Saturday, September 27, 2008
Hindu fundamentalists are under attack
SHASHI ON SUNDAY
Hindu fundamentals are under attack
28 Sep 2008, 0121 hrs IST, Shashi Tharoor
There are basically two kinds of politics in our country: the politics of division and the politics of unity. The former is by far the more popular, as politicians seek to slice and dice the electorate into ever-smaller configurations of caste, language and religion, the better to appeal to such particularist identities in the quest for votes. But what has happened in recent weeks in Orissa, and then in parts of Karnataka, and that threatens to be unleashed again in tribal districts of Gujarat, is a new low in our political life. The attacks on Christian families, the vandalism of their places of worship, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, and the horrific rapes, mutilations and burning alive that have been reported, have nothing to do with religious beliefs - neither those of the victims nor of their attackers. They are instead part of a contemptible political project whose closest equivalent can in fact be found in the "Indian Mujahideen" bomb blasts in Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad, which were set to go off in hospitals, marketplaces and playgrounds. Both actions are anti-national; both aim to divide the country by polarising people along their religious identities; and both hope to profit politically from such polarisation.
We must not let either set of terrorists prevail.
The murderous mobs of Orissa sought to kill Christians and destroy their homes and places of worship, both to terrorise the people and to send the message 'you do not belong here'. What have we come to that a land that has been a haven of tolerance for religious minorities throughout its history should have sunk so low? India's is a civilisation that, over millennia, has offered refuge and, more important, religious and cultural freedom, to Jews, Parsis, Muslims and several varieties of Christians. Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St Thomas the Apostle ('Doubting Thomas'), who came to the Kerala coast some time before 52 AD and was welcomed on shore by a flute-playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christian well before any European discovered Christianity (and before the forebears of many of today's Hindu chauvinists were even conscious of themselves as Hindus). The India where the wail of the muezzin routinely blends with the chant of mantras at the temple, and where the tinkling of church bells accompanies the gurudwara's reading of verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, is an India of which we can all be proud. But there is also the India that pulled down the Babri Masjid, that conducted the pogrom in Gujarat and that now unleashes its hatred on the 2% of our population who are Christians.
As a believing Hindu, I am ashamed of what is being done by people claiming to be acting in the name of my faith. I have always prided myself on belonging to a religion of astonishing breadth and range of belief; a religion that acknowledges all ways of worshipping God as equally valid - indeed, the only major religion in the world that does not claim to be the only true religion. Hindu fundamentalism is a contradiction in terms, since Hinduism is a religion without fundamentals; there is no such thing as a Hindu heresy. How dare a bunch of goondas shrink the soaring majesty of the Vedas and the Upanishads to the petty bigotry of their brand of identity politics? Why should any Hindu allow them to diminish Hinduism to the raucous self-glorification of the football hooligan, to take a religion of awe-inspiring tolerance and reduce it to a chauvinist rampage?
Hinduism, with its openness, its respect for variety, its acceptance of all other faiths, is one religion which has always been able to assert itself without threatening others. But this is not the Hindutva spewed in hate-filled diatribes by communal politicians. It is, instead, the Hinduism of Swami Vivekananda, who, at Chicago's World Parliament of Religions in 1893, articulated best the liberal humanism that lies at the heart of his (and my) creed. Vivekananda asserted that Hinduism stood for "both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true." He quoted a hymn: "As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee." Vivekananda's vision - summarised in the credo Sarva Dharma Sambhava - is, in fact, the kind of Hinduism practised by the vast majority of Hindus, whose instinctive acceptance of other faiths and forms of worship has long been the vital hallmark of Indianness.
Vivekananda made no distinction between the actions of Hindus as a people (the grant of asylum, for instance) and their actions as a religious community (tolerance of other faiths): for him, the distinction was irrelevant because Hinduism was as much a civilisation as a set of religious beliefs. "The Hindus have their faults," Vivekananda added, but "they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he never lights the fire of Inquisition."
It is sad that this assertion of Vivekananda's is being contradicted in the streets by those who claim to be reviving his faith in his name. "The Hindu militant," Amartya Sen has observed, presents India as "a country of unquestioning idolaters, delirious fanatics, belligerent devotees, and religious murderers." To discriminate against another, to attack another, to kill another, to destroy another's place of worship, is not part of the Hindu dharma so magnificently preached by Vivekananda. Why are the voices of Hindu religious leaders not being raised in defence of these fundamentals of Hinduism?
Searching for Love, the internet way
It is quite a journey, and I am learning it at every turn.
Way back in 1995, I had placed my profile on an Asian match making site expressing who I was, and what would it take to make the partnership work. My personal conviction was for relationships to sustain, flourish, enjoyable and be durable, they must be anchored in justness, the feeling where neither one feels taken advantage of or taken for granted.
It would be a moral crime to ask your partner to change for you without giving her (or him) the very same right. If you are not willing to change for her (or him) then you have no moral right to ask her to change for you. It creates an imbalance and consequently eats away the joy that both partners deserve. Change should be based on a lasting and a just equation. Life is about balance.
I received quite a lot of responses on that profile, to my chagrin, it was the mothers of the women calling and writing to me, the greatest disappointment came when a mother of a professor of sociology in one of the Canadian Universities called me up, I was taken back, she wanted to know the properties I own and heck; she wanted to know my caste, which I responded with “male” she turns around and asks me what that was again? I said, you heard it Ma’m, my caste is Male, Man, Mard, Pursh, looking for Female, Woman, Aurat, Naari; the other caste. After a frustrating interrogation (because I had liked her daughter’s profile) I asked her if she was interested in me or if it was her daughter. Of course, that kind of conversation does not go further. She hung up and I could hear the complaining her daughter had to endure.
I went to an Urdu Mushaira (Poetry recitation in the language of Urdu) in Richardson, my favorite thing to do. I was impressed with the language and voice of the emcee Najma; she had a dignified stage presence. Years ago in late sixties and early seventies there was a “Baji” on BBC Radio’s Urdu service, I listened to her every Wednesday evening at 8:45 PM in my home in Bangalore, and I had a crush on her voice and the way she spoke Urdu. Najma beat all that; she had the most beautiful radio voice I have ever heard. I asked her to co-anchor a TV program with me on channel 52 in Dallas, and then she joined me as a co-talk show host on Radio. We were just friends, never even held hands together. One day I told her the story of this Canadian Mom and she had her eyes wide open and asked me to fax her that profile. Later on that evening when I called her to find if she got the fax, she said that I wrote it about her without her knowledge. I reminded her that it was written much earlier and was on the net. That gave me the goose bumps and changed the world for us until she passed away in May this year. http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Life-is-a-poem-of-love.asp
Now, I am searching again, for a life time partner either her life time or mine which ever comes earlier. I listed my profile on a few mainstream sites and withdrew from some as there are some serious scams going on out there. I warn you to be aware of those. May be I was driven by that experience to write this column.
Laugh it out loud, when I say I did not know Diana Lane until a month ago. I see the beautiful pictures of this lady on the match making site and I could not resist writing to her. Then a flood of emails start flowing between this Becky Brewer and me, and within three days, this dumb ass experienced-me falls in love with this woman head over heels. I never thought I could be infatuated like this ever again after that Shakila craze in my college days, where I took my poetry pen name as Shakil, when she barely knew I even existed. I never thought my heart would actually pound like that, I felt the sucker beating fast when I put my hand on the chest. I anxiously waited for Becky to come on line and chat with me. She was the most perfect woman I ever came to knew, I was actually praying and thanking God for the good innings one after the other. Fortunately, the flow of communication was so beautiful that I saved it to read again, I liked that feeling of romancing, desiring some one, wanting to be with some one; oops, it was 50 pages in all! I hope to share that small story some day; meanwhile I will collapse that into four paragraphs.
Becky was an antique dealer from West Virginia shopping in Nigeria with her daughter. She did not have a phone number in that hotel and I believed her. Upon return to the states, she was going to visit me for a week in Dallas and I was going nuts, I was uncontainable as if Goddess of love Aphrodite, Apsara or a Hoor was going to land in my home. She even emailed me a copy of the Airline ticket.
A week before departing Lagos, she was devastated, Angel, her daughter fell from stairs and had to be taken to the hospital. A few hours later Becky chats back, she is down, she cannot get the Doctors to operate on Angel’s fractured skull, she did not know what to do, and she did not have the money either. I asked her to go see the US embassy as I would call them up to help her; I have some friends who could have done that. But she declined and said negative things about the Embassy, I did not agree, but I let that go. However, I was puzzled when she did not want to give me her passport number, where as she had asked me to give her my password to my profile on the listing agency, which I did, so she can make sure that they remove me from their site, she said, “ you are mine”. Man that kind of ownership knocks the guys down, even if they are fricking 56 years old.
You may have guessed it by now what happened next. I went to the Western Union to wire her the money. There are a lot more details, chicanery and tricks, but I will keep it to four paragraphs. When I got back home, there was another lady from Sweden on line, she had really liked me a lot but understood that “I was someone else's”. She had become a friend and chatted about different things, then she wanted advice, she told me the same story as mine, verbatim, her guy was from Belgium going to South Africa to shop for Diamonds, poor girl had wired him the money. I jumped out of my chair, dropped everything and called Western Union, luckily I had wired the money at 8 PM Dallas time, which was 4 AM in Lagos, Nigeria and the funds had not been delivered. They put a stop and I picked my money back the next morning.
Becky was crying on the other side and, by then I had done enough research and put two and two together. I was feeling bad, what if this was real? Would I let a little girl suffer in the hospital? Am I that selfish? Then I recovered and realized that she had me. I chatted (all of it was on yahoo chat) with her and told her to go get the refund on ticket, she had paid one way fare of $5,600.00 on KLM, and she had originally lied to me that she had paid in cash. The roundtrip ticket from Lagos-Dallas-Lagos was $1,050.00 and she had paid $11,200.00 for the two. It was a real booking paper faked by one of her scheming friends at KLM.
I got several of those emails, one was a Ghanaian girl going to back to Ghana for teaching, she said it was the noble thing to do; she was with her little daughter too. She sends me a picture of a pretty Vietnamese woman, when I asked her about a Vietanemese Ghanaian, she disappears. She did not even know the word Vietnam. Next day, I see the same picture with a different name. I am not scaring you, but just be careful. I have reported each one of those. I can smell those skunks from across the ocean now. No, I will take it back, it may even be next door operation. Perhaps this may not even be a girl; it may be a sweat shop operation where the girls or guys are paid $100 a month to net $20 to $25,000 a month by trapping people. I thought I was smart, I am glad I found out otherwise.
There was a time, where friends set up the blind dates, but every one knew each other. It is still operative but becoming rare, as no one wants to be blamed if things went wrong.
“Fear of Rejection” is the mother of all fears. We have several friends around us, but yet, we are afraid to ask. Before passing, Najma had reminded me that “I had not asked her out” because of that fear. She alluded to me that we have several friends and that I should move on with life after she was gone. That fear grips me again and it is real. I can stand up to any one including Bush and the McCain bullies, yet I am drowned in a silly idiotic fear.
Each one of us is stuck up with something or the other; there was this Debbie girl, who had a perfect female body one can only imagine, I found myself making excuses not to fly with her in her two seater jet to go for a dinner in San Antonio. I am scared of heights, my knees freeze and hands clinch. Years later when I married Najma, she drove through the little hill in Redwoods and decided to turn back as she could not see me my dark skin turning white. By the way, those are the only two fears I have; of heights and of rejection, yet I am a dare devil peace activist and a public figure.
When I placed myself on the net, the humbling experiencing started to become a routine. When the beholder in me sees the beauty in a woman, instinctively I want to know her, but when she does not even respond, I cringe like every one else. Then I look at my own situation, I do the same, when a woman wanted to connect with me, I find excuses. At least I wrote her back that I am considering another relationship. One lady demanded to know; what was it that I don’t find in her. I was pleased with her questioning but got turned off when she was flashing the money she had and that our lives could be set for eternity. The philosophical question we need to think through is what is it that attracts one to you, and you to the other? Is there a rhyme or reason to it? Are we biased towards certain individuals? Why did I not want to respond to her? I found myself not finding an answer to these questions and am glad about it; it is a humbling and an enriching experience.
And finally, I have written the following on the net, I believe it is a reflection of my heart and my mind, in the same order and I would welcome any comments and suggestions.
My life is simple and I enjoy every bit of it.
Each one of us is a unique being; we are our own models and have to live our lives responsibly. If we can develop an attitude to accept, respect and honor the god given uniqueness of each other, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
I do not expect us to be a perfect match for each other, but if we want to have good life, we have to have the willingness to accept the otherness of the other; be secure enough to live our own dreams, and be a catalyst to each others growth and grow both individually and as partners.
I have my own life mission "opening people's hearts and minds towards fellow beings", as you may have your own. We have to follow our dream, honor and cherish it. Individuality is important to me and I would fiercely guard each other's freedom to be who we want to be.
We need to consciously create a beautiful future for us; we have to make the time to listen to each other's achievement and frustrations on a regular basis with lots of love, forgiveness, kindness and humility.
When we make mistakes, it is good to know and share about it with humility to learn and avoid. We must consciously develop our tone to exclude blame and “I told you so” kind of verbiage. Either of us should fight the temptation of having an upper hand when the other makes the mistake, as it moves the relationship away from partnership to competition. We have to let it go and not be stuck in it and sacrifice the next beautiful moment of the day.
At the end of each weekend, if we can cultivate a habit to clean our slates; praise the goodness and kiss for the weaker points in each other. I welcome the kisses, lol! Forgive ourselves and our partner and commit to start the next day without uploading it with tension, apprehension, anxiety and ill-will.
Unconditional love and support is important to have an enjoyable life together. We have to be a relief valve to the other, and an allowance for brooding must be factored in our relationship. We have to give room and space to each other as needed. , our relationships with our families will remain intact and flourish, the more "sum of" we are, the better person we will be to each other. Love is not divisive, it is a multiplier.
Every thing will be an open book; we have to accept each other as we are over a period of time, without a desire to change the other, the more we are ourselves, the greater the bonding would be.
If Spontaneity exists along with thoughtfulness with moderation and modesty life would remain exciting. But, whatever we do in life, we must do it whole heartedly or simply not pursue it.
Our peaceful moments would be sitting quietly in a swing set in the backyard or the rocker in moonlit nights and gazing stars and the sky with refreshing breeze kissing our faces.
Listening to the music, together or each others music or our own, visiting friends and going for a drive, gardening are soothing parts of life.
I believe in creating our own sacred places of romance to visit frequently; it is something we can look forward to as a romantic pilgrimage.
My palette can accommodate most foods, but stable items would be Thai, Indian, Cajun, Mexican, Italian, steak, grilled fish or Chinese food.
Walking in rain and smelling the fresh smell of earth buoys me up, there is nothing like it.
I enjoy reading, writing and speaking on interfaith, pluralism, peace and Multiculturism.
Honoring and respecting every which way one acknowledges and worships the creator is my value. He (she or it) belongs to all, and all of us belong to him. He treats us all with dignity, in God's eyes, we are all his creation and he loves us all. We do have a choice to earn additional grace by being good to his creation; life and matter.
Although I sound religious, I am not, I am spiritual. Goodness centered rather than God focused. I believe the purpose of religion is to bring peace, balance and tranquility to an individual and what surrounds him or her; life and the environment. I would say, as the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer.
I enjoy being a composite of the cultures that make me a Muslim, an Indian and the American.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Indian National Anthem as the best song
I can see why, it is inclusive of the peoples of India..
There is a line which reads "Punjab, sindh, gujarat Maratha, dravida utkala (area of ancient orissa Kalinga) Banga. It talks about the people of the regions mentioned, it is not exclusively those regions, but meant to represent all peoples. You are welcome to click the link and enjoy the Anthem. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7399792002477900458 . It is beautiful, if it is the first time you are hearing you will have goose bumps.
What is happening in India
The prosperity of India is at stake now, with extremism taking root and it will continue, unless we, the moderates gather guts to speak out against it. If we don't, we are asking to go down the hill. The evil persists because of you and I, and you and I can change that, if we stand up for what is right.
Our prosperity becomes sustainable, if we can keep Justice as its foundation. Justice for all based on treating each one as a simple human being and an Indian.
We are Good Indians, some of us are ugly and a few of us are bad guys. We should not be thinking in terms of our caste, religion or language. We need to act and talk as just Indians; Good bad or ugly. We will make the progress. Let's do our own individual work and not score on what others do or not do, peace begins with me, you and each one of you who is reading this.
We are letting extremism prevail and stain our faiths, every faith. We need to identify criminals for who they are and must be tried under the law. Let's not be dumb to give a religious label to criminals. My homeland United States, sadly is run by short-sighted, macho men and women who have gone about a wrong way in dealing with terrorism, they have failed and still don't get it. Let the people of my Motherland deal with it effectively and precisely. Criminals have no religion and to give one is dumb. You can punish an individual but not a religion, which is simply a name, an intangile thing.
Hinduism is an open and all embracing religion, just as other faiths. Every individual should have a right to drink different flavors of tea, eat any one of the hundreds of food items, and choose to see one or many of the 1500 movies that India produces (bollywood and regional), support one of the 15 candidates fielded to run for a political office and can believe in God or not, believe in any faith he or she wants and change it as they desire. That is our cultural heritage and should be preserved. The extremists outrage is not about religion, but about the extremists politicians attempting to gain control through destruction. WeIf you know any movements or individuals in India who can mobilize moderate Indians to get them the guts to speak up, I would like to connect with them. I am torn and concerned with what is going in India with the extremsist having their hey day.
We are proud of our heritage - a multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-regional and multi-linguistic society, where we have come to accept and respect every which way people have lived their lives. For over 5000 years, India has been a beacon of pluralism - it has embraced Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Baha’i and Zoroastrianism to include in the array of the indigenous religions; Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
India led the way to the freedom movement, since 1947 every country has been liberated from colonialism. Indian democracy is a shining example to the world, where the people have peacefully transferred the powers. Indians are inherently secular and economically capitalistic.
They believe in "live-and-let-live" life style, which is the essence of capitalism.Through the years we have expressed the highest degree of maturity on handling extreme situations; the more divergent opinions we hear, the larger our heart grows, the bigger our embrace would be and we can cushion more differences. Let’s continue to honor the concept that there is always another side to the story, as finding the truth is our own responsibility.
99% of Indians are moderates and darn good people, like any other people on the earth. We should not let that 1% run our lives. Each one has to speak up. In the spirit of our national Anthem, let's not divide people, we are one Jana; one people.
I am proud of my heritage and am proud to be an Indian and an American. Let's take a stand to keep India as one... let's begin first, let's clean our hearts first and then look or score. Click for our national anthem: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7399792002477900458
** India is for every Indian as such we have no room for hate mongers and anti-religious people on this group. No postings bashing any faith will be permitted.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
If the world were to vote in US elections
The world does not hate us, they hate our administration, just as we hate Putin, Taliban or Saddam but not Russians, Afghans or the Iranian people.
If you are a Neocon Republican, please do not read this, however, I believe a majority of the Republicans are good people, but good for nothing when they do not have the guts to speak up against their own party, they equate that to unpatriotic behavior.
The dumb Neocon Republicans will never get it, the public dumped the extremists neocon Republicans enmasse in November 2006, they still don't get it. Them boys, the axis of Cheney-Bush-Rowe-Rice-Guiliani-Romney-Palin-McCain huddle and talk about annihilating other nations, it is a game to them to kill people, wage wars and be destructive.
The only thing that comes out of their mouths is war, destruction, bombing, annihilating, or getting even... Except Ron Paul, is there a Republican out there whose actions are peace oriented? Who believes and acts peace? I hope there are a few at least.
The Neocon gang of Republicans use the word "peace through strenght" meaning peace would come to the world when they bully any one who does not agree with them. That dumb idea has done nothing but wrong in the world, where ever Neocons are involved in the world stage, they have misled the Americans to believe peace comes through destruction.
The axis of those huddle boys and girls, do not understand that we cannot have security when we frighten others, we cannot have peace when we are violent. Americans are not made like these boys, they will do the right thing at the end. The world does not hate us, they hate our administration, though we are responsible to put this axis in place and now time to dump them in November.
Check this link out:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Déjà Vu in Dallas - Neocon folly again
"Innocent until proven guilty" has worked for us for nearly 232 years, let it not be messed by these extremist Republican Neocons. We are a proseperous and a relatively peaceful nation because we place our value on justice.
Justice gives birth to peace, prosperity and progress of a nation, without which peace and progress would not sustain; injustice is a drag on the morality and conscience of a people. http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2008/08/peace-is-result-of-justice.html
Déjà Vu in Dallas as the Goverment Retries My Father
Today, a cloud of déjà vu is hovering over a federal courthouse in downtown Dallas, Texas. Prosecutors will begin retrying my father and four other associates of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), which was the largest American Muslim charity until the Bush administration shut it down in December 2001.
Labeled as the most extensive terror-funding case in U.S. history, the HLF trial ended in a mistrial in October 2007 with no guilty convictions. After two months of testimony and 19 days of deliberations, jurors failed to reach a verdict on most of the 197 counts.
"From what I read and what I saw in the facts and what I was presented, the defense didn't even have to stand and say anything because the prosecution failed completely," juror William Neal said in a radio interview days after the mistrial.
Thirteen months later, I walk through the same metal detectors and take the elevators to the same floor in the same courthouse, the Earle Cabell Federal Building, as last year. I watch the same prosecutors argue the same bizarre case: that HLF officials conspired to send money to zakat (charity) committees in the occupied Palestinian territories that were somehow linked to Hamas, even though they showed no link. In fact, the U.S. government continues to work with these same charities today.
I turn to the court audience and smile as I see the same diverse group of American professors, students, architects, doctors, nurses, engineers and lawyers standing in solidarity to attest that giving charity to the needy should not be a crime.
My heart fills with pride as I witness the resilience of the same Palestinian-American men -- my father, Ghassan Elashi and his colleagues Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mufid Abdulqader -- undergo yet another unjust trial.
During the next several weeks, they will be subjected to the same type of character assassination, litany of lies and innuendo, as the government tries to frighten a jury into reaching a verdict based on guilt by association, a most un-American effort.
Last year, an Israeli Defense Forces agent -- who was never identified -- testified that the HLF was "born by design" as a part of a global network whose "ultimate goal is to teach students how to be suicide bombers." Never mind that the general public was barred from the courtroom when this secret agent was speaking, denying my father his constitutional right to confront his accuser. Since when does giving clothes to infants with no fathers, or donating ambulances to teenagers dispossessed by war and backpacks to children whose parents are unemployed and destitute constitute violence?
In the upcoming weeks, the same group of courageous defense lawyers will once again expose the prosecution's attempt to sell their case by scaring jurors with the ominous-sounding terrorism boogieman.
The defense attorneys did this last year through the testimony of a former U.S. Diplomat in Jerusalem, Edward Abington, who told the jury about the 500 Israeli checkpoints and more than 70 Israeli fenced settlements in the West Bank, along with other blatant signs of Israel's dehumanizing occupation of Palestinians and the desperate need for humanitarian aid.
These points were also made through the testimony of Natalia Suleiman, who said the HLF was a charity that eased the plight of impoverished people in numerous countries worldwide, including Bosnia, Albania, Turkey and the U.S. through food packages, medical projects, back-to-school programs and orphan sponsorship programs.
George Washington University professor Nathan Brown also testified, saying the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave money to some of the same zakat committees to which the HLF donated.
But not everything is the same this time around. The retrial will take place in a much larger courtroom with a different judge, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis. And this year, three of the men will be tried on lesser charges. Mr. El-Mezain, who was acquitted of all but one of the 32 counts against him last year, will be retried on that charge, exposing the vindictive nature of this prosecution.
Prosecutors recently dropped nearly 30 counts against two other men, leaving only three against them. This leaves my father and another defendant, Mr. Abu-Baker, who will be retried on 35 and 34 counts respectively.
Another difference between the two trials is, of course, the new set of jurors. The eight-woman, two-man jury was selected last week during three days of intense jury questioning.
But as we begin yet another painful chapter in this saga, I can only hope the retrial will bring with it a different fate: a full acquittal for all five men. My family needs my father to start climbing down the tall, monstrous mountain of arrests, false accusations and painful separation. My 8-year-old brother, Omar, who has Down Syndrome, needs his father to take him on long strolls around the neighborhood. My mother needs her husband to help raise their children. My sisters and I need dad to hug us and kiss us and ask us about our classes and jobs. My brothers need him to watch them play soccer, skateboard and practice Tae Kwon Do.
Though my government has unjustly arrested my father -- and wasted millions in taxpayer dollars to prosecute him when his only crime was supporting needy Palestinians -- I have faith in the American justice system. I have faith that this year's jury will come to the same conclusion as William Neal, a juror who served in last year's trial. He was able to see beyond the prosecution's fear-mongering and intimidation to see they had no evidence. Hours after a mistrial was announced last year, Neal told reporters, "There really was nothing there for me, no concrete evidence ... I thought they were not guilty across the board."
Hopefully, this year will mark the end of this overblown, unnecessary, unfair and oppressive persecution, motivated by nothing more than a naked attempt by the Bush administration to show it's fighting a "War on Terror." And hopefully, this year, justice will be served and the déjà vu cloud hovering over the courthouse will vanish.
To follow the day-to-day developments of the Holy Land Foundation trial, please visit: www.freedomtogive.com
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The Spirit, rituals and politics of Ramadan
Mike Ghouse, Dallas, Texas
The Spiritual masters have captured the human gravity for rituals and have molded it with the art and science of self-discipline in their respective religion. The noble purpose of each one of them was to bring a balance in our lives and a balance with things that surround us; life and environment. Every faith is composed of a set of unique rituals to bring discipline and peace to human life. Fasting is one of the five key rituals that Muslims around the world observe.
Continued at: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/The-spirit-rituals-and-politics-of-Ramadan.asp
Friday, September 19, 2008
Women Who Soar - MaryAnn Thompson-Frenk
I am pleased to have attended the Women Soar recognition luncheon this afternoon. The award luncheon is about celebrating , and recognizing amazing women who've reached extraordinary professional and personal success. It is about the journey of the women. It is about empowering and inspiring one to reach new heights and soar! Brilliantly you is about each one teaching one. Details are at: http://www.womenthatsoar.com/
It was my privilege to introduce Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk, one of the honorees. Here is what I shared about her:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my privilege to introduce someone whom I admire for her genuine desire to create a better world. I want to share few things about Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk, who is making a difference in the world we live; she is a leader, Philanthropist, a humanitarian and an Artist.
I first met Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk in 2005 when she organized a conference with forty spiritual leaders representing different faiths. It was her persistent efforts to include every tradition that inspired me. She had that genuine desire to bring communities together, to include every one for the common good of humanity.
When Jesus said “follow me” I believe he meant for us to acquire his qualities and attitudes, that is respect to all creation; life and matter and loving each one of us. Mary Ann has followed that principle, and is blessed with a genuine desire to value each individual. She inspires one to think beyond the box and she has freed herself from any bias towards fellow beings.
Mary Ann believes that unless we consciously create the world we dream of, and work for accomplishing it, we will continue to remain the same. Mahatma Gandhi had said something very similar “you have to become the change that you want to be”
All good things in the world have happened with a vision and have started with a dream, and Mary Ann had a dream where she saw that people from all walks of life come together and share the knowledge with each other, it was the world marked by co-existence for the benefit of peace and prosperity of the human kind.
Mary Ann was fascinated by what the ancient Native Indians had achieved, they would come from all over the continents from South America to Alaska and every place in between, stay in the Pyramids of learning for a couple of months, learn and share the knowledge about Health, Medicine, culture, spirituality and science with each other for the benefit of the human kind.
Mary Ann took a conscious step to materialize her dream and she took that first step in the year 2005, where she brought together over 40 spiritual leaders from western, eastern, indigenous, and new age traditions. They discussed the spiritual and physical human experience, the commonality of beliefs, the environment, and how mankind can establish harmonious goals to progress in unity while respecting valuable differences. The essence of this is captured in the documentary, “Many paths, one source” (http://www.manypathsonesource.org/ )
Mary Ann was quoted in Dallas Morning News “We live in a time when there is so much distrust between those who are different from us. Racism, religious intolerance, homophobia - are symptoms of a lack of vision. I pray for the day we will be judged not by our skin color, gender or how we praise God, but by our integrity and contribution to our fellow man."
Mary Ann has served on 14 different nonprofit boards, (both in the USA and international), and with her husband, Joshua Raymond Frenk, has sponsored many programs promoting human rights, the arts, and a clean environment.
I am mighty pleased that she is being recognized today for her work. Artist, Philanthropist and a humanitarian Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk strives to form alliances to bring the world closer together philosophically and environmentally by celebrating diversity and promoting collaboration.
She is indeed making the difference. Please visit http://www.memnosynefoundation.org/ to witness her leadership in this important work.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Republican Obession with Terrorism
Apparently they have done extensive research and have come up with 10 universal symptoms leading to genocide; two of them are i) Extreme Patriotism and ii) singling out a group as a disease to be eradicated.
What did you see in the Republican convention?
The Republicans have not learned their lesson yet; the American Public dumped them in November 2006 for their extremism, war mongering and mischief around the globe. Now it is time to dump a few more of those extremists who are incapable of a dialogue. They are going to make more enemies and make our lives more insecure. John McCain cleverly denounced the Bush years as if he is a clean guy, look what he is doing, and he is the ultimate Bushman fascist.
Thanks to Sarah Pallin, she has caused all the extremists to huddle in one camp now; The McCain Camp. The camp that has lied about WMD and just about every ruthless venture they have done in our name. Never again should we allow the war mongers to represent us. We need a president who works on saving lives, brings security to our lives. We cannot expect to be safe when we keep threatening others, we cannot expect others to be peaceful when we are not.
September 16, 2008
A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Disarm Fear-Mongering
Muslims are at Peace With You
By FATEMAH KESHAVARZ
Fatemeh Keshavarz is Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University.
If you have received a hair-raising "documentary" called Obsession in the mail this weekend, you are not a chosen surprise winner, or the recipient of a kind anonymous gift. You belong to a sought after group of people: the residents of a swing state estimated to be an undecided voter. The film is supposed to convince you that your country is at war with the majority of Muslims who are willing to conquer America, kill or convert you, and establish a fascist empire. If you watch the film by yourself, and have no way of evaluating its content, chances are you will be convinced. Rather, you will be terrified.
That 28 million free copies of Obsession is landing on doorsteps in swing states at this point in time, speaks for itself. Nonetheless, people are digging deep in search of the sources of financial support for this largest campaign of fear conducted to date. I'd say more power to them for their efforts to expose this campaign of emotional manipulation reminiscent of fascist like ideologies that have resulted in massive human tragedies. For now, however, there are easier and more practical ways of countering this scare attack. As a Muslim who has never been at war with anyone, I list five of them here.
First, the movie tells you that in a Muslim country, a non-Muslim is supposed to be killed or sold like an animal. Look, in your neighborhood or among colleague, relatives, and friends, for an ordinary fellow American who has travelled to a Muslim country in recent years. Ask if he or she felt the threat of being abducted, converted, sold, or killed at anytime during his or her stay in that country.
Second, the Movie claims that the Egyptian textbooks tell school children that Muslims should kill non-Muslims and take over the world. Egypt has millions of Coptic Christian inhabitants. In fact, they form 20% of the Egyptian population. Ask yourself how have they survived living in Egypt for thousands of years? Then, locate an Egyptian Copt through your local library, university, the internet, and/or friends. Ask that person if he or she ever saw such a statement in his or his children's school books.
Third, invite a Persian speaking friend (of whom hundreds of thousands live in the U.S.) to watch the movie with you. When supposed scenes from the Iranian TV are shown, they will tell you that the actual language they hear is not Persian but Arabic. The documentary makers did not know what they were piecing together. They banked on the fact that the audience will not know that either.
Fourth, the film interviews supposed Muslim fundamentalists who have turned nice, loving, and truthful after conversion to Christianity. Ask yourself why you should trust them anymore now than when they were ruthless terrorists – if indeed they were terrorists. If not, why are they lying?
Fifth, when images of large and loud crowds in the film frighten you, imagine someone taking a few shots from the GOP convention's loud chants, put a scary voice over, add a few shots of American soldiers breaking into Iraqi homes in the middle of the night, and throw a few statements from right wing shows into the mix. It could be sold to Muslim audiences as "The American War on Islam."
Finally, please send this simple guide to a friend who has been terrified after watching Obsession and tell them to vote for Mr. McCain only if they like four more years of what they have experienced for the past eight years…not because Muslims are at war with America. They are not.
Fatemeh Keshavarz is Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University and the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran.