Monday, December 15, 2008

Saving Detroit Won't Save the Economy

The Challenge of Real Economic Revival

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Dec. 15, 2009 – The word socialism, if you recall, was the pejorative that we heard thrown from Republicans during the 2008 presidential primary. Every speech and policy announcement from candidate Barack Obama was seen as a threat to American capitalism and a harbinger of the "spread the wealth" ideology that Wall Street has heretofore embraced.

Even "Joe the Plumber" – who was neither a real plumber nor, apparently, someone who knew anything about tax policy or macroeconomics – got his own 15-minutes of fame as a mouthpiece for keeping America safe from the collectivist desires of poor folks.

Never mind that President-elect Obama is anything but a socialist; just mentioning the word was enough to scare the rich, even if it could not win the presidency for Senator McCain.

Socialism, in this case, the idea of collective (state) ownership of the major means of economic production, is a horror for the well-to-do; that is, until private businesses that are "too big to fail" actually do go nearly belly-up, and the state is bludgeoned into bailing them out.

Such is the case now for the U.S. auto industry. As bailout proposals are hashed out in Congress, the American public is getting play-by-play coverage through media reports while the heads of General Motors, Ford and Daimler Chrysler grovel for an infusion of more than 14 billion dollars (and much more, if they can get it), to keep the factory wheels turning in the face of projected business failures.

"Save us," they argue, because if the domestic auto industry fails, some 3 million jobs will evaporate and the whole economy will fall into the abyss of depression.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ronald A. Gettelfinger lashed out against Senate republicans after a congressional compromise bailout plan (that included a proposal to cut UAW wages) failed, accusing lawmakers of trying to "pierce the heart of organized labor."

Gettelfinger also reportedly blamed Republican senators representing states with foreign-auto plants of trying to put American companies at a disadvantage by allowing southern states to subsidize foreign automakers with hundreds of millions of dollars to build factories while turning their backs on Detroit and using tax payer dollars to subsidize the competition. "We can't compete like this as a country."

They are both right and wrong.

In classical economic theory, private capital is free to do business and make profit, but if businesses are not profitable, they should be allowed to fail so that more efficient (and presumably, profitable) enterprises can fill the void and fill the market share that the doomed enterprises formerly occupied.

Theoretically, American consumers could buy Nissan cars and Toyota trucks, and displaced auto workers (or some of them, at least) could be hired by other companies headquarters in Japan, Germany, or South Korea.

But the current crisis is a very different animal. The nation (and the world) is facing a potential economic catastrophe the magnitude of which has not been seen in 60-years.

The flag-wavers for market fundamentalism are now forced to admit that private capital (the same agglomeration that made this mess in the first place) can't save them; only a massive infusion of money from U.S. taxpayers could "possibly" save the banks, the brokerage houses, and now, the American auto industry.

If there is lesson to be learned, it may be this: Pure capitalism is a myth and the theology of absolute belief in the marketplace is false.

Government "bailout" plans backed by public funding to save private business capital from its own excesses (and machinations) must come with both real conditions, and the realization that capital is neither self-sufficient nor sacrosanct.

Don't misunderstand me. There should be a vigorous government response to the Detroit automobile manufacturing crisis (saving the Detroit Lions may be another thing altogether), as a component of larger government intervention to avert a complete economic meltdown.

The Bush administration has already announced it will consider using the $700 billion already set aside under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to cover the initial $14 billion in loans requested by General Motors and Chrysler; a figure that has yet to include figures for loans anticipated on behalf of Ford, who, as of Friday had not yet requested immediate funding.

Congress must act responsibly and swiftly to facilitate the auto industry bailout, with a foresight insuring that the post-bail auto industry emerges substantially different.

Putting the "Big Three" on life support won't save the American auto industry, and certainly won't save the rest of the nation from a projected $7.5 trillion economic crisis either; only a complete, long term restructuring of the economy – from the tax system, to the public investments we make in education, health care, and our infrastructure will accomplish that.

And alleviating the real crisis confronting working class and poor people must be at the forefront of the architecture of this new "New Deal".

The crisis in the "Market" is real, and eventually, things will change. But the reign of private capital as the unchallenged force that dictates the course of our collective future has come to an end.

If tax payers end up owning a big chunks of formerly private industries and financial institutions, we need to pro-active in how that will operate by emulating, for example a German programs that place unionized worker representatives on the corporate boards of any and all businesses operating with the largest portions of public bailout money.

Sweden, despite its own crisis in the 1990's, has rallied in more recent years under a reformed version of democratic socialism, achieving an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits.

Privately owned firms currently account for about 90% of industrial output, of which the engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports. Coupled with robust finances the government has been able to broaden its scope for implementing reform programs aimed at increasing employment, and reducing welfare dependence.

Thus, under the Swedish system, poverty, homelessness, and social misery have become increasingly less common in Stockholm and Helsingborg than what we see here in New York City or Washington, D.C.

The Swedes also enjoy a largely government funded universal health care system (85% costs are paid by the state vs. a mere 44.6% by U.S. standards); they live longer (age 80.5) than their U.S. counterparts (age 77.5), and their infant mortality rate (3.0%) is lower than that of the U.S. rate of 6.0% – all interestingly enough, while the percent of Swedish government revenue spent on health care is 13.6% vs. a U.S. government revenue expenditure on health care of 18.5%.

Another note; Swedes reportedly give a higher percentage of their wealth to foreign assistance than do U.S. citizens.

Sure, for-profit businesses exist in Sweden (and they even have an indigenous defense industry and a Swedish military as well), however, taxes for individuals and businesses are higher (a typical worker receives only 40% of his income after taxes and overall taxation in 2007 was reportedly 51.1% of the Gross Domestic Product) than in the U.S.

Suffice it to say, the Swedish model is not a utopian system by any means.

The Swedish model of reformed "Democratic Socialism" seems to be working for them; thus, in Sweden "socialism" is not regarded as a dirty word.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ruling Against Egyptian Gas Export to Israel Hailed as a Major Victory

MAS Freedom congratulates the popular campaign and hails the judicial decision as an affirmation of the economic and political rights of the people of Egypt.

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

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) Nov. 25, 2008 - It was called one of the sweetest export deals that Israel ever received from an Arab nation: signed in 2005 and initiated in 2007, Egyptian natural gas was scheduled to be sold to the State of Israel for 15-years, at a price of $1.50 per million BTU's (British Thermal Units), which is a price significantly less than the going world market price of natural gas.

The private partner involved in the transaction is Eastern Mediterranean Gas, a private business group owned by Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem and the Israeli Merhav Group.

But the deal faced fierce opposition from popular Egyptian organizations that opposed it for two reasons: first, the arrangement cost the Egyptian economy as much as $9 million a day in lost revenues because of the price concession to the Israeli buyer of the gas, which is used to supply energy for the Israeli electrical grid.

The second reason for the opposition is the fact that, while Egypt supplies energy for Israeli turbines, Israel is blockading more than 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, who continue to suffer because of crippling shortages of electricity and fuel.

This week, however, the Popular Campaign Against Export of Egyptian Gas to Israel won a stunning victory in the Cairo (Egypt) Administrative Court when the court ruled that only the national Parliament could authorize the sale of state-owned natural resources - in this case, billions of cubic feet of precious energy resources made available to a nation that continues to occupy Palestinian land and enforce the economic strangulation of Gaza.

The ruling against Eastern Mediterranean Gas has been appealed by the (Egyptian) State Judicial Authority, which contends that the agreement was brokered by a private business group and not an official organ of the Egyptian government.

However, many are hailing this as a victory for the people of Egypt, who continue to struggle for the right to control their natural resources for the benefit of the society as a whole.

MAS Freedom congratulates the popular campaign and hails the judicial decision as an affirmation of the economic and political rights of the people of Egypt, and we firmly believe that Egypt's energy resources must not help provide low-cost electricity to a country that, in turn, denies basic electricity to the Palestinian people of Gaza.

MAS Freedom (MASF) is a civic and human rights advocacy entity and sister organization of the Muslim American Society (MAS), the largest Muslim, grassroots, charitable, religious, social, cultural, civic and educational organization in America - with 55 chapters in 35 states.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rahm Emanuel Apologizes for Father's Disparaging Remarks About Arabs

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel apologized to an Arab-American group on Thursday for comments disparaging Arabs made by his father.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Nov. 13, 2008 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to Emanuel calling on him to distance himself from remarks made by the elder Emanuel in an interview with an Israeli newspaper following his son's appointment last week.

In the interview, Benjamin Emanuel was reported as saying: "Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

While some political analysts have said Rahm Emanuel, a veteran Democratic congressman, should not be held responsible for the actions of his father, there was also a sense that an apology was unavoidable.

"Today, Rep. Emanuel called Mary Rose Oakar, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, apologized on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future," a statement from his office said.

The committee, in a statement on its website, said Emanuel told Oakar it was unacceptable to make such remarks against any ethnic or religious group.

"From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family," the group quoted him as saying.

Oakar welcomed the apology, saying: "We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms."

Some commentators in the Middle East have raised concern about the appointment of Emanuel, who has a pro-Israel record, suggesting he could use his position to influence Obama's policies in the region.

But political analysts and Emanuel himself this week dismissed such suggestions. The congressman said Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel."

The chief of staff position serves as one of the closest advisers to the president and typically can decide who gains access to the president, while also developing administration policies.

Who is Rahm Emanuel?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

POST OBABA VICTORY ANALYSIS: What should Muslims do in the brave new world of an Obama Administration?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Nov. 6, 2008 – There is, understandably, a huge wave of euphoria sweeping across the nation, and throughout the world, after Barack Obama's historic Nov. 4 victory in the U.S. Presidential Election.

Also notable is the that the 2008 Presidential campaign also makes the history books as one of the longest and most expensive presidential campaigns – pitting a veteran Republican maverick and "war hero" backed by powerful conservative interests against a previously unknown, first-term Senator and African American with Muslim ancestry.

But the more obvious cause for celebration stems from the fact that for the first time in U.S. history an African-American major party candidate was not only nominated, but actually won the election.

The Obama victory, celebrated by virtually all political progressives, comes after eight years of a truculent and increasingly unpopular Bush administration. The victory comes also in the context of a national financial and market crisis, rising unemployment, a ten trillion dollar national debt, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are draining the national treasury.

As the world celebrates with us, we must pause to ask; what does this mean for Muslims in America and what does this new political zeitgeist compel Muslims to do?

I contend, first of all, that Muslims should exhale a collective sigh of relief as the Bush administration fades into history.

Our joy over the election results should be tempered, however, with a critically needed strategy to consolidate and amplify both our political strength and our legitimate presence in civil society.

Not to diminish that the Muslim community has a lot to be happy about. An Obama administration means, first of all, a new Department of Justice, with (hopefully) a great deal more respect for civil rights and greater willingness to enforce the laws that guarantee equal protection.

The Guantanamo prison camp and torture abomination is likely to be dismantled, and it is likely we will see a more progressive policy in the U.S. Department of Justice regarding protection for immigrant rights, especially those of Muslim immigrants and Latinos.

President Obama will also be in a position to appoint federal judges that can counter-act the right-wing stacking of the judiciary under President Bush, and restore some modicum of objectivity and fairness to the courts.

We might also look forward to a potential shift in resources to enhance education, health, and the internal infrastructure with more emphasis on job creation and positive environmental stewardship and conservation compared with the deplorable record of George Bush and Company.

The numbers aren't in yet, but if Virginia is at all typical of trends in our wider community, it's quite likely to be reported that something in the range of an approximate 90% Muslim American vote went for President-Elect Obama.

The number of registered Muslim registered voters in Virginia, for example, exceeded 72,000 persons in the 2008 election. If 80% of this number voted and 90% of those votes went for Obama, then it is likely that Muslim Democratic votes provided a large component of the margin of Democratic victory in the key battleground states.

While Muslims are a relatively small part of the overall electorate, the bloc voting tendency points to the importance of concentrated and mobilized Muslim votes in close elections.

It can also be observed that Muslims leveraged their voting power by forging new and potentially powerful strategic alliances with, for example, Latino communities, labor activists, and African-American civil rights activists.

In the 2008 election campaign, it is clear that the convergence of shared interests within the Muslim community gave birth to larger, progressive collaborations with other political forces to help move the nation beyond the legacy of the Bush administration.

Yet more sobering realities remain.

While the Muslim community voted in large numbers, our impact on a possible shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East leaves something to be desired.

It is no secret that the policy statements from both President-Elect Obama concerning Israel and Palestine – especially Obama's recognition of Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel – reinforces the status quo of American regional foreign policy at the expense of a more even-handed and democratic discourse that recognizes not only Israeli security rights, but Palestinian national and human rights as well.

In the course of his marvelous campaign President-Elect Obama made a concerted effort to directly reassure Jewish voters of his sensitivity to their concerns; in comparison, however, Muslims received no such consideration.

There is also the question of challenges to the legitimacy of the American Muslim identity itself.

We remember that Obama campaign staff members removed Muslim women in hijab from a photograph with the candidate – an action that subsequently resulted in a public apology. However, the incident signaled to the Muslim community a "don't-get-too-close-to-Muslims" policy that may carry over into the Obama administration as positions of power are assigned.

Added to these concerns is the ambivalence shown by the Obama campaign on the issue of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President-Elect Obama's endorsement of American military strikes inside Pakistan raises enormous anxiety and concern for Muslim advocates who seek to demilitarize our foreign policy and create non-violent approaches to building new and better relationships with Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other majority-Muslim states on the current American military target list.

However, none of these concerns should dampen our hope and enthusiasm at this moment of monumental political change in America. But the realpolitik of our position requires clear vision, sound policy analysis, and above all, continuous Muslim political mobilization and coalition-building work to assure that a progressive Muslim-American agenda is not subsumed, or even lost, in the mix of regime change in Washington.

So let's congratulate President-Elect Obama for his extraordinary victory, and let's share in the happiness that most of the world is feeling.

But as Muslims, let us also continue to strategize and organize, not only for our own community, but for an even more progressive vision of real peace and a better future for all of America - and all of humanity.

MAS Freedom (MASF) is a civic and human rights advocacy entity and sister organization of the Muslim American Society (MAS), the largest Muslim, grassroots, charitable, religious, social, cultural, civic and educational organization in America – with 55 chapters in 35 states. Learn more here. To donate click here.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Musharraf Finally Leaves - What Now for Pakistan?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Aug. 22, 2008 – Yielding to enormous pressure and the threat of impeachment from the national legislature, General Perez Musharraf has resigned as President of Pakistan. His departure from office was hailed by a wide spectrum of internal dissidents, from secular democratic forces to radical Islamists in Pakistan, the second most populous majority Muslim country on earth and a critical player in the intrigues of geopolitics. But where does this political change leave Pakistan, and what are the prospects for the future?

As an non-Pakistani Muslim, I'll hazard a guess: there is no certain future for Pakistan. But it seems that the future, whatever it will be, should be much brighter than the continuation of nine years of military and dictatorial rule that marked the leadership of General Musharraf.

Pakistan, like much of the Islamic political world, has been embroiled for decades in multiple violent conflicts and deep social and political division. To some extent, these realities both preceded the Musharraf presidency/dictatorship, and are likely to continue, in some form, now that he has surrendered the pinnacle of state power. But there are three salient factors that make Pakistan a special case.

The first, simply put, is that Pakistan is, in its national construction, a parliamentary democracy, with a clear separation of power (like the U.S.) between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Large areas of the country (like the Western territories on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border), have been under de facto tribal authority, and outside the orbit of the central government since the establishment of the state in 1947.

However, this constitutional rule of law, with the limits on executive authority, is something that General Musharraf blatantly dismissed since he came to power in the coup of 1999. The most powerful card in his political hand was never the legitimate authority of an election, but the authoritarian power of the Pakistani military that supported him.

The second reality that differentiates Pakistan from other nations is the context of events that followed the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Bush administration put enormous pressure on Musharraf to line up against armed Islamists in Pakistan, not only in the frontier provinces, but throughout civil society, including elements of the army and the security services.

The geopolitics of the U.S. "war on terror", and especially Pakistan's proximity with the war in Afghanistan, gave license for the U.S. to support the Musharraf dictatorship, even in the face of enormous civil society dissent and the heavy-handed overturning of constitutional law – as evidenced by Musharraf's sacking of Pakistan's Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudry, in 2007.

Throughout this chain of events, the Bush administration was willing to arm, finance, and politically support Musharraf (in a way similar to the support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), despite the clear will of a majority of Pakistanis that he needed to leave power.

The third, and perhaps most ominous reality is that, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan, or other majority-Muslim conflict areas, Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state. While Pakistan's arsenal is estimated to be less than 100 warheads (and smaller than that of regional rival India), the presence of these weapons of mass destruction in an area of intense geopolitical conflict, coupled with ongoing political instability and the power of armed groups in Pakistan that might be willing to use these weapons if they could get them, suggests that the future of Pakistan will be closely related to some stability within the state/military apparatus, and a real de-escalation of Pakistan's conflict with India.

It is not at all clear whether the coalition government led by Asif Ali Zardawi, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, will be able to form a government of national unity that can effectively control extremism and violence while bringing Islamic radicals into some form of detente with civil society.

Formidable ethnic and regional rivalries will remain, to be sure, regardless of the forces that rule the nation after the departure of former President Musharraf.

Whatever the political alignment, it is clear that the U.S. must reverse its support for an unpopular dictatorship, and come forward with massive, nonmilitary foreign assistance for the rebuilding of Pakistan's civil society and the eradication of the poverty and deprivation that are key ingredients supporting the extremism and are so prevalent in Pakistan. More affluent Muslim states should also lend a generous hand in providing the material underpinning for peace and social welfare in Pakistan.

I believe that the enormous energy and talent of the people of Pakistan, especially its youth, can help create the systemic changes that will support the prospects of real democracy and the evolution of a nonviolent, and tolerant, political culture.

While this possible post-Musharraf future is far from guaranteed, it is one that both the global Muslim community and the U.S government should be prepared to support.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Crossing the Line: NY Post Attempts to Label Prominent Muslim Advocate as 'Terror Imam'

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) July 28, 2008 – Rupert Murdoch's New York Post has, once again, re-established itself as having the journalistic integrity and ethics rivaling the worst of tabloid publications found in the check-out isle at most convenience stores. The in-your-face sensationalism and hyperbole of Post news articles is not designed to elevate intelligent debate or present objective news information. Rather, it is published to sell tabloid-style news – trading on the emotional responses, and often prejudices – of those who might not otherwise be inclined to read publications such as the New York Times or the Economist.

So it wasn't any surprise to me when, on Monday, July 21, I was alerted to a Post "Exclusive" cover story titled, "Train-ing Day for Jihadists – Muslim Subway Ads Have Terror Tie-In" referring to Imam Siraj Wahhaj, of Brooklyn, as the 'inflammatory imam', who has organized a campaign to post advertisements on 1,000 New York City subway cars, this September (during Ramadan), guiding commuters to a source for information explaining the true nature of Islam to non-Muslims curious about the religion, or who, based on inaccurate information (largely provided through media sources), believe the religion is bent on acts of violence.
This, of course, in the eyes of the Post editorial team and its journalists, would make Imam Wahhaj guilty of being a purveyor of terrorism and a supporter of radical Islam and its proponents, who launched an attack on the World Trade Center (WTC) in 1993.

Despite the fact that Imam Wahhaj was never formally charged with having any connection to the 1993 WTC tragedy, cited as 'evidence' for the inappropriately titled Post article, was U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White's statement alleging him to be 'one of 170 unindicted co-conspirators' in the WTC bombing; the fact that he testified as a character witness for Sheikh Oman Abdul Rahman - convicted of playing a role in the same incident; and past statements wherein Wahhaj is said to have referred to the FBI and CIA as the 'real terrorists'.

While it can be said that Imam Wahhaj is, indeed, a highly vocal and prolific critic of U.S. foreign policy and the blanket indictment of Muslim activists by the Justice Department, it is clear that the intent of the Post's article is to suggest that the "Why Islam" campaign, very simply designed in an attempt to aid in clarifying long-held misperceptions about Islam and being Muslim for the 4.9 million people riding the New York City subway, is nothing less than a blatant attempt to recruit people into criminal or terrorists acts.

What the Post failed to include in their report is the fact that the "Why Islam" initiative has been a part of the east coast billboard landscape for the past several years, has been advertised in community newspapers, promoted at booths in local malls, and has never once been associated with promoting violence or condoning crime.

Now to address the matter of the nebulous and dangerous 'smear' otherwise known as the 'unindicted co-conspirator' (UCC) phenomenon, a tool used by government prosecutors empowering them with the ability to cast a wide net of implied conspiracy in criminal cases – with or without evidence of guilt. More than 150 UCC's were named in the WTC case – a number that rose to 300 or more as the government prosecuted the Holy Land Trust (a Muslim charitable organization).

Despite the fact that Imam Wahhaj is a well-established, prominent, national Muslim leader and highly regarded advocate and fund-raiser for Muslim institutions throughout the United States, the tag, "UCC" has, in effect, according to the Post, morphed into his being labeled as the 'terror imam'.

Numerous national legislators, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) have called the Justice Department to task for their use of the UCC label as a substitute for real evidence in legal actions against Muslim individuals and institutions – an act that has subsequently produced 'trial by trash' journalism – just one of numerous strategies designed to malign, and even destroy, the credibility and work of Muslim individuals and organizations who have had nothing to do with criminal activities. Perhaps that was the intent of the Post's article as it relates to the "Why Islam" initiative.

For the record, I believe that all people are free to accept or reject the call of the Holy Qur'an, and equally, they are free to reject the ideology and vision presented to them by any Muslim individual or organization propagating the message of Islam. We are all free to form our own opinions about the credibility and authenticity of – or lack thereof – Muslims in the public sphere. After all, there is no compulsion in religion, and there should never be.

But to label Imam Wahhaj as the 'terror imam' based merely on guilt-by-association, or by a desire to propagate his religion, is simply a flimsy and crude attempt at character assassination and fear-mongering.

Imam Wahhaj is not underground, by the way. It's fairly easy to find his mosque, Masjid Al-Taqwa, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn. I would suggest that, New York Post reporters, and anyone else with a legitimate interest in the truth about who he is and what he believes, meet him and visit his community before launching future attempts to label or smear him, Islam, or the Muslim community at-large.

If the Post has hard evidence of the involvement of Imam Siraj Wahhaj, or anyone else, in conspiracy to commit violent crimes, they should present the evidence to the proper law enforcement authorities. If the publication and/or its publishers have contempt for Islam, that is its/their right. And for those objecting to the public display/advertisement of educational material on the subject of Islam, I would suggest a good read-through of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

And finally, the Post, and the general public, should also be aware that labeling someone as a terrorist, or implying that a person has connections with terrorists, is a very, very, serious charge that cannot be used as a cover for bigotry, religious hostility, or a sensationalist pretext to sell newspapers.

"Why Islam" is a public information campaign to bring information about the religion of Islam, the Holy Qur'an, and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) to the American public. The centerpiece of the campaign is a toll-free number (1-877-WHY ISLAM) and a website ( that gives people access to further information about the fastest growing religious affiliation in the United States.

"Why Islam", Chicago Tribune, December 13, 2007

Monday, June 2, 2008

Living Peace: Ibrahim Ramey - June 5, 2008

On Thursday, June 5, 2008, at the Tibet Center in Brooklyn, Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey will discuss Islam's approach to inner peace as part of the LIVING PEACE workshop series.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id (Clayton) Ramey is the civil and human rights director for MAS Freedom (MASF), the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS), America’s largest grassroots Muslim organization. Prior to joining MAS Freedom in September 2006, Ibrahim coordinated national disarmament work for the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack, New York.

Since 1974, Ibrahim has worked as an international activist and advocate for human and civil right issues in the United States and throughout the world. He is a vice president of the Steering Committee of the Religious NGO Community at the United Nations. He is a board member of the Muslim Women’s Institute, the Temple of Understanding (an interfaith organization promoting dialogue and cooperation among diverse religious tradition, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Climate Crisis Coalition, a leading environmental action organization in the United States.

A collaboration between CTICE and the The Tibet Center in Brooklyn, "LIVING PEACE: Spiritual Approaches to Achieving Inner Peace" is a series of seminars and workshops where teachers and leaders of different faith backgrounds will present their respective techniques for realizing inner peace. LIVING PEACE seeks to offer the New York City community practical exposure to different ways of achieving and maintaining inner peace, and promoting awareness of the importance of this state.

The Tibet Center is located at 25 Washington Street, Suite 304, in Brooklyn. By subway, take the F train to York Street or C train to High Street. By car, take I-278 to Cadman Plaza (Exit 28).

LIVING PEACE is free and open to the public.

For information, please e-mail LM2500@COLUMBIA.EDU.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Playing the Muslim 'Fear' Card is Wrong for Colorado, and America

Rima Barakat Sinclair: Palestinian Muslim American Woman Under Siege

It's not because of her political ideology, or opinions about matters that concern the taxpayers and voters of the 6th Assembly District in Colorado – where she is running for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives as a Republican party candidate in a heavily Democratic district – on the contrary – Rima Barakat Sinclair is under siege because her nationality and faith.

Sinclair, 48, is a Muslim of Palestinian ancestry (originally from Amman, Jordan), sworn in as a U.S. citizen in July 1998. She is also an accomplished, educated woman of character and integrity, in addition to being a translator and successful businessperson with an excellent reputation for serving her community.

However, despite her accomplishments, Sinclair has been targeted by a Republican counter-part petitioning to qualify for the primary ballot alongside her, for the most vile and amazingly xenophobic excoriation imaginable: she has been called a "terror apologist", an "Islamist", and a person "waging jihad dressed up as a Republican candidate" – simply because of her faith.

But the vilification doesn't stop there. It has extended to outright racial attacks on the Palestinian people.

One critic even stated that "many in the Palestinian land movement are like cockroaches and light (sic) when confronted with the truth they scurry away and hide. Clearly Ms. Barakat is a Palestinian cockroach."

It's certainly permissible, and even expected, for individuals to express their public disdain for certain political ideas and positions expressed by candidates for public office. That's an expression of our precious rights of free speech and freedom of political expression.

But to call someone a terrorist or, God forbid, a cockroach, isn't political criticism. It is raw, unvarnished slander and racism. It does not pretend to try to discern the real political beliefs of Rima Barakat Sinclair. And it has no place in American politics, or for that matter, in America , period.

It is fashionable now, in some political quarters to make "Arab" or "Palestinian" coterminous with "Terrorist". Simply allowing a Muslim to run for political office is, for these people, tantamount to an assault on democracy itself. Some of them have even made a cottage industry out of their not-so-thinly veiled attacks on Muslim leaders and Muslim organizations, accusing everyone ( and their mothers) with all sorts of sinister associations and nefarious anti-American motives, all without the tiniest shred of evidence. They make slander and character defamation their personal tickets to front row seats on the platform of false patriotism.

But their problem, in this case, is simply that Rima Barakat Sinclair is no wannabe Osama bin Laden, or undercover enemy of the American people. She is simply a person who wishes to serve her community as an elected official (and a Republican at that), and she has absolutely no connections with anti-American rhetoric or violence.

To reject her politics, or even to personally dislike her, is fine. But the slanderous attacks against her, and against Palestinians, exposed the crude underbelly of the racism and anti-Muslim xenophobia that some persons, sadly, still wear as a badge of honor.

If the officials of the Colorado Republican party repudiate this sort of slander, then they should say so, in public, and declare that racism has no place in their party. I would call on their presumed presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, to make a similar statement.

Many persons, including Denver Post columnist Steve Laudeman, believe that Rima Barakat Sinclair would make an effective state legislator. That is certainly for the voters to determine. But the final determination of her ability to serve in elected office should be made on the merits of her qualifications and her ideals – not because of her ethnic or religious identity.

The true "cockroaches" in the Colorado political world, as it turns out, are not people of Palestinian ancestry – they are those who spew vile, racist and bigoted speech contrary to the best ideals of a free, fair, and democratic society.

Muslim Candidate Seeks Detente With Own Party
By Bill Johnson, Rocky Mountain News – Friday, May 2, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Reflections on the 40th Anniversary of the King Assassination

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) April 4, 2008 – In a digital world that changes every millisecond, 40-years is a very long time. But an event that changed the course of a nation–in fact, the world–is worth remembering, even if it is regarded by many as 'ancient' history.

That event, of course, is the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which occurred, now 40-years ago, in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. The popular memory of the significance of the non-violent movement for civil rights in the United States has dimmed over the years, but the anniversary of the Dr. King's assassination, like the commemoration of his January birthday, is a major time for national reflection and nostalgia.

But is this time of reflection also a time for renewed action? Should we be assessing where this nation has moved, since 1968, in the struggle for equality?

We've had commemorations and speeches and government commissions galore. We've created thousands of streets and avenues that bear the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We've created parks, and malls–monuments and parades, and even retail sales days on the commemoration of Dr. King's birthday.

However, the nation is still lacking a genuine, uncompromised commitment to both economic and political justice in America, not only for the African-American community that formed the core of the Kingian movement, but increasingly for Muslims, Latinos, and poor people of all descriptions who have been written out of the script in the American dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so compellingly articulated in his life and work.

I'm sure that Dr. King, were he still alive, would celebrate the candidacy of Barack Obama as an indication of real change in the racial status quo. But I am equally certain that he would be appalled about all of the following:

• Dr. King would be enraged that Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a respected teacher and leader, is on the 33rd day of a hunger strike in a North Carolina prison. Dr. Al-Arian, like Dr. King, has a dream of an America that does not prosecute and convict men and women who are innocent of criminal charges.

• Dr. King would be appalled at the status of the U.S. war in Iraq, which has killed 4,000 U.S. military personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, while costing hundreds of billions in U.S. citizen tax dollars.

• He would make common cause with the political prisoners in Guantanamo, and the thousands more in the world in places like Egypt.

• Dr. King would be in solidarity with Spanish-speaking immigrants–both documented and undocumented–who are confronted with xenophobic town resolutions and an organized attempt to criminalize and even dehumanize their very existence in America–despite their indispensable contribution to the economic bedrock of the nation.

The questions and issues of "civil rights" have changed dramatically from the binary black-white paradigm of Dr. King's time. The demographic face of the United States has changed, too. But the forces of racism, economic injustice, and militarism–the "evil triplets" that Dr. King spoke of in his speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967–are still deeply institutionalized in the fabric of the country.

Muslims, like others, are stakeholders in the vision that Dr. King gave his life for. That is a vision of an America that is just, equal, and committed to human rights and human equality. But the reality on April 4, 2008, is that we live in a nation that tortures some of its prisoners, and gives material support for others who commit these crimes in other countries.

The dramatic events of the recent mortgage melt-down were a wake-up call about the economic perils confronting more and more poor and working-class people in the country. And they should also say to us that the work of Dr. King's movement is largely unfinished.

We don't need more monuments, or empty rhetoric about dreams. What we need–and what our community must be prepared to struggle and sacrifice for–is a genuine movement for human rights, peace, and the economic change required to wage–and win–a real struggle for justice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Persistent Inconvenience of Black Rage

Barack Obama Tries to Navigate the Slippery Slope of Racism

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) March 20, 2008 — The 800 pound 'animal' in the world of political discourse has once again made its entrance—center stage in the 2008 electoral contest. The 'animal' being the issue of 'race', or more precisely, the reality (or perception) of racism in the context of America.

Racism is, to be sure, a loaded subject, both profound and deceptively simplistic, and one that many people in America—both white and people of color—would prefer to ignore, or at least marginalize. But when the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Obama's longtime pastor and spiritual mentor, raised the ante by speaking about racism in a provocative and bold way, the "race" thing became, once again, an inevitable part of the national conversation, and ultimately, in the contest for the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency.

What did Reverend Wright proclaim? Nothing, substantively, that most intelligent people would disagree with. Namely, he said that that Mr. Obama knows what it means to be Black in America while Senator Clinton does not. That is true enough, as I think even Senator Clinton (and her husband) would have to agree.

But Reverend Wright also said—in effect—that the violence of September 11th, 2001 had it's genesis in the misdeeds and oppressive measures of the U.S. government.

If anything, violence is both cyclical and dialectical. No matter who perpetrates violence, or for whatever false "ideals" it is committed, violence comes back to afflict the purveyor. This is a position that aligns with the truth articulated by both Malcolm X (the "chickens coming home to roost" statement after the 1963 Kennedy assassination), and the pronouncement by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, that America (in the time of the Vietnam war). was "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."

It's one thing to discuss race in the context of old grievances and the deep wounds inflicted by historical white supremacy, both at the end of nooses and the more subtle variety—at the end of the employment line—but the grave offense of Reverend Wright was that he reminded us that this great nation is still at the epicenter of a system of global domination. And some people, despite relative position and material comfort, have not forgotten this.

September 11 and the Iraq destruction are elements of a much larger phenomenon, and an immense challenge for Senator/candidate Obama and the rest of us. Namely, how do we address the issue of racism in the framework of the much larger discussion about systemic oppression, and the crisis of the global capitalist system that, despite it's allure, continues to marginalize billions of the poorest (and disproportionately darkest) people on our planet?

What makes Obama skittish about this issue is not the vehement, fiery sermonizing of his mentor, but the fact that racial discontent and rage are not convenient issues for his large base of white supporters to really deal with. White privilege isn't a popular dinnertime conversation topic in Boise or Allentown (or, I imagine, most of America). And his call for trans-racial "unity", while emotionally appealing to many folks, is not underpinned by an analysis of what the people of America should, in the global sense, truly be uniting for, or against.

Yes, we can be civil and courteous and respectful, across the color line, but a Democratic Party leader—of even the most liberal stripe—would be hard-pressed to articulate the true depth of the structural reasons for the rage: diminishing environmental protection, persistent and growing poverty, failed life support systems, internecine violence, and a host of other ills that are disproportionately inflicted not only on Black people in America, but by-and-large, on people of color throughout the world.

Mr. Obama's repudiation of his pastor was simply an unfortunate example of a gifted (and agile) politician attempting to save his base of White support in the face of an inconvenient Black challenge to racism.

It's true that Reverend Wright's language was not the most polite and conciliatory speech imaginable. But his anger is authentic, and his words ring true. A genuine anti-racist conversation (and movement) in America is needed, and needed badly. But the conversation must not tiptoe around the inconvenience of a deep structural analysis of racism, or the persistent alienation and real suffering of people like Reverend Wright who march at the forefront of anti-racist and anti-oppression activism.

There is certainly a great deal of good in America that must not be ignored in this issue. And Senator Obama is right in his assertion that progress has been made, and that the nation is not static and unchanged in racial matters.

Black rage is always an inconvenient truth to White folks, as well as those who need, for various reasons, to appease them.

But rather than back-peddling away from the issue, or trying to shift it into some fluffy, innocuous race-speak that offends no one, Mr. Obama should continue to face the issue of race head on, and use his powerful charisma and popular appeal to help America navigate the deep and turbulent waters of a real, and long overdue, national discourse on both racism and poverty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

After 5 Years, the Tragedy Continues

From the Desk of Ibrahim-Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) March 18, 2008 — The conundrum of American primary politics, American Idol worship, and the fall from grace of the former Governor of New York, may have shifted the market-based media focus from the story, but for those who may otherwise be unaware, March 19, 2008 marks the fifth anniversary of the most recent U.S. invasion of Iraq - yet another tragic date in U.S. history that will live in infamy.

What, exactly, has been the cost of the U.S. adventure in Iraq? We are now careening to the number of 4,000 American combat deaths and 40,000 seriously wounded troops. Many of the wounded have been abandoned by their government to a fate of permanent disability and mental distress from the psychological wounds of combat. But this number is dwarfed by the devastation suffered by the Iraqis themselves: 650,000 to one million dead; 400,000 persons displaced from their homes; and the bitter reality of a raging sectarian civil war that has left the nation terrorized and divided.

The recent U.S. troop "surge" has been a useful diversion for the proponents of the war, who now claim some hollow "victory" because of ephemeral military gains in the combat operations against Al-Qaeda and other assorted armed insurgents. But the fundamental contradictions and divisions in the country remain. And Iraq, for all the horrors of it's own history of dictatorship and war, is a far more dangerous and oppressive place that it was under the rule of Saddam.

In the meanwhile, the Iraq war has not only divided U.S. citizens, it has also consolidated world opinion against this nation in a way that no one could have anticipated five years ago. Blatant torture of Iraqi captives, attacks on the civil liberties of Muslim individuals, institutions, and charities in America, and countless violations of both domestic and international law have become the hallmark of the arrogant and recalcitrant regime in Washington that continues the prosecution of the war.

But the conflict in Iraq has also resulted in countless casualties at home, measured in increased domestic violence, family disintegration, alcoholism, and drug abuse suffered by returning U.S. combatants.

War, in every case, results in the massive transfer of wealth from one social class to another. The war in Iraq is no different.

But what is different is the reality of the naked ambition of the global energy and arms oligarchies that have feasted on the $1.2 trillion dollars spent by American taxpayers on the war to date. This violence continues, despite the deepening economic crisis in the nation and the devastation of the national social infrastructure.

In Washington, DC, activists from 40 states plan to gather to mark this tragic anniversary, and in some cases, to engage in non-violent direct action in opposition of the war in Iraq. We must continue to press for the demand to end the war, even if the Democratic Congress lacks the will to oppose the Bush regime's war machine.

The popular tide of resistance to the war will—and must—continue, until the war is ended, and the massive damage to both the United States and to the people of Iraq is fully repaired.

For more information about upcoming events and gatherings, please visit:

Friday, March 7, 2008

In Palestine, Murder Will Bring Neither Freedom Nor Justice

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) March 7, 2008 — On March 6, 2008, the world received news of yet another tragedy in the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. In an apparent act of revenge, armed Palestinians infiltrated a Rabbinical school in Jerusalem and attacked a group of teenage Jewish students, leaving eight of them dead. They were not combatants, and the act did not take place in self-defense or in the heat of combat.

Most of the world, especially in Israel, was stunned and horrified by the killings. But in Gaza, at least according to news reports, people were jubilant in their celebration of the deaths.

Should Muslims in the United States also feel a sense of joy and vindication? No. We must recognize the attack for what it was: an act of murder. And we must now ask ourselves the difficult question of how we, as activists in support of the people of Gaza and Palestine, can go forward in the wake of an act of senseless brutality that could threaten to derail some significant support for the cause of ending the occupation and respecting the human rights of the people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Sadly, acts of deliberate murder are hardly rare in the context of this part of the world. I remember, a few years ago, the act of murder in a mosque in the West Bank that left nearly 30 Muslim worshippers murdered by a fanatic named Baruch Goldstein. The Muslim world, and most people of conscience, were enraged. Yet some extremists in Israel not only celebrated the killings, but actually made Goldstein (who was killed after the attack), a cult hero among some ultra-Zionists.

But murder, by whomever, is simply a crime against humanity and against the Almighty. And the killing of Jewish students in Jerusalem was exactly that kind of abomination.

The pursuit of liberation is a human response to oppression, and one that is common to all oppressed people, in all periods of history. But there is a moral and practical, distinction between legitimate political struggle on one hand, and acts of criminal revenge on the other.

As Muslims, we believe that struggle against oppression, and self-defense, are not only legitimate, but also required. The killing of innocent people, on the other hand, is morally repugnant—and Haram.

I hope that the Palestinian leadership, and especially Hamas, will recognize that the celebration of these murders will only serve to further isolate them, and make it more difficult for them to claim some moral high-ground in the eyes of world opinion. I also hope that they will consider that activists throughout the world, who support the rights of the people of Gaza, must now labor under yet another burden of suspicion, and even outright rejection, by opponents who are all too anxious to equate the Palestinian cause with savagery and terrorism. Further, it obliterates, in the consciousness of many, the nonviolent responses to the occupation that would ultimately be more effective as instruments of liberation vs. sensational and counter-productive acts of killing and mayhem.

As I have said in a previous essay, it's long past time to end the violence, and the killing, in Israel and Palestine. We mourn the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, especially in Gaza.

But now, we should also mourn the killing of the Jewish students in Jerusalem, and call for the respect for human life as a core value for both sides of this conflict. I, as a Muslim in America, offer my condolences to the families and communities of the young people who were killed in this act of violence.

The struggle for freedom has no room for the murder of innocent people. It is not acceptable in the modern world.

An eye-for-an-eye, as Dr. King reminded us, will simply make both Palestinians and Israelis blind.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Dangerous, Deadly Escalation of U.S. War on Somalia

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey, MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) March 3, 2008 - The Pentagon announced today that the U.S. launched a missile strike against a target in the little town of Dobley, Somalia, located some 140 miles from the southern port city of Kismayu.

According to reports, this attack was launched against a group of Islamic leaders in the town, including Shaykh Hassan Turki. The men, who are members of the Islamic Courts, were thought to be in Dobley to mediate a conflict between members of their militia and a militia loyal to the U.S.-installed regime in Mogadishu. There were conflicting reports on the damage done by the missiles; one account from a local official claimed that six persons were killed, while another reported that only three individuals had been wounded. Whatever the body count might be, it is clear that the United States has again attacked a nation with whom it is not at war - the fourth such attack by the U.S. military in the past 14-months.

There has been comparatively little media focus on Somalia subsequent to the U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops success in driving the Islamic Courts from power in Mogadishu last year, while installing to power the same Somali warlords who had utterly destroyed the country in the civil war of the 1990's. The Islamic Courts Movement had the backing of much of the Somali population, and they were, by most accounts, successful in restoring some order and justice to the civil society.

However, because they are an Islamic movement, The Islamic Courts are opposed by the Unites States - even though they are clearly a better alternative than the thugs and gangsters installed by the U.S. and kept in power by a rapacious Ethiopian occupation force.

The Pentagon characterized the aerial attack as a "precision" strike against a known "terrorist" target. The rhetoric from the American government, in this case, is similar to the claim of "precision" strikes against targets in Gaza, that ended up killing far more innocent civilians than combatants.

The effect, however, is not the killing of "terrorists"', but the terrorization of a civilian population already devastated by internecine violence and the collapse of virtually all social infrastructure that would ordinarily serve to sustain 'normalcy' - this, coming in the wake of the horrific aftermath of the Ethiopian invasion and the countless killings and rapes committed by Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu.

American bombs and missiles will not bring order and justice to the situation in Somalia.

Ethiopia is a poor and oppressed nation in its own right, fighting, ironically, its own internal insurgency. It has no business in Somalia. And the United States has no business bombing Somalia under the pretext of hunting "terrorist" targets.

The task of restoring peace, stability and order to Somalia is a formidable one, that will require the antagonistic parties to work out their own arrangements for demilitarizing the conflict and providing safety for its citizens. The killing in Somalia must stop. But to insure that it does, the United States must stop military attacks and cease it’s support for a foreign occupation army in Somalia.

The Islamic Courts are not the enemy of the people of Somalia, and they must not be regarded as the enemy of the U.S. government or the people of the Unites States.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Salute to African American-and Islamic-History

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey, MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 29, 2008 - Today marks the culmination of African-American History Month. Founded by the great scholar Carter G. Woodson in the early 1930's, this month commemorates the celebration of the history and achievements of people of African ancestry in the United States.

But to an increasing community, it is also a recognition of the fact that the history of Black people in America has a significant Islamic component.

A few days ago, I attended an event at the U.S. Capitol that hosted a museum display called 'Collections and Stories of American Muslims'. The curator of this dazzling visual historical display, Brother Amir Muhammad, explained that the chronology of the Muslim presence in the "New World" did not begin with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, where some 25 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslim captives. Indeed, African explorers, from as early as 1312 C.E., established contact with indigenous American (Indian) communities.

One such African Muslim explorer, named Estebanico, is believed to be have set foot on what is now called New Mexico and Arizona in the year 1527.

The millions of captured African Muslims in America also have a rich and compelling historical narrative. The 'Collections and Stories of American Muslims' exhibit also features the names of Muslims included in the first U.S. census in 1790, and copies of the manuscript of a Holy Qur’an from early 18th century America.

African-American Muslims fought in both the American Revolution and the Civil War.

And numerous graveyards from early America feature tombstones embellished with the one raised finger, signifying the declaration of faith in the one deity (Allah).

One enslaved Muslim, a Fulani African prince and military commander named Abdul Rahman Ibrahima born in 1762, is featured in the remarkable documentary movie called "Prince Among Slaves". Abdul Rahman, who was literate in the Arabic language, was captured by slave traders and transported to Natchez, Mississippi, where he was forced to labor on a cotton plantation. But never abandoning his faith, he was able (by Allah’s mercy) to eventually secure his freedom from bondage. He and his Christian wife were able to return to Africa before his death in 1829.

Historical developments in American Islamic communities and movements of the late 19 and early 20th centuries are also included in the collection.

The facts and nuances of Muslim history in America are numerous, and profound. But as more historical data and artifacts become known to the public, it is clear that the Muslim presence in the United States predates the establishment of the American republic itself.

The Muslim community in America is heir to a deep, complex, and fascinating history. It is certainly a history worth exploring, and one that we should be thinking about in the other eleven months of the year as well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is "Blind Allegiance" Blinding the Democratic Party?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 27, 2008 - The recent Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama was advertised as the last slugfest before the critical primary elections in Texas and Ohio, and to some extent, it was exactly that. Both candidates came out swinging, with Senator Clinton clearly being the aggressor, taking shots at Obama on issues ranging from health care, to international trade, to their relative qualifications on issues of national security and international relations.

However, many Muslims probably took special notice of their exchange on the related topics of Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, and their uncritical support for the policies of the state of Israel.

Obama took a question from the debate moderator, one related to Minister Farrakhan's recent endorsement of the Obama candidacy. The junior senator from Illinois was quick to utter his repudiation of the Muslim leader, noting Minister Farrakhan's statements (from more than a decade ago), that were highly critical of Jews.

Obama went on to praise the support that his campaign receives from the Jewish community. He spoke of his denunciation of anti-Semitism in the African-American community, as well as his appreciation of Jewish contributions to the civil rights movement and his desire to revive the Black-Jewish alliance of the civil rights. He also declared that the security of Israel was "sacrosanct".

But this was not enough for Senator Clinton. She pushed Obama to go even further in his excoriation of the Minister, and demanded that he reject the Farrakhan "endorsement" out of hand. The segment then turned to Israel - with both candidates pledging their uncritical support for Jewish state.

It was a script that could have been written by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). And that is troubling.

My issue is certainly not the condemnation of anti-Semitism in any of its manifestations, whether in Europe, the American heartland, or in African-American or Muslim communities. The hatred of Jews, or any people is morally repugnant. And apparently by evoking the words and political endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, anti-Semitism, or the perception of it, became the "tar baby" of the debate, that the Obama candidacy was all too eager to distance itself from.

But the question about the Farrakhan endorsement of Senator Obama raises two issues: first, the suggestion that there is some linkage between Obama and Islam (a myth which Obama haters would love to hype), and the even bigger, and more insidious, implication that any implied criticism of the current U.S. political relationship with Israel is a disqualifier as far as the American presidency is concerned.

On the first point, it's absolutely true that Mr. Farrakhan is not exactly in the running for a humanitarian award from the Anti-Defamation League. Some of his past rhetoric regarding Jews has been thoroughly vetted and vehemently criticized by the Jewish community, and many others. But that does not mean that his preference for Senator Obama indicates that he has even the smallest influence on the Obama candidacy.

The second and more significant point, however, is the fact that both Clinton and Obama demonstrated, in this debate, their mutual towing of the policy line laid down by the one special interest that nobody talks about - namely, the American-Israeli lobby. This lobby, in the opinion of many, dominates the national political discourse related to the U.S. relationship with Israel, and in the final analysis, the policies that America chooses to pursue in the Middle East.

That is why, in my opinion, the personality of Minister Farrakhan, and his opinions about the American Jewish community, are presented to be more significant in a national debate than, say, the Israeli economic blockade of Gaza, or the continuous violations of international law committed by Israel in the Palestinian Territories.

The United Nations and the International Court of Justice routinely condemn these actions by Israel. But for all major party candidates, the people of Palestine are virtually invisible, and their human rights, are almost totally ignored.

This is the essence of "blind allegiance" to the dictates of Israel. It materially supports the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territory and the racial apartheid and discrimination that exists within Israel itself. But this blind allegiance is incompatible with the values of fairness, compassion, and respect for international law that America claims to believe in.

As Muslims participate in the political process in greater numbers that ever, we should recognize the importance of a plethora of important national questions, and not just the ones concerning U.S. policy in the Middle East. We must not judge candidates solely on this issue. But Senators Obama and Clinton must also recognize that their mutually blind allegiance to the dictates of the Jewish lobby is not, in the final analysis, good for the people of Palestine, Israel, or the United States of America.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Whose "Change" Glass Has More Water?

Observations from the Democratic Party Primary Elections

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 20, 2008 - I’ll start with the obvious: she's a superbly intelligent woman, phenomenally driven to succeed, extremely aggressive, and politically savvy to the maximum. She knows the issues. She's been elected twice to the United States Senate.

Hillary Clinton is a serious woman who wants to be elected president - in a serious way.

However, and this is just my opinion, her ambition has turned into more than a little desperation, and even belligerence, in the face of the electoral tidal wave that is on the verge of capsizing her presidential dream boat.

That wave, of course, is Barack Obama.

As I write this short essay, Senator Obama, on February 19, won the Democratic primary elections in Wisconsin and his native state of Hawaii. That makes ten straight primary election victories for him, with the huge battleground states of Texas and Pennsylvania looming in the immediate future.

Most political pundits now openly say that Senator Clinton must win one, if not both, of these primary elections if she expects to win her party's nomination for the presidency.

Clearly, huge numbers of new voters have been energized by this heavyweight political slugfest between two worthy opponents. That, for me, is all good.

But what is not all good is the rhetoric from Senator Clinton, and her surrogates, suggesting that she is tested and true, and that Obama is devoid of political substance and somehow "over his head' in this race leading up to, arguably, the most important American presidential election in the last 50 years.

Does Senator Clinton bring many decades of elected public service to the contest? Has she served in a presidential cabinet? Has she directed a significant corporation or not-for-profit organization?

No. What she brings to this contest is the same thing that her rival brings; namely, loads of intelligence, confidence, relentless ambition, and tons of campaign contributions.

But I suspect that, with all of her acumen and attributes, if her name were Hillary Rodham Smith, and she did not happen to be the highly visible spouse of a popular, two-term former president, her race for the Democratic party nomination would be non-existent.

Senator Obama, a relative newcomer to the cauldron of national politics, has offered promises of change on the campaign trail. And while he might lack decades of experience in elected office, he brings an apparent willingness to challenge the old social class configuration and policies that form the bedrock of the mess that currently calls itself a national government.

Like Senator Clinton, if he is elected, his initiatives will be challenged by the powers that be. But also, like Senator Clinton, he will surround himself with smart, able people who just might help him engineer the political changes that many people in America seem to be demaning.

If Hillary had arrived on stage with loads of personal political success or experience, independent of her family relationship with Bill Clinton's administration, then her derisive dismissal of Obama’s "empty rhetoric" for change might have struck a more responsive chord within me.

But she runs an almost imperial campaign, supported by the illusion that she served as a former co-president of the United States of America.

It might be wise for Senator Clinton to stop throwing stones at the glass house of Obama's relative lack of experience, or the rhetorical emptiness of his promise to "change" America. Her own record of public service might suggest that she really doesn't have the rocks, or the slingshot, for that kind of personal assault against her rival.

* This essay should not be construed as an endorsement of any candidate by the writer or by MAS Freedom.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fidel Walks Away

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 19, 2008 - An essay about Fidel Castro on a Muslim website? Absolutely.

Say what you will about this man. Certainly, among Marxists and revolutionaries throughout the world, he epitomizes the zeal of anti-imperialism and defiance of the "Yanqui" giant to his North. And for the conservative, free-enterprise crowd, Fidel was, for nearly a half-century, anathema to every value they espouse.

But now, after decades of being the undisputed helmsman of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro has, at last, stepped away from the Presidency of his nation. And while he may no longer be the "Maximum Leader", he is, and will be for the rest of his time on earth, a towering figure for many, and an utterly despised one for others.

What did Fidel accomplish in his years as the leader of Cuba? The answer depends on the political orientation of the person who answers.

He led a small, tattered guerilla force that overthrew the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista and rode triumphantly into Havana on New Year’s Day of 1959. Then, to the dismay of the Cuban exiles, the American government, business monopolies and the CIA, Fidel and his comrades established a one-party Marxist state, closely alighed with the (then) Soviet Union. The initial crisis of this nexus involved a near-nuclear showdown between the US and the USSR which, in 1962, culminated with the removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.

Thus began more than four decades of a continued economic embargo by the U.S. (and hardly any one else) against the island nation of 10 million people. This embargo, and the effects of it, continue to this day.

It is certainly true things in Cuba are far from perfect, and that many of the faults there might be located in the limited freedoms afforded to its citizens and institutions under a one-party state.

There are credible accounts of persons imprisoned for nothing more than their political beliefs, and the proscription of freedom of religion (especially for Jehovah’s witnesses and Evangelical Christians). Defenders of the Cuban revolution, in response, point out the countless North American plots to destabilize and undermine the Cuban state, including countless documented assassination attempts directed against Fidel himself.

But through al of this, Cuba sustained a remarkable commitment to the development and well-being of countless peoples in the Third World, sharing technology and human resources, especially with the developing nations of the African world.

Now, the octogenarian leader is being replaced by his younger (at age 76) brother, Raul.

But as Fidel leaves this part of the world stage, we should be aware that powerful forces calling for "democracy" in the nation have, as a real agenda, the privatization of the Cuban economy and a return to the rule of Capital that characterized the days of Batista. They want the heavy hand of the state to go away; they also, in all likelihood, want to do away with free education, socialized medicine and housing, and the numerous other benefits won, with great sacrifice, by the Cuban working class. They envision a Cuba to become like the African-American population of the District of Columbia: free to vote, free to enjoy limited sovereignty, free to shop, and free to live in disproportionate poverty, dictated by the forces of the market.

But I suspect that, in the sunset of his years (or months), Fidel will live to see a Cuba that is changing to be more plural in it’'s political leadership (and younger), and more economically abundant in a post-embargo environment.

These future possibilities will be engineered by the Cuban people themselves, and not, I trust, by politicians in Washington or business interests in Miami.

The lion may be retiring from the stage of political leadership. But the lion - and his people - will continue to roar.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Much Ado About Something Old

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 18, 2008 - A new round of controversy and incendiary violence is sweeping both Europe and the Muslim world. The subject being, once again, the publication of cartoon images of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that are regarded by many in the Muslim community as blasphemous.

None of this, of course, is new. We experienced the same thing, and literally the same images, two years ago - but the renewed episode of image-bashing came into play by the exposure of what has been characterized as death threats made against a Danish editor, presumably by Muslims of "extremists" who reacted to the first cartoon episode.

European publications, including an evangelical Christian paper in Denmark, launched the new visual salvo against Islam as an apparent act of solidarity with the editor, and with what is generally understood to be a free press and the right of freedom of expression.

In retaliation, Muslim youth have torched cars and neighborhoods in Copenhagen, and a firestorm of protests in the Muslim world is calling for renewed boycotts of Danish products and the dismissal of the Danish Ambassador to Pakistan. Reportedly, both Saudi Arabia and Libya have also recalled their ambassadors from Denmark.

Here we go again.

So what, are the lessons to be (re)-learned from the latest round of cartoon publications?

Here are my thoughts:

The first lesson, quite literally, is that there are many people who actually love to throw rocks at Muslims, and who revel in the blanket mischaracterization of Muslims as being violent, treacherous, and evil - misrepresentations that won't disappear because we dislike and revile them.

The second lesson, and a corollary to the first truth, is that, by pouring gasoline on this fire, we (as Muslims) only succeed in burning ourselves - while adding legitimacy to the notion that Muslims are incapable of responding to injury or controversy without taking up the sword of revenge. (This is, of course, the calculated effect of publicizing these provocations to begin with - make an inflammatory public image of Prophet Muhammad, let Muslims riot in response, and watch them demonstrate for all to see, just how incorrigibly violent and extreme the world of Islam really is.)

But the third lesson is a lesson on the opportunity we miss to respond to these vile images in a different way.

We don't need to burn cars or neighborhoods in Europe, or retaliate by publishing our own versions of racialized stereotypes aimed at Europeans, or often-times, Jews. The better response to this would be to join with Muslims and numerous interfaith allies in demanding an end to all derogatory and inflammatory religious images - not because people are not free to display or publish them, but because it is not morally justified to do so.

In 2007, MAS Freedom stood with leaders of the Catholic League, a conservative Catholic organization in America, in their denunciation of the public display of a chocolate sculpture that depicted - and some say, ridiculed - the image of Jesus. We did not demand the burning of museums to protest the display, rather, we recognized the constitutional protection given to free speech and artistic freedom of expression and called for a greater public understanding, and respect, for religious images.

The Prophet Muhammad, may peace be unto him, faced similar scorn and rebuke during his lifetime. Even his mosque was defiled by someone who urinated in it. But instead of demanding that the offender be assaulted, or killed, the Prophet used the incident to educate the man about the nature of better sanitation, and respect for the house of Allah.

Our detractors and haters are guided by a passionate aversion to Islam, laced with deep ignorance about the diversity of Muslim life and culture, and violent responses within the Muslim community will not deter them from what they say, draw, or publish.

But our organized, and nonviolent, responses to them might well demonstrate that Muslims, when guided by the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, can claim a moral high-ground that is a better, more reasonable, and strategically more effective place from which we can - with our allies in the interfaith community - defend the integrity of our faith.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

On Gaza, The Presidential Candidates Are Silent. Why?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Feb. 7, 2008 - This urgent bulletin goes out to our esteemed presidential candidates in the Democratic and Republican party primary elections: There is a Palestine. There is a Gaza.

And innocent people in Gaza are dying because of an economic blockade imposed on them by Israel.

Of course, each of the candidates, Senators Clinton and Obama of the Democratic party, and Senator McCain, former Governor Huckabee, and former Governor Romney, from the Republican party, are all aware that there is a place called Israel - being that they are open and enthusiastic backers of the export of U.S. tax dollars to America's premier ally in the Middle East.

U.S. Dollars - more than three billion of them each year - that are used, in part, to buy the American military hardware that enables their ally to occupy huge chunks of the West Bank, while keeping the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza on permanent economic life support.

The world, or at least the part of the planet not dominated by the U.S. State Department and the Israel lobby, is very aware of the conditions in Gaza.

The economic strangulation of the Gaza territory by Israel is a source of deep condemnation and outrage expressed by virtually every respected human rights organization world-wide, including one of Israel's leading human rights groups, B'Teshelem.

Lets also not forget those little documents otherwise referred to as the "Geneva Convention" and the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", which say, in essence, that it's illegal and immoral to punish an entire civilian population in the course of waging war against a relatively small group of insurgents.

In this case, the "war" is an embargo of fuel and other necessities that has resulted in the virtual collapse of health care and sanitation in the most densely crowded piece of real estate on planet earth.

Senators Obama and Clinton are both attorneys who, presumably, know that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal under the terms of the international covenants that the United States has signed.

And all of the presidential contenders, I would imagine, have seen at least some of the video footage showing the hordes of Palestinians who recently broke through the barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, in search of food, fuel and other life sustaining necessities, otherwise unavailable to them due to the blockade.

Two weeks ago, eleven intrepid members of the House of Representatives, led by former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), wrote to our Secretary of State imploring that she use her office to help end the deadly embargo of Gaza.

The letter honorably pled for the right of the Palestinian people of Gaza to survive, and called for the U.S. government's respect for the rule of international law in assuring that the illegal economic embargo threatening that survival must end. However, sadly, the letter failed to challenge the U.S. political alliance with Israel, or call for an end to the massive material and military assistance sent by America to the Jewish state.

The failure to question our government's political alliance with Israel, or to demand an end to the massive material and military support it receives - which directly contributes to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza on a daily basis - is exacerbated by the fact that our current line-up of Presidential hopefuls remain silent on the issue of Gaza.

And their silence is deafening.

And their silence is more than politics as usual.

It is a silence that is morally reprehensible.

Gaza militants allied with Hamas have engaged in periodic rocket attacks on Jewish settlements in southern Israel. For the record, I want to state again my opinion that Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilian populations are militarily ineffective, and morally unjustified. They should end. Period.

But these attacks should not, and must not, justify the blanket economic retaliation from Israel that characterizes the Gaza shut-down. Ordinary Palestinians who are not involved in armed attacks against the settlements should not be punished for the actions of others.

In this case, as in virtually all cases, two wrongs certainly don't make a right.

And the voices of the men (and the woman) seeking the highest office of the land should be sending this message to the world.

From my perspective, this is not a call for some shift in current U.S. policy vis-à-vis Israel, certainly, in the real political world, that is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future (although that, for some of us, would be a welcomed change).

But this is a call for the 2008 presidential candidates to demand that the blockade of Gaza be lifted, in a demonstration of respect for the rule of international law.

Only the United States can exert the necessary leverage on Israeli leadership that could possibly bring an end to the blockade against Gaza and the subsequent humanitarian crisis it has created.

The people of Gaza have clearly heard from the world, its condemnation of the suffering inflicted on 1.4 million human beings living in the territory.

Now, it's time for the people of Gaza to hear from the American politicians who claim to respect the rule of law, and who proclaim respect for human rights - not only for some people, but for all people.

Including, in this sad case, the people of Gaza and all of Palestine.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kenya, Muslims Can and Must Stand for Nonviolence and Justice for All

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 29, 2008 - The violence that now convulses through the East African nation of Kenya has gone, as they say, from bad to worse. It is now on the brink of catastrophe.

Since the results of the December 27, 2007 presidential election, announcing the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki by a thin margin - and some would say, a suspiciously thin one - members of the political opposition have condemned the result of the vote as fraudulent, and taken to the streets in angry protest.

But the political protests have been transmogrified into all-out ethnic warfare, pitting the largely Kikuyu supporters of President Kibaki against the minority ethnic Luo group identified with Mr. Raila Odinga (son of the famed dissident Oginga Odinga).

Despite the heroic efforts of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to broker a peace agreement between these political antagonists, the level of violence in Kenya has reached horrific proportions.

At the present time, more than 800 individuals are known to have died, and some 255,000 persons have been made homeless. The most egregious example of this violence resulted in the torching of a church several weeks ago, where more than 50 people who sought refuge from the killing were burned alive.

Kenya may be a "tribal" nation, as the term is used to describe African ethnic groups, but it is also a nation with a significant (10%) Muslim population - and Muslims could play a very constructive role in returning the nation to peace, reconciliation, and sanity.

I remember that in 1994, the nation of Rwanda was engulfed in a horrific genocide in which some 800,000 members of the Tutsi ethnic group were murdered by Hutu extremists. The United Nations, and the world, largely looked on and turned their backs on the victims of this slaughter.

But what is largely unknown to the world, including the Muslim world, is the role that the tiny Rwandan Muslim community played in sheltering thousands of the largely Christian Tutsi victims of the genocide from the knives, clubs and guns of the (majority) Christian Hutu extremists who were killing them without mercy.

Muslim homes and mosques became havens of refuge for innocent women and children who would otherwise have been brutally killed in the orgy of ethnic hatred.

And today, as a result of this collective heroism, the religion of Islam is held in the highest esteem among all the people of Rwanda - Christian and Muslim alike - and large numbers of those Rwandans who formerly professed Christianity as their religion have reverted to Islam.

In Kenya, a different African nation with a very different history of ethnic co-existence, a new episode of mass violence has now erupted.

The violence has not yet reached the tipping point that categorizes violence as genocide, but it is careening out of control, and it threatens the stability and political integrity of a nation that has largely, throughout its history, avoided the catastrophe of tribal warfare.

The organized Muslim community in Kenya, with the help of Allah (Exalted and Glorified), can, and must, help stop the madness.

Muslims in Kenya can offer their homes and religious places of worship as sanctuaries for all who are fleeing the violence that is spreading throughout the nation just as they did in Rwanda.

As a community that transcends ethnic divisions, Kenyan Muslims are in a position to speak prophetic truth to both sides of this conflict, and to be a respected voice for reason and peace while striving to restore integrity to the fundamental political process of the nation.

I pray for the people of Kenya, and especially the victims of ethnic violence, in this deeply troubled time. And I pray that the Muslim community in Kenya, like Rwandan Muslims some 14 years ago, can, and will, rise up and contribute to the preservation of safety and security that is vital for all peoples, and nations, in our world.

Our Lord, it should be remembered, has not made us into different nations and tribes to hate each other, but rather, to know each other.

Note: MAS Freedom will periodically report on developments in the crisis in Kenya, and especially the Muslim response to the violence in that nation.

Kenya Crisis Talks Begin Amid Mounting Violence

Thursday, January 24, 2008

At the End of the Day, It's All About Human Life in Gaza

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 25, 2008 -The are two images, often juxtaposed, that define life for the people of Gaza in the eyes of world media.

One image is the picture of idle workers, hungry kids, and hospitals that are broken and dysfunctional as a result of the embargo of fuel and electricity that persistently cripples the economy of Gaza.

The other, more recent image, pictures thousands of gleeful Gazans streaming into Rafa, Egypt across the southern border between Egypt and Gaza, buying everything from goats to televisions, and taking them back to into Gaza using every conceivable mode of human transportation. These images convey a sense of jubilation, and relief.

Indeed, much of the world is happy that the Egyptian authorities are reluctant to use force in turning away the people of Gaza - sending them back to where they came from.

But the political dynamics of the situation are more complicated. Israeli authorities are now openly discussing the possibility of a total cut-off of Gaza in the north, which would, in effect, abandon some 1.4 million people and leave them in a state of total economic collapse with only a three-day supply of fuel for their primary electrical power plant.

And the United States government, which voiced it's disapproval of the Egyptian non-response to the "invasion" of thousands of desperate people from Gaza, has said nothing - at least, in public - about Israel's central responsibility for the embargo.

The world sees this mess, and focuses on the ideological issues of the political rule of Hamas "militants" and the sporadic rocket fire from Gaza that provokes so many devastating Israeli military counter-strikes.

The presidential candidates, from both major parties, see what is happening, and say absolutely nothing about the policies of Israel and the United States that keep Gaza on nearly permanent lock-down (except to blaming Hamas for the entire situation).

While these events occur, and while they are being noticed by the entire world, the misery and humanitarian tragedy in Gaza continues.

If all politics are local, as the saying goes, then all politics, in the final analysis, must be about the simple dignity and human rights of ordinary people, and their right to survive.

Survival, with dignity, must become the ultimate human right that trumps divisions over race, nationality, and religion. And this is a priority that the leaders of Israel, the U.S., and especially the political leaders of Gaza, must not fail to recognize.

The political and ideological divisions are not likely to go away, at least in the foreseeable future, but the ordinary people of Gaza won’t disappear either, and every concerned party - all of humanity - must make their survival a central priority.

I've pointed out, in a previous essay, that a tactical shift on the part of the political leadership of Gaza is imperative. Violent attacks from Gaza against civilian targets in Israel are both immoral and tactically useless, and they only provoke counter-attacks that heap more devastation and destruction on the heads of those who are already defenseless and vulnerable.

Those attacks must end.

But Egypt, the United States, the State of Israel, and the global community must also fundamentally change their ways.

Egypt, to begin with, must allow a reasonable flow of Palestinians into Egyptian territory to purchase necessary commodities for their basic survival.

Israel must suspend the closure of the border crossing between Gaza and Israel, and totally end any current and future embargoes of food, fuel, and medical supplies into the territory.

The international community of nations and civil societies must contribute more material aid to Gaza, and be assured that this aid will reach those in need, without interference, interdiction, or the misuse of such aid by any and all agents of corruption.

And the United States, as the major power-broker in the conflict, has the responsibility to push for the demilitarization of the conflict (on all sides), while upholding the human rights of all parties concerned. This a particular challenge for Muslim leaders who use the occupation as a rationale for hurling rhetorical rocks at the Jewish state, while doing precious little to alleviate the suffering of the actual victims of occupation.

Also, for the Israelis and their allies, there should be recognition that the notion of collective punishment, in any case, is simply morally unconscionable, as well as a violation of international human rights law and the Geneva Convention.

Striking civilian infrastructure targets to hit back at Hamas is counter-productive, because this strategy only pushes people to more desperate, and violent, forms of "resistance".

In fact, no party in this convoluted political equation can be let off the hook. Each party must develop new means of resolving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and for that matter, the whole of Palestine.

We must demand the following: No more killing. No more bickering, posturing, or in the case of media, outright denial of the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. No more denial of this tragedy by those who aspire to the American presidency. And no more blind political allegiances based on the permanence of colonial occupation or injustice.

Because for me, at the end of the day, what really matters is that no more children in Gaza will die for the sake of political business as usual.