stoked by Hindutva's hate brigade. And it was in this room that she got a call from a Lucknow-based fellow activist, Naish, a couple of months ago. "She sounded desperate," Syeda recalls. "She told me that if I didn't agree to solemnise her nikaah with Imraan, also an activist, she would opt for a civil marriage."
What followed next was a historic and path-breaking step in the annals of Islam in India. On August 12 this year, after solemnising Naish's nikaah with Imraan, Syeda officially became India's first woman Qazi. The nikaah was also unusual because it had four women as witnesses instead of the traditional two male witnesses. A male witness was added at the last moment lest orthodox clerics declared the nikaah null and void.
Controversy trailed the event from word go. As the cameras rolled and flashbulbs popped, a frenzy gripped the lanes of Lucknow. Uninvited guests, including an intrusive media, showed up, sensationalising what was supposed to be a private affair. Someone approached an orthodox maulvi. "A nikaah solemnised by a woman Qazi is impractical and therefore not advisable," declared Maulana Khalid Rashid from Lucknow's Firangi Mahal,, a religious organisation. Despite the severe criticism from orthodox clerics, Syeda remains steadfast: "It sent across a message that the time for change has come. Women can no longer be subjugated."
When the clergy couldn't find a convincing alibi because neither the Quran nor the Hadith (Prophet Mohammed's traditions) enjoins that only a male can officiate as a Qazi, a maulvi protested that some of the women at the ceremony had not covered their heads. "That is also an insinuation because the photographs and the videos of the marriage ceremony prove that all the women had their heads well covered," says Syeda. Another maulvi declared that the nikaah was not legitimate because the Qazi was a Shia while the couple were Sunni Muslims. Syeda's reply is that in her family Shia-Sunni marriages were common. "My illustrious ancestor Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali was a Sunni. My mother was Shia while my father belonged to the Sunni sect. My sister is married to a Sunni. For the first time, I was made to realise that I am a Shia," explains Syeda who ensured that her three children, while growing up, imbibed Islam's eclectic spirit, not the divisive dogma propagated by some clerics.
Syeda says nothing inspires her more than the works of Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, the 19th-century Urdu poet. Musaddas-e-Hali (also called Ebb And Tide In Islam as it chronicles Islam's history in poetry) and Munaajat-e-Bewa (Lament Of The Widow) are some of his better known works. Hali's Munaajat, says Syeda, lambasts patriarchy and upholds the rights of women. "He was undeniably India's first feminist poet," she declares. And as we prepare to leave, hums another couplet on the wall: 'Chup hain lekin yeh na samjho hum sada ke haare hain/Raakh ke neeche abhi jal rahe angare hain (If I am silent, don't mistake it for my defeat/The embers beneath the ashes are burning).
email@example.com My Click here to comment on this story.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
CAIR, ISNA and Huffington Post
Farzan Hassan wrote in the Huffington post, the article is produced below my published and non-published comments. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/farzana-hassan/conservative-elements-of_b_134620.html
MY COMMENTS AT HUFFINGTON POST
The federal government, rather the Bush-Cheney regime has concocted one lie after the other, from WMD to just about every thing. They have fabricated and slapped the phrase "co-conspirators" to both ISNA and CAIR. They do not have any damned proof and it will not stick. The courts in Dallas will reject those charges for lack of any substantial evidence, as they have rejected several charges. We should not be gullible enough to buy this charge; every one is innocent until proven guilty, that is our heritage.
The fallacy of the media is buying in to the definitions of the Neocons. They define who is a Hindu, Jew, Christian or a Muslim, and every nincompoop buys it without questioning it. Their definition of a Moderate Muslim is some one "who opposes everything that an average Muslim does, their litmus is how much one hates Sharia or the Qur'aan.
CAIR and ISNA have taken initiatives to include people of all faiths. They are subject to criticism like anyone else, but they are not co-conspirators.
A majority of Muslims, like any other group are moderates and their focus is their family, job, home, kids schooling, neighbors and work.
To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter.
Below was the full comment, above is 250 words requirement
The federal government, rather the Bush-Cheney regime has concocted one lie after the other, from WMD to just about every thing. They have fabricated and slapped the phrase “co-conspirators” to both ISNA and CAIR. They do not have any damned proof and it will not stick. The courts in Dallas will reject those charges for lack of any substantial evidence, as they have rejected several charges. We should not be gullible enough to buy this charge; every one is innocent until proven guilty, that is our heritage.
A majority of Muslims, like any other group are moderates and their focus is their family, job, home, kids schooling, neighbors and work. Their life revolves around this and most of them don't care to watch CNN, MSNBC, FOX or Sheep, they watch the family shows on ABC, NBC or CBS.
Their attitudes are inclusive, they don't look to people of other faiths, race, ethnicity as “other”; they look to them as simply people living a life, just as they are.
It is the 1/10th of 1% of any group that is involved in the idea of displacing, annihilating and invading the space of other, be it Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist or others.
Whether it is a corporation, city council, a professional, religious, sports or a cultural organization, the story is same. The one who speaks the loudest runs the show. Opposition comes from the extremes; liberal or conservative. Moderates don't do anything about it.
I am glad Huffington post is not run of the mill copy cat site. The fallacy of the media is buying in to the definitions of the Neocons. They define who is a Hindu, Jew, Christian or a Muslim, and every nincompoop buys it without questioning it. Their definition of a Moderate Muslim is some one ‘who opposes everything that an average Muslim does, their litmus is how much one hates Sharia or questions the Qur’aan. I will write about Sharia and Qur’aan in a separate essay.
CAIR and ISNA have taken initiatives to include people of all faiths. ISNA has a full interfaith department. The WorldNet is going after CAIR for the last ten years that one Ahmed said that Sharia will be their ultimate goal, he has denied saying it, instead of producing the proof, the World Net has maintained that they believe their report without any back up. Regardless the hooters in McCain rally do not represent the moderate Americans or the American values. CAIR and ISNA are represented by most Muslims and they are subject to criticism like any one else, but they are not what they are portrayed to be.
In Dallas, the world Muslim Congress is committed to promoting pluralism and co-existence. We are driven by the Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of God is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware."
Our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.
Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.
To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter.
Article in Huffington post
The relationship between US presidential candidates and the American Muslim community is hardly as seamless as it is with other religious or ethnic minorities. This at least, is true in the tense climate of the post 9/11 era. Muslims across the world are watching the current US election campaign with great interest, as well as a degree of trepidation, for the outcome of the election would be critical in determining foreign policy issues that affect Muslims the world over in significant ways.
Thorny issues such as Gitmo, The Iraq war, the proverbial "war on terror", the status of Muslims in the West and the continued controversy over the true message of Islam in the Western media affect American Muslims almost universally. Some therefore, have taken it upon themselves to influence the political process by participating and campaigning in the current presidential bid.
But to the constant chagrin of secular and liberal Muslim, it is the more conservative elements of the Muslim community that have come forward with a plan and agenda to galvanize the Muslim vote in the forthcoming election. While secular Muslims may feel the need to be heard in the political sphere, they are hardly as organized or politically engaged as their more radical counterparts. For example, no organization of the caliber of the Muslim Canadian Congress, just north of the border, exists in the United States. This Canadian organization has taken Islamists head on. It has worked hard to ensure the preservation of secular society in Canada, often at great risk to the safety and security of its avante garde. On the other hand, the doctrinaire orthodoxy among Muslims has made inroads into the social, political and economic fabric of American society, pushing for greater religious accommodation through increased visibility in the political process.
CAIR, an orthodox Muslim organization with suspected links to radical elements, recently issued a statement urging Muslims to vote because "Voting gives voice to concerns of particular interest to all people of conscious. From the war in Iraq to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, the Patriot Act to Gitmo, many Americans hold strong views regarding domestic and foreign policy. Constructive criticism in that regard falls on deaf ears unless gift-wrapped in a package like a ballot."
Another politically active organization which has come under suspicion for its alleged links with extremists, is the Islamic Society of North America, commonly known by its acronym "ISNA". Ingrid Mattson, its current female president, worked in Afghanistan with the Mujahideen and at one time proudly claimed to have represented the Afghanistan Islamists at the UN. Incidentally, the same Ingrid Mattson was present at the 2008 Democratic national convention.
And it is in this arena that American politicians have shown considerably naivete. They have blindly accepted whoever claims to be a moderate Muslim as being genuinely so. The truth is somewhat different. ISNA, for example believes in the introduction of Sharia, the all-inclusive Islamic law, a position which is undoubtedly absolutist in its political and social ramifications.
Additionally, these organizations have attempted to stifle First Amendment rights, such as the freedom of speech, conscience and religion, often targeting any one who dares oppose their absolutist ideology. They continually work to modify existing legal structures by proposing parallel legal courts, with obvious negative repercussions for women. They also support the doctrine of jihad privately while paying lip service to the cause of peace and harmony in the world publicly.
A few prominent American Muslims have warned against this cultural assault on American institutions by local Islamist organizations.
They have come forward to support Sen. Obama as opposed to John McCain as they view the forty-seven year old senator as a voice for peace and stability. Himayun Mirza from Boston writes
" There are rich Arabs and other Muslims who come from the privileged and ruling classes, hence they vote with Republicans. On the other hand, the have-nots like Palestinians and other progressive and secular Muslims always see more in common with the Democrats"
Mohammad "Mike" Ghouse writes in his blog "Obama believes in a strong America, both morally and militarily. He will restore our lost dignity in the community of Nations, and without shedding the American blood he will seek the cooperation of Nations to work with us for a prosperous world with least conflicts. McCain will not get this in his life-time. We cannot be secure if we keep threatening others nor can we have the peace when we frighten others."
The challenge for whoever is elected to the White House, lies in recognizing true moderate voices among Muslims. These are Muslims who applaud American values, as they are staunch advocates of freedom, democracy and pluralism. Sadly, the more conservative elements, errantly seen as the only authentic Muslims have been courted by American politicians for too long. Perhaps both Senators Obama and McCain need a fresh look at the many complex dynamics of intra-religious conflict among Muslims. They are certainly not united in their support for any one particular candidate and their vote on election day will reflect such deep-rooted fissures.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it. Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.
Are Muslims a part of the American story?
We are not connected enough with the mainstream society for vast majority of Americans to stand up for us, empathize with us or even understand the truth about us that we are no different than them in our endeavors and aspirations. We must however express our gratitude to the millions of Americans who have stood up for us, compelled by their sense of justness and fair play. Continue
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Hindu-Muslim Cremation Arouses Anger
Those who have a gain to be had in a situation will jump the gun and make news to galvanize clout in the community. It is not just the Muslims, the Christians, Hindus, Jews and other faiths also have individuals who would use religion to their end. It is human to err and it is religious thing not to err.
Our communities need to be prepared for scenarios like this. A whole range of things can happen upon certain occurrences and can cause severe conflicts.
The kid is gone and the decisions about the last rites were made by others, it may be contrary to what the deceased want, or just exactly what he wanted or it did not matter to him. But it has become a matter to a few on either side of the issue.
It is critical to have a will, especially when there is a potential conflict. Ultimately it is the will that has to be honored. The kid is gone, the mother wants her way and a few others want theirs. I hope we all can pitch in our opinions and develop consensus for the sake smooth transitions.
The wisdom would require us to withhold judgment or public displays, as it would aggravate the situation. We need to find solutions that would include acceptability of it by the others.
Added: October 5, 2008
Several takes on the issue, each one has presented a valid idea.
Situations like this are bound to happen. Dallas alone has at least 50 couples that I know of who are married across the religions with various combinations. You got to admire them for their ability to accept each other's God given uniqueness, however, what happens to their bodies after their death or to their children remains open.
We can work on a broader issue to include a variety of contingencies like this. American Culture has the ability to cushion a variety of complexities; this one will become a conflictless issue over the next two generations.
The broader question is should the community be involved in private matters? After all Islam is about individual's responsibility. No one but you is responsible for your actions at the Day of Judgment. Should we be involved in conflicts like this? Involvement certainly does produce ill-will, is it worth it? What good will it do?
If we consciously develop a habit of writing a Will to cover every aspect of our life in case of terminal illness, death or accident, would some one still mess around? The courts will defend the written Will, but would the community defy it?
I invite one of our members to produce a document with every one's input and we can share it with the public at large- as guidance and not rule. A majority of Muslims, Hindus or Christians will be in favor of it, we need to prevent the right wingers to dig in their heels and develop a consensus.
My Comments in the comment section are responses to some of the comments
# # #
New York Times
October 4, 2008
Hindu-Muslim Family’s Choice of Cremation Arouses Anger
By ANNE BARNARD
Friends and family remember Shafayet Reja as an affectionate young man who stayed up late to write poetry, danced exuberantly at weddings and explored the faiths of his father and mother with an openheartedness that led him to declare on his Facebook page, “I never get tired of learning the new things that life has to offer.”
But within hours of his death on Sept. 10 after a car accident, his memory — in fact, his very body — had become the object of a tug-of-war over religious freedom and obligation. It began when his mother, who was raised Hindu, and his father, who is Muslim, decided to have his body cremated in the Hindu tradition, rather than burying him in a shroud, as Islam prescribes.
His parents, Mina and Farhad Reja, say a small group of Muslims who do not understand their approach to religion are trying to intimidate them over the most private of family choices. “This is America,” Mrs. Reja said. “This is a family decision.”
The couple say that people accosted them at their son’s funeral, that an angry crowd threatened to boycott a shopping center they own in Jackson Heights, Queens, and that on Sept. 13, two men they know threatened to bomb and burn down the building.
The men they accused in a complaint filed with the police — one is a doctor and the father of a close friend of Shafayet Reja, the other a Bangladeshi business leader — say that they made no threats and deny that they have called for a boycott. They say they and others simply expressed their concern about what they see as a deep violation of their religion and of the wishes of the son, who, according to some of his college friends, had recently chosen Islam as his sole religion.
The Police Department’s hate crimes unit is investigating whether the threats took place, whether they would constitute aggravated harassment, and whether they qualify as bias crimes, which carry tougher penalties, a spokesman for the department said. No charges have been filed.
What is not in doubt is that the episode is a source of consternation, from the Queens neighborhoods where Mr. Reja’s parents live and work to their native Bangladesh, one of the world’s most populous Muslim countries, where it has been national news.
The dispute has especially swept up several bustling blocks in Jackson Heights, where dozens of businesses are Bengali. It had business owners on edge during the busy shopping season before this week’s Id al-Fitr festival. The festival marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and brings throngs of shoppers to dine and to buy jewelry and sparkling traditional dresses.
The neighborhood is a place where business rivalries and family arguments often intersect with disputes over Bangladesh politics, especially in the case of Mrs. Reja, a prominent property owner and outspoken advocate of the rights of Bangladesh’s religious minorities. Her 1999 self-published book, “God on Trial,” angered some Muslims in the neighborhood with its critique of Islamic fundamentalism.
The cremation dispute goes to the heart of a debate among Muslims in America about what makes someone a Muslim — to some of the critics, the fact that Shafayet Reja listed Islam as his religion on Facebook is enough — and how to reconcile this country’s freedom of religion with what some Muslims see as a communal obligation to uphold religious observance.
But to the family, the dispute is a frightening imposition that they say violates their civil rights.
“We have freedom of religion, and we have the Constitution,” said the Rejas’ son Mishal, 19, who studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “Why would they bother us? It’s none of their business. Even if he was the most hard-core Muslim.”
To some Muslims, the fact that Shafayet Reja prayed and attended mosques trumps his family’s wishes.
“It was the community’s business because the community knew he was a Muslim,” said Junnun Choudhury, secretary of the Jamaica Muslim Center, one of several mosques around the city whose worshipers came to the funeral to plead with the family. “It is our job to bury him in the Muslim way.”
Neither he nor any other mosque leader has been accused of making threats, and there have been no further protests.
Abu Zafar Mahmood, an adviser to the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association, said he was disturbed by the cremation but was urging people not to confront Mrs. Reja. “It would be harmful,” he said. “We have a multicultural community.”
Mrs. Reja said she brought up her children by attending both Hindu temples and Muslim mosques. “Humanism is what I taught my children,” she said. “I want to see my son as a perfect human being, and not as a perfect religious person.”
Whether or not her son was beginning to move closer to Islam is another thread in the tangle of hurt feelings and disagreements.
Shafayet Reja, 22, graduated from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2007. He was living with his parents in Richmond Hill, studying to be a licensed insurance broker.
He was also spending a lot of time at the Long Island home of Dr. Khondeker Masud Rahman — who was eventually accused of threatening his parents — and Dr. Rahman’s daughter, Farah, a friend from Stony Brook.
Farah Rahman said that he had begun praying more often and talking to Dr. Rahman about Islam, and that he had quarreled with his mother, saying she blamed the religion unfairly for the mistakes of some of its followers. He had even, she said in an interview, mentioned that he wanted a Muslim burial. His family members and childhood friends say he would have wanted his mother to choose.
On Sept. 2, Shafayet Reja broke the daily Ramadan fast with friends at Stony Brook’s Muslim Students Association. Afterward, Farah Rahman was in the car behind his when he lost control on a wet road. He was hospitalized, and died on Sept. 10 without regaining consciousness.
When word spread that the family would hold both Muslim and Hindu rites for their son and then have him cremated, the Rahmans and others were upset. Father and daughter both asked the family to give him a Muslim burial. They said the conversations were polite; the Rejas said they were hostile.
Several dozen people, including the imams of the Jamaica Muslim Center and other mosques, came to the funeral home in Richmond Hill on Sept. 12, to attend the Muslim rite and express objections to the cremation. The Rejas say people crowded around them to press their case as they wept beside their son’s body. “I was having my last moment with my son,” Mrs. Reja said. “What gave them the guts to do that?”
The funeral staff called the police in part because the Rejas feared the crowd would try to block the hearse going to the crematorium. Mishal Reja stood in the door of the funeral home, asked the group to leave the family in peace, and promised he would try to get the cremation canceled — just to get them to leave, he said. The crowd dispersed peacefully.
Later that day, Dr. Rahman, an anesthesiologist at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Jackson Heights, spoke to a group of people breaking the daily Ramadan fast at a restaurant across the street from the family’s Bangladesh Plaza mall.
According to the Rejas, and a report in a local Bengali-language newspaper, he called for a boycott of the mall and for shop owners there to stop paying rent, though he denied that in an interview.
Afterward, some of the people from the restaurant gathered outside the mall, waving their sandals in an insulting gesture and threatening to boycott the mall, according to two men who run shops there, who did not want to be quoted by name for fear of damaging business relationships. One said that at least one person in the crowd threatened to burn the building.
In the crowd, according to the merchants, was the secretary of the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association, Zakaria Masud. Mr. Masud, too, denied calling for a boycott, but said that protesting the cremation was “a social obligation and a religious obligation.”
The next day, Mina Reja held a press conference at the mall, at which she denounced the critics and asked for privacy.
Afterward, according to complaints the Rejas made to the police, Dr. Rahman told Mishal Reja, “We will bomb your building,” and Giash Ahmed, a real estate broker and former Republican candidate for state senator, told Farhad Reja it would be burned.
Dr. Rahman and Mr. Ahmed said in interviews that they never threatened anyone and were not even at the mall that day. Mr. Ahmed said Mrs. Reja’s decision was her business.
Dr. Rahman said expressions of anger at Mrs. Reja should wait: “She should have a time of healing.” He accused her of orchestrating the scandal and fabricating the threat.
Meanwhile, under the neon signs and rainbow lights of Bangladesh Plaza, shopkeepers worry that a boycott even by part of the community will hurt their holiday business.
“Why should they involve people who are not involved? How will we survive?” one of the shop owners said. Another said of the cremation: “It’s a family matter. The parents, they decide.”
Toby Lyles contributed research.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Who Put Hate in My Sunday Paper?
The majority of Americans and Israelis are being duped by the Neocons. This group is bent on creating chaos and have consistently messed up peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. Imagine the world without them? They buy our Congressman and Senators and of course, like the obedient dogs, they sing the songs of the hand that feeds them, rather than looking at the genuine interests of America and Israel. Peace is not in their interests, peace does not give them a nice chunk of money, chaos does. We need to ask this group to take a vacation and see how much better the world would be without them, if we can pull some money and feed these rascals on their vacation, they will be happy and the world would be peaceful.
Their actions, rather pretensions to protect Israel and America's interest have hurt both the nations. Frightening and threatening others does not bring peace or security but a constant threat. It is time for the majority of the people of America and Israel to understand that they the Neocons are the cause of chaos and insecurity. Imagine the world without them.
Has anything good ever come out of these people? It is time for them to take a back seat and let peace and prosperity prevail. If Daniel Pipes can work for peace he will be very successful, as he is successful in creating hate, chaos and a disturbance in the society. May God give him sense to work for peace and security of America and Israel.
Who Put Hate in My Sunday Paper?
Written by Omid Safi
Monday, 29 September 2008
Uncovering the Israeli-Republican-Evangelical Networks behind the “Obsession” DVD
Something strange has been showing up inside the Sunday newspapers of millions of Americans the past few weeks. The material being included alongside comics, coupons, and advertisement for local stores is a controversial DVD called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” Some 28 million copies of this DVD have been distributed for free so far in this fashion. In some ways the scale of this campaign, and its ideological venom, are unprecedented: many newspapers state that they had never previously distributed free DVDs as inserts, certainly nothing with such a charged content. The copies were distributed not randomly across the country, but in the “swing states” (Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, etc.) that are seen as a toss-up in the November Presidential elections between McCain and Obama. Obviously, someone is trying to influence the American electorate by playing on fear-mongering and hate-mongering themes. But who? Who is behind this massive, multi-million dollar campaign?
Answering that question proved harder than one might think, as the groups behind this DVD have worked hard to hide their tracks. The connections, which are partially concealed in the DVD and the distribution campaign, take one from groups in Israel, to pro-Israel lobby organizations in the United States, to Christian evangelical groups, and to Neoconservative think-tanks.
The “facts” presented by Obsession have already been refuted in several detailed presentations. For example, see the work of Obsessionwithhate.com and that of Sheila Musaji, as well as Altmuslim.com. Therefore, I am not going to make a point by point refutation of the contents of the DVD. My intention is to explore the networks that are behind the production and distribution of this DVD, with their clear goal of influencing the 2008 Presidential elections towards John McCain.
All politics is local, as well as global. That is particularly the case here. The distribution of the DVD affected me and my family at an intimate local level: up to 160,000 copies of this propaganda piece were distributed through our local community in North Carolina. The newspaper of the nearby city of Charlotte, distributed another 200,000 copies.
Upon contacting the local newspaper, the Raleigh-based News and Observer, and asking why such a hateful piece of propaganda was being distributed for free to all the subscribers, the response of the paper was less than impressive. Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for The News and Observer, said: "Obviously, we have distributed other product samples, whether it's cereal or toothpaste."
Really? Is this where we are? That a DVD which includes 77 minutes of propaganda footage slicing together videos of violent Muslims with those of Nazis, suggesting that Muslims are out to destroy Western civilization, is comparable to cereal and toothpaste? Puhleeze...
The claims of the DVD, which claims to be an educational product and part of a non-profit production, are as follows:
*That the world stands today as it did in 1938. Radical Islam is as great, if not greater, of a threat than the Nazis presented to the world. And action [not specified] must be taken.
*That the attacks in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, and Iran present a global Muslim conspiracy against Israel and “The West.”
*A distinctive feature of the DVD is in fact the linking together of threat of radical Islam with passionate defense of Israel. Most of the figures who are paraded in the DVD, whether they are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, are all passionate pro-Israel speakers who have a long legacy of speaking against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in general. The list includes such luminaries as:
• “Former PLO Terrorist Who Speaks Out For Israel”, Walid Shoebat, who claims to have been a “former Islamic terrorist” turned Christian Evangelical Zionist. Never mind that the Jerusalem Post has already dismissed the factuality of his claims.
• Nonie Darwish, with the tell-all website: http://www.arabsforisrael.com/ “Arabs for Israel”? Darwish also neglects to mention that she is another ex-Muslim turned both Christian and ardent supporter of Israel. In a world when virtually all Arabs and most Muslims view the Palestinian/Israeli tragedy as the burning political and moral issue of our time, how many Arabs in the world can be claimed as being passionate supporters of Israel?
• Carline Glick, a member of Israel On Campus Coalition.
• Daniel Pipes. If the Pro-Israel/Neo-conservative unholy alliance had a poster-child, Pipes would be it. Pipes is the most noted Islamophobe operating in the US. Pipes is also the Director of a Pro-Israel entity called “The Middle East Forum.” As for his one-sided commitment to Israel credentials, suffice it to say that he is the 2006 recipient of the “Guardian of Zion” award.
One could go on and on, but the above should give some indication that contrary to what the Clarion Fund claims on its website, the “experts” paraded on TV are not impartial and objective. They have a definite point of view, a passionate defense of Israel at all cost, even if that cost happens to be truth and facts.
Who Made this DVD?
Let’s come back to the claim of the local newspaper, that the distribution of this product is qualitatively no different than putting a free sample of toothpaste in the Sunday paper. For the sake of argument, let us take that analogy and go with it. How many of us would receive an unmarked package of toothpaste, and brush our teeth with it if it carries no label, no description of who has made it, and no account of whether any agency has vouched for its safety? If we do not take unmarked material to our teeth, why would we take a product like Obsession which refuses to disclose the network behind it into our hearts, into our schools, synagogues, mosques, churches, and civic institutions?
The Obsession DVD states that it is made by “Clarion Fund”. What does the Clarion Fund stand for? And who exactly are they? Their intentions are made a bit clearer through the use of their registered website: www.radicalislam.org. What exactly does “radical Islam” constitute? Who stands for it, and who opposes it? We are not told, aside from this: “Radical Islam poses a significant threat to the Western way of life. The Islamists’ ultimate aim is conversion and domination of the West, which they see as the root of all evil that must be eradicated.” This type of labeling without defining is as unhelpful as accusations of “Communist” in the 1950’s, or “unpatriotic” and “un-American” more recently. It is a catch-all, bogey man argument that is masquerading as analysis.
Who has produced the Obsession DVD? On the Obsession The Movie website, the producer is identified as Raphael Shore, who “is a documentary producer and founder of Clarion Fund, Inc., a new non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about national security threats.” Very well. So Raphael Shore is the founder of Clarion Fund, and the producer of Obsession. But who is Raphael Shore? This required a good bit of background research:
Raphael Shore and Aish HaTorah
Raphael Shore is part of a missionary Israeli “Jewish penitent” (baal teshuva) group, called Aish HaTorah (“Fire of the Torah”), whose mission has been to call “assimilated” Jews back to Judaism. They have been given 40% of the land in front of the “Western Wall” in Jerusalem by the Israeli government. In other words, they are very good terms with the Israeli regime, which is responsible for the demolishing of homes, non-issuing of building permits, and occupation in Palestine. Their founder, Rabbi Noah Weinberg has received recognition from the mayor of Jerusalem.
When we dig a bit deeper, it turns out that Raphael Shore, a Canadian rabbi, is also the director of the International wing of Aish HaTorah. His business card is available as a PDF on line:
Rabbi Raphael Shore
Director, Aish HaTorah International
One Western Wall Plaza
Old City, Jerusalem
So does this Obsession DVD fall within the purview of Aish HaTorah’s “outreach”? Given the intertwined nature of the political and the religious in Israel, it seems that Aish HaTorah has gone from evangelizing to Jews to waging a global propaganda campaign against Islam and Muslims, while also working hard to cover its tracks, as we shall see.
The connections between Aish HaTorah and Clarion Fund go even deeper. According to the paperwork filed with the Delaware state authorities, Clarion uses the same address as Aish HaTorah in New York. In 2006, the two directors of the Clarion Fund were Rabbi Shore and Jacob Fetman, who was also Aish HaTorah’s Chief Financial Officer. In 2007, it had three directors: Rabbi Shore, Rabbi Harris (who is the educational director for Aish HaTorah), and Rebecca Kabat, another Aish HaTorah employee.
The Israeli paper Haaretz noted that the Obsession DVD “has a largely Jewish and pro-Israel distribution network, though Shore is trying to expand the film's appeal.” As we shall see, this he accomplished by reaching out to Neoconservatives and Christian Zionists, but first some more on the film’s Pro-Israel distribution network.
Hasbara Fellowship and Honestreporting.com
Raphael Shore is also the director of Hasbara Fellowships, a group with the transparent website: http://www.israelactivism.com/ Here there is another connection to Aish HaTorah, as Hasbara is part of the Aish HaTorah network. And their activism on behalf of Israel is worn like a badge of honor.
The pattern is beginning to become clearer: how is it that a group with the stated goal of “Israel activism” is placing 28 million copies of a DVD warning Americans about the danger of “radical Islam”? In many of the screenings of this DVD, the audience was required to sign up for receiving material from the israelactivism.com website. How come 70 US newspapers accepted this DVD without doing the basic research to uncover the source (and prejudice) of this propaganda?
Hasbara Fellowship’s own websites includes the following pieces of information about their genealogy and mission. All of the following are direct quotes:
• “Hasbara Fellowships, a program spearheaded by Aish International, educates and trains university students to be effective pro-Israel activists on their campuses.”
>in other words, they freely acknowledge the link to Aish HoTorah International.
• “Started in 2001 in conjunction with Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hasbara Fellowships brings hundreds of students to Israel every summer and winter.”
>This is perhaps the most intriguing connection and startling confession, that Hasbara has a direct connection to the Israeli regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which acts as the official and national propaganda center for the Israeli state. To recapitulate, there is a direct link between the Obsession DVD and the Israeli state through Hasbara Fellowship.
• ”So far, Hasbara Fellowships has trained over 1,400 students on over 250 campuses, providing its participants with the information, tools, resources, and confidence to return to their campuses as leaders in the fight for Israel's image.”
>This points to the acknowledgement that the struggle over Palestine/Israel is going to be fought—rhetorically, one hopes—on college campuses. In fact, college campuses formed the primary site of the distribution of the Obsession DVD before the newspaper campaign. The primary audience on college campuses have been Jewish organizations (like Hillel) and College Republicans. We will come back to this connection between Jewish groups and Republicans later. Shore himself has stated that: “The evangelical Christians and the Jews tend to be the softest market…”.
Raphael Shore has previously written at length about his passionate advocacy on behalf of Israel on the pages of Aish HaTorah’s newsletter. His earlier works had been produced alongside an entity called “Honestreporting.com”, with a self-description as follows: “Israel is in the midst of a battle for public opinion – waged primarily via the media. To ensure Israel is represented fairly and accurately 'HonestReporting' monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and effects change through education and action.” In other words, Honestreporting.com sees itself as a media advocacy organization on behalf of Israel, with the requisite “Fair and Balanced” claims. Honestreporting.com has worked with Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah in producing more pro-Israel material. And it is a family affair: the founder of Honestreporting is Rabbi Raphael Shore’s twin brother, Ephraim Shore. [Ironically, Raphael was so concerned that his brother had become involved with Aish HaTorah that in 1992 he went to Israel to “rescue” his brother from he seems to have regarded as a “big hoax”, and a cult-like milieu. Instead, Raphael too became part of Aish HaTorah!]
Haaretz reported that “Obsession” is described as “Honest Reporting's newest documentary film.” Honestreporting.com’s own website confirms this: “HonestReporting is proud to have been a former marketing partner during the initial production of this award-winning documentary.”
Shore, recognizing that the credibility of his propaganda would be undermined if its correction to Israeli-spin organizations were revealed, told Haaretz (in an unusually frank slip) that they “have told Honest Reporting to take it off their site ‘a dozen times.’” The connections between Obsession and Israeli groups like Aish HaTorah and Jewish advocacy groups on behalf of Israel like Hasbara Fellowship and Honestyreporting.com is beyond dispute. The producers of the documentary just don’t want you to know about it.
One of the other elements that the producers of the Obsession DVD may not want you to know about is their political agenda. The article read: "McCain's policies seek to confront radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and roll it back while [Barack] Obama's, although intending to do the same, could in fact make the situation facing the West even worse."
The spokesperson for the Clarion Fund, Gregory Ross, did not deny that this article had appeared on their site, he was only upset that they had been caught with it! The Clarion Fund has been established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. These types of non-profit organizations are not to endorse one political candidate over another, precisely what Clarion seems to have done, and is now busy hiding its track records. NPR reported on this, and the possibility of a forthcoming FEC probe.
Who is paying for the “Obsession Project”?
We do not know for sure, and the Clarion Fund people are not saying. They admit that the names they give for the funders on their material are bogus aliases. Shore states that 80% of the funding for the Obsession DVD has come from one source, a “Peter Mier”. Yet he goes on to say that these are just aliases! In other words, it is hard to know for sure who is paying for the production and even more importantly the distribution of what the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), the main distributor for Obsession, refers to as the “Obsession Project.”
Given that EMET estimates that this project cost tens of millions of dollars, the signs seem to point to none other than Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish Republican billionaire, discussed below.
Who Distributes the DVD?
According the New York Times, when Shore and Co. could not find any traditional distributor for their propaganda, they formulated a strategy of working with Neo-Conservative organizations like Heritage, College Republicans, and above all, Jewish organizations.
NPR has reported that an organization called Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), is also responsible for distribution of the Obsession DVD. Like Honestreporting.com, the “Middle East Truth” being bandied about here is yet another self-described Zionist/pro-Israel understanding of the reality whose policies are in line with Likud militant expansionism, with the stated mission of support for Israel, and opposing any “concessions” from Israel as part of a peace agreement with Palestinians, even the withdrawal from the occupied territory of Gaza. The positions of EMET are the positions of Likud party in Israel, and that of the illegal Settler movement. It was EMET that on March 25th, 2008 sponsored a showing of Obsession on Capitol Hill.
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET),, the distributor for Obsession, also has an open connection to the Republican Party, which they flaunt on their website: “EMET was also requested to help the Republican Policy Committee with a Sense of the Congress resolution talking about Israel’s inherent right to defend itself…” In other words, Clarion Fund claims to be non-political, but uses a pro-Israel ally of Republicans to distribute its product.
Leading the work of this Endowment has been Sarah Stern, who formerly worked as the National Policy Coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America and later on served as the Director of the Office of Legislative and Governmental Affairs of the AJC (American Jewish Congress).
In short, the distributors of the Obsession DVD are the most ardent and fanatical supporters of Israeli Likud militant expansionism, a fact that the Obsession DVD conveniently omits, and the newspapers who spread the 28 million copies of this DVD like a virus never looked into. EMET also has a cozy relationship with the right-wing Jewish billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson, who has a proven track record of using his wealth to push both Israeli Likud-type and Republican agendas. Adelson has a long-standing and public relationship with the arch-Likud Netanyahu that Haaretz has reported on previously. A recent investigative piece in the New Yorker proved many details of Adelson’s political agenda in both the United States and Israel. Adelson, who owns many casinos in Las Vegas, has been a longtime contributor to the Zionist Organization of America, Sarah Stern’s former employer. Now that Stern is at EMET, she has sponsored lecture series and seminars on Capital Hill in name of Adelson, to extend his influence into the Congress.
Adelson is usually listed as by Forbes as the third richest American, and the sixth richest person in the world. His personal wealth is estimated as exceeding $20 billion. The Washington Post reports that he has already given over 200 million dollars to Jewish and Israeli causes, including the Birthright program, to which he makes a $25 million annual contribution.
To place Adelson on the political spectrum, it is good to recall that he has described himself as a critic of AIPAC—from the far right! In other words, he feels that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has been too soft on Palestinians. (!) Adelson has been a longtime contributor to Jewish and Republican causes, including the campaigns of George W. Bush. Initially, he had designs of spending $250 million dollars to set up an organization called Freedom Watch to keep Obama out of the White House. Freedom Watch, conceived of as the Right’s answer to Moveon.org, has been a meeting ground between Jewish Republicans and former officials of the George W. Bush administration. Such is the agenda of Adelson, the person whose influence is behind the EMET folks distributing the Obsession DVD.
Who else serves on the board of EMET (Endowment for Middle East), the Pro-Israeli lobby group? A who’s who of Israeli officials and ultra-Zionists in the United States:
• Ambassador Yossi Ben-Aharon: Formerly, the Chief of Staff for Ytzak Shamir, and Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
• Ambassador Yoram Ettinger. “Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel's Embassy in Washington (with a rank of an ambassador), Israel's Consul General in Houston and Director of Israel's Government Press Office.”
• Lenny Ben-David: “Israel's Deputy Chief of Mission (number two diplomat) in Washington after being appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”, who in addition has “held senior posts in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for 25 years, in both Washington and Israel.”
In addition to Israeli officials, the EMET Board also includes:
• Neo-Conservatives such as R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney (another Neo-Con who has received awards from the Zionist Organization of America), Ariel Cohen (from the Neo-Conservative bastion Heritage), David Dalin (from the Neo-Con Hoover Institute and also Heritage).
• Ardent pro-Israel lobbyists such as: Daniel Pipes, Caroline Glick (deputy managing editor of Jerusalem Post), Meyrav Wurmser (the former director of the highly biased MEMRI, a propaganda organization founded by members of the Israeli Defense Force), Also serving on the Board of EMET are many of the “talking heads” would-be experts of Obsession, such as Walid Shoebat.
• Christian Zionists: EMET also reaches out to Christians—or one should specify, Christian Zionists—by featuring Rev. James. M. Hutchens, who founded an organization called The Jerusalem Connection International.
There are many more connections to pro-Israel organizations responsible for the distribution of Obsession:
• The producer, Raphael Shore, used Karyn Leffel from Hasbara Fellowship to establish links on college campuses. Yes, the same Hasbara of Pro-Israel media advocacy.
• The producers of Obsession also worked with the most lunatic fringes of the Christian evangelical movement to distribute their propaganda. This included above all else Christians United For Israel (CUFI), who mailed out many copies of the DVD from their mailing center. And the Founder and National Director of Christians United For Israel? None other than the same pastor John Hagee that McCain had initially sought an endorsement from. The same John Hagee who routinely describes Islam as evil, and sees the restoration of Israel as a necessary step towards the return of Christ. Hagee is one of the leading Christian Zionists in America today, and those who know about the tortured history of this variety of Zionism know how easily it has veered towards anti-Semitism, even justifying Hitler as being God’s hunters to drive Jews out of Europe to Israel, so that the Israeli state could be established (thus anticipating Christ’s return).
• Clarion Fund has also worked with other Republican groups to distribute their propaganda. NPR reported that a political consultant named Joe Wierzbicki was screening the film on 9/11 in Dearborn, MI. Who is paying for the screening and hiring Wierzbicki? Interestingly enough, Wierzbicki is the PAC coordinator for an organization called “Our Country Deserves Better”, with one specific goal: to defeat Barack Obama. Their website states: “Our Country Deserves Better than Barack Obama - and with your help we can ensure that Barack Obama is defeated on November 4th.”
The lines of connection between the makers of the allegedly impartial and non-profit Obsession and politically partial Republican groups and pro-Israeli expansionist Jewish organizations continues to grow…
• The last of the verified connections so far is between the producers of Obsession and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). The RJC worked hand in hand with Christians United For Israel to mail out copies of a book titled Standing With Israel to a large number of American Rabbis and leaders of the Jewish community. The package also included a copy of the Obsession DVD, and an approving letter from a former Israeli ambassador to Jews, encouraging them to strengthen connections with Christian Zionists.
The Republican Jewish Coalition is yet another group that the Clarion Fund and the Endowment for Middle Eastern Truth has worked which has taken a partial political position for the forthcoming election. On their website, the Republican Jewish Coalition states that Barack Obama and Joe Biden and their supporters “have handed Ahmadenijad [sic] a big win.”
Islam or Radical Islam?
Perhaps a word should be added here about the distinction between Islam and Radical Islam. In the last few years, we have indeed seen a number of terrorist acts around the world which have resulted in the death of thousands. While the bulk of these have not emanated from Islamic organizations, many have. (Of course the majority of the victims of acts of terrorism even in these latter cases have been other Muslims.) No doubt, a critical look at the ideology of terrorist groups is more than called for in today’s political climate. What many would object to, however, is painting all Muslims and all of Islam with the same brush.
The Obsession DVD opens by making a sharp distinction between Islam and Radical Islam. The producers of the documentary state, adamantly, that they are not anti-islam or anti-Muslim, but that they are only against “Radical Islam.” Leaving aside for a moment the debates over what constitutes “radical Islam”, and how pervasive it actually is, there is an uncomfortable disconnect between this claim on their website and the claims made inside the DVD: the people paraded as would-be experts do not in fact share this neat dichotomy between Islam and “Radical Islam.” The many speakers paraded here have a documented history of making blanket statements against Islam—all of Islam—and all of Muslims.
Let’s take one example, the very first speaker shown on camera: Walid Shoebat.
Shoebat’s claim to fame is that he claims to be an ex-“Islamic terrorist”, turned Christian and lover of Zion. If he claims to have produced bombs to kill citizens, why is he not in prison? Muslims are routinely jailed for much less and indirect accusations. Nevertheless, let us examine Shoebat’s track record regarding some of his more audacious claims about Islam (not just “radical Islam”):
• That Obama is a Muslim. Yes, that old myth again. Sadly, some 13% of American citizens believe this to the case, in spite of the fact that Obama is a committed Christian. Who knows how many more people are moved against Obama due to this rumor, which both Hillary and the Republicans have spread against him.
• “The Arabic speaking communities in America, however, do indeed support Osama bin Ladin and Hamas.” [For some reason, Afghans and Iranians do not, he states.] Shoebat goes on to say: “The less they know about Islam the more peaceful they are.” In other words, the Islamophobic assertions that peaceful Muslims are not peaceful because of Islam, but in spite of Islam; where as “radical Muslims” are precisely radical and violent because of Islam. Something about that logic seems flawed, since it deprives human beings of the agency to actually interpret their own tradition in both beautiful and hideous ways.
• He has been even more forceful in asserting that Islam is evil. His exact words: "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil." Let us be explicit here: The Obsession DVD claims that it is not targeting Islam, it is targeting “Radical Islam.” The first person featured in the DVD sings a different tune, literally demonizing all of Islam.
• Shoebat’s solution to Palestine/Israel, as told to the right-wing “Religious Zionist” Israel National News (the voice of the illegal Settler movement in West Bank and Gaza) is as follows: tear down the Dome of the Rock, and reestablish the Solomon’s Temple on the Temple Mount. The Settler radio embraced him as “the former terrorist turned lover of Zion.” The question is whether this is the kind of person that one should take impartial advice from. It makes as much sense as taking advice about Judaism or African-American history from David Duke.
For one other example, we could look at another of the talking heads in the documentary, the Lebanese Christian Brigitte Gabriel, who appeared before the Christians United For Israel conference on July 27th 2007 (sponsored by Pastor Hagee) and opined:
The difference, my dear Christian friends, between Israel and the Arab world is quite simply the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil and this is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic and Islamic world. I am angry. They have no SOUL! They are dead set on killing and destruction. And in the name of something they call “Allah,” which is very different from the God we believe in, because our God is the God of love.
No fair-minded person would take Gabriel’s hateful words as authoritative teachings of the Christian tradition, or as exemplifying Christian love. And yet the producers of Obsession want the viewers to take Gabriel as an authoritative expert on Islam and Muslims. Somehow when Gabriel describes the whole “Islamic world” as having “no soul”, I suspect that we are no longer in the realm of “we are not talking about Islam, we are talking about Islamic radicals” position that the producers of Obsession hide behind. No wonder that the NY Times described her as a “radical Islamophobe.”
Christ reminded us that by their fruits (and words) you shall know them. And the words of these hate-filled so-called experts speak for themselves.
The massive scale of the Obsession campaign raises a number of disturbing questions: it does point to the ease with which foreign groups from Israel have established non-profit organizations in the United States to sway US elections by working with fringe from the pro-Israel lobby, Republican, and Evangelical community. While their ideology is marginal, their wealth and influence is anything but marginal. Non-profit organizations seeking to exert a political influence is not illegal, but non-profits seeking to endorse political candidates and swaying elections is, and this is precisely what the network behind the Obsession DVD seeks to do.
The “Obsession Project” also does point to the eroding standards of journalism. Why has mainstream American journalism been so slow to pick up on these networks, all of which are publicly available, with some investigation?
The Obsession Project also points to the ever-increasingly poisonous political climate in our country, where demonizing an entire ethnic or religious community seems to be becoming more and more commonplace. We have seen African-Americans, Hispanic, Muslims, Gays and Lesbians, and others characterized in such a fashion. Perhaps no community in the West has been the victims of millennia-long persecution and “Other-ing” campaigns as has the Jewish community. That makes it all the more devastating, and disappointing, that centrally-situated and powerful Jewish organizations from both Israel and the United States are now deploying the same Other-ing strategies against other minority groups, with hardly a voice of dissent being heard from other Jewish organizations. Indeed, Obsession is already tearing down bridges of dialogue between Muslim and Jewish groups across the country that had taken years to establish.
It is readily admitted that Israel remains both a rallying cry and a source of tension for many American Jewish organizations and American Jews. There are important fissures in the American Jewish community over all issues, including that of Israel. No one group speaks for all American Jews, who have often had an exemplary legacy of peace and justice activism. Indeed, one can point to many American Jews who have taken the lead in criticism of Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians. One important question that has yet to be answered is whether propaganda like Obsession will be met with silence by the Jewish community, or if it will be spoken against by all (Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc.) who are committed to peace and social justice.
Lastly, we do note from historical experience that campaigns like this tend to increasingly lower the bar of what is acceptable speech as opposed to “hate speech.” Make no mistake about it: there will be follow up projects. The Clarion Fund has already declared that its next project is a documentary titled The Third Jihad. The synopsis is as follows: “How is radical Islam operating inside the West? Is a subversive ‘cultural jihad’ underway? How does radical Islam plan to bring America to its knees? What is the endgame?” This documentary is set for an October 2008 release date. In other words, if Obsession was about the danger of Radical Islam “over there”, Third Jihad will make the case that this same threat exists “over here.” One shudders at the thought of the hate these pieces of propaganda are producing against members of the American Muslim community.
We can either keep going down this slippery slope of accusations and blanket generalizations, or we can bond together and rise up to say Enough! The point is not only that Muslims are being targeted, it is the very poisoning of our cultural discourse, and our hopes for a pluralistic American society that can welcome and embrace pluralism. To quote Martin Luther King, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” What we need now is less of the hateful heat of Obsession (and its networks), and more light from all of us who are committed to a just and pluralistic future for all of us.
Towards that day, starting today….
Professor of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina
Chair for the Study of Islam Section
American Academy of Religion*
*The opinions here are the personal opinions of the author, and do not reflect University of North Carolina or the American Academy of Religion.
Wanted: Leaders for the Muslim community
Wanted: Leaders for the Muslim community
Mumbai, October 02, 2008
CVs are awaited for vacancies not filled for years: the Muslim community is looking for leaders.
India’s 15 crore Muslims, the country’s second largest religious community, are in the midst of its worst social churning since independence. Muslims are repeatedly being blamed for terror attacks and fingers being pointed at the larger community for acts blamed on a few Muslims.
But there is no one to lead it, and the aspirants are squabbling among themselves. The community is frustrated — and angry.
“There won’t be Muslim leadership in the country for another 50 years. Don’t we have the Muslim League? It struggles to win one MP seat in Kerala,” said Arshad Siddiqui, founder president of Mumbai’s Crescent Society of India.
Many Muslims are frustrated and angst-ridden, feeling the vacuum of a strong leadership that could defend the community against stereotyping and urge introspection and dialogue within.
A question posted on the website of Darul Uloom Deoband, a leading institution of Islamic learning, reflects the predicament of the community.
“What does the holy Quran say regarding the terrorists who in the name of Islam are spreading terror and killing innocent people and also waging a war against our own country?” the questioner asked.
“How should they be treated? What should the general Muslims do if they have any information of such kind of people?” the query said.
Institutions like the Darul Uloom frequently issue fatwas on various issues, and although they are respected as centres of learning, the edicts are almost never followed by Muslims at large.
So, it was left to students of the Jamia Millia University last week, for example, to protest the vilification of the university and the neighbourhood after the September 13 blasts in Delhi.
When politicians have tried in the past to lead the community, they have failed.
In Uttar Pradesh, with the influence of one-time Muslim favourite Mulayam Singh Yadav weakening, several clerics tried to form a political party. They were propelled into action by the success of the similarly organised Assam United Democratic Front, which won 10 of the 126 seats in state elections two years ago.
But the UDF formed by Maulana Ahmad Bukhari, the chief priest of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, and Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad collapsed much before it could test political waters in Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier the Momin conference, the Muslim League in Kerala and All-India Muslim Forum have also tried, but failed, to garner political support for the community.
Bukhari has made a new effort: on October 14, representatives from 100-odd Muslim organisations will discuss “Terrorism and Islam”.
“As of now we are hunting for a Muslim leader who could keep the interest of the community above his personal or political interests," Bukhari told the Hindustan Times.
“It’s a vicious circle. Till we remain a fragmented community, political empowerment will remain a distant dream. And until we grab political power, the silent minority will continue to suffer,” said Bukhari.
But many others leaders of Islamic opinion — like the Darul Uloom in Deoband — refuse to discuss the link between Islam and terror.
“Instead of diagnosing the disease and treating it, the government has wrongly given it a name of Islamic terrorism,” said Adil Siddiqui, the spokesman for the Deoband seminary.
Where politicians and social activists have failed, social groups are stepping in.
The World Islamic Network of Mumbai has since the 2006 Mumbai blasts conducted large-scale public campaigns to fight stereotypes on Islam and terrorism. The Crescent Society, which has 40,000 members, has planned similar meetings with other communities in November.
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan, a women’s group with 10,000 members, is campaigning extensively to bring together Dalits and Muslim women across the country.
The group says it has politically groomed women to contest various levels of polls in Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa.
Voice of Moderate Muslims
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
Moderate Islam Speaker
Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida
August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916
Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.