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.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

MAS Freedom Joins Call for 40-Days of Nonviolence in Honor of MLK

Building the Beloved Community One Pledge at a Time

"Today there is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." - Excerpted from a 1967 interview of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Arnold Michaelis

"Every King Holiday has been a national 'teach-in' on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately needed to unify America." - Coretta Scott King, "The Meaning of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday"

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 20, 2008 - As we turn our attention to the King Holiday and pause to remember the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., MAS Freedom (MASF), as the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS), joins the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service project in calling for 40-Days of Nonviolence, January 21 through February 29, 2008.

The year 2008 will mark 40-years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, thus, it is especially important to connect more intentionally with the principles upon which Dr. King built his life, his service, and the movement that he championed—the principles of nonviolence. He believed that applying the principles of nonviolence in all areas of one's life would ultimately bring about the Beloved Community, the end goal of nonviolence, where differences are resolved peaceably and reconciliation occurs among adversaries.

To connect the King Holiday to the example Dr. King set and to engage more Americans in honoring him through service, the Corporation is joining with others in its network to provide tools for the "40 Days of Nonviolence: Building the Beloved Community" initiative, which includes a Pledge of Nonviolence.

Pledge of Nonviolence in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Life and Work

I PLEDGE TO DO EVERYTHING I CAN to make America and the world a place where equality and justice, freedom and peace will grow and flourish.

I PLEDGE TO MAKE NONVIOLENCE A WAY OF LIFE in my dealings with all people.

I WILL REJECT all forms of hatred, bigotry and prejudice, and I will embrace the values of unconditional, universal love, truthfulness, courage, compassion, and dedication that empowered Dr. King.

On the King Holiday and during the 40 days that follow, individuals and organizations participating in the initiative would:

>>>Study, discuss, and reflect upon the principles of nonviolent action as a strategy for bringing about stronger communities;

>>>Examine the structures in their communities that lead to violence and engage in projects that address those underlying issues;

>>>Plan for 40 days beginning with the King Holiday and implement sustainable service activities to extend throughout the year and beyond.

These elements reflect the fundamental steps in Dr. King's vision for nonviolent social change: information gathering, education, personal commitment, negotiations, direct action, and reconciliation. What better learning mechanism can there be than one in which everyone can be actively engaged in their community?

40 Days of Nonviolence: Building the Beloved Community will have a powerful and lasting impact on the reach of the King Day of Service campaign. Linking the powerful principles of nonviolence with the tradition of service brings contemporary stature to a historical movement in our country and contemporary meaning to the unfinished work of Dr. King. Linking service more directly to the teachings of Dr. King provides a great opportunity to educate youth and others who have little or no knowledge of this important part of American history and to engage them in service that is grounded in his teachings and creates lasting change.

"MAS Freedom encourages community members nationwide to participate in this important initiative," stated Director, Mahdi Bray.

Sign the Pledge here.

Get a 40 Days of Nonviolence Badge for your website or blog here.

Additional community action resources are available here.

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.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Thank You, Senator John McCain

A Republican Presidential Candidate Takes a Principled Stand on a Racist Symbol

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 18, 2008 - The three leading candidates for the Republican party presidential nomination are clearly in a bitter contest. And with the Nevada and South Carolina primaries in their sights, a racial controversy, much deeper and more divisive than the recent Obama-Clinton spat, is emerging over the issue of the South Carolina state flag.

The aforementioned banner, which contains the representation of the 19th Century flag of the Confederacy, is a long-standing issue for both white and African-American residents of South Carolina. Many white conservatives, who view the segregationist history of the state as part of their "cultural heritage", express vehement support for the public display of the flag. On the other hand, African-Americans, whose ancestors were oppressed by chattel slavery and decades of racial segregation and mistreatment, regard South Carolina's flag as a symbol of hatred and continued inequality.

So it became a serious issue when former Governor of Arkansas and evangelical Christian, Mike Huckabee, came to the apparent support of potential (and overwhelmingly white) primary voters in South Carolina; openly defending their "state right" to display and cherish their Confederate symbol. His defense of the South Carolina flag, however, was hardly thoughtful and elegant. "If somebody came to my state (Arkansas) and told us what to do with our flag, he stated, "we'd tell then where they could stick the pole."

This is a curious and crude metaphor, indeed, especially coming from a man who professes a 'special relationship' with Jesus (one is left to wonder whether Christ would also endorse a symbol so closely associated with the enslavement and mass murder of a people).

But make no mistake about it; Mr. Huckabee knew exactly what he was saying, and who he was saying it to. The "defend the right of people to wave their flag" stance was a not-so-thinly-veiled appeal to the white, evangelical voters in South Carolina, who form the "base" (and perhaps, the only real base) of Mr. Huckabee's electoral appeal.

In a contest with sharp divisions along race (and class) lines, the Huckabee's remark was a line in the sand. And the fact that the state flag of South Carolina is an anathema to "liberals" and most African-American voters, was of no consequence; they, after all, are likely to vote in the Democratic party primary.

Senator John McCain is also keen on winning his party's nomination for the presidency. He's also interested, presumably, in winning the hearts and minds of the same political base that Mr. Huckabee is courting.

But for Senator McCain, the issue of the flag is not about political appeal or expediency; it's about the need to reject a symbol of racial oppression and division that is, in essence, contrary to what this nation should stand for.

The Huckabee-McCain dichotomy on this issue is very different from the public disagreement between Democratic Senators Obama and McCain over the issue of the Martin Luther King legacy. Senator Obama might have raised interesting points in his rebuttal of Senator Clinton, but he assumed no political risk in doing so. The matter of race, either open or in subtext, is a totally different thing with regard to Mr. McCain and his candidacy.

I don't agree with Mr. McCain's staunch support for the Iraq war, or for that matter, his public statements critical of Muslims. But on the mater of his rejection of the Confederate symbol on the South Carolina state flag, he's right on point.

Mike Huckabee should be ashamed of himself. Because no state should display, or have the right to display, or treat with reverence, such a perfidious symbol of division, animosity, and oppression.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time for a New Resistance Tactic in Gaza?

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 16, 2008 - As I write this essay, a new round of bloody warfare has engulfed the Palestinian territory in Gaza. This time, the culprit is not internecine fighting, it is the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Reports are that the IDF mounted an armored attack against Gaza's resistance fighters Tuesday, resulting in the deaths of some 19 Palestinians (including Hussam Zahar, 24, a son Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar), and wounding 52 others, mostly non-combatants.

The Hamas fighters, in return, reportedly fired a rocket into an Israeli border settlement that killed a young South American worker.

The scenario is depressingly familiar: Hamas fighters (and their comrades in struggle) attack a Jewish settlement, or an occasional Israeli military outpost, inflicting minimal damage, or no damage at all. Israeli military forces then retaliate with helicopter gunship and/or tank attacks on both civilian and armed targets deep inside Gaza, killing both civilians and combatants; succeeding, in any event, in inflicting even more devastating misery on an occupied people, and making them even more isolated - and desperate - in the world of power politics.

Few people, and certainly few Muslims, can deny the brutality of the occupation of Palestine, nor the illegality of the occupation under international law. Much of the world has demonstrated sympathy for the plight of Palestinians under occupation, and those millions more in the diaspora that are denied the right of return. Moreover, it is clearly evident that lasting peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike cannot possibly happen when the elected political leadership of Gaza is excluded from the negotiation process.

But I continue to wonder: what tactical, military textbook does Hamas refer to when they formulate an operational plan to resist the occupation?

Recently, at the national MAS convention in Chicago, I spoke on a panel discussion on the recent round of peace "negotiations" in Annapolis, MD between the Palestinian Authority (minus Hamas) and the Israeli government. There was an almost unanimous sentiment that these talks would go nowhere without, among other things, the eventual participation of the leadership in Gaza (not to mention the end of internecine Palestinian fighting and the abolition of Jewish settlements in the West Bank).

But I raised another question, namely this: is it possible to conceive of positive (and winning) Palestinian resistance using means other that the largely ineffective military force that we see today? And might these non-military - and as I prefer to call them, non-violent - potential tactics actually serve to better advance the Palestinian cause?

Now, I am certainly no military tactician, and neither do I pretend to have the right to speak for the people of Palestine. But I do know something about history, and the history of successful resistance movements. And I am convinced that any liberation struggle - whether violent or nonviolent - must nullify the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of an adversary.

In the case of the long Vietnamese war of national liberation, for example, the most successful tactic used by North Vietnamese General Giap, was to avoid conventional warfare and frontal attacks on the better-armed adversaries - first the French, and then the Americans - while relying upon guerilla tactics and popular resistance in the form of "People’s War". A variation of the theme is also evident in the tactics employed by Cuban revolution.

In both historical cases - and the objective conditions in Cuba and Vietnam were quite different, to be sure - the idea underpinning successful resistance was to tie up - not provoke - the violent retaliatory military power of the opponent.

An even more nonviolent resistance example is found in the history of the Indian independence movement led by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, which used the tactic of nonviolent mobilization and resistance to overcome the (then) mighty British Empire and secure political independence for India in 1948.

While it is important to continue our opposition to the occupation of Palestine and the Israeli armed attacks against Gaza - which harm more civilians than resistance fighters - I believe that new resistance tactics are worth considering on the part of Hamas; that is, if symbolic resistance, or "Martyrdom" are less important in the final analysis than actual victory in the form of ending the occupation and securing a viable nation-state. And any form of non-violent mass mobilization and resistance will present a new, and formidable set of challenges to Hamas - and for that matter, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

But I believe that the preponderance of world opinion and material solidarity would be, again, on the side of the people of Palestine if the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians - however infrequent or ineffective they might be - would stop.

This tactical shift would nullify the labeling of Hamas as a "terrorist" entity, and garner more support for the Palestinian struggle among Israelis (many of whom are also tired of the occupation).

International support, and the increased flow of material aid for Gaza would also be a likely result. And in this possible scenario, massive U.S. military support for Israel would be seen in a different, and perhaps more unfavorable, light.

Is this wishful, naïve thinking on my part? Hardly. All that is required is for the people of Gaza, and their leaders, to apply the resolution and courage of their resistance to better, and more successful, tactics.

After all, it is not likely that Hamas can defeat the IDF on a conventional battlefield. But nonviolent mobilization and resistance could nullify their ability to wage war in Palestine, or use their conventional military-might as the primary instrument of domination.

And that, as they say, would be a very good development for the people of Palestine, and the world.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Civil Rights History Lesson for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 15, 2008 - It is certainly no shock that the respective political camps of Senators Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are unusually anxious to engage in rhetorical rock-throwing in the heat of the Democratic party primary contests. That's what politics in America is about: wait for your opponent(s) to make some obvious misstep, or catch them on camera saying something that could potentially offend part of the electorate, and then go for your opponent's jugular.

So it's understandable that the Obama campaign vigorously responded to a comment about the civil rights struggle uttered recently by Senator Clinton. Namely, that, according to her account of history, it required the power and approval of a president (Lyndon Johnson) to realize the civil rights objectives of Dr. King's movement.

Presumably, the Senator from New York was referring not only to her understanding of the power of the American presidency, but to her evaluation of her own power - if she is to be elected - to act in a similarly altruistic and just way for the sake of racial and social equality.

But Senator Clinton's statement is packed with assumptions and historical perceptions that need to be unpacked and examined, not in juxtaposition with the Obama candidacy, but in comparison to the real truth of the institutions of American political power, as well as the nature of this particular mass movement that changed the course of the nation.

It should be worth remembering, especially by Senator Clinton, that the civil rights movement was more than a movement - it was, in every sense, a struggle. Southern Democrats like Lyndon Johnson (who was nurtured and supported by the very segregationist Dixiecrat establishment that Dr. King vehemently opposed), not only fought the movement for full African-American human rights, but used their legislative power to delay the inevitable de jure victory of civil rights (and in 1965, voting rights).

Johnson, if anything, was "dragged" to the signing of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964, not because of his incorrigible love for the rights of Black people, but because of the power of potential mass social disruption; not to mention his memory of the internal revolt and racial schism that rocked the Democratic Party at the Atlantic City convention in 1964, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party insurgents (led by the powerful and amazing Fannie Lou Hamer), reminded the world of the political disenfranchisement of Black democratic voters in Mississippi, and throughout the South.

There is also no real historical evidence to support the notion that President Johnson, himself, felt some deep personal commitment to the notion of Black social and political equality in America, even if the realpolitik of the times compelled him to sign legislation to that effect.

What Senator Clinton (and for that matter, Senator Obama and every other elected official in America) should also understand is this: Dr. King's movement, ultimately, was a human rights movement, not just a civil one. That is to say, while the movement had the legislative objective of dismantling legal (de jure) American apartheid, it's ultimate objective was the overturning of de facto (real) inequality in this nation - not only in terms of access to the ballot - but in every other dimension of the civic and social tapestry of the nation.

Legislation that protects the rights of citizens is critical, of course, and the legislative victory in 1965 was a seminal moment in American history. But it was a milestone in a yet-unfinished journey, and a moment in a struggle that no executive branch, or legislature, or judiciary, can ultimately win.

It can only be achieved by the total transformation of every fiber of a nation that still, 40-years after the murder of Dr. King, remains far too comfortable with the continued material benefits of white supremacy and the persistence of inequality in all aspects of civic life.

It would be unfair to suggest that Senator Clinton intentionally tried to disparage the legacy of Dr. King by implying that President Johnson's approval was necessary for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to become law. Hillary is, if anything, both a consummate politician and a very smart woman who knows her core constituency and the potential fallout from any statement that might be construed as diminishing the King legacy. (You will notice how quickly her African American supporters, like Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson, rushed in to circle the wagons and protect her from the Obama counter-attack).

But Senator Clinton, as well as both her supporters and detractors, should use this flap as an opportunity to study the history of the civil rights struggle in-depth, and realize that the movement for justice and equality in America is a work in progress, and that it did not begin, and will never end, in the Oval Office of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stalking the Real 'Enemy Within'

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 6, 2008 - A great deal of the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment in America is now surfacing in the context of the presidential primaries.

This past week, one of my MAS colleagues directed me to a YouTube video taken at an Iowa home fundraiser for Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani. Two attendees were giving on-camera comments about their vehement support for the former New York City mayor. One man said that Guiliani would lead the way for total American victory against "radical Islam", and the other called for bombing "them" back to the caves (presumably, those in the region of Tora Bora in Afghanistan).

Then, Rudy, not to be outdone, spoke to the video camera about the need for total victory against "Islamic Fascism". (Note: the particular variety of fascism promulgated by Benito Mussolini, also of Italian heritage, murdered far more innocent people than al-Qaida).

Rudolph Giuliani makes no bones about his contempt for Muslims, and his thinly veiled threat to do something about "them" if he is elected President. His vehement anti-Islamic crusade - and I use the term deliberately - is the bedrock of his political platform, and virtually the only thing, other that his hype for an even bigger Pentagon budget, that he finds worth talking about on the campaign stump.

But make no mistake about it: Rudolph Giuliani is hardly the only public personality who wants to drive-out, defeat, and possibly destroy Muslims, including, perhaps, a great many of those who, quite innocently and moderately, live in America. Add to this the animus directed by many against "illegal" immigrants, and you have the beginning of a perfect storm capable of a massive assault against the civil liberties of millions of people in America.

Think that it can't happen here? Think again.

The political climate of tolerance and respect for Constitutional civil rights is, in historical terms, a variable one. Laws against murder and extra-judicial killings did not save more than 1,500 African Americans, mostly in the South, from lynching and mob murder that extended into the early 20th Century. The 14th Amendment guarantee of "equal protection under the law" has not deterred some federal judges from presenting secret evidence against Muslim suspects in court, or giving "enhanced sentencing" punishments that far exceed the prison term guidelines for non-felony convictions. And fiercely anti-immigrant organizations and coalitions are springing up all over America, some backed by various Draconian local laws that make it almost impossible for undocumented workers, and their families, to survive.

When Muslims, immigrants, and political dissidents are targeted by some of those in authority, the repercussions spread to not only a few of us, but to potentially millions of people in America. This can happen, if the voracious appetite of the national security apparatus is allowed to devour the basic guarantees of the American Constitution.

It would be incorrect to assume that, even if elected to the presidency, Mr. Giuliani would have the power to dictate, on his own, the demise of civil liberties for Muslims. But the power of his - or any - presidency could influence the appointment of federal judges of like political persuasion, the allocation of resources used by law enforcement agencies, or, for example, the continuation or closing of places like the Guantanamo prison camp.

For (at least) one announced candidate for the presidency, the internal American enemy is "radical" Islam, and undocumented workers. For me, this yet unconquered enemy is racism, xenophobia, and the growing economic attack upon the poor and working people on whom the rich continue to feed. And I count Rudy, and his legions, among those who do the devouring.

I don't mean for this to be a diatribe against Rudolph Giuliani, or those (millions) who politically support him. But I do hope that it can serve as a reminder for Muslims, and people who believe in democracy and fairness, about the real danger to us presented by the extreme right side of the political spectrum.

And finally, I hope that it reminds us of why the 2008 election will, in all likelihood, be the most critical one in the history of the Muslim Ummah in the United States.