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Saturday, March 31, 2007
Mike Ghouse Nov 14, 2006
My concern is the vigilantism that may surface. I believe, the Immigration issue be best handled by our Federal Government. Let's not take law into our own hands, it sets dangerous precedents. We will come to regret the City’s decision.
Without any doubt, all should learn English. It is the language of communication and it is in the interests of those who do not speak to really take the time to learn it. Inability to communicate on our own, puts us at a disadvantage.
We are in it together for the safety, security and well being of Americans and we have to honor different opinions, whether we agree or not. That's what makes America the greatest country on the earth, a beacon of democracy and freedom.
Our pledge is our faith in one nation under God with liberty and justice to all. There must be a reason, the founding fathers did not insert the words “justice to Citizens”. And for over 200 years we have followed our constitution and we should honor the wisdom of our founding fathers. Jesus welcomes and embraces all whether we are In the picture: Dr. Marco Rico, Domingo Garcia, Roberto Alonzo and Mike Ghouse Lepers or socially un-acceptable. Let’s follow his path, the right path.
Think about it:
If you or I forget the wallet at home....and cannot produce the ID to the Cops whom we trust, does it give room to a few to treat us differently? What if three people in a row were hauled off, and 4th one is one of us?
You and I may not look Hispanic, what if someone does? what if a legal Hispanic forgets the wallet? If any one treats you and I differently than the undocumented alien, except the immigration officers, would that be the right thing to do? Does one have to look like some one else to get a different attitude? No, All need to be treated with justice and fairness.
I believe, the Federal government should stop illegal immigration, not the Local police and property owners. I would not want to look suspiciously at the hard working peaceful neighbor next door.
Those few who are calling the one's who oppose in less than glowing terms, need to realize, that it is the hype not the fact. Americans, including Hispanic-Americans and all other Americans want English to be the language of communications, and want secure borders and want the Federal Government to handle the issue.
I am writing this because I office in Farmers Branch, and I forgot to bring my wallet today (11/17/06) and have to drive around... I was worried first, then I said to myself, let me see what happens to me.
Illegal immigration should be stopped, and no one should enter the United States without documentation. We must welcome all through proper documenation. We have the INS to handle it and we should let them handle it.
Let us support our police in thier efforts to keep our neighborhoods safe and focus on lowering the crime rate. Let's not burden them with additional duties. It will cost the City funds and it might lend itself to vigilantism. Safety of its residents as its chief goal of Police.
Let us help the new immigrants learn English to communicate, it is in their interest to learn the language to properly understand the rights and duties of a resident of a city.
Please let me know if you differ and that would be fine with me, as democracy is all about accepting and respecting each others opinions.
Council discusses legal ramifications of immigration measures
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas - Council members were in a closed meeting with the city attorney Monday to discuss legal ramifications of proposals intended to keep illegal immigrants away from this Dallas suburb.
It was unclear whether the proposals, which would make English the official language of Farmers Branch and fine landlords and businesses that deal with illegal immigrants, would go to a vote Monday.
Opponents of the measures, meanwhile, collected signatures on a petition urging the city not to become the first in Texas to pass such strong anti-immigrant laws. They submitted more than 80 signatures to the mayor's office Monday.
"It's very much against the very fiber of this nation," said Mike Ghouse, a homebuilder with a local group called Foundation for Pluralism who has an office in Farmers Branch.
Supporters say the ordinances are necessary because the federal government has failed to address the issue. Critics argue the proposals could lead to sanctioned discrimination and racism.
Attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights advocacy group, told city council members that the proposals could violate federal law if approved.
The group said it would evaluate any measures approved by the council to determine their legality.
The rules could force untrained business owners and landlords to evaluate a wide array of immigration documents to determine if the person carrying them is legally in the country, MALDEF staff attorney Marisol Perez said.
"You're putting them in the shoes of an immigration officer," she said she told council members.
More than 50 municipalities nationwide have considered, passed or rejected similar laws, but until now that trend hasn't been matched in the Lone Star State.
Such sentiments and the proposed ordinances trouble many people in Texas, where many Latino families can trace their roots here to the era before statehood.
Since 1970, Farmers Branch has changed from a small, predominantly white bedroom community with a declining population to a city of almost 28,000 people, about 37 percent of them Hispanic, according to the census. It also is home to more than 80 corporate headquarters and more than 2,600 small and mid-size firms, many of them minority-owned.
"They're afraid that Farmers Branch is becoming Hispanic," said Christopher McGuire, a resident of the city and spokesman for a group called United Farmers Branch. "It's going to happen, and that's not a bad thing."
The local debate over illegal immigration began in August and spawned demonstrations by both sides.
The proposals follow a vote this year in Hazleton, Pa., to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, deny business permits to companies that employ them and require tenants to register and pay for a rental permit.
However, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the Hazleton ordinance while he considers a lawsuit against the town by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
Farmers Branch City moves against illegal immigrants
08:45 AM CST on Tuesday, November 14, 2006
By STEPHANIE SANDOVAL / The Dallas Morning News
Farmers Branch on Monday adopted strict measures against illegal immigrants, requiring apartment renters to provide proof of citizenship or residency and making English the city's official language.
The City Council also unanimously agreed to let police apply to participate in a federal program that would enable them to check the residency status of suspects in custody and initiate deportation proceedings in certain cases.
The measures, believed to be the first of their kind in Texas, brought cheers from supporters but sparked anger among some Hispanics and other opponents that the action will cause further racial tension in the city.
LARA SOLT / DMN
Protesters gathered at Farmers Branch City Hall hours before Monday night's City Council meeting. Shouting matches periodically erupted outside the council chambers between supporters and opponents of the ordinances. Some Hispanic activists said they will sue the city over the decisions.
"Tomorrow in the courts. I'm winning tomorrow," said Jorge Rivera, an Irving community activist. When he addressed the crowd after the decision, he said in Spanish, "Don't worry, we are going to win."
Dallas activist Domingo Garcia also vowed to sue.
Representatives of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, however, said the language of the resolutions and ordinances approved Monday are different from what other cities have adopted – and over which they have sued. They said they will have to review the language before deciding whether to pursue legal action against Farmers Branch.
"It's hard for us to have firm, specific legal opinions, but we're all disappointed they chose to pursue this divisive path," said Rebecca Bernhardt, immigration, border and national security policy director for the ACLU of Texas.
Luis Figueroa, legislative staff attorney for MALDEF, said he, too, was disappointed.
"Farmers Branch will likely feel the negative effects of this measure in its economy, as well as with increased racial tensions," he said.
Farmers Branch resident David McKenzie rejoiced at the city's decision.
"I'm happy, very happy," he said. " 'Surprised' is the word. I think it gets it going in the right direction. It's a start. ... I think it will be symbolic. I really do."
The English as the official language resolution means that the city generally will not provide documents any longer in Spanish but does not affect the use of Spanish by businesses or individuals.
"This is not meant to keep anyone from speaking Spanish or any other language in their home, at their workplace, in public or anywhere else," City Council member Tim O'Hare said.
A separate resolution calls for the Police Department to apply to enter into an agreement with ICE to essentially train a jail officer and give that person access to a federal database to check the immigration status of people in custody for crimes.
Under the rental restrictions, apartment owners and managers would be required to obtain papers showing citizenship or eligible immigration status from each member of a family planning to live there.
Groups debate immigration
Tell Us: Share your thoughts on the ordinances
En Español (AlDiaTX.com)
The ordinance will go into effect Jan. 12 and will not affect anyone with an existing lease or rental agreement.
Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, with each day a separate offense.
Wylie resident Sherry Wilkinson said earlier Monday that she wants her city to do the same thing.
"As soon as it happens here, I'm taking it to Wylie," she said. "The key is to get it done here."
Hundreds of people crowded into City Hall earlier Monday, filling the council chambers and spilling over into the lobby.
LARA SOLT / DMN
Billy Bruce of Duncanville was among those making his views known at Farmers Branch City Hall on Monday night. Outside, nearly two hours before the meeting, dozens of protesters stood outside waving American flags and chanting, "People united will never be divided," and "What do we want? Justice. When? Now."
They bore signs asking, "Mr. O'Hare, What would Jesus do?" and saying, "In God We Trust, O'Hare is unjust."
Mr. O'Hare thrust Farmers Branch into the national spotlight in August with suggestions that the city emulate cities in other states that had adopted local ordinances making it harder for illegal immigrants to live and work there.
Earlier O'Hare suggestions that were not addressed by the council Monday were to penalize businesses that hired illegal immigrants and to curtail city subsidies for children of illegal immigrants in some city youth programs.
The council debated the merits of those proposals and the legal issues surrounding them behind closed doors Monday, citing state open meetings laws that allow governmental bodies to meet privately for consultation with their attorneys regarding pending litigation.
Moments before closing the doors, representatives of MALDEF briefed the council on the legal and financial ramifications of adopting such ordinances.
LARA SOLT / DMN
Farmers Branch police told resident Gerald Colgrove, who supported the limitations on illegal immigrants, that he'd have to leave during the shouting outside the council meeting. During the meeting, a flurry of shouting matches periodically erupted outside, the two sides separated by a few feet and exchanging slogans and accusations of racism.
Police escorted one woman off the property, and another was taken into custody for disorderly conduct.
Mr. Rivera led opponents with a megaphone, appealing for calm during moments of tension as more than a dozen police officers monitored the situation.
As members of Hispanic and civil rights groups led their followers in chants of "We are Americans," one woman shouted back, "No you're not."
Chants of "U.S.A." by opponents of the proposals were met by shouts of "Enforce the law" by a small group of supporters.
"We understand we have some big problems. We don't support illegal immigration," said Luis de la Garza, a Farmers Branch resident and secretary for foreign relations for LULAC's national organization.
Staff writers Paul Meyer and Katherine Leal Unmuth contributed to this report.
During the 9th Annual Thanksgiving Celebrations & Awards Night
By the Foundation for Pluralism.
This tribute is extracted from the full report of thanksgiving Celebrations & Awards night at http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/TG2005_REPORT.asp
Hon. Becky Miller, Mayor of the City of Carrollton Pays tribute to the contributions of Jewish Community.
Leon Levin: A long time member of Temple Shalom, Leon was on the board of Trustees for four years and is a former Brotherhood chair. He has served on almost every committee at Temple Shalom in Dallas including being the Chair of their Caring Congregation. He continues to welcome and teach the various Church groups who come to visit Temple Shalom’s Friday evening service. He is on Board of Trustees of Chai House, a series of homes for Jewish adults with mental challenges. Jerry is a proud father of a daughter who is a rabbi in Florida and a former Navy Petty Officer who led services aboard the USS Perry.
Mike's tribute to the Jewish community
Jews have been an integral part of the American experience since the very beginning of our country. They didn’t arrive with the Puritans in 1620 -- Jews had already been here for 130 years. Five Jews accompanied Columbus on his first voyage in 1492 in a time and from a place of extreme religious persecution. Indeed those Jews were all forced to convert to Christianity before they could depart.
On July 1, 1776 Francis Salvador had the dubious honor of being the first American Jew to give his life for his adopted country as the American Revolution laid the groundwork for this nation of liberty and equality to take root and grow. Ever since then, no group has ever appreciated more this country’s welcome; has more appreciated and subscribed to the welcome of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”; and no group has worked harder to help our country live up to the words of the first phrase of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Indeed, James Madison, the father of the United States Constitution, once observed that "the [religious] devotion of the people has been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state." Americans are still among the most religious people in the world. Yet the government plays almost no role in promoting, endorsing or funding religious institutions or religious beliefs. Free from government control -- and without government assistance -- religious values, literature, traditions and holidays permeate the lives of our citizens and, in their diverse ways, form an integral part of our national culture. By maintaining the wall separating church and state, we can guarantee the continued vitality of religion in American life.
Discrimination and intolerance are scourges that continue to arise in societies, especially in times of economic stress. Minorities, whether religious or ethnic or cultural, become scapegoats for the ills of society. In 1913 the Anti-Defamation League was formed in response to rampant discrimination against Jews. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment for all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against any body of citizens.
Unquestionably, many things have changed -- mainly for the better -- for Jews and other minorities in America since 1913. Discrimination in hiring, in schooling, and in housing, once so common, is now prohibited by law. Unlike in the past, few Americans feel compelled to conceal their origins. Offensive caricatures rarely appear in the mass media, and racial and religious stereotypes, on the whole, no longer dominate American popular culture.
These changes are due, in large measure, to the efforts of the Jewish Community and it's civic efforts.
Today, as in the past, the Jewish community works to expose and combat the purveyors of hatred, discrimination and intolerance in our midst.
Today, all the faiths are flourishing and enjoying the freedom, thanks to the pioneering efforts of the Jewish community to continue to work on the separation of Church and State.
Mayor Becky Miller presented the trophy to Leon Levin, while Mike Ghouse and Julie Ann Turner looks on.
Leon Levin Acceptance speech.
Pluralism Prayers led by Swami Nityananda Prabhu: L-R: Julie Ann Turner, Mike Ghouse, Dr. Mohammad Khalid, Bryan Lankford, MaryAnn Thompson_Frenk, Regina Rafraf, Robert Hunt, Dr. Harbans Lal, Leon Levin.
CAIR, MUSLIMS & AIFD
M. Zuhdi Jasser on record
We appreciate Mr. Jusar Zuhdi for speaking up! Thanks for the below listed video links from your interview with Arizona TV, a must watch video's. - followed by Associated Press' column:: Chilling effect feared over Muslims suing fellow passengers after removal.
- Islam is not a monolithic religion - Thanks for that assertion.
- Almost all Muslims & Organizations condemn terror, I wish you had emphasized that.
- Almost all Muslims want the separation of church and state, I wish you had mentioned that.
- I don't know any Mosques in the US /Canada that gives hate sermons now - wish you had stressed it.
- Only a few, just a handful of Muslims may support the move by CAIR, I do appreciate the civil rights work CAIR does, and take exception to this action of suing the passengers, it is indeed short-sighted. Let's all speak out strongly, so that it remains the voice of CAIR and not Muslims of America.
- We have to make it loud enough, and more of us need to do it. There will always be a handful of Muslims who will oppose it, and we need to respect their sentiments as a part of democratic process.
- I sincerely hope, the American Media expresses the Muslim sentiment on their air waves.
Speak up, silent no more.
World Muslim Congress.
Good for Muslims and good for the world
In a message dated 3/31/2007 12:08:31 A.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Fox10 KSAZ's weekly news program- Newsmaker Sunday appears on the local Phoenix Fox affiliate- KSAZ. The following video links contain the full interview.
John Hook interviews M. Zuhdi Jasser in this 26 minute in-depth interview on Muslim Extrremism and issues related to Islam and the local Phoenix Muslim community since 9-11.
Newsmaker Sunday-'Muslim Extremism'- Part I - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGeg5tS8cF8
Newsmaker Sunday-'Muslim Extremism' Part II - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECZ0sgaRnXA
Newsmaker Sunday-'Muslim Extremism' Part III - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or0Exk1QZgc
Chilling effect feared over Muslims suing fellow passengers after removal
By Patrick Condon
Mar. 30, 2007 11:44 AM
MINNEAPOLIS - Six Muslim men removed from a plane last fall after being accused of suspicious behavior are suing not only the airline but the passengers who complained - a move some fear could discourage travelers from speaking up when they see something unusual.
The civil rights lawsuit, filed earlier this month, has so alarmed some lawyers that they are offering to defend the unnamed "John Doe" passengers free of charge. They say it is vital that the flying public be able to report suspicious behavior without fear of being dragged into court.
"When you drive up the road towards the airport, there's a big road sign that says, Report suspicious behavior,' " said Gerry Nolting, a Minneapolis lawyer. "There's no disclaimer that adds, But beware if you do that, you might get sued.' "
The six imams were taken off a Phoenix-bound US Airways flight on Nov. 20 while returning home from a conference of Islamic clerics in Minneapolis.
Other passengers had gotten nervous when the men were seen praying and chanting in Arabic as they waited to board. Some passengers also said that the men spoke of Saddam Hussein and cursed the United States; that they requested seat belt extenders with heavy buckles and stowed them under their seats; that they were moving about and conferring with each other during boarding; and that they sat separately in seats scattered through the cabin.
The plane was cleared for a security sweep, nothing was found, and the jet took off without the imams.
The Muslim clerics say they were humiliated, and are seeking unspecified damages from the airline, the Minneapolis airport and, potentially, the John Does.
Omar Mohammedi, the New York City attorney for the imams, said the intent is not to go after passengers who raise valid concerns about security. But he suggested some passengers may have acted in bad faith out of prejudice.
"As an attorney, I have seen a lot of abuse by the general public when it comes to members of the community creating stories that do not exist," Mohammedi said.
He denied the imams were talking about Saddam, and said that their seats were assigned and that they requested extenders because their seat belts didn't fit.
Some fear such lawsuits could weaken what has become the first line of defense against terrorism since Sept. 11 - an alert public. At airports and train and subway stations around the country, travelers are routinely warned to watch for unattended bags and suspicious activity and to notify authorities.
Ellen Howe, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees security at all U.S. airports, would not comment specifically on the imams' lawsuit. But she said the TSA counts on passengers to help the agency do its job.
" See something, say something' is certainly a common mantra in this day and age," Howe said. "We would always remind passengers to be both vigilant and thoughtful."
In reaction to the imams' lawsuit, Congress has taken steps to legally protect passengers who report suspicious activity. Earlier this week, the House approved an amendment to a rail transportation security bill that would make passengers immune from such lawsuits, unless they say something they know is false.
Mohammedi said he has not yet identified any of the complaining passengers. An airport police report listed a passenger and two US Airways employees as complaining about the imams. All three had their names blacked out before the lawsuit was filed by invoking a Minnesota law that allows it, airport spokesman Pat Hogan said.
Nolting said he has been contacted by several potential John Does.
Passenger Pat Snelson, who lives in a Twin Cities suburb, said he and his wife were not among those who reported suspicious behavior. But he said his wife noticed the men praying, and he saw them moving around the cabin while others were boarding.
"These guys were up to no good," Snelson said. "We think the airport people did a real good job in taking care of it."
Bomb-sniffing dogs examined the men and their baggage. FBI agents and other federal law enforcement officers questioned the men for several hours before releasing them.
Billie Vincent, a former director of security for the Federal Aviation Administration, said he is troubled by the mere attempt to identify the passengers who raised concerns.
Airline passengers "are your eyes and your ears," said Vincent, who now owns an aviation security company. "If attorneys can get those names and sue them, you put a chilling effect on the whole system."
Senator Barack Obama
Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference, and I’d like to congratulate you all on the thoughtful presentations you’ve given so far about poverty and justice in America. I think all of us would affirm that caring for the poor finds root in all of our religious traditions – certainly that’s true for my own.
But today I’d like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments over this issue over the last several years.
I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible and discuss the religious call to environmental stewardship all we want, but it won’t have an impact if we don’t tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.
For me, this need was illustrated during my 2004 face for the U.S. Senate. My opponent, Alan Keyes, was well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.
Indeed, towards the end of the campaign, Mr. Keyes said that, “Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.”
Now, I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, his arguments not worth entertaining. What they didn’t understand, however, was that I had to take him seriously. For he claimed to speak for my religion – he claimed knowledge of certain truths. Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, he would say, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.
Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.What would my supporters have me say? That a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? That Mr. Keyes, a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope?
Unwilling to go there, I answered with the typically liberal response in some debates – namely, that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can’t impose my religious views on another, that I was running to be the U.S. Senator of Illinois and not the Minister of Illinois.
But Mr. Keyes implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer didn’t adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and beliefs.My dilemma was by no means unique. In a way, it reflected the broader debate we’ve been having in this country for the last thirty years over the role of religion in politics.
For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest “gap” in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t.
Conservative leaders, from Falwell and Robertson to Karl Rove and Ralph Reed, have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.
Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that – regardless of our personal beliefs – constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.
Such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when the opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.
We first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people believe in angels than do those who believe in evolution.
This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that’s deeper than that – a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.
Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily round – dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets – and coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.
They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway towards nothingness.
I speak from experience here. I was not raised in a particularly religious household. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, I did too.
It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma.The Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me; they saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed a part of me that remained removed, detached, an observer in their midst. In time, I too came to realize that something was missing – that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart and alone.
If not for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the church.For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; it is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope.
And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship, the grounding of faith in struggle, that the church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts. You need to come to church precisely because you are of this world, not apart from it; you need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in your difficult journey.
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.
The path I traveled has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans – evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at a turning point in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives them.This is why, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.
Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s will continue to hold sway.
More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord,” or King’s I Have a Dream speech without reference to “all of God’s children.” Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.
After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.
Solving these problems will require changes in government policy; it will also require changes in hearts and minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer’s lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we have a problem of morality; there’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that government programs alone cannot fix.
I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws; but I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation’s CEOs can bring quicker results than a battalion of lawyers.
I think we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys, and give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished. But my bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman’s sense of self, a young man’s sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence all young people for the act of sexual intimacy.
I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith – the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps – off rhythm – to the gospel choir.
But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize the overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of “thou” and not just “I,” resonates in religious congregations across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of America’s renewal.
Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like my friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality. National denominations have shown themselves as a force on Capitol Hill, on issues such as immigration and the federal budget. And across the country, individual churches like my own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
To build on these still-tentative partnerships between the religious and secular worlds will take work – a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed, and each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.
While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressives need to do on this, I that the conservative leaders of the Religious Right will need to acknowledge a few things as well.
For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice.
That during our founding, it was not the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of this separation; it was the persecuted religious minorities, Baptists like John Leland, who were most concerned that any state-sponsored religion might hinder their ability to practice their faith.
Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who’s Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Levitacus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?
This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
This may be difficult for those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.
We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.
But it’s fair to say that if any of us saw a twenty-first century Abraham raising the knife on the roof of his apartment building, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that are possible for all of us to know, be it common laws or basic reason.Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.This goes for both sides.
Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, a sense that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.
But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase “under God;” I certainly didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups using school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.
So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool to attack and belittle and divide – they’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.
So let me end with another interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:“Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.”
The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be “totalizing.” His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of President Bush’s foreign policy.But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight “right wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” He went on to write:“I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…
I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”I checked my web-site and found the offending words. My staff had written them to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in reasonable terms – those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.
wrote back to the doctor and thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.
It is a prayer I still say for America today – a hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come. Thank you.
He is one person who has an interest in a pluralistic America. I am pleased to take the step forward to join his mission and support his candidacy.
India has an immense proven diversity in its system. India has led the way in looking at the candidates and not their religion or gender. I do hope Americans see the value in the persona of Obama and elect Obama as our President.
Can Barack Obama Become President?
By Allan Hunt Badiner
The man with an increasingly good chance of becoming America's first black president officially announced his candidacy on a cold Springfield morning just as newly deceased Anna Nicole Smith and newly shorn Brittney Spears inflicted serious competition for TV viewers.
Nevertheless Barack Obama, the 45-year-old son of Kenya and Kansas, has penetrated the media's foggy obsession with tabloid stars and has become, in short order, a celebrity himself. He has jump-started interest in the presidential race and zinged from something like 12 percent name recognition to being a close second for the Democratic nomination. With the campaign's starting gun only just fired, Obama is already perceived as a powerful threat to Hillary Clinton's well-funded political juggernaut and John Edwards' carefully planned strategies, and has emerged as the presumptive speaker for the conscience of the country in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes.
Many are excited just to be passionate again about a presidential campaign, even if it turns out be the classic brief dance of an underdog. But with lightning swiftness, an Obama nomination seems tantalizingly possible. Even sitting presidents can't always raise the $1.3 million taken in by the Obama campaign during a single fundraising event in Los Angeles on Feb. 20 sponsored by Hollywood moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeff Katzenberg and David Geffen.
The field reports on Obama are also impressive: He recently addressed the largest ever pre-presidential-primary crowds in New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio and Texas and has been endorsed by Iowa's attorney general and state treasurer -- pragmatic characters practiced at backing obvious winners in their state. The Iowa caucuses early next year will be among the nation's first electoral tests of presidential candidates. Inside the offices of MoveOn.org, there is agreement that Obama is far and away the favorite among its members and has been for the past six months. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has endorsed him, saying that Obama "personifies the future of Democratic leadership."
What do we know about this first-term U.S. senator who wants to be our president? The Obama resume is formidable: Harvard Law School graduate and president of the Harvard Law Review, civil rights lawyer, constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, author of two best-selling books, grass-roots organizer and Illinois senator for eight years, where his style has been described as methodical, inclusive and pragmatic. Factors such as his stalwart opposition to the Iraq war, a growing appreciation for his self-effacing charm and crossover appeal, and Americans' desire for fresh and future-focused leadership all seem to bode well for Obama's continuing momentum.
Race in the race
So now that Obama has burst on the scene as a real contender, the question becomes: Is America ready to elect a black man to its presidency?
For sure an Obama nomination would be a powerful update on the black condition in America and signal wide acceptance of the enormous diversity of its population. Yet, on the other hand there are pockets of resistance and reluctance in the African-American community to get on the Obama bandwagon. Some question Obama being the product of a mixed marriage -- his mother is white, his father from Kenya. Obama's origins were not the slave experience shared by many African-Americans, especially its senior political class. But that may not have as much impact in the rank and file, and among younger African-Americans.
Meanwhile Bill Clinton has been by far the most popular president among black voters, and Hillary Clinton has her share of their support. The initial reluctance among black voters should have been no surprise -- the Clintons have earned their close friendship with African-Americans. But as the viability of Obama's run becomes more apparent, a dramatic growth of his support in black America is to be expected.
Surely Obama's ideas and positions will play well in black communities: universal healthcare, technological improvements for poor and rural communities, reform for the political system, energy independence and ending the war in Iraq. The fact that racial minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan is not lost on people of color in this country.
For many, Sen. Obama represents a modern and positive image of blackness. He is a worldly, well-educated man married to a well-educated professional black woman. Another way that the race issue may ultimately work in Obama's favor is that it helps force those who are loudly critical to base their stand on his record and positions and steer clear of personal attacks that could be construed as racist.
But what about the election? The voting booth provides ample coverage for secret racists. Yet a newly announced Gallup poll found that 94 percent of Americans would vote for their party's African-American nominee for president before their party's woman nominee. And it's safe to assume that the same people who would reject Obama on the basis of his skin color would probably reject his progressive views even if he were white.
The votes he may "lose" due to race alone are votes he would not have had anyway. With his early and impressive following among young people, some experts are predicting an unprecedented increase of eligible young voters coming to the polls to support Obama in 2008.
Other well-known figures have paved the way for Obama's run. The first black woman to be elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm, ran for president in 1972 and established the importance of the black vote. In 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson was taken seriously as a possible presidential candidate and won more states in the 1988 primaries than anyone thought possible. Throughout the 1990s former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was riding a wave of success after the first Gulf War, was widely lauded as presidential material. Had he run in 1996, he may well have won. As with Obama, his racially mixed background was seen as a plus. Finally, in 2004 both Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton ran full-blown campaigns for president.
It is unlikely that there will be a moment during the nomination process when everyone suddenly decides that the time is right for a black president. If history is any guide, these cultural shifts take on a life of their own, and only after the fact does everyone agrees it was time.
The experience paradox
In 2008, given the disastrous state of political affairs in America and its standing in the world community, the candidates with the most Washington experience appear to be headed for trouble in some popularity surveys. Polling consistently shows that many Americans want a fresh approach, a leader who is not representative of the system that has brought us to the crisis point. "Most voters want something new," says Democratic consultant Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. "They want less D.C. experience and more good values."
Nevertheless, Obama does have significant experience under his belt -- eight years in the Illinois state Senate and a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his first two years in the Senate. Senator Obama has been notably productive in Washington -- he's the primary sponsor of 152 bills and resolutions, including three Senate resolutions, and 14 bills that he co-sponsored have become law. He introduced the Spent Nuclear Fuel Tracking and Accountability Act, which works to deter nuclear proliferation; the Drinking Water Security Act of 2005, which reduces pollutants in our water; and the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006, which secures health benefits for our veterans.
Obama's perspective on the topic of experience is instructive: "Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have an awful lot of experience, yet they have engineered what I think is one of the biggest foreign policy failures in our recent history. So I would say the most important things are judgment and vision ... and passion for the American people and what their hopes and dreams are." He is on record as believing that given a certain necessary level of experience, sound judgment is always more important than time on the job.
Can Hillary hold on?
Many Democrats agree that their '08 candidate should be a unifier, someone who can give voice to the issues Americans agree on and reach across independents and some Republicans for votes. Hillary Clinton, despite her high name recognition, acumen for raising money, political markers transferred from Bill and popularity among the Democratic elite, will have to prove that she is not the polarizing figure that many of rank-and-file Democrats worry about. Intelligent and articulate, she nevertheless lacks the ability to connect with people that made Bill so magnetic. To quote Bill Mahar, "She's the wrong Clinton."
Others fear that once Hillary is a candidate, Republicans will relentlessly dredge up vivid reminders of the more tawdry aspects of the Clinton presidency: the Monica Lewinsky revelations, Jennifer Flowers and the impeachment attempt. Many Americans were sympathetic to Hillary throughout that drama, but it is a fair guess that voters do not want to be reminded of it daily.
There is also a long history of Hillary being the prime target of reactionary talk show hosts throughout the American South and West, who railed on nightly about Hillary and invited listeners to call in and join in the demonization of the first lady when Bill was president. The right-wing conspiracy that Hillary decried did in fact exist, and she was their target. Although attacks on Hillary were essentially groundless, almost half of the American electorate go into this election season with a negative perception of Hillary Clinton.
Finally, Hillary's refusal to "admit she made a mistake" when voting on the Iraq war is regarded by many as a strategic blunder and stands in contrast to Obama's clarity about the need to end the occupation of Iraq quickly.
Obama on record
"I think one of the things about national politics that is so exhausting is this attempt to airbrush your life," Sen. Obama has said. "This is who I am, and this is where I've come from." Some critics have called Obama the Rorschach candidate, loved not so much for his positions but for his appealing persona. The instant rock-star status he enjoys, and the media frenzy he generates, have the downside of creating the impression that he is heavy on charm and light on ideas. Yet in his new book, "The Audacity of Hope," Obama spells out his platform in detail. His stands on the most complex and divisive issues of the day, from gay marriage to the Middle East to the death penalty, are fully explained in 384 well-written pages that the average reader can comprehend.
The book also recounts Obama's position on the Iraq war. In 2002, he strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq because he felt it was an ill-conceived venture that would "require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undermined cost with undetermined consequences." He warned that an invasion without strong international support could "drain our military, distract us from the war with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and further destabilize the Middle East." Currently, Obama takes issue with those who feel the problem was one of strategy or implementation: "I have long believed it has also been a failure of conception, and that the rationale behind the war itself was misguided." In January 2007, Sen. Obama introduced legislation that would commence redeployment of troops no later than May 1 of the same year.
But with friends like democrats...
Universal healthcare, energy independence, action on global warming, more affordable education and a phased withdrawal from Iraq all will have a clear appeal to progressives. But one should never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
A sizable percentage of the progressive sector may not be happy with any candidate who does not agree with them on every issue. They have already shown a surprising lack of concern for the political and practical consequences of their inflexibility. The following that Dennis Kucinich, and Ralph Nader enjoyed are cases in point. Intractable liberal voters are like window shoppers who feel most comfortable going home empty-handed and later whining that they couldn't find something they liked. They may have been as responsible for reelecting Bush as his hard-core conservative base.
Has America under George W. Bush dropped into an abyss of moral and economic bankruptcy? Sadly, this is what our nation now represents to the rest of the world. Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of an Obama presidency would be the message it sends globally: The post-Bush era of American governance has arrived.
If candidate Obama's challenges are daunting, his overcoming those challenges would be all the more significant for many around the globe. An Obama presidency could vault him and all of us into a new era, where sane and compassionate policies are championed by a more united and rational citizenry. Still, world popularity doesn't elect U.S. presidents. Will Americans be driven primarily by their fear or their hope? The possibility of a new president named Barack Hussein Obama hangs in the balance.
Allan Hunt Badiner is a writer, activist and editor of three books: "Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology," "Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics" and "Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism."
Expect the most complaisant attitude when you are not the norm. Norm here meaning some one people are not acclimated with.
Biden’s remarks that Obama is “ articulate and clean” can be viewed from that attitude that hits you when you are not the norm. Being an Indian American, I have heard comments from both Black and White folks “Where did you learn your English, you are so articulate.” Likewise, if you are a woman; black, white or otherwise, you hear similar comments if you bring a project to fruition. If you are a Kid running a big corporation, you do get your share of cordialities.
Senator Obama’s response is worth exploring here. “ Obama, however, spoiled the promise of that fight by never seeming to take offense.” Don’t we need a person in the white house who thinks and whose aptitude is molded do act right, rather than react from the seat of his pants?
He did not want to pick a fight, neither did he want to spend his time on trivial things. He knew there is a room for making the mistake, chance of slip of the tongue, and as long as that comment did not turn America upside down, he did not see the need to make a big deal out of it. That is the kind of person we need running our nation.
Victoria Brownworth wrote in the Journal –Register “If you want to succeed in high level politics in the U.S. as an African American, then you had better look and sound and act as white as possible.” I wanted to understand this statement in depth and started imagining a predominantly black neighborhood homeowners association’s meeting, where the homeowners got together to discuss the improvements they want to make in the neighborhood. There are a few who are adamant and wanted the funds to be spent on certain improvement; where as the other group had their own vested interests. When things were not going anywhere, there comes a woman (or man) who speaks about the need for doing things that benefit most people without compromising the basic needs of any group. The chances of that resolution passing are far higher than the other. Is that betrayal of one group over the other? If Senator Obama is that woman who propagated this workable solution, then should either group accuse him of acting as white as possible?
Should a white candidate represent only the interest of white people? Should the candidate be accused because he or she is representing the interests of majority of the Americans? The African Americans have a reason to take pride and support Obama, he is one of their own, who for the first time in history has a real chance to represent the interests of all Americans.
You have heard this too many times that the President of India is a Muslim, the Prime Minister is a Sikh and the head of the ruling party is a Christian in a Hindu majority nation. Since, all Indians are of the same race and same DNA, religion is used as a discerning factor. All the three have national interest in their hearts, they are proud of their community and will always be loyal to them, but they will not compromise on national interest. Is each one of them is sold out? Absolutely not! A week ago President Kalam attended the Muslim congregational Friday prayers and the Imam wanted to present gifts to him, he declined. He demonstrated an outstanding sense of integrity.
Victoria Brownworth further writes “he has a centrist message that is barely distinguishable between white and black.” Thanks God he does have a centrist message. He is an all inclusive candidate, White or Black is secondary to him. Thank God he is not on the extreme either, he opposed the un-wanted war, his clarity was crystal clear. He spoke against it while most others did not have the guts to speak up. He did his patriotic act of speaking up and saving America , this the kind of candidate we need to lead America in to the future and earn the respect from among the community of nations.
He is the beneficiary of the civil rights act and is a perfect example of the dream of Martin Luther King. Obama would be a dream come true.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer. His articles can be found at www.WorldMuslimCongress.com , www.FoundationforPluralism.com , www.MikeGhouse.net and http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/ and he can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com
BLACK IN WHITE AMERICA
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.
When Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) kicked off his presidential campaign by plunging his foot into his mouth with his comments about fellow candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, the media focused its attention solely on his comments about Obama.
The reasons for this were political: racism trumps sexism in America (and everywhere else) and one white guy going after another white guy looks like an equal playing field. So only the Obama insults got noticed by the mainstream media.
Why? Because it’s politically incorrect to even mention race in America , it’s a quagmire far deeper and messier than Iraq .
Biden said, in the course of an interview with a reporter from a conservative New York newspaper (perhaps Biden’s first mistake), that Obama was something new to politics, a “first” as a presidential candidate, an articulate and clean African American.
This is encapsulating what Biden said, which might not be completely fair, but that’s politics for you. The fact is the only words that mattered in what he said were those two: articulate and clean.
Some, like myself, think that should have been when Biden dropped back out of the race, but he sallied on, with a series of apologies to Obama and the country, each more convoluted than the last.
Conservatives were salivating over the incident, just waiting for the Democrats to eat their own, as they are known to do. Obama, however, spoiled the promise of that fight by never seeming to take offense. Obama accepted Biden’s apology and said he wasn’t offended and that there were more important things to address than Biden’s gaffe.
Obama’s response would have appeared saintly, if it hadn’t been followed with the surprising agreement of two former African American candidates for president (Biden apparently also forgot that Obama was hardly the first).
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton also waved off Biden’s comments as a verbal misstep, nothing to be outraged about. Jackson was particularly conciliatory. Although Sharpton noted that he thought he was pretty clean, both men said it was a mistake to be forgiven and forgotten.
Polls were taken and African Americans were interviewed on the street. A good 80 percent didn’t care what Biden said.
Does this mean that racism is over in America ? Or just that blacks are used to white politicians making racist comments and when compared with Trent Lott saying the nation should have stuck with segregation, it didn’t seem so egregious?
Regardless of whether Obama, Jackson and Sharpton are willing to shrug off what Biden said, what the Senator declared does matter–not merely because he is a presidential candidate, but because he said what many Americans actually think about Obama–that he’s anomalous. That he simply isn’t like any other black candidate they remember.
He isn’t. Obama is a fresh face in politics, and as such has gotten a lot of buzz. Fresh faces always get buzz. Until they have been around for a while. Tabula rasa goes far in American politics while experience and baggage are interchangeable terms, politically. Since the fresh face will only last so long, let’s look at Obama in the context of the American racial divide.
Eight years ago people were talking about Colin Powell the same way they talk about Obama today: fresh, new, and let’s face it–in the context of the American black/white racial divide–not scary to white people.
This is what Biden really meant by what he said. It was subtextual, of course–he used his own euphemisms and he may not have realized what he was articulating either overtly or subconsciously. But it was clear: Obama attracts voters of all races because he never raises his voice, he has a centrist message that is barely distinguishable between white and black.
The course of American politics–national and local–supports the subtext of Biden’s comments, however. Consider the Philadelphia Mayor’s race. The best candidate is State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Phila.), currently in last place in the polls. Why is Evans–the most visionary and accomplished of the candidates–in last place in a field with two other African American candidates and two white candidates?
Because he is the *blackest* candidate in the race. He’s dark skinned. He sounds black. In short, he can’t pass for the house Negro.
Colin Powell did pass. So has Condoleezza Rice. And now, Barack Obama. The real state of race in America is that bald and raw, still. If you want to succeed in high level politics in the U.S. as an African American, then you had better look and sound and act as white as possible. Because it isn’t black Americans who elect a black candidate; with only 12 percent of the population, blacks aren’t even the largest minority group in America anymore and fewer than half of eligible black voters actually vote. It’s white voters who elect b lack candidates.
Racism is still the elephant in the room in this country; whites fear a black candidate who doesn’t seem to share their values. That means a black man in a loud suit or with Little Richard hair, like Sharpton, scares them. Or a black man who sounds like he came from the streets, like Evans, scares them.
Last week there was a discussion about the field of Democratic candidates for president on NPR with several political pundits. Polls indicate that the majority of African Americans, like the majority of Democrats, support Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama. Sen. Clinton runs at 40 percent in the polls; Obama at 12 to 15, depending on the poll.
The pundits had several explanations for this. First, they noted former President Bill Clinton’s cachet with African Americans. (Nobel Prize winner and African American writer Toni Morrison once wrote in the New Yorker magazine that Clinton was “the first black president.”) Then they noted that many African Americans knew nothing about Obama, who has only been in national politics for two years. It was also noted that Obama may have won the election in Illinois because the Republican favored to win was forced to drop out right before the election, due to a sex scandal, and the sudden replacement brought in by the Republican Party was the far right wing lunatic (albeit African American), Alan Keyes (another former presidential candidate, by the way), who wasn’t even a resident of the state (yet still received 30 percent of the vote).
Finally, it was suggested that Obama might not have as much cachet with African American voters for the very reason he was attractive to white voters: while he’s literally an African American in that his father was African (from Kenya ) and his mother a white American (from Kansas ), he did not grow up in the mainland U.S. He was born in Hawaii , and then lived with his mother and her Indonesian second husband in Jakarta for several years. He returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents for his high school years.
Obama is black, but unlike previous black candidates for president like Shirley Chisholm, Jackson and Sharpton, he isn’t from urban America , he isn’t from “the hood,” he doesn’t have a political history grounded in the civil rights movement. He’s an anomaly.
And that’s the point Biden was really making: that Obama is not like any other black candidate Americans have seen before. He doesn’t stoke the ingrained racism that a Sharpton or a Jackson inspired in white voters, because he isn’t controversial.
From the fact that Obama, a life-long smoker, never produces a cigarette in public because it wouldn’t look right for a candidate to be smoking, to the fact that he never says anything objectionable, Obama doesn’t stir controversy. He’s always calm, collected and smooth. He doesn’t outrage anyone, like Sharpton and Jackson have, because he never says anything outrageous.
In short, Obama is a black candidate that white people feel comfortable with, much like Chakah Fattah in Philadelphia . Both candidates tow the party line, don’t provide any visionary (and thus possibly scary) ideas to constituents. They are, as one African American columnist noted, Dr. Huxtable, the lovable Bill Cosby character that white America embraced. As a consequence, in the privacy of their own homes (rather than to a reporter as Biden did), white voters can say that they like Obama (or Fattah), *even though he’s black.*
I like Obama. Other than the smoking, what’s not to like? He’s charismatic, he’s attractive, he says the right things. But given the choice between a rabble-rousing, challenging, in-your-face, old-school Democratic black candidate like Sharpton or Jackson and the mild-mannered, ruffle-no-feathers Obama, I’d take the rabble-rousers over the calm centrism of Obama any day.
This factor characterizes the black/white racial divide in America today: The only acceptable candidates of color are ones who don’t read as black to white voters, the ones who, in a different time in America would have been the “house Negroes”–the slaves who were deemed innocuous enough to be allowed to work in the house with the white folks, rather than in the field, with the other slaves.
It shouldn’t be that way in 2007; it’s time to smash this racial glass ceiling in America . We might need the Obamas and Fattahs to exude their charisma and charm in politics, because that has its place, too, but we surely need the Sharptons and the Jacksons to scream and yell and make demands, as well.
What Biden said was only the tip of the racial iceberg, because what Biden said doesn’t elucidate the flip side: that white America is terrified of *real* black America .
I live in real black America . In real black America there are schools with no textbooks, no libraries and no computers and although all the students were born here, none can speak proper English and their teachers, weighed down by the myriad dangers of being a teacher in an inner city school, don’t correct their grammar. Which means they leave their schools with far less chance of getting a good job than their white counterparts.
In real black America , where I live, drugs and AIDS and teen pregnancy are pandemic. In real black America , where I live, guns are easier to get than health care and fatherless boys are easy lures for gangs and drug runners.
In real black America we need black politicians who will work to fix the problems of real black America , not assuage the racial fears and biases of white America .
It’s Black History Month. Not African American history month, but *black* history month. America still sees color before it sees anything else. If it didn’t, Biden would never have even thought the things he said about Obama.
The best way to celebrate Black History Month would be to acknowledge how much work we still have to do to bridge the divide between black America and white America and that the answer might not be for black politicians to act more white but for white politicians to be more concerned about black Americans.
REQUEST TO CAIR - NO LAW SUIT PLEASE
Please do not file law suit against passengers
Mike Ghouse March 21, 2007
We request Mr. Omar Ahmed and Ibrahim Hooper, not to file the law suit against the passengers, along with the law suit against the airlines and the airport. Even if you were to win the case, the Muslims will have to pay a price for that and please don't it in our behalf.
As the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and other communities have an organization to defend their religious and civil rights, we are pleased CAIR has successfully defended the legal rights of American Muslims. It would be a mistake to sue the passengers, they are ordinary citizens concerned for their safety. Though their fear was baseless, we have not done our part either in providing information to the general public, how, we, the Muslims pray. Insha Allah, we will produce a video, in English language how our prayers are performed, so people can understand.
World Muslim Congress
Wife Beating; in the Modern Context by Dr. Javed Jamil
Wife Beating; Discipline or abuse? by Mike Ghouse
March 25, 2007
By Mike Ghouse
Dr. Javed JamilThe recent translation of the Quran by a woman is in the news all over the world just because it suits the designs of the forces of economic fundamentalism and feminists spawned by the culture that they created. In particular, verse number 4:34 of the Quran has come into focus with an attempt to disseminate the message that the Quran is cruel to women and even allows wife beating. There are apologetic Muslims who have been arguing that the context of the verse was set in the old Arabic world, and it has to be reinterpreted according to the modern context. Before discussing the meaning of the verse in question, let us first try to understand what the modern contexts of feminism and domestic violence are.
- Every fifteen seconds, a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend. (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1991)
- National surveys indicate that at least 2 million women are assaulted by their male partners each year. (Straus and Gelles, 1990)
- The American Medical Association estimates that almost 4 million women are the victims of severe assaults by boyfriends and husbands each year, and about one in four women is likely to be abused by a partner in her lifetime. (Sarah Glazer, "Violence Against Women," CQ Researcher, Congressional Quarterly Inc., February 1993
- Approximately 97% of the victims of domestic violence are women. (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
- Violence by intimate partners is the leading cause of injury for women, "responsible for more injuries than car crashes, rapes, and muggings combined." (Centres for Disease Control)
- In the United States, a women is more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a male partner than by any other type of assailant. (Browne, A. and K.R. Williams, 1989)
- Females are victims of family violence at a rate of three times that of males. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993)
- Abused women make up approximately 22-35% of women who seek medical attention at hospital emergency rooms. (Randall, 1988)
- More than 50% of women are battered at some time in their lives; over one-third are battered repeatedly. (Peachey, 1988)
- Approximately 70% of murdered women are killed by a husband, lover, or estranged husband or lover.
- Approximately two-thirds of those murdered by intimate partners or ex-partners have been physically abused before they were killed. (Campbell, 1981, 1992; Wallace, 1986)
- More than twice as many women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends as are murdered by strangers. (Kellerman, 1992)
- Every day in this country approximately four women are killed by a male intimate partner. (Stout, 1991)
- The nation's police spend approximately one-third of their time responding to domestic violence calls. (Domestic Violence: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, New Jersey Dept. of Community Affairs, 1990)
- Estimates of the percentage of pregnant women who are battered run as high as 25%. (Flitcraft, 1990)
- Abuse of pregnant women is the leading cause of birth defects and infant mortality. (March of Dimes study)
- Most prevalence rate studies estimate that 28% of all adult women in a relationship are victims of domestic violence on an annual basis. (Anna Wilson, ed., Introduction to Homocide: The Victim/Offender, 1993)
- Separated or divorced women were 14 times more likely than married women to report having been a victim of violence by a spouse or ex-spouse, accounting for 75% of all reports of battering. (Bureau of Justice, 1991)
- As many as 50% of women killed by partners/husbands are murdered at or after separation. (Wilson and Daly, 1991; Barnard, 1981)
- As much as 90% of the hostage-taking in this country is domestic. Domestic hostage-taking attempts to coerce a partner to return or remain in a marriage or relationship. 100% of these hostage-takers are men. (FBI, 1989)
- 40 children are abducted by a parent each hour in the U.S. More than half occur in the context of domestic violence. More than 80% of abductions by parents occur after separation. Almost 40% of the abductions by fathers involve force or violence. (Finklehor et al, 1990; Grief and Hegar, 1992)
- Domestic violence is increasing in Russia, with 14,000 women dying every year at the hands of their husbands or other relatives. (Amnesty Internatic)
Now, in this background, examine the verse that is supposed to support wife beating: " As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), next refuse to share beds with them (and last) beat them lightly. But if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance) for Allah is Most High, Most Great." (4: 34) It is clear from the verse that:
It is clear from the verse that:
The over-all aim of the directions is to save the family from breaking;
The strategy is not to let the issue going out of the house and giving it a chance to get resolved within the family;
The directions involve a situation where wife is arrogant or disloyal, and does not apply to women whose behaviour is within normal limits;
The steps to be taken are in an increasing order of harshness.
First, the husband is asked to use verbal tactics like lecturing, persuasion and admonition.
Second, if this fails, the husband is advised to isolate her within the house. Sexual separation is a very potent weapon for reform within the marriage.
Third, even if this fails, the husband is allowed to use physical measures.
Only when this fails, the husband must take the issue out of the family, either by seeking arbitration or by initiating the procedure of divorce or by seeking criminal action, in case she has engaged in any forbidden activity.
Whenever she reforms herself, the husband is warned against continuing mistreating her; he must return to her and live with her in love.
Though this verse is primarily addressed to men, its indirect application should also be there for situations where husbands are arrogant or disloyal to wives and are engaged in forbidden activities. There are various situations in the Quran where the instructions are either for men or women but they need to be applied in reverse cases too.
For example, the above verse talks of "disloyalty" by women. But there is no verse about what should be done if husbands prove disloyal and are engaged in extramarital relationships. Does this not mean that women too must first try to resolve the issue within their houses, first by admonishing them, second by refusing sex and last by seeking intervention of the other members in the family (like fathers and elder brothers) who can even use physical assault as means to reform them? This last one is necessary as women are normally not physically strong enough to beat their husbands and if they do so it may invite greater violence.
I have however heard cases where women actually beat their husbands (sometimes even by shoes) for their misdemeanours like drinking, gambling, etc. Similarly, the Quran talks of "80 lashes" for those men who label false allegations of disloyalty on their wives. (Surah Nur) But what if the wives label false allegations against men? As the underlying principle is that men and women committing equal crimes under similar circumstances must receive similar punishments, it applies that women must also be given 80 lashes if they make unsubstantiated allegations against their husbands or other men.
Wife beating allowed in the Quran is surely different from wife battering that is routinely seen in the world, more so in the Western societies. In the Quran, mild beating is allowed only in cases of disloyalty for the purpose of reforming women within the family and not let others know about their misbehaviours. In the modern world, wife battering is mostly the result of silencing them into submission, alcohol and other addictions and to continue their own extramarital affairs. It is almost always aimed at causing them pain or taking revenge rather than reforming them. Islam creates social conditions where women do not face problems of physical security on account of the drinking, gambling and other bad habits of their husbands. It is also to be stressed here that market forces have used the issues of wife beating and child beating for their own selfish ends.
It is clear that if women are battered for no fault of theirs or they are battered more than what is permissible, they can always seek revenge from the court. The Islamic court will have to use the principle of "punishment equal to the crime" in order to fulfil the demands of justice.
Dr. Javed Jamil is a Chairman of International Centre for Applied Islamics, India. His columns regularly appear at WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com and now it will appear at this blog and eventually he will have a blog of his own at the new upcoming website http://www.worldmuslimcongress.com/