Posts Tagged ‘ Islam ’

Keith Olbermann – Special Comment, Muslim Community Center

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
-Martin Niemöller

“This is America damn it! And in America when somebody comes for your neighbor, or his Bible, or his Torah, or his Athiest Manifesto, or his Koran, you and I do what our fathers did and our grandmothers did, and our founders did, you and I SPEAK UP!”
– Keith Olbermann

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Religious Freedom in America Includes Everyone

By Alex Howard for The Pueblo Chieftain

One of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy as citizens is to worship in whatever manner we want to and wherever we want to.

There are virtually no restrictions on this freedom, even when a particular exercise of a belief might be illegal for the general public. Within the scope of religious expression, even the use of drugs can be legitimate. For example, the use of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus, is legit for members of Native American communities but illegal for the rest of us.

Moreover, the freedom of religion principle extends well beyond what most people think of as acceptable.

While all the mainstream religions are represented within the military services, we also find niches carved out for not-so-common expressions.

Wicca, also known as witchcraft, druidism, paganism and other names, is officially recognized by the United States military as a legitimate form of religious expression.

So, what I’m saying is that the freedom of religious expression is wide-ranging and as diverse as the citizenry in America. Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Rastafarians, Sikhs, Scientologists, Baha’i and all the others have their places in the worldwide religious worship palette, including here in America.

And I’ve named just a few religions. There are many more, some with which our culture has no familiarity despite a large number of adherents.

So, what should we think when a group of citizens objects to the construction of a place of worship by a religious group? We’d have to wonder whether that basic freedom of religion has some kind of limits, wouldn’t we?

Yet, this is exactly a discussion that’s taking place in New York City right now. A group of Muslims that has been using a building not too far from the site of the former World Trade Center for religious and cultural purposes wants to demolish it and build a new mosque and cultural center.

Survivors and family members of victims of the terrorist attack are not happy. The general feelings they express are of anger and unresolved emotional pain over the death of family members, friends and co-workers.

They blame (accurately of course) the attack on those who flew the airplanes and their co-conspirators. Sadly, however, the anger at the attackers has been enlarged to include Muslims in general.

That being acknowledged, prejudicial and misguided as it is, the discussion is taking on the aura of denial of the freedom of religious expression. What those objecting to the construction of the mosque seem to have ignored is that the Muslims who want to build it are American citizens, some of them second- or third-generation Americans.

These are not people who are trying to establish a radical, wacko religious cult on foreign soil. They’re Americans exercising their freedoms, just as you and I are free to do.

Should the pain of those who lost loved ones in the villainous attack on the WTC hold sway over the decision to build the mosque near that site? I don’t think so. Otherwise, any group with an emotional connection to an event could claim the right to object to some other religious building. American Muslims have just as much right to freedom of worship as other Americans. To think otherwise is, well, un-American.

-Alex Howard is a retired Episcopal priest.

“This Passport is valid for all the countries of the World, except Israel”

By Junaid Ghumman for Mideast Youth

The world Zionist movement should not be neglectful of the dangers of Pakistan to it. And Pakistan now should be its first target, for this ideological State is a threat to our existence. And Pakistan, the whole of it, hates the Jews and loves the Arabs. This lover of the Arabs is more dangerous to us than the Arabs themselves. For that matter, it is most essential for the world Zionism that it should now take immediate steps against Pakistan.” Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel.

This speech was first published in Jewish Chronicles on 9th August 1967. This statement risen many controversies bloggers like me have quoted it many times; various explanations were also given to disprove this statement, but still we read it on every article related to Pakistan and Israel.

Pakistan and Israel do share some history and ideology. These are only two countries in the world created in the name of Religion; Pakistan for Islam, Israel for Judaism and both countries have taken independence from same British Empire after World War II.

Then why my passport still says, “This Passport is valid for all the countries of the World, except Israel”?

Pakistan claimed its independence from foreign invaders after two centuries of struggle. In 1757 after Battle of Plessey, East India Company started ruling Indian Sub-continent. The first armed resistance was Battle of Independence in 1857 after which the power was transferred to British government. In 1885 the political movement of independence started as Indian National Congress. Some of the Muslim leaders soon separated and launched new movement in 1906 as All India Muslim League for separate Muslim state which led to the creation of independent Islamic state Pakistan on 14th August 1947, which then became Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973.

For Israel the timings was same and the rulers were also same as of Indian sub-continents, but events and circumstances were totally different. Israel declared its independence on 14th May 1948 from British Mandate of Palestine. But Israel independence movement was not against British Occupation; rather it was a movement of creating a Jewish State by silently invading the markets, trades and areas to make Jewish settlements. Hovevei Zion or Hibbat Zion refers to organizations that are considered the foundations of the modern Zionist movement. These movements led to creation of Rishon LeZion in 1882 which is the first Jewish settlement in Palestine; which was at that time under Ottoman Empire. First Zionist Congress held in 1897 started the unified Zionist Movement which was converted to World Zionist Organization in 1960. This movement was successful in legalizing its demand of separate Jewish state in Palestine after Balfour Declaration 1917, in which British Mandate of Palestine’s (1917 – 1948) foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote letter to the leader of British Jewish Community Baron Rothschild, pledging British Empire support of creation of Jewish State in Palestinian Land.

So what kind of relationship does Pakistan and Israel has over period of 60 years?

While writing this blog I also tried to ask couple Pakistanis; their view points about Pakistan-Israel Relationship. Yousaf is Pakistani Engineer living and working in Saudi Arabia. Being in the region, Pakistanis here are emotionally and regionally attached to Middle East crisis. I asked him what kind of relationship both countries have. “Relationship between Pakistan and Israel are tied to the fact that how Israel government treats the Palestinians. In general, as Jerusalem is considered as one of the holiest places in Islam; this fact serves as a thorn in the eyes of Pakistanis.” Yousaf said.

Pakistan is among those 20 UN member nations which do not recognize Israel as an independent state. These 20 countries also include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chad, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Unofficial media reports say that first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion send secret message to Muhammad Ali Jinnah to formally accept its existence, but no response was given back to him. At the time of independence of Pakistan, it was reported that some 2,000 Jews remained in Pakistan, mostly Bene Yisrale Jews. Many left to Israel after its declaration of independence. Jews from Karachi, Pakistan, now live in Ramla, Israel, and they also built a synagogue they named Magen Shalome after the Pakistani Synagogue which was demolished in 1980.

60s, 70s and beginning of 80s were the decades when for the first time both countries came face to face when Arab-Israel war started. In “Six-day Arab Israeli War” of 1967; Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were flying under a joint command. PAF pilot Flt. Lt. Saiful Azam became the only pilot from the Arab side to have shot down 3 IDF/AF aircraft within 72 hours.

In 1973 Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War, 16 PAF pilots volunteered to support Syria and Egypt. On 23 October 1973 Flt. Lt. M. Hatif shot down the Israeli Phantom. On 26 April 1974, PAF pilot Flt. Lt. A. Sattar Alvi became the first Pakistani pilot, during the Yom Kippur War; to shoot down an Israeli Mirage in air combat. He was honoured by the Syrian government. Nur Khan, who was the Wing Commander received praised from Israeli President Ezer Weizman who wrote in his autobiography that: “He was a formidable fellow and I was glad that he was Pakistani and not Egyptian”. Pakistan also sent medical ambulances to Egypt and Syria.

After the Israeli attack on Iraq’s under-construction French-built nuclear Osirak-type reactor, Tammuz-I, south of Baghdad on 7 June 1981, Pakistan’s then President President Zia-ul-Haq directed PAF Air Headquarters (AHQ) to make contingency plans for a possible Israeli attack on Kahuta. Kahuta is noted for its nuclear research studies and nuclear development technologies in Kahuta Research Laboratories. On 10 July 1982, a special contingency plan was issued. In the event of an Israeli attack on Pakistan’s strategic installations, plans were drawn up for a retaliatory Pakistani strike on Negev Nuclear Research Centre. The Negev Nuclear Research Centre is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometres to the south-east of the city of Dimona.

On political level many statements were given. As chair of the Second Islamic Summit in 1974, then Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said: “To Jews as Jews we bear no malice; to Jews as Zionists, intoxicated with their militarism and reeking with technological arrogance, we refuse to be hospitable.”

In of his speeches in National Assembly of Pakistan, before Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, he said, “Mr. Speaker Sir! This is not Desi (local) conspiracy, it’s an international conspiracy. Let me make it quite clear for the history, whatever the future and fate of this individual will be; that doesn’t matter, but let me tell you again this is not a desi (local) conspiracy, this is not PNA conspiracy, this is massive, huge and colossal international conspiracy against the Islamic State of Pakistan.” (PNA was Pakistan National Alliance against the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party). Nowadays people like to refer this international controversy as Zionist or Israeli Conspiracy.

A controversial book was published in 2003, named Charlie’s Wilson war which conspire about use of Israeli weapons supplied to General Zia ul Haq to fight Soviets in Afghanistan (1979 – 1989). Famous Hollywood movie Charlie’s Wilson War was also released in 2007. After that the back door politics started between Pakistan and Israel.

The President of Pakistan General Zia ul Haq was assassinated in plane crash on 17 August 1988. Among the conspiracy theories; Mossad (Israeli Intelligence Agency) involvement is also believed to exist. In the fall 2005 World Policy Journal, John Gunther Dean, a former US ambassador to India, blamed the Mossad for orchestrating Zia’s assassination in retaliation for Pakistan developing a nuclear weapon to counteract India and Israel.

Ali is my friend living in Middle East. I asked him, can there ever be any friendship or peace between Pakistan and Israel, to which he replied, “Yes there can be, Israel is a small country with a group of people belonging to a group of faith. And also it is in its interest that it should be at peace with every country, and especially those countries that it feels can threaten its existence.”

It is believed that, at the time of Benazir Bhutto’s Government both countries had very strong relationship especially in countering terrorism. In 1993 Benazir Bhutto, along with her then-Director-General of Military Operations, Pervez Musharraf, intensified the ISI’s liaison with Mossad in 1993, and she too began to cultivate the American Jewish lobby. Bhutto is said to have had a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli diplomat, who flew to the U.S. during her visit to Washington, D.C. in 1995.

In 1996, Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency, FIA, started a secret war against Extremist in Pakistan under Rehman Malik. According to sources, FIA also contacted Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to help and send its officers to investigate the extremism. Even after these strong ties, controversies never left the scenario. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007 in one political rally. This was considered to be typical Mossad Assassination style. It is believed that she was the one knowing the reality of 9/11 being inside job and death of Osama Bin Laden, which she also publicly stated in David Frost TV program. That program was edited before telecasting. But Jewish Journals and Media still believed in the opposite way. According to Jewish media, Miss Bhutto asked for Mossad help to protect her on her return to Pakistan as she was afraid she will be killed.

In 1998 Pakistan and Israel were again on the verge of war. On 27 May 1998, day before Pakistan conducted its nuclear test in Chaghi, Southern Province of Baluchistan, Pakistan; unidentified F-16 was found hovering around skies on border areas of Pakistan. Pakistan Air Force; taking is as repetition of Israeli Conspiracy similar to 1981, Air Bourne its fighters to foil any attack. But Pakistan and Israeli UN delegation met in UN soon after Pakistan Nuclear tests in 1998 to give assurance that Pakistan will not transfer its technologies to Iran, the arch enemy of Israel.

Musharraf’s nine years of rule was also golden times for both countries. In 2003, General Pervaiz Musharraf said on television interview, “Mainly Muslim Pakistan must seriously take up the issue of recognizing Israel and avoid dealing with it on emotional grounds”. This statement gave birth to local opposition, esp. among Religious Parties in Pakistan. “Jerusalem is not just an Arab issue, it is linked to the faith of every Muslim” said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, chief of Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan, the largest and oldest religious political party. “Presenting Palestine as a sole Arab issue is a heinous conspiracy of the imperialists and colonists aimed at disintegrating the Muslims and shattering the concept of Muslim unity. It is for the same reason the colonist forces are trying to portray every Muslim issue as regional or bilateral” said Qazi.

In 2005 Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom met in Istanbul after Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza, Palestine hoping to start peace talks. However, following the meeting Musharraf said, “Pakistan will not recognize the state of Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established”.

An unofficial Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum was created the next day of the meeting. It was created by 3 friends Waleed Ziad (Pakistan), Dror Topf (Israel), and Michael Berenhaus (US), all currently based in Washington, DC. This forum was an unsuccessful attempt to lobby in UN, US, Israel and Pakistani political establishments, hoping that Pakistani might accept Israel as independent legal state.

Pakistan and Israel are also secretly involved in Weapons and Arms Development Race. Close ties between India and Israel, and arms business between them forces Pakistan to keep an eye on Israel’s weapons industry. Like for example; Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) developed POF Eye Gun and exhibited in 2008 to counter the Israeli made Cornershot Rifle which is also known as Jews Gun in Arab World.

Shall Pakistan recognize Israel as an independent state to which Yousaf and Ali shared the same answer, “Pakistan should only consider recognizing Israel if it gives an independent state to the Palestinians with Jerusalem at its capital. And completely cut off itself from the internal affairs of that state, only then Pakistan should even start to consider recognizing them.”

I thought why not to ask some of Palestinians who have been living in exile for almost six decades. Abdul-Rahman is originally from Nabulus, West Bank and Qasim is from Gaza. I asked them what role Pakistan can play any role in solving Middle East Crisis, to which Abdul Rahman replied, “May be or may be not. Pakistan has its own problems with India, in Kashmir and in Afghanistan.” And Qasim said, “Pakistan cannot play any role especially with the current government which is only thinking of business but not Islam or Muslims.” Which actually hit me hard but truth is truth. On inquiring the Pakistan’s nuclear threat to Israel, Abdul Rahman said, “Israelis are even scared of stones so obviously Israel want end to Pakistan’s Nuclear technology, the Islamic Bomb.” But Qasim stuck to his same point, “If Pakistani government wants it can use nuclear technology against Israel, not in war or something but also to play politics.” Then in the end I asked, shall Pakistan Recognize Israel as independent country. Both of them came up with different and interesting answers. Abdul Rahman said, “There is should be a procedure of acceptance. Israel should balance the power and control of every city between themselves and Palestinians, then Pakistan can recognize Israel.” Whereas Qasim said, “Pakistan should recognize Israel. Sitting outside and ending any communication will not resolve the Middle East problem. We need to enter the region to solve the problem and if Pakistan wants it can do that by taking first step of recognizing Israel.”

It was interesting journey going through all the historic events which Pakistan and Israel share and knowing different ideas and opinions. All these events which I have mentioned above, cannot be confirmed from any credible or authentic source as all this happened back stage, behind the camera. But whatever governments’ relationship may be it is true that people of Pakistan still want to call every conspiracy as Zionist conspiracy and this will keep on going until some peaceful solution is devised to Middle East crisis between Muslim Palestinians and Jewish Israelis

Aqsa Parvez: A Canadian Tragedy Lost in ‘Culture Talk’

By Uzma Shakir for Rabble Blogs

Aqsa Parvez is a “Canadian” tragedy — not an immigrant tragedy, or a Pakistani tragedy, or indeed a Muslim tragedy. In her formative years, Aqsa was raised in Canada; oppressed by her pathologically patriarchal father in Canada; failed by the family, the friends of the family, the education system, the student counseling services, the social service sector — in Canada. To make her tragedy a case of “these immigrant types with their medieval cultures” is to insult her memory and even worse learn nothing from it so that we can prevent it from happening again in the future — in Canada.

Like Aqsa and her father I was born and raised in Pakistan. Like Aqsa I grew up in a devout Muslim household. Unlike Aqsa’s father I came here as an immigrant while he came as a refugee. Like Aqsa and her father I was also raised with the notion of “honour.” In my upbringing there was honour in respecting your elders, there was honour in treating the women in the family with respect, there was honour in making sure that every child in the family had good education, there was honour in allowing your children (men or women) to make choices with regards to where they wanted to go for education or who they wanted to marry. My father and mother made decisions in the family by mutual dialogue and consent. As the only female child in the family and the youngest, my parents spent more money on my education than that of my brothers. And yes I had an arranged marriage — I arranged it myself, thank you. In fact, what was considered dishonourable in my family was to use physical force against women and children (my father used to say to my brothers “never raise your hand”), for adults to lie or cheat, to hurt someone and than justify it, and a particularly heinous act was to take a life — since, according to my dad, only God had that power. In fact, everyone I know in Pakistan or in Canada who is of Pakistani origin have similar values and family trajectories. Of course, my reality is very much conditioned by my family class background, my urban location, my family’s personal history, my parents’ education levels, and the socio-political context in which we grew up. So the question arises: who is the norm here and who is the exception? Who gets to define “the” Pakistani culture?

Neither Aqsa’s father nor I represent “the” Pakistani culture. We both experience it differently given our different locations of class, place, gender, education, family history etc. Mohammad Parvez may have suffered the same so-called culture shock in Lahore or Karachi as he is supposed to do in Toronto and Canada. Both Aqsa’s father and I immigrated to Canada but even our personal histories here are almost polar opposites — just like they were in Pakistan. Once again this is conditioned by our class, place, education, gender but this time it is further compounded by level of accessibility to the mainstream society in terms of language, economic opportunity, social inclusion and ultimately level of perceived cultural threat.

While I am lauded and praised by the mainstream society in Canada because I am “familiar” (probably the inevitable intimacy of bourgeois affinity), Mohammed Parvez was left in his own alienated world as the undesirable “other” facing what must have appeared to him to be a hostile world. Often enough Canadian experience is not just one of sampling diversity of cultural values but rather of hostile mainstream values actively undermining your perceived values as a cultural inferior. In my case, I can deal with this cultural assault because I have a voice in the public sphere and also I feel in control of my life because I have access to adequate financial, social, political and familial capital, while his control only went so far as his immediate family — and he exercised it to its grave end. However, to consider him to be more “cultural” than me, simply because he seems to exemplify what appears to be a “gaping divide” between the so-called traditional values and Western values, is patently absurd. We were divided about our notions of culture long before we came here because there is no neat little box that contains Pakistani monolithic cultural values that either of us can claim to be “authentic.”

Had we met in Pakistan he would have found me too urban and not Pakistani enough and I would have written him off as a fossil of entrenched feudalism and not Pakistani enough. However, if we meet here, he will find me to be Canadian and himself to be a Pakistani — a distinction encouraged by the mainstream notions of “our” and “their” values. But actually we are both the same — Canadian and Pakistani at the same time. This process of ‘othering’, denial and identity distinctions have more to do with Canada and immigrant experience here than with what might be or not be Pakistani culture. Over the years our experience of culture has changed, as has the Canadian society. So to turn this into either a case of “in our culture girls must obey their fathers” as an assertion of a simplistic fact by the Pakistani Canadian community or “he can’t handle our freedoms” as portrayed by the mainstream media is the worst form of myopia and chauvinism.

 These factors are critically important to understand because neither Aqsa’s father nor I represent either Pakistani or indeed immigrant “culture” but rather are a reflection of how our individual histories and personal interactions with the Canadian society shape our actions and responses — including our understanding of “culture.” However, ultimately Aqsa’s tragedy is about her father as an individual with his own pathological and uncontrolled desire for power and his own twisted notions of justifying his pathology through trumped up notions of “honour” and “shame.” To my mind the real dishonour and shame is to treat women and children as your personal property and not as equal members of society. The real dishonour and shame is to live in patriarchal societies where men exercise disproportionate power over women both personally and structurally — be it Pakistan or Canada. The real dishonour and shame is to brush off our collective responsibility and our institutional failures and treat a Canadian child’s tragedy as “their” problem or even worse our problem for allowing them to come here in the first place.

— Uzma Shakir is a community-based researcher, advocate, activist. She is the past Executive Director of Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). She has worked as a teacher, journalist and researcher. She blogs at www.rabble.ca

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