Cash Rules Everything Around Me

Liquor Store

Liquor Store

In the midst of the Black and Brown neighborhoods across America, you find liquor stores posted on residential corners every few blocks or so. We call them convenience marts. In the land of milk and honey, these businesses are perfectly lawful because no legal infringement forbids the exchange of cash for alcoholic substances. Not since the days of bootlegging liquor during our country’s prohibition days, at least. From 1920 to 1933 the making, selling and transporting of alcohol was punishable by law until Franklin Roosevelt changed the game by signing an amendment.

Juxtaposed with businesses like this are churches that safely house the many denominations of Christianity. By equal comparison there are reachable markets selling intoxicants and vices of all sorts like pornography and cigarettes. Provided, these small business merchants sell many other items like household staples, beverages, junk food, lottery tickets and a myriad of miscellaneous product. The residents hurriedly dash to these stores when visiting a supermarket isn’t convenient or if they need a quick supply of this or that. Outside the entrance, other activities like dice games and dope dealings take place.

Store owners make a decent living, which speaks to the perpetuated allure of the American dream. However enticing this may seem, making a decent living is often earned at the expense of vulnerable, downtrodden and sometimes chemically dependent locals. Whether the addiction is nicotine or alcohol, consumption of these injurious products only contribute to a greater pathology and sadly, one whose cause has long been legalized.

Where consumer accountability is considered, accessibility must be too.

If there were a rehabilitation center within the same proximity of these liquor stores, perhaps my tension would cease to exist. And the framework for which I’ve built this argument would easily collapse. But that’s not the case in disadvantaged areas where people survive in the most compactly populated places.

The demographics in these neighborhoods are chiefly African American, working class Whites and Latinos that were born here or immigrated. Seldom are adults college graduates or hold a job that can reap a family wage which necessitates the taking of two jobs, government assistance or other means of income. Urban planning and economic development are only regarded when old homes are demolished to make way for new townhouses and condos.

Similarly, schools have the lowest standardized test scores while classrooms have the highest student to teacher ratios. Government funding is munificently given to school districts whose students score the peak ranking in their assessments at year’s end. It doesn’t take a genius (or a college grad) to calculate what that means for inner city kids who would be provided the opportunity to thrive academically if our government helped schools without rigid stipulations.

And if it’s not Oakland or Richmond, it’s Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago or a neighborhood like Watts in Southern California. It’s an issue that deserves national attention, however, it is also an issue disregarded by government because answerability is tossed back and forth between merchants and lawmakers.

Three years ago while most Bay Area residents were carving turkeys and eating sweet potato pie, a wave of vandalism, arson and then kidnapping struck the community liquor stores by mysterious men, cloaked like Nation of Islam followers. The public was later notified that stores were set ablaze by the late Yusef Bey’s disciples who cleared shelves of alcoholic beverages, and left the floors covered in liquid poison and shattered glass. The owners were left with a clear message- it is moral hypocrisy to sell alcohol in these neighborhoods, to another browbeaten group of people. The news was immediately sensationalized and nightly broadcasts kept playing footage taken from surveillance cameras.

The Bey family debacle has been forever colored with scandal- sexual abuse, alleged kidnappings, murder and torture in their twisted understanding of justice. It was whispered that Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey was murdered by adherents to this cult-like following.

This moment in time presented a dilemma for Muslims on both sides; nobody appreciates the presence of Arab owned liquor stores especially when other members of Islamic centers work hard to erect a better example. Muslims largely felt as though the collective group of merchants, the Yemeni Grocers Association amounting to 300 members, were unapproachable. In fact, they were labeled “mafia” when the subject was brought up at a masjid in East Oakland years before the wave of crime washed upon our shores. Secondly, Muslims objected to and seldom affiliated with the Bey family for the same reasons. Although they didn’t attend our masajid, there was a brawny presence of this family and their businesses throughout Oakland.

Yet, somehow and in some way, we were still wedged in the pandemonium. Media outlets would ask leaders for comments and only a handful of Muslims were prepared to really deal with backlash and public relations. With every passing day, the relations among African American Muslims (and non Muslims) became strained with the Arab community.

Most would agree that it’s duplicitous to have Arabic calligraphy illustrating the words of the Qur’an hanging on the walls of a liquor store. It was further demoralizing to see the hijabi wives of these merchants standing behind the counter, ringing up the largest bottles of cognac, pricing condoms, men’s magazines, bacon and so on. This is no exaggeration. This is happening across America right under your nose.

And this, dear readers, blurs the line between our way of life and their way of business.

Although named Yemeni Grocers Association, a percentage of these Arabs are Palestinian. They are refugees from a land in which displacement, dispossession, unemployment and poverty are the primary reasons for flight. Is it fair then, that in this great escape, they resettle in neighborhoods afflicted with the same state of affairs? Is it fair that our neighborhoods are being gentrified as quickly as their homeland is, making way for European immigrants in the Jewish religion?

No, it is not fair but evenhandedness isn’t always considered in my America, a land for capital gain. Truthfully we know that where one gains success, another may be exploited.

Immediately following the vandalism and arson, Muslims made sincere attempts at being proactive by handing out leaflets, organizing meetings and holding press conferences. In addition to diplomatic measures, one group located in East Oakland led a three mile march up Macarthur, down 98th avenue, up East 14th and finally stomped the remaining blocks of 82nd back to their starting point. During the course of this march, an annual activity every Friday following Thanksgiving, they passed several liquor stores whose owners looked mortified. Some of them even called Oakland Police Department in fear they would suffer another blow. Those in procession kept walking, some with strollers and little ones, or handed the merchants inspirational writings about Islam, the religion of their homeland.

But my applause ended when the efforts of these groups did too. Once again, we found ourselves suspended in the hype of sensationalism with no unyielding plan for the next day, month or year to come.

The sales of Islamically-illicit substances grows and finances not just families and those back home, but this cash may also finance the masjid depending on where you attend. In my current city, the masjid was taken from the hands of African American leadership and “given” to local merchants.

This should be a point of contention if you live in a neighborhood like mine.
It’s ironic that Muslims are more likely to boycott Starbucks than approach leadership of these masajid and argue a plea. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to state my case against this hypocrisy. Starbucks is said to donate to the state of Israel and Muslims have joined Palestinian activist groups in a divestment campaign reminiscent of ones carried out during the South African Apartheid against companies like Coca-Cola.

And if it’s not Starbucks, it’s Wal-Mart as a trendy target of consumer consciousness.

But this situation is deeper than the pockets of both corporations. While we are willing to join the ranks in these campaigns, no less honorable than those of a political struggle, we overlook that race relations and fair play aren’t even guaranteed with those we stand next to in this movement.

If we’re willing to give up a caramel macchiato at a café said to be associated with Palestinian repression, are the Palestinian store owners willing to stop selling their beverages too? To what extent is the real sacrifice in these matters?

Let’s be real- the international cause is indeed noble but don’t let that engross you from what’s happening in your own backyards. Racism is an institutional condition mirrored by the ugliness of social conditioning, both here and abroad. My neighborhoods are occupied by several forces- cops, criminals and those who peddle dope both legal and illegal. We are in a state of occupation too.

We must continue to initiate constructive dialogue about the destructive forces in our communities, even if these forces are coming from our brothers and sisters in faith.

Solidarity must be reciprocated in practice, not merely in theory.

insight-info

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Airport laptop seizures anger Muslims

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, a frequent traveler who wears a robe and the traditional amamah headwear of a Shi’a leader, is accustomed to scrutiny at international airports.

But he was not prepared for what happened to him on Oct. 22 as he returned to Detroit Metropolitan Airport from an extended trip to his native Iran. After searching his luggage, customs personnel wanted to see more.

“They said, ‘Well, we need to check your computer,’ ” Elahi recalled. “They said they had to go to an office and check it. They came back and said, ‘Well, do the password.’ … He took it back, and it took another 20 minutes. And then he came back and said, ‘Well, you know, unfortunately, the computer died as I was looking at it.’ ”

Elahi was confronted with what many local Muslims and residents of Arab descent say are increased searches and seizures of laptops at airports and border crossings without warrant or warning. Civil rights groups are challenging the tactic, as the Bush administration and citizens continue to grapple with the conflict between civil liberties and national security seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

full article: www.insight-info.com

Join the Campaign: A Museum of Tolerance built on top of a Muslim Cemetery in Jerusalem?

Museum of Tolerance

Museum of Tolerance

A Museum of Tolerance built on top of a Muslim Cemetery in Jerusalem? Hard to Believe?

It must be stopped!!!!

Join the Campaign

Can you even imagine the possibility of the State of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality building a Museum of Tolerance on the site of a Muslim Cemetery in the heart of Jerusalem? Well it is happening. We tried to fight it in court but we lost. Imagine what would happen if someone in Europe – in Germany or Austria for instance, tried to build a Museum of Tolerance on top of Jewish graves.

The legal battle has been lost, now we must move on to the political battle. We must prevent this museum from being built on that site. Jerusalem will never be a city of peace if this is allowed to move forward.

Jerusalem is the one city in the world where there is a real potential to demonstrate that Jews, Christians and Muslims can live together in peace, understanding and real tolerance. Jerusalem is the place where we can learn to celebrate the diversities of our civilizations. If the construction of this museum is allowed to resume on top of a Muslim cemetery of religious and historical importance in the center of Jerusalem, this Holy city, will never realize its potential.

For the peace of Jerusalem, for the chance of peace, understanding and tolerance between Jews, Muslims and Christians we must stop this dangerous act.

We call on the Government of Israel and the Municipality of Jerusalem to stop the construction of the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in name of public safety and in protection of the reputation of the State of Israel and the safety of Jews all around the world.

We call on Jerusalemites, Israelis and Palestinians to join our campaign.

We call on the candidates for Mayor of Jerusalem and for the Jerusalem City Council to speak out during the remaining days of the campaign – promise us that you won’t let this Museum be built in the Mamilla Cemetery.

We call on the Chief Rabbis of Israel not to let this shame on Judaism take place. In the name of Judaism, do not allow this Museum to built on top of Muslim graves.

We call on Israelis and Palestinians alike to send letters to your Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers urging them to stop the construction of the Museum in that location.

We call on Jews all over to write to the Wiesenthal Center Director Rabbi Hier urging him to change the location of the Museum. We urge Jews everywhere to write to the Government of Israel voice your objection to building a Museum of Tolerance on top of Muslim graves.

We call on Rabbis around the world to join the campaign. We are looking for several Rabbis who will coordinate organizing a Rabbis letter against the building of the Museum over Muslim graves.

We call on citizens of the world to join the campaign – raise your voices, – write to your own governments urging them to pressure the Israeli government to cease the construction of the Museum in that location.

Useful addresses and contacts:

President Marvin Hier, Dean, Wiesenthal Center
Fax: ++1-310-553-4521
email: information@wiesenthal.net

President Shimon Peres
Fax: ++972-2-567-1314
email: president@president.gov.il

Prime Minister Olmert
Fax: +972-2-670-5475
email: pmo.heb@it.pmo.gov.il

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
Fax: ++972-2-530-3367
email: sar@mfa.gov.il

Mayor of Jerusalem
Fax: ++972-2-629-6014
email: mankal@jerusalem.muni.il

Sfardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar
Fax: ++972-2-537-1305
email: rabbis@rabbinate.gov.il

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi
Fax: ++972-2-537-7872
email: rabbia@rabbinate.gov.il

President Mahmoud Abbas
Fax: ++972-2-240-9648

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Fax: ++972-2- 295-0970

Foreign Minister Riad Malki
Fax: ++970-2-240-3372 or ++972-2-240-3372
email: mofapal@gmail.com

The following is some factual information about the issue:

ISRAEL’S SUPREME COURT RULES CENTER FOR HUMAN DIGNITY-MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE JERUSALEM CAN BUILD ON WEST JERUSALEM SITE

The Israeli High Court of Justice has ruled that the building of the Museum is legal and the construction can continue. In February 2006 the High Court issued an injunction for freezing the construction. Since that time the Court has been considering the evidence presented for and against building the Museum. The decision of the Court places the burden on the Muslim Authorities to accept the “offers” made to them by the Wiesenthal Center to move the graves that will be affected by the building the Museum. The Muslim Authorities rejected all of the offers and claimed that the sanctity of the whole cemetery must be respected. In the initial groundbreaking and first construction some 300 skeletons were dug up and “boxed” by the Israeli Antiquities Authorities.

Furthermore, the Court rejected the claims by some experts (supported by IPCRI and others against the building of the Museum) and in favor of other experts brought by the Wiesenthal Center, that the construction of the Museum would not lead to a disruption of public order and that the Arab and Muslim world would accept the construction of the Museum as they had accepted the construction of the parking lot over part of the Museum in the mid 1960’s.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1225199598269&pagena…

Site for J’lem tolerance museum okayed

Oct. 29, 2008
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Islamic Movement in Israel vowed to fight a Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that a Museum of Tolerance could be built on its planned site in central Jerusalem even though it was part of the old, deconsecrated Mamila Muslim cemetery.

Work on the $250-million museum, which is being built adjacent to Independence Park by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, hit a snag three years ago when dozens of Muslim graves were found on a section of the site during the required preliminary excavations. Two years ago, a court ordered a freeze in construction.

The museum said Wednesday that construction would resume immediately.

But a showdown is expected, with the Islamic group set to announce its plans at a press conference in east Jerusalem on Thursday morning.

“All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center. “Moderation and tolerance have prevailed.”

In their unanimous ruling, the justices noted that no objections had been lodged back in 1960, when the municipality put a parking lot over a small section of the graveyard, and that for the past half-century the site had been in public use.

The court said that an alternative proposal put forward by planners – including reburial of the bones or covering the graves – was “satisfactory” in trying to reconcile religious attitudes toward respecting the dead with the requirements of the law.

The court also noted that the Islamic organization that had filed the appeal, Al-Aksa Foundation, which is connected with the Islamic Movement, was declared illegal by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter earlier this year for its alleged ties with Hamas. Nevertheless, the court found, this in itself was not grounds to reject the appeal.

The court also said concerns that violence would break out if the construction went ahead were “not within the confines” of the ruling.

The decision came after seven months of arbitration failed to resolve the dispute.

An attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement broke down when Islamic officials rejected an offer by the museum to move the bones to a nearby neglected Muslim cemetery and to renovate it. The Wiesenthal Center refused to relocate the museum or to avoid construction on the small section of the site where the bones were found, saying the area was needed for the museum.

The bones, several hundred years old, were found on 12 percent of the site.

Islamic officials, who had repeatedly ruled out any construction at the site, criticized Wednesday’s ruling.

“We did not expect much from the court, and it is clear that it is part of the Israeli establishment,” Islamic Movement spokesman Zahi Nujidat said. “We will not give up easily.”

In the past, public protests organized by the movement have turned violent.

The museum was originally expected to be completed in 2007. The Wiesenthal Center has spent millions of dollars in legal fees.

Hier said construction would take between three and three-and-a-half years.

According to the court’s decision, construction can resume immediately, except for the small section where the human remains were found.

The court gave project managers 60 days to agree with the Antiquities Authority on a method for either removing any human remains for reburial or installing a barrier between the building’s foundations and the ground below that would prevent graves from being disturbed.

The site was the city’s main Muslim cemetery until 1948.

The Wiesenthal Center has cited rulings by Muslim courts, the most recent in 1964, that canceled the sanctity of the site because it was no longer used.

Hier said that the site, which was given to the center by the Israel Lands Administration and the Jerusalem Municipality in the ’90s, had never been designated by Israeli authorities as a cemetery, and that for three decades it had been used as parking lot.

He added that throughout the Arab world, including in the Palestinian Authority, there had been extensive building on abandoned cemetery sites.

The museum construction site was dedicated with great fanfare in 2004, with top government officials and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in attendance.

The museum – which is being designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and will include a theater complex, conference center, library, gallery and lecture halls – seeks to promote unity and respect among people of all faiths.

“Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, and every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths,” Hier said. “We are deeply committed to do everything in our power to respect this sacred past, but at the same time, we must allow Jerusalem to have a future.”

From the Weisenthal Center Web site:

“All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center applauded today’s Israeli Supreme Court decision allowing the Frank O. Gehry-designed Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem (MOTJ) to be built on its planned site in the center of the city. “All citizens of Israel, Jews and non-Jews, are the real beneficiaries of this decision,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “Moderation and tolerance have prevailed. The MOTJ will be a great landmark promoting the principles of mutual respect and social responsibility.” Construction on the project will resume immediately.
(cllick on above photo for hi-res image)

“Jerusalem is 3,000 years old and every stone and parcel of land has a history that is revered by people of many faiths. We are deeply committed to do everything in our power to respect that sacred past, but at the same time, we must allow Jerusalem to have a future and we are honored to be given an opportunity to be a part of that future,” Rabbi Hier concluded.

http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=fwLYKnN8Lz…

Here’s something interesting from July 2007:

Jews outraged by construction
at site of famed Vilnius cemetery
By Dinah A. Spritzer

PRAGUE (JTA) — Jews inside and outside of Vilnius are outraged at Lithuanian officials who have allowed construction on land believed to cover part of the country’s largest Jewish cemetery.

Development of the King Mindaugas apartments is the second building project in two years that authorities have allowed on the area, one of the Lithuanian capital’s prime real estate sites.

The city in May reportedly agreed to an international expert committee’s recommendation that construction on the site be halted and that a geophysical survey be carried out in the disputed area. But construction has continued nonetheless.

“The government is playing a game with us, saying one thing and doing another,” Simon Gurevichius, executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, told JTA in a telephone interview.

Gurevichius said Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus promised the Jewish community that a second building would not go up, “and meanwhile the digging is going on at a frantic pace where we know there are Jewish bones.”

Estimates put the number of those buried at the Snipiskes Cemetery at some 10,000 over six centuries, although many bodies were removed by the Soviet regime when it controlled Lithuania. Prior to World War II, Vilnius was one of European Jewry’s most vital centers of religious life and education.

The city first sold part of a vast tract of land in the city center, occupied in part by the cemetery, to a local developer in 2003. Despite complaints by the 5,000-strong Jewish community, the city in 2005 allowed the construction of an apartment complex. Gurevichius estimates that apartment prices start at $400,000.

This February, the city granted a second building permit after receiving permission from the Ministry of Culture, which has the power to stop projects that interfere with ancient sites and ruins.

Based on archival research it commissioned, the city argued that the current construction does not overlap with the cemetery grounds.

After pressure and intervention from international voices such as the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius and the American Jewish Committee, the Lithuanian Prime Minister’s Office agreed in March to an expert committee of Jewish leaders, government officials and members of the historical institute that would try to resolve the boundary dispute.

The state-run Lithuanian Historical Institute declared in May that the construction area in question does encroach on the cemetery’s borders, but its recommendation to stop construction has been ignored. In an apparent bureaucratic snafu that Gurevichius attributes to ill will, the city and state authorities claim they are not following the institute document because it lacks the proper signatures.

Ina Irens, chief officer of the Vilnius municipal government’s international relations department, wrote JTA by e-mail that the city was aware of the controversy on the cemetery boundaries and was still waiting for the expertise from the Lithuanian Institute of History and the final document from the panel of experts.

The document in question was signed by the institute’s director, Gurevichius said, but one copy lacks the signatures of the two researchers who helped him. Now he worries that in a few months, the apartment building will be completed and the city will say, “It’s here now, it would just cost too much to tear it down,” Gurevichius said.

Andrew Baker, director of international relations for the American Jewish Committee, said the expert group’s 10 members — half of whom were Lithuanian — unanimously recommended that construction be halted until further research was conducted.

Baker said he told Lithuanian officials, including the foreign minister, that “this is an unacceptable response and surely the government could do more. It is hard not to conclude that the Lithuanian government has acted in bad faith.”

While the wrangling continues in Vilnius, the London-based Committee to Protect Jewish Cemeteries in Europe is convinced that the ongoing apartment construction, according to its own research in Vilnius, is disrupting the dead, which is a violation of Jewish law.

The cemetery committee, the Conference of European Rabbis and some 100 observant Jews held a prayer vigil in front of the European Commission in Brussels last week to protest the construction.

Abraham Ginsberg, the executive director of the cemetery committee, said: “We will protest at Lithuanian embassies around Europe, and men in black hats and long beards will lay down on the site if the construction does not stop.”

Gershon Baskin and Hanna Sinoira – Co-CEOs, IPCRI

gershon@ipcri.org hanna@ipcri.org

http://www.ipcri.org

Contribute to this Campaign

Make your contribution online

http://www.ipcri.org/donate.html

or by sending a check to:

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

P.O. Box 9321, Jerusalem 91092

Tel: +972-2-676-9460 Fax: +972-2-676-8011

Secret Muslims: Islamophobia in the 2008 presidential campaign

Obama in a Turban

Obama in a Turban

So far, it seems as though they may be on to something. A Pew Research Center poll (6/18=29/08; reported 7/15/08) found that twelve percent of both Democrats and Republicans reported having the erroneous belief, while 10 percent of all voters profess to not knowing his religion because they’ve “heard different things” about it. Fifty-two percent of respondents who knew Obama was a Christian intended to vote for him, versus 37 percent of those who mistakenly believed he was Muslim.

But with few exceptions, media have not reacted nearly as forcefully to the bigotry behind the rumor campaign on their own turf as they did when the tactic was tried in Poland. Instead, journalists often accepted the idea that there was something suspicious or bad about being Muslim by referring to the canard as a “smear”

full article: www.insight-info.com

Dawn of a new era in global politics

Globe

Globe

Within a period of less than 30 years, Muslims have consigned one superpower—the Soviet Union—to the dustbin of history and are about to deliver the other—the US—to the same fate, together with its regional surrogate, Israel. The achievements against the US are particularly remarkable because the mujahideen have had little or no external help. Defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan in 1989 should have led to a “peace dividend” for Muslims, but it did not. Instead, their sacrifices freed the captive peoples of Eastern Europe and led to the emergence of the US as the “sole superpower”. Far from being grateful, US elites immediately set out to crush the emerging power of Islam. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the direct result of this mindset. Thanks to the valiant resistance of Muslims and the monumental stupidity of American rulers, the US itself is on the verge of a massive military defeat, coupled with economic meltdown.

The West in general and the US in particular have historically plundered the resources of other peoples to build their own societies. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, executed under the rubric of the “war on terror”, have also been aimed at plundering the resources of these regions. Afghanistan is a conduit for access to the resources of Central Asia, while control of Iraq’s oil has been the main aim of for US aggression there. Neither appears achievable now.

The rise and fall of civilizations is a constant in history. Every great power ultimately declines, often as a result of the destructive germs it carries within it. Even if we are charitable and call America a civilization — some would call it barbaric, given its horrible record — its demise has come more quickly than that of any earlier civilization. Contrary to the claims of American propagandists that the twenty-first century is theirs, the US’s glory has lasted less than a decade.

full article: www.insight-info.com

FBI takes step back on civil rights

FBI Seal

FBI Seal

There are times when the U.S. government allows politics to interfere with policy and ends up shooting itself in the foot. Guidelines set to take effect Dec. 1 for the FBI may be a perfect example.

Issued by Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s Department of Justice, the new guidelines for FBI agents will be a dangerous step back into J. Edgar Hoover’s era of disregard for civil rights and civil liberties.

The guidelines permit agents to use criteria such as national origin, travel history, race or ethnic background as part of opening an investigation. Ironically, the attorney general’s original guidelines in this area were established to curb such profiling, after information surfaced about the unwarranted investigation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These new guidelines represent a danger to the Arab- and Muslim-American community in particular, but to all Americans as well. In the era in which we live, it has almost become cliché — sadly — to point out that an attack on one American’s civil liberties is an attack on all Americans and the American ideal.

full article: www.insight-info.com

Who Cares about Omar Khadr ?

Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr is probably the greatest shame on Canada, because two governments, the Liberals under Paul Martin and the Conservatives under Harper have both made the overt decision to leave him in prison. The case against him is insane.

He was a child, aged 15. He was in Afghanistan because his parents took him there. His father and mother are militant Muslims. He was in a building that US commandos suddenly attacked. When people in the building shot back, they bombed the building and blew it to bits. Then they approached the building, and a US soldier got killed by a hand grenade thrown from the ruins of the building. When they entered the ruins Omar was still alive, but, others were too. In a revised report, they made him the only one left alive. He has been charged with murder. He was shot at close range by bullets (plural).

The case is insane for several reasons:

1) He is a child soldier, which means he is a victim of war not a war criminal.

2) Evidence was changed to make him the only person by inference who might have thrown a hand grenade.There is no witness that he did.

3) Soldiers killed while attacking a house in a foreign country cannot be victims of murder. They are casualties of war.

4) People in a house being attacked by foreigners are engaged in self-defense.

full article: www.insight-info.com

Who Created God?

Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

Written by Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

Question:

Who created God? This is a strange question, but the well-known English philosopher Bertrand Russell has stated in one of his books, “During my youth, I believed in God and thought that the proof ’cause of all causes’ was the best evidence for it. All that I see in the world has a cause, and if we follow the chain of causes, ultimately we will reach the first cause, and this first cause is who we call God. But later, I completely turned away from this belief, because I thought if everything has a cause and creator, then God must also have a cause and creator.”

Answer:

It happens that this is one of the most famous and elementary objections of the materialists. More clearly, they say, “If God created everything, then who created God?” It is not clear to us how long Russell encountered this objection, but since this question occurs to many youths, it must be accurately studied.

There are several fundamental points that exist here, and by paying attention to them, the answer to this objection will become clear:

First, if we accept the materialist belief and also claim what Russell has claimed, will we be free from this objection? Clearly not, because the materialists also believe in the principle of causality. They consider everything in the natural world to be the effect of another thing. Therefore, we can ask them the same question about matter. If everything is the effect of matter, then what is matter the effect of?

Based on this, and keeping in mind that the chain of cause and effect cannot go on forever, all the philosophers of the world, including materialist and religious philosophers, believe in an eternal being, a being that always existed. However, the materialists say that the eternal being of the universe is matter or the combination of matter and energy. And theists say the central source is God. In this manner, it becomes clear that Russell has no choice but to believe in an eternal being, even if it is matter.

Secondly, can this eternal being have a cause? Certainly not. Why? Because an eternal being always existed, and a thing that always existed does not need a cause. Only that being is in need of a cause which did not exist at one time and then came to existence. Ponder over this.

As a result, everyone is in agreement about the existence of an eternal source. And the firm proofs for the invalidity of an infinite series of cause and effect has obliged all philosophers to admit that there is an eternal origin. Therefore, contrary to what Russell has imagined, the disagreement among theist and materialist philosophers isn’t that one accepts the cause of all causes and the other does not. Rather, both equally believe in the first cause and cause of all causes.

So where is the disagreement then? It must clearly be stated that the only difference is that theists believe that the first cause has knowledge and willpower, and they name him God. But the materialists imagine it to be without knowledge and willpower, and they name it matter.

Now how did a matter so clear remain unknown to Russell? We can only say that he was an expert in mathematics, natural sciences, and social science, not in primary philosophy, such as recognition of existence and its source and effects.

From what was stated, we also come to the conclusion that religious philosophers do not only use the proof of “cause of all causes” to prove the existence of God, because this only proves the existence of a primary cause. In other words, it proves the existence of an eternal being in whom the materialists also believe. The important issue for the religious philosophers after proving the existence of the first cause is to prove that He has endless knowledge. This matter can easily be proved by studying the order of creation, its secret wonders, and the calculated laws which govern over the skies, Earth, and various living beings. Ponder over this.

This was the first necessary discussion in answer to this objection. The other necessary matter is that this objection is based on the belief that every being is in need of a cause and creator. This law is not universal and is only true in those cases where a thing previously did not exist and later came to existence. Ponder over this.

To shed further light on this point, we say that there are beings that exist now which previously did not exist, such as the solar system and living beings, both plants and animals. Their history shows that their existence is not eternal. Based on their differences, they did not exist a few million or a few billion years ago, and then they came into existence. Evidently, for the coming about of such beings, a cause or causes are necessary. Clearly, the separation of the Earth from the sun, based on Laplace’s hypothesis and others formed after him, was due to particular causes, whether we are completely aware of them or not. Similarly, the coming about of the first sprout of plant life, then animal, and then human life are all indebted to causes. Therefore, scientists are continuously striving to find these causes. If their existence was not due to causes, there is no reason for them to come about a million or billion years ago. Why didn’t they come about in twice as much time or half as much? The selection of these particular times is the best proof for the fact that the conditions and causes of their coming into being were only certain at those times.

But if a being is eternal, whether we call that eternal being God or matter, it does not need any causes. It does not need a creator or a god, because there is no history of His coming about, and so that the place of cause and creator is empty in this history. The existence of an eternal thing takes rise from its essence, not from outside its essence so that it will be in need of a creator. Think over this.

You, I, the Earth, the sky, the solar system, and so forth are in need of a creator, because our existence is not eternal and not from within ourselves. The first cause and cause of all causes is not such, because His existence is from His self.

A Clear Example

Philosophers have mentioned examples to explain this philosophical statement and make it more understandable. For instance, they say, “When we look inside our work room or living room, we see that it is illuminated.” We ask ourselves, is the illumination from the room itself?

Then we immediately say no, because if the illumination came about from the room itself, the room would never get dark. But sometimes it is illuminated, and sometimes it is dark. Therefore, its illumination is not from itself. And we quickly come to the conclusion that the brightness of our room or house is from the light particles that shine in it.

Then we immediately ask ourselves: where does the brightness of light particles come from?

With a little thought, we come to the conclusion that the brightness of a light particle is of itself and comes about from within its essence. Light particles have not borrowed their property of brightness. Nowhere in the world can you find light particles that are dark and then take brightness from something else. No matter where light particles are, they are bright. The brightness is a part of their essence, and it is not borrowed. It is perhaps possible for light particles to be destroyed, but it is not possible for them to exist but be dark. Contemplate this.

Therefore, if someone says that the brightness of every area and locale in the world is an effect of light, and then asks where the brightness of light is from, we immediately say that the brightness of light is a part of its essence. Similarly, when it is said the existence of everything is God’s, and then someone wonders whose the existence of God is, we immediately answer it is His own and from within His essence.


The author of over a hundred books and articles on religious and social topics, including a commentary on the Holy Qur’an, Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi is followed as a Religious Authority by millions of Shias around the world today. He lives and teaches in the holy city of Qom, Iran.

American Muslims Seven Years after 9/11

Seven years after 9/11, Muslims in America remained at the receiving end with assault on their civil rights and their faith in the name of “war on terror.” Muslims are the prime targets of the post 9/11 reconfiguration of American laws, policies, and priorities. Defending civil rights remains the single most important challenge before the seven million-strong American Muslim community as the consequences of the 9/11 tragic terrorist attacks continue to unfold seven years after the ghastly tragedy. The government initiatives have reshaped public attitudes about racial profiling and created a harsh backlash against the Muslim community. At the same time Muslims and Islam remain a popular past time for the US media and some prominent religious and political leaders who never miss any opportunity to attack Muslims and their faith in the name of extremism. Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 America, Islamophobia is not only more widespread but more mainstream and respectable.

Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson’s article titled “Holding Muslims at Arm’s Length” best reflect how fear mongering and Islamophobia is being used in the 2008 presidential election. He points out that in his year-and-a-half-long run for president, Obama has visited churches and synagogues, but no mosque. Jackson answers to Obama’s meaningful reluctance to visit a mosque when he quotes a Newsweek poll of May which concludes that only 58 percent of Americans think Obama is a Christian.

full article: www.insight-info.com

The Islamic Texts Institute and Its Endeavors

Shaykh Rizwan Arastu

Shaykh Rizwan Arastu

We have all felt the frustration at some point in our lives of not being able to find the answers to those crucial questions that assault every inquiring mind. We somehow innately believe that the Qur’an holds the answers to many of these questions, but when we turn to even the best translations at our disposal, we find them inadequate, either because the translation is obtuse or because there is no authoritative explanation to address the very question in whose quest we began our search.

We intrinsically believe that the traditions of the Prophet and Imams (peace be upon them) contain the panacea for all ills of body and soul, yet the language divide between us and them proves too vast: Few collections of their sayings are translated into English, and arguably none convey the inimitable power of their teachings.

It was to fill this abyssal void that the Islamic Texts Institute (ITI) was founded. ITI is a non-profit organization that aims to make Islamic primary sources available to Muslims in the West by providing accurate, scholarly translations of major Shia collections of traditions accompanied by sufficient commentary to facilitate the reader’s comprehension and assimilation of these teachings.

The team at ITI currently consists of three highly trained scholars of the howzah, or Islamic seminary, of Qum with expertise in various fields vital to the study of the traditions. Shaikh Hameed Ha’iri, a pupil of the late Mudarris Afghani, is a renowned expert of Arabic grammar and literature and a tireless researcher. No more than twenty seconds pass from the time he enters the Institute before he delves into the substantial pile of books on his desk and begins laboriously taking notes on every aspect of the tradition he is studying. In the five years I have known him, no grammatical structure, no matter how convoluted, has proved too difficult for him to tackle. It is not uncommon for him to stay long after hours to pursue an evasive tradition.

full article: www.insight-info.com

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