Friday, May 19, 2006

Will Tarek Fatah scream for Haditha?

A few days ago, one of my favorite pro regressives Tarek Fatah took part in a 'Scream for Darfur'rally,ensuring as always that he got dollops of publicity.He took it even further when he accused mainstream Muslim organisations of being unconcerned about the killings there.Never mind that a quick 'google'search would have revealed that he,as in most instances,was wrong.But then Tarek and his friends have never been too concerned with the facts have they?And their not too subtle references to racism in the Muslim community were unpardonable to say the least.Our friends at MWU have more of the spiel if anyone can bear to digest their sanctimonious, self serving agenda.

I want Tarek to read this story and let me know when he plans to organise a 'Scream for Haditha rally'?I am outraged by this report and so should you.But then what else can you expect from these noble men in uniform who serve in the world's 'finest'army?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

M. Shahid Alam: The Muslims America Loves

Salaam 'Alaikum

Found via Yursil, via PMUNA Debate.

The Muslims America Loves
On March 11 the New York Times published a front page story on Dr. Wafa Sultan, "a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims." Deep anger and despair at fellow Muslims? Are these the new qualifications for Muslims to gain visibility in America's most prestigious newspaper?

If the only Muslims that the United States can recruit in its battle for ideas are at best mediocrities or worse--nobodies--what chance is there that it can win the battle for Muslim hearts and minds? The short answer is: very little. Muslims are not helpless children. You cannot molest them and then expect to mollify them with trifles and protestations of pure intentions. That may have worked for a while. It will not work for ever.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Activist Muslim Profile: Rami Nashashibi


Muslim confronts needs of cityActivist sees poverty, gangs
as top threats to urban brethren–and he won’t stand for it

By Margaret Ramirez
Tribune religion reporter
Published May 3, 2006

He is one of Muslim America’s rising young activists, yet he is reserved in his comments on caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, the Mideast conflict and the war in Iraq. Instead, Rami Nashashibi speaks out against Muslim-owned liquor stores, protests on behalf of Latino workers and denounces mistreatment of blacks by the criminal justice system. On Monday he joined Mexicans, Koreans and Poles in a massive march for immigrant rights.

Such issues are not commonly associated with Muslim activism, but Nashashibi, 33, believes Islam calls on the faithful to focus on gritty problems in urban areas. For him, waging a war at home against poverty, gang violence and other modern plagues is key to uniting Muslim Americans. “Muslims have been absent and aloof about the problems in the inner city,” he said. “We’re seen either as victims or villains. We have notbeen part of the larger story in transforming communities. But now we have a unique opportunity to bring together the diverse elements of our community to effect change.”

Muslim leaders and scholars agree that one of the most pressing problems in Muslim America today is the divide separating Arab and Southeast Asian immigrants, such as Nashashibi, from the growing number of African-Americans and Latinos becoming Muslims. As executive director of the Chicago-based Inner-City Muslim Action Network or IMAN, Nashashibi is one of the few Muslim activists nationwide connecting wealthy, suburban Muslim immigrants with largely working-class Muslims in the city. As a Palestinian-American educated in Chicago, he bridges both worlds, mixing Islamic beliefs with street culture like spoken-word and hip-hop music. This month, IMAN moves into new offices that include a free healthclinic for the low-income Latinos, African-Americans and Arabs in Chicago Lawn on the Southwest Side.

As Nashashibi’s influence grows, many observers say he is redefining what it means to be a Muslim-American activist. “Rami has been able to do what others have not been able to do. He bridges the gap,” said Imam Seth T. Ibrahim, spiritual leader of the Mosque of Umar, one of the oldest African-American mosques in Chicago.“Others have tried to do this and failed. Rami is the key.”

Sherman Jackson, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Michigan, said that although there are other Muslim leaders working in poor urban areas, Nashashibi stands out for his efforts to make local activism a natural part of American Islam. This interpretation of the faith represents a shift in the Muslim-American community from insulated immigrants to socially conscious activists, Jackson said.“The plight of poor people in America, even poor Muslims in America, has not been on the radar screen of the immigrant Muslim community. They have been much more interested in monument-building,” said Jackson. “With Rami, he’s trying to reconfigure our thinking, particularly as Muslims, so that these needs appear more obvious to us. “He’s trying to change the mindset. In that regard, Rami’s a pioneer.”

At the same time, Nashashibi’s brash personality and outspokenness have riled some of the community’s elders. He speaks out against Muslim-owned businesses that sell liquor, which the Koran forbids. He has also been criticized for allowing rap music and break dancing at IMAN events and for promoting too much interaction between men and women. “Yes, IMAN walks a fine line sometimes and I have to choose mybattles wisely,” he said with a laugh. “Sometimes I don’t choose them well.” Nashashibi was born in Jordan to Nancy Daoud and diplomat Maher Nashashibi. They raised him in a secular Muslim home, where thefamily spoke English instead of Arabic and never went to mosque or read the Koran. Because of his father’s occupation, he moved frequently and attended high school in Rome.

After graduation, the young Nashashibi searched for a college in Chicago, where his mother grew up. He enrolled at St. Xavier University and later transferred to DePaul. There, Nashashibi got to know African-American and Puerto Rican students on campus and began to see Islam in a different way. He sawsimilarities between the black struggle for civil rights and Palestinians in the Mideast. His mentor, an “old Black Panther”whose identity he will not reveal, helped him see how activism could be integrated with Islamic beliefs. Soon, his religious devotion took hold. “It’s strange but I guess you could say my path to Islam is similar to a convert,” he said.

In 1995, Nashashibi and other students formed the Inner-City Muslim Action Network to address social problems in Chicago Lawn, purposely choosing a name whose acronym, IMAN, means faith in Arabic. Working on a shoestring budget of donations from the Muslim community, the groupstarted with small projects like a food pantry, GED and computer classes, and a free weekend health clinic that operated out of aphysician’s office. Two years later, the group formally introduced itself by organizing Takin’ It to the Streets, a festival that included music, art exhibits, a kids’ carnival and lectures on Islam and activism. The event drew hundreds of people, mostly young Muslims. “That’s when things took off,” he said. “People had never seen anything like that before.” As Nashashibi and IMAN grew in prominence, the group developed relationships with other community groups. One effort focuses on establishing a forum for Latino day laborers. Nashashibi has also begun lobbying for alternative sentences for low-level drugoffenders.

The notion of using Islam as a basis for activism stems partly from one of the pillars of the faith, known as zakat. Many Muslims satisfy that charity requirement by sending money to their home countries. Nashashibi is trying to extend that idea to include charity and activism in the U.S., even if the needy are not Muslim. “I started thinking about this when I studied the prophet Muhammad,” he said. “I saw that quality in his life–his ability to reach out to all sectors of society, whether they were Muslim or not. I’m tryingto get Muslims to understand that.” Nashashibi’s most ambitious project is the May 20 opening of IMAN’s new offices, which include a permanent home for the health clinic with three examination rooms and a medical lab. The director of the clinic is Dr. Sherene Fakhran, a physician at Northwestern MemorialHospital who is also Nashashibi’s wife. Together, they have a year-old daughter, Jenah.

Securing the new IMAN building was tricky, because Islam prohibits paying interest. The Greater Southwest Development Corp. purchased theproperty and will sell the building to IMAN under a $625,000 lease-to-own contract. “He has passion like you wouldn’t believe,” said James F. Capraro, the corporation’s executive director. “Next to the word `passion’ in the dictionary, they should just put Rami’s picture.” Still, that passion has sometimes landed him in trouble. At a fundraising dinner for the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview, Nashashibi caused a stir when he criticized Muslim immigrants who own liquor stores in poor Chicago neighborhoods. Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president of the foundation, agrees the issue is important but said attacking business owners without providing an alternative plan is counterproductive. “At the Mosque Foundation, we’ve been trying hard to change this. But it’s very difficult. So, we’re trying to do it gradually in a way that doesn’t turn people off,” said Sahloul.

Nashashibi said he won’t back down. He also feels it’s his duty to remind the Muslim community that urban problems like alcoholism, drugaddiction and gang violence are becoming worries for Muslims too. “We have Palestinian-American kids with drug problems,” he said. “Arab kids are out there in Chicago gangbanging. These are our issues too.” Nashashibi is most in his element at IMAN’s monthly Community Cafe, held in the Spoken Word Cafe in the Bronzeville neighborhood. The event started two years ago to provide a hip social gathering spot for young Muslims. On a recent Friday, aspiring poets took the stage to rap about religion and racism. A disc jockey spun hip-hop beats for a diverse audience of African-American, Latino and Arab Muslims. “Yo, yo, everybody. … What’s up, my brothers and sisters?” Nashashibi told them. “I’m happy to see so many of you here tonight. This is what it’s all about. It’s time for us to start telling our own stories, without others telling those stories for us.”

More on Darfur

May 3, 2006
More on Darfur
I emphasized a few statements in bold letters and made my own comments in bold italics. The cause for Darfur keeps getting more and more interesting.

“Save Darfur”: Evangelicals and Establishment Jews

by Yoshie Furuhashi - April 28, 2006

It’s embarrassing that America — and the world — will be witnessing a PRO-WAR rally in Washington, D.C. on April 30 (a project of that is far more highly publicized than an anti-war one (that appears to be poorly organized) in New York City on April 29, even while Washington is still soldiering on in Afghanistan and Iraq and gunning for sanctions or war on Iran.

Really, the LAST THING we need in America is ONE MORE WAR to get involved in — the least of all in an oil state like Sudan (amidst loud complaints of higher gas prices, no less). Who is behind this astonishing pro-war rally in war-weary America (war-weary as far as the Iraq War is concerned, that is)? A rag-tagcoalition of evangelicals and establishment Jews (those whom the corporate media designate as official leaders of Jewish communities).

Keeping the peace within the diverse Save Darfur Coalition has not been easy. Tensions have arisen, in particular, between evangelical Christians and immigrants from Darfur, whose population is almostentirely Muslim and deeply suspicious of missionary activity. Organizers rushed this week to invite two Darfurians to address the rally after Sudanese immigrants objected that the original list of speakers included eight Western Christians, seven Jews, four politicians and assorted celebrities — but no Muslims and no one from Darfur.

Some Darfur activists also have complained about the involvement in the rally of a Kansas-based evangelical group, Sudan Sunrise. Last week, after an inquiry from The Washington Post, Sudan Sunrise changed its Web site to eliminate references to efforts to convert the people of Darfur. Previously, it said it was engaged in “one on one, lifestyle evangelism to Darfurian Muslims living in refugee camps in eastern Chad” and appealed for money to “bring the kingdom of God to an area of Sudan where the light of Jesus rarely shines.”

Although it is not formally part of the Save Darfur Coalition, Sudan Sunrise helped arrange buses and speakers, and it is co-hosting a dinner for 600 people on the rally’s eve. (Alan Cooperman, “Groups PlanRally on Mall To Protest Darfur Violence: Bush Administration Is Urged to Intervene in Sudan,” Washington Post, 27 April 2006: A21) Wow, fascinating. For this effort, the coalition has recruited major celebrities likeGeorge Clooney and Elie Wiesel to speak to those assembled. Though recent reports have indicated that the turnout might be lower than expected, organizers, while refusing to give a concrete number, believe itwill be in “the tens of thousands.”

Little known, however, is that the coalition, which has presented itself as “an alliance of over 130 diverse faith-based, humanitarian, and human rights organization” was actually begun exclusively as aninitiative of the American Jewish community. And even now, days before the rally, that coalition is heavilyweighted with a politically and religiously diverse collection of local and national Jewish groups. A collection of local Jewish bodies, including the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, United Jewish Communities, UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, sponsored the largest and most expensive ad for the rally, a full-page in The New York Times on April 15.

Though there are other major religious organizations, like the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, both of which have giant constituencies that number inthe millions, these groups have not done the kind of extensive grassroots outreach that will produce numbers. Instead, the Jewish Community Relations Council, a national organization with local branches that coordinate communal activity all over America, has put on a massive effort to bus people to Washington onSunday. Dozens of buses will be coming from Philadelphia and Cleveland. Yeshiva University alone, in upper Manhattan, has chartered eight buses.

Besides the Jewish origins and character of the rally — a fact the organizers consistently played down in conversations with The Jerusalem Post — the other striking aspect of the coalition is the notedabsence of major African-American groups like the NAACP or the larger Africa lobby groups like Africa Action. When asked to comment, representatives of both groups insisted they were publicizing the rally but had not become part of the coalition or signed the Unity Statement declaring SaveDarfur’s objectives. The coalition’s roots go back to the spring of 2004 following a genocide alert, the first ever of its kind, issued by the United States Holocaust Museum. An emergency meeting was coordinated by the American Jewish World Service, an organization that serves as a kind of Jewish Peace Corps as well as an advocacy group for a variety of humanitarian and human rights issues.

At the meeting, which was attended by numerous American Jewish organizations and a few other religious groups, it was decided that a coalition would be formed based on a statement of shared principles. After a year of programming that involved raising awareness about the genocide, the coalition came up with the idea for a rally in Washington. Planning began in the fall of 2005. David Rubenstein, the director or “coordinator,” as he prefers it, of the coalition says that, given that the groups who started the coalitionwere Jewish, “it’s not surprising that they had the numbers of more Jewish organizations in their rolodexes.”

He says that the Jewish community has been “extraordinarily responsive and are really providing the building for this thing,” and yet he insists that the coalition has worked “very, very hard to be inclusive, tomake sure there are people beyond the usual suspects.” This is a sentiment echoed by Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service and one-time Manhattan borough president and Democratic mayoral candidate for New York City. The world service and Messinger personally have been at the forefront of planning for the rally. Much of the Jewish turnout has been a result of her lobbying efforts.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The fact that the aggressors in Darfur are Arab Muslims (here we go again with leaving out the fact that the Sudanese define race differently than we do) — though it should be said that the victims are also mostly Muslim — and are supported by a regime in Khartoum that is backed by the Arab League has made some people question the true motives of some of the Jewish organizations involved in the rally. (Gal Beckerman, “US Jews Leading Darfur Rally Planning,” Jerusalem Post, 27 April 2006) Should we laugh or should we cry?

Some say America is addicted to oil, but America is even more addicted to war (or economic sanctions when war is not in the cards). “Leaders” of almost all groups in America — Republicans or Democrats,Christians or Jews or Muslims (many of whom rooted for the war in Afghanistan in the Carter-Reagan era and the war on Yugoslavia in the Clinton era), whatever — come up with their own pet wars to promote, sooner or later. Thus is the job of the power elite made easy. As Raffi Khatchadourian notes in an op-ed in the New York Times, Washington is about to up its already considerable military assistance to Idriss Déby, the current ruler of Chad, whose forces have been fighting “hundreds of rebels backed by Sudan” (the largess extended despite “torture, rapes, summary executions and mass killings” that his forces have commited):

The CIA armed [Hissène] Habré for years, and since 2003, the U.S. military has been training and equipping Déby’s army, making his fight to stay in office America’s fight, too. Last year, Chad took part in a vast, international military exercise organized by the United States — the largest exercise of its kind in Africa since World War II, according to the Defense Department. This summer, American forces will continue to advise Chadian soldiers, and Congress is expected to allocate $500 million for a five- year program to train and equip several Saharan armies — including Déby’s. (”Blowback in Africa,” 28 April 2006) Militaristic identity politics in America, in which each group clamors for its share of Washington’s war chest for its cause, supplies the power elite with an excuse: “Imperialism? Far from it. We are here, by popular demand.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


(Washington, D.C. - 5/2/06) -- On Friday, April 28,more than 250 people attended an event featuring Mukhtar Mai at the ADAMS Center in Sterling, VA.Hosted by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, KARAMAH:Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, two-thirdsof those in attendance were women. Mai, who gained international recognition last yearwhen she was profiled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, is a symbol of courage to Muslim women around the world.

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped in public on the orders of a village tribunal in retribution for a crime her younger brother allegedly committed. Defying social stigma, Mai refused to be silent and took the rapists to court. The perpetrators were initially convicted, but then acquitted by a second court. In June 2005, the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case and eventually convicted her attackers.

Mai subsequently became a symbol for advocates for the health and security of women in her region, attracting both national and international attention to these issues. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf awarded Mai a financial settlement of about $8,000, which she used to build two local schools, one for girls and another for boys. There were no schools for girls in Mai's village before this and she never had the opportunity to get an education.

In her remarks, Mai discussed her work in Pakistan to build both girls and boys schools as well as to buildroads, infrastructure and a health facility in her village of Meerwala in Pakistan. During the question and answer session, she talked about forgiveness and mentioned that the children of her assailants also were admitted to her school and that she did not hesitate to give them admission. Imam Mohamed Magid, who heads the ADAMS Center, welcomed Mukhtar Mai and talked about the importance of hosting such events at mosques and community centers across America to discuss pertinent issues like domestic violence and gender relations. "I have a message to the women of the world and allthe women who have been raped or any of the kind ofviolation: that, no matter what, they must talk about it and they must fight for justice," Mai has said. "I do feel that if I stop now or step back it will harm alot of women. So, I have to keep going and keephelping others."

Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, president of KARAMAH, delivered a motivational speech about women's rights as articulated in the Qur'an and urged Muslims to separate un-Islamic cultural practices from the true religion of God. The closing statement was given by MPAC Foundation Board member Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, who wrapped up the event by talking about a verse recited in the opening by MPAC's DC Operations Liaison Zuleqa Husain: "Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!"