Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I'm not in a position to say much at all about the UN, but have some preliminary thoughts after reading his recent piece, "Kofi Annan's legacy of failure".
First off, the SG can only do what member states allow him to do. He has a mandate, and it is driven by the political will - or lack thereof - of member states.
Secondly, such scathing criticism of an international public servant is unwarranted simply by virtue of all that Annan has done to bring the cause of development and peace to the eyes and ears of the world's citizens. Never before has an SG done so much to bridge the great divide between the private sector and the public sector.
The Millennium Development Goals are yet another achievement worth celebrating, because at least now, countries are making the effort to eradicate this great scourge that has killed more people than any world war.
I could go on and on, but it upsets me to see all this criticism heaped on to the shoulders of someone who can only do so much. Maybe Gardiner's intellect can be better directed towards the deeds (or misdeeds?) of those in the Bush administration who would very much prefer to strangle the UN by threatening to withhold dues.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I look at many countries and mentally compare them to the way many Muslim countries function and work, and Russia seems to be one of the most oppressive countries that, in many ways, rivals the conditions in many totalitarian and/or authoritarian states the world over. I wonder why this aspect of Russia never gets the media coverage that could outrage average Americans. Ah! But then all that negative media coverage is reserved for the Muslim world :)
That aside, i'm struggling to take a bird's eye view of this whole matter, because the media frames the story so that it seems like a mystery where everything revovles around the protagnist and main characters, whereas the story really is all about the folks working behind the scenes. In my view, this death has been entirely orchestrated by the governments of Russia and the UK.
What surprises me more is that the public isnt asking the questions it should. How can such a highly radioactive substance even make its way into the centre of the city? How can people not sue their governments for exposing the public to this sort of harm? Is this situation not similar to nerve gas being spread through a train system? No one knows who did it, but people were still put in harm's way...
I am probably not making sense but I feel strongly about the fact that the public's voice is not being projected and that questions that merit answers are not being asked.
Moreover, the people who have been victims thus far were those who happened to be dissidents. They were rebels and had viewpoints that the Russian government despised. Litvinenko must have been a special target, being a supporter of the Chechen people. Many still do not know that he converted to Islam shortly before his death.
This article from the LA Times is comprehensive, but one portion stands out for me:
"He wanted to be buried in Chechnya when the war was over," said Vladimir Bukovsky, a well-known Soviet-era dissident who was exiled to Britain three decades ago.
"But he wasn't a religious man. It's ridiculous to talk about conversion. His last message from his deathbed was he asked God to forgive his enemies. That's not a Muslim sentiment. That's a Christian sentiment."
WHAT? This is ridiculous! Muslims are taught that forgiveness and mercy are superior to holding hatred in one's heart. Muslims are told not to hold grudges with others. As soon as I read that his last message was that he asked God to forgive his enemies, I thought "how noble. how honorable. That man probably went straight to heaven and died with peace of mind, if not physical peace".
Anyway, i'd like to see how this case progresses. May God bless Litvinenko's heart. The truth is out there...
Thursday, December 07, 2006
TIME Magazine recently published a very useful write-up on the plight of Arab women in the fourth installment of the Arab Human Development Report. Some eye-opening information that can potentially depress and frustrate, but also coupled with some very good news.
Some excerpts below:
The report traces the predicament of Arab women to the region's longstanding patriarchal traditions of protection and "honor" wrapped into tribal identity. The authoritarian regimes that emerged with Arab independence a half century ago have undermined liberal institutions and values that might have better encouraged women's rights and protected them under a rule of law.
Women's prospects are further weakened by regressive Islamic jurisprudence that effectively codifies discrimination against women. So entrenched has this discrimination become, the report notes, that hundreds of popular Arab proverbs scorn women for having "half a mind, half a creed, half an inheritance."
Despite its gloomy picture of the current state of affairs, the report does highlight the heroic efforts of many Arab women and their male supporters to remedy the situation, and the gains they have made. In particular, it credits Arab novelists and filmmakers for publicizing women's suffering and offering models of hope. But in its conclusion, "Towards the Rise" recognizes the huge obstacles that remain. Unwilling to leave reform to government or Islamic leaders, the report calls for a "widespread and effective movement of struggle in Arab civil society" — a social revolution, really — to advance women's rights.Such ideas that challenge the Arab world's patriarchal order will naturally meet fierce resistance. At the same time, they are sure to provoke debate throughout the Arab world. For the authors of "Towards the Rise" and the Arab women who take heart from their report, that will be a good first step but hopefully not the last.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Some notable points copied below:
According to the NCAER, a new socioeconomic category, the rural rich, has emerged in India, creating a divide within the rural economy, as opposed to just the rural-urban income disparity.
The rural rich are 1,000 times more likely than rural poor to own a motorbike, 100 times more likely to own a color television and 25 times more likely to own a pressure cooker.
Many observers have also said that the reason China has progressed much faster is due to state-led capitalism that makes decision-making quicker. In India, democracy is seen to be a stumbling block to higher growth. However, it seems that the pulls and pressures of various vote banks, social class and caste of voters - inherent in a democracy - has ensured that the growth is more equitable, which is a much more sustainable trajectory.
n China, farmers, who, like in India, form the majority of the population, pay 300 different kinds of taxes. Between the mid- and late 90s, rural citizens saw their taxes go up 800%, when farm incomes rose by 90%.
Thus the consumption share in China has declined from around 50% of GDP in the 1980s to below 40% in 2005, which is completely out of sync with the high GDP growth due to large investments and exports.
In China, rural incomes on average have been a sixth of urban incomes, while a villager usually pays three times more in taxes than an urban-dweller. According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, the reduction in the tax burden due to reform/abolition of rural income tax is more or less balanced by rises in rural taxes on land, asset sales and inheritance. There's been no net relief in the tax burden for rural Chinese.
Indeed, there is a definite trickle-down due to India's consistent 8%+ growth. There are other factors that have contributed to greater economic equity including employment created by large infrastructure development work undertaken by the government in rural areas.
Monday, November 27, 2006
in Fin-de-Siècle Palestine
A Mine Ener Memorial Lecture
Thursday, December 7, 2006, 6:30-8:30 pm
C Level (1 Floor below Main level)
The Graduate Center, CUNY
(365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th-35th St.)
Books will be available for purchase
For more info, view the flyer at
The popular image of the family in Muslim and Arab
societies is one which opposes modernity. This family
is often constructed as a patriarchal, extended and
unchanging social framework. Modernity, in contrast,
is seen as pertaining to new, rapidly changing,
rational, efficient, and flexible social institutions.
In this binary conceptualization, there is no room for
change: The family is represented as either
"traditional" or "modern." Fixed features are attributed
to each one of these two opposing family types, and
the passage between them is depicted as linear,
supposedly a "one-way ticket" from traditional to modern
patterns. Abandoning these stereotypes, Agmon analyzes
changing family patterns among the Muslim communities of
Jaffa and Haifa, the two flourishing Palestinian port
cities at the turn of the twentieth century. She examines
how innovations initiated by the Ottoman state affected
the vulnerable position of children, the gendered power
relations within the family, and the interaction between
the family and the emerging modern state.
Iris Agmon is Senior Lecturer in the Department of
Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University, Israel.
She received her Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem specializing in Ottoman social history.
Her articles have appeared in International Journal
of Middle East Studies, Islamic Law and Society, among
others. Her book, Family and Court:
Legal Culture and Modernity in Late Ottoman Palestine,
was recently published by Syracuse University Press.
"Using Information Technology to Fight Poverty: A Report from Brazil"
A talk by Rodrigo Baggio
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
at 8:00 pm
The New School
66 West 12th Street
The relationship between closing the digital divide and reducing poverty
has become increasingly clear. Social entrepreneur Rodrigo Baggio began
working on this concept 11 years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when he
founded CDI, the Committee for Democracy in Information Technology
(www.cdi.org.br). CDI began by opening information technology schools in
Rio's favela communities where it is extremely difficult to break the
cycle of poverty due to chronic lack of education and resources. CDI's
experience has proven that information technology is a powerful tool to
promote development and foster the social and economic inclusion of the
world's most marginalized populations. CDI students have gone on to
complete their education, find better jobs, open their own small
businesses and transform their communities. Today, there are over 900
CDI schools in eight countries. And more than a half million people have
benefited from CDI programs.
Rodrigo Baggio has been named by the World Economic Forum as one of 100
Global Leaders for Tomorrow and by Time Magazine as one of the 50
leaders in Latin America that will make a difference in the third
millennium. More recently, Baggio was invited to join the Strategy
Council of UN's new Global Alliance for ICT and Development and was also
named by the Principal Voices project (sponsored by CNN, Time and
Fortune) as one of the world's three leading voices in economic
development along with Jeffrey Sachs, head of the UN Millennium
Development Goals, and Muhammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh's Grameen
For more information, please contact GPIA at: 212-206-3524.
This event is open to all members of the University community.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
“Who speaks for Islam? Who speaks for the West?”
A panel discussion with:
- Munir Akram, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations
- Lisa Anderson, Dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs
- Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations
- Karen Pierce, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations
- M. Javad Zarif, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations
Moderated by Mustapha Tlili, founder and director of New York University’s Dialogues: Islamic World–U.S.–The West.
The Danish cartoon crisis, the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam, the escalation of violence in Iraq and Afghanistan — these are but a few recent examples of flash points between the Muslim and Western worlds. Five years after 9/11 we are clearly set on a troubling path, defined at the core by a mix of political and cultural issues. With tensions threatening to spiral out of control, what can be done to remedy the current situation? How can we re-inject mutual respect and understanding into the relationship between two great civilizations?
Participants will debate these questions and offer recommendations for charting a new course in Muslim world–Western world relations, focusing on the findings from the report of the February 2006 Dialogues conference, “Who speaks for Islam? Who speaks for the West?”
Wednesday, November 29, 2006, 6:30 — 8:30 pm
NYU’s Silver Center for Arts and Science, Jurow Lecture Hall, 100 Washington Square East, New York, New York
RSVP to 212–998–8693 or email@example.com by November 22, 2006.
Please note: non–NYU guests will be required to show a photo ID for admission.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
"I was horrified that a mother could be humiliated like that."
-CAROLINE BEER, 34, OF BURLINGTON, VT., WHO JOINED A GROUP OF ABOUT
30 PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN TO SIT IN FRONT OF AN AIRLINE COUNTER YESTERDAY IN BURLINGTON TO PROTEST THE TREATMENT OF A PASSENGER
WHO SAID SHE WAS KICKED OFF A PLANE FOR BREAST-FEEDING HER CHILD.
It reminded me of a similar situation that happened to some folks of Arab/Muslim descent just a few months ago regarding racial profiling and wearing t-shirts with messages. I am fairly certain I blogged about this earlier, but if not, Naeem Mohaiemen certainly has, and you can read a comprehensive overview of the issue here, at his blog, Shobak.
I wish people came out to support the cause of freedom of expression for other things as well, like civil liberties, human rights and social justice. But alas, those things are too touchy and sensitive. Who wants to go to jail over those things? Breast-feeding is symbolic of other things, and you get free media attention. Woohoo!
Honestly though, arent we horrified when our fellow human beings are humiliated as well? We should really take a stand on so many other things too. It's for our own good.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Now, in 2006, houses of worship are nothing but fancy buildings that can be rebuilt, replaced by luxury condos or office buildings. The same happened in Iraq. When Iraq's museum was destroyed, I couldnt help but think what must have ensued after the first looter broke in. How much must he have made off that sale? Where might that item be today? In a museum in London? Paris? In a rich aristocrat's home? Does that looter beam with pride? Does the owner of the piece beam with pride?
Who cares! It's but a piece of yesterday; of history. A place we will never know, and one we have surely never seen. What a terrible tragedy. With the destruction of the mosque comes a loss to our collective heritage. Now visitors will go to the place where this ancient mosque once stood and think: "what if"....
Some excerpts below:
Israel’s military strikes on the town of Beit Hanun in Gaza, which left 19 Palestinians including women and children dead, have also destroyed a 766-year-old mosque.
In a statement to the U.N. Observer website, the imam of the An-Nasr Mosque in Beit Hanun, Sheikh Sihda Abu Zreyk said that the mosque, which was established in 1240, was completely destroyed during the Israeli operation.The targeting of places of worship during military operations is considered to be a war crime according to the 16th article of the Geneva Convention. Israel’s destruction of the mosque has revealed another aspect of the Israeli occupation in Palestinian territories.
She has done just that in this article published in The Guardian (a British newspaper), on veiling. Before you roll your eyes on the topic she writes on, keep in mind that she was once a nun in England and has no link with that past. The article is especially interesting because of the debate going on in Europe on the whole notion of veiling, the type of veil that should be taken and where and when it should be taken.
Thanks God for American religious freedom!
Some excerpts pasted below:
I spent seven years of my girlhood heavily veiled - not in a Muslim niqab but in a nun's habit. We wore voluminous black robes, large rosaries and crucifixes, and an elaborate headdress: you could see a small slice of my face from the front, but from the side I was entirely shielded from view. We must have looked very odd indeed, walking dourly through the colourful carnival of London during the swinging 60s, but nobody ever asked us to exchange our habits for more conventional attire.
When my order was founded in the 1840s, not long after Catholic emancipation, people were so enraged to see nuns brazenly wearing their habits in the streets that they pelted them with rotten fruit and horse dung. Nuns had been banned from Britain since the Reformation; their return seemed to herald the resurgence of barbarism. Two hundred and fifty years after the gunpowder plot, Catholicism was still feared as unassimilable, irredeemably alien to the British ethos, fanatically opposed to democracy and freedom, and a fifth column allied to dangerous enemies abroad.
Today the veiled Muslim woman appears to symbolise the perceived Islamic threat, as nuns once epitomised the evils of popery. She seems a barbaric affront to hard-won values that are essential to our cultural identity: gender equality, freedom, transparency and openness. But in the Muslim world the veil has also acquired a new symbolism. If government ministers really want to debate the issue fruitfully, they must become familiar with the bitterly ironic history of veiling during the last hundred years.
In the patriarchal society of Victorian Britain, nuns offended by tacitly proclaiming that they had no need of men. I found my habit liberating: for seven years I never had to give a thought to my clothes, makeup and hair - all the rubbish that clutters the minds of the most liberated women. In the same way, Muslim women feel that the veil frees them from the constraints of some uncongenial aspects of western modernity.
They argue that you do not have to look western to be modern. The veiled woman defies the sexual mores of the west, with its strange compulsion to "reveal all". Where western men and women display their expensive clothes and flaunt their finely honed bodies as a mark of privilege, the uniformity of traditional Muslim dress stresses the egalitarian and communal ethos of Islam.
Muslims feel embattled at present, and at such times the bodies of women often symbolise the beleaguered community. Because of its complex history, Jack Straw and his supporters must realise that many Muslims now suspect such western interventions about the veil as having a hidden agenda. Instead of improving relations, they usually make matters worse. Lord Cromer made the originally marginal practice of veiling problematic in the first place. When women are forbidden to wear the veil, they hasten in ever greater numbers to put it on.
In Victorian Britain, nuns believed that until they could appear in public fully veiled, Catholics would never be accepted in this country. But Britain got over its visceral dread of popery. In the late 1960s, shortly before I left my order, we decided to give up the full habit. This decision expressed, among other things, our new confidence, but had it been forced upon us, our deeply ingrained fears of persecution would have revived.
But Muslims today do not feel similarly empowered. The unfolding tragedy of the Middle East has convinced some that the west is bent on the destruction of Islam. The demand that they abandon the veil will exacerbate these fears, and make some women cling more fiercely to the garment that now symbolises their resistance to oppression.· Karen Armstrong is the author of Muhammad: Prophet for Our Time
NEW ENROLLMENT OF FOREIGN STUDENTS IN THE U.S. CLIMBS IN 2005/06
Overall Foreign Student Numbers Stabilize, Ending Two-Year Decline
India's student total in U.S. drops but remains #1; Korea's student total up 10%
USC remains top host university; California remains top host state; New York sees large increase
In 2005/06, the number of international students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions remained steady at 564,766, within a fraction of a percent of the previous year's totals, according to Open Doors 2006, the annual report on international academic mobility published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This marks the seventh year in a row that America has hosted more than half a million foreign students, with a peak of 586,323 three years ago followed by declines of 2.4% and 1.3% in the past two years. The new Open Doors report shows total international student enrollments that are virtually flat compared to the previous year, along with a rise in new international enrollments for 2005/06, suggesting that international enrollments have stabilized and are poised to rebound.
A new analysis included in Open Doors for the first time shows colleges and universities reporting an 8% increase in new enrollments for 2005/06, with 142,923 newly enrolled students in Fall 2005, compared to 131,945 the previous Fall. A more recent on-line survey which IIE conducted jointly last month with seven other national higher education associations to provide an early snapshot of Fall 2006 enrollments shows 52% of U.S. campuses reporting increases in new enrollments for Fall 2006, and only 20% reporting declines (28% reported no change). (See www.opendoors.iienetwork.org for details.) These findings, together with a report from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs showing a strong rise in the number of student visas issued in the year ending September 2006, indicate that foreign student numbers are increasing in the current academic year.
For the fifth consecutive year, the University of Southern California remains the U.S. campus with the largest international student enrollment, with 6,881 international students. Columbia University moved up from fourth to second place with 5,575 international students. The 2005/06 top five host institutions - all perennially popular destinations for international students -- are rounded out by Purdue University (moving up to third place from sixth), New York University (up one place to #4), and the University of Texas at Austin. Each of these top five host campuses reported an increase in the total number of international students this year. Open Doors reports that 142 U.S. campuses each hosted more than 1,000 students. (For the lists of top host institutions by Carnegie type, see www.opendoors.iienetwork.org.)
Friday, November 10, 2006
Pakistani visitors highest spenders in UK
LONDON, Nov 9: Pakistan may be earning a lot of notoriety in the UK these days because of the criminal doings of some British citizens with roots or connections in the troubled South Asian country, but as visitors the Pakistanis are said to be the highest average spenders per visit in Britain.
According to a news report published in the Evening Standard on Wednesday visitors from Pakistan have made the highest average spending per visit at £1,697. Visitors from Belgium had the lowest average spend per trip at £203.
The report suggests that a record number of visitors came to the UK despite the terror and disruption caused by the 7/7 bombing.
The number of trips made by overseas visitors reached 30 million for the first time last year — 2.2 million more than in 2004.
The visitors spent a record £14.2 billion, according to the Office for National Statistics.
London was the most popular destination. Just over half of all visitors to the UK spent at least one night in the capital.
However, the effect of the July 7 terrorist attacks was noticeable in a quarterly breakdown of the figures.
The January-March figure was up 13 per cent on 2004, while April-June was up 12 per cent. July to September's increase was only 4.2 per cent, while the figure for October-December was up by only 4.3 per cent.
The record figure was achieved despite a dip in the number of North American visitors last year — down three per cent to 4.2 million.
This is a trend felt worldwide. American tourist numbers have still not recovered following the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. The UK's total last year was 13 per cent down on the figure for 2000.
But visitors from the US still made their presence felt, spending £2.4 billion, more than those from any other country.
The statistics also showed the expansion of the EU led to a big increase in visitors last year from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Last year, overseas visitors stayed an average of eight nights in the UK and splashed out £57 per day, or £471 per visit.
Most trips to the UK were short, with 43 per cent of visits lasting one to three nights.
The most popular place outside London to stay overnight was Edinburgh, followed by Manchester and Birmingham.
The ONS also revealed that UK residents made a record 66.4 million visits abroad — four per cent up on 2004 — and spent a record £32.2 billion — six per cent more than in 2004.
Faculty Chair Funding To Promote Understanding Of The Contemporary Faith
November 10, 2006
Courant Staff Report
This is the largest gift from the Muslim community in the history of Hartford Seminary, said David S. Barrett, director of public and institutional affairs at the seminary. The largest gift ever received by the seminary was $6 million in 1997, he said.
The donation, announced by the seminary Thursday, will be used to fund a faculty chair bearing the title of professor of contemporary Islamic studies. The donor, Ali Bayram, a Turkish scholar and representative of the Muslim community made up of followers of Turkish theologian and religious leader Fethullah Gülen, said he hopes the chair will help in the understanding of contemporary Islam.
"For many unfortunate reasons, Islam has been greatly misunderstood," Bayram stated in a release issued by the seminary. "Neutral scholarly knowledge on Islam is missing from the discussion and not highlighted."
A key aspect of the gift is that, in accordance with Islamic principles, it may not be invested in companies or funds that are based on the sale or promotion of alcohol, gambling or tobacco.
Hartford Seminary houses the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations. The chair will be housed in the Macdonald Center to enhance its program.
The seminary has worked with the Gülen community for many years. The community, which condemns violence in the name of Islam, has several students studying at the seminary, and has had scholars come to the seminary for sabbatical work. Its followers favor modernism, tolerance, dialogue and democracy without sacrificing religious precepts.
"The study of Islam is especially important in these difficult times, and this gift will allow us to offer precedent-setting research and teaching on contemporary Islam as it is lived out in the world today," said Hartford Seminary President Heidi Hadsell in the release.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
For Muslims in the United States, it's the American way
A growing Islamic elite channels grievances into political capital
CHICAGO: Amid copies of the Koran and Arabic calligraphy, a small American flag sits on a table in a corner of Ahmed Rehab's office at the Council on American-Islamic Relations here.
"I am proud to be American, and I really mean that," said Rehab, who as executive director of the council's Chicago branch spends his days handling civil rights complaints from fellow Muslims. "I'd rather be a Muslim in America than anywhere else."
At first glance, such patriotism appears paradoxical. The United States led the invasion of Iraq and passed the Patriot Act. It was here that the war on terror was dubbed a war on "Islamo- fascists." But, for now at least, the violent backlash is in Europe, not America.
The Sept. 11 attacks of five years ago have galvanized efforts by a small but growing elite of Islamic intellectuals and young activists to find their voice and carve out an identity that is as American as it is Muslim.
"It's one of the ironies of the post- 9/11 world: the pioneers of a Western Muslim identity are here, in America," said Eboo Patel, 30, executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core and an adjunct professor at the Chicago Theological Seminary. The attacks, he said, "forced the community to stand up for itself and to think hard about what it means to be a Muslim in America in the 21st century."
There is surely no shortage of tension in Muslim America. Some experts say the United States is becoming more like Europe, with the arrival of poorer, less educated Muslims in recent years and a rise in feelings of suspicion toward religious Muslims. Others warn that a future generation of homegrown terrorists might arise from radicalization within the prison system or "sleeper cells" implanted by Al Qaeda.
But for now, the fears and frustrations in the community are being channeled in ways that are strikingly different from those that have made headlines across the Atlantic - suicide bomb attacks in London in July 2005, rioting across France a year ago.
Muslim Americans are doing what minorities here have done before them - turning their grievances into political capital and staking out territory in the nation's vast landscape of interest groups.
Over the past five years, advocacy groups and interfaith initiatives like Rehab and Patel's have gained momentum. The children of Pakistani doctors, Palestinian businessmen and Iranian engineers are going into law, public policy and public administration, said Zahid Bukhari, director of the American Muslim Studies Program at Georgetown University in Washington.
"You have to get into the political institutions," said Umar Abd-Allah, resident scholar at the Nawawi Foundation, an educational charity in Chicago. "It's always worked like that in America. When a minority becomes identified with the enemy, they fight back and become assimilated."
Meanwhile, within the Islamic community, second-generation Muslims have begun asking tough questions on subjects from women's rights to homosexuality, challenging immigrant imams who see Islam through the cultural prism of their countries of origin - and who still control most mosques.
Humaira Basith, 32, a second-generation Indian Muslim, and her husband, Edmund Arroyo, 31, a Mexican-American who converted to Islam, stopped going to the neighborhood mosque in their western Chicago suburb three years ago because they were fed up with politicized sermons and rules that made women and men pray separately.
Along with five like-minded friends, they set up a Muslim foundation to sponsor American-style social events, like movie night and father-daughter camping trips. With a monthly income stream of $3,500, the Webb Foundation, named after a 19th-century American convert, is now seeking to rent a space that can house a secular library and coed prayer room. Eventually, the group hopes to build an "American mosque."
"We want to be able to worship and socialize as a family unit," Basith said. "We want our children to grow up to identify as Americans as well as Muslims."
Basith is a real estate broker and founding host of Chicago's Radio Islam; her husband is a counselor at a local school. Their friends are lawyers, computer scientists and teachers; they include a second-generation Syrian, a Pakistani-Filipino and an American convert to Islam. All hold college degrees and live in middle-class suburbs.
Unlike European Muslims, many of whom are stuck in poor neighborhoods with chronic unemployment, U.S. Muslims are both wealthier and more educated than many Americans, research has shown. They graduate from college at more than twice the average national rate, with half earning an annual household income of at least $50,000, a survey by Georgetown University showed in 2004 - some $3,000 more than the median household income nationwide suggested by the 2004 U.S. Census. They are also more ethnically diverse than Muslims in Europe.
More important, perhaps, this country's estimated six million Muslims blend into the religious and ethnic landscape more easily than their 15 million European counterparts, and not just because there are fewer of them.
"Being an immigrant and organizing around faith is part of the American experience - it's part of our national identity," Rehab said. "It's much harder to fit into a more homogeneous and secular bloc, like Europe."
European concerns - about mass immigration and national identity, about the colonial past, about secular values - are focused on Muslims. While America has similar concerns, they are spread out over various groups: Mexicans are associated with illegal immigration, blacks with the struggle against slavery. Religious conservatism poses little problem in a country that is itself deeply religious; the debate in Europe over the Muslim head scarf, for example, has not crossed the Atlantic.
"The unease with Islam is fundamentally different in the United States and Europe," said Olivier Roy, a French expert on Islam. "In the U.S., it's essentially a security issue. In Europe, it's deeper: There is the idea that Islam itself represents a threat to Europe's identity."
The United States does not share Europe's long history of clashes with Islam, beginning with the Crusades. Instead, it has a form of indigenous Islam that is unique in the West: African- American Muslims who trace their line of belief back to the arrival of the first West African slaves in the 16th century.
Increasing numbers of white converts also help bridge the gap with non- Muslim Americans. Abd-Allah grew up a Protestant in Nebraska. The Islamic Society of North America recently chose Ingrid Mattson, 43, a former Catholic from Canada, as its head.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is a white, Christian-born Californian with a neatly trimmed goatee. He wears a smart shirt and flannel trousers and jokingly refers to Bob Dylan as "Imam Bob."
Shaykh Hamza is a prominent proponent of an American Islam free of politics and anachronistic culture. He likes to tell how, when he converted as a student, he had to choose which Islam to embrace - Sudanese, North African, Pakistani - and to change his name accordingly. This is no longer necessary.
"We have an indigenous leadership that has emerged in the last 10 years, and that helps develop an indigenous culture of Islam," he said. Next year, his Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California, will launch a master of arts program in Islamic Studies with an option to qualify as an imam, the country's first such program run by nonimmigrants, he said.
With scholars like Hamza, Abd-Allah and Mattson shaping the debate and training future leaders, said Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core, the United States could become a model for Muslims elsewhere, especially in Europe.
Others are less optimistic. Congress has already issued warnings about radical imams in prisons and "Future Jihad," a book by Walid Phares, a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University, argues that Al Qaeda is working hard to establish sleeper cells in the United States.
Meanwhile, cases of hate crimes and discrimination surged almost 30 percent in the United States last year, Rehab said. A survey by the University of Illinois, published in August, shows that the income of Muslims and Arab non- Muslims has fallen since 9/11.
American Muslims worry about anti- Islamic rhetoric used by some on the Christian right, and see the younger generation growing up in the post-9/11 climate.
Perhaps the biggest wild card is another terrorist attack. "Things could still go wrong for America," said Bukhari of Georgetown. "If another 9/11 happened, things could get very bad."
Friday, November 03, 2006
New York Diary : Out of sight, out of mind?
This past week, I have been on one emotional rollercoaster after another. While such rides are usually exhilarating and exciting, they leave one drained of much-needed energy and sometimes even dazed and confused. Such moments are seldom and far in between, and so one would think that they are a pleasant surprise. Not in my case.
Some excerpts of the full article from the British newspaper "Guardian" below:
Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.
The survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country.
s a result, Mr Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Mr Bush.
The US leader and close ally of Tony Blair is seen in Britain as a more dangerous man than the president of Iran (62% think he is a danger), the North Korean leader (69%) and the leader of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah (65%).
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Event: THE TREATY OF NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION (NPT) THEORY vs. PRACTICE: THE CASE WITH IRAN - 11/13
Center for International Research, Understanding and Security presents
THE TREATY OF NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION (NPT)
THEORY vs. PRACTICE: THE CASE WITH IRAN
Monday, November 13th, 2006: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Altschul Auditorium, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA),
Since 2003 reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have indicated that there is no indication of undeclared materials or of a nuclear weapons program by Iran. On April 28th, the IAEA released its report on Iran: “the Agency cannot make a judgment about, or reach a conclusion on, future compliance or intentions.”
The United States, has been accusing Iran of trying to develop Nuclear weapons and Iran has been insisting that its intentions are peaceful and that it is only interested in peaceful use of the nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Iran asserts its inalienable right under the NPT to nuclear technology and is now being threatened with a UN Security
Council resolution under article 7 with economic, political and diplomatic sanctions, including military strikes by the U.S. if it does not abandon uranium enrichment.
With Iraq and Afghanistan in chaos do we need a new confrontation in the Middle East? What is it about Iran that US finds so threatening? What are the real reasons and motives behind US accusations? Are we reliving Iraq all overagain? What is the difference between Iran and other countries such as: Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Pakistan, India, France, UK, US, China and Russia? Which one of these countries has abided by the NPT treaty?Speakers
Dr. Javad Zarif,Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Zarif has spent a total of 12 years at Iran’s Mission to the UN. In the past two decades, Ambassador Zarif has played an active role in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Most recently, he was appointed by the UN Secretary-General as a member of the Group of Eminent Persons on Dialogue among Civilizations. He has also served as chairman of numerous international conferences including the Asian Preparatory Meeting of the World Conference on Racism, the UN Disarmament Commission, Political Committee of the12th Non-Aligned Summit in Durban, and the OIC High-Level Committee on Dialogue among Civilizations. Ambassador Zarif serves on the board of editors of a number of scholarly journals and has written extensively on disarmament, human rights, international law, and regional conflicts. Scott Ritter, Former United Nations Special Commission weapons inspector. Before the United Nations Mr. Ritter served as an officer in the U.S. Marines and as a ballistic missile advisor during the first Gulf War. He is the author of many books including, Iraq Confidential and Target Iran.
Moderated by: Massy Homayouni Center for International Research, Understanding and Security
Co-Sponsored by: The Arab &Iranian Students Association, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).
COME SEE WHAT THE NEWS MEDIA
DOESN’T SHOW YOU…
Our campuses are overflowing with literature and speakers about the Middle East conflict. But all too often, people and groups spend their time fighting for sole ownership of history and suffering or choose to stand up for their ‘side’ by attacking ‘the other.”
We’ve heard endless lectures and seen editorials from politicians, professors, advocates and others. We know the frustrations and critiques, but what do average Israelis and average Palestinians really think? Do they want to end the conflict? Are they able to compromise?
Leading OneVoice youth activists Palestinian Aya Hijazi and Israeli Yosef Kedmi will be speaking with YOU, their U.S. counterparts, throughout the New York area during the week of November 6th through 12th, galvanizing support for their work in the Middle East and giving young people the opportunity to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Yosef and Aya will use their personal experiences to shed light on several key questions: Is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict intractable? Can mainstream Israelis and Palestinians actually agree on what they want the future of their region to look like? What is the current pulse of the young generation and what are they doing to make a difference?
Refreshments will be provided!
Town hall meetings will take place across the New York area:
Sunday 11/5 10am Private brunch Westchester, NY
Monday 11/6 12pm Cardozo Law School 55 5th Ave at 12th Street Room 423
Monday 11/6 6:30pm NYU Wagner School of Public Service Puck Building 295 Lafayette
Tuesday 11/7 12:30 Baruch College 55 Lexington Ave at 24th Street Room VC 10-150
Tuesday 11/7 7:30pm Stony Brook College Student Activities Center Auditorium
Wednesday 11/8 1:30pm Hunter College West Building 68th and Lexington Ave Room 415
Wednesday 11/8 8pm Rutgers NJC Lounge at Douglass College
Thursday 11/9 12pm CUNY Location TBA
Thursday 11/9 6pm Columbia University SIPA International Affairs Building, Room TBA
Friday 11/10 8pm Brit Tzedek V’Shalom Young Adults meeting at The Olive Press, Park Slope
Sunday 11/12 OneVoice meets with Jewish and Muslim communities in Rochester, NY
Sponsors across North America include: Americans for Informed Democracy, Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, American Task Force on Palestine, the Arab American Institute, Hillel, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, the Union of Progressive Zionists, and National Jewish Campus Life/UIA Federations Canada.
For more information on these or other events, contact -
Miriam Asnes: Miriam@OneVoiceMovement.org, 212 897 3985 ext.124; mobile 617 775 6427 or
Jake Hayman: Jake@OneVoiceMovement.org, 212 897 3985 ext.122; mobile 917 701 8726.
The OneVoice Movement is a mass grassroots movement in the Middle East that empowers moderates to stand up against extremism and to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution. For more information, please go to www.OneVoiceMovement.org.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
|Breakthrough's 2006 Benefit Gala|
| November 10, 2006 || Greetings! |
Countdown to the benefit! If you haven't already, do send in your check or buy your tickets online. We can only accommodate table seating requests if we get your payment in on time. Donations of any amount would also be welcome.
Thanks so much,
| Let's Breakthrough Together! |
A benefit for building human rights culture
6:30 pm Cocktails
4 West 37th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York 10018
For table sponsorships, please contact Ellen Luo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Dubai tours offer positive view of Islam
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - With tensions high between the Western and Islamic worlds, Dubai's leaders are trying to help with an unusual new form of tourism in this Gulf Arab boomtown best known for shopping and sunbathing.
Dubai's leader, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is funding mosque tours for Western visitors that aim to clear up misconceptions about Islam, especially that the religion condones violence. The ultimate goal is defusing strains between Muslims and Christians that rose after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and the war in Iraq.
The hope is that tourists can spread understanding of Muslims in their home countries.
"They are our messengers," said Abdallah bin Eisa al-Serkal, a 40-year-old real estate salesman who moonlights as director of the Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.
The tours of Jumeirah Mosque have grown over a decade from irregular gatherings of a dozen people to five-times-weekly tours of a hundred or more.
Now, the government-linked center wants to expand inside the United Arab Emirates and beyond with an eye on the more than 1 million Westerners, mostly Europeans, who visit every year.
It has budgeted $2.7 million for a multimedia center devoted to Islam and Arab culture at the mosque. The center is also expanding tours to seven more mosques in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates.
On a recent Sunday, about 100 Western tourists reclined on perfumed carpet under the soaring dome of the Jumeirah Mosque to listen to al-Serkal describe the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims, with references to common themes in Judaism and Christianity.
He explained the idea behind Ramadan fasting — sacrificing things you like — and demonstrated Muslim prayer technique: standing, bowing, kneeling, sitting and then pressing his forehead to the carpet.
Then he revealed the contents of his prayers. Standing, he cleared his mind of anything related to work. Kneeling he recited a bit of the Quran. Prostrate, he whispered "glory to God in the highest." And sitting he prayed for his parents.
Tourists had plenty of questions, asking about the differences between Sunni and Shiite sects, and between Christianity and Islam, as well as Islam's problem with violent extremists. Two of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were from the Emirates.
Briton Steve Smith, 53, who works for the London Underground train system, said al-Serkal's message didn't explain how suicide bombers could use Islam in 2005 to justify killing 52 commuters.
"This message is all peace and happiness. As an English person I see the bad side of it. How can you equate one with the other?" Smith asked.
Al-Serkal said Muslim lands suffer from extremist "psychos and crazy people."
An American woman asked why men and women worship separately. Al-Serkal responded by separating men and women on opposite halves of the mosque and aligned them shoulder to shoulder, like Muslims at prayer.
He asked a Belgian man, "If a strange woman has her shoulder pressed against yours, are you going to be able to concentrate?"
"No," the Belgian replied.
Separating men from women prevents distractions, al-Serkal said.
It isn't just tourists who seek answers about Islam in Dubai. The Jumeirah mosque recently hosted 180 U.S. Navy sailors and an American businesswomen's group.
The center has managed to turn its Ramadan fast-breaking dinners into a vogue event for Western diplomats and dignitaries.
Eventually, the center wants to open branches in Europe and North America. Al-Serkal stressed that he wants only to improve the West's view of Islam, not chase converts.
Al-Serkal's message did make some headway. Belgian Lode De Busscher, 43, and his Slovak wife Zdenka Ochodnicka, 33, said they now questioned their "very negative" opinions of Muslims in Belgium.
Ochodnicka said she was scared when arriving in Dubai seeking women veiled and men in traditional Arab robes. After a few days, she realized Dubai was safe and that her negative impressions stemmed from television.
"When anything is Muslim, it's automatically negative," Ochodnicka said. "Maybe it shouldn't be that way. That's why I'm glad I came here. Now I'm open to this."
please join the peace education center for this FREE public lecture
the FINAL in our series on “educating for global peace”
EDUCATING FOR PEACE AT THE LEVEL OF OUR DEEP HUMANITY
Lloyd Professor of Peace Studies and World Law, Antioch College; Visiting Professor, School of International Service, American University; Co-founder and current President, Global Education Associates
Saturday, November 4. 1-3pm
Location: The Riverside Church (room 411 MLK) Click here for directions
RSVP KINDLY REQUESTED (not required) send to: email@example.com
”Warfare and strife show no signs of abating. . . . if education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of humanity’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind? Instead, we must take into account a psychic entity, a social personality, a new world force, innumerable in the totality of its membership, which is at present hidden and ignored” (Maria Montessori)
It is not the illiterate and unschooled who wage wars and genocide; more often it is those with rational and technical know-how who but who lack commensurate affective, ethical, and spiritual development. This presentation seeks to respond to the question: How can we awaken and facilitate learning at the level of our deep humanity? How can we nurture the understandings, wisdom, values, experience, and commitment needed to advance and sustain peace and full human development in ourselves, our children, and in our communities at local and global levels?
Patricia M. Mische is the Lloyd Professor of Peace Studies and World Law at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She has taught in the Peace Education Program at Teachers College Columbia University and has been a visiting professor at several universities, including Notre Dame, Georgetown, Seton Hall and American.
She is also the co-founder and President of Global Education Associates, a network of men and women in 90 countries who collaborate in research and educational programs for the advancement of ecological integrity, peace, justice, human rights, and democratic participation. Dr. Mische has conducted more than 1000 programs related to peace and world order in more than fifty countries around the world. She has also collaborated with United Nations programs, including with UNESCO's program on the Contribution of Religions to a Culture of Peace, and with UNICEF on its Education for All program in East Africa where she has been helping to develop partnerships for sustainable development involving rural women’s groups, nongovernmental organizations, and UN agencies. She serves on the Boards and Advisory Councils of a number of peace and human rights groups and was an expert consultant to former heads of government in the InterAction Council at their high-level meeting on Global Interdependence and National Sovereignty: In Search for a New World Order (Lisbon, 1990).
Dr. Mische’s numerous publications include the books: Toward a Global Civilization? The Contribution of Religions (co-edited with Melissa Merkling, Peter Lang Publishing, 2001); Ecological Security and the United Nations System: Past, Present, Future (Global Education Associates, 1998); Star Wars and the State of our Souls (Harper and Row/Winston Press, 1985); and (with Gerald Mische) Toward a Human World Order: Beyond the National Security Straitjacket (Paulist Press, 1977). She has also published more than 100 articles and chapters in periodicals and books on topics related to peace, social justice, economic development, human rights, and ecological security. She is currently working on a book on global citizenship with the help of a Rockefeller grant.
The Peace Education Center seeks to provide learning opportunities to inform wider public and academic audiences about critical and timely peace
related issues. Peace related concerns are the concerns of all members of the human community. The Peace Education Center is pleased to work with several co-sponsors, from various disciplines and vocations, in the planning of this lecture series. Please take the time to introduce yourself to the work of our co-sponsors by clicking the links below.
Barnard Education Program; Biosophical Institute; The Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society; Fellowship of Reconciliation; Fordham University's Graduate School of Education; Global Education Associates; International Center for Tolerance Education; Peace Boat USA; Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding; Teachers College - Forum on the Role of Religion and Spirituality in Education, Office of Diversity and Community, and Office of the Vice President and Dean of the College; Temple of Understanding; The Riverside Church Mission and Social Justice Department
FOR MORE INFORMATION on this SPEAKER SERIES
CONTACT THE PEACE EDUCATION CENTER at TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Web: www.tc.edu/PeaceEd email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 212.678.8116