Friday 31 December 2010

Alcoholism booms in 'dry' Pakistan

The Pakistani banker told his story nervously, kneading his hands as he spoke. His wife had deserted him, his family was furious, and his career had stalled. "My problem is whisky," he said, shaking his head with regret.

The 32-year-old professional was sitting in an addiction clinic, hidden down a quiet street in the capital, Islamabad. He had relapsed from the expensive treatment programme twice already; now he had been dry for more than three months. "This time it's for good," he said, with just a glimmer of self-doubt.

Pakistan has been dry for much longer – since 1977 – and drinkers risk severe punishment: 80 lashes of the whip under strict Islamic laws. But the law is ignored, alcohol is widely available and, for those who go too far, addiction clinics offering help are quietly flourishing.

"There's plenty of business," said Dr Sadaqat Ali, a leading addiction counsellor whose chain of clinics treated 500 alcoholics this year. Dr Ali estimates that 10 million Pakistanis drink alcohol, 1 million of whom have a problem. "With our culture of hospitality, it's hard to say 'no'," he said.

Earlier this month cricket authorities mounted an investigation into claims that a national player, Mohammad Sami, was involved in a drunken brawl in a Rawalpindi hotel. The 29-year-old test bowler denied he had been drinking, calling the row a "misunderstanding".

Demand for alcoholism counselling is so brisk that many clinics now take out prominent newspaper ads, some depicting a depressed man nursing a glass of scotch – a rare public nod towards a thinly veiled drinking culture.

Waiters serve scotch on the sidelines of society weddings and corporate functions; ministers drink openly at functions but hide their glasses when photographers come round. Bootleggers offer home delivery, so that ordering a bottle of booze is as easy as calling for a pizza, and likely to arrive more quickly.

The last time a Pakistani drinker received 80 lashes was under the Islamist dictator Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s; these days the culture has changed. Former president Pervez Musharraf made little secret of his fondness for a drink; neither does his successor, Asif Ali Zardari.

The less well-off drink homemade hooch, which can have a nasty kick: three years ago 50 Karachi residents died, and more went blind, from a bad batch of moonshine. But for the rich, the risk is in drinking too much of the good stuff. Dr Ali has counted bureaucrats, politicians, army generals and even the families of mullahs among his clients. "That's our target market. We call it the golden triangle: rich, educated and influential," he said.

Treatment is expensive by local standards, typically costing upwards of £85 a night. It's not quite the Betty Ford clinic: clients stay in a modest room and are forced to engage in intense counselling involving their own relatives. Controversially, some clinics have engaged in "forceful" interventions, drugging alcoholics at the instigation of desperate relatives to kickstart the cure.

The other option is Alcoholics Anonymous, which has at least one group in Karachi. Unlike the clinics it is hard to find: no ads, no phone numbers, just a simple web page. "Most people find it through word of mouth," said a former member, adding that it has operated for more than 15 years.

Some years ago a handful of parliamentarians argued for a reversal of the alcohol law, but with the rise of the Taliban such talk has receded: in 2007 a suicide bomber set off his device outside a beer shop in the Islamabad Marriott Hotel.

Alcoholics seeking help require discretion. But in Pakistan's small middle class, that can be tricky. The former AA member recognised several other members at the meeting: "It should be called A, not AA, in Pakistan – because there's not much anonymity."


Thursday 30 December 2010


"Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant."

The Holy Quran, 7:199

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Dispensers of justice will be seated on pulpits of light beside God."

Sahih Muslim, Hadith 844

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Batman's New Muslim Recruit

Right-wing bloggers decry Nightrunner, DC’s Muslim ‘Batman of Paris’

A conservative blogger who earlier sounded the alarm about the perceived attack on the tea party movement in Captain America and warned of the “anti-American nihilism” of Watchmen has now turned his attention to Bruce Wayne’s recruitment of a Muslim to be the Batman of Paris.

But Nightrunner, the parkour-trained crimefighter introduced in this month’s Detective Comics Annual #12, isn’t just any Muslim — he’s a 22-year-old Algerian Muslim living in Clichy-sous-Bois, the poor commune east of Paris best known outside of France as the epicenter of the 2005 riots. And that doesn’t sit well with Warner Todd Huston.

“You see, DC Comics has decided that the ‘French savior,’ the French Batman is to be a Muslim immigrant,” Huston writes on his Publis’ Forum. “The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at gymnastic sport Parkour. Apparently Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the ‘French savior’.” What constitutes an “actual Frenchman” isn’t entirely clear, but presumably the writer is referring to one of the “Frenchmen of European stock” he mentions later.

Huston takes aim at David Hine’s story, which centers on a series of political assassinations that lead to riots by communist union members and neo-Nazis, describing it as “PCism at its worst”: “The whole situation is a misreading of what ails France. The truth is, neither communist Union members nor ‘Neo-Nazi’ Parties are causing riots in France. Muslims are. Yet DC Comics is absurdly making a Muslim immigrant the ‘French savior’?” He accuses the publisher of badly downplaying in Nightrunner’s origin “the seriousness of the actual racial tension in France” and oversimplifying the problems “as mere racism as if that is all there is to it ignoring the fact that Islam is the single most important factor in the strife.”

He isn’t alone in his criticism; he’s merely picking up the baton passed by far-right commentators like Avi Green who, writing last week at The Astute Bloggers — a site dedicated to “exposing leftist propaganda,” “highlighting under-reported news” and “promoting universal human rights” — said, “How about that, Bruce Wayne goes to France where he hires not a genuine French boy or girl with a real sense of justice, but rather, an ‘oppressed’ minority who adheres to the Religion of Peace. And this is a guy whose very parents were murdered at the hands of a common street thug!”

So while Huston isn’t the only defender of the, I don’t know, wounded honor of “actual Frenchmen” in this manufactured controversy, he may be among the most widely distributed. Commentary from his Publis’ Forum regularly appears at other conservative outlets, such as Andrew Breitbart’s network of websites and Canada Free Press. His Feb. 8 column about Captain America #602 was followed by’s article about the comic’s “tea party jab” which, in turn, triggered more widespread coverage.

Huston characterizes DC’s decision to make “a Muslim in France a hero when French Muslims are at the center of some of the worst violence in the country’s recent memory” as “PCism run amuck.” It’s apparently part of the “PCing of the American comic book industry” that includes the Captain America-tea party incident, the introduction of gay character Kevin Keller in the pages of Veronica, and … Larfleeze? That’s right, Agent Orange.

Andrew Belonsky at Death and Taxes, who was among the first to pick up on the reaction to Nightrunner, views it in light of the recent calls for a boycott of Marvel’s Thor movie because black actor Idris Elba was cast as the Norse god Heimdall:

The Nightrunner controversy differs a bit from the Thor scandal seen earlier this week. In the Thor scenario, the Council [of Conservative Citizens] wasn’t saying black people can’t be heroes, period. They simply don’t want to see Idris Elba in a specific role.

“It’s not enough that Marvel attacks conservatives values, now mythological Gods must be re-invented with black skin,” they said. “It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves.”

It’s a discriminatory, myopic view, yes, but not nearly as narrow as the one The Astute Bloggers trumpet. Green and his colleagues assume Muslims can’t be heroic because they’re inherently villainous and out to spread “Islamic supremacism.”

Nightrunner’s introduction continues in Batman Annual #28, in stores this week


Sunday 26 December 2010

Little hijabi women: A questionable phenomenon

Baber Ibrahim, in his Guardian piece, “This Trend of Young Muslim Girls Wearing the Hijab is Disturbing,” propagates a hodgepodge of observations and speculations about why there is apparently a visible increase in the number of little girls (under the age of ten) donning the hijab. He claims that wearing one at this age leads to the sexualization of girls, which runs opposite the goal of observing modesty and humility. I would call that claim fair only because of the hegemonic sexualized worldview of typically everything related to gender issues in Islam.
Still, Mr. Ibrahim offers an over-simplified survey of the scene. Examining this trend from a sexual perspective alone easily delegitimizes those situations in which girls choose to wear the hijab. It is entirely possible that an eight-year-old girl can elect to wear the hijab, not because she is aware of her sexuality, but because she wants to emulate her mother, sport what she considers a flattering accessory, or fulfill what she believes is a spiritual obligation to God.

We cannot confuse “imposition” with “encouragement.” Again, there may be cases where little girls are indeed coerced; this of course ultimately cancels out any sort of religious or spiritual component, since Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion. But this must be juxtaposed with the other reality that Mr. Ibrahim himself points out - that of parents wanting their kids to “get used to doing the right thing from a young age.”

The “right thing” is of course arbitrary, but the consensus suggests that the “right thing” is a sense of living life with honor and dignity - and that honor comes from a set of values promoted by a moral code. Shouldn’t parents inculcate this set of values within their children starting from a young age? And yes, honor and dignity can be taught through other ways too; hijab, through its tangible and emblematic significance, is but one way to teach such values.

One of Mr. Ibrahim’s more misleading claims is that “…Getting a little girl ‘used to’ the hijab effectively obliterates the free choice element by the time the girl is old enough to think.” There are many religious practices and principles that my family instilled in me while I was growing up, but these patterns of thought or behavior did not prevent me from exercising my choice as I grew older. Becoming accustomed to something doesn’t necessarily mean that the person remains perpetually chained to that habit or idea, never evaluating it from a critical eye. Even girls between the ages of five and fourteen who went to private Islamic schools and wore hijabs as part of their uniforms can and do elect to wear them as young adults.

Ibrahim sympathizes with the brothers of the ‘poor, covered girls,’ “…it is only natural that they grow up with the concept that women have to be covered, controlled and restricted.” He sets up an inaccurate line-up of the most contentious, but unfortunately common, descriptives within this discussion: “covered, controlled, and restricted” - as if they naturally go together. Covering is not a synonym for controlling or restricting; that is, again, unless you are only examining this phenomenon from a sexual point of view.

And when it comes to the psychology of these little girls, it is important to understand how imitation plays a role in their development. Imitation is the dominant survival method for children, “even if the actions don't make sense,” according to a recent study by Australian researchers. Based on this idea, most Muslim female eight-year-olds are likely not aware of their own sexuality when they mimic their parents or close family and friends who cover.

I agree that imposing hijab on a little girl indeed deprives her of her childhood and freedom of choice. However, there is nothing wrong with parents encouraging their little girl to wear hijab or the child herself making a conscious decision to don the headscarf and perhaps experiment. While I do not condone the observation of this religious practice according to peoples’ whims and capricious desires, an innocent child has the right to explore this unique article of clothing and what it symbolizes.

Childhood is defined by trials and errors, experimentations and investigations. Mr. Ibrahim is not wrong then in calling this a trend amongst little girls, because trends are, by definition, popular movements at a “given time.” In other words, they are susceptible to change.

Finally, if we are trying to measure the popularity of hijabs among little girls, then we might naturally ask, why is hijab becoming more common amongst adult women whom these girls are likely imitating? A rise in religious education? A spiritual awakening? The convergence of religion and media? Unfortunate despotic rule? Or conversely, democracy? Whatever the reasons, these observations warrant examination from a perspective other than sexuality.


Saturday 25 December 2010

Bat Yam rally: 'Arabs dating our sisters'

Organizer of demonstration to take place Monday says 'public sick of Arabs hitting on Jewish girls.' Participants include right-wing activist Baruch Marzel

After a rabbis' letter instructing Jews to not sell or rent apartments to Arabs, racist behavior reaches new low: An organization called Jews for a Jewish Bat Yam is expected to protest on Monday against the "assimilation of young Jewish women with Arabs living in the city or in nearby Jaffa."

The protest will be held around 7:30 pm near the Bat Yam mall, not far from the police station. The organizers are also expected to show support for the controversial rabbis' letter.

"It's a local organization of Bat Yam residents, because the public is tired of so many Arabs going out with Jewish girls," explained one of the organizers, Bentzi Gufstein. "In addition to the protest, we will hand out pamphlets explain the situation."

The organization behind this local protest is actually the Lehava organization, which works to prevent intermarriage in Israel. The right-wing activist Baruch Marzel and a few local rabbis will participate in the demonstration, and the organizers are expecting hundreds more.

During the past week, posters have been hung around the city calling residents to come out and protest. Some of the posters explain: "I will not allow them to hit on my sister! What would you do if an Arab hit on your sister? Put an end to it! Recently we have learned of a grave phenomenon: Hundreds of girls from Bat Yam and the center get together with Arabs, they are integrated amongst us, their confidence rising. Put an end to it! Lower their confidence!"

Another poster reads: "Keeping Bat Yam Jewish. Arabs are taking over Bat Yam, buying and renting apartments from Jews, taking and ruining Bat Yam girls! Around 15,000 Jewish girls have been taken to villages! Jews, come on, let's win!"

'Racists think anything is allowed'
Coincidently, the demonstration on Monday is supposed to take place on the street where former Knesset Member Tamar Gozansky (Hadash) lives. She told Ynet she intended to file a complaint with police against the organizers claiming they are inciting violence.

"What they are saying is racist, another ugly stain on the Israeli conscience. I'm planning on complaining to the police on account that this is incitement according to clause 144 of the penal code, since such a demonstration can cause physical and emotional damage."

Gozansky noted the October 2000 riots, in which Jews destroyed Arab businesses in the city.

"It might happen again. It's part of a racist wave overflowing the country. The organizers received encouragement from the attorney general, who has yet to decide whether to do anything about the rabbis who signed the petition objecting to renting apartments to Arabs. The law authorities today are helpless, but the racist today act as if they are allowed to do anything."


Friday 24 December 2010

Lesley Hazleton-On the Quran

Lesley Hazleton explores the Koran and finds much that is quite different from what is reported in commonly cited accounts.

A psychologist by training and Middle East reporter by experience, British-born Lesley Hazleton has spent the last ten years exploring the vast and often terrifying arena in which politics and religion, past and present, intersect. Her most recent book, After the Prophet: the Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split, was a finalist for the 2010 PEN-USA nonfiction award.

She lived and worked in Jerusalem for thirteen years -- a city where politics and religion are at their most incendiary -- then moved to New York. She came to Seattle to get her pilot's license in 1992, saw the perfect houseboat, and stayed. By 1994, she'd flown away all of her savings, and has never regretted a single cent of it. Now her raft rides low in the water under the weight of research as she works on her next book, The First Muslim, a new look at the life of Muhammad.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Love for Jesus Can Bring Christians, Muslims Together

By Ibrahim Hooper

[Ibrahim Hooper is National Communications Director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties group. He may be contacted at: A photo of Ibrahim Hooper is available here.]

"Behold! The angels said: 'O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.'"

Before searching for this quote in the New Testament, you might first ask your Muslim co-worker, friend or neighbor for a copy of the Quran, Islam's revealed text. The quote is from verse 45 of chapter 3 in the Quran.

It is well known, particularly in this holiday season, that Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. What is less well understood is that Muslims also love and revere Jesus as one of God's greatest messengers to mankind.

Other verses in the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the direct word of God, state that Jesus was strengthened with the "Holy Spirit" (2:87) and is a "sign for the whole world." (21:91) His virgin birth was confirmed when Mary is quoted as asking: "How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?" (3:47)

The Quran shows Jesus speaking from the cradle and, with God's permission, curing lepers and the blind. (5:110) God also states in the Quran: "We gave (Jesus) the Gospel (Injeel) and put compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers." (57:27)

As forces of hate in this country and worldwide try to pull Muslims and Christians apart, we are in desperate need of a unifying force that can bridge the widening gap of interfaith misunderstanding and mistrust. That force could be the message of love, peace and forgiveness taught by Jesus and accepted by followers of both faiths.

Christians and Muslims would do well to consider another verse in the Quran reaffirming God's eternal message of spiritual unity: "Say ye: 'We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.'" (2:136)

The Prophet Muhammad himself sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus, who he called God's "spirit and word." Prophet Muhammad said: "Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one."

When Muslims mention the Prophet Muhammad, they always add the phrase "peace be upon him." Christians may be surprised to learn that the same phrase always follows a Muslim's mention of Jesus or that we believe Jesus will return to earth in the last days before the final judgment. Disrespect toward Jesus, as we have seen all too often in our society, is very offensive to Muslims.

Unfortunately, violent events and hate-filled rhetoric around the world provide ample opportunity for promoting religious hostility. And yes, Muslims and Christians do have some differing perspectives on Jesus' life and teachings. But his spiritual legacy offers an alternative opportunity for people of faith to recognize their shared religious heritage.

America's Muslim community stands ready to honor that legacy by building bridges of interfaith understanding and challenging those who would divide our nation along religious or ethnic lines.

We have more in common than we think.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Hadith of the day: Be pleased!

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If you are pleased with what God has (given you), you will be the richest of men. If you are kind to your neighbor, you will be a believer. If you like others to have what you want for yourself, you will be a Muslim."

Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1334

Monday 20 December 2010

US House passes anti-Palestine bill

At last the United States is responding to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's refusal to freeze settlements and re-start negotiations with the Palestinians.

Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, rushed to the House floor with a resolution drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] condemning the Palestinians for publicly suggesting that, in the wake of Netanyahu's refusal to freeze settlements and negotiate, they will consider a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Congress passed the Berman bill, drafted only this week, on Wednesday. When it comes to pleasing AIPAC, there are simply no limits.

This remains true even though AIPAC is embroiled in an espionage/sex scandal that has it scrambling to find $20m to pay off a former top employee who is threatening to produce documents exposing the lobby.

Washington lobbying

The Berman bill passed overwhelmingly because that is how things work in a city where policy is driven by campaign contributions — and not just on this issue.

The only difference between how AIPAC lobbyists dictate US Middle East policy and pretty much every other major lobby is that AIPAC works to advance the interests of a foreign country.

In other words, comparisons to the National Rifle Association [NRA] would only be applicable if the gun owners that the NRA claims to represent lived in, say, Greece. Oh, and NRA-backed bills usually take longer than a day to get to the House floor.

And here you have the root of the problem. And it is not just an American problem. It is just as much an Israeli problem, a Palestinian problem, and an international problem.

There is only one reason that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapsed. It is the power of the "pro-Israel lobby" (led by AIPAC) which prevents the United States from saying publicly what it says privately: that resolution of a conflict which is so damaging to US interests is consistently being blocked by the intransigence of the Netanyahu government and its determination to maintain the occupation.

Unequal power

This is not a situation where responsibility attaches equally to both sides. The Israelis hold all of the disputed territories. Yes, the Palestinians have administrative control of some parts of the West Bank but its authority — and it is very small — derives from the Israelis.

Gaza is controlled by Hamas but it is a reservation or ghetto, not a free entity. Its borders are entirely blocked by the Israelis (and the Egyptians who do whatever Israel demands on their border with Gaza).

It remains under Israeli blockade, lightened only a bit since Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted that the blockade was not necessary for Israel's security. And then there is Arab East Jerusalem, where the Netanyahu government has expanded efforts to push Palestinians out of their homes and replace them with settlers.

The Palestinians have no power at all although they have done everything that Israel and the United States demanded.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) fully recognised Israel and pledged itself to fighting terrorism and resorting exclusively to negotiations to achieve a state. They agreed that their state would be limited to the 22 per cent of historic Palestine that is the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — recognising that Israel would have the other 78 per cent.

Even Hamas, which still insists that Israel has no right to be there, says that if the Palestinian Authority negotiates a deal with Israel that is accepted by the Palestinian people, it too will join in and end its war with Israel.

And what has Israel offered in exchange for these historic concessions? Absolutely nothing.

Yes, it has played at negotiations.

Losing Palestine

Israel's advocates argue that, at Camp David in 2000, it offered the Palestinians 94 per cent of the 22 per cent or 98 per cent or whatever.

Netanyahu's current offer is 60 per cent of the 22 per cent. But the supposed offer came with the standard conditions and caveats when there should be only one condition. In exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinians must agree to absolute security for Israel with ironclad guarantees backed up with surveillance systems to ensure that there are no violations.

In fact, the Palestinians agreed to those terms as far back as the Yasser Arafat era, when, in the late nineties, Israelis and Palestinians adopted a security plan brokered by the CIA to combat terrorism.

President Arafat's efforts were so thorough, fighting a virtual civil war with Hamas, that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Arafat both in person and by telephone how much he appreciated Arafat's help.

But neither Arafat nor his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, got anything in return.

That nothing is easily defined. During the entire 17-year period since the historic Rabin-Arafat agreement — and the famed handshake on the White House lawn — the Israelis never ceased confiscating land and building settlements in the areas that are supposed to constitute the Palestinian state.

That was and is the clearest measure of Israel's intentions. The Israeli government does not intend to give up territory it wants; it gave up Gaza because it decided that it better served Israeli interests to just blockade it.

Why would Palestinians believe that Israel is negotiating seriously when it keeps building inside the future Palestinian state?

All this is obvious to anyone paying attention — especially since Prime Minister Netanyahu absolutely refused to freeze settlements for even 90 days in exchange for the United States doubling the aid package. Really, if he won't freeze for 90 days for $3.5bn, only a fool would believe that he would ever actually give up any land permanently.

Marching to Israel's tune

And yet the United States government keeps playing this game. No matter what Israel does, it is fine by America.

It does not have to be that way. If the administration and Congress put US interests (and Israel's too) over the craving for campaign contributions, the United States could tell the Israeli government that, from now on, our aid package comes with strings.

Like a loan from the International Monetary Fund (although aid to Israel is a gift, not a loan), the US could say that in exchange for our billions, our UN vetoes of resolutions criticising Israel, and our silence in the face of war crimes like Gaza, we want Israel to end the occupation within, say, 24 months. And Israel would have to comply because our military assistance is, as AIPAC likes to call it, "Israel's lifeline".

If we did that, many Israelis would be very angry (just as many would appreciate America forcing an end to the occupation).

But the lobby would be furious because, above all else, it needs to feel that it controls US policy in the Middle East. Not for America's sake. Not for Israel's. But for its own. As with most Washington lobbies, it is not in business to make the world a better place. It is not pro-Israel; it is pro-AIPAC.

When will all this change? Who knows?

The AIPAC scandals are weakening the group, although not enough to prevent Congress from passing its latest bill condemning Palestinians. And younger American Jews, especially progressives (which is most of them), simply don't buy the AIPAC line. American Jews are, after all, Americans.

But, for now, the bottom line is money. The US government dances to Israel's tune because it is afraid to risk campaign contributions from a few dozen fat cats. That is the whole story.

Meanwhile, as General David Petraeus has said, US interests — including the lives of our men and women in uniform — are threatened by the belief in the Middle East that United States is Israel's puppet. Petraeus' view is common throughout the military which, unaffected by politics, manages to actually see the obvious. When will the rest of our government allow itself to do the same?

MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.


Saturday 18 December 2010

British Muslim family who lost their son to extremists

Note: 'Jihad' actually means 'to strive or struggle' not holy war, however it is only ever referred as such in the media something Muslims should try to explain and correct.

Friday 17 December 2010

Glenn Beck claims 10% of Muslims are terrorists; CNN's Fareed Zakaria blasts him for fuzzy math

Glenn Beck and Fareed Zakaria are best known as political pundits, but this week the two are locked head-to-head in a battle over math.

Beck launched the feud by claiming on his radio show last week that 10% of Muslims are terrorists.

"What is the number of Islamic terrorists? 1 percent? I think it's closer to 10%, but the rest of the P.C. world will tell you, 'Oh no, it's miniscule,'" the Fox host said.

Beck first made the claim in his 2003 book "The Real America," in which he said "Ninety percent of Islam is peaceful. Ten percent of Islam wants us dead."

Fareed Zakaria, an Indian-born journalist and the former editor of Newsweek International, fired back at Beck's claims on his CNN show "GPS" on Sunday night.

"Let's do a bit of math here," said Zakaria, demonstrating his calculations on a chalkboard. "There are 1,570,000,000 Muslims worldwide. Take ten percent of those Muslims and you get 157,000,000. That's how many Muslim terrorists Glenn Beck is suggesting there are in the world."

He went on to attack Beck's math, and his methods.

"Beck wondered why 'Oh why this wasn't receiving any media coverage?'" Zakaria continued. "Well let me suggest one reason. It is total nonsense. A figure made up by Glenn Beck with absolutely no basis in fact."

Citing data from the U.S. State Department, which reported roughly 11,000 terror attacks worldwide in 2009, Zakaria multiplied that number by 100, on the "generous" assumption that each attack took 100 terrorists, even though most were committed solo or by small groups.

Even using that exaggerated figure, Zakaria concluded, that would mean 1,100,000 people were involved in terrorist acts last year.

"Glenn Beck's figure is 150,000 times higher than that," the CNN anchor concluded. "If in fact there are 157 million Muslim terrorists in the world, what were the other 155,900,000 of them doing last year?"

Zakaria wasn't the only one to take issue with Beck's calculations, but the conservative pundit's camp didn't back down.

Stu Burguiere, the executive producer and head writer for Glenn Beck's show, wrote a fiery blog post in answer to the "typical idiotic left-wing blogs" and the "not-so-typically-idiotic sources" going "nuts" over Beck's statement.

"Dear Media: Glenn was right. You were wrong. Apologize," Burguiere wrote. He went on to defend Beck's calculations by pointing to a definition from, which defines a terrorist as "a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism."

Burguiere backed up his defense by including polls by World Public Opinion, which surveyed people in Muslim nations such as Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Morocco and Turkey on their attitudes toward Al Qaeda and attacks on civilians in the U.S. One poll, for example, found the number of people who "approve" of attacks on U.S. civilians ranged from 24% (in the Palestinian territories) to 4% (Azerbaijan).

Using these polls, Burguiere argued that everyone surveyed who expressed a negative attitude toward the United States would fall under the label of "terrorist," even if they had not personally been involved in terror attacks.

Burguiere also took specific aim at Zakaria in a post on Sunday night titled "Fareed's GPS fails him spectacularly."

"Fareed. Awful job," he wrote. "Perhaps, when trying to claim that someone else is incorrect, you should at least briefly familiarize yourself with their argument. In this case, the statistical backup from the respected polling agency that clearly proves what they said was accurate."

But Zakaria may have gotten the last word, by using Beck's definition against him.

In closing his argument against Beck, he cited another point the Fox host made about the .5% of the country (1.5 million Americans) who want to overthrow the government.

"Does fomenting or supporting such anger against the American government make one a terrorist?" Zakaria asked. "Well, according to Glenn Beck's producer and his definition, maybe. But in that case how would one describe a man who has been fueling such anger against the American government on television daily for the last two years?" he said.

"How, in other words, would one describe Glenn Beck?"

Read more:

Thursday 16 December 2010

Phones are a feminist issue in Bangladesh

DHAKA: Dressed in a colourful sari, clutching boxes of herbal tea in one hand and a battered old Nokia mobile phone in the other, Monowara Talukder doesn’t look like the average business executive.

But in just six years, Talukder has built an international herbal tea empire in Bangladesh that employs 1,500 female farmers, wins orders from major Western health food chains, and has a turnover of 44 million taka (625,000 dollars).

She was among the first people to sign up for a mobile phone when they arrived in the country in 1997. The costs were high, but the 48-year-old mother of four says she has never regretted the investment.

“My mobile phone has helped so much with the business – it is absolutely crucial for distribution and marketing,” Talukder told AFP over a cup of her signature Tulsi, or Holy Basil, tea in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

“I don’t have an office or showroom so people just ring me on the mobile to place orders.

I now have my products in all 64 districts of Bangladesh and get orders from buyers in Australia, Kuwait and Nepal.” She proudly shows off text messages from an Australian company which has just placed a major order for tea bags.

“I went to a green trade fair in September and put up posters with my mobile phone number on. Now I am getting all these orders from overseas,” she said.

But not all women are as lucky as Talukder. The telecoms industry body GSMA says a woman living in South Asia is 37 per cent less likely than a man to own a mobile phone – the world’s worst telecoms “gender gap”.

Traditional attitudes, which mean the first phone in a household will often go to the husband with the second going to the eldest son, were identified as one part of the problem.

In a bid to tackle the inequality, Mwomen – a new project backed by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair –was launched in October.

Mwomen aims to get mobile phones to some 150 million women globally within three years through public-private partnerships.

The project has attracted backing from at least 20 major mobile phone companies, including giants Nokia and Vodafone.

“Closing the mobile phone gender gap in South Asia represents a 3.6 billion dollar market opportunity for the mobile industry,” Trina DasGupta of the GSMA told AFP.

“And a 10-percent increase in mobile phone penetration rates is linked to an increase in GDP of 1.2 percent in low to middle income countries.” Another project in Bangladesh is the “village phone” by Grameen Phone, the telecoms wing of Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank.

Grameen created “village phone ladies” by giving poor rural women loans to buy a mobile phone. Each woman then charges others in her village to use the phone, giving her a small income and putting the community on the telephone network.

At least 364,000 women have joined the scheme since it began in 1997, although cheaper handsets and a fall in calling costs may soon make the model outdated.

One Mwomen partner, Banglalink, the country’s second largest mobile phone company, said Mwomen’s approach worked because it combined development objectives with profit-making.

“The gender gap is an opportunity for us, commercially. We were the first people to actually target women with specific campaigns,” Irum Iqbal, head of communication at Banglalink, told AFP.

In 2005, the company launched a calling plan called “Ladies First” followed by a separate advertising campaign featuring a young, female journalist who gets her big break thanks to a tip she receives on her mobile.

“It is obviously just good business sense for us and has been our communication strategy since the beginning,” Iqbal said.

For tea entrepreneur Monowara Talukder, the benefits of a mobile phone are now spreading to the female farmers she employs in her native Gaibandha district in the country’s north, one of the poorest parts of Bangladesh.

“I’m really proud as about 1,200 of them have been able to buy mobile phones because of growing Tulsi,” she said.

“They now use their phones to get better harvests. They can call an information hotline on crops, call me to report any problems with harvests. It has really transformed everything for them.”


Wednesday 15 December 2010

Disabled man victim of police brutality empathises with Palestinians.

Jody McIntyre shows his compassion and prinicipled stance amongst despicable line of questioning by stupid BBC interviewer. Well done Jody!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Christian man in Turkey kills sister for marrying Muslim

Comment: Unfortuntely women in all patriarchal cultures face threat of 'honor killings' and prospect of their male relatives controlling every aspect of their lives, not just among Muslims...Only greater education, stricter laws and the reform of the male dominated power structure will decrease such oppression inshallah.

A young couple that was found dead in their car in İstanbul's Fatih district 10 days after they got married were murdered because of religious differences, according to the prime suspect in the case.

Sonay Öğmen (age 26), the daughter of a Syriac family, married Zekeriya Vural (age 29) 10 days ago, against her family's wishes. The young couple was found dead in their automobile on Sunday, each with a bullet to the forehead.

The police established that the couple was killed by someone sitting in the back seat, concluding that the murderer had to be someone they knew. The alleged killer, Sonay's brother Günay Öğmen, was taken into police custody as part of the investigation. He purportedly confessed in his police testimony to shooting the couple, saying, “We did not want that groom.” Investigators said Öğmen, who owns more than 120 pigeons, was captured due to his love for these birds. The suspect was detained at the Pigeon Lovers Association in İstanbul, with the gun believed to have been used in the murder on his person. In his initial testimony, Öğmen said: “Our family didn't want them to get married. We met in a café to talk. Zekeriya told me: ‘This is over. We got married. Don't stand in the way.' Then we got in the car. I shot both of them.”

Vural's uncle Cemal Vural spoke to the press, saying: “Sonay's brother had invited them to dinner. It was a trap, apparently. She was Christian. Her family was against the marriage because he is Muslim. Actually, Sonay warned her family a week ago that she'd take her own life.” Investigators say Zekeriya Vural ran a jewelry store in the Kapalı Çarşı, like the family of Öğmen. The two stores are Kapalı Çarşı neighbors. Her family will still be holding a funeral for Sonay Öğmen. They claimed her body morning from the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) in Yeni Bosna, where doctors performed an autopsy. She was taken to the Surp Kevork Armenian Church for a funeral. Vural's family also retrieved the young man's body from the ATK. A funeral service was held for him at the Kocamustafapaşa Sümbül Efendi Mosque. Turkey has approximately 30,000 Syriac Christians. About half this number are Syriac Orthodox, and the other half are Syriac Catholics.


Thursday 9 December 2010

For the love of her school: ‘I told school attackers to burn me first’

Gul-e-Khandana, who hails from Matta tehsil, is the headmistress of a primary school for girls in Sijban, Matta. “I have intense love for this school. Where I now teach, I studied as a young girl in primary school,” she tells The Express Tribune.

She is the first woman from her family who chose to work outside the house, despite family pressure. “My family did oppose me but I resisted them because I wanted the girls of my village to be educated. For the first two years, I taught without a salary,” she said.

Education and literacy have never fared very well in Swat and when the militants intensified their hold in the region, education suffered the most. While most residents took fright, Gul-e-Khandana refused to. “When the militants started bombing schools, I feared for my school. I decided to transfer the record and furniture of my school to my home,” Gul-e-Khandana recalls.

The situation only seemed to worsen as the government gradually lost its control, she said. “The militants banned education for girls and blew up the schools where they could study,” she said.

As expected, her school was also on the list of schools to beattacked. “When they came to attack my school, I ran to it frantically. As they prepared to torch it, I blocked their way and told them to burn me first,” she says. “With Allah’s blessing, they retreated and my school was safe.”

The militants then launched personal attacks on Gul-e-Khandana and her family. “They called us infidels and came to our home to take away the school’s furniture and records. My children, our whole family were petrified but I did not lose heart and refused to let them even touch it.”

Gradually, as militancy took root in Swat and it became impossible for people to live in Swat, Gul-e-Khandana and his family moved to Mardan. “I was heartbroken. All I could think about was my school, the alma mater of the girls of our village,” she said.

The family returned only after the army declared that Swat valley had been cleared of militants. “You will not believe it but I walked all the way from Mingora to Sijban, immediately after peace was restored in the valley,” Gul-e-Khandana says. “Security forces had not yet allowed people to enter Matta and they apprehended me too, but I went running to the school before even going home.”

It was the happiest moment of Gul-e-Khandana’s life when she saw that her schools building was intact. “I felt pure joy and happiness when I saw that my school’s building, although partially-damaged, was still standing,” she says. “Since that day, I began working for the school. The army, Unicef and Sarhad Rural Support Programme contributed towards repairing the building and restoring water supply. They also provided furniture for students and teachers.” Gul-e-Khandana also admitted girls from a nearby middle school, which had been torched.

She now lives peacefully in Matta with her husband and five children. “My only wish is that the women from this region receive good education and are able to stand on their feet so that they can also work towards a better future for our homeland,” Gul-e-Khandana says.


Wednesday 8 December 2010

Evil is not exclusive to one group

Last week I blogged about a mostly Muslim Asian gang being found guilty of grooming and abusing very young 'white' girls. Two days after that story broke that a mostly 'white' group of men in Cornwall was found guilty of similar offences.

Crimes against children are crimes against all of humanity and they are not exclusive to any one religion or ethnicity. Unfortunately the tabloid media in England did not see it that way. In the former case, the religion and ethnicity of the abusers was mentioned repeatedly, in the latter case of course it did not warrant a mention at all. This is of course fits in the with the Islamophobic divisive agenda of media moguls like Richard Desmond.

However it has to be said that the patriarchal nature of the British Muslim community and the offensive attitudes of some very backward Muslim men who seem to consider non-Muslim women 'game' and somehow deserving of exploitation have to be addressed. As a result of their valued status the behaviour of our sons if often ignored and excused. When is fact they should be held fully accountable for their actions and the high level of criminal activity that exists among them condemned as strongly as possible .

The Muslim prison population is three times that of the general public, it is true that factors of social deprivation and recent repressive laws affect this, however this is still a staggering figure. I truly believe this is the greatest 'fitnah' that affects our community. I wish others could understand that, instead of continually talking about how women dress, or the evils of listening to music and trimming beards etc.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Sex abuse in Muslim families goes unreported

Four Dutch-Moroccan women, Rabea, Zohra, Ibtisam and Saïda, were all sexually abused by members of their families: their fathers, uncles, brothers or cousins.

After years of silence, they have decided to speak out because they know that many other Muslim women suffer the same fate. A care worker: “Taboos, secrecy, silence, shame and a closed community are almost a recipe for sexual abuse.”

The idea of ‘family honour’ meant that Rabea, Zohra, Ibtisam and Saïda kept their mouths shut. Now they are telling their stories to try and break the taboo surrounding sexual abuse in Muslim families. They no longer see themselves as victims. Their mission is to help other women who are in trouble now.

Young victims Their stories are individual but share much common ground. They were all around four or five when someone in their family started abusing them. The girls all kept silent because of threats, but also for fear of bringing ‘dishonour’ on the family. They didn’t even consider going to the police. Even now, they think that would be going too far.

Rabea was abused as a little girl by her father. She became caught up in herself and grew defiant.

“It’s so unnatural. If you’re beaten up at school or on the street, you go to your parents or your teacher. But this is your father. That goes against everything you believe in. I didn’t know how to talk about it and to whom I could turn. I was in danger of ending up in prostitution, but that didn’t happen luckily. Other people’s support and my belief in Jesus Christ helped to give me strength in the end.”

Robbed of everything Zohra kept her story to herself for years. She now tells of how she was raped by her cousin in Morocco when she was five:

“I was staying with my aunt and my cousin was looking after me. That day is engraved on my memory – he robbed me of everything. My aunt caught us. She said she’d deny everything if I told my parents. Nobody would believe me. I lost trust in everything. You’re damaged by sexual abuse, but I’ve learned that you can recover.”

Recipe for abuse

Kristina Aamand has heard lots of similar stories. She works at an emergency shelter for young women in Denmark which, like the Netherlands, has a large Islamic immigrant population.

“It goes on in immigrant and native Danish families. It’s just that we never look for it in the Muslim community. When I was being trained, I was told I didn’t need to learn anything about sex abuse in Islamic countries because incest was forbidden by Islam and didn’t happen. That was really naïve. Taboos, secrets, silence, shame and a closed community are almost a recipe for sexual abuse.”

Cast out of the family Ibtisam was abused by her brother almost daily between the age of six and 12. “If I told on him, he would blame me. I would be killed or cast out of the family. I felt dirty, unhappy and rejected by my own family. I was very lonely. I was a girl that wasn’t alive. I was breathing but that was all.” The abuse stopped a year after Ibtisam threatened to tell on her brother.

Saïda was the victim of several abusers. She still suffers from the consequences every day. “I was abused from the age of four to 20 by different people. It destroyed me both physically and mentally. I felt afraid. I am still unable to be intimate with men, or fall in love. I did not have a normal childhood.” The doctor said she was mad. A couple of years ago, Saïda set up a project for abused Islamic girls. She realised there are more girls like her who do not tell their stories.

Confide Zohra, Rabea, Ibtisam and Saïda are not alone. There are more indications of sexual abuse in Islamic families. A crisis centre in Friesland takes in victims of honour-related violence. Half of them turned out to be sexually abused by a relative. Most of them have a Moroccan or Turkish background, some of them are Iraqi, Afghan or Kurd.

Zohra, Ibtisam, Saïda and Rabea are older now and have got their lives back in order. They want women with similar problems to confide in someone they trust. “They are not alone. Telling your story gets easier. I hope victims can draw strength from our stories,” says Ibtisam.


Monday 6 December 2010

Afghanistan's propaganda war takes a new twist

In 1985, at the height of the Soviet suppression of Afghanistan, National Geographic ran a cover photograph of a stunning Afghan girl. She had no name, but her haunted, mesmerising green eyes and her dramatic features framed by a crimson head shawl, seemed to capture a story of suffering, lost innocence and unrealised potential that went far deeper than the experience of just one girl.

Twenty five years later, Time magazine ran a cover of another beautiful Afghan girl. She too had captivating eyes – brown, not green – lustrous black hair and a striking expression. However, what gave the photograph its narrative and political power was something that was missing from her attractive physiognomy: her nose.

In its place was a yawning hole, a hideous second mouth in the very centre of her face. If those eyes in that now famous National Geographiccover spoke so eloquently of a forsaken nation's plight, then what did this grotesque wound say about the state of the country in 2010? ForTime the answer appeared to be in the cover line, which referred to the debate about the continued presence of Nato troops: "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan". There was no question mark.

The girl without the nose was Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old from the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan. In 2009 she had fled her husband's house, complaining of beatings, maltreatment and a life, not uncommon among women in Afghanistan, that amounted to abject slavery. She had been given to her husband when she was 12, as payment to settle a dispute – a practice in Afghanistan that goes by the fitting name of "baad".

Having endured six years of torment and abuse, she escaped to the only place she could go, back to her family home. It was here that the Talibanarrived one night and demanded that the girl be handed over to face justice. She was taken away to a mountain clearing, where the local Taliban commander issued his verdict. She was then held down by her brother-in-law, while her husband first sliced off her ears and then cut off her nose. Aisha passed out from the pain but soon awoke choking on her blood, abandoned by her torturers and the ad-hoc judiciary of the Taliban.

According to Time, the Taliban commander who awarded the punishment, later said that Aisha had to be made an example "lest other girls in the village try to do the same thing".

With the help of the American military, aid workers took her to a women's refuge in Kabul run by an Afghan-American organisation, Women for Afghan Women (WAW). There she remained, under the care of trained social workers, until August of this year, at around the time the Timecover appeared.

She was then flown to California to undergo reconstructive surgery at the Grossman Burn Centre in California. However, following psychological assessment, the medical staff at the foundation decided that Aisha required more counselling and therapy before she could give her informed consent to the gruelling series of operations that surgery would entail.

So last month she was moved to New York, where she remains under the care and supervision of WAW. "In Kabul she had been doing very well with us," says Esther Hyneman of WAW. "She had been with us for nine months. When she got to California, she regressed somewhat. We think it was because she really missed the friends she had made in the women's shelter in Kabul. It was also a big culture shock, and there was some problem getting her situated." WAW has indefinitely postponed the surgery. "She is now comfortable with her appearance," says Hyneman. "She doesn't hide herself any longer. And she has a prosthesis that they made at Grossman Burn. It's really a work of art. We encourage her to wear it, but she doesn't always put it on."

WAW now thinks that her best chance of adapting to her current life in America is through education. "She has never been to school," says Hyneman, "and lacks basic common knowledge. For example, I bought her a map of the world and she had no idea where she was. She couldn't find Afghanistan or Pakistan either. But the point I want to stress is that she's an amazingly intelligent person."

She's being taught English and maths, and some other basics, but Hyneman says that she already displays a kind of instinctive gift for using a computer. The one problem this presents is that she's inclined to search for sites with photographs of the Taliban, says Hyneman. "And when she sees them, she goes crazy, screaming and crying about what the Taliban did to her and what they do to women. So we try to discourage her from doing this."

In an obvious sense Aisha's story conforms to a traditional feminist reading of the struggle of women against patriarchal society. Consigned to the status of a domestic slave, she rebelled and felt the brutal force of male-dominated tribal society. And there is no doubt that this is the context in which this vicious crime against a teenage girl took place.

However, it's not the only context, and for many critics of the Time cover, it's not the most significant context. Because, of course, Afghanistan plays host to tens of thousands of foreign troops, most of them American, and as such any efforts to remove the troops are seen by critics of the occupation as all part of a legitimate anti-imperialist cause. From this perspective, to put it crudely, national liberation always trumps female emancipation.

Thus, for those who wished the Nato troops to remain, the photo of Aisha acted as a symbol of what they were fighting against, and for those who wanted to see them withdrawn, it was a piece of emotional propaganda or "war porn".

Writing on the Guardian's website Priyamvada Gopal, who teaches English at Cambridge University, viewed the Time cover in terms of a "cynical ploy" to justify the occupation. "Misogynist violence is unacceptable," argued Gopal, "but we must also be concerned by the continued insistence that the complexities of war, occupation and reality itself can be reduced to bedtime stories."

Hyneman certainly agrees that it's wrong to focus on Aisha's case, "as if she's the only woman who's suffered this treatment. People need to realise that she represents those women who are already dead, or under threat of attack or face being stoned to death."

For Gopal, though, these issues are simply handy levers for empty western moralising. She concluded that America has nothing to offer Afghanistan except more war and "bikini waxes".

The notion, fashionable in radical circles, that Afghan women are better off without American protection or influence is one that Hyneman is particularly keen to contest.

"Contrary to what most people in the developed world seem to believe, progress for women has occurred in Afghanistan, and against overwhelming odds."

There are indeed several achievements that cannot be easily disregarded. Under the Taliban girls were not allowed to go to school after the age of eight. Now there are more girls attending school in Afghanistan than at any time in its history. Under the Taliban, women's voices were banned from radio (TV was completely forbidden) and now they take up a leading role in the broadcast media. Before, sports were off-limits to women, now there are female athletes competing in international events. Adultery was punishable by being stoned to death, and women were beaten on the street for anything short of total enshrouding. Now, while the informal dress code remains restrictive, 25% of parliamentary seats are allocated to women.

The picture is far from perfect, and there are powerful forces within a weak and corrupt government that still wish to turn back the clock. There is currently an attempt under way to close down women's refuges because religious conservatives, without any evidence, have accused them of operating as brothels.

WAW has five women's refuges throughout the country – and plans to open three more – as well as five family centres where men, who may be a threat to their wives, can receive counselling. And it is also active in seeking protection and compensation through the courts. Hyneman believes that if the Taliban regains control not only will all these benefits be lost, but there will also be a bloodbath against women.

"The fundamental problem," she says, "is that the Taliban's subjugation of women is a political strategy. Get 50% of the population on its knees and you can control the country. It's also their military strategy. They're the ones who are using women for military and political gain."

What, though, of Aisha? Where does she go now? Her mother died when she was very young, and according to Hyneman, she "does not have loving thoughts" about her father, who gave her up in the first place. She also has a younger sister, says Hyneman, who WAW believe may soon be turned over to the same family that mutilated Aisha as part of the outstanding blood-money debt.

No amount of foreign troops can change the status of Afghan women. An enormous amount of work must be done to shift culturally and religiously sanctioned codes of behaviour, and then to raise life expectations. But it's hard to imagine that such efforts could be waged without the protection of the Nato troops. Even then, many Afghan women may still see security in tradition, no matter how unkind it has been to them.

In 2002 National Geographic tracked down the girl with the green eyes. They found her living near the mountains of Tora Bora, which had been targeted by American bombing to flush out al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. Her name was Sharbat Gula. She had lived a life almost permanently disrupted by war and dreamed of her daughters one day attending school. But Gula also said that "life under the Taliban was better. At least there was peace and order".

The Taliban, who have minimal support in Afghanistan, understand the deep yearning for peace in the country after decades of fighting. That's why they are prepared to commit the most monstrous violence, particularly against women, to force the Afghans to submit to their order. Human Rights Watch has collected letters sent by the Taliban to intimidate and terrorise women. One reads: "We warn you to leave your job as a teacher as soon as possible otherwise we will cut the heads off your children and we shall set fire to your daughter." Another threatens such a harsh form of death "that no woman has so far been killed in that manner".

Anyone who is serious about challenging misogyny in Afghanistan is required, at the very minimum, to acknowledge this depressing reality. Equally, regardless of whether the troops stay or are withdrawn, it's important, if only for the sake of honest debate, to state clearly what's at stake. Aisha's experience is not the whole story, but it does symbolise a critical subplot that ought not be neglected. That much, at least, is as plain as the nose that is missing from her face.

If you would like to make a donation to the Women for Afghan Women/Bibi Aisha Trust Fund go to


Sunday 5 December 2010

CAIR: Oregon College Cancels Islam Class with Hate Group Leader

SEATTLE, Dec. 3, 2010 / The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) today called on an Oregon community college to replace a leader of an anti-Muslim hate group who is scheduled to begin teaching a course on Islam in January.

CAIR-WA reported that Barry Sommer, president of an Oregon chapter of the hate group ACT! for America, will teach a course called "What is Islam" at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. Sommer also produces a weekly local cable access program "Islam Today" on Comcast's CTV29. The contact e-mail for the program is "" His personal blog features one of the infamous Danish cartoons mocking Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

SEE: LCC Offers "What is Islam" Class
CTV29: Islam Today Oregon
Lane Community College: What is Islam
(Scroll down to "What is Islam.")

Sommer has a history of making false and misleading statements about Islam.

The preface to Sommer's online book, "From the Mouths of Our Enemies," states: "Our enemies want us destroyed not because of our riches, or our liberties, although they say that is so. No, they want us gone because Allah told them so. Foundational Islam demands that ALL citizens of planet earth convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya) or die. It is now demanded of us that we make a stand, draw the line and decide who wins this clash once and for all. If it means war, so be it."

In a July 16, 2010 letter to Eugene's Register-Guard newspaper, Sommer wrote: "Until Islam changes its 1,400 years of subjugation and conquest by the sword, the atrocities will continue to escalate."

In a letter to Lane Community College President Mary Spilde, CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari wrote: "Unless the goal of this course is to promote anti-Muslim bigotry, Lane Community College should replace Mr. Sommer with someone who will offer students a balanced and objective analysis of the subject matter."

Bukhari said ACT! for America national leader Brigitte Gabriel claims an American Muslim "cannot be a loyal citizen" and that Islam is the "real enemy." She once told the Australian Jewish News: "Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim." She also claimed that "Islamo-fascism is a politically-correct word. . .it's the vehicle for Islam. . .Islam is the problem."

When asked whether Americans should "resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation," Gabriel said: "Absolutely. If a Muslim who has -- who is -- a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day -- this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America."

Gabriel stated: "America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam."

SEE: Islam's March Against the West

Along with her stated desire to have Muslims barred from public office, Gabriel has also claimed that Arabs "have no soul" and that Muslims worship "something they call 'Allah,' which is very different from the God we believe [in]."

SEE: A Case Study in Sincere Hypocrisy: Brigitte Gabriel
Video: Brigitte Gabriel Says Arabs Have No Souls

Earlier this year, a person staffing an ACT! for America information table in Florida was caught on video bragging that he desecrated the Quran, Islam's revealed text, and urinates in the washing stations Muslims use to perform their ritual ablutions (wudu) for prayer.

That person states: "Their foot baths, I love pissing in them. . .The Quran makes worthless toilet paper. It just kind of scratches my a** a little bit. . .To me, I like desecrating their [Muslims'] holy stuff."

SEE: Person at ACT! for America Table in Fla. Brags of Desecrating Quran

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari, +1-206-367-4081, +1-206-931-3655,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, +1-202-744-7726, +1-202-488-8787,; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, +1-202-488-8787, +1-202-341-4171,