Friday, July 28, 2006

Do Not Disturb: i'm on a brief hiatus!


I just thought i'd let my readers know that I will be away for a few days, but will hopefully be blogging again within a few days...

Enjoy the weekend!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Through adversity, she struggles on...

My column in The Post, the Pakistani newspaper I write for was just published and I thought i'd share it with my readers, since apparently, the link does not always take you to the webpage where my article originally appeared.

This week's column is on Dr. Shazia Khalid, a Pakistani rape victim. Copied below are brief excerpts:

Sometimes you find out about certain horrific events and are compelled to think, “Why?” Often people involved intimately in those events go unnoticed, yet triumph through the adversity and you are forced to ask, “How?” These same questions troubled me as I listened to a rape victim Dr. Shazia Khalid talking to a group of concerned Pakistanis, along with several others while she was recently in the city.

The Wisconsin-based Asian American Network against Abuse of Human Rights (ANAA), which I have written about in this column before, the founder and President of which is Dr. Amna Buttar, organized the event. Shazia Anam of the South Asian Health Project moderated the conversation and Robina Niaz, Founder and President of Turning Point gave opening comments. Turning Point is a social services agency for victims of domestic violence and their family members. Robina’s insight and expertise shone through yet again as she gave a comprehensive overview of Dr. Khalid’s plight, and also gave background information concerning the situation Pakistani women face in their native country. She spoke at length about the sense of shame that comes from being a victim of such a heinous crime and then to be re-victimized at the hands of society by becoming the accused instead of the victim. Robina also conceptualised the discussion by talking about the hundreds of women who are imprisoned because of the flawed Hudood Ordinance and what the implications are for women like Dr. Shazia.

Dr. Shazia is a quiet, modest woman who looks very much like your average Pakistani woman. She is a graduate of Dow Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan, and after looking at her for a few moments I could not help but think how such a horrible thing could ever be done to a woman like her. Somehow, it has been ingrained in our collective mindset that the victims of rape come from the poor, impoverished families in Pakistan’s rural areas.

Dr. Shazia was sadly demonstrating that tragedy could befall anyone. She was also teaching me another important lesson that men need to be at the forefront of these movements, alongside women. Proof of this was the presence of Dr. Shazia’s husband at the event. Khalid is a petro-chemical engineer and at the time of the incident, was in Libya, where he was stationed for employment purposes. Khalid urged audience members to remember that we are all in this struggle together. A woman is not alone and it was evident that his being by her side must have been tremendously helpful for Dr. Shazia. The couple is now settled in London, where they are both content and satisfied with the way things are going for them.

A woman from Equality Now, a women’s group that strives for gender equality and women’s rights, also made comments about the discriminatory Hudood laws. Changes are being made slowly and steadily, but much work remains to be done. Meanwhile, Dr. Shazia has drafted a list of recommendations that she has presented to the Pakistan government and hopes someone takes heed. The law and order situation in Pakistan is bad enough the way things are, but for a woman they are especially so. Let’s not let the situation get any worse. Our women have suffered enough.

A Music Benefit for Lebanon and Palestine - Saturday, July 29th

Alwan For The Arts presents

A Music Benefit for Lebanon and Palestine

A concert of Lebanese resistance music
Featuring songs by Fairouz and Marcel Khalifeh

Saturday, July 29th, 8:00 PM

Alwan For the Arts
16 Beaver St, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Donation $20 / $30 / $40

All proceeds will go to humanitarian relief organizations.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

CAIR announcements regarding Middle East conflict

The Council on American Islamic Relations has really impressed me. I have always criticized the way many Muslim organizations work, primarily because of leadership/management and/or resource limitation issues, but ever since the situation in the Middle East has worsened, I have come to admire the way CAIR is not just on top of things, but is as close to a true representation of the Muslim faith and people as can be.

Copied below are some updates (in chronological order) they sent via email to their mailing list subscribers, literally within a short period of time of the news actually breaking out. I have also added some of my personal comments for your pleasure :)

Muslim group urges disengaging policy from 'dictates' of pro-Israel Lobby

(WASHINGTON, DC, 7/22/06) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called the Bush administration's decision to rush delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel "unconscionable."

The New York Times reported today that Israel requested the expedited shipment of satellite and laser-guided bombs last week after beginning its massive bombing campaign against Lebanon's civilian infrastructure.

SEE: U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis (NY Times)

Israeli attacks on Lebanon have already killed hundreds of civilians. Attacks by air, land and sea have destroyed bridges, roads, electrical networks, airports, port facilities, and other civilian infrastructure in an Israeli attempt to "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years." (Israeli Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz issued the threat to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure.)

Israel today targeted transmission towers for television stations and mobile phones in northern Lebanon. Some 500,000 Lebanese have been forced from their homes under threat of death from Israeli attacks. (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the current conflict represents "the birth pangs of a new Middle East.")

In a statement, CAIR Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed said:

"It is unconscionable that our government would rush weapons to a state engaged in vicious and indiscriminate attacks on the civilians and civilian infrastructure of a friendly nation. Thousands of our nation's citizens also remain in Lebanon facing death or injury from these American taxpayer-supplied weapons.

"The baffling decision to assist in the destruction of a nation that has been held up as a model of democratic reform can only serve to harm our long-term interests in the region. Aiding attacks on civilian targets in Lebanon also calls into question our nation's commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms.

"America must disengage its Middle East policy from the self-serving dictates of the pro-Israel lobby. Failure to do so will allow Israel to once again drag our nation into its self-perpetuating cycle of hatred and conflict."

SEE: The Truth About the Israel Lobby's Influence (Washington Post)

Ahmed added that many legal experts say Israel is in violation of international law and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act for using American weapons to target Lebanon's civilians and civilian infrastructure. He said CAIR has reached out to the Bush administration to offer the American Muslim community's help in achieving a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.

As the US expedites deliveries of amunition to the Israelis, why should it be surprising that the Iranians and Syrians follow suit by further arming the Hezbullah militants?


(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/24/06)
- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on Americans of all faiths to collect humanitarian relief supplies for delivery to Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. CAIR is urging that the collection of relief aid be carried out following regular congregational prayers this week in American mosques, churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship.

Life for Relief and Development (LIFE), a 501(c)(3) organization that is registered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has agreed to receive the humanitarian supplies and deliver them those in need.

CAIR is asking that actual relief supplies be gathered because of the severe restrictions currently placed on financial aid by the U.S. government.

"A strong humanitarian response by the American people will send a powerful message of hope and support to the Lebanese and Palestinian men, women and children caught up in the current humanitarian disaster," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.


CAIR is asking religious leaders of all faiths to announce this important humanitarian effort and to aid in collecting and sending the supplies to LIFE.

1. FILL A BOX with JUST ONE of the following items. (By only placing only one type of item into the box, you aid the collection effort and speed delivery by saving time spent sorting items in the warehouse): diapers, water purification tablets (can be obtained at most camping stores), flour, rice, sugar, cooking oil, powdered milk, lentils

* Food should be mailed in small boxes, no larger than 16"×12"×12."
* Diapers should be mailed in medium-sized boxes, no larger than 24"×18"×18."
* The maximum weight of each box should not exceed 40 pounds.
* Each box should contain only ONE TYPE of the relief supplies listed above. (Example: a box of lentils)
* No pork or alcohol products will be accepted.


LIFE for Relief & Development
Lebanon/Palestine Relief Effort
17300 W. 10 Mile Road, Southfield, MI 48075
Tel: (248) 424-7493, Toll Free: 1-800-827-3543, Fax: (248) 424-8325, E-Mail:

Senator and Mayor Voice Support for Israel on Behalf of NY

New York, N.Y., [7/25/2006]— CAIR-NY is urging American Muslims and other people of conscience to voice their concern against Senator Clinton’s and Mayor Bloomberg’s comments. Tell them we will not stand for such biased attitudes to represent the majority of NY. Say we do not support the massacre of innocent unarmed civilians in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and we condemn ALL forms of terrorism, even state sponsored.

NY Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg in separate statements, expressed their unconditional support for Israel on behalf of the citizens of New York. “We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones,” said Mrs. Clinton. The Mayor echoed an almost identical message when he said, “Israel rightly continues to defend itself from unprovoked attacks on innocent civilians… as Americans and New Yorkers, we must continue to stand with Israel as we have done for the past 58 years…” Mayor Bloomberg went on to say, "I have always believed that the fate of Israel and the future of New York City are deeply connected. If Israel's democracy is compromised, so too are our freedoms here at home”, as if New York City were an extension to Israel.

We can voice our opposition to Senator Clinton and Mayor Bloomberg by sending letters both of their offices. Below is a sample letter.


Hi, my name is [your name] and I am calling/emailing/faxing from [your city], New York. As your constituent, I urge you to retract your statement and condemn the Israeli attacks on civilians in both Gaza and Lebanon that have left hundreds of innocent civilians dead, and many more wounded.

Please join us in calling for an immediate ceasefire and release of prisoners. The unwillingness to call for a ceasefire gives the impression that the U.S. places less value of American citizens of Arab descent or Islamic faith. The humanitarian crisis that has come as a result of the ongoing attacks, require our immediate attention.

Furthermore, it is important that the U.S. set one standard regarding the value of life and of the definition of terrorism. We strongly oppose all forms of terrorism including state sponsored terrorism as displayed by Israel. We as New Yorkers and as Americans do not approve of you speaking on our behalf in support of Israel’s aggressive attacks.

We look forward to a positive response.

Thank you.


Please send your letters to:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

780 Third Ave., Ste. 2601
New York, NY 10017

Phone: (212) 688-6262
Fax: (212) 688-7444

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Phone: 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
Fax: (212) 788-2460

For any questions, please visit our website at or contact Faiza N. Ali at

How do both these - or any - politicians have the right to make comments on behalf of "New Yorkers" when there is clearly a population that does not approve of the actions?

PLEASE FORWARD TO OTHERS: Urge your friends, relatives and colleagues to sign up to receive CAIR-NET updates by going to: (Also send lists of e-mail addresses of those who wish to receive CAIR-NET to:

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:


Monday, July 24, 2006

Protests against Israeli aggression in Lebanon and Palestine

While I am unable to attend many of these events, I am sure many would like to and hope you can forward the info on.

When I found out about them, I replied back to my friend Maryum saying:

"I'd like to help in efforts but am weary of two things: 1) organizations who are involved in shipping and handling of donated/received goods (legitimacy, authenticity, etc.) and 2) how goods are supposed to reach people in need when ports, bridges, roads and airports are not a viable option for us.

Can we get minutes or notes from this and/or any other meetings you might attend?"

It's great to see people organizing in the hopes of not only helping people who are in dire need of assistance, but also to counter-balance what the Western media has come to show us as "Lebanon's fault".

Below are events of interest:

Events taking place in NYC this week (22-29, July) protesting the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and Palestine
Summary of events~

Monday July 24
Emergency Planning Meeting at Alwan for the Arts at 7:30 - 10pm

Tuesday July 25
Community Meeting. More details to follow.
Friday July 28
"Stop the killing Stop the War" Demonstration, at the Israeli Mission at the UN, from 3:30 to 6:30.
Saturday July 29
March Across the Brooklyn Bridge. More details to follow.
Details ~
Monday 24 July:

Help plan actions against Israel's brutal invasion of Gaza and Lebanon
under false pretenses of defending itself.

When: Monday, July 24th, 7:30 - 10pm
Where: Alwan for the Arts, 16 Beaver Street, 4 th Floor (b/w Broad and Broadway).

What: Come with ideas for action to stop Israel's continuing atrocities in the Middle East.
Tuesday 25 July:
Community Meeting
Details to follow
Friday 28 July:
Stop the war Stop the Killing
When: Friday 28 July, 3:30 to 6:30,
Where: Israeli Mission at the UN, 2nd Ave , between 42nd and 43rd Sts.
What: Join us in Saying NO to ISRAELI WAR of aggression against Civilians and Infrastructure in PALESTINE & LEBANON. We MUST continue the pressure.
Sponsored by: Arab Muslim American Federation, National Council Of Arab Americans, International Action Center, Troops Out Now Coalition , Alawda New York , Al-Khuli Islamic Center, ICNA N.Y, MAS New York.
Saturday 29:
March Across the Brooklyn Bridge
When: Saturday, July 29,
Details to follow
Called by the Ad-Hoc Coalition for Justice in the Middle East.


Dear colleague in justice ministry:
The Riverside Church in recent months has been working in concert with interfaith partners in this City and around the country in calling for torture awareness in these dark days in which what seems so self-evidently immoral has been tolerated and, yes, encouraged in the highest circles of society, government and even religion.
A consensus has arisen among us that the time has come for a coalition to be formed, or at least, the establishment of a strategy group, to coordinate such continuing efforts in this arena.
Several of us have agreed to have a meeting to discuss this idea and TRC has agreed to be the host on Monday, July 24, at 3:00 p.m. in Room 10T at Riverside (490 Riverside Drive, enter on Claremont Av. between 120th and 122th Streets). If you or your organization would like to become involved in the coalition to end torture, please join us in launching this effort. I look forward to hearing from you.

The Rev. Charles H. Straut, Jr., D.Min.
Special Asst. for Mission and Social Justice Ministries
The Riverside Church of New York
contact: 1021 East 87th Street, #6A, Brooklyn, NY 11236-4253
(917) 750-7739 (cell) / (718) 763-9266 (study) / (718) 255-4800 (fax)