Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is McCarthyism Being Revived by Representative Peter King?

Is McCarthyism Being Revived by Representative Peter King?

MAS Freedom conducts Activism workshop on Islamophobia at National Conference

"Are you now, or have you ever been, associated with the religion of Islam? This is not an absurd question, but one that very well may be directed to individuals who may be subpoenaed to testify before a future hearing called by Representative Peter King(R-NY) before the Department of Homeland Security. King will be the new committee chairperson in January for the House Committee on Homeland Security, replacing the outgoing Chair Representative Bennie Thompson(D-MS.

The issue that Representative King would like to investigate is what he believes to be the growth of Islamic radicalism in America, and presumably, the failure of national Muslim leaders and organizations to address it. Mr. King expressed his views in a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Presumably, some of his Republican House colleagues, including ones who have been at the forefront of public anti-Muslim rhetoric, will join him in his interrogations.

But for many people, these hearings bring up memories of a tragic episode in the America of the 1950s American history when Right-wing zealots, led by then-Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, dragged people before a House Committee on Un-American Activities. These hearings targeted numerous Americans, who had committed no crimes against their government of fellow citizens, and accused them of being pro-Communist dupes of the Soviet Union. This crusade against Left activists, intellectuals, and notable persons in the entertainment industry resulted in the destruction of reputations, livelihoods, and even actual lives.

It may be that Rep. King, who has expressed no fear at being characterized as an anti-Muslim bigot, wants to do the same thing now to Muslims in America that Joe McCarthy did for suspected Socialists more than 50 years ago.

Conventional wisdom has always suggested that global Islam has replaced global Communism as the primary threat to the U.S. national security establishment, and the actions of hostile networks like Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, and the Taliban in Afghanistan give some substance to this evaluation. But Representative King's relentless focus on the "homegrown" threat of what he calls "Islamic radicalism" is an invitation to accelerate the same unjust attacks on Muslim leaders and national organizations that characterized the "Red Scare" antics of "Tail Gunner Joe".

And as long as our organizations are viewed with hostility and suspicion, law-abiding Muslims will be unjustly painted with the brush of collective guild for the malfeasance of a small minority of Muslims in America who have actually been involved in illegal or violent activities that actually threaten the security of the people of this nation.

Rep. King should understand that Muslim leaders and organizations in America have indeed condemned extremism, and in fact two organizations-the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim American Society-have been commended in a 2010 congressional reports for work to counter the attempted radicalization of American Muslim youth. Moreover, there are many examples of ongoing interfaith dialogue in America and positive Muslim civic engagement with the larger society.

What is likely to emerge from these hearings is not a deeper understanding of "Islamic" radicalism, or even the legitimate exposure of threats to our security, but rather, another round of taxpayer-funded Muslim bashing that whips up even more divisive xenophobia and religious bigotry in the nation. Perhaps Rep. King should leave the real detective and law enforcement work to the professionals at DHS.

MAS Freedom will address issues related to the Muslim community response to Islamophobia and unprincipled attacks on our collective civil rights at in a workshop on "Muslim Activism 101", to be held at the upcoming MAS-ICNA conference in Chicago, IL from December 23rd to December 26th, 2010. We encourage members of our community to join us in learning more about how we can collectively respond to these threats against Muslims in America while building more positive civic engagement.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Remembering Mukit Hossain

On November 27th, Mukit Hossain, a beloved co-worker and friend, made his transition back to Allah at the age of 54. His passing was sudden. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, and numerous relatives and friends in his native
Bangladesh and throughout the United States.

Mukit will be remembered for his numerous contributions to the Muslim community of northern Virginia and the larger community of the United States. Mukit a member of the board of trustees of the ADAMS Center, and he was also among a very small group of Muslim leaders who had the foresight, and insight, to recognize the importance of voting and civic engagement as a process for empowering Muslims in America.

Since 2001, he was active in the leadership of the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, where he worked tirelessly to register and mobilize Muslim voters. Mukit's efforts were rewarded in 2006, when he worked to coordinate the MAS Freedom Voting is Power (VIP) initiative. This effort was instrumental in energizing the Muslim electorate in northern Virginia, which provided the margin of victory for a victorious candidate for the United States Senate. He also was recognized for his interfaith work with Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian congregations, and for his successful organizing efforts on behalf of legislation that demanded "truth in advertising" for both Halal and Kosher food products.

He was the founder of Food Source, an organization dedicated to feeding homeless people in Fairfax County. And more recently, Mukit and his family left the more frenetic pace of city life to raise Halal goats on a farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Mukit would describe his transition to country life and farming as "one most peaceful job of his life."

Mukit, though, was more than an accomplished political activist, farmer, and leader. He was a beloved friend to many of us who will remember his rapier-like wit, his bright smile, his humor, and even his hilarious accounts of life in the United States as a Bangladeshi Muslim graduate of Duke University. And most of all, we will remember Mukit as Muslim who would always take time to remember Allah (SWT) in prayer, while encouraging his brother and sisters to join him.

MAS Freedom joins with the Muslim community, and with the wider community of faith, in sending our condolences to the family of Brother Mukit. May Allah (SWT) receive him and grant his Paradise, for truly, from Allah we come, and to Him is our return.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Response to the ADL's "Anti-Israel" Tag

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League compiled a list of ten national
organizations whom they consider to be "anti-Israel".
These groups included secular Left activist organizations, Palestinian
rights groups, and two prominent national Muslim organizations, including
the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Muslim American

It's interesting to note that this isn't the first time that the ADL has
struck out against Muslim organizations and groups on the political Left,
essentially because of our stand on the issue of the Israeli occupation of
Palestinian land and the ongoing economic blockade of Gaza. But the fact
that the ADL now openly characterizes us, and others, as "Anti-Israel" does
require both a political analysis of the allegation, and an understanding of
the subtext that underlies the contention.

For the record, it should be noted that the ADL is an important, and
respected, organization that has a long history of principled opposition to
anti-Smites (a global phenomenon), and to an extent, racism in the American
experience. Muslim and progressive organizations should celebrate this
positive work, because racism and anti-Semitism should have no legitimate
place in either the Muslim organizational world or the world of progressive
politics. Those of us who have heard, or witnessed, statement that
excoriate Jews or attack their human rights have been, and should be, moved
to reject these pronouncements. In the case of MAS, Mr. Foxman and the ADL
were informed that individuals who made such statements at our 2009 national
conference did so without the support or authorization of our organization.

But the ADL now characterizes these anti-occupation groups as being
"Anti-Israel", and this allegation requires some unpacking. Does this imply
that MAS,CAIR and others deny the right of the Israel to exist as a nation
state? Or that we deny the human rights of the Jewish people? Or that we are
guilty of hating Jews?

What Mr. Foxman would discover, if he and the ADL are interested in the
truth of the matter, is that none of these positions characterize the
positions of MAS, CAIR, and I truly believe, other groups on this nefarious"
Anti-Israel" list. It is true that there is virulent racism and
anti-Semitism in the world, and these sentiments are vile and morally
indefensible. But anti-Semitism and opposing the racially constructed,
pro-colonialism policies of Israel are not one in the same. And Mr. Foxman
and company know this very well.

Indeed, there are numerous progressive Jews, including Israelis themselves,
that reject the premise that a Jewish state can claim legitimacy while
opposing the most basic rights of the indigenous people who remain
marginalized, dispossessed, and oppressed by the Israeli government.

There is also the allegation that MAS, and others, support " terrorism" But
how does the ADL selectively define this term? Certainly, lobbing rockets
from Gaza that kill Israeli civilians in the city of Ashkelon is something
that no moral person can defend. But there is a clear lack of symmetry in
the absence of any condemnation by the ADL, or other pro-Israel organizations,
of the ongoing destruction of Arab homes and villages, or the systematic
settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied territories. How could any
person claiming to be a supporter of human rights possible ignore, or
rationalize these actions done in the name of the Jewish state?

Arab and Majority-Muslim nation states certainly have their own deep moral
contradictions when it comes to violence and human oppression, and this is
an issue that none of us can afford to be silent about. But Israel(thanks
in part a well-funded and ubiquitous lobby), is largely insulated from the
legitimate moral concerns that confront nearly all other nations guilty of
massive human rights violations. And ignoring this issue will neither make
Israel "secure" nor will it help is shaping a comprehensive and just peace
for the people of Israel, Palestine, and the entire Middle East.

It would be naive to ignore the huge divide between pro-Zionist and Muslim
and politically progressive groups on the issue of the moral legitimacy of
the occupation. But perhaps a good place to start might be the affirmation,
by both the ADL and the organizations it opposes, of the need for
a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East and an end to all forms of militarism and violence in the region.

Indeed, if neither occupation nor retaliatory violence can lead to viable
and just outcomes, such a conversation could be mutually informative, and
even move us all from the "anti-Israel" and "pro-Palestine" paradigm that
benefits no one. MAS and others will continue to support the end of the
Israeli occupation and the injustice of the oppression of the people of
Palestine, because that is the morally right position to take, not only for
Muslims, but for all people who value freedom and justice. But it is a
stand that is taken by more and more Jews as well. And hopefully, the
Anti-Defamation league will one day realize that there is no value in using
the "Anti-Israel" canard to smear and mis-characterize anti-occupation
groups, and that no nation-state, anywhere, should be exempt from legitimate
criticism when it comes to the issue of the violation of basic human right
of either its citizens or those under its domination.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is the Anti-Shar'ia Hysteria Just A Smokescreen for Islamophobia?

Is the Anti-Shar'ia Hysteria Just A Smokescreen for Islamophobia?

Recently, the political Right has been working overtime to convince the American public (again) that Islam presents a mortal threat to the constitutional integrity of the Republic. Political pundits, radio shock-jocks, professional Muslim bashers,
and an assorted menagerie of others are now trumpeting the line that Muslims in the United States are "threatening" the nation by way of some misguided, and nefarious, attempt to impose Islamic law on the 97% of the country that is not Muslim.

Most recently, Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Nevada, gave specificity to the "threat" by claiming that two American municipalities-Dearborn, Michigan and Frankfort, Texas-were in danger of coming under the control of Islamic law. But the only trouble with these accusations is that they are utterly, and scandalously, untrue.

Non-Muslims should be aware that Sharia is simply a legal code, binding on Muslims, that governs the conduct of individuals as well as the broader community, The sources of Sharia and the Holy Qur'an ( which Muslims believe is the word of God as transmitted to Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Jibril), and the Hadith, or Prophetic example of Muhammad as transmitted by the Companions of the Prophet and reliable and trusted scholars who came after them). The Sharia is intended to regulate the norms and conduct of Muslims in the areas of marriage and divorce, family life, the rights and duties of men and women, inheritance laws, busness transactions, and other things that normalize conduct in religious communities.

Shar'ia is not intended to replace, supplant, or superimpose itself on the United States Constitution, or any local or state statutes that citizens or residents of the United States are bound to honor. Muslim-bashers are aware of this, as they are no doubt aware that there is no serious attempt by any reputable Muslim organizations to contemplate any foolish attempt to force Islamic law on people who are not Muslim.

The current Mayor of Dearborn, Jack O'Reilly, said as much when he responded to Ms. Angle's claim by saying that she "doesn't know what she's talking about" when she claims that Dearborn is Shar'ia bound. Moreover, national Muslim organizations, including MAS, have all declared that they seek to advance Islam in America totally within the boundaries of the law of the society.

Although Ms, Angle and other opponents of the Muslim American community are unwilling to let facts get in the way of their hostile opinions, the reality is simply that Muslims in the United States are neither capable of, or willing to, impose religious law on a secular society. Shar'ia is not a threat to anyone, and the continued use of that false argument only serves to potentially undermine the legitimate rights and religious liberties of law-abiding American Muslims who have no subversive designs on the law of the land.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Complexity, and Duplicity of War Make "Victory" for the U.S. in Afghanistan More Elusive than Ever

I am old enough to remember the conflict in Vietnam, which is still regarded by many as the first clear military defeat
of the U.S in history. There were multiple reasons for this demise, including the fact that national liberation struggles (remember, America also began one in 1776) are far different in character for conventional armies just throwing down on the field of battle.

But another factor in the U.S. demise in Vietnam is the fact that the Vietnamese resistance ( that is, the "enemy') was like a Chimera-elusive, ghost-like, and taking on multiple disguises-including the uniforms of those who presented themselves as U.S. 'allies" against the North Vietnamese and the indigenous anti-imperialist forces in South Vietnam better known as the Viet Cong.

Something similar seems to be going on in Afghanistan now. It would be a dis-analogy to say that the Taliban are the equivalent of the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army under the command of Hanoi, but the situations do have some commonality. The Taliban have infiltrated the "regular" Afghan Army and conduct some of their operations in both Afghan army uniforms and-lately-U.S. Army uniforms as well. Add to the mix the release last month of the Wikileaks classified internal Pentagon documents that specified the suspected collaboration of Pakistan intelligence operatives with the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan.

And now, this week, we have witnessed the successful Taliban attacks on 25 NATO gasoline tankers headed to Afghanistan from Pakistan. It seems to me like somebody with ties to the United States might, in fact, be "dropping a dime" on American military war plans from the inside.

War, of course, is about stealth, intelligence and counter-intelligence, and keeping one's adversary guessing about troop movements, supply movements, tactical and strategic plans, and the like. Commanders on both ( or should I say, all) sides of the war in Afghanistan, clearly understand this. But war, as Clausewitz so profoundly said in the 19th Century, is simply the continuation of politics by other means. And the convoluted politics of Afghan political corruption, double-dealing, and obscure objectives, may prove impossible for even the massive firepower of the U.S. to overcome.

Now, we have reports that the weak and failed government of Hamid Karzai is in negotiations with the Taliban. The objectives and prospects of these "preliminary" talks are not clear. But if a cease-fire comes between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it will be very hard to explain to the families of American troops killed in the conflict the reason for their sacrifice, or why some of their "allies" were working both sides of the war.

The Taliban are not "liberators", or progressives, either in the context of Islamic practice or the positive evolution of Afghan civil society. But the Taliban are also neither unified nor ideologically monolithic. And it just may be remotely possible for some agreement to be reached with some elements of the insurgency that could end, or at least radically reduce, the tragedy of killing and destruction in Afghanistan.

If this is the case, then war will truly not have been the answer, and the American government will be hard pressed to justify their enormous, and likely failed, investment in a military solution to the internal Afghanistan "problem".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's September 12th, and Islamophobia is Still Alive and Un-Well in America

It's September 12th, and Islamophobia is Still Alive and Un-Well in America

The "Great Koran Burning" plotted by Rev. Terry Jones and his handful of hateful minions was a bust. Like insects fleeing from light, the Dove Church would-be incineration team has fled from the spotlight of world-wide media attention. A few Qur'ans were, in fact, burned or desecrated by copy-cats around the world. But the Dove Church would-be bonfire was a non-event.

There might be a tendency now to celebrate the triumph of love and reason over hatred, because virtually everyone who followed the issue either strongly condemned the Qur'an burning incident, or they directly appealed to Jones to relent. But the issue of Islamophobia and the broad attack on Muslims, and our communities, is far from over. As the push-back on the Cordoba Initiative lower Manhattan project intensifies, there have been numerous cases of the desecration of Qur'ans, the vandalism of mosques, and the continued pronouncements from leaders on the political right that Muslims are not welcome here in the United States. Tea Party anti-government rallies are frequently laced with rhetoric of opposition to, and naked hatred of, Muslims.

Most recently, we have heard some of these attacks conflated into attacks on the President of the United States by none other than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. President Obama is not a Muslim, of course, but since so many conservative Republicans believe that he is, the trashing takes on the character of "killing two birds with one (rhetorical) stone". Meanwhile, legitimate and lawful plans for Muslim community expansion and mosque-building continue to face stiff opposition in communities throughout America.

Reverend Terry Jones might be a nut case, and his crude display of disdain for Islam might have been extreme, but he did manage to galvanize a religious and social sentiment that continues to relentlessly claim that Muslims in America are part of a great anti-American conspiracy, or in collusion with forces that seek to attack and undermine American democracy. I personally witnessed this phenomenon when I was invited to do a segment on the Sean Hannity FOX television program, only to hear relentless character assassination directed against Imam Faisal Abdur-Raoof of the Cordoba Initiative, and a general attack on "political Islam" that completely ignored the reality of our organizational work in America. I was both interrupted and cut-off by Hannity when I attempted to set the record straight.

As the political rhetoric heats up before the November elections, look for more vitriolic attacks, mosque vandalism, Qur'an desecration, and anti-Muslim rhetoric in the political arena. It is good that a positive, interfaith coalition galvanized in defense of the Muslim community in Gainesville, Florida. But many more Gainesville-like incidents might lurk in the future. Clearly, this is a time for intensifying community outreach, social education about Islam, positive engagement with the mass media, and national political mobilization in defense of the legitimate concerns of the American Muslim community.

Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

Friday, August 6, 2010

On August 6th, We Should Take One Small Step to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

On August 6th, We Should Take One Small Step to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

August 6th often passes through our lives without a ripple. Unless it is a birthday or some sort of celebration, most of us never associate this date with anything of great significance.

But August 6th is a day that lives with me in a very different way. This year, the date marks the 65th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, and the incineration of 100,000 lives in the flash of the first nuclear weapon ever detonated in wartime.

Five years ago, on an impossibly hot morning in Hiroshima, Japan, I sat with thousands of other Japanese and international guests in the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. at 8:15 that morning-the time on August 6th, 1945 that the A-bomb detonated in an instant of mass annihilation- a flight of doves were released into the Hiroshima sky, and a bell solemnly tolled in memory of those who were killed in the attack. It was, for me, a moment of deep sadness and reflection on my own life as an advocate of the abolition of all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

This past May, I was invited to speak at a number of events during the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations in New York. At one of the interfaith events, I met several of the Hibakusha, a Japanese word designating survivors of the nuclear attack in Hiroshima, and the one three days later that destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki and effectively resulted in Japan's surrender in World War II. These survivors are very old, and many of them have suffered for decades from the horrible effects of the radiation they were exposed to some 65 years ago. But they been the most powerful and unwavering advocates for international peace and the abolition of all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

Yet nuclear weapons, and the dangers of unchecked proliferation and nuclear holocaust, remain at the forefront of clear and present dangers to the survival of humankind.

So I will do more than just reflect and mourn the tragedy of the Hiroshima bombing. This year, i will ask my friends and colleagues to join me in supporting a concrete effort to call on the American government to play a necessary political and moral role in ending the nuclear terror that confronts us all.

My colleague and friend Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee has introduced a new campaign, called Waging Peace, that encourages citizens to let our senators and representatives know that the United States can make a significant contribution to the global abolition of these weapons of mass destruction. We can demand an end to the perpetual funding of our nation's nuclear weapons complex, and the billions of dollars being spent on research and development of new nuclear weapons. And we can promote a verifiable strategic arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, with the goal of eventually reducing the atomic arsenals of both nations to zero.

We must all pray for peace, and for the total abolition of the most terrible weapons that threaten not only peace but our mutual survival. But those of us who are citizens or residents of America have important work to do as well, because America, aside from being the world's greatest nuclear weapons power, is also the only nation to have used these weapons against civilian populations in time of war.

I ask you, in the name of the nuclear victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the untold victims of nuclear testing, to take five minutes and join the Waging Peace campaign. The link to the campaign appears below.

Thank you, and may we all live in a world without nuclear weapons.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A New Victory in a Long Struggle: Lower Manhattan Mosque Gets Green Light for Construction!

Despite the furious objections of Islamophobes and an assortment of opponents of Muslim constitutional rights, the New York Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status to a building in lower Manhattan, New York that would be the proposed site of a new community center and religious worship site. The project, proposed by the Cordoba Initiative, is planned as a place not only for religious Muslims, but a locus for interfaith dialogue and the promotion of better relationships between Muslims and the "Western" world.

But this planned institution was vilified, slandered, and utterly condemned by a legion of Muslim-haters who mis-characterized the project as a "Muslim supremacist" mosque that would be a blasphemous insult to the memories of the September 11, 2001 attack victims.

Yet, despite the incendiary tactics of the opponents, the Cordoba Initiative plans are on track to proceed. And beyond the obvious good news for the Muslim community of New York, there are important lessons to be learned from this victory.

First, Muslims should know that we were not in this struggle alone. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, City Council President Christine Quinn, some 31 rabbis from various Jewish communities in New York and nationally, and scores of religious and human rights leaders, all affirmed the importance of religious freedom for Muslims. Music mogul and humanitarian Russell Simmons also made a passionate defense of the right of the Muslim community to establish this place of worship.

The "haters" were strident and relentless in their propaganda barrage directed against Muslims-and Islam itself-but in the end, they could not sway the decision of the one decision-making body in the New York City government structure that had the power to vote the Cordoba Institute project up or down.

But the greater win was a victory of tolerance and reason over the forces of political reaction and fear-mongering. Simply put, people are free to say all sorts of scandalous and slanderous things about a religious community. But in the end, the false idea of the collective guilt of all Muslims for the 9-11 tragedy did not triumph. Faith, in short, did win over fear. And that is a victory that all good people can celebrate.

The Cordoba Initiative still must raise a considerable amount of money for the proposed project, and the anti-Muslim forces are sharpening their rhetorical axes for more assaults on Islam in America.

But the Lord of the Universe, and not Newt Gingrich or Pamela Geller, does, indeed, have power over all things. And that power will continue to sustain American Muslims who seek the equal protection of our religious freedoms and civil rights.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Propaganda May Rage, But It Still Isn't Truth

We live in an information age where it is possible for many impressionable people to believe that,if they see something on the internet, then it must be true. But there still needs to be both an intellectual and a moral filter present in human perception to separate lies from truths, and fiction from fact.

In the case of the current media frenzy concerning the planned construction of an Islamic worship and community center in the neighborhood of the September 11th, 2001 militant attack on New York City, propagandists from the radical political Right are doing everything possible to stir up a climate of fear, anger, and even hatred, directed not only at the Cordoba Initiative but at MAS, and by extension, the collective Muslim community of New York City and America.

The planned facility, even though it is certainly not on the location where the aircraft struck the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, is being vilified as an "Islamic supremacist" mosque and an insult to the sensitivities of 9-11 victims' families. Despite the reality of the Cordoba Initiative's clear history of anti-radicalism and positive interfaith bridge-building, Imam Faisal Abdur-Rauf and his wife, Sister Daisy Khan, are vilified as stealth Jihadis bent on the propagation of "Radical Islam" and the desecration of the September 11, 2001 memorial location.

And on a personal note, one such propagandist, armed with little more than her own rage and propensity for hatred of Al-Islam, has characterized me as participating in a "hate-fest against Jews" simply because I attended a rally calling for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.(Note: U.N. Secretary General Bak Ki-Moon and Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Mareid Corrigan Maguire, among countless others, have takes the same position against the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Are they Jew-haters, too)?

Yes, there are those who oppose the right of Muslims to establish places of worship in America, despite the total lack of evidence that these mosques, or their organizers, promote violence or intolerance. Muslims, like other people in America, should respect the law, and challenge any and all people who violate it, whether they are Muslim or not. But the same law that we should respect and obey also guarantees religious freedom, and provides for the presumption of innocence until parties are proven guilty.

The drumbeat of attacks and slander against us is not a substitute for truth and reason-two qualities that both define the best of the American historical tradition and illuminate the unsavory conduct of those who violate this tradition for their own political purposes.

Being a Muslim is not a crime, and neither is it an indication of collusion with criminals. We do have a right to assert our freedom to build Islamic houses of worship, as the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, stated on the website of the Cordoba Initiative.

On the other had, some Tea Party leaders seethe with anger when others characterize them as being racist, yet they say precious little to repudiate the hateful public remarks that have clearly been made by prominent members of their movement.

We will not engage in name-calling or provocative verbal counter-attacks against those attack us. We will continue to believe in faith over fear, and in the basic decency of the people of the United States. And, deep within my heart, I am certain that the Lord of the Worlds will guide, and protect, all people who seek to do good, even if those people are excoriated by those with other motives in their hearts.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is True Religious Freedom in America in Danger?

Is True Religious Freedom in America In Danger?

When American Muslims seek to establish houses of worship, many people outside the Muslim community respond with skepticism, and even disdain. In recent months, for example, numerous mosques in America have been vandalized, and there is even one Christian pastor in Florida who places a sign in front of his church proclaiming that “Islam will take you to Hell”.

All of these things are an ongoing part of the American social mosaic, and the vehement opposition to Islam, particularly from some Christian fundamentalist and pro-Israel proponents is not cause for concern. But what we are witnessing in the current moment of history is an orchestrated attempt, by anti-Muslim organizations, to actually deny Muslims the constitutional right to establish houses of worship, citing every pretext imaginable to cast Islam itself in an un-American, and even sinister, light.

In numerous locations in America-from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Los Angeles to New York City- anti-Muslim activists are forming coalitions to drum up fear and revulsion for Muslims who attempt to establish new mosques and community centers, or expand existing facilities to better serve growing communities. Blatant fear-mongering is whipped up into a frenzy by forces that insist that Muslims seek to impose “Sharia” on Christians and Jews. Neighborhoods are mobilized by the suspicion that any Muslim organization seeking to build a mosque in league with foreign “extremist” or “terrorist” formations is seeking the ultimate destruction of the American way of life. This is not at all unlike the racist hysteria that pervaded many pre-integration white Southern communities, who trembled at the thought of “race mixing” and the contamination of the morals of upstanding white youth by ‘Negro” music.

This is certainly more than the free expression, by some, of their contempt for Islam as an “anti-Christian” religion. It indicates that there are some who will openly organize to prevent the “Islamization” of America (as they put it), and use both legal and extra-legal tactics to ensure that Muslim communities cannot expand.

There may be a tendency to see such groups as being extreme or politically marginal. But such an evaluation would be false. Already, “respectable” political and community leaders are coming out in increasing numbers to say, quite openly, that Muslims must be challenged and controlled. They have money, political will. and in some cases, the tacit support of mass media as allies in a new Crusade against Islam.

We may well insist that freedom of religion is a cherished civil right in the United States, and that assertion would be correct. But as history painfully teaches us, civil rights mean nothing without the organized commitment to defend them, and to build expanding alliances with other groups that are equally committed to this idea.

In the final analysis, the money that Muslims raise to build ornate mosques and community centers will mean nothing if we lack the legal, financial, and organizational means to defend our legitimate collective interests. MAS Freedom believes in the idea of “faith over fear, and justice for all.”

The great experiment in American democracy also teaches another lesson: there is a great cost for any community that challenges prevailing ideas that under gird racism, bigotry, and the demonization of the group by elements of the larger society.

Freedom is precious, indeed. But we must now collectively understand that freedom isn’t free.

Ibrahim Ramey

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Has President Obama Sold Out the People of Palestine?

If you paid any attention to the photographs and videos from the July 6th meeting between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, you could not help but notice Barrack Obama, smiling like a ten year old who just found a dollar in the street, as he talked about the commitment of the United States to the "security" of Israel.

Really? Why was Obama so ebullient in his praise of Netanyahu? I wonder what the consensus of public opinion might have been if our President had bothered to mention the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the housing demolitions in East Jerusalem, the invasive and destructive "security wall" that sliced up Palestinian villages and communities into powerless Arab Bantustans, and, most egregiously, the persistence of systematic economic warfare on the people of Gaza.

It is understandable that the Jewish people, having suffered the monstrous crime of genocide at the hands of the Third Reich, should have a fierce loyalty to the State of Israel. It is also logical that the people the United States should express deep concern for the protection of human life in Israel, as they should be concerned for any human community in the world.

But the plight of the Palestinian people, who are occupied and oppressed by Israel, is nothing to grin about. And that brings up another inconvenient question: Did Netanyahu walk out of his meeting with Obama with carte blanche to continue the occupation and expansionist policies of the Israeli government with almost total impunity, and with a blank check for continued U.S. military and economic support for his dirty deeds?

In the short term, President Obama may have looked at the political calculus of the U.S.-Israel relationship and concluded that the Democratic Party base of support from the pro-Israel community-in terms of both votes and money-necessitated his cuddle-up with Netanyahu.But in the longer term, such a gesture means even more trouble for the U.S., not only in the Arab/Muslim world, but among all people in the world who detest the violence of colonialism and human oppression.

Moreover-and we have General Petraeus to thank for this observation-the uncritical U.S. support for the Israeli regime gives legitimacy to militant anti-Americanism throughout the world, dis-empowers moderate U.S. allies in the Muslim world, endangers the lives of U.S. soldiers, and feeds the recruitment machines of the Taliban and Al-Queda.

In the final analysis, Obama's apparent submission to Netanyahu and the pro-Israel lobby will neither assure him of their political support, nor elevate his stature as a principled moral leader on the global stage. The survival of the Jewish state is not in question, but the protection of the human rights of the people of Palestine most certainly is.

This is, fundamentally, a question of whether America is willing to take a principled stand against blatant human oppression and the violation of international laws perpetrated by a U.S. ally. Our president has nothing to grin about concerning this matter, and neither do we.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Is the War in Afghnistan About Protecting Democracy, or Protecting Capital?

A lot of people in the United States may have missed this story, but in May, President Horst Koehler of Germany was forced to resign from his very visible (but largely ceremonial) position in the German Government. Why is this important? Simply because Herr Koehler was quoted as saying that Germany's military deployment in Afghanistan was done "to protect our (German) interests, such as preserving free trade routes or preventing regional instabilities, which are also certain to regularly impact our (German) ability to safeguard trade, jobs, and income."

President Koehler's statement infuriated a German public that had been led to believe that the German military presence in Afghanistan was essentially a "peace keeping" mission - not a resource war. The blunt honesty of these words were troubling to a nation that, while a vital part of the NATO alliance (and the third largest troop contingent in Afghanistan, after the United States and Great Britain), is committed (militarily, at least), to non-aggression. And all of this happened weeks before a huge news story announcing a geological finding of vast strategic mineral deposits in Afghanistan, which may be worth an estimated one to three trillion dollars, at current market prices. One of these minerals, Lithium, is vital in the alternative energy industry, while another, Niobium, is an essential component in the making of cellular phones.

And that is in addition to the vast deposits of Gold, Copper, Cobalt, and Iron!

Germans were troubled that one of their political leaders told them that foreign troops in Afghanistan are there for reasons related to markets, and not saving the country from the Osama Bin-Ladens of the world. But how would the American public react to the same statement if it had been made by President Obama- or General Petraeus?

If you begin to connect the dots, it becomes apparent that the war in Afghanistan is about much more than chasing the Taliban out of the country, or supporting the construction of "Democracy". It is certainly true that marauding bands of anti-modernist religious extremists are not conducive to the evolution of peace and popular rule in that nation. But it's also true that the enormous human and economic cost of the war in Afghanistan is about more than "Democracy" or "Freedom", which, in any case, cannot be imposed on people by outside invaders.

The United States has seemingly recovered from the effects of the recent "regime change" in the U.S. Afghanistan military command, concluding that General Stanley McCrystal deserved to get bounced after publicly dissing the President and virtually the whole U.S. national security team.

McCrystal's departure from the scene, and the entrance of General Petraeus, was a war management change. But there has been no serious national conversation about either morality (as in the killing of untold Afghan civilians), or motive (as in, what economic interests are on the table) as they relate to the mounting U.S. combat death toll or the growing sense that the United States, and its allies, aren't winning the war.

Germany has, admittedly, a smaller stake in this outcome than America: some 5,350 German troops will be in Afghanistan by August, and only 42 of them have died there this far. But the essence of former President Koehler's words are no less true for the United States than they are for the German people.

The political leadership in America doesn't like the terms "capitalism" or "imperialism" when used to define the policies of the nation. But if the Afghanistan deployment project is essentially about extending and protecting business interests and the control of resources, and not about defeating an insurgency. President Obama must explain that to this nation - and especially to the families of the 1,062 U.S. soldiers who were sent to die in Afghanistan because they were told something very different.

Ibrahim Ramey

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Standing With Muslim Youth-And Against Extremism

Five Muslim-American youth from Virginia, who traveled to Pakistan in 2009 and allegedly met with representatives of banned organizations, were convicted in a Pakistani court on June 23rd of conspiracy against the state, and funding a terrorist organization.

The youth-Ahmed Abdullah Minall, Aman Hassan Yemer, Waqur Khan, Umer Farooq, and Ramy Zamzam- all come from the northern Virginia area. They receive sentences of 10 years at hard labor in a Pakistani prison. None of them have previous histories of criminal activity or had expressed intentions, while in America, or any desire to support armed anti-American resistance activities while in Pakistan.

Prior to their sentencing, the young men claimed that they were victims of torture while in Pakistani custody and that the evidence presented against them in court by the prosecutors in the case had been fabricated.

But while these convictions were met with great concern and sadness from the Muslim-American community, they raise another serious issue: impressionable Muslim young men being swayed by the allure of militant anti-American “Jihadis”, and the consequence, for the young people, for their families, and most of all, for the entire Muslim community, are nothing short of disastrous.

There is evidence that these convictions will be appealed to a higher court in Pakistan, and many Muslims in the United States are hopeful that these young people will eventually be found innocent of these extremely serious charges. And, in fact, the U.S. wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan are opposed by a sizable portion of the Muslim population in this nation.

But many Muslim leaders also know that young men who struggle with feelings of alienation from American foreign policy, or who oppose the U.S. government collaboration with the Israeli occupation of Palestine, might be tempted into the kind of naive adventurism that would lead them to leave America and seek common cause with extremist groups.

MAS Freedom does support the right of appeal for the young men convicted in Pakistan, and we hope that all the relevant facts in their case will be brought to light. We are well aware that in the current political climate of “anti-terrorism” zeal, innocent people have been, and continue to be, unjustly accused of conspiracy against the U.S. government, or in this case, an American ally.

Now, at this critical moment in Muslim American history, we need to stand with our youth, and help them resist the temptation to take any actions that will only likely result in their imprisonment, or their death. Muslims do have legitimate issues that must be heard. But we should advocate for the political and social empowerment of our community, and especially of our youth, in ways that are both consistent with the morality of our faith and our adherence to the laws of the land.

All of us should pray and hope for the best for the five young Muslim men convicted in Pakistan. But we must also work seriously to implement the MAS vision of our “Straight Path” program that challenges injustice effectively, and without the possibility of the terrible consequences of unnecessary death or imprisonment that all too often lie at the end of those fateful, and fruitless, collaborations with the “enemies” of America.

Monday, June 7, 2010

U.S. Power Must Do the Right Thing for Gaza, Israel, and Humanity

As Israel continues to play plays the role of the playground bully in Gaza, the United States government is left to struggle with a profound political dilemma: should America keep arming and financing a nation that is rapidly becoming an international pariah, or should the United States demand a radical change in
Israeli policy and risk the extreme antagonism and backlash from the massive, and well-funded, pro-Israel lobby and political/media machinery?

There is, without a doubt, a price to be paid for doing the right thing and pressing for an end to the economic strangulation of Gaza. But the political calculus facing the Obama administration should also recognize that there are some major benefits in taking a different line with Tel Aviv on the question f the Gaza embargo.

1. Pressing to end the embargo would strengthen. America's image and prestige in the Muslim world. Remember how President Obama declared last June in his famous Cairo speech that American is not, and would never be, at war with Islam? Well, here's the perfect way to prove it. Muslims across the globe, and across the entire political spectrum, detest the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in general,and the people of Gaza specifically. If America truly cares about protecting the human rights of the downtrodden throughout the world, here is the one most politically salient one way to demonstrate it.

2. Stopping the embargo also protects the people of Gaza from the rise of armed extremists even more "radical" than Hamas. Despite their 'terrorist" designation by the State Department, Hamas is actually an elected government in Gaza that faces a rising challenge from smaller formations that are anxious to unleash even more rocket attacks and suicide missions against Israel. Those groups have not yet attracted a huge following in Gaza. But just last Summer, some 21 members of a radical group were killed by Hamas security forces in an attempt to create an Islamic "Caliphate" in Southern Gaza. Some observers foresee a scenario in which Hamas will, at some point, be unable to prevent even more armed retaliations against Israel.

3. Using U.S. power responsibly is an affirmation of the rule of international law over the paranoia of settler colonialism. Israeli claims that the interception of the Gaza- bound aid vessels( in international waters) was done in self-defense is, of course, bogus: motorized wheel chairs and text books aren't weapons. But the imposition of collective punishment by Israel on the civilian population of Gaza is, indeed, a violation of international law, under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Compelling Israel to stop would be a signal that the United States stands for the rule of international law, even when that rule puts the USA at odds with an ally.

4. A positive United States intervention in the Gaza boycott could be the catalyst for the growing nonviolent response, in both Palestine and Israel, to the conditions on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank. This might seem to be far-fetched, but what if U.S. naval vessels were to accompany future humanitarian aid flotillas,and "pre-inspect" the vessels to guarantee to Israel that they were not transporting weapons? I doubt that Israeli commandos would try to intercept American naval ships. And this action would send a overwhelmingly positive message to the global community. It would also serve to create more political space for the evolution of a different, non-violent possibility for the people of both Palestine and Israel.

The current United States position of arming Israel to the teeth and tacitly supporting Israeli settler colonialism and the immoral, and illegal, economic blockade of the people of Gaza (and all of Palestine) serves the rational interests of no one-not the people of Palestine, not the people of Israel, and certainly, not the people of the United States of America.

Indeed, it is possible ( I am ever the optimist ) that Palestinians and Israelis can co-exist in peace, with guarantees for the security and human rights for both national communities. all. But in order for this to ever happen, America must abandon its unilateral support for the Israeli actions that make peace and reconciliation virtually impossible, and that drive more Palestinians into the no-win position of endless, futile military confrontation with the Israeli war machine.

People of conscience and integrity, from Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Mairead Corrigan Maguire to Pope Benedict XVI, to the Secretary General of the United Nations, have called for Israel to end to the Gaza embargo. The European Union has done the same. None of them are anti-Semites or "Jew-haters".

Now, what is required, much more than the call for "caution" and "investigation", in the courage for the United States to break free from the pro-Israel lobby and do the right thing for international law, for peace, and ultimately, for all of humanity. AIPAC does not represent the Jewish people or, frankly, the real interests of the people of Israel.

The time for American political equivocation is over. The voices of suffering people are calling for the United States to stand with oppressed and suffering people for the sake of justice and peace. Are you listening, President Obama?

Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Sad and Tragic Memorial Day: May 31st, 2010

A Sad and Tragic Memorial Day: May 31st, 2010

I had planned, sometime last week, to write an essay for a different kind of Memorial
Day: a day that would commemorate not just American soldiers who have died in combat, but the countless civilian victims of American militarism as well.

It would have been a tribute to the unnamed Filipino, Vietnamese, Central American, Iraqi, Afghan, Somali, and other people who have died because American weapons, American proxy governments, American-equipped mercenaries, and American economic interests were responsible for killing them. It would have been, in my own voice, a witness against war itself, and a tribute to the lives of non-combatants who now constitute the great majority of victims of armed conflicts around the globe.

It would have been a call for a different kind of tribute-a tribute to those killed in war, regardless of nationality or faith or cause.

But the tragedy of the horrendous Israeli attack this morning on the civilians in the Free Gaza flotilla compels me to say more: that killing is not only a by-product of the U.S. war system, but a result of the spread of that system throughout the world.

Even though American fingers were not on the triggers of the Israeli weapons that killed the Free Gaza activists, the military power ad political cover provided to Israel by the United States is material factor in what Israel does in Gaza, and i all of Palestine.

The billion of dollars in military assistance that American has committed to back Israel was, without a doubt, an integral part of this assault, just as U.S.incendiary munitions and helicopter guns were strategically used by Israel to kill Palestinian civilians in the 2008-2009 war in Gaza.

Indeed, the government and military of Israel can continue their policies of economic warfare, occupation, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian areas because they have the backing of the world's greatest-and only-military superpower. We should all know this, and realize the complicity of the American people in maintaining a system that results in the killing of these-ans so many other-innocent people. There is nothing honorable about imperialism or colonial conquest.

The argument could be made that others in the world commit acts of brutality and murder against the innocent. That is indeed true. But that is no excuse for what is done by America, directly or though proxies., in the name of "democracy", or "freedom", or even the security of what is called our "national interests". The only "national interest" worth defending is universal peace and justice. What happened on the high seas to the activists aboard those ships was a crime.

So this is yet another Memorial Day. But rather than waive the colors of a flag that facilitates and orchestrates the killing of non-combatants-as all armies kill non-combatants-I will choose to remember and honor the unnamed millions of human beings who have died in wars that they took no part in starting, or prosecuting.

The most recent of these victims are the 20 or so peaceful activists killed by Israeli forces, in international waters, aboard ships filled with cargo to help make the lives of the people of Gaza a little brighter.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Speech at the International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World

In the Name of God, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful:

Friends, distinguished delegates, members of the international activist community, and leaders in the global struggle for the abolition of all nuclear weapons:

It is a great honor for me to stand before you today, as a person of faith and an advocate of nonviolence and disarmament, and to share with you some of my ideas about the relationship between the global movement for nuclear abolition and the central message of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have heard this great message, and we come from communities around the globe, to gather here. We are veterans of the direct actions at nuclear weapons test sites, and at the military bases from which these engines of mass killings might be launched. We have assembled to shut down the laboratories involved in senseless and immoral research to maintain the nuclear danger for the sake of paychecks for scientists, and more profit from the altar of the god of militarism that they serve.

I am aware, as are all of you, that a little more than 43 years ago, Dr. King stood at the pulpit of this very church to articulate his opposition to the U.S. war in Indochina. His prophetic words were heard then by many, some of whom wished that his message could have been limited to the realm of the fight for racial justice.

War has not yet been abolished, any more that economic injustice and racial oppression have ceased to exist over the last four decades of human history. But as I witness the sight of you-hundreds of my fellow abolitionists and nonviolent workers for the abolition of nuclear weapons- I am reminded that we are not here simply among each other; We, the living, are joined by a cloud of prophetic witnesses:

The lives of the hundreds of thousands of incinerated human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are here with us.

The untold victims of the horrors of radiation poisoning in the world

The generations of indigenous communities that are scarred and wounded from contaminated water, soil, and air are with us;

The children of Pakistan and India, and even Russia and China and the United States condemned to lives of brutal poverty and neglect because of the twisted priorities of militarism and the insanity of a continued arms race, are with us.

And the enormous spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. is with us as well.

We call to mind the words of our nation's most noble Apostle of Peace that we are, indeed, bound together inextricably in a garment of mutual destiny. Never before, in the history of human life on this planet, have so many billions of souls been inter-connected in a common destiny because of the single, transcendent threat of global annihilation posed by the intentional or accidental detonation of atomic weapons.

And indeed, it is more true now than it has ever been that our choice, as inhabitants of this fragile planet, is not the choice of violence versus nonviolence, but that of nonviolence versus nonexistence.

But while the moral imperative for abolition remains unchanged in the 42 years since the assassination of Dr. King, it behooves us to consider both how the specific nature of that threat has changed, and how the challenges facing us as a global abolition community have changed as well.

The old bipolar world of Dr. King's lifetime, dominated by Soviet and U.S. power has been radically transformed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, by the addition of new nation states to the nuclear weapons club, and by the proliferation of new generations of tactical nukes and the real, and growing, threat of the possession of these weapons by terrorists.

These complex new relationships and changing geopolitical realities require the same steadfast commitment to our unchanging vision of a world made safer from the threat of nuclear war. But these new challenges also compel us to re-examine our forms of organization and the way in which we convey our essential message to the world.

We acknowledge that the NPT was a major and positive step in the direction of the eventual abolition of all weapons, and that the evolving body of international law plays a central role in what must become a different, and more hopeful, future for our species and our planet.

Dr. King was aware of the need for new laws to govern the conduct of individuals and nations and the nations of the world, but changing laws, while necessary, is never sufficient. What was necessary for Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, and what is taught by great living moral teachers like the Dalai Llama and Daisaku Ikeda, , is nothing less that the moral re-education of global civilization itself, rooted in the great tradition of nonviolence.

The prize that we must continue to keep our eyes on is nothing less that the a compete spiritual transformation of the human community, and one that must be led not by governments or changing international agreements, but by civil society itself. And WE are that civil society!

What took place in the U.S. civil rights struggle, and what must continue to take place in our own work, is the passionate, relentless, and uncompromising struggle for the human soul, linked with the political and tactical wisdom that comes from our triumphs as well as our failures, and from recognizing which winds have shifted, and which continue to blow.

The social movement with which Dr. King is intimately connected is, of course, the movement for civil rights and racial equality in America. But that movement, in the most comprehensive and holistic sense, was a struggle that linked together an analysis of, and a response to, THREE forms of oppression: racism, economic class oppression, and militarism.

It is not possible to truncate King's analysis and conveniently pigeon-hole his vision into only one form of social protest, because all three of these evils are inseparable. And the lesson to all of us is clear: we cannot simply oppose nuclear weapons. We must be front-line activists in linking the issue of abolition to the broader issue of anti-militarism and opposition to the global war system itself, with a deep concern for racial and economic justice for the oppressed peoples of the earth.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fear of a Brown Planet: Some Reflections On the New Immigration Law in Arizona

The announcement of Arizona's latest push against "illegal" immigrants really did take most of us by surprise. Sure, there are ongoing tensions about the issue of undocumented workers streaming across borders in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas...or arriving by other means in other parts of the United States.

Yet few people outside the state had a hint that Governor Jan Brewer would sign a bill that literally puts most Arizonans of Latino origin in a separate racial category under the most severe legal scrutiny that one could imagine.

Indeed, the new immigration laws make it practically mandatory for law enforcement officers in Arizona to stop people who "look" to be Latino/Latina and compel them to produce documentation proving their immigration status. And this doesn't just mean persons being arrested for the suspicion of committing crime. It means , literally, anyone who, based purely on their race/appearance, is suspected of possibly being in the USA without proper documentation. And if the papers aren't produced, the suspect faces a fine of up to $2,500, a jail sentence of six months, and in the worst case, deportation.

( I presume here-and this is a generalization-that people of 'European" phenotype are unlikely to be presumed targets of the law.

But Latino organizations, and their allies across the racial line, are not taking this lying down. Numerous organizations, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Council for La Raza, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, are staging press conferences, mass rallies and marches in opposition to the new law. Allied civil rights organizations like the National Action Network have announced plans to bring masses of "Freedom Walkers" to Arizona, and march in the streets-without proof of citizenship-in open, nonviolent defiance of Governor Brewer's edict.

Muslim organizations, too, are not remaining silent about the issue, and political alliances between Muslim and Latino civil rights formations are already starting to take on a new sense of urgency.

Further, the economic consequences of the enforcement of the new law are likely to be sticky: There is even talk now that the law will make it harder for Arizona to generate revenue from foreign trade in the Americas, or to entice tourists from the region who will, no doubt, feel much less welcome in the state because of their ethnic identities. There will certainly be court challenges to the legality of this new legislation. Moreover, Arizona-like South Carolina a few years ago-is not likely to be a prime location for conferences and conventions of organizations representing people of color.

And the numerous Latino police officers in the state may well start to feel like the African township police who were enlisted by racist South African security forces to become a first line of defense of Apartheid.against true Black freedom. Ironically, some of them, while out of uniform, are likely to get the same racist treatment from white cops that they will demonstrate to their own brothers and sisters suspected of being in the US illegally.

But the real backlash against this move may well be felt at the ballot box in November, when mobilized Latino voters, and their allies, are certain to show their response in November, 2010 to Governor Brewer and the state legislature.

America does need massive immigration reform. But there is widespread sentiment among many of us that this law is a divisive, unjust, and morally indefensible way to go about it. This legislation amounts to the equivalent of a "Pass" law reminiscent of racist South Africa-or the treatment of Arabs and Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

The political Right-wing may see this as a cheap way to mobilize anti-immigrant passion in America and crystallize that sentiment into another political rock to be hurled against the Obama administration. But the obverse side of the coin means that Latinos, and many others, will organize as well.

The Tea Party cry of "vote the scoundrels out" may well come back to haunt the architects of this perfidious piece of color-coded legislation, as it breathes new oxygen into the growing fire of Latino political power in Arizona, and across the nation.

Immigration reform by discrimination and ethnic intimidation may appeal to crude xenophobia and even racial prejudice. But this sort of legislation is absolutely not the way forward.

Ibrahim Ramey

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Onward Christian Soldier, Part 2

Onward Christian Soldier, Part 2: The Reverend Franklin Graham Says:
"It's Time to Prey"

On May 6th, there will be a National Day of Prayer, with services held at the Pentagon and other
military facilities in the country. A number of Christian ministers have been invited to take part in the event, including the Reverend Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelist and son of the venerable and much respected Reverend Billy Graham, arguably the single most recognized minister in the Protestant Christian world.

So what's the big deal? Simply this: The younger Reverend Graham has gone on record as stating, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, that Islam is an "evil" religion, and he has apparently not changed this sentiment or retracted those words. At least one watch dog organization has objected to Rev. Franklin Graham's presence in the program and is demanding that he be dis-invited from speaking at the event.

This is not an essay intended to bash conservative Christians, or even to suggest that people who vehemently hate Islam ( and Muslims) don't have a right to the free expression of those ideas. After all, both freedom of religion and speech are individual, and even,sacred rights protected by our Constitution. But for the Pentagon ( or any other government institution) to invite participation from Rev. Graham, or any other person with belligerent and extreme views about a world religion of more than one and a half billion followers, raises serious questions about the sound judgment of officials entrusted with the defense of this nation.

I'll suspend my own judgments about the war system ( and the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) to make another observation: Muslim Americans in uniform are not the only people likely to be greatly offended by this invitation. Jews, Hindus, and other religious minorities in the armed services ( not to mention people with no defined religious creeds) may take exception to a Christian minister who excoriates another religion, while, presumably, his own religious community gets a free, and exclusive, pass to Heaven. Is there truly a "right" religion for the people of the United States? Is the conservative/evangelical interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus (Peace by Upon Him) the only correct way to view Christ? And are we prepared to endorse the idea that it is only Muslims who have ever committed abominable acts in the name of faith?

One wonders if Rev, Graham has ever heard of Auschwitz, or the Inquisition, or the numerous acts of barbarity and genocide committed by individuals and nations that did not profess to be Muslim. Or whether the Biblical commandment to "love thy neighbor" only applies to Christians with neighbors of the same religion.

I believe that prayer is a wonderful spiritual exercise, especially in a world that is so badly in need of peace and compassion. But sadly, that is not the form of supplication that we experience from Rev. Graham and his co-religionists. They, quite bluntly, appeal to the ideas and sentiments of religious bigotry and intolerance that cloak themselves in the mantle of self-righteous exclusivity. And calling Islam an "evil" religion will only appear to legitimize this intolerance in the eyes of many in this nation.

There are many, many, strong and principled leaders in the Body of Christ who would be more appropriate representatives of the Christian faith at this National Day of Prayer. Prayer can, indeed, uplift us all without casting aspersions on any single faith community.

Let's not allow Reverend Franklin Graham to ruin this day for any of us, as we search for the mutual respect and cooperation that should bind Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all religious understandings together.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Muslims are Here to Stay: A Reply to Brian Fischer and the American Family Association

Muslims Are Here to Stay: A Reply to Brian Fischer and the American Family Association

I've heard some bizarre, offensive, and wacky things said about Muslims in America, but the recent comments from Brian Fischer, the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, just about takes the cake: it seems as if Mr. Fischer is beneficent enough to feel that Muslims should be allowed to stay in America-but only if, as he says, we "renounce Islam, Allah, Mohammed, and the Koran (sic) so that "we can not only become good Christians, but true Americans".

Let me see if I have this right. Mr. Fischer thinks that Muslims must renounce our faith in order to become "good" Americans, although, last I heard, neither Christianity nor faith were requisite requirements for citizenship.

But it gets even deeper. Mr Fischer is quoted as saying that "the current objective of Muslim activists is to create a brand new Islamic state-meaning a state like New Jersey of Montana." Not California or Florida, Mr. Fischer? We're not demanding some sunshine and beachfront property as part of the deal?

It would be convenient to dismiss this latest rant as the product of a depraved, xenophobic mind. But that would be wrong, because a great deal of Evangelical Christians in America do listen to the pronouncements and opinions of the American Family Association, and presumably, their Director of Issues Analysis carries some clout in the formulation of the group's policies. So when a large Christian organization claims that Muslims must "convert" in order to be "allowed" to stay in America, Muslims-and anyone with a modicum of respect for religious freedom and pluralism-should wake up and take serious notice.

As a 16th-generation American citizen of African ancestry who accepted Islam in 1993, I might know a few things that Mr. Fischer and his friend seem not to be aware of: First, that Muslim are an authentic part of America, and that our roots in this nation go back even before the arrival of Muslim captives from Africa in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Second, that there is no "un-American" religion, and that Muslims have the legal and moral right to practice our religion freely, and without hindrance. And third, that peaceful religious co-existence and the mutual respect of religious differences are values that reflect the best of this society, and ones that are shared by a great majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others who make up the diverse mosaic of the American religious landscape.

There is no litmus test for the proper religious identity of a "good" American. But there certainly is a litmus test for xenophobic ignorance and intolerance, and sadly, Brian Fischer and company seems to fail it miserably. And if Mr. Fischer is looking for religious fanatics who threaten domestic tranquility in this nation, he might want to start with the nearly 1,000 identified American militia and racial supremacist groups-made up mostly of white, Christian men-who defy the legitimate authority of the U.S. government, and in some cases, take up arms or plot to attack it.

So, if it's all the same to you, Mr. Fischer, I think that I'll stay right here in the land of my birth. After all, my ancestors-all 16 generations of them-contributed both slave labor and underpaid labor to build this society, and in some cases, they fought fought to defend the best of this nation. The the current population of more than eight million Muslims in America includes some of the most brilliant and dedicated men and women who carry on that tradition of service to our diverse and plural nation. And we don't need the permission of anyone to be here. We will be here, with full belief in the Creator of the universe (Allah, Most Exalted and Glorified), His messenger Muhammad, and the sacred, revealed text of the Holy Qur'an.

The American Family Association may not want Muslims to be here. But while some men plan against Muslims, God plans for us to not only be present in this nation, but to thrive, serve, and lead here as well.

And God Almighty is the best of planners.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Cheer for the Nuclear Posture review-But Much More is Needed!

President Barack Obama's much-anticipated review on the future strategic role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. war arsenal, and in U.S. military planning, has finally been released. There is something in it for everyone, and some movement in a progressive direction. But there are still things that will need to be done if the United States, and the world, will ever achieve a state of the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons that President Obama has articulated as a goal.

The Nuclear Posture Review does state that the United States will become less reliant on strategic nuclear weapons for possible deployment against non-nuclear weapons states, even in the event of chemical and biological weapons attacks on the United States. This means, for example, that there will be no immediate funding for a new generation of smaller, "tactical" nuclear weapons like the B-61 "Bunker Buster" bombs that were contemplated for use against hardened underground targets in the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Further, there will be cuts in the overall U.S. nuclear arsenal, with corresponding reductions in the stockpile of Russian weapons (and, as I understanding, the de-alerting of some U.S. and Russian delivery systems, this reducing the danger of an accidental launch of these weapons.

But before any of us get caught up in false euphoria, there are some major issues that have not been resolved.

First, the U.S. government has not ended there is the persistent, and wasteful, funding of the tens of billions of dollars spent on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure in the form of the research and development laboratories in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Livermore, California, and other research and development centers in the United States. Additional billions are spent to maintain the aging nuclear weapons stockpile, and for the vast security apparatus needed to hopefully keep the weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

This $ 54 billion dollar expense (2009) to U.S. taxpayers is evident of the continued influence of the nuclear war establishment on the national defense budget, even when new policy directives call for a diminished role for the U.S. nuclear weapons "deterrent".

A second problematic issue is the fact that the Nuclear Posture Review doesn't address the issue of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in foreign nations. Where are these weapons actually located? And does their foreign-base deployment increase real security for this nation, or jeopardize that security in an increasingly volatile and violent world? On April 6th, for example, CBS radio News reported that "hundreds" of such weapons are located in Turkey, under joint Turkish-U.S. command and control.
But why is Turkey being used as a forward base for American nuclear arms?

But the most dangerous condition that remains in our world is the fact that, if the United States continues to develop new generations of nukes, even "smaller" ones-while threatening nations like Iran and North Korea over their respective nuclear development programs ( and ignoring the 200 or more Israeli warheads), there will be very little incentive for other countries to honor the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which comes under review later this Spring. Making strategic arsenal reductions is a positive development. But the acid test of President Obama's articulated vision of a nuclear-free world will be an American pledge to not only end the development of new nuclear weapons ( and their launch systems), but a commitment to honor the spirit of Article Six of the NPT and support the formulation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention that will compel all nations, as a principle of international law, to begin the process of creating a verifiable, universal abolition of nuclear all weapons.

The President deserves some accolades for moving the nation and the world in the right direction. It is important to reduce strategic nuclear forces, even if tactical nukes still abound. But the nuclear weapons "Hawks" and the corporations that profit so handsomely from manufacturing these weapons of mass annihilation, are still enormously powerful influences on the foreign and military policies of the United States.

The Muslim American Society Freedom (MAS Freedom) advocates for nuclear abolition as one of the twelve points in our 2008-2012 Legislative Agenda. Millions of other people throughout the world are ready for a world without these terrible weapons. We can only hope, and work for, the moral and political popular authority that will make future U.S. policy reviews real steps toward nuclear abolition.

Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey is also a founding member of the U.S. Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An April Day That I Truly Wish To See

An April Day That I Truly Wish To See

No illegal Israeli settlements?

No blockade of the people of Gaza?

And $19.19 sent to you from the State of Israel?

April Fool!

I'm playing a little on a really clever message that was sent today from the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, centered around the fact that U.S. taxpayers will send, per capita, $19.19 this year in foreign assistance to Israel. Much of it goes to underwrite the policies that build and maintain illegal settlements in the Palestinian Territory, and otherwise continue the Israeli policies that deny the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people.

Of course, it's April Fool's Day, the the release is meant in jest. But the continued oppression of the people of Palestine isn't funny at all.

It is also hardly funny that systematic human rights violations committed by Israel are paid for, in part, by money that you and I send to the United States government in the form of taxes. Our elected officials make a big deal-as they should-about the conduct of governments that brutalize, oppress, and otherwise beat down their citizens. But in the case of the Palestinian people, U.S. money is complicit in perpetrating the crimes that other nations are condemned for.

The good news, however, is that there is a rising tide of opposition- from the United Nations to the European Union to faith-based activists from all of the Abrahamic traditions- to the unchecked colonial policies of the Jewish State. It may be convenient to label Muslim critics of Israel as "anti-Semitic", but the canard is harder to stick on the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the head of the European Union.

And as for the tax money we send to support the occupation: It would be sweet if we got that $19.19 back as a rebate, and then sent it on the the let Gaza Live campaign created by MAS Freedom to support efforts to end the embargo of Gaza.

When that embargo ends-and it most certainly will- I will rejoice with the people of Gaza, and all of Palestine.

And that's no joke.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Should Rebels Rebel? Truth, Terror, and the Tragedy in Moscow

I am still not quite recovered from the shock of the horrific bombing of two Moscow subway
trains on March 29th, which killed at least 38 people and left scores more maimed and seriously
injured. Preliminary reports, while not complete or definitive, seem to suggest that the
attacks were carried out by two women bombers who might have been affiliated with separatist/
nationalist rebels in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The translation: the bloody conflict
between Russia and the majority Muslim territory of Chechnya is far from over.

Some "experts" have suggested that the bombings were done in retaliation for Russian
attacks on known Chechnyan nationalist leaders, or perhaps for the ongoing warfare between
the Chechnyan nationalist forces and Russia. Despite the perception that the Russian army
was victorious over the rebels, and that the rebellion has ended, the Moscow bombings would
suggest that the bitter warfare continues.

But we are left with the question of how a struggle for independence ( or autonomy) should-and should not-be carried out. And all of this now brings to mind the 19 years of bloodshed since the declaration of Chechnyan independence in 1991, which led to the deaths of some 15,000 Russian troops and perhaps 300,000 or more Muslim civilians in the territory.

My first response is that the slaughter of innocent civilians is simply unacceptable, whether for Muslims or for any human beings engaged in conflict. The consequence of the killings in Moscow will only be bad-bad for Muslims who will feel the iron fist of retaliation from Russia, and even worse for the prospects of an eventual resolution of the conflict itself. This renewed cycle of violence is likely to leave Russia more violently militarized, and thirsty for revenge, while innocent Muslims in the North Caucasus will suffer even more.

But my second response is even more pessimistic, because it involves the calculation that the political aims of the parties responsible for the carnage now cannot be heard over the din of the explosions and the cries for vengeance. from the Russian people.The people slaughtered on those trains in Moscow were not combatants. They were, most likely, ordinary working people, like the ones who ride Metro trains anywhere in the world. It is not definitely known that the attackers were Muslims, but the Russian and the international press have already branded them already as "Islamic terrorists".

The likely outcome of this will simply been more virulent hatred of Muslims in Russia, and more intransigence from Moscow on the question of peace and autonomy for the Muslim-majority areas in the old Soviet empire.

There are, no doubt, legitimate grievances that Muslim peoples have with the Russian Federation, and the issues have not been resolved in the least. But in my opinion, the way forward to justice, however justice is imagined, does not go through the path of terrorism and the murder of non-combatants. This is a lesson that the great Mahatma Ghandi taught the entire world, but sadly, it is a lesson that most of the world has forgotten.

Nonviolent direct action in the pursuit of justice is morally legitimate, and in the final analysis,
the best way for a righteous cause to win. Terrorism, which is contrary to the laws of God and all human rights norms, is not.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The "Other" Homegrown Terrorism-And The One You Should REALLY Be Afraid Of

The "Other" Homegrown Terrorism-And the One You Should Be REALLY Afraid Of

They carry guns. They scoff at the authority of their government.They are willing to
commit acts of violence kill in the name of an extreme religious ideology.

But are they Muslims? No. They are fundamentalist Christians who are armed, trained, and ready to carry out the most terrible of missions as "Christian warriors" under the command of "General Jesus". And they are incorrigibly opposed to Muslims, whom they believe to be the "Anti-Christ".

On March 28th, a band of nine of these soldiers for Jesus were arrested by federal authorities
in three separate raids in Oho, Michigan, and Illinois. A day later they were charged with conspiracy to kill police officers, although, not yet, conspiracy to murder Muslims.

But while one might be tempted to dismiss these Hutarees, as they call themselves ( the name means "Christian Warriors" in some undetermined language) as a few kooks with paramilitary fantasies, they are far from marginal, or alone: they represent just one fringe element among some 932 groups in America identified as extremists by the Southern Poverty law Center. And the ultra-Right is growing at an alarming rate: in 2009 alone, some 363 new groups of extremists came into existence in America, fueled in part by the election of a Black president
(whom most of these people consider to be not even a real American citizen) and the
changing demographic reality that is making Caucasian Americans a shrinking majority population.

But will federal agents infiltrate the churches that these Hutrees attend? Will they take their pastors into custody and interrogate them about their theological views concerning the Bible and Jesus? Will their friends and non-Hutaree family members, have their homes invaded and ransacked? Not likely. Because Christian reactionary extremism, whether armed or not, is not
taken as a serious threat to national security.

Muslims, though, certainly know what it is like to suffer the outrage of collective suspicion, and even collective punishment, for violent actions done in the name of Islam. Even when responsible Muslim organizations condemn extremism and violence, there are those-even in "respectable" political circles-who are quick to assign some conspiratorial blame to the entire community for the violent actions of a few. But despite nearly 1,000 such extremist groups that profess opposition to the policies and even the authority of the State, the Christian majority is not examined under the microscope of law enforcement.

Will prominent Christian pastors like Franklin Graham or T.D. Jakes feel compelled to appear on FOX News to explain that conservative Christians are not blood-thirsty gun nuts with racist motivations, or that Christians actually love the government even if a Black President leads it? No. Because the rules that collectively apply to Muslims do not apply to them, even when some of "them" are part of a reactionary, armed, and hateful fringe element.

Remember that, just a week ago, the "Tea Party" crowd converged on the House of Representatives and called African-American Congressmen "Niggers" while spitting on them. Well, the militia boys are worse, because they will spit out the verbal abuse while threatening to use their guns if the need arises for armed "self defense".

Conservative Christians are not compelled to apologize for the behavior of a minority of armed Christian extremists. The American Muslim community, long excoriated by the press and spied on by the national security apparatus, simply demands the same level of respect, and freedom from the odious stigma of collective guilt that Christians enjoy as a fundamental right.

Ibrahim Ramey