Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Change Goes Vacation?

I wonder if ‘change’ could ever rest. I however wish President-elect Obama a relaxing break in Hawaii before he has to make his way to the haunted house climbing over world’s corpses, left behind by his predecessor.

I applauded President-elect when he quickly intervened to fix the economic carnage by convening his economic experts while taking to task the other economic experts. That’s leadership.

I am now bewildered to find President-elect AWOL and instead his Axelrod doing the reckless driving; “President-elect Obama is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza, but there is one president at a time,” he said on your behalf. And, I ask where is the leadership?

What is worse I ask, the economic crisis or human carnage? And what is better - to lead for the sake of getting a car loan or saving a human life?

I recall the then Presidential candidate Obama preaching humility while campaigning in Israel for American Jewish votes. Here is how the macho mutt expressed his humility during his visit to Sderot in Aug of 2008. “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that,” he told reporters in Sderot, a small city on the edge of Gaza that has been hit repeatedly by rocket fire. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing,” said the humble-to-be-commander-in-chief.

Had then Presidential candidate crossed the border into Erez or any other city in Gaza after visiting Sderot, he could have related the lives of Malia and Sasha of South Chicago with Maryam and Fatima of North Gaza. It really is not rocket science to understand the reasons for rockets.

Malia and Sasha are worried about their dog while Maryam and Fatima are worried about their next meal. Malia and Sasha will drive (with a secret service escort) most likely to a private elite school while Maryam and Fatima will walk to a school without desks and books. Maryam and Fatima will play with pebbles as marbles and Malia and Sasha will be listening to Hannah Montana on their iPods.

Yes, Mr. President-elect, you have every reason to watch your daughters sleep and defend them while sleeping under down comforters. And just so the parents of Maryam and Fatima in Erez and million other parents in Gaza, wish to do - watch them sleep and defend them while they are sleeping. But those parents watch something else. Each night, they watch their equally lovely daughters - turning and twisting (on a hard floor) without down comforters and with hungry stomachs.

The change that you often refer to, Mr. President-elect, must be measured not only in how well your daughters can enjoy the slumber but why others’ daughters are unable to merely nap.

Unless you worry about and work for changing the lives of Maryam and Fatima to become just as good if not as better from the lives of Malia and Sasha, you did not really change anything? And, unless these contradictory and painful truths are reconciled, change cannot go vacation.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Palestinians have the right to defend themselves by any means necessary

Having watched the year[s]/decade[s] long dehumanization, denial of basic human rights of all Palestinians, especially in Gaza, I believe they've the right to defend themselves to restore their dignity and honor - just as anyone else - by any means necessary.

The champions of human rights - may they be of whatever faith (including Muslims and Muslim organizations) need to take a moral Viagra to wake themselves up to their responsibilities.

While CIA is reportedly distributing Viagra to lure the loyalty of Afghan tribal chiefs - let's ask them to also share some with other Muslim chiefs in town! It's about time, don't you think?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shame on Bush Administration

Washington Post Federal Courts Reporter Del Wilber discusses the case of the Uighur detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. In October of 2008, U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina ordered the release of the 17 Uighur men into the United States. The Uighurs were cleared for release as early as 2003 but fear they will be tortured if returned to China. Later, the attorneys who represent the 17 Chinese Uighur Muslims participated in a Congressional briefing.



Friday, December 5, 2008

Perils in Parallels

To call the Mumbai tragedy, “India’s 9/11” would be parallel to the chatter of Texan cowboy. Indian officials, I believe, ought to be smarter than that. The 9/11 lexicon is proven to be perilous.

The ashes in Mumbai raise more questions than the number of dead from several countries. It was an international tragedy that the Indian government is partly responsible for, exposing its sorrowful state of intelligence and law enforcement.

Reading the Western press, it seems India is about to bomb Pakistan, which itself is home to the “Islamic Nuclear Bomb.” Reading the Indian press, it seems there are many sane Indians who are questioning the lethargy of the Indian government and challenging the hyper Hindutva leadership. The former is still trying to figure out who to blame and the latter wants to rush and unleash the “Hindu Nuclear Bomb.”

We must not forget that a recent train bombing being assigned to “Pakistani agents” was indeed the work of a serving Indian army officer and his comrades.

Bomb talk is dumb. Bombing Afghanistan was dumb. Bombing Iraq was dumber. The Mumbai tragedy merits a thorough investigation followed by a thoughtful analysis, in that order. The people in India and around the world have learned much since the bomb talk of Cheney & Bush, also in that order.

As an Indian by birth and having watched “investigations” of all sorts while growing up, I say that the current Mumbai “investigation” will be a farce at its best. And, now as an American by choice, I am equally comfortable to say that I do not trust the American government, either.

The sane Indians and Pakistanis must urgently and immediately demand the following:

1. Pakistanis must demand their government ask the United Nations to convene an Investigation Task Force comprising of its nation members but excluding the countries such as Israel, Britain and the United States - parties with direct interests in India and the region.
2. The Indians must demand their government give unfettered access to the United Nations Investigation Task Force to complete its full, independent and impartial investigation of the tragedy.
3. Indians, Pakistanis, Americans and all people of good conscience should call upon United Nations to play its role and not merely remain a spectator.

It is time to act for all people, not just Indians or Pakistanis. In allowing the Indian discourse of 9/11 parallels is perilous for all people.
An awesome essay by Arundhati Roy crystallizing more --- http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/12/mumbai-arundhati-roy

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Symbolism VS Substance

As I watch --- Royal Decrees and Presidential Memos issued; official letterheads wasted; websites flooded; cheerleaders lined up; loyalists elated and all of them believing in themselves more than ever, simply because they are told to do so.

Muslim-Americans in particular are euphoric and have silently accepted Limbaugh’s allegation that “the Saviour has come.” I offer a two word advice to Muslim-Americans - “read history.”

Nelson Mandela did not change South Africa. Václav Havel did not change Czech Republic. Hamid Karzai did not change Afghanistan, nor the good hearted Noor Maliki changed Iraq.

Blindly storing hope in a man who refuses to acknowledge any part of Islam, including even a symbolic recognition of fifteen centuries old faith with more than a billion followers, is foolish, to say the least.

Loyalists must remind the Constitutional Law Professor that his day one’s assignment ought to be invested in restoring the Constitution - by freeing of the innocent from the Guantanamo Bay, by ending illegal surveillance of law abiding citizens and by recognizing the beauty and meaning of his first and middle name and not be ashamed of it.

Being the “first” is good but to become “great” is better, Mr. President.

And as for the citizenry, patriotism is good but patriotism of dissent is better.

And to all – “Symbolism is good but substance is much better.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Episcopalian Bishop of Washington DC reflecting on his visit to Palestine

Here's an Episcopalian Bishop speaking of his visit to Palestine. Incidentally, I visited to the Tent of Nations (Daher Farms) where he too was hosted by the Daud Nassar family.

Please listen to the Episcopal Bishop of Washington John Chane's Oct. 5, 2008 sermon on his recent trip to Israel and Palestine, including his visit to the Tent of Nations and to Gaza:


May God bless the hands of all peace-makers.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The FBI's reach (read this in light of what LAPD wanted to do in LA)

LA Times Editorial
The FBI's reach
A plan to boost the agency's intelligence-gathering power at home raises concerns about rights.
September 20, 2008

Citing a post-9/11 change in its mission, the FBI is planning to relax guidelines for the surveillance of groups and individuals who might -- and the key word is "might" -- harbor terrorists or spies. Because the actual wording hasn't been released, it's difficult to make a definitive judgment about whether the new guidelines for initial investigative "assessments" would revive the bad old days when the FBI engaged in massive and unjustified spying on Americans. But explanations from Bush administration officials are unsettling.

This debate doesn't involve the most intrusive techniques open to the FBI, such as wiretapping (for which a court order is required) or even the warrantless subpoenas for records known as national security letters. Rather, the FBI wants more leeway to send agents or informants to public places and conduct "pretext interviews" -- FBI jargon for conversations in which an investigator asks questions without identifying himself as an agent. This first-stage surveillance doesn't require reasonable suspicion that those under surveillance are terrorists; it could take place on the basis of speculation or rumor.

In media briefings and congressional testimony by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, the agency paradoxically has portrayed the proposed guidelines both as urgently required for national security reasons and as a routine harmonization of investigative procedures.

Present guidelines make it harder for agents to investigate possible terrorism plots than to probe potential criminal conspiracies, Mueller has claimed. He offered the example of an agent who suspects that drug dealing is happening at a bar and mingles with patrons in an attempt to acquire information. By contrast, he complained, an agent couldn't conduct the same sort of reconnaissance in a tavern where fundraising for Hezbollah might be occurring.

The comparison is doubly flawed. First, unless the FBI were to conduct a covert dragnet of hundreds of bars, it probably wouldn't focus on a particular tavern unless it had a tip. The same probably would be true of surveillance of a tavern where terrorist activities were suspected. Such surveillance is perfectly all right under existing rules. If retaining them means that the FBI couldn't go on a fishing expedition to every bar with Arab American customers, so be it.

More important, under the rules proposed by the FBI, agents and informants could insinuate themselves into mosques and political organizations whose only "suspicious" behavior is to criticize U.S. policy toward Iraq or support the Palestinian cause. That treads dangerously close to violating free speech and religion rights guaranteed under the 1st Amendment.

Given the FBI's sordid history of spying on and harassing innocent political activists, the burden is on the agency to demonstrate that it wouldn't abuse its authority, as some agents did in circumventing legal requirements for national security letters. If it can't convincingly make the case, the proposal should be abandoned.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Demonizing the other ... a response to the obsessive campaign of hate

Sin Grows With Doing Good

This past week, Clarion Fund, mailed over 28 million anti-Islam propaganda DVD's as a gift to Americans, wrapped in major newspapers delivered in the battleground states. Anyone with half a brain would understand the genius of Clarion’s marketing tactic to demonize the "other."

Googling generally reveals much but not in case of Clarion. It yielded only their 646, New York-based telephone number.

History teaches us that in every era demagogues spread hateful propaganda against marginalized religious and ethnic minorities, often as a prelude to aggressive military action.

Propaganda precedes action. First the “satire” – big-nosed mean carpenter, the big-lip-mama, the diseased illegal aliens and of course the feathered Chiefs, the Japs, the Huns, the Reds and now the “Towel-heads.”

Action gives death to many and almost permanently demonizes the survivors. Remember Wounded Knee, Kunta-Kinte, Manzanar and now it is Bagram, Abu Gharaib, Guantanamo and the renditions.

Here is a sample of “total demonization.” A hijab (head scarf) clad Muslim nurse shares her post 9-11 encounter with Mr. Neuville, a blind patient who admires her caring support for him. After listening to the post 9-11 radio and television, Mr. Neuville confided in the hijab clad Muslim nurse that, “Muslims must be hung naked with the nooses from Home Depot - we will save our country, cheap!”

Nazis similarly argued that by killing “diseased” members of the society they would heal the “national body.”

Fast forward … “What is infected, must be cut out” said the Khmer Rouge justifying the slaughter of Cambodians.

Fast forwarding to our times, we are taught of the Afghanis and the Iraqis as the monsters in the mountains with the missiles. And oh yes, they are coming and in fact they may be right here amid us.

We were also conditioned by the typical Hollywood fare with its dark-skinned villains ala “Delta Force, Executive Decision, Rules of Engagement, The Seige.”

What is hate? An ambiguous term. I hate overcooked eggs, perhaps you love them.

The advisors and the speech writers know this well. They spiced the recipe of “hate” with “evil.” We remember Bush: “our war is war against terrorism and evil,” of course followed by the infamous maxim of “axis of evil.”

There does not seem to be much difference between George Bush and Mullah Omar. The President said, “you are with us or against us,” and the still missing Taliban Chief responded – “the U.S., U.K., U.N. are all made up of evil doers.”

Evil is a moral issue - far more complex than hate. T.S. Eliot’s phrase in “Murder in the Cathedral” is chilling - “sin grows with doing good.”

The United States of America is doing good - “getting rid of the diseased,” “healing the nation” and “giving prosperity to the wretched.”

On the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, – Dr. Samuel Johnson said, “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

Over 225 years later, the Americans are being asked to wave a Chinese-made-American-flag in one hand and salute the President with the other. The almost-direct divine-connection of the Cowboy, he claims calls him to “rid the evil” by “doing good.”

Now, a hockey mom with a stick in one hand, a barrel in the other wishes to do the same: “rid the evil” by “doing good.”

Eliot was right, “sin grows with doing good.”

Shakeel Syed is Executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

Friday, September 5, 2008

At JFK, Denying Basic Human Rights is Just Another Day at Office

By Emily Feder, AlterNet
Posted on August 18, 2008, Printed on September 5, 2008

I arrived at JFK Airport two weeks ago after a short vacation to Syria and presented my American passport for re-entry to the United States. After 28 hours of traveling, I had settled into a hazy awareness that this was the last, most familiar leg of a long journey. I exchanged friendly words with the Homeland Security official who was recording my name in his computer. He scrolled through my passport, and when his thumb rested on my Syrian visa, he paused. Jerking toward the door of his glass-enclosed booth, he slid my passport into a dingy green plastic folder and walked down the hallway, motioning for me to follow with a flick of his wrist. Where was he taking me, I asked him. "You'll find out," he said.

We got to an enclosed holding area in the arrivals section of the airport. He shoved the folder into my hand and gestured toward four sets of Homeland Security guards sitting at large desks. Attached to each desk were metal poles capped with red, white and blue siren lights. I approached two guards carrying weapons and wearing uniforms similar to New York City police officers, but they shook their heads, laughed and said, "Over there," pointing in the direction of four overflowing holding pens. I approached different desks until I found an official who nodded and shoved my green folder in a crowded metal file holder. When I asked him why I was there, he glared at me, took a sip from his water bottle, bit into a sandwich, and began to dig between his molars with his forefinger. I found a seat next to a man who looked about my age -- in his late 20s -- and waited.

Omar (not his real name) finished his fifth year in biomedical engineering at City College in June. He had just arrived from Beirut, where he visited his family and was waiting to go home to the apartment he shared with his brother in Harlem. Despite his near-perfect English and designer jeans, Omar looked scared. He rubbed his hands and rocked softly in his seat. He had been waiting for hours already, and, as he pointed out, a number of people -- some sick, elderly, pregnant or holding sobbing babies -- had too. There were approximately 70 people detained in our cordoned-off section: All were Arab (with the exception of me and the friend I traveled with), and almost all had arrived from Dubai, Amman or Damascus. Many were U.S. citizens.

We were in the front row, sitting a few feet from two guards' desks. They sneered at each bewildered arrival, told jokes in whispers, swiveled in their office chairs and greeted passing guards who stopped to talk -- guards who had a habit of looping their fingers into their holsters. One asked his friend how many nationalities were represented in the room. "About 20. Some of everything today."

No one who had been detained knew precisely why they were there. A few people were led into private rooms; others were questioned out in the open at desks a few feet from the crowd and then allowed to pass through customs. Some were sent to another section of the holding area with large computer screens and cameras, and then brought back. The uninformed consensus among the detainees was that some people would be fingerprinted, have their irises scanned and be sent back to the countries from which they had disembarked, regardless of citizenship status; others would be fingerprinted and allowed to stay; and the unlucky ones would be detained indefinitely and moved to a more permanent facility.

There was one British tourist in the group. Paul (also not his real name) was traveling with three friends who had passed through customs soon after their plane landed and were waiting for him on the other side of the metal barrier; he suspected he had been detained because of his dark skin. When he asked if he could go to the bathroom, one of the guards said, "I wouldn't." "What if someone has to?" I asked. "They will just have to hold it," the guard responded with a smile. Paul began to cry. I watched as he, over the course of four hours, went from feeling exuberant about his trip to New York to despising the entire country. "I speak the Queen's English," he said to me. "I'm third-generation British. I came to America because I've always wanted to come here, and now they've got me so scared that all I want to do is go home. We're paying for your stupid war anyway."

To be powerless and mocked at the same time makes one feel ashamed, which leads quickly to rage. Within a few hours of my arrival, I saw at least 10 people denied the right to use the bathroom or buy food and water. I watched my traveling companion duck under a barrier, run to the bathroom and slip back into the holding section -- which, of course, someone of another ethnicity in a state of panic would be very reluctant to do. The United States is good at naming enemies, but apparently we are even better at making them, especially of individuals. I don't know if it's worse for national security -- and more embarrassing for Americans -- that this is the first experience tourists have of our country, or that some U.S. citizens get treated this way upon entering their own country.

The guard who had been picking his molars for hours quietly mispronounced the names of people whose turn it was to be questioned, muttering each surname three times and then moving on. When he called Omar from City College to his desk, I moved closer to hear the interview. "Where did you go?" the officer asked. "What is your address in the United States? Is your brother here illegally? Do you support Hezbollah? What do you think of Hezbollah in general? How do you pay for your life here? How many people live with you? Are you sure it's just you and your brother? Who are your friends?" Omar answered respectfully and emphatically; he was then asked to wait by the side of the desk, from which he was ushered toward one of the rooms.

After four hours, I finally demanded to speak to the guards' supervisor, and he was called down. I asked if the detainees could file a formal complaint. He said there were complaint forms (which, in English and Spanish, direct one to the Department of Homeland Security's Web site, where one must enter extensive personal information in order to file a "Trip Summary") but initially refused to hand them out or to give me his telephone number. "The Department of Homeland Security is understaffed, underfunded, and I have men here who are doing 14-hour days." He tried to intimidate me when I wrote down his name -- "So, you're writing down our names. Well, we have more on you" -- and asked me questions about my address and my profession in front of the rest of the people detained. I pointed out a few of the families who had missed their flights and had been waiting seven hours. His voice barely controlled, his lip curled into a smirk, he explained slowly, condescendingly, that they need only go to the ticket counter at Jet Blue and reschedule so they could fly out in an hour. One mother responded with what he must have already known: Jet Blue goes to most destinations only once or twice a day and her whole family would have to sleep in the airport.

A large crowd began to gather. Everyone wanted to voice complaints. I explained to the supervisor that his guards had been making people afraid. He flipped through the green files, tossing the American passports to the front of the pile. "You should have gone first, before these people. American citizens first -- that's how it should be." In the face of dozens of requests and questions, he turned and left.

The guards processed me then, ignoring the order of arrivals, if there ever had been one. They refused to distribute more complaint forms or call the supervisor back down at the request of Arab families. One officer threatened, "I'm talking politely to you now. If you don't sit down, I won't be talking politely to you anymore." One announced that because "the American girl" had gotten angry, the families would have to wait a few more hours. "The supervisor is not coming back."

I reassured my Homeland Security interrogator that I did not make any connections with Hezbollah or with anyone I knew to be associated with such an organization. I am not a member of any terrorist group. In fact, my visit to Syria had been so apolitical and touristy that I felt an embarrassing affinity with the pastel-shirted families waiting by the Air France baggage carousels in the distance, whom I knew I would eventually join.

As I walked out of the enclosure, some people thanked me, squeezing my arm and putting their hands on my shoulders. It was shocking that briefly standing up to someone overseeing an abuse of civil rights -- in JFK airport, in the United States, where we supposedly have laws and a democratic judicial system -- could be perceived as heroic. I had nothing to lose, but the other people being detained had everything to lose.

In the past five years I have worked for human rights and refugee advocacy organizations in Serbia, Russia and Croatia, including the International Rescue Committee and USAID. I have traveled to many different places, some supposedly repressive, and have never seen people treated with the kind of animosity that Homeland Security showed that night. In Syria, border control officers were stern but polite. At other borders there have been bureaucracies to contend with -- excruciating for both Americans and other foreign nationals. I've met Russian officials with dead, suspicious looks in their eyes and arms tired from stamping so many visas, but in America, the Homeland Security officials I encountered were very much alive -- like vultures waiting to eat.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/95351/

Thursday, August 21, 2008


After reading my friend Huwaida Arraf's email today (during the day) - as she sets sail on FREE GAZA in the hope for a FREE GAZA, I found myself sleepless ...
My routine of embracing slumber while reading was defeated tonight. I woke up past midnight and wrote the following ...

"FGSS" is pronounced in this poem as figs (theen in Arabic) - a native fruit of the Occupied Holy Lands &
the "46" are the forty six sailors sailing to save the soul of humanity ...
This poem is dedicated to FGSS (Free Gaza & SS Liberty) and 46

With much love and prayers
Aug 21 past midnight in California ... to
the beloved FGSS & the most loved 46 on their dawn of Aug 22nd

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Strong shore is every ship's beloved
but FGSS restless to set sail
Sea is her sweetheart and
They are united by love.

Comfy blankies and fireplaces are everyone's dream
but the 46 on FGSS are eager to
Brace the winds and
Laugh at the waves
They are full of purpose and mercy.

The Gazzans are bread-less
Yet they bride their bay to Ahlan the FGSS & the 46

Hope has no rules
Love has no regulations
Stop them if you can
The Gazans are for FGSS
and the FGSS are for them.

Their combined passions are deeper than the seas
At each restless eventide
They will sing the song of hope
Printing wild Bosa upon each other

Together, they will lift the drowning soul of hopelessness
and carry it tenderly to the home of hope.

Stop them if you can
O' The Peaceful Blue and the Pointy Star!

May God Almighty be with you - O Makers of Peace

My friend Huwaida sent an email today of her voyage to FREE GAZA ... As I read her email with awe and admiration & a feeling of guilt for not joining them because of my familial obligations ... with teary eyes I raise my hands to the God Almighty for their protection and a successful mission for justice & peace.

I bid you farewell - O You the Peacemakers - with you is God and with you are our prayers and our unconditinal support for our common struggle against injustice - know that "any harm to you is harm to us - any danger to you is danger to us." We will not retaliate with more harm and more danger to the perpetrators but will hold them accountable in this life and the life Hereafter for ultimate justice that no one can ever escape.

In struggle & in solidarity with the LIBERTY & FREE GAZA peacemakers.

Dear friends and family,

On Wednesday, August 20, after a number of frustrating delays, our ships, the LIBERTY and the FREE GAZA, arrived in the port of Larnaca, Cyprus. We've spent the last day and a half equipping the boats for the next, and most important leg of our jouney, Cyprus to Gaza. A lot has happened over the past couple of weeks that I do not have type to write to you about (this internet cafe closes in 15 minutes). I just wanted you to know how much I've appreciated all your support. I have not had time to respond to email messages but I have read them all.

Please refer to www.freegaza.org for updates on our voyage and photos. You will not be able to watch us via live streaming as I had previously indicated, but you will be able to monitor our progress. The Isreali authorities have announced that they will blockade us, and may use force to turn us back. We need the Israelis to know that we're not just 46 people on those boats, whatever they decide to do to us, but we're millions of people around the world that will not stay silent in the face of gross and systematic violations of the human rights of an entire people.

We have been met with amazing support for our mission at every port where we have stopped along the way, which has been heartening. The Cypriot Port Authorities have now checked our boats and certified that we are not carrying any weapons or contraband of any kind. We set sail in just a few hours. My phone will work as long as we're not too far from shore: +970-599-130-429. We also have 4 satellite phones on board the two ships:

1) 00 870 773 160 151
2) 00 870 773 160 156
3) 00 881 651 442 553
4) 00 881 651 427 948

Thanks for your support!

In solidarity & struggle,

Friday, August 8, 2008

SS Free Gaza & SS Free Liberty

Dear Friends ... This summer, I had the privilege of spending two weeks with Huwaida Arraf, a Detroit born Yankee of Palestinian heritage. She currently lives in Palestine and teaches human-rights-law at Al-Quds University. She also co-founded International Solidarity Movement - with her Brooklyn born Jewish husband - Adam Shapiro. I didn't meet Adam but Huwaida is a young Rosa Parks in the body of Cesar Chavez. She gave up her comfortable life in United States (her home) to fight for the rights of oppressed in Palestine.

Her following appeal deserves, if nothing else, our prayers for her and comrades on SS Liberty voyaging to break the illegal, immoral & shameless seige of Gaza and Gazans. Yes, the United States of America is an accomplice in the killings of innocent people in Gaza. And you & I my friend, are directly responsible for allowing our own government to send its largest aid to the killers of Gazans, the Israeli Defense Forces.

Pray & Act.

From: huwaida arraf
Date: Fri, Aug 8, 2008 at 5:08 PM
Subject: Personal note re: Free Gaza Movement

Dear friends & family,
I should have written to you earlier to inform you of a very important civilian direct-action effort to break the siege on Gaza that I am a part of. Unfortunately, writing is not my strong point.

As many of you know, the Gaza Strip, in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) is suffering under a brutal siege imposed by the Israeli military -- a siege that has been deemed illegal by international, as well as Israeli human rights organizations and legal experts, including the former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard. Click here for the UN Rapporteur’s Report.

Israel, which despite its evacuation of its approximately 9000 illegal settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, still effectively controls Gaza and thus has obligations, as an occupying power, to the residents of Gaza under international humanitarian law. See e.g.:"Disengaged Occupiers, the Legal Status of Gaza", Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, available here. Yet, instead of complying with these obligations, Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza even cutting its fuel and electricity supply. Click here to learn more.

Over the past year, a reported 200 plus patients have died from a lack of access to adequate medical care, meaning Israel denied these patients the right to leave the Gaza Strip in order to receive the care that they needed. See related recent report by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, "Holding Health to Ransom". Hundreds of Palestinian students with scholarships or other arrangements to study abroad are trapped in Gaza, unable to pursue their education. Eighty percent of the Gazan population is living on food aid.

Gaza's unemployment rate, currently at 45%, is the highest in the world. The most tragic part of this humanitarian crisis is that it is man-made -- a result of deliberate policies by the State of Israel. While various parties have expressed their concern, including the United Nations, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, no body has been willing to take concrete action to break the siege or to hold Israel accountable for Palestinain lives. Not only is Israel being allowed to get away collective punishment of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, defined as a war crime under international law, but international institutions ate getting away with silence in the face of such atrocity, or with paying mere lip service to Palestinian human rights.

Due to the shameful incompetence of of governments and international institutions tasked with defending and upholding human rights, and because this incompetence is costing lives every day, a small group of civilians from around the world have organized an effort to break the siege of Gaza by boat. Within the next few days, 40 civilians from around the world, including 3 other Palestinians from the Diaspora, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, and 81-year-old Catholic nun, an Israeli peace & justice activist, and over 30 other amazing people will set sail from Cyprus towards the shores of Gaza. Although we will be carrying some medical supplies, such as hearing aids (for children of Gaza going deaf as a result of Israel's military operations and sonic booms constantly carried out in and over Gaza), ours is not a humanitarian mission. Rather, our mission is a human rights one. We are horrified that such an illegal and immoral siege can be allowed to continue without more of an international outcry about it. We're saddened for the state of our world when decision-makers can sit back and watch an entire people being slowly and purposefully starved and humiliated.

Everyone participating in this mission is quite aware of the dangers involved. We have taken note of the various scenarious that can play out, from being blockaded, boarded and arrested, to being fired upon or otherwise attacked at sea. Of course, we hope that none of these happen and that we reach Gaza, where we are told that thousands will be awaiting our arrival on the beach.

In a few hours I will leave Cyprus, where I have been for the last 8 days training and working on other preparations for the voyage, and head to meet the boats in Chiana, Crete (press release below). I realize that for those of you in the United States, this email might be the first you are hearing of this effort as the story has not broken through the U.S. media censors. We have been getting very good coverage in the rest of the world though. Please stay with us as we make this voyage, as the eyes of the world are our safety and our goal if we aim to make change. You can get the latest information on the Free Gaza Movement, including watch the voyage in real time (satellite video streaming) on our website: www.freegaza.org.

Yes, we can make change.

In solidarity & struggle,


SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty Arrive in Chania, Crete, Saturday, 9 August at
21:00 p.m.

For further information, contact: 6932 766496 for directions, Greta Berlin,
037 99 08 17 67

*Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, August 7.* The Free Gaza Movement announced
today that their boats, destined to break the Israelis' siege of Gaza, will
arrive in Chania, Crete, on Saturday, August 9, at 9 p.m. and that a press
conference will be held to welcome their arrival. "Internationals are
gathering across the world – in Beijing and Cyprus – with the common dream
of peace and justice for everyone."

Human rights activists Lauren Booth (sister in law of former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair), Huwaida Arraf (a Palestinian-American residing in
Ramallah, Palestine), and Jeff Halper (an Israeli Jew who was nominated for
the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for opposing demolitions of Palestinian homes)
will be available at the press conference for interviews.

"This will be the first time that our two boats will be publicly displayed
and photographers are welcome to come, take photos and post their images."
said Paul Larudee, on board the boats sailing toward Chania.
The Free Gaza Movement is endorsed by an impressive array of international
groups and personalities including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and
Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Dr. Salim Al-Hoss. For additional
information, www.freegaza.org

Friday, August 1, 2008

Welcome to the Seizure States of America

Last week, a prominent community leader returning from overseas was victimized by this insanity. His laptop & cell phone was detained by the CBP at LAX. Although that was retrieved in less than 48 hours but that may not be the case always. Knowing that most of us travel reasonably frequently and many of us serve several Boards and are involved with justice & peace work (yes - we speak truth to power), I thought, at the minimum, we'd take due precautionary measures, in protecting our own work and others' in and from our own data!

I am neither surprised nor shocked by yet another insane policy but I guess this is a parting gift to all of us by our loving President ... Thank You Sir - Mr. President ... We're damn happy that you are going to get rid of yourself this November & Yes Sir, we're going to celebrate, wild! You better believe it ... In the meantime, we'll fight with all that we have to restore the rule of law that you've destroyed, Mr. President, including this unconstitutional suspicion & search & seizure of innocent citizens & their property.

Welcome to the Seizure State of America. If you, friends, don't find me after I publish this piece, you know where to look for me!!!

Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border
No Suspicion Required Under DHS Policies

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008; A01

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices had been taken -- for months, in at least one case -- and their contents examined.

The policies state that officers may "detain" laptops "for a reasonable period of time" to "review and analyze information." This may take place "absent individualized suspicion."

The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

When a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

"They're saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler's laptop without having a smidgen of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law," said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Notably, he said, the policies "don't establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched."

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy." In a statement submitted to Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that "the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices." Searches have uncovered "violent jihadist materials" as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

With about 400 million travelers entering the country each year, "as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary [for a more thorough examination] when there is some level of suspicion," Chertoff wrote. "Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco upheld the government's power to conduct searches of an international traveler's laptop without suspicion of wrongdoing. The Customs policy can be viewed here.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Note: After reading the writing below, I could not resist but ask my fellow delegate (Wendy) to permit me to publish her piece at this blog. Many thanks Wendy for teaching us to look at things with eyes in the heart and in it, a pair of eyes!

IFPB MAY 31, 2008

By Wendy H.

Today I took a lot of notes, as has become my custom. But tonight is different, because I have a personal connection story to tell.

It happened this way. After the talk by Abir Kopty of Mosawa, who told us of current issues of racism and inequality facing Israeli citizens who are Palestinians, we lunched on Palestinian “hoagie style” sandwiches, and then rode the bus to begin the tour of destroyed villages. At the second village, Birwe, we were met by Ali, a second generation, middle aged man who works with the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced Persons in Israel, and two men in their late 60’s, Abu and Akim, survivors of the Naqba, and Cyrine, the beautiful 14 – 15 year old granddaughter of Abu. The men were dressed in (wrinkle free) spotless short sleeve buttoned shirts, tucked into belted trousers. They could have been at a business meeting, and perhaps they were, standing on the dry, dusty earth littered with stones, desiccated thistles, and patches of cowpats. Cyrine is small, slender in her black South Park tee shirt, her wavy black shoulder length hair crowned by a perky black and white checked baseball cap.

As Abu Asad began to tell us the story of his village’s destruction, my mind began to run on two tracks. Abu was born in 1939 (he is 3 years older than I), and was 9 years old at the time of the 1948 assault on his village. The Israeli military surrounded the village on the North, West and South, leaving the East open for an escape route. There were 1600 residents in the village, Muslims and Christians, sharing one life. There were no problems between the two faiths. Even though the town priest was the Christian leader, the Muslims participated in his selection because he represented the village.

The Israelis forced everyone to flee; this was equal opportunity oppression. Although some have remained living in nearby villages, others have scattered to cities in Israel, and the occupied territories, to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the United States – a full diaspora. No one is allowed to return. Israeli Jewish Settlers have built houses on the land. A barn stands where the church used to be.

Abu is a short man with sun weathered complexion and grey-white hair. He has deep creases on his face, and speaks with clarity and emphasis. He is a good storyteller. Hearing him put me in mind of my Grandma Bertha. She was born in a Jewish village in Russia near the end of the 19th century. In the year 1900, after suffering pogroms and attacks by the Cossacks, Bertha’s mother decided to send her two daughters to what she prayed would be a better life in America. Bertha, age 13 years, took her 8 year old sister, Jeannette, by the hand and joined a group of refugees to walk out of Russia and across Europe to an Atlantic port. They hid in barns during the day, progressing under cover of nighttime darkness. Sometimes they had to stay in hiding before crossing a border, waiting for the right (bribed) guard to be on duty. My grandmother made it to America, but she never saw her mother or her village again. Bertha was a good storyteller, like Abu. As I saw and heard him telling his story to us, and to his granddaughter, probably for the umpteenth time, I had a sensation of merging circles, of my family history merging with theirs.

People want to live their lives in harmony with their families, neighbors and land. When a mighty oppressor overpowers and displaces the people and demolishes the villages, it crushes more than houses and lives, it breaks the harmony composed by people and land that has been created and sustained for countless generations. The Israeli military has demolished Abu’s village, trying to change the landscape by knocking down all the homes and the mosque and church. They have taken stones from the church to use in road construction. They destroyed 3,000 – 4,000 olive trees. They desecrated the cemetery. Yet every refugee believes he will return. They come each year to plant new trees, and each time the Israeli bulldozers uproot the plantings.

Abu’s granddaughter, Cyrine, says, “We can’t give up. It is important not to forget…. Tell (young) people in the U.S. not to give up if they are oppressed. Keep hope.” A delegate asked what she would say to George Bush. A brief pause, and then, “I’d ask him what he would do if what happens to us happened to his kids.”

When I removed my shoes this evening, I noticed the crevices on the soles had retained the dust gathered by walking through the destroyed village. I shall not wash off this dust.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy July 4th - 232 Years of Independence, BUT for Who?

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقَيرًا فَاللّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin and whether it be against rich or poor: For God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that you do. (Nisa, 135)

رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِّن لِّسَانِي يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

May our hearts be free of the lusts and may God make our hearts pristinely enlightened and mightily empowered for the love of Him and for the love of fellow human being, InshaAllah …

And, may our tongues be relieved of the twists and may our speech become clear and firm (qawlan sadida) for the causes of justice ...

As we celebrate the 232 years of our nation’s independence, we need to reflect …
what exactly did the people gain from this independence and what this independence must mean to us and what are our responsibilities as “independent people” …

God relieves those who are in “bondage & enslaved” in many ways but those who are “independent” do not have the same privilege.

The “independent” are obliged to follow the laws of the Creator… there’s no fursa for them from the principles, such as - “ta’amaruna bil ma’aroof wa tanhauna minil munkar” OR كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ

At a personal level, the struggle to excel against all odds & at a collective level to work against injustice and struggle for justice giving voice to the voiceless (the musta’adafeen) is an imperative for an “independent believer” that one cannot escape from …

Brothers and Sisters … by the Grace of Allah, we are privileged to live in a land of laws … we have many privileges and we have much prosperity & security, but …the question we may ask ourselves is if these laws are “just” &/or offer “ justice to the oppressed as his/her right and not as his/her privilege?”

Almost all aspects of our lives are governed by some or the other law … and within them are many anomalies … for example :

Having a firearm is your “constitutional right” but a drivers license is a “privilege” … strange one may say!

The question we may like to reflect this week of ‘independence’ is …

Is there a significant difference between a set of laws and a system of justice?
I say a big yes, and I like you to reflect on this using your own rationale and perhaps at some point we can have an open discussion & dialog, for the larger good of all of us and our generations to come, InshaAllah …

The Declaration of Independence stated, in 1776 that “all men are created equal,” … the question one may ask is … “if that was the case in 1776” … the answer is NO …

The slavery in our country was rampant & in fact the very framers of the constitution at the time were owners of many slaves, but yet they were writing “all men are created equal!”

The native American female warrior who stands atop the Capital Dome, as the statue of freedom (please do not mix her with the lady of liberty) was in fact casted by a Foundry of enslaved labor!

And, then the very building in which we make laws today, the Capitol building, a.k.a. the Hill, was constructed with enslaved labor!

No, my brothers & sisters “all men were NOT created equal” although the Declaration of Independence did say so … this is the weakness of human beings …

And it is because of that precise reason, Allah reminds us frequently and commands us to “ … stand firm for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin and whether it be against rich or poor …”

This is a MIGHTY challenge to the “believers” … you and I … and hence the reward is disproportionately generous in this life and in the life Hereafter, if we embrace this challenge in our lives!

What does it mean to be “independent” and what “responsibilities” do we have as “independent people.”

Let us fast forward now 232 years later … while we do enjoy “a level” of freedom and equality on one hand but on the other hand, we continue to have in our country …
· the indefinite detentions of innocent,
· the desperate youth wandering around for a job, and lawlessness among them,
· the (mostly) enslaved press who neither speak nor pursue the Truth in face of Tyranny (eg; Iraq) …
· The growing socio-economic divide and disparity …. Where “the top 1 percent of (American) households owns 40% of the nation’s household wealth[1]
What does it mean to be “independent” and what “responsibilities” do we have as “independent people.”

The independent America has become more debt-dependent than ever before in its entire history, with a total debt of $48 trillion, or $161,287 per man, woman and child!
Your son or your daughter … 2 day old or 12 year old is already in debt by $161,287 In other words, one may argue even before a child is born in America today, he/she is indebted to the State!

This is a massive economic injustice by those who are in power … “enslaving our generations” to come for no fault of theirs …

What does it mean to be ‘independent’ and what responsibilities do we have as ‘independent people’ that’s the question we need to ask ourselves today!

Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of this nation had said, "I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared."

The true concept of independence, my dear brothers and sisters in our Islamic tradition is simple, "to free oneself from the vices and to inculcate virtues." … Ta’amaruna bil Ma’aroof wa Tanhauna Anil Munkar … and then كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ

Not just individually but collectively, a society (a State) , has an obligation to strive …
to “establish good and be just” & hence the idea of a State & its obligations and the idea of “independence” and the role & responsibility of “independent people” …

these are mighty big responsibilities we have, as a people & as Believers …

we cannot simply go on with our lives & remain oblivious to the injustices of ourselves and our society … this must change and “we” must participate in the process of change …

indeed, Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they commit to change themselves … we have heard this quite frequently … didn’t we???

Pursuing independence from the shackles of evil is a mandate and not a choice. Gaining independence from the yoke of oppression in this world is not only necessary but also imperative.

The true independence lies in absolute servitude to the One Creator and freedom from the created.

It is time that we reflect rather soberly in our individual and institutional triumphs.
I believe, we have more possibilities in each moment, every breathing & living moment that we are blessed with, than we can ever realize!

It is too late if we don’t embrace this challenge in our lives, today …

Let us celebrate in the hope of Prophetic promise …

"Remember your Lord (swt) in times of ease, and He will recognize you in times of distress. What hit you could not have missed you, what missed you could not have hit you. Remember that success comes with patience, relief comes with affliction and ease comes with hardship.” (reported Abu 'Abbas' Abdullah) …

Let us renew our commitment to these Prophetic principles for the sake of celebrating life (in true independence & justice for all) & in our unconditional servitude of God All-Mighty and from total freedom of man over man!

Only then, we may have a chance to experience the “tranquility of our heart and peace in our soul” that Quran so emphatically talks about & asks us to pursue.

[1] http://www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/GSSW/schram/sossinequality.html

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Jim Crow - Part II

Jim Crow – Part II
By Shakeel Syed

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, under criticism for frequent absences from Los Angeles, recently defended his trip to Israel by asserting that he is a global leader and not the mayor of "some small town in the desert somewhere." Yet the problem lies not only in his absence from Los Angeles, but in what he has brought back from his trip. He seems prepared to adopt parts of the outdated bigotry of the small-town Jim Crow era practiced today by Israel.

Israel ethnically profiles at its airport and discriminates against Palestinians in all aspects of life. At Israel's Ben Gurion airport, Palestinians – even those with American or Israeli citizenship -- stand in separate lines from Jewish Israelis and are routinely harassed and intimidated for hours.

As a leader of the Southern California Muslim community, it worries me that Israeli tactics of ethnic profiling and segregation may be copied here. Already the Muslim community has deep concerns that we are singled out for unfair scrutiny at American airports. Arab Americans have modified a term from African Americans to describe their discriminatory flying experience: FWA or Flying While Arab. A city as diverse as ours and one whose law enforcement officials are desperately attempting to mend relations with ethnic communities across the spectrum should shun Israel's discriminatory security practices.

Yet the mayor signed an agreement on behalf of the city for three Ben Gurion Airport security officials to advise LAX on security procedures. They will each earn $1,000 a day in city funds that could better be used for myriad other pressing needs in our city.

The mayor, a man I generally admire, invited me to participate on his recent trip to Israel. I declined because I was already scheduled to visit Israel and Palestine with an interfaith delegation of Americans organized by Interfaith Peace-Builders and the American Friends Service Committee. I am certain that I got a dramatically different view of Israel than our mayor.

My delegation was profiled from the moment it arrived. Co-leader Michael Brown breezed through security. Co-leader Miryam Rashid did not. A Palestinian American, she was held for five hours of questioning and faced repeated threats to bar her entry – despite the fact that her family roots are in occupied Palestinian territory. Palestinian Americans are regularly singled out by security. And whole families of Palestinians returning home through Ben Gurion can be seen waiting for interrogation in the holding room. The State Department notes numerous reports of "American citizens, of Arab descent, subjected to harsh and degrading treatment at border crossings."

How would Los Angelinos feel if they were interrogated for carrying literature about global warming or for a political candidate when traveling through LAX? I was challenged at Ben Gurion for possessing United Nations literature explaining the consequences of Israel's 41-year military occupation of Palestinian territory. Political litmus tests for travelers ought to be strongly denounced by city hall, not embraced.

The discrimination practiced at Ben Gurion is a feature of Israel's treatment of Palestinians in general. Mayor Villaraigosa might have traveled on Route 443, the apartheid road Israel has constructed on West Bank land. Israeli citizens are allowed to drive on this road, but the Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot, despite the fact that Palestinian land was expropriated to build it. According to Limor Yehuda of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, "There is already a separate legal system in the territories for Israelis and Palestinians. With the approval of separate roads…the word for it will be 'apartheid’." I can only imagine the outcry if Los Angeles designated certain roads for whites and others for African Americans or Latinos.

And the mayor also may have visited the Dead Sea. Palestinians have been barred from swimming in parts of the Sea. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Israelis managing the beaches there complained that a "mix" of patrons was hurting their business interests. An Israeli brigade commander has set up a checkpoint on weekends and holidays to keep local Palestinians away.

I grew up in India and Pakistan after the departure of the British colonial forces. But I will never forget the painful stories my parents told me of the exclusivist practices the British instituted that made parts of my parents' own country off limits to them. South Africa, of course, separated people on the basis of race, including at beaches. And the Jim Crow South kept African Americans away from whites-only swimming pools. We look back on those days as a shameful era in our nation's remarkable history. Why do our mayor and some City Council members – using our tax dollars -- now take inspiration from those who practice these same policies?

Monday, June 30, 2008

My Friday Sermon on my Visit to Palestine/Israel

أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَكَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعْجِزَهُ مِن شَيْءٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَلِيمًا قَدِيرًا
وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِمَا كَسَبُوا مَا تَرَكَ عَلَى ظَهْرِهَا مِن دَابَّةٍ وَلَكِن يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَإِذَا جَاء أَجَلُهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ بَصِيرًا

Have they not traveled in the land and seen how those in the past ended up, even though they had been more powerful? God is not that nothing in the heavens or in the earth can escape Him. Indeed, He is all-Knowing and all-Powerful!

If God held people accountable as they deserve, that would not leave a single living creature in its wake; however, He lets them stay for a certain term. Then, when their term is up, it turns out that He has been ever-watchful of all mankind.
(35:44-45 … Al-Fatir)

God has blessed me recently to travel to the land of Moses, Jesus & Muhammad (peace and mercy be always with them) … where the revelations descended and the Prophets ascended.

The streets of Jerusalem and the alleys around Al-Aqsa were silently screaming in my ears as I walked the streets of Old Quarters of Jerusalem, a.k.a. Al-Quds …

There were, in my ears, the silent screams of one thousand years from the violent era of Crusaders [1099].

Their reign of terror ended with Salahuddin Ayyoub, a.k.a. Saladin. During his reign & thereafter for seven hundred sixty one years, the people of Star, the Cross and the Crescent lived as neighbors in relative peace.

It was thereafter in 1948 that the Palestinians were humiliatingly displaced from their homes & farms; dispossessed of their belongings & property, and deprived of a living with honor and dignity.

It is these sixty years of continued occupation that we now call the Naqba, that I went to commemorate and also to witness the wrongs in our midst, in 2008!

Brothers & Sisters ... the verse I recited refers to “travel & witnessing the past” … in it are lessons for mankind, only if they wish to learn.

‘Power & Authority’ is an ‘Amanah’ (trust) that God bestows upon those whomever He chooses.
Wise are those who receive this honor in the selfless service of the humanity.

Those who are unwise rely on ‘power’ alone, only to realize in time that their term was, but for a limited time and their tyranny of oppression will be held against them in the eternal life Hereafter.

The Occupation of Palestinian land and its people by Israel is abhorrently immoral and illegal by any and all standards.

Whether it is the East Jerusalem or the West Bank, the oppression and occupation is vividly blatant & calling upon all people of faiths and conscience to end it.

I had the painful privilege to travel through a great deal of the Occupied West Bank such as the cities of Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron & also part of Israel, such as the cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa & Nazareth …

I met restaurant waiters & bus drivers, professors & students, young & old, rich & poor, men & women, religious & secular & their cry and call is one … “Occupation Must End.”

In the city of Bethlehem, the city of birth of Jesus (may peace be always with him), I met an elected official of the city, where, in spite of a Muslim majority, the Mayor of the City is always a Christian and their City Council has always a Christian majority … clearly demonstrating that people of faiths can live side by side, in peace, with mutual respect, and as equal citizens and loving neighbors.

Contrary to Bethlehem … … in Hebron, the City of Prophet Ibrahim (the father of all – may peace be always with him), where a New York born Baruch Goldstein had killed Muslim worshippers in Masjid al-Khaleel during the Fajr prayers in the Ramadan of 1994 … continues to remain under siege by the Occupying forces of Israel & the Jewish Settlers …

In Hebron, I met and patiently listened to, a New Jersey born David Wilder (a Settler), now an Israeli Citizen (under the Israeli Law of Return) …
– who consciously chooses not to even recognize the term “Palestinian or Palestine”
– who believes that the Jewish land has in fact been stolen by Arabs for thousands of years,
– who claims that without this land, there can be no faith Judaism,
– David has the right of carrying a loaded weapon to protect less than five hundred settlers in the settlement (Kiryat Arba) while tens of thousands of Palestinians can neither walk free in the streets nor can open their stores to earn a livelihood, and …
– He & others can return from any part of the world and claim Israeli citizenship and receive full services but a Palestinian born in Hebron or Ramallah or any other occupied city, now living anywhere or in Southern California, cannot return to his homeland, if & when he/she so chooses.

Brothers & Sisters, God is indeed most just … and will hold everyone accountable to what they do and what they don’t … what they say and what they don’t and of course when they are unjust and violate the sanctity of life, dignity and honor.

We know that God alone can render ultimate justice and He tests us by giving us time to prove ourselves worthy of his grace & mercy.

As Quran is emphatically clear … that “if we were to be held accountable (fully) then not one of us would pass His test & indeed He is letting one group over the other stay in control & power for a certain term. And that term will be up sooner or later.”

There is much to say of the persecuted lands and the people of Palestine. About them and in their suffering is a heart wrenching story.

There is a wall that is continually being built, anywhere from 5 to upto 28 feet tall (with barbed wire), tearing apart families, businesses and lives.

There are check-points, where each day thousands of Palestinians’ basic human dignity is stripped bare …

Neither students nor teachers can reach their classrooms - with certainty each day

Neither doctors can render nor patients can receive medical care when needed …

Neither a son can visit his mother nor a wife can visit her beloved, at will …

But, at will, the American made Israeli bulldozers can raze orchards full of olive and fig trees and demolish homes while the inhabitants are sleeping or barely awake …

In the midst of seemingly perpetual fog and gloom, I find hope … reflecting the Quranic principle …

وَلاَ تَهِنُوا وَلاَ تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ

“Neither despair nor grieve - for if you are true believers, you will eventually be relieved.” (3:139)

I find hope …
In the owner of that restaurant in the outskirts of Jerusalem … who offered baklawa to our group members of various faiths & said - "sweets are on-house, although we live in bitterness."

I find hope …
In Bassam Aramin, who co-founded Combatants for Peace (along with Israeli refuseniks), whose ten year old daughter, Abir, was killed by a teenage IDF soldier (January 16, 2007). A grieving but patient father, Bassam, is calling for “justice” and not for “revenge.”

I find hope …
In Emad, a father of four, from the village of B’lin, who is leading a weekly vigil, against the apartheid wall that divides his village in two parts … his part with nothing and the part on the other side, now stolen by the Israeli Military, full of olive trees and fertile land.

I find hope …
In Daoud & his family who suffer but refuse to leave their farmland (Daher’s Vineyard) in spite of being land-locked (by settlers and roadblocks) & tempting offers from ‘anonymous buyers’ offering blank checks. Instead they host people of all faiths & nations in their symbolic tent-of-nations and extend their warmth, hospitality and love to all.

And, then you’ve the concerned Jewish mothers in the southern outskirts of Haifa, whose movement calls for “civil-izing” and not “militar-izing” the society and educate and empower their sons not to join military …

And, I have also witnessed people of Judaic faith, my friends … accompanying me in the travels, courageous enough to stand by me when I was questioned of my origins and ethnicity (by the Israeli security), and who were also brave enough to visit the refugee camps and hold the hands of a Palestinian grandmother and say sorry for what had happened to her and her grandchildren.

Such is the courage, that my dear brothers and sisters, I house my hope in, for a better tomorrow.

But before I and you, hope for a better tomorrow, we ought to also recommit ourselves of our duty … “to be a firm witness for justice even if it be against ourselves.”

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ

We also must remember the Prophetic legacy … “that, when you see wrong, right it with your hand, or speak against it or at least feel it in your heart – indeed that’ll be the weakest of your faith.”

Let us pray that we become of those who stand firmly for justice and are resolved against any form of injustice anywhere, against anyone by anyone.

Let us pray that we eagerly lend our ears to the silent cries of the ancient al-Aqsa, the alleys of Ramallah, the corners of Hebron and the circles of Nablus.

Let us pray that the grandmothers and grandfathers, orphans and widows, be embraced by all of us, as people who deserve dignity and honor and who are no less or more, than any other people, and that we all, one day can enjoy the fragrance of olives and the shade of a fig tree sitting with a person of any faith or color, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation with respect of all.

It is indeed, my dear brothers and sisters that we learn when we travel and explore the lands & the seas that God created and God owns … there is nothing hidden from him, neither in the depths of the oceans nor in the heights of skies … all is known to Him and we seek refuge in Him and ask him to bless us with courage, patience and perseverance to work for justice and peace for all people, everywhere, and in particular in Palestine. Amen.

A response to Los Angeles Mayor's visit to Israel

Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you
Shakeel Syed

In my recent travels to the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Haifa, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and my meeting with peasants and politicians, cab drivers and academics, occupiers and occupied, victims and victimizers, refugees and settlers, people of Abrahamic faiths and agnostics, I did learn one simple reality … “Ending Israeli occupation of Palestinians and their land is a mandatory prerequisite to any form of peace.”

Having missed the opportunity to accompany the Mayor Villaraigosa, who had so graciously invited me to visit Israel with him, I thought I might write about some questions I would have liked to have asked some of the leaders whom the mayor wanted us to meet.

Mr. Prime Minister Olmert: Will Palestinians ever be free of Israeli occupation in their lands? Do you believe the 500 miles long apartheid wall that separates families from their loved ones and farmer from their lands is helpful for peace? Why do you allow Jewish-only illegal settlements to continue to usurp Palestinian land? Can you please explain your policy of demolishing homes and uprooting orchards? Do you agree with UN monitors who say there are 607 road blocks (as of April 2008) in the Occupied Territories? Is it true that your prisons have held more than 5,000 Palestinians who have been jailed without charges for years?

Mr. Shimon Peres: As a Nobel Peace Prize owner do you think Israeli’s nuclear arsenal is helpful or harmful to the regional and to world peace? The oft repeated claim that Israel is a role model for democracy in Middle East is , I believe, like looking to South Africa for racial equality and justice. Do you agree with this, Mr. Peres? Is it true that the Zionist aspiration is to keep usurping “maximum land” (for Jews) with “minimum people” (Palestinians)?

Ms. Tzipi Livni: Just as the law-of-return grants automatic Israeli citizenship to Jews born anywhere in the world, is it too utopian for more than a million Palestinian refugees to have the right-to-return to their homeland? Can I please get a line item breakdown of the annual $3 billion plus US aid, which includes my tax dollars to your country?

Mr. Uri Lupolianski: I, a Muslim from America was able to argue my way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque on a Friday, but I witnessed many native Jerusalemites denied the right to pray – why? Do you know the number of checkpoints and special permits a Palestinian needs to travel for medical care between Ramallah and Jerusalem?

While I am happy to wait for the answers from Israeli leaders, I would like my mayor to consider the following while signing agreements with the Ben Gurion Airport Security and the International (Israeli) Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

How would Los Angelinos feel if they were interrogated for carrying United Nations material (explaining the consequences of Israeli occupation) as I was leaving Ben Gurion Airport last week?

How could the Los Angeles Police Department benefit from the Israeli Police and Military who indiscriminately shoots children and fires teargas during peaceful protests, such as in the village of B’lin each Friday? I am now an owner of few of these empty teargas shells, perhaps bought by Israel with your and my tax dollars.

I urge my Mayor to add the besieged Gaza to his itinerary while touring Sderot and visit with the starving mothers of Palestinian children killed by the Israeli military.

I await my mayor’s return so that I could give him a T-shirt with the slogan “Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you,” that I bought for him from a store in the old quarters of Jerusalem last week.

(This op-ed was submitted to but not accepted by LA Times. I am also aware of another activist writing her response that LA Times chose not to publish it.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

O' For The Day - That Is Dying!

For the day that is dying!

(Dedicated to a fierce fighter for justice – dearest Huwaidaa Arraf)

I thought I was indulging in a tour … and lost myself
At home I was ignorant and unknown
When I left home, my courage spread far & wide
The pious & the agnostics laid their merit at my feet.
O’ for the day that is dying!

Palestine is like a warehouse filled with rare merchandise,
That draws people from all “three quarters,”
Now its richness is gone, it has no worth.
O’ for the day that is dying!

Its people were of high standing,
Now they are made to feel the lowest of the low,
O’ for the day that is dying!

The Israeli is happy, he owns the aeroplane and the Uzi,
The Zionist is gratified, he controls the trade & tyranny,
Palestinians are but empty drums, subsisting on God’s grace,
For them is a pile of biscuit crumbs & lemonade bitter,
O’ for the day that is dying!

Palestine, I see is a supremely beautiful woman,
Almost impersonal and above all human desires,
It’s feminine beauty of river & valley & graceful trees,
O’ for the day that is dying!

Palestine, I see is a masculine magical beauty,
Of hard mountains and precipices,
The rugged peaks & the cruel deserts
O’ for the day that is dying!

Palestine has a thousand faces, sometimes smiling,
Many times sad and full of sorrow,
Watching this magical spectacle, I feel faint,
It seems dreamlike and unreal,
Like the hopes and desires that fills us wholesome,
But seldom finds fulfilled
O’ Palestine – you are the face of the beloved
That I see in a dream that
Keeps fading away when I am wakened,
O’ for the day that is dying!


O’ for the day that is dying!

We, the people of the Stars & the Stripes
How dare we slumber in the shade of complacence
Leading lives as frivolous as the fallen petals
While our fellow man has no dwelling –
Save the saddles of camels and the bellies of the valleys

Blood has been spilled all around the three quarters
Beautiful young dames have been shamed, and
The angelic innocence of children has been robbed
Dignity of the wrinkled man, and
Honor of the wailing woman

The crying church,
The moaning mosque, and
The wailing wall … calling on you,

The man of slumber in the stars, and
The woman of colors in the stripes
O’ for the day that has not “yet” died!

Shakeel Syed – Jerusalem – June 6

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Echoes of the Past

Echoes of the PastThursday, May 29

Silent screaming streets of Jerusalem violently echoed the past of the Star, Cross and the Crescent. This is the first time I ever stepped on these holy lands of the Prophets and their people. Accompanying me, are young and old, men and women, and the followers of human conscience and of Abrahamic faiths. We are an Interfaith group visiting the Holy Lands for self discovery and learning of the past in the present.

1099 was the year Crusaders reigned.
1187 Saladin (Salah al-Din) reclaimed.
1948 the Jewish State came into being.

Empires are generally rooted in religion. Dominions can only be secured by victory. And victory is always on the side of those who are committed to the unity of purpose.

Self-proclaimed atheists, Moshe Dayan and Ben Gurion had ample unity of purpose in the creation of a Jewish State. After all, they knew of the sufferings of European Jewry, the pogroms in Tsarist Russia and the slaughter houses of Auschwitz. Their hearts were united and coordinated, with the help of God of David and Solomon, Jacob and Isaac.

A thousand years of religio-secular cycle of death, displacement and despair, I thought, as I walked the streets of Jerusalem.

A T-Shirt slogan stared me in the eye. “Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you.” Yes, it was displayed in a shop in the Muslim quarters of Jerusalem.

Ah, the great Untouchable! A nascent country that regularly invades neighboring States, routinely defies UN resolutions, occupies land, treats its people inhumanely and possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons, enough to light up the entire region, once and for all.

A twenty plus year old bright Irish lady volunteering at a women’s empowerment center summed up well. “North Ireland and South Africa combined is Palestine, with no hope.”
An Arab restaurant owner after catering lunch to our Interfaith group offering baklawa said it differently, “sweets on-house, although we live in bitterness.”

“Abir was barely ten when she was killed by a teenage IDF soldier (January 16, 2007), who perhaps saw her as a terrorist target.” These were the words of her father, Bassam Aramin, co-founder of Combatants for Peace. Kids killing kids!

From Ben Gurion to Yasser Arafat, from Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas, the Priests, the Rabbis and the Muftis – all need to lend a moment to the Taoist scripture.

“How did the great rivers and seas get their kingship over the hundred lesser streams?
Through the merit of being lower than they: that was how they got their kingship.
Therefore the sage (the leaders and the politicians) in order to be above the people,
must speak as though he were lower than they.
In order to guide them, he must put himself behind them.
Thus when he is above, the people have no burden, when he is ahead, they feel no hurt.”

The silent cries of the ancient Jerusalem are just as loud in the alleys of Ramallah, the corners of Hebron and the circles of Nablus, as it is in the malls of New York, the cafes of Rio de Janeiro and the streets of Mozambique.

Choice is ours – either we can be deafeningly loud or screamingly silent, merely calling for or fiercely working for peace. Else, the echoes of the past will continue to haunt us in the future as it is the case in the present in the silent screaming streets of ancient Jerusalem.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Journey to Al-Aqsa

Sat - May 24, 2008 - AM ... Phew ... did away with packing ... with the help of my youngest daughter Aasiya, the namesake of Moses's caretaker, I am ready to take off to the land of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon all of them). Here I come, O land of the Prophets & the people of my Book!

Never before, I was called upon by so many friends and family cautioning me what to be aware of and what to refrain from. Strange, that everyone is so concerned!

Never before, my son, Mujahid sent me off with a river of tears. Upon asking, he replied with childish innocence that he may not see me again! He went on to say, I knew well when you traveled to Europe, China, Central Asia, India and among so many other places that you WILL be back but Palestine ... "don't they kill people there," he asked. I couldn't help but add few tears to his river & hugged & hugged even tighter and in silence, I prayed for a time (hopefully in my lifetime) when a kid in Los Angeles don't have to be so afraid to travel to Palestine & experience the land of the Prophets and their legacies.

The whole purpose of my trip is just beginning to reveal itself. Very interesting, rather fascinating. I have no plans. Don't have the slightest idea who I may meet & where and who would help me discover myself and how. Join me, if you like, and come along. I will share with what I learn & together we'll let our children heal us!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A US Citizen of Jewish faith spied for Israel, an ardent ally?!

- LA times had a 500 word story in the inside pages
- NY Times forgot to cover this story ... ooops
- WP story is pasted below

This is NOT the first but the second known case of a Jewish-American (Jonathan Pollard) spying for Israel whom we call an ally of different proportions. In both cases, the spying was done by the State of Israel, for the State of Israel, using Jewish-American citizens!

Should the US call for a Jewish-Integration Program just as we ask of Mexican-Americans & Muslim-Americans to give up their Mexican-ness & Mulim-ness ...

Think for a moment if this were to have been a Muslim-American spying for a Muslim country, how the media & the government would have covered it ...


Man, 84, Is Charged With Spying for Israel in 1980s

By Carrie JohnsonWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, April 23, 2008; A04

For more than two decades after he allegedly furnished an Israeli operative with secrets about U.S. nuclear initiatives and sensitive weapons programs, Ben-Ami Kadish lived unnoticed by law enforcement authorities in suburban New Jersey.

Until yesterday, that is, when Kadish, 84, was arrested at his home, taken to a federal courthouse in Manhattan and charged with four counts of conspiracy allegedly for serving as an foreign agent and allegedly for lying to the FBI about a recent telephone conversation he had with his alleged Israeli handler.

Kadish, a mechanical engineer, worked at the U.S. Army's research arsenal in Dover, N.J., in the early 1980s. He routinely checked classified documents out of a library there and passed them to an unnamed Israeli official who had provided a list of what he wanted, according to a four-count criminal complaint the FBI filed yesterday.

The official photographed pages related to nuclear weaponry, the F-15 fighter jet program and the U.S. Patriot missile defense system, according to an FBI affidavit on which the complaint is based.

Kadish's actions appear to have escaped detection for years even though his handler allegedly also collected classified information from Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst. Pollard is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., after pleading guilty to an espionage-related crime in 1986.

"It's a fascinating case of another agent in place, another sleeper, with the very same handler," said Joseph E. diGenova, the former U.S. attorney in the District who prosecuted Pollard. "We always suspected there were other people. His tradecraft was apparently better than Pollard's."
DiGenova said the espionage, which the charging documents indicate ceased in 1985, doubtless have come to the government's attention because of wiretap evidence obtained by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan. FBI agents first interviewed Kadish last month about his activities at the Army's Picatinny Arsenal, where he worked between 1963 and 1990, according to the filing.

Kadish, a U.S. citizen who was born in Connecticut, told the agents that he "borrowed" classified documents at the urging of his handler, who encouraged him to help "protect Israel" by sharing papers that had a "direct correlation to Israel's security." He accepted only small gifts and occasional family dinners in exchange for his services, the FBI said.

Kadish told Special Agent Lance Ashworth that between August 1979 and July 1985, he provided the handler with 50 to 100 documents, according to the affidavit.

The handler is identified in the criminal complaint only as "co-conspirator 1," but he has been named in Israeli publications and by a former prosecutor as Yosef Yagur. He lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and worked as an adviser on science affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York.

Yagur left the United States in November 1985, shortly after Pollard was charged with espionage-related offenses, and has never returned.

The handler called Kadish's home at least 22 times between July and November 1985, according to an FBI account of the phone records. The two men have since allegedly maintained contact through periodic e-mail messages and phone calls. They met in Israel four years ago, but their dealings since 1985 have been "purely social," Kadish told investigators.

The handler and Kadish renewed their ties on March 20, according to the FBI affidavit, after federal agents interviewed Kadish for the first time. "Don't say anything," the handler allegedly said. "Let them say whatever they want. . . . What happened 25 years ago? You didn't remember anything."

The next day, FBI agents again questioned Kadish, who allegedly denied the call had taken place. His statements eventually became the basis for two criminal conspiracy charges that accuse him of hindering an investigation and of lying to law enforcement officials. He was also charged with conspiracy to serve as an Israeli agent and conspiracy to disclose documents related to U.S. defense programs.

A federal magistrate judge in New York released Kadish yesterday afternoon on a $300,000 personal recognizance bond secured by his home in Monroe Township, N.J. He was required to surrender his passport, and he will not be allowed to travel beyond New Jersey and New York.
Bruce Goldstein, a defense lawyer for Kadish, did not return calls. David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said that "we were formally informed of the indictment by the relevant authorities," but declined to comment further.


Monday, April 21, 2008

CA Governor's selective representation

Governor of California's selective representation

The Governor's Cold Shoulder to MuslimsRebuffing California's Islamic leaders sends a message of intolerance.
By Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
August 25, 2006.

EARLIER THIS MONTH, with war raging in the Middle East, I saw that my governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was meeting with rabbis and others who support Israel. As executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, a federation of more than 75 mosques and Muslim organizations serving half a million Muslims, I thought that such a high public official should also meet with members of my community.

I wrote to him on Aug. 7. I wanted to talk to the governor about three important points.

I wanted him to know that my community felt that the deaths of innocent Israeli civilians from the rockets of Hezbollah were painfully tragic, and just as tragic as the deaths of innocent Lebanese people and the destruction of their country's infrastructure by the Israeli bombing.

I wanted to ask him to listen to another, equally important side of the story.

And I wanted to urge him to remember that the governor should represent and listen to all the people of California.

After waiting for more than a week, and following up with at least 10 phone calls to the governor's office, I had gotten no response. I felt it was my duty and my right as a citizen to avail myself of a public forum to reach the governor. When a reporter from the L.A. Times called, I spoke with him and, on Aug. 16, The Times correctly reported my perspective: The fact that the governor had ignored my request to meet was disrespectful and insulting.

I believe what I did comes under the heading of Democracy 101. Politicians govern and win elections by responding to the populace. And when they do not, the populace has two remedies: the power of the vote and the power of public opinion.

Finally, when the governor agreed to meet with two Muslims, it was as individuals, not on behalf of any organization. He refused to meet with me. His communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, was forthright in a public statement: "We did not meet with Mr. Syed [because] it was inappropriate for the governor to meet with someone who uses the media to demand meetings and threaten political retaliation."

I think the governor's communications director needs work on his communication skills. What he calls demanding a meeting, I call paying attention to constituents; what he calls political retaliation, I call voting.

I think that deliberately avoiding a meeting with me solely because I made use of my 1st Amendment rights is simply un-American. This isn't a personal matter between me and the governor. It's about making sure that the half a million people I represent are heard in Sacramento.

Marginalizing Californians who are Muslims subtly reinforces anti-Muslim stereotypes, which all too often cast us as outsiders. This is not principled, it's not good politics and it's not good for the state.

In these volatile times, with attacks on Muslims and our mosques, we cannot afford to be ignored by our governor; we can't stand by when his actions deepen religious and cultural divisions. Californians are, by and large, decent and well-intentioned. They want to solve problems; they want to break down barriers.

Shouldn't their governor be helping them bring down the walls that separate us rather than building them higher?

Published as an Op-Ed in Los Angeles Times on Aug 25, 2006.

Beware the Tax Collector, Cometh!

Beware the Tax Collector, Cometh!

Beware, the Tax Collector Cometh!
By Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council

Romans craftily taxed small farmers, artisans and businesses but exempted the senatorial class, the descendants of anyone who had served in the Roman Senate. Farmers who could not pay their taxes were enslaved (along with their wives and children) and had to give their lands and themselves to the local members of the senatorial class, losing both their freedom and their farms.

History shows us that tax collection is often used by the state as a chief instrument of power. From the ancient Egyptians and Romans to the recent British Empire and now to the emerging Empire of the United States of America, both taxes or the lack there-of is meant to demonstrate power.

The state is now using that power against All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena over a 2004 sermon by Rev. Dr. George Regas in which he said Jesus would have told President Bush, “Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine [that] has led to disaster.”

Beware, the Tax Collector Cometh!

The Tax Collector claims Regas’s sermon implied endorsement of the then presidential Democratic nominee for president, John Kerry. Such discourse from the pulpit is evil, said the Tax Collector and threatened to take away the church’s 501C3 status, one of the key benefits awarded by the state.

Hypocrisy of the tax collector of our time, a.k.a. the I.R.S. (I Are Us as in With Us or Against Us), cannot be but at its worst.

The spiritually and socially responsible All Saints Church is being threatened, for merely calling for justice to the destitute and impoverished while the multi-million dollar 700 Club of the infamous Pat Robertson can continue to get richer in spite of calling for the assassination of a head of state, using the tele-pulpit!

Such are the hypocrisies of the I Are Us; very similar to the Roman inequities. When commoners could not bare the injustices, they rebelled, leading to the downfall of empires. The emerging American Empire should learn from history. Downfall is near.
The role of tax agencies all along in history was to serve as the bullies of the monarchs and dictators. The IRS is no different. Selective enforcement of good law is a demonstration of such corrupt power. A moral audit of IRS is imperative for the health of our society.

501C3 or not. The call to redress inequities and injustices often begins from the pulpit. And that never has, nor will ever change. Else, the Mayflower would never have sailed.

Much before man created the I.R.S. and such three-letter acronyms, the three-letter word, God, always has and always will remain simply supreme. Pulpit or no pulpit, 501C3 or no 501C3, man will always be inspired, like George Regas, to speak for justice and equity for the destitute and impoverished. No I.R.S. can ever succeed in auditing the word of truth to the power.

An Op-Ed in support of All Saints Church, Pasadena and the threats it received from IRS.
Published in Pasadena Star News.