Friday, September 28, 2007

The Kyl-Lieberman Amendment Means a Green Light for War with Iran

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Sept. 28, 2007 - A bold and potentially dangerous amendment has been added to the U.S. Defense Authorization Bill of 2008 that could very well lead to a pre-emptive U.S. attack on Iran.

If you missed it, you're not alone. It's the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, named after its principle sponsors in the United States Senate (Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona and crypto-Republican Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who used to be, at least in name, a Democrat). The amendment, which expressed the sentiment of the Senate, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 77 to 23.

What the amendment actually means is this: The Senate urges the U.S. to formally regard the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and the Al Quds Force, as "terrorist" organizations, and to authorize the use of "military instruments" to confront Iran.

This amendment to the bloated Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill was largely created as a response to recent congressional testimony from General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, who testified that Iran trains Iraqi insurgents and supplies them with munitions, including sophisticated bombs used against U.S. armored vehicles and convoys.

Senator Hillary Clinton, by the way, voted in favor of the amendment. Senator Barak Obama did not vote at all.

Senator Lieberman did, in fact, address the Senate to assert that the amendment calls for economic sanctions, rather than military attacks, against the Iranian military organizations. But while falling short of an all-out call for, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment is widely believed to be a measure that opens the door for a pre-emptive military attack on Tehran.

It's certainly no secret that the Bush administration is moving in the direction of war with Iran. U.S. military assets are being positioned for air strikes against suspected Iranian military (and suspected nuclear) installations, while the U.S. is busy galvanizing international support for even more stringent sanctions against that nation.

Kyl-Lieberman now gives what amounts to a green light for the kind of aggression that could very well lead to a shooting war that would result in the catastrophic loss of untold human lives in the region - including, sadly, even more Americans in uniform.

I believe that any economic or military attack on Iran would only expand the tragedy, and folly, of a war in Iraq that should never have begun in the first place.

The Kyl-Lieberman amendment is regressive and dangerous, and we encourage you to contact the offices of your Senators to express your objections to a new U.S. war on the people of Iran.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Presidency for Sale

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) September 10, 2007 - Think you'd like to be President of the United States? Great! Just be sure to bring your checkbook.

And make sure it's a very big checkbook.

That's the advice from Michael E. Toner, Chairperson of the Federal Election Commission, who commented recently that the "entry fee" for serious presidential candidates in the 2008 election will reach an estimated record figure of no less than $100 million dollars. And this amount only buys an admission ticket to the game!

For candidates seriously aspiring to win the general election, campaign expenses continue to skyrocket, that is to say, unless the candidate is other than a Democrat or Republican. History has repeatedly demonstrated that Libertarians, Greens, and other independents, seem to fall short of being given serious consideration in the electoral process when it comes to Presidential elections.

As we are well aware, the mad scramble for the Democratic and Republican party nominations is in full swing, and it has started earlier than in any previous election cycle in history.

The current Democratic Party front-runners, Senators Clinton and Obama, raised, at the end of the second quarter of 2007, $63 million and $58.9 million, respectively. Senator Clinton, who is also a millionaire, accepts money from Political Action Committees, while the less-affluent Senator Obama - at least for now - does not.

By contrast, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the grassroots "peace" candidate in the field of Democratic contenders, has pulled in campaign contributions totaling approximately $1.17 million.

On the GOP side, Former Governor Mitt Romney, who has a personal fortune estimated at over $350 million, has successfully raised $44.4 million, and will "loan" a great deal more to his campaign from his own very deep pockets.

But if money is the primary fuel that propels the national electoral machinery, how important, really, are the values of integrity, wisdom, compassion, and competence?

Is access to money - and a lot of it - the best criterion for national leadership?

And how could a credible candidate without deep pockets possibly compete for a presidential nomination?

One idea - that of public financing for presidential campaigns - has been around for awhile. The trade-off, in this case, would be the guarantee of federal campaign funds while imposing a cap on overall campaign spending. However, faced with the possibility of limited spending, most of the announced candidates opt for no public money, and, therefore, no restrictions on the campaign money they raise, and spend, in pursuit of their presidential ambitions.

Many people in America are probably dissatisfied with this money-driven, and special interest driven, quadrennial political pageant.

The highest elected office in the land is now, unofficially, open only to individuals who are either themselves millionaires, or who primarily serve the economic and political interests of the rich and ultra-rich.

The common loss for the voting public is evidenced by a severely limited range of political options presented in the national debates.

Rich people have good ideas about government and national policies, to be sure. But the vast majority of us, who are neither rich nor politically connected to money, have important things to add to the national discourse as well. And a government "of, by, and for the people" must be, primarily, a government made up of, and responsible to, the rest of us.

This is why, as activists for democratic change (as in the small "d"), we should not only carefully weigh the decision of how to cast our primary election votes, but also on how we can, and must, participate in a broad, national initiative to demand radical changes in the way we finance presidential campaigns.

And ultimately, on how we can open the entire political selection and representation process up, to the vast majority of non-millionaires in America.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What the 'Jena Six' Says About the 'Two Americas'

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Sept. 17, 2007 - Much of the civil rights community, and a significant part of the global (as in, non-American) news media, is focused on the prosecution of six African-American secondary school students in the small town of Jena, Louisiana.

The accused, known collectively as the "Jena Six", were originally charged with the beating, and attempted murder of a 17-year old white student at a local high school currently in a cycle of escalating racially charged tensions amongst its student population.

The white participant in the altercation was not seriously injured. But the wounds inflicted on the entire community of Jena, Louisiana are profound.

All of this apparently started when, some months ago, a group of African-American students at the school attempted to sit under a tree that has traditionally been a meeting place for white students. The following day, nooses - symbolic of the ropes used to hang African-Americans in the era of racial segregation - were found hanging from the tree.

Three white students were determined to be the culprits behind the offensive act, however, instead of expulsion from the school, they were only given a three-day suspension.

In many ways, this sad episode is indicative of two deeply historical and persistent truths in America: the first is that racial separation, segregation, and animosity are alive and well, and the second, that African-Americans, all too frequently, must deal with a separate, and unequal, system of "justice".

None of this suggests that schoolyard fights are a suitable way to address the deep problem of racial injustice in America, and especially the deep racial divide in Jena, Louisiana, and many parts of the South. But African-American kids involved in a fight face criminal charges that could lead to long prison sentences, while their white schoolmates were given less than a slap on the wrist for instigating the conflict by displaying a crude, and ugly, symbol of racially-inspired murder.

There is something very wrong with this picture. And it's been wrong for centuries.

De jure (legal) segregation may have been abolished by the U.S. court system some time ago, but de facto (in the real world) racial apartheid still exists in much of the country.

The small town of Jena (population 2,971) is just an example of the larger problem that many Black folks take for granted; that equal justice before the law is a largely a myth in the still-segregated South, just as equality in education, housing, health care, employment, and access to municipal services are all separated by the racial fault line.

And as long as the mentality of white racial superiority exists, these institutional disparities and injustices will persist as well. The America of 2007 is, simply put, still held in the grip of institutional racism and racial inequality.

On September 20, MAS Freedom will join major civil rights organizations and leaders in making a pilgrimage to Jena, Louisiana, to stand in solidarity with the young men, and their families, who are caught up in this incident.

There is a growing demand from the international community that the criminal charges against the 'Jena Six' be dropped, or reduced to a more appropriate misdemeanor.

MAS Freedom also intends to continue to speak out about the 'Jena Six' and to educate the non-African American Muslim community about the realities of anti-black racism and racial inequality that persist in America.

This is clearly a time to mobilize against racism and inequality in courts, and the institutions, of the United States. Muslims, like the rest of the people in America, must learn from this sad incident and renew our efforts to work for equal justice.

MAS Freedom Calls For Release of 'Jena Six' Suspect Mychal Bell
Civil Rights Leaders Urge Action in Racially Charged La. Beating Case
Al Sharpton Calls for Investigation of Prosecutor in Racially Charged School Fight

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering September 11 Envisioning September 12 and Beyond

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) September 11, 2007 - Like almost all of us, I have a vivid recall of September 11, 2001. A great deal changed for me, and for all of us, on that infamous day six years ago.

I remember my fatigue, and relief, when my flight from Durban, South Africa landed at Kennedy Airport, a little less than an hour before the World Trade Center was incinerated.

I recall, too, seeing the burning buildings that were visible from the Major Deegan Expressway in New York City, and later, arriving in Rockland County just before the highways, and almost the entire New York City region, went into shut-down, and later; war-mode.

The nearly 3,000 innocent victims of the 9/11 tragedy were simply a prelude for the bigger carnage that followed – a carnage, and war that continues today.

Like most of us in the Muslim American community, this terrible day marked a pivotal point in U.S. history. Our communities were both vehemently attacked and valiantly defended by numerous interfaith and ethical allies who refused to blanket us with the stigma of collective guilt.

Over 500 incidents of reactionary violence against innocent Muslims were recorded, and some 1,500 Muslim "suspects" were rounded up for interrogation and arrest by U.S. security forces - although all of them were exonerated from guilt.

But while "flying while Muslim" (or Muslima) became, and still is, a very precarious adventure for many of us, the deeper and more permanent attacks on Muslim leadership and Muslim institutions remains an ongoing challenge for Ummati Muhammad here in America.

The essential infrastructure of our collective community remains vulnerable to financial and legal maneuverings designed to limit, if not silence, our collective demand for freedom and respect for our civil rights.

Muslims in visible leadership positions, even when exonerated by jury trials, are re-tried by judicial ideologues who believe that even when Muslims are innocent, they must be guilty of something that merits their incarceration.

Even our charitable assistance for the victims of occupation and colonialism in Palestine is regarded by some as prima facie evidence of some Muslim conspiracy and wrongdoing - even though this great nation, itself, was born in a struggle against colonialism and occupation some 231 years ago.

Yet, despite all of this, I believe that the collective cup is not half-empty. In fact, it is more than half-full.

I believe that the Muslim community has made solid and significant gains across the nation over the past six-years, sometimes in the face of formidable opponents, and even some who would like to obliterate our very existence in America.

Mosques, neighborhood centers, youth programs, and other institutions continue to be built, and yet, despite the open and underhanded opposition of others, we remain deeply committed to both community service and interfaith dialogue.

And Islam continues to grow.

But perhaps the most noticeable and solid achievement in the last six years is the growth, and consolidation, of real Muslim presence and power in the political realm.

We have now (Alhamdulillah!) our first elected member of Congress, numerous mayors and local elected officials, and new respect throughout the country for a growing community of civic-minded voters.

We are making a significant impact on the national electoral scene, and this impact will not be diminished.

As I travel throughout the MAS national network, I am impressed with the dedication and deep, spiritual impact of our members, and especially our youth, who continue to build, teach, serve, and pray, despite the power of those who oppose us.

And so, on this solemn day and as we enter into the blessed season of Ramadan, I am certain that, just as Allah (SWT) will test us as believers, that He will not abandon us, or let us be unsuccessful in our collective struggle for freedom, justice, and ultimately a nation and a world that is better for all.

Our work here at MAS is invigorated, and becoming even greater as a result of the challenges that confront Muslims today, and tomorrow.

Today is September 11th - and our struggles are ever present - but we must also hold fast to the hope that, on September 12, and each day thereafter, we will continue to flourish as a community.

Muslims have a great deal to contribute to this nation, and to the future of humanity - these contributions will continue, insha'Allah.

Peace, justice, and success to you all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fasting for the Earth: A Muslim View

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) September 5, 2007 - On September 4, I had the opportunity to join over 1,000 people from across the nation, partnering with thousands of others from over 14 different countries for a 'Climate Emergency Fast' – a day of fasting to bring awareness to the deepening climate of crisis confronting humanity.

Some of the participants agreed to fast for a single day, others, like my friend, and event coordinator, Ted Glick, will fast for as long as several weeks, subsisting only on water to bring attention to the issue of global warming.

You may ask, "Why should Muslims fast for an environmental issue just nine days before their own fast in the sacred month of Ramadan?"

I believe that this additional act of fasting is necessary because, as Muslims, we are called to pray for the well-being of all mankind, and if we pray for humanity, fasting is indeed, our most powerful and sincere form of prayer.

Believe me when I say that the earth itself is in crisis. Real crisis. And this crisis threatens the delicate balance of nature that sustains all life on the planet.

Truly, if nature is harmed beyond repair, everything that we as Muslims care about - human rights, economic justice, ending the war in Iraq, justice for Palestine, better schools and housing, religious freedom – to name a few - will be obliterated by the single most dangerous threat to the survival of the human species in the last thousand years.

For any of us who haven't been in deep hibernation or vacationing on the moon, the scientific evidence of massive climate change is not real news. Multiple category five hurricanes, record heat waves throughout the country, massive droughts, gigantic forest fires, and a proliferation of floods, are all evidence that the increase of man-made greenhouse gasses have pushed the global ecosphere practically to the breaking point.

As food production and water supplies are threatened by climate change, it is likely that fierce competition for food and water will result in more armed conflicts, especially in areas of the world already devastated by extreme poverty and violence

Many of us in the United States complain about weather that is noticeably hotter and drier than in previous years. But the real impact of this global warming phenomenon is more profoundly felt in the southern hemisphere of the earth, where island nations are being submerged by rising sea levels - and huge populations, especially in Africa and Asia, are in danger of starvation due to crop failures caused by steep declines in rainfall.

There is also a rise in the temperature and acidity of the earth's oceans that could bring about the extinction of countless fish and marine species that feed human populations.

While the scientific evidence of global warming is overwhelming (even President Bush has finally admitted that something is wrong), the will to take massive and necessary action to stop it is still lacking.

The United States, which constitutes some 5% of the world's population, has contributed about 25% of the greenhouse carbon load in the earth's atmosphere. Africa, with a total population of a billion people, contributes just 3% of the total carbon load.

Yet only a small group of courageous women and men are at the forefront of the struggle to enact policies that might reverse the rising level of environmental pollution that is the primary cause of global warming.

We, as a species, don't have much time to act, and the Muslim community must be a vital, and active, part of
the solution.

This past April, on Earth Day, I posted an essay on the benefits of energy-saving light bulbs, and the fact that such devices could significantly cut not only our own electricity bills, but our collective dependency on power generated from non-renewable (and polluting) enerty sources.

Now, for the sake of our earth, I am appealing to Muslim institutions to take collective action toward shifting to enerty conservation for a green future.

Already, some 300 colleges and universities in America have taken bold and dramatic action to develop "green" technologies for energy conservation and reduced dependency on polluting, fossil fuels. Muslim mosques, schools, and civic institutions should join them.

I pray that, as we fast during the sacred month of Ramadan, that we remember the thousands of people, representing many spiritual and ethical traditions, who have also fasted, for the sake of the earth.

And I pray that we will become more aware of our collective responsibility as Khalifah for the creation entrusted to us by Allah the Almighty.

I urge all of you to visit the websites listed below for information on how Muslims might become more engaged in the struggle to, quite literally, save the earth, and all of us who dwell here.

Please visit the following sites: