Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five sisters killed in Gaza while they slept

Israel's target was the mosque next door. But the rocket attack claimed the lives of innocent children
By Donald Macintyre and Said GhazaliTuesday, 30 December 2008
The Independent

The five Palestinian sisters were fast asleep when a night-time Israeli airstrike hit the next-door mosque in Gaza. One of the walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in their beds. The eldest sister, Tahrir, was 17 years old, the youngest, Jawaher, just four.

"They grow up day after day and night after night. Within a second, I have lost them," the girls' father, Anwar Balousha, said yesterday. The 37-year-old, along with another three of his children, was himself injured in the attack on the densely populated Jabalya refugee camp.

The funerals of the sisters – Tahrir, 17; Ikram, 15; Samar, 12; Dina eight; and Jawaher, four – were attended by family members and thousands of mourners. But with space running out in the cemetery, the five girls had to be buried in just three graves, one for the eldest and the others forced to share.

Mr Balousha wept down the phone, saying he felt "how a father who lost his five daughters would feel". With recorded readings from the Koran audible in the background, along with occasional explosions in the distance, he added: "It is the will of Allah. We are believers in God."
Amid the pile of rubble that was the Balousha home yesterday, three torn blankets could be seen poking out from the ruins along with a painted blue iron, a broken brown cupboard and a baby's bed.

The Israeli military said it had targeted the next-door mosque because it was a "known gathering place" of Hamas adherents. It said four gunmen were inside it at the time of the attack. The mosque was named Imad Akel after the former leader of the Hamas military wing.

As Israeli strikes continued, the uncle of the dead sisters said the family had been innocent victims. "We are not those who are firing rockets against Israel," Ibrahim Balousha said. "We are just people, human beings and not animals."

The Balousha family had moved out of their house when the Israeli bombing started on Saturday but they had decided to return "to meet their fate" in the words of the dead girls' uncle. He said that three missiles had been used in the airstrike at around 11.20pm on Sunday night and that hundreds of neighbours had arrived to help in the wake of the carnage.

After the funeral, 16-year-old Iman, who was briefly buried in the rubble of the family home but survived, described her unlucky siblings' dying moments. "I told my sisters, you will be martyrs, this is the end."

Her grieving uncle said that Hamas had taken advantage of the funeral to chant slogans including "Vengeance, Vengeance". Shouts of "Bomb Tel Aviv" were also heard. But Ibrahim Balousha said he had given the militant group short shrift. "I told them, this is a funeral and not a rally."

Times were already tough for the family of refugees even before the latest tragedy. The girls' father is unemployed for 11 months of the year, picking up work selling Ka'ak bread around Ramadan. The family depend on food rations from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and a $40 (£27.50) monthly handout. "The story is almost the same for decades," Ibrahim Balousha said: "Intifada and miseries, poverty and catastrophes."

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said: "The killing of these young girls is another tragic illustration that this bombardment is exacting a terrible price on innocent civilians. As with the killing of UNRWA students [on Saturday] we hope there will be a thorough and impartial and transparent investigation.

"Most important of all there has to be accountability. We need to know if international law was violated and if so, by whom," he added.

The UN yesterday issued a "conservative" estimate of the number of civilians killed in three days of unprecedentedly fierce aerial bombardment, putting the death toll at 62. It is a deliberately conservative estimate because it excludes all men in the Gaza City area to ensure that it does not accidentally include uniformed personnel.

The Palestinian Centre of Human Rights said that "most" of the more than 300 casualties were civilian but their tally includes Hamas policemen. It also said some bodies had still to be identified because they were so badly disfigured and that its field officers – who aim to chart every Palestinian casualty – are facing "extreme difficulties in visiting some areas, particularly those under multiple bombardment.

The Israeli military insists that it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties but repeatedly points out that Hamas regularly and "cynically and specifically" uses locations in heavily built-up areas.

Urge Congress, President to Stop Israeli Massacre in Gaza

The Philadelphia Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) is calling on people to ask their Congressional Representatives and the President to demand an end to the massacre underway in Gaza, and educate their Congressional Representatives about what steps (included below) they can take to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.


1. WRITE to your elected officials (one U.S. Representative and 2 U.S. Senators (Specter and Casey) and the President) to demand an end to the massacre in Gaza.

Sample Letters

Letter to Senator Casey
Letter to Representative Gerlach
Letter to Representative Sestak
Letter to Senator Specter

Please download, print your name and address at the bottom.

- Click http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt to find your representative. If you do not know your representative's name, please enter your zip code to find out

- Sign and mail/fax the letter. Continue to call.

2. WRITE a letter to the editor.
- Go online to find letter requirements for your local newspaper or call the paper and ask for the Letters Editor.

Talking points:

* As a concerned American, I call for an immediate end to the Israeli massacre underway in Gaza and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

* Our nation and its leaders cannot and should not remain silent as an illegal humanitarian disaster unfolds in Gaza. Collective punishment is always counterproductive and only serves to block moves toward a just resolution of any conflict.

* Because American taxpayers provide Israel with billions of dollars of economic support each year, we have the right to demand that those funds not be used to kill innocent civilians and increase human suffering.

* Israel must abide by international law and universal standards of human rights. We call on President Bush to demand the immediate end of Israel's killings and blockade.

* Silence from American officials will only serve to increase the perception worldwide that our nation cares little for the suffering of the Palestinian people.

* The perception that the U.S. abets cruel and inhumane treatment of civilian populations provides fodder for anti-Americanism that may threaten the security of the United States.

3. INFORM YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY by forwarding this alert to at least five other people. Tell them you took action and ask them to do the same.

I am a Palestinian

"I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that ... the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."

Published on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by The Guardian/UK
From The Ashes of Gaza
In the face of Israel's latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution
by Tariq Ali

The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.

Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians etc (for all the gory detail, see Harvard scholar Sara Roy's chilling essay in the London Review of Books) were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had "provoked" Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and Nato's favourite Islamists in Ankara failed to register even a symbolic protest by recalling their ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UN security council to discuss the crisis.

As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the west claims it is combating in the "war against terror".
The bloodshed in Gaza raises broader strategic questions for both sides, issues related to recent history. One fact that needs to be recognised is that there is no Palestinian Authority. There never was one. The Oslo Accords were an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians, creating a set of disconnected and shrivelled Palestinian ghettoes under the permanent watch of a brutal enforcer. The PLO, once the repository of Palestinian hope, became little more than a supplicant for EU money.

Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The west and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the "international community" in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, US and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run.
Even the timing of the election was set by the determination to rig the outcome. Scheduled for the summer of 2005, it was delayed till January 2006 to give Abbas time to distribute assets in Gaza - in the words of an Egyptian intelligence officer, "the public will then support the Authority against Hamas."

Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this. Hamas's electoral triumph was treated as an ominous sign of rising fundamentalism, and a fearsome blow to the prospects of peace with Israel, by rulers and journalists across the Atlantic world. Immediate financial and diplomatic pressures were applied to force Hamas to adopt the same policies as those of the party it had defeated at the polls. Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority's combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a "peace process" that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people.

It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad base of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran. How far its conduct in the second Intifada has given it an additional degree of credibility is less clear. Its armed attacks on Israel, like those of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or Islamic Jihad, have been retaliations against an occupation far more deadly than any actions it has ever undertaken. Measured on the scale of IDF killings, Palestinian strikes have been few and far between. The asymmetry was starkly exposed during Hamas's unilateral ceasefire, begun in June 2003, and maintained throughout the summer, despite the Israeli campaign of raids and mass arrests that followed, in which some 300 Hamas cadres were seized from the West Bank.

On August 19 2003, a self-proclaimed "Hamas" cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership, blew up a bus in west Jerusalem, upon which Israel promptly assassinated the Hamas ceasefire's negotiator, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas, in turn, responded. In return, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states cut funding to its charities and, in September 2003, the EU declared the whole Hamas movement to be a terrorist organization - a longstanding demand of Tel Aviv.

What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline - demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest-armed oppression of modern history.

"Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for 45 years against occupation force," said General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993. The real grievance of the EU and US against Hamas is that it refused to accept the capitulation of the Oslo Accords, and has rejected every subsequent effort, from Taba to Geneva, to pass off their calamities on the Palestinians. The west's priority ever since was to break this resistance. Cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority is an obvious weapon with which to bludgeon Hamas into submission. Boosting the presidential powers of Abbas - as publicly picked for his post by Washington, as was Karzai in Kabul - at the expense of the legislative council is another.

No serious efforts were made to negotiate with the elected Palestinian leadership. I doubt if Hamas could have been rapidly suborned to western and Israeli interests, but it would not have been unprecedented. Hamas' programmatic heritage remains mortgaged to the most fatal weakness of Palestinian nationalism: the belief that the political choices before it are either rejection of the existence of Israel altogether or acceptance of the dismembered remnants of a fifth of the country. From the fantasy maximalism of the first to the pathetic minimalism of the second, the path is all too short, as the history of Fatah has shown.

The test for Hamas is not whether it can be house-trained to the satisfaction of western opinion, but whether it can break with this crippling tradition. Soon after the Hamas election victory in Gaza, I was asked in public by a Palestinian what I would do in their place. "Dissolve the Palestinian Authority" was my response and end the make-believe. To do so would situate the Palestinian national cause on its proper basis, with the demand that the country and its resources be divided equitably, in proportion to two populations that are equal in size - not 80% to one and 20% to the other, a dispossession of such iniquity that no self-respecting people will ever submit to it in the long run. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians alike, in which the exactions of Zionism are repaired. There is no other way.
And Israeli citizens might ponder the following words from Shakespeare (in The Merchant of Venice), which I have slightly altered:

"I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that ... the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."

© 2008 Guardian News and Media Limited
Tariq Ali has been a leading figure of the international left since the 60s. He has been writing for the Guardian since the 70s. He is a long-standing editor of the New Left Review and a political commentator published on every continent.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gaza & Beyond: What's the Alternative?

Gaza & Beyond: What's the Alternative?
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

Late Saturday night, I asked us to live with the vertigo of choosing between two versions of the Jewish future: the vision of Zechariah, which we read every year on Shabbat Hanukkah -- "Not by might and not by power but by My breathing-spirit, says YHWH Infinite" and the vision of permanently using --as right now in Gaza -- -- superior power to impose superior violence.
I received many brickbats, many thank-yous and blessings, and one calm question: What's the alternative?

So after simply living with the despair of what seem like impossible choices, we might begin to ask ourselves the necessary question: What's the alternative?

Right away, the UN Security Council (with no US veto interposed) has called for an immediate end to all violence into and from Gaza. So have J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish lobby, and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. This call makes sense, and should be applied with equal and immediate insistence and enforcement to the Hamas rockets against Israel, the Israeli bombing of Gaza, Israeli interference with shipments of food and medicine and fuel to Gaza, and Egyptian violence against Palestinians trying to flee the bombs of Gaza.

But this is a palliative, not an alternative.

The alternative for Hamas would have been to multiply the approach of the nonviolent boatloads of people who were in the last month bringing supplies to Gaza, ignoring or violating the Israeli blockade. This approach was building support in much of the world. Of course it was not enough to feed the whole people or heal them of disease, but it was pointing out the injustice and violence of the blockade. Instead of canceling the cease-fire and aiming rockets once again, they could have turned those boats into a multitude.

(A message to those who blindly support whatever Hamas does because they are the underdog: The teaching of the Prophet Zechariah is not just for Jews. It is about self-restraint when you have greater power, and it is about nonviolence -- also a form of self-restraint -- when you have lesser power. It is God's word for everybody.)

The alternative for the Israeli government would be to say: --- Instead of scornfully rejecting the Saudi/ Arab League proposal for a region-wide peace settlement among Israel, all Arab states, and a viable Palestinian state, we encourage it, and encourage its proponents to press Hamas to join in, while making clear that for us the deal must include only very small symbolic numbers of Palestinian refugees returning to Israel itself, and control of the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. And we encourage, instead of blocking, a Palestinian government of national unity, including Hamas as well as Fatah. We will attend that peace conference tomorrow - tonight! And meanwhile, we seek as much peace as possible with Hamas -- if not full recognition, then a 50-year truce (as one Hamas leader had proposed.) . We negotiate openly with Hamas toward ending the blockade, encouraging economic development inside Gaza, welcoming European and Egyptian aid and investment, releasing the members of their parliament we are holding in jail, and in exchange, get an end to the rocket attacks by Hamas and their acceptance of governmental responsibility to control other groups that may try to continue. We use the checkpoints to prevent terrorist incursions into Israel, rather than preventing delivery of food and medicine to Gaza.

(Perhaps even now an Israeli government could take that road ---- arguing, Now that we have proved we can be bloody, we are not negotiating from weakness, we are not rewarding terrorism, we can walk this path!)And the alternative for the US government would be to use the disaster of this attack to call for all the above: To insist on a regional Middle East peace conference, to insist that even a Netanyahu government of Israel and even a Hamas leadership of Gaza or Palestine take part and accept a decent deal. And that's where the long-range intentions of The Shalom Center come into focus --- Working for a peaceful and peace-making US policy in the broader Middle East and the even broader Muslim world, and intertwined with that, a new US pursuit of sustainable energy sources to heal our planet and make the conquest of Middle East Oil unecessary. That long-range intention is where we need your help!

Shalom, salaam, peace -- Arthur Waskow

Statement on Gaza by Professor Larry Davidson

Statement on Gaza by Professor Larry Davidson
Professor of History
West Chester University
West Chester PA

Ever since Israel's withdrawal of its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 it has slowly turned that territory into a besieged ghetto. All land, sea and air access in and out of Gaza was and is controlled and the amount of supplies in and out have been reduced over time. In this process the governments of the United States and Egypt cooperated. Indeed, by there silence, the European Union and many Middle Eastern countries also showed that they would cause no trouble for Israel on account of their actions in Gaza. This is probably the case because a. the leaders of these countries, whether democratic or authoritarian, are members of a political elite who value their relationship with the United States and Israel more than the lives of the Gazans. These leaders have no stomach for upholding international law or pointing fingers at Israel even when it commits crimes against humanity. And, b. the majority of citizens of these lands (even the Arab ones) do not know enough or care enough about Gaza's fate to rise up and demand a change in their government's policies. In the case of the UN there has also been silence from the Security Council (whose members follow the lead of their basically pro-Zionist governments) and from the organizations timid Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Only the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, and the Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, Richard Falk (an American Jewish academic), have had the courage to speak out. And, of course, these brave souls have no authority over UN policy.

In the face of this situation the resistance groups of Gaza had only their home made missiles to fight back offensively. These were not, of course, a very effective weapons. Confined to a ghetto and abandoned by most of the world, the democratically elected government headed by Hamas negotiated a hudna or truce with Israel through the auspices of the Egyptian government. This truce brought a fragile quiet to Gaza and southern Israel for six months but did not relieve the pressure on Gaza's borders or promise any real betterment in the lives of the people of the Gaza Strip. Then, in September 2008 a meeting took place outside of Ramallah between the West Bank militia leaders of Fattah and Israeli military commanders. According to reports in the Israeli paper Ydiot Ahronot the meeting was to arrange for the deployment of more Fattah policemen in the city of Jenin. But it went further and included reaching a common agreement on the destruction of Hamas prior to the end of Abu Mazen's presidential term of office on January 9th. The Fattah militia leaders described Hamas as a common enemy of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The two would now work together to destroy this enemy. Israel would destroy Hamas in Gaza and Fattah would assist in its destruction on the West Bank.

Shortly thereafter Israel purposely broke the truce by crossing the Gaza border on the pretext of destroying a tunnel which they said was to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers. It was not a believable tale. The tunnel certainly existed, but it did not cross the border into Israel. The Israelis, obviously knowing about the tunnel, could have simply waited to see if the tunnel came into Israeli territory and then destroy it. If this happened the Israelis would have a strong case for their actions and the truce would most likely survive action against Hamas within Israel. But there was no proof that Hamas was intent on using the tunnel to attack Israeli troops as long as there was a truce. Israel knew that Hamas would retaliate for its attack on the tunnel within Gaza territory. And the chances of the truce crumbling in the face of Israeli aggression and a tightening of the borders that had by that time produced widespread malnutrition was predictably high. This scenario was produced by Israel so as to give them an excuse to fulfill the plan originally discussed with the Fattah militia back in September.

What we see happening today, with the massive airstrikes of December 26 through 28 is but the beginning of this plan to destroy Hamas. More air strikes will probably follow and culminate in a full military invasion of the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians will die in this operation along with hundreds of Israelis. The Israelis can also expect a renewal of suicide attacks in their cities. The present structure of Hamas in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will suffer great damage. Its ability to do its charitable work and carry on resistence may well cease in the short run. But then they will rebuild and within a number of years appear again to serve the needs of their people and renew resistence against the Zionist enemy.

In this story there is only one really new aspect. It is not Israeli duplicity, for modern Israeli leaders have regularly broken their word, whether given orally or in writing, ever since the first Camp David efforts of 1978. It is not the use of tactics that combined the behaviors of both progroms and concentration camps. For Israel had been concentrating, impoverishing, and brutalizing Palestinians both as individuals and as a group for decades. Indeed, the world needs a new word to describe the behavior of Israelis toward Palestinians—a word that means the same as anti-Semitism but is applicable to Zionist behavior. Not even the world's silence in the face of the Israel's turning of Gaza into a modern version of the Warsaw ghetto is really new. For the world's governments have been essentially silent for 60 years. What turns out to be the new aspect of this tale is the collusion of Fattah and the Palestinian Authority in this aggression toward the Palestinians of Gaza. It would seem that Fattah has turned into collaborators with those who seek to ethnically cleanse them. They remind this writer of the Jews who served the Nazis as policemen in the ghettos of German controlled Europe during World War II. Their reward was that they would be the last to be exterminated.

The treasonous behavior of Fattah means that this organization and its leaders are almost certainly doomed. Unlike Hamas, they will not be able to rebuild. Their reputation, after it becomes known that they cooperated with Isreal in the assault against Gaza, will be unredeemable. If there is ever another election in Palestine they will not be able to seriously participate. They can now exert authority only as adjuncts of the Israel's colonial army. In essense, they have abandoned the Palestinian people and tied their fates irreparable to that of Israel.

Friday, November 14, 2008

We are Muslims. So what?

We are Muslims. So what?

SAFDAR KHWAJA decries the anti-Muslim sentiments dredged up by Election 2008 and wonders why American Muslims must always be defined by 9/11

Sunday, November 09, 2008

One of the most disturbing aspects of Election 2008 was the whispering campaign that Barack Obama was a Muslim -- with the implication that this meant he was dangerous, secretly plotting to destroy America or, at the least, unqualified to be president. No matter how many times the candidate or the media pointed out that Mr. Obama is Christian, more than 10 percent of Americans still thought he was Muslim.

Further inflaming the situation was the distribution to more than 20 million Americans of a DVD titled, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." This incendiary faux documentary purports to portray only a small slice of the Islamic world but effectively paints all Muslims as closet terrorists who should be feared. Intended to influence the election, the DVD was inserted in Sunday newspapers, including the Post-Gazette, in key battleground states.

To his credit, John McCain at one point tried to tamp down the anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiment running rampant among his supporters. At a rally in mid-October, a woman told him she distrusted Mr. Obama because he was an "Arab." Mr. McCain responded, "No ma'am, no ma'am, he's a decent family man, [a] citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." Mr. McCain was booed at one point when he tried to assure his audience that they needn't be scared if Obama became president.

Although his heart was in the right place, Mr. McCain inadvertently fertilized the widespread prejudice against Arabs by implying that only a non-Arab could be a "decent family man."

Within a week of this sobering event, former Secretary of State Colin Powell finally got it right. Recalling the photo of a mother draped over the gravestone of her soldier son killed in Iraq, a gravestone etched with the crescent of Islam, Gen. Powell questioned those who were stirring up anti-Muslim fervor: "I'm also troubled by -- not what Sen. McCain says -- but what members of the party say ... such things as, 'Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well, the correct answer is, 'He is not a Muslim. He's a Christian." ... But the really right answer is, 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer's 'No, that's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president?"

There may be as many as 6 million Muslims in the United States, representing all major ethnicities and races in the world -- Arabs, African Americans, whites, South Asians, East Asians and Europeans among them. They live mostly in cities, they are about as affluent and educated as the rest of the U.S. population and they come from all walks and stations in life.

American Muslims belong to various political parties and have diverse views on social, cultural and public-policy issues. They tend to be conservative on social issues -- on abortion and gay marriage, for instance -- which led most of them to vote for Republicans when George W. Bush was first elected.

Their religion obliges them to follow local laws, to give generously to charity and to struggle for social justice and equality. The extreme radicalism espoused by a tiny minority of Muslims for political purposes is in jarring disharmony with the teachings and traditions that Muslims learn and understand.
Muslims belong to the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- and maintain through the teachings of the prophet Muhammad spiritual and theological linkages with prior divine messengers, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. Muslims are taught to especially honor the "people of the books" -- those who consider divine the revelations of the Torah, the Bible and the Quran.

According to the Quran, divine messages were received by all nations on Earth, which means that all nations are worthy of respect. It teaches that superior conduct and performance of duty becomes self-evident and represents the highest form of nobility, regardless of faith. Other Americans should expect a Muslim to follow the golden rule and respond to others with superior conduct.

Mainstream Muslims find inspiration in a rich history, especially from the 7th through 18th centuries when Muslims ruled in many parts of the world, including Arabia, Persia, Spain, India and Ottoman Turkey. For the most part during this period they embraced all races and religions and fostered a fertile intellectual environment in which science, culture, law, education and public administration flourished.

The call to educate one's self and to understand nature are abundant in the Quran. Kids hear this uplifting narrative at the knees of their grandparents, who urge them to live up to the highest ideals of civilization.

Many Americans seem to think that Muslims were introduced to this country on Sept. 11, 2001. They also seem not to recall that the tragic acts of that day, perpetrated by Muslims unworthy of the name, were uniformly condemned by all major Muslim schools of thought, as well as by Muslim political leaders worldwide -- as have been similar acts ever since.

In truth, Muslims arrived in America long before there was a United States of America. Their story is the American story.

The Pinzon brothers captained the Nina and the Pinta for Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World in 1492. Most of the navigators and scientists on the early New World voyages were Muslims.

Columbus' scribe recorded sightings of mosques near Hispaniola (now Cuba), and women in Moorish dresses. Muslims and Jews, fleeing the Reconquista and later the Spanish Inquisition, rushed to the Americas. Ruins of Mosques and minarets inscribed with Quranic verses have been discovered in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada.

The second wave of Muslim immigrants were among the tragic victims of the "middle passage." Up to 25 percent of the slaves brought from Africa were Muslims. Among them, in 1767, was Kunta Kinte, a Muslim from Gambia who was made famous as the ancestor of author Alex Haley in the book and TV movie "Roots."

A third wave of Muslim immigrants came from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean as labor to fuel the industrial revolution of the 19th century.
The most recent wave arrived after World War II, mostly from the Near East, South Asia and East Asia. These immigrants were attracted primarily by educational and economic opportunities -- and by the American ideals of liberty and human rights. These Muslims, like many before them, considered the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights as the foundation of a government system most in tune with their own faith and aspirations.

So, to paraphrase Colin Powell ... We are Muslims. So what?

American Muslims are bricklayers and doctors, lawyers and accountants, engineers and nurses, carpenters and artists, writers and soldiers.

Their stories are American stories. They have been here as long as any other immigrants from the Old World. Their contributions to our society are every bit as valuable as those of any other Americans. They deserve better than to be defined by 9/11.

Safdar Khwaja, a board member of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is an engineer who lives in Murrysville (safdar khwaja@hotmail.com).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Iraq: One Winter Soldier's Tale

This is a tale of one Iraq War Veteran who describes the horrors that are being committed by US troops on innocent Iraqi civilians

Click Here

And Here

Monday, October 27, 2008

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in America?"

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in America?"
An exploration by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

I think we need to explore the meaning of this question, which was raised — and answered — by Colin Powell in a recent major interview: "The correct answer is, he [Obama] is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: 'What if he is?' Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America."

Of course Colin Powell is only partly right. Fear and even hatred of Islam is a part of the actual America at this moment of our history. It is also true that in part of America there is a real effort of Muslims, Jews, and Christians to learn from each other, make peace with each other -- and beyond.

In the warp and woof of all our communities, whether defined by "religion" or by "nation," there are some streaks of blood woven in the fabric. And some streaks of respect and compassion and celebration of the One Who encompasses all "others." Indeed, celebration of the One Whose infinitude can be reflected only through the diversity of our unique traditions. Whose Infinity can be honored only by honoring our differences.

Two parts of America. And, as usual, a third and larger part – uncertain, silent, more willing to honor sameness than difference, yet open to seeing "sameness" in Muslims and Jews and Christians and Buddhists.

Powell was appealing within and beyond the actual America to that patriotic vision of America that sings, "O beautiful for patriots' dream that sees beyond the years/ Thine alabaster cities gleam – undimmed by human tears." Now why did it take Colin Powell to say this? Why were not a slew of Senators, Presidential candidates, university presidents, heads of churches and synagogues, saying it?

Both a sweet and a sour way of answering that question occur to me.

Sour: Was it because he's a retired general who actually led a war against a Muslim nation, and a former Secretary of State who justified a war against a Muslim nation? -- so nobody could accuse him of being a "raghead-lover"? Because he's not running for elected office in a country where many voters think Muslims are traitors?

Sweet: Is he actually in the process of doing tshuvah ("turning," repentance)? Has he come to the conclusion that his complicity in the second of those wars was a profound ethical as well as practical mistake, and is he doing at least some repair of the bloodshed that flowed from that mistake -- some effort to prevent the blood that could yet flow from more fear and hatred of Islam?

There are related "Why's" we need to ask. Why didn’t either Senator McCain or Senator Obama carry their campaigns into a mosque, after speaking at many synagogues and churches?

Why did Obama's campaign feel they needed to apologize for sending a speaker to a meeting where one of the sponsors was CAIR – the Council on American-Islamic Relations? Evidently because CAIR is listed by the Ashford-Gonzales-Mukasy Department of Justice as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a case where a Muslim charity is accused of channeling money to an organization which is accused of assisting some terrorists.

Let us examine this "unindicted co-conspirator" business. The most clever –and most disgusting – thing about the label is that the Department of Justice can affix the label totally on its own. By definition, they have not even presented evidence to a grand jury that would justify indicting the organization on "probable cause," let alone taking the case to a jury that could convict or acquit. Indeed, since CAIR is not a defendant, it cannot even be acquitted – although that did in fact happen to most of the people and groups whose actual indictment they got hooked onto. In that case, the government had years to amass the evidence they claimed showed support for terrorism. But a jury in Texas – hardly a hotbed of pro-Muslim sentiment -- acquitted the defendants on almost all the charges, and was divided on a small number of them.

Indeed, an examination of CAIR'S website and a review of speakers at its national and local functions show that it condemns terrorism and participates with vigor in the normal processes of American democracy.

But the partially hung jury gave the government the opening to bring the case for retrial, and to keep alive the unsubstantiated smear against CAIR.

This is "Middle East McCarthyism." A candidate as brave and as principled as Colin Powell is evidently trying to be, in his present reincarnation, would have denounced it. But a candidate who is himself thought by 13% of Americans to be a secret Muslim, and therefore to be a traitor, evidently felt he could not be that brave and principled.

The atmosphere of fear and hatred toward Islam has actually increased in the US during the last few years. Why? Partly because it has been deliberately stimulated. But partly because of what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance." Most people who do something that runs against ordinary rules of decent behavior want to believe there is some extremely important reason to do it. So if you spend almost a trillion dollars and send thousands of Americans to their deaths and thousands more to lose their legs, arms, eyes, genitals, minds, and souls – all in order to kill Muslims who are not terrorists, do not have weapons of mass destruction, and are citizens of a weak and defenseless nation -- it becomes imperative to see Muslims and Islam – without distinctions -- as extremely dangerous. Not quite human. Not real Americans. Not one more thread in the lovely multi-colored fabric of American democracy.

And of course the fear and rage had a root in the actions of a small number of terrorists who did claim Islam as their justification, even though the mainstream organizations and leaders of Islam and the vast majority of Muslims in the world condemned the terrorist attack.

But this disorganized fear and rage would have remained disorganized, inchoate, ineffective, if some organizations had not whipped it up.

Enter a DVD called "Obsession," which a month ago was mailed as a free embedded ad to the readers of more than a dozen major newspapers. At the time I briefly remarked upon its distortions and promised you a more through assessment. Then big chunks of the American and world economy fell apart, and my attention turned to what our traditions teach about a flourishing abundance – and its choke-off.

Yet these two phenomena are not totally disconnected. Organized hatred of Islam might have even worse results if we were to fall further into economic crisis. During the Great Depression, clever organizers tried to turn fear and anger away from the "malefactors of great wealth" and "economic royalists" (as Franklin Roosevelt called them) to focus instead on Jewish targets. That effort mushroomed in America. In Germany, it took over.

Today, in Europe and America it is much less likely that Jews would be the targets of a populace frightened and enraged by economic disaster, or the targets of organizations hoping to deflect anger from the hyper-wealthy.

Muslims might become the target of opportunity.

And just as anti-Jewish rage in the 1930s was a danger not only to Jews but also to all who affirmed a free democracy and sought to reempower the poor and the middle class, so widespread rage against Muslims today would be a danger not only to Muslims.

"Obsession" is an attempt to make not a band of terrorists but all Islam the enemy. Bad enough in itself; even worse that it was deliberately sent to millions of homes through newspapers in the major "swing states" of presidential politics. It was an attempt to transform religious fear and ignorance into religious hatred, and hatred into an election tool.

I suppose the people who did this hoped that if they could change some votes in those key states they could save America and the world from leaders who were thoughtlessly "soft on terrorism" or "blind to the threat of Islam." They may even have thought not that their ends justified their means but that their ends and means were in ethical coherence. But those who stirred racial hatred in the 19650s and '60s thought they were saving America from the disaster of cultural "mongrelization" in a soup of racial inferiority. And the McCarthyists of the 1950s thought their stirring fear and hatred of "subversives" was saving America from the disaster of Communist espionage and take-over. And those who imprisoned Japanese-Americans in the 1940s thought they were saving America from the disaster of widespread sabotage. (All of these folks probably hoped to increase their own power as byproduct; but who doesn't?)

Indeed, their means and their ends did cohere. Repression born of fear will breed more repression born of hatred. There are two grounds to challenge their practices: the ground of caring for truth, and the ground of caring for love.

Truth first: "Obsession" begins with images of cars and American flags burning, bombs exploding. Over them run words that say the film is not about Islam as a whole but about some violent "radical" branches of Islam. The words are visible; but no voice says them. They are hard to absorb while the eye is following fire and maimed bodies. In my experience as a watcher, the words serve not as an authentic framing for what happens in the film, but as an excuse for what in fact becomes an attack on Islam as a whole. (About halfway through the film, the commentators stop referring to "radical Islam" and start referring simply to "Islam.")

The film never shows the millions of Muslims, leaders and grass-roots, who spoke their grief and horror at the World Trade Center murders. It does not show the meetings of Muslim scholars and teachers who issued fatwas (decrees) against killing civilians, or the work of Muslim organizations that not only called for dialogue but took part in it and patiently sent teachers to explain Islam to Jews and Christians. It does not show the work of Muslim charities trying to meet the needs of desperately poor families, of sick children, in countries as far-flung as Pakistan and Palestine.

When the film does show Muslims at prayer, it delivers the message that Muslims who become murderers are the same as those who pray – rather than counterposing the hundreds of millions who pray with the hundreds who kill.

On the other side of the same coin, the film ignores violence perpetrated in the names of religious and nationalist ideals when they are committed by Jews, Christians, Hindus, Communists, patriotic Americans. I do not mean only such acts as blowing up the Federal building in Oklahoma City or killing 29 Muslims prostrate in prayer in the Tomb of Abraham or murdering hundreds of Irish folk because they espouse one wrong flavor or another of Christianity.
I mean also this: Killing thousands of civilians is mass murder whether it is done by turning a truck or a plane with no national flag upon it into a bomb ("terrorism"), or dropping bombs from airplanes with a national flag proudly painted on them ("war"). For an American president who proclaims himself a born-again Christian and depends on the political heft of millions of born-again Christians to kill at least 300,000 Iraqis smells to me as much of religious terrorism as does the murder of 3,000 people in the World Trade Center by a band that proclaimed itself devout Muslims.

"Obsession" does not address this tug toward violence as it infects all our communities. It pretends that only Islam is infected, and all Islam at that.

And by doing this, it distracts us from addressing the real changes we need to make to wash away the bloody streaks in each and all of our traditions.

It also distracts us from addressing the real local needs and frustrations and oppressions that actually provide the heat that boils over into violence. It treats varied movements and disorganized upsurges that use violence as if they were all part of the same "international Muslim conspiracy" (I am deliberately echoing a slogan from the 19th and 20th centuries directed against Jews) -- even when some of the attackers are Christians or secularists, even when most of the attacks are rooted in nationalism rather than Islam, even when some of the attacks are against foreign occupation troops rather than civilians, even when angry bands of unemployed, disaffected and uprooted young men who happen to come from Muslim families but have little interest in Islam smash and burn local stores as have their non-Muslim peers.

Just as Cold War ideology on both sides "justified" blood baths in Ukraine, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia as necessary to defeat the "capitalist conspiracy" without regard to the local needs and issues of the real live people, and "justified" blood baths in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Vietnam, and Cambodia as necessary to defeat the "communist conspiracy" without regard to the local needs and issues of the real live people, so "Obsession"'s ideology will make it impossible to address real needs, and beckons us all toward new bloodbaths in the place of necessary change.

Is there any truth at all in "Obsession"? Yes. We do need to be concerned about terrorism from any source, and even more so when it comes garbed in God. But there is too much falsity surrounding that spark of truth for us to trust "Obsession" as a teaching.

What to do?

Speak out against the obsessive fear of Islam. Speak out to highlight the most important line in Colin Powell's interview. Speak out to political candidates, urging them to speak in all sorts of houses of worship if they speak in any. Speak out to the publishers of the newspapers that carried "Obsession" as an ad, asking them whether a DVD about the "International Jewish Conspiracy" would have found so quick acceptance, no matter how much the money offered their shrinking bank accounts. Speak out to their editors and columnists as well, asking them to critically analyze the film. Since the producers of "Obsession" have announced a follow-up film called "Relentless," be proactive in addressing the future as well as the past.

Above all, do not leave the defense of Islam's dignity and honor to Muslims alone. Christians and Jews must make clear that their own celebration of the One affirms the diversity that alone can express the Infinite. (For a multireligious effort to address "Obsession," see the work of "Hate Hurts America" at www.obsessionwithhate.com.)

Ideally, speak out both in our different voices separately and in our different voices as a chorus: through interfaith committees where the medium becomes the message –- where calls for honoring all our traditions in the public sphere are modeled by honoring each other's wisdoms in our direct contact with each other.

And listen – to the real sorrows and angers of different communities in the world, Arab and Muslim and Hispanic and African and Mountain White in the American West and Appalachia. Listen with the ears of our hearts before responding, and then respond. Through action.

The speaking out and the listening, even beyond our concern with truth, must flow from our concern for love. For the love that all our traditions teach: love your neighbor as yourself. For the deep and loving understanding that the Quran teaches: God brought into the world different cultures and communities not for us to hate and despise each other but to lovingly know and deeply experience each other in our diversity.

With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace –


Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center http://www.shalomctr.org/; co-author, The Tent of Abraham; author of Godwrestling — Round 2, Down-to-Earth Judaism, and a dozen other books on Jewish thought and practice, as well as books on US public policy. The Shalom Center voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ACTION ALERT: Ask Philadelphia Inquirer Not to Promote Anti-Muslim Hate

(PHILADELPHIA, 9/16/2008) - CAIR is calling on anyone who received the "Obsession" DVD in their newspaper to contact the papers publishers to ask why they believe it is appropriate to profit from anti-Muslim hate.

ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be firm but POLITE. Hostile comments can and will be used to further defame Islam and Muslims.)

1. LOOK IN THE NEWSPAPER OR ON ITS WEBSITE for appropriate contact information.

2. CONTACT the newsroom, the editorial page and circulation.

Bill Marimow is the Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. email: bmarimow@phillynews.com.

Letter to the Editor: Inquirer.Letters@phillynews.com or fax to 215-854-4483.OPED: oped@phillynews.com or fax to 215-854-4483.

Call the Philadelphia Inquirer at 215-854-4543

3. ASK WHY the newspaper believed it was appropriate to profit from anti-Muslim hate.

4. ASK WHO PAID for the distribution and how much it cost.

5. ASK WHETHER the newspaper would have distributed anti-Semitic or other racist DVDs.

6. ASK IF the distribution of the DVD in key election swing states was designed to aid a particular candidate.

7. Let CAIR know what responses are given by the newspapers representatives. E-Mail: info@cair.com

[NOTE: CAIR and other groups are formulating a broader pro-active response to the "Obsession" campaign, but these are some small actions that those who actually received the DVD can take today.]







Friday, June 6, 2008

Correspondence with a new friend

Hi Matt, Peace

My understanding of Islam is that it is a religion of peace based on the linguistic definition of the word "Islam". The word is from the Arabic root word SLM which means peace and surrender simultaneously. The religious definition is that Islam is the attainment of peace, security, and safety through the surrender of one's will to God's will.

My position is informed by a nuanced and historically relevant reading of the Qur'anic scriptures. With regard to the question of peace vs. terrorism, I would suggest to you that the Qur'anic text leans heavily in favor of peace but is not squeamish about a physical response to aggression. I will share a few verses that will shed some light to enable us to begin a fruitful discussion.

Some verses on the issue of inter-people relationships:

O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. (49:13)

THERE SHALL BE no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing (2:256)

And [thus it is:] had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: dost thou, then, think that thou couldst compel people to believe, notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by God's leave, and [that] it is He who lays the loathsome evil [of disbelief] upon those who will not use -their reason?" (10:99-100)

Some verses addressing revelations from God to other prophets and communities prior to Muhammad:

Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans - whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right - surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. (2:62)

Say: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (2:136)

Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (3:84) And whoso seeketh as religion other than the Surrender (to Allah) it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter. (3:85)

Some verses explaining the arising of differences among human beings over the same message from God:

Mankind were one community, and Allah sent (unto them) prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and revealed therewith the Scripture with the truth that it might judge between mankind concerning that wherein they differed. And only those unto whom (the Scripture) was given differed concerning it, after clear proofs had come unto them, through hatred one of another. And Allah by His Will guided those who believe unto the truth of that concerning which they differed. Allah guideth whom He will unto a straight path. (2:213)

These are the portents of Allah which We recite unto thee (Muhammad) with truth, and lo! thou art of the number of (Our) messengers; (2:252) Of those messengers, some of whom We have caused to excel others, and of whom there are some unto whom Allah spake, while some of them He exalted (above others) in degree; and We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty) and We supported him with the holy Spirit. And if Allah had so willed it, those who followed after them would not have fought one with another after the clear proofs had come unto them. But they differed, some of them believing and some disbelieving. And if Allah had so willed it, they would not have fought one with another; but Allah doeth what He will. (2:253)

And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ. (5:48)

Some verses on the response to aggression:

Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. (2:190) And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. (2:191) But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (2:192) And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers. (2:193)


The above verses, like all verses, always need to be understood in the context of revelation. Muslim scholarship has always maintained the following positions with regard to text:

1. Text must be first understood in the context of revelation, i.e. the circumstances surrounding the actual revelation of the text to Muhammad. Muslim sources have great detail on the context of each verse.

2. The applicability of the text to a differing time and place beyond the original context of revelation is held as a given (based on verses in the Qur'an referring to this possibility) and is constrained by the possibilities of the language (is the text able to be understood only ONE way or can it be read in multiple ways). Muslim scholarship developed the notion of the meaning being "categorically authoritative" i.e. only ONE meaning possible, or "presumptively authorititative" i.e. multiple meanings possible. A great tradition of dissent and acceptance of multiple points of view arose within the ranks of Muslim scholarship as a result of this view of the text. Looking at some of the verses above in the original Arabic, you would begin to get a sense of which verses may be "categorically authoritative" and which may be "presumptively authoritative".

3. In order to become systematic in the application of "categorically authoritative" and "presumptively authoritative" definitions, Muslim scholarship further developed a framework of the "Purposes of Law" or "The Intent of God". This is a proposed framework to attempt to understand the mind of God as revealed in the text of the Qur'an. The framework continues to develop to this day, punctuated by periods of great activity and other periods of inactivity in the past. I believe a period of great activity in this area is being witnessed today in Muslim scholarship after a period of stagnation lasting some 250 years as a result of internal decay of scholarship and the decay of economic and socio-political strengths of Muslim communities across the world.

Matt, I teach a 10 part course on "Understanding Islam and Muslims" at various venues. I would invite you to join a future class to pursue our discussions in detail. I am also copying Justin Peyton, Director of Civil Rights at CAIR-PA Philadelphia office on this email. He is another source for you to speak with.

Best Regards and Peace.

Iftekhar Hussain


From: Matthew
To: Iftekhar Hussain

Subject: RE: your inquiries about Islam

Grace and Peace to you as well Mr. Hussain,Thank you so much for taking the time to correspond with me. I know you probably recieve a number of emails and I really appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation with me. I would be interested in seeking answers to some more specific questions dealing with particular scriptures that I have been made aware of but first it may be helpful if I had a basic understanding of your position. Is Islam a religion of peace or of terrorism? I know this seems like a very general question and I'm pretty sure I already know the answer but I feel as though I have been bombarded by images of violence and anti-Islamic propaganda for so long that it is important to me to get this out of the way first before we proceed. It would be helpful for me when I am interacting with others if I was able to refer back to your holy book so if you don't mind please provide me with some passages and references for those passages.Matt


From: Iftekhar To: Matt
Date: Tue, 27 May 2008 08:41:53 -0400
Subject: your inquiries about Islam

Dear Matt, Peace

I would like to begin correspondence with you to answer your questions. I fee it would be best for you to pose specific questions that I will then answer. If you feel a phone call is in order, I am available for one as well. Thank you

Iftekhar Hussain


From: Matt
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 6:22 PM

Hi!My name is Matt and I'm a follower of Jesus. I've just recently heard of your organization and was interested to get some support to my own opinions about Islam being a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists and terrorist. I have been listening to a man named Robert Spencer speak on Islam recently. I also have had some email correspondance with Spencer (in which he accused me of being an undercover Muslim). I wrote him in response to what I saw as him propagating negative views of Islam on his website (jihadwatch.com). I feel that Spencers site is extremely biased and adds fuel to the fire of bigotry against Islam.I was wondering if you would be able to refute some of his claims and perhaps give me a more indepth understanding of your position based on Islamic scriptures. Also is it true that at one point Mohammed claimed that an earlier teaching was of satan and therefore withdrew it?Just as a side I think that Spencer is politically motivated...what is interesting is that he also claims to be a Christian. At the same time it seems like he is trying to justify violence in the middle east against Muslims. As well as being a Christian I am a pacifist (which goes hand in hand with being a Christian). Regardless of whether Islam is a religion of violence, I do not believe there is any grounds for Christians to respond violently. We will lay our ives down in love before we take anothers life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Hope of a Victimized People

Published on Tuesday, June 3, 2008 by the Los Angeles Times
The Hope of a Victimized People
by George Bisharat

This essay was featured as the final segment of an on-line debate between George Bisharat and Judea Pearl that ran for five days as the “Dust-Up” website feature of the Los Angeles Times and its sister publications — Newsday, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.

My Palestinian family, in its tradition of compassion and hospitality, is not exceptional. During my last trip to the West Bank, I met a man whose parents had been driven out of what became Israel in 1948 and had settled in the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus. The Friday before, as he was taking his son to prayer, an Israeli tank suddenly wheeled into their empty street, spewing heavy machine-gun fire. The man saw his son stumble, then plunge face first into the stairs ahead of him. When the father reached him, the boy had swallowed his teeth and blood blossomed across his shirt. Within minutes he turned blue, his internal organs destroyed. Amid Abu Sayr, age 7, died before reaching the hospital. No protests nor disturbances had preceded this incident, and no one could explain the tank gunner’s zeal.

As the father related this to me and my companions, he saw my eyes film with tears. Then this humble man — a mechanic, as I recall — embraced me and patted my back. Two days after the most searing experience of his life, he offered comfort to me. “Just tell the world how they stole my heart,” he whispered gently. I was reminded, yet again, of the deep courage, resilience and magnanimity of the Palestinian people.