Charity Week 2012 is over now. The last cake has been baked and sold. The last poster taken down. The last penny counted. At the end of each Charity Week we reflect upon the events of the past year so that we may build upon our strengths and identify our weaknesses. The resulting document is the Charity Week Annual Report – one of the most comprehensive and detailed analyses of the workings of an Islamic youth project anywhere in the world.
Each year there are some surprises thrown up. One of the many benefits of having an Annual Report is that it allows us to share these amazing stories with each other and the wider public. Here are just 5 of them:
Each year, volunteers try and come up with weird and interesting ways to get more publicity for the project. This year Liverpool University Islamic Society decided that they would get the world record for the longest continuous chain of fist-bumps. 145 pairs of fist bumps later – and they found themselves in the record books.
4. 87 years of experience
There was a mix of experienced hands and fresh faces in the Charity Week 2012 team – something all healthy teams need to help improve. There was a cumulative 87 years of experience between the national team alone – an average of nearly 3.5 years each. This is quite a feat in Islamic work which is (unfortunately) known for high turnover and burnout rate of volunteers.
3. The most expensive Islamic CD ever?
Every year there are auctions where canvas prints of Islamic calligraphy or other such items get sold to raise money. Sometimes, they just sell whatever is at hand. This year, a CD of Islamic talks – all freely available online – was sold for a staggering £2,535 (close to $4000.) Truly someone who appreciates the value of knowledge!2. Donation from a homeless man
Charity Week volunteers are renowned for being able to talk anyone into putting something into the bucket for the sake of orphans and needy children. But even they were shocked when a homeless man took out the little spare change in his pocket and donated it for those “less fortunate than himself.” subḥānAllāh… it left many of us speechless.
1. Raising £448,401.36 (approx $668,000)
Whilst we always say that Charity Week is emphatically NOT about the money, itis worthwhile looking at that figure again. This is hard evidence if ever any were needed that if we Muslims work together and unite upon Islam – Allāh will pour barakah in our efforts. By working together, by going beyond the divisions that normally keep us apart, by reaching out to the disenfranchised majority of Muslim youth, by tapping the potential of a united Muslim Ummah – we can achieve the seemingly impossible. Millions of those suffering around the world are hoping you agree.
To read the full Charity Week Annual Report 2012 click here:
To get involved and bring Charity Week to your school/ college/ city:
A hate crime victim has spoken out on behalf of a Muslim community whose mosque was smeared in dog faeces and pork meat.
Report by Nick Gill
The well-resourced organisation, which is linked to al-Qaida, is luring many anti-Assad fighters away, say brigade commanders
Syria's main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is losing fighters and capabilities to Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist organisation with links to al-Qaida that is emerging as the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Evidence of the growing strength of al-Nusra, gathered from Guardian interviews with FSA commanders across Syria, underlines the dilemma for the US, Britain and other governments as they ponder the question of arming anti-Assad rebels.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said that if negotiations went ahead between the Syrian government and the opposition – as the US and Russia proposed on Tuesday – "then hopefully [arming the Syrian rebels] would not be necessary".
The agreement between Washington and Moscow creates a problem for the UK and France, which have proposed lifting or amending the EU arms embargo on Syria to help anti-Assad forces. The Foreign Office welcomed the agreement as a "potential step forward" but insisted: "Assad and his close associates have lost all legitimacy. They have no place in the future of Syria." Opposition leaders were sceptical about prospects for talks if Assad remained in power.
Illustrating their plight, FSA commanders say that entire units have gone over to al-Nusra while others have lost a quarter or more of their strength to them recently.
"Fighters feel proud to join al-Nusra because that means power and influence," said Abu Ahmed, a former teacher from Deir Hafer who now commands an FSA brigade in the countryside near Aleppo. "Al-Nusra fighters rarely withdraw for shortage of ammunition or fighters and they leave their target only after liberating it," he added. "They compete to carry out martyrdom [suicide] operations."
Abu Ahmed and others say the FSA has lost fighters to al-Nusra in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor and the Damascus region. Ala'a al-Basha, commander of the Sayyida Aisha brigade, warned the FSA chief of staff, General Salim Idriss, about the issue last month. Basha said 3,000 FSA men have joined al-Nusra in the last few months, mainly because of a lack of weapons and ammunition. FSA fighters in the Banias area were threatening to leave because they did not have the firepower to stop the massacre in Bayda, he said.
The FSA's Ahrar al-Shimal brigade joined al-Nusra en masse while the Sufiyan al-Thawri brigade in Idlib lost 65 of its fighters to al-Nusra a few months ago for lack of weapons. According to one estimate the FSA has lost a quarter of all its fighters.
Al-Nusra has members serving undercover with FSA units so they can spot potential recruits, according to Abu Hassan of the FSA's al-Tawhid Lions brigade.
Ideology is another powerful factor. "Fighters are heading to al-Nusra because of its Islamic doctrine, sincerity, good funding and advanced weapons," said Abu Islam of the FSA's al-Tawhid brigade in Aleppo. "My colleague who was fighting with the FSA's Ahrar Suriya asked me: 'I'm fighting with Ahrar Suriya brigade, but I want to know if I get killed in a battle, am I going to be considered as a martyr or not?' It did not take him long to quit FSA and join al-Nusra. He asked for a sniper rifle and got one immediately."
FSA commanders say they have suffered from the sporadic nature of arms supplies. FSA fighter Adham al-Bazi told the Guardian from Hama: "Our main problem is that what we get from abroad is like a tap. Sometimes it's turned on, which means weapons are coming and we are advancing, then, all of a sudden, the tap dries up, and we stop fighting or even pull out of our positions."
The US, which has outlawed al-Nusra as a terrorist group, has hesitated to arm the FSA, while the western and Gulf-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition has tried to assuage concerns by promising strict control over weapons. "We are ready to make lists of the weapons and write down the serial numbers," Idriss told NPR at the weekend. "The FSA is very well organised and when we distribute weapons and ammunition we know exactly to which hands they are going."
Syria's government has capitalised successfully on US and European divisions over the weapons embargo by emphasising the "jihadi narrative" – as it has since the start of largely peaceful protests in March 2011. Assad himself claimed in a recent interview: "There is no FSA, only al-Qaida." Syrian state media has played up the recent pledge of loyalty by Jabhat al-Nusra to al-Qaida in Iraq.
Western governments say they are aware of the al-Nusra problem, which is being monitored by intelligence agencies, but they are uncertain about its extent.
"It is clear that fighters are moving from one group to another as one becomes more successful," said a diplomat who follows Syria closely. "But it's very area-specific. You can't talk about a general trend in which [Jabhat al-Nusra] has more momentum than others. It is true that some say JAN is cleaner and better than other groups, but there are as many stories about it being bad." Critics point to punishments meted out by Sharia courts and its use of suicide bombings.
The FSA's shortage of weapons and other resources compared with Jabhat al-Nusra is a recurrent theme. The loss of Khirbet Ghazaleh, a key junction near Dera'a in southern Syria, was blamed on Wednesday on a lack of weapons its defenders had hoped would be delivered from Jordan.
"If you join al-Nusra, there is always a gun for you but many of the FSA brigades can't even provide bullets for their fighters," complained Abu Tamim, an FSA man who joined Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib province. "My nephew is in Egypt, he wants to come to Syria to fight but he doesn't have enough money. Al-Nusra told him: 'Come and we will even pay your flight tickets.' He is coming to fight with al-Nusra because he does not have any other way."
Jabhat al-Nusra is winning support in Deir al-Zor, according to Abu Hudaifa, another FSA defector. "They are protecting people and helping them financially. Al-Nusra is in control of most of the oil wells in the city." The Jabhat al-Nusra media, with songs about jihad and martyrdom, is extremely influential.
Abu Zeid used to command the FSA's Syria Mujahideen brigade in the Damascus region and led all its 420 fighters to al-Nusra. "Since we joined I and my men are getting everything we need to keep us fighting to liberate Syria and to cover our families' expenses, though fighting with al-Nusra is governed by very strict rules issued by the operations command or foreign fighters," he said. "There is no freedom at all but you do get everything you want.
"No one should blame us for joining al-Nusra. Blame the west if Syria is going to become a haven for al-Qaida and extremists. The west left Assad's gangs to slaughter us. They never bothered to support the FSA. They disappointed ordinary Syrian protesters who just wanted their freedom and to have Syria for all Syrians."Mona MahmoodIan Black
(h/t: JD)Link Between Islam And Violence Rejected By Many Americans After Boston Bombings: Pew Survey
by Jawad Kaleem (HuffPo)
After the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were revealed to be Muslims who investigators said were motivated in part by radical Islam, American Muslims were quick to condemn the bombings and plea for Americans to not retaliate against the peaceful majority.
Now, the results of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press show that despite heightened interest around radical Islam’s connection to the Boston attacks, Americans’ view of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to support violence remains close to what it has been for the past decade. The survey also found that Americans view Muslims as the group that’s most discriminated against when compared to gays and lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics and women.
The survey, which was released Tuesday, found that 42 percent of Americans believe Islam is “more likely” than other religions to encourage violence among believers, while 46 percent say it’s not any more likely to promote violence than other faiths. Those figures are within 7 percentage points of the results of surveys going back to 2003 that have asked the same question. Only in 2002 did Pew find widely different results to the question about Islam and violence, when 25 percent of those surveyed said Islam was more likely to encourage violence while 51 percent disagreed.
Tuesday’s results found that about 45 percent of Americans say there is “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims, while 39 percent say there is the same amount of discrimination against gays and lesbians. A quarter of Americans believe there is “a lot” of discrimination against Hispanics, 22 percent believe there is a similar level of discrimination against African Americans and 15 percent believe there is “a lot” of discrimination against women.
Pew, which polled 1,504 people for the survey with a margin of error of 2.9 percent, also found differences between views of Islam when results were broken down by age, sex, political party and religion. The majority of young people don’t believe Islam is more linked to violence than other religions, while half of people above 50 believe Islam is more likely to promote violence. Men were also more likely than women to say Islam is related to violence. Republicans were also more likely to believe in a link between Islam and violence than Democrats, as were white evangelical Protestants when compared to mainline Protestants.
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Having breakfast with Shaykh Ibn 'Uthaymeen is not something that can easily be forgotten. I knew it was a special honor that I was among those who attended such a gathering. A breakfast was arranged between the Shaykh and the students of Gulf high schools who had made the trip out west to perform Umrah that spring.
After we finished eating, the Shaykh started his talk. It was general advice to the students of knowledge. We were shocked by the amount of knowledge he had, and personally, what I loved most about him was how his thoughts were so organized and clear.
In the question and answer session that followed, he was asked about some rulings on taking pictures and the difference between those images made by humans and those that were only a reflection on a lens. He explained that the forbidden ones in Shari'ah were the ones made by humans. He was then asked about video recordings, and he said they were not allowed.
I then said, “But Shaykh, is it not the same as capturing a reflection? No human is involved in creating the actual image.”
He said, “Yes, but the tape has images saved on it which are reflected onto the screen using light.”
I objected, “If I bring you a VHS tape now, you will not find any images.”
The shaykh then humbly said, “If this is true, I will change my position,” and indeed, he later did change his opinion on videotaping.
Later, we went to the Haram for the Dhuhr prayer, and I was walking with him the whole time, asking questions and listening to his answers. When we entered the Haram, the prayer started, and the Shaykh went to the open area, getting as close to the Ka'bah as he could. I was right behind him. We lined up, and he had his besht robe underneath him. Standing beside him, my feet were on fire! The ground was so hot! At that time the masjid did not have its new marble flooring that stayed cool all year long. The Shaykh noticed me moving my feet, so he stretched his besht out, and he grabbed my foot and placed it on the top of his besht after noticing that I was hesitant to do so.
I saw how humility manifested itself in knowledge and in action that day. I may not remember most of the words of advice the Shaykh gave us that morning now, but I learned that what will really remain after us for our communities, our spouses, our children, and those whom we get to know is not our words, but our actions and attitude.
This is a weekly series of stories about my teachers and what I have learned from them through my years of studying with them. If you enjoy these stories and lessons and think they should continue, please show your support by commenting here and liking and sharing the post on my Facebook page!
Another despicable attack on a turban-wearing Sikh man. The police say Gilbert Garcia attacked the 81 year-old Piara Singh because of his religion and ethnicity.:Sikh man beaten with steel pipe in Fresno hate crime
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Fresno police say they’re disturbed by the brutal attack on an 81-year-old Sikh man. They upgraded the charges against 29-year-old Gilbert Garcia. He now faces attempted murder and will likely be charged with hate crime and elder abuse.
The 81-year-old victim is expected to make a full recovery, but does have a punctured lung, a fractured jaw and staples in his head.
His nephew Paul Sihota said, “When it’s time to get together we find each other.”
Sihota says his family is honored by the response from his community, and honored by the hundreds who packed the Southwest Fresno temple.
Community members took the podium, held a moment of silence and spoke about “understanding the problem” and told the audience, “If we do not take strong step it will happen again.”
The community certainly has the support from both local and federal authorities who are aggressively investigating the brutal beating of Piara Singh.
Singh was doing what he does every Sunday, volunteering at his local temple. That’s when police say, out of nowhere, Gilbert Garcia attacked him with a steel pipe.
Chief Jerry Dyer told a temple full of people that the crime has led him to one conclusion.
“Mr. Singh was targeted because of who he was, what he was wearing, his ethnicity, his religion.”
Dyer called it an isolated incident, saying Garcia does not have a history of hate crimes and that it’s not related to other attacks on members of the Sikh community.
Chief Dyer added, “What we don’t want is for people to become fearful or paranoid, if we do, they win, but we do need to be aware of the individuals trying to harm you folks.”
Sharnjit Purewal, Associate Secretary of the Sikh Council of Central California said, “Generally we feel like we’re accepted, when something like this happens, it’s shocking and very hurtful.”
The Council says it’s next stop is action, and education.
“Getting to know your neighbor is not a bad idea,” said Paul Sihota. “Just because he wears a turban or some other different dress doesn’t make him a terrorist.”
Members of the Sikh community are holding another town hall meeting this weekend to come up with ideas about how to raise awareness about who they are and what they represent. It’s slated for Saturday, May 11th, at 5pm at the temple on South Cherry Street in Fresno.
(Copyright ©2013 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
It’s good to hear the world’s most prominent Buddhist speaking out against the violence being perpetrated by extremist Buddhist monks in Burma. (h/t: JD)Dalai Lama Decries Buddhist Attacks On Muslims In Myanmar
By Ian Simpson
COLLEGE PARK, Md., May 7 (Reuters) – Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday decried Buddhist monks’ attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, saying killing in the name of religion was “unthinkable.”
The Dalai Lama, a foremost Buddhist leader, told an audience at the University of Maryland at the start of a U.S. tour that the root of seemingly sectarian conflict was political, not spiritual.
“Really, killing people in the name of religion is unthinkable, very sad. Nowadays even Buddhists are involved in Burma,” another name for Myanmar, with monks attacking Muslim mosques, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said after delivering the Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace at the university.
“I think it is very sad,” he said, adding, “I pray for them (the monks) to think of the face of Buddha,” who had been a protector of Muslims.
A wave of sectarian violence erupted in March in the central Myanmar town of Meikhtila, causing 44 deaths and displacing an estimated 13,000 people, mostly Muslims.
A Reuters investigation found that radical Buddhist monks had been actively involved in the violence and in spreading anti-Muslim material around the country.
Sectarian clashes between Buddhists and Muslims, who make up about 5 percent of Myanmar’s population, have erupted on several occasions since a quasi-civilian government took power in March 2011 after five decades of military dictatorship.
The 77-year-old Dalai Lama, whose name is Tenzin Gyatso, also urged his largely student audience of 15,000 to create a new world in the 21st century, saying that he was a man of the last century.
“That group of individuals of the 20th century are ready to say bye-bye,” Tibet’s most revered spiritual leader said.
“You have the responsibility to create a new world based on the concept of one humanity.”
China brands the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, as a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.
The address in College Park, Maryland, was the start of a U.S. visit that includes stops in Oregon, Wisconsin, Kentucky and New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Kenneth Barry)
A must-read explosive expose by Max Blumenthal. Blumenthal reveals the funding of the American Islamic Congress and it’s associated group “Free Arabs” that receives most of its support from Neo-Conservative and Zionist organizations. It is a familiar story and pattern that we’ve seen with other astroturf Muslim groups set up to advance a Neoconservative agenda such as Zuhdi Jasser‘s AIFD.
All that can be said is that the AIC is a shameful organization:
On 18 April, three days after a bombing killed three and left many more wounded at the Boston marathon, a figure unknown to most Americans stepped suddenly into the national spotlight. At a nationally broadcast interfaith service addressed by President Barack Obama, a Mauritanian-born social media activist named Nasser Weddady appeared on stage as the designated representative of Boston’s Muslim community. Introduced as the chairman of the New England Interfaith Council and the civil rights outreach director for the American Islamic Congress (AIC), Weddady delivered a well-received sermon referencing Jewish and Islamic scripture on non-violence.
Unlike the notable Jewish, Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant religious figures chosen to speak at the service, Weddady was not an ordained clergy member, nor was he known to many members of the community he claimed to represent. In fact, he was a last-minute replacement for Suhaib Webb, a Muslim educator and imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest Muslim house of prayer in New England.
Commenting on Twitter that the office of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick “made the call” to replace him, Webb said the governor chose “Muhammad Weddady,” misidentifying Nasser Weddady. When another Twitter user asked Webb who Weddady was, he responded, “No idea.”
A report by the right-wing, pro-Israel website JNS.org suggested that Webb’s replacement by Weddady was politically motivated (“Muslim Brotherhood-linked mosque’s imam replaced as speaker at service for Boston Marathon attack victims,” 21 April 2013).
According to the article, groups including self-styled “terror expert” Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, the anti-Muslim outfit Americans for Peace and Tolerance created by David Project founder Charles Jacobs, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claimed Webb’s mosque “has an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel history that started with its founding by members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas.”
The allegations stemmed from a failed campaign directed by Jacobs and assisted by the ADL, Emerson and other anti-Muslim elements to block the construction of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. In May 2010, after the dust cleared, Governor Patrick appeared at the mosque, seemingly rebuking the cast of Islamophobes that smeared it as a terrorist front. Patrick told the congregation, “Yours is a peaceful faith, and I know that … .” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley also offered support for the mosque, dispatching a staffer to attend Patrick’s speech and earmarking $50,000 in state funds to “sensitivity training for law enforcement officials” (“‘Yours is a peaceful faith’,” Boston Globe, 23 May 2010).Disturbing history
The JNS.org report has not been confirmed by Governor Patrick’s office, Webb, or by Weddady. However, the replacement of Webb, perhaps the most notable Muslim religious authority in New England, with an obscure lay figure raises questions about why the local Muslim community was not able to delegate its own representative.
And who was Weddady? Was he, in fact, a rising human rights activist promoting tolerance among Bostonians and spreading freedom abroad? And was his employer, the AIC, simply a group of earnest Muslim do-gooders “trying to build bridges among people of different faiths and ethnicities,” as Public Radio International’s The World claimed it was on its 16 April edition?
An investigation of the American Islamic Congress by The Electronic Intifada revealed a disturbing history that stretches back to the invasion of Iraq, with political patronage from the Bush administration building the organization from the ground up. Despite its claim to promote tolerance, the AIC has depended on substantial support from the very same elements that fought tooth and nail to sabotage the Islamic Society of Boston, and which seem determined to undermine Muslim communal organizing efforts across the country.
The organization has managed to maintain US government funding during the Obama era, serving as a faithful arm of soft American power in the Middle East while nurturing the creation of Weddady’s new “Free Arabs” website, a self-proclaimed portal to “Democracy, Secularism, [and] Fun” that eschews criticism of Western policies towards the Middle East while promoting US military intervention in Syria.
Weddady and AIC co-founder and Executive Director Zainab Al-Suwaij did not respond to calls and emailed queries requesting comment for this article.
According to Internal Revenue Service 990 information filings, the AIC is funded largely by a pool of right-wing donors responsible for bankrolling key players in America’s Islamophobia industry, from Charles Jacobs to Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism and Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum. These same donors have pumped millions into major pro-Israel organizations, including groups involved in settlement activity and the Friends of the IDF, which provides assistance to the Israeli army.
Among the AIC’s most reliable supporters is the Donors Capital Fund, which has provided at least $85,000 in funding since 2008. Donors Capital was among the seven foundations identified in the Center for American Progress’s 2011 report Fear Inc. as “the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America.” Another foundation singled out in the report, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, has donated $325,000 to the AIC between 2005 and 2011.
The Bradley Foundation is one the most generous donors to the American conservative movement, according to People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch project, pumping millions into right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, key bastions of neoconservativism. It has also supported the work of Charles Murray, a right-wing author who notoriously argued in his 1994 book, The Bell Curve, that intelligence was based on race, and that blacks and Latinos were genetically inferior to whites and Asians.
Some of the most virulent anti-Muslim agitators, from David Horowitz to Frank Gaffney to Daniel Pipes, who has called for razing entire Palestinian villages and other forms of collective punishment, have received more than $5 million from the Bradley Foundation.Aided by Adelson
In 2009, the AIC received a $95,500 donation from the Adelson Family Foundation, the charitable entity of Las Vegas casino baron Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. Adelson is best known for his attempts to unseat President Barack Obama through million dollar donations to the 2012 presidential campaign of Republican former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
A major donor to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Birthright Israel program that sends Jewish American youth on free trips to Israel, Adelson is also a key financial benefactor of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career (“The Bibi Connection,” Al Akhbar English, 12 January 2012).
In December 2011, Adelson told a Birthright Israel group that Palestinians were “an invented people.” “Don’t let Muslim student organizations take over the campuses,” he urged the Jewish college students. Adelson has never explained his funding of the AIC, perhaps the only Muslim-oriented recipient of his donations (“Sheldon Adelson to Birthright group: Gingrich is right to call Palestinians ‘invented people,’” Haaretz, 26 December 2011).
Of all the right-wing, pro-Israel donors to the AIC — and there are too many to mention here — none has been more generous than the Klarman Family Foundation, which provided the group with $425,000 from 2005 to 2011. The foundation is the charitable vehicle for Boston-based pro-Israel billionaire Seth Klarman. He is the principal funder of The Israel Project, an Israeli government-linked public relations and lobbying group run by former AIPAC spokesperson Josh Block, which has, among other things, taken dozens of journalists on helicopter tours in Israel and the territories it occupies (“Israel Project brags on planting story in CNN and taking 38 journalists on helicopter trips in Israel,” Mondoweiss, 18 April 2013).
Besides the AIC, Klarman has donated to a who’s who of anti-Muslim and pro-Israel groups, including the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the American Jewish Committee, The David Project, Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, and Friends of Ir David Inc., the US tax-exempt fundraising arm of the settler organization behind a wave of Palestinian expulsions in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood ofSilwan.
Klarman is also a major donor to Birthright Israel, AIPAC-founded think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the pro-Israel neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
The AIC is not the only putatively Muslim group funded by Klarman. In 2011, Klarman made his first donation to the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the shell organization that serves as the personal platform for Zuhdi Jasser. The previously unknown Jasser, a physician from Arizona with no academic or theological credentials, is one of the country’s most outspoken Muslim proponents of law enforcement surveillance of Muslim communities.
Two years earlier, Jasser was welcomed onto AIC’s board of directors, joining a host of like-minded neoconservatives.“Demographic jihad”
Daniel Pipes, one of America’s foremost anti-Muslim activists, has promoted the AIC as one of the “moderate groups” presenting a counter-weight to Muslim organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which he has repeatedly labeled as a front for a secret plot to place the US under the control of “sharia law.” A staffer for a major Muslim-American civil rights organization told me that AIC’s leadership refused to participate in any initiative with the organized Muslim American community.
Described by his frequent host Glenn Beck as “the Muslim we were all looking for after 9/11,” Jasser starred in an Islamophobic propaganda film, The Third Jihad, warning that Muslims were organizing a takeover of the US through “demographic jihad.” He gained prominence as the lead Muslim witness in the congressional hearing on “Muslim radicalization” hosted by New York Republican Congressman Rep. Peter King, and has vehemently defended the New York Police Department’s profiling of Muslims.
In October 2012, AIC director Zainab Al-Suwaij signed a letter authored by Jasser and addressed to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to bar Pakistani politician Imran Khan from entering the US (“AILC Press Release: Secretary Clinton should bar Imran Khan from entering the U.S.,” 23 October 2012).
Jasser described Khan, one of Pakistan’s most outspoken opponents of US drone strikes, as “an anti-American politician who regularly defends the Taliban.” The letter contained the signatures of more than a dozen obscure Muslim figures, including Farid “Frank” Ghadry, a neoconservative favorite and AIPAC member who has attempted to promote himself, Ahmed Chalabi-style, as the future leader of a free Syria, including before the Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Another neoconservative activist seated on the AIC’s board, Hillel Fradkin, is a scholar of Islamic studies who signed the notorious Project for the New American Century letter calling for the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Then there is Khaleel Mohammed, a professor of religion at San Diego State University whose views have endeared him to hardline Islamophobes. A contributor to Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Quarterly, Mohammed argued in a friendly interview with David Horowitz’s far-right FrontPageMag that the Quran states that “Israel belongs to the Jews.” “Only when Muslims themselves accept Israel will they be following their Quran,” Mohammed claimed (“The Koran and the Jews,” 3 June 2004).
Mohammed is the faculty advisor for AIC’s student group at San Diego State University, Project Nur, and to the school’s Graduate Program in Homeland Security. On his personal website, Mohammed declared that Muslims who did not rise up to fight “the world terrorists” were betraying their Islamic duty. “The Quran makes it absolutely clear that Muslims must bear arms against errant Muslims in times of need,” he wrote. “It is either one or the other. We must either fight against terrorism or deem our silence as evidence of complicity” (“Statement on Terrorism,” 10 September 2004).Bush’s Iraqi fixer
In August 2004, two years after she founded the AIC, Zainab Al-Suwaij appeared before the Republican National Convention to speak in support of George W. Bush’s re-election and the invasion of Iraq. “America, under the strong, compassionate leadership of President Bush, has given Iraqis the most precious gift any nation has ever given another — the gift of democracy and the freedom to determine its own future,” Suwaij proclaimed, according to a Fox News transcript.
Al-Suwaij was born into a Shiite family in Iraq that suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein. When she appeared at the helm of the AIC just months after the 11 September 2001 attacks and with an invasion of Iraq on the way, her organization was little more than a shell, with no board of directors and only a little more than $12,000 in its coffers. By 2004, however, Al-Suwaij was earning six figures, with government contracts pouring into her organization along with requests from national media outlets. The US occupation of Iraq was propelling her ambition.
On 21 March 2003, two days after the US invasion of Iraq began, Al-Suwaij appeared on ABC’s 20/20 alongside three other Iraqi women representing a now-defunct group called Women For Iraq.
The women told host Barbara Walters that those protesting the invasion were “missing the point,” and thanked the US military for “freedom and liberty.” Days before, the four of them were invited to the White House to meet with a grateful Bush.
The following year, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced a $10 million grant for women’s “democracy training” in Iraq. Much of the money went to the Independent Women’s Forum, a militantly anti-feminist Republican organization then run by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, and originally founded as Women For Clarence Thomas — a support group for the embattled, ultra-conservative Supreme Court nominee. Two organizations were brought in on the mission as subcontractors: the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the hard core neoconservative think tank currently promoting a US military assault on Iran, and the AIC.
In 2004, the Bush administration funneled $542,123 to the AIC; a year later, the Independent Women’s Forum paid the AIC $533,052 in State Department grants to serve as its “subcontractor” in Iraq. In 2006, the AIC received $465,780 in compensation from the Independent Women’s Forum for its work. According to IRS 990 information returns filed by the AIC, hefty State Department grants poured in to the group’s coffers throughout Bush’s second term in office.
An Independent Women’s Forum report on its work in Iraq contained few details about the concrete results it achieved. However, it hinted at a slew of embarrassing failures, including an Iraqi women’s conference held in Jordan in 2005 where participants arrived exhausted, famished and shell-shocked after being shot at by unnamed assailants. According to the report, the women were not provided with the food or lodging they requested, and “providing and confirming flights for the participants in a very short period of time proved impossible” (“Advancing Women’s Rights – Two Years in Iraq” [PDF]).
When Al-Suwaij attempted to open women’s centers in Basra and Karbala, local officials rebuked her — “this segment of the grant was never fully realized,” the report noted. A more successful forum organized through the AIC instructed Iraqis in Nasiriyah on “coughing into one’s elbow instead of into one’s hand, and other basic health concepts.”
Despite having participated in a dubious mission that was widely criticized as right-wing political patronage, the AIC has maintained a steady stream of government funding since Barack Obama entered the White House. In 2009, the AIC received more than $433,000 from the State Department to conduct conflict resolution programs in Iraq, claiming to have “diffused 60 conflicts” in the country. Two years later, it reaped $1.28 million in government funding for Iraqi conflict resolution and to train “social entrepreneurs” in Tunisia; over $170,000 of the government money was earmarked for democracy promotion. Today, the AIC maintains offices in Tunis and Cairo, both apparently supported by State Department grants.
To help coordinate its efforts across the Middle East and at its gleaming new cultural center in Boston, the AIC has turned to social media activist Nasser Weddady.“Democracy, secularism, fun”
The son of a prominent Mauritanian diplomat and opposition politician, Weddady was hired by the AIC in 2007 as outreach director for the organization’s Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (HAMSA). HAMSA is overseen by Jesse Sage, a protégé of hardline anti-Muslim activist Charles Jacobs, who hired him to direct the American Anti-Slavery Group that spearheaded a nationwide Sudan divestment campaign. Weddady boasts on his bio that he has briefed the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force, a division of the FBI, and claims to speak five languages fluently, including Spanish, French and Hebrew.
A profile of Weddady by Karen Leigh in The Atlantic describes him as a hidden force behind the Arab revolts — “an activist quietly pulling strings from Boston.” According to Leigh, Weddady is among the “top four most-influential Twitter users of the Arab Spring uprisings” and “is networked in every country in the region.” Leigh went on to claim “Weddady’s network” was largely responsible for the release of several activists jailed in Syria and Egypt during the Arab uprisings (“Behind the Arab Revolts, an Activist Quietly Pulling Strings From Boston,” 25 January 2012).
One of Weddady’s most high-profile projects is the “Dream Deferred Essay Contest.”With approximately $58,000 in grants since 2005 from the Earhart Foundation, a right-wing charity best known for funding conservative efforts to unravel affirmative action programs for minority students in the US, the “Dreams Deferred” competition has doled out cash prizes to Arab youth for essays detailing repression and cultural problems like female genital mutilation in their countries. Among the winners selected by a panel chaired by famed American feminist Gloria Steinem was Maikel Nabil Sanad, an Egyptian anti-military conscription activist who told Israel’s Ynet “I am pro-Israel,” and who supported Israel’s brutal assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09, blaming Palestinians for provoking Israel “to defend itself” (“Egyptian refusenik: I’m pro-Israel,” 25 October 2010).
In 2012, Palgrave Macmillan published an anthology of “Dreams Deferred” contest winners co-edited by Weddady and called Arab Spring Dreams. The book earned aglowing review from The Times of Israel, the Israeli publication financed by top AIC funder Seth Klarman. The blogger iPouya offered a less charitable critique, accusing the authors of committing a multitude of embarrassing factual errors.
Weddady co-edited the anthology with one of the neoconservative movement’s rising stars — Sohrab Ahmari, an Iranian-American former fellow at the right-wing Henry Jackson Society, and assistant books editor at The Wall Street Journal, who has been described by MJ Rosenberg at The Huffington Post as “the neocons’ favorite Iranian” (“Neocons Do Not Speak for Iranian-Americans,” 27 March 2012).
Ahmari is a vocal proponent of a US military strike on Iran to precipitate regime change, a position he advocated last year in an article for Commentary (“Can Iran Be Saved?” March 2012).
In the introduction to their book, Weddady and Ahmari explain their decision to exclude the Palestinian narrative from the anthology on the grounds that “a [Palestinian] state there, or a treaty here, are of little consequence to the Middle East’s struggle for civil rights.”
While speaking on a panel at the American Jewish Committee’s 2012 national conference in Washington, DC, Ahmari argued that the US “should try to actively shape the outcomes of the Arab Spring. In other words, we don’t have the opportunity to be humble and stay away from the region and favor all actors equally,” he stated, asvideo of the event shows. “… What needs to happen from the Western perspective is to be equally engaged, morally and militarily, to make sure the Arab Spring reflects our preferences rather than Tehran’s.”
Views like these have found an occasional home at Free Arabs, the website co-founded by Weddady. Described as a forum for Arab liberals who “confront both oppressive autocrats and religious zealots with audacious reporting,” the website’s launch generated a wave of online criticism and debate. Many critics pointed at “The Fatwa Show,” a comical portrayal of ultra-conservative Muslim sheikhs who issue absurd edicts against high heels and body hair.
Others homed in on “The Horrific 4,” a narrative series aiming to “push to an extreme the worse [sic] prejudices seen in the Arab world, sometimes with a satirical tone.” No satire was apparent, however, when “Yehudi,” a fictional Mizrahi Jew from Israel who appeared as part of the series, claimed, “we Middle Eastern Jews [living in Israel] … are the most free Arabs in the world” (“Mizrahi Jews are the ultimate pan-Arabs,” 24 October 2012). Without a trace of irony, Yehudi added: “Yes, we Middle Eastern Jews in Israel are the ultimate pan-Arabs — and we are free to explore that cross-cultural mix and blaze new identities in one of the most experimental societies in the world.”
Free Arabs states on its website that it was born from “a network of creative next-generation Arab activists facilitated by the American Islamic Congress, backed by a small grant from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.” Another sponsor of the website is Stanford University’s Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, where the Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi — a co-founder of Free Arabs — serves as a visiting scholar.
The Stanford program that houses Benchemsi and Free Arabs is overseen by Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Larry Diamond, a liberal interventionist academic and former senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority that governed the US occupation of Iraq. Diamond emerged as a critic of the war after the occupation turned into a bloodstained boondoggle, but maintained that the invasion was just (“What went wrong in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, September-October 2004).
Almost a decade later, with the Arab revolts in flux, he sees new opportunities for the exercise of hard American power. In a recent commentary for The Atlantic, Diamond and Stanford’s Lina Khatib argued for US military intervention in Syria, warning that the failure to intervene would have “catastrophic consequences for regional stability and for the position of the United States in the Middle East” (“The Case for Intervening in Syria,” 25 April 2012).
Three days later, Free Arabs republished Diamond and Khatib’s piece, headlining it, “Syria – No More Excuses!”
Around this time, Weddady was busy organizing a 2 May panel discussion at AIC’s Boston cultural center that would be co-hosted by the the leading pro-Israel advocacy group the American Jewish Committee. Themed as “A New Vision of Muslim-Jewish Relations,” the event’s keynote speaker was Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Built into the original scaffolding of Bush’s imperial project, the AIC emerged unscathed from its dramatic collapse, finding favor in a new era among Obama’s top allies. As Washington grasps for strategies to influence the course of the Arab revolts, Wedaddy and his colleagues are earning new opportunities, and ample compensation.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated since publication to indicate that Sohrab Ahmari is no longer a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and is now assistant books editor at The Wall Street Journal.
Joseph Harker's satirical point about sexual abuse by 'whites' is in fact literally right – all abuse has a particular cultural context
In the Guardian on Monday, Joseph Harker wrote a piece that was met with equal parts disdain and acclaim. It reflected on around 18 months of horrific news of sexual abuse in the UK, which began with a succession of convictions for members of child-grooming and rape rings, mostly but not entirely involving British-Asian Muslims. This was followed by the ongoing scandal of sexual crimes and child abuse by an ever-lengthening list of prominent celebrities and public figures, some alleged and under investigation, some admitted, many, of course, involving the TV presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile – now believed to be perhaps the most prolific sex offender ever to have been unmasked, albeit only after his death.
Harker employed thick satire to contrast the ways in which the media and public debate have covered the two different scandals. The first focused heavily on the culture from which the rapists and abusers were drawn, their ethnicity, their religion in particular. The second focused on evil individuals doing bad things and their personal criminality or pathology. A couple of typical quotes:
"But after the shock has subsided and we have time to reflect on these revolting crimes, the main question in most reasonable people's minds must surely be: what is it about white people that makes them do this?"
"First, though, we need to find out what's causing the problem. Is it something to do with white people's culture?"
Harker is quite right to point out the double standards at play in reporting the two scandals, and the racist undertones to much of the reporting of the first. But beyond that, I actually agree with what he says. I don't mean I agree with his satirically veiled message, I mean I literally agree with the actual words he says – or at least quite a lot of them. Is this problem something to do with white people's culture? Yes, Joseph, it bloody well is.
Of course it is questionable whether such a thing as "white people's culture" actually exists. It would be rather more accurate to say "white British people's cultures", and even then it would obscure some vast diversity. But exactly the same is true of, say, "African-Caribbean culture" or "the British Muslim community", though both terms are commonly cited, not least by African-Caribbean people and Muslims. So, for ease of argument, let's assume we are talking about the full range of the ethnically European, monolinguistically English-speaking, culturally Christian population or, more simply, the ethnic majority. The phrase "white culture" might be deliberately provocative and problematic, but I think it describes something real. Since Harker has thrust the phrase upon us, I shall continue to use it.
Sexual abuse does not occur in a social vacuum. Yes, the personal psychology, selfish motivations or pathology of the offender are always the primary cause, but the human environment plays a vital role too. Offenders can be encouraged in their behaviour by prevailing social norms which recount that victims are "asking for it" by behaving or dressing in particular ways. That is culture. A default attitude of disbelief towards victims who report assaults allows offenders to continue to attack with impunity – we know that several victims of both Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith attempted to report attacks and were rebuffed by police or other authorities. That is culture.
The abusive behaviour of powerful people can be considered as entitlements, not only by offenders themselves but also by their colleagues, subordinates and friends. That is culture. When such a prominent commentator as Richard Dawkins says that child sex abuse is less harmful than religious indoctrination, it does indeed trivialise abuse. That is culture. That is my culture. British culture. White culture. Yes, we should have a hard look at ourselves and examine everything we, as a society, might have been doing over the decades to enable, encourage and cover up these types of horrendous acts and what we can do to prevent others.
This, of course, was not what Harker intended us to take from his article. His point, I'm sure, is that sexual abuse and exploitation happens in all societies, all communities, and of course he is correct. But this misses the point that the nature and circumstances of such crimes can change from one community to the next, as can the social roots which give rise to them. We live in a multicultural society and the attitudes that enable abuse in one culture may not be identical to those in another. The steps that might need to be taken to prevent future abuse in one culture may not be identical to those in another.
Bundling together all cases of child sex abuse as if they are all identical and require blanket solutions is a lazy, ineffective reaction. The problem of domestic incest is not the same problem as child rape tourism to the far east, which is not the same problem as abuse within the Catholic church, which is not the same problem as the exploitative debauchery of rich celebrities, which is not the same problem as child sex-grooming rings in impoverished northern towns. There are similarities of course, but to pretend they are identical glosses over the specific details of each.
Yes, Joseph, white Britain needs to take a deep hard look at our own culture, far beyond condemning the vile acts of individual abusers. And yes, British Muslim communities need to take a deep hard look at their own cultures, far beyond condemning the vile acts of individual abusers. So too does the Catholic church, so too does the British entertainment industry. Further afield, so too does the US college sports culture that enabled the Steubenville scandal, so too does the Indian society that has been so shaken by a succession of horrific rapes and murders. So too does every culture, every community, every society, every nation. None of us should be given a free ride on this score.
I have no problem with the suggestion that white society needs to look at its own culture. I do have a problem with the implication that British Muslim communities do not.
• This article first appeared on Ally Fogg's blog, Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men and is republished here with the permission of the authorAlly Fogg
“If a man wants to betroth a woman, he can look at what entices him to accomplish his marriage.” [Reported by Abu Dawud]
As someone who is looking to get married and extremely inexperienced in all terms of physical intimacy, all of this sex talk is something that feels like a creeping elephant in the room in the back of my mind. Even though I am not sure when I will end up getting married inshā'Allāh, I have already taken it upon myself to become educated now about all things marriage, and that is inclusive of physical intimacy. Especially, since this is the cause of so many crises that exist within Muslim marriages. I'm already stressed out about sex and I'm not even close to being married!
If I'm considering someone for marriage, one of the things I look at is whether or not I am physically attracted to the guy. One of my friends has been looking to get married for years now, she is not picky but a lot of the guys that end up coming her way are overweight and don't take care of themselves. Recently, she looked at me straight in the face and said, “If I can't imagine being intimate with him, then I can't get married to him.”
Ever since then, if I'm kinda stumped when thinking about if I'm attracted to a guy or not, I resort to that as my deciding factor. I'm not sure if trying to picture these things in your mind is something that is right or wrong, but since she was so frank with me, I figured that it was something that would be worth a shot. A lot of the times I can tell right away if I'm attracted to someone, not feeling it, or am simply repulsed, but when I don't really know, I've decided to be frank and honest with myself from the very beginning rather than letting that become a problem later.
I'm not just looking for a guy who I can have a good time with, don't get me wrong, but I really do consider the issue of physical intimacy an important one, even though I am a female and even though I am a “practicing and “conservative” Muslim.
Terrified of Porn
As a single Muslimah looking to get married, one of the things that frightens me the most is porn and whether or not the guy I am talking to is addicted or has been addicted to it in the past. I have never consumed pornographic material before, but realize it's an epidemic that the whole society is starting to address. From religious Muslims, to the most secular, non-Muslim sex enthusiasts, I have heard so many people coming out and condemning porn as something that destroys the consumer's ability to enjoy any normal sexual relationships. In my research, I read about the horrifying statistics that show how early boys are exposed to porn and how many people use porn and I thought it must be different for Muslims, right?! But I spoke to a few brothers in the community and they assured me that porn addictions are blind to religious affiliation, and then I was horrified on a personal level–what if someone I am talking to for marriage is or has been addicted to porn? How could I ever do anything within my human capabilities to satisfy him?
Porn addictions are something that any person who is talking to another to get married (male or female) should be honest with their prospective spouse about, because that is something (even if it is a sin from the past that is totally under control now) that can really impact the marriage and will take a lot of work to correct. I wouldn't say that I would reject someone who had an issue with porn, but it would be something that I would seriously have to consider. I would have to be honest with myself about whether he was willing to come to terms with it, seek help for it, and if I would be patient with him while he was recovering and to realize that he may never fully recover.On Expectations
As someone who firmly believes in the wisdom of Allāh's rules, I understand and accept that you can't really have a test run in the bedroom before you get married to see if you're both sexually compatible, even though sexual satisfaction for both partners is essential to a happy and thriving marriage. I get that it probably isn't an automatic and will take some work to get there from both parties. I already have the expectation of my husband to inshā'Allāh take my sexual needs seriously and for us to both be sensitive to one another's desires. I feel like the focus of a relationship being solely on satisfying the male's desires isn't a Muslim problem, it's a more general social problem.
Add the Orientalizing look at the “veiled” Muslim female body trapped in the “harem,” and things get muddled even more with confusing images of Princess Jasmine-like fantasies sprawled out like odalisks and notions of women being hypersexualized beasts that are meant to be dehumanized and objectified.
I also realize that being open with my husband about these issues might be tough, especially since “sexual confessions” (Foucault) are considered to be one of the most private and difficult things to talk about. Now if we step into the Muslim circle, especially with “practicing” sisters, a lot of these taboo things become even more taboo, and maybe it would be awkward for another “practicing” brother to understand that I have as many needs as he does. (And honestly, the fact that I have needs isn't something that's surprising to me, it may just be difficult for him to come to terms with.)
If I could relay a message to my future husband about this issue, it would be this: I really look forward one day to enjoying this aspect of our marriage together, even though we have both been holding that back and controlling ourselves this whole time and may that make it all the sweeter inshā'Allāh. Believe me, I have been around for long enough with raging hormones to tell that I already have sexual needs and that I need and want those to be addressed, just as I am sure you have realized that about yourself by now. I know it will take work for both of us to feel happy in this area of our marriage, so I hope that you will be as willing to please me as I am to please you and that we both actually take action to ensure the growth of our marriage in this arena (as all other areas of a marriage!)
I expect you to do your homework on what it means to be in a marriage, and I hope that you are down to earth enough to take some time to research female sexuality, ways to turn women on, etc. before we get married so that we start our relationship on the right foot in all aspects of our relationship. I look forward to the evolution of our love and love life together, from day one to after having kids to the very ends of our lives and in the next life, inshā'Allāh.
Note from Married 20 years: Having worked with teenagers and young female adults for the past nine years, I can say with assurance that the sexuality of women has been immensely effected by the hypersexualized society we live in. The reality is that in today's societies, our young females are easily aroused. The more sexual exposure one has, the more sexually excited one gets, and since romance and sex is displayed everywhere, most sensually presented in almost all popular literature, our female youth's needs should not be ignored.Editor's Note-This is an individual perspective, illustrating what is going on in the minds of young Muslimahs. Attraction has many components, and once you are attracted to/in love with your spouse, with proper education and communication good sex will follow. For some people that happens instantly, for others it takes some time.
The post Single & Looking | Muslim Vignettes on Female Sexuality appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.
Energy shortages, inflation and insecurity are concentrating the minds of a generation about to vote for the first time. But do the country's young people really have the will to recast its politics?
Every hour or so, the Do Burj mall – a 10-year-old, half-finished mess of dusty concrete halls, exposed wiring and relatively luxurious shops selling western brands in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad – plunges into darkness.
Portable generators sitting outside glass-fronted boutiques clatter into action and remain on for the next few hours while shop assistants in mostly empty outlets stand around listlessly waiting for customers.
"It's not great for making frozen yoghurt," remarks Ijaz Ahmed, the only worker in a desolate outpost of Tutti Frutti, a US chain that sells tubs of frozen yoghurt, each of which is equal to 2% of his monthly salary, to the teenagers of rich parents – but usually only after he has rushed out to fire up the generator.
He says the shop's exorbitant fuel bill explains why why he has never had a pay rise, why he skips meals to save money, and why the business has been sold on to other owners three times during his two years with the company.
"I'm afraid that if they close I will never get a job as good as this again," he said.
As Pakistan prepares to go to the polls on Saturday, election-watchers regard young people such as 28-year-old Ahmed as critical swing voters.
Those aged between 18 and 29 make up 46% of the population, and many of them are eligible to vote for the first time.
Young, educated voters are regarded as all the more important in the towns and cities of Punjab, the country's richest and most populous province, which accounts for more than half of the 342 of seats in parliament. They are thought to be more independent minded than their rural cousins, and less likely to be swayed by family and clan allegiances.
And it is in urban Punjab where Imran Khan's Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) party is eating into the lead of the frontrunner, Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).
Sharif, a veteran politician and former prime minister, would be cruising to an easy victory were it not for the immense political disruption caused by what Khan calls his political "tsunami": a movement attempting to sweep aside both the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples party (PPP), its partner in a tired, two-party system.
Because the youth vote is thought to be more inclined towards Khan, a high turnout could make all the difference to Khan.
But in Faisalabad, a prosperous city built on a textile industry badly hit by chronic gas and electricity shortages, young voters appear torn between Khan and Sharif.
What they all agree on is the many problems besetting the country, not least the high inflation that has been eroding their living standards.
"People are really unhappy. They blame the politicians," said Bilal Tahir, the-30-year-old owner of two Suzuki car dealerships in the city. He sells, or rather used to sell, huge numbers of Mehrans, the vehicle of choice for middle-class families looking to buy their first car.
The flimsy, £4,000 cars, which are assembled in Pakistan, are an emblem of the country's emerging middle class. They dominate the roads, either as battered taxis or as private transport for families, who always seem to squeeze into the tiny car.
The Mehran took the country by storm in the 2000s under the rule of Pervez Musharraf, the general who seized power in a coup d'état in 1999, and who liberalised the economy, opening up credit to car buyers.
Tahir dates the slump in his business from 2008, the year Pakistan moved from rule by dictator to rule by an elected government, led by the PPP.
With customers having to borrow ever larger sums from the bank if they are to have any chance of taking home a brand-new Mehran, he sells half the number of vehicles he did five years ago.
On Saturday, he agreed to sell a car to a family who had sold all their jewellery to scrape together the minimum deposit.
"Because of the bad economy, the law-and-order situation [and] the terrorism, people are much less sure about their future. They are reluctant to take the risk on a new car," he said.
Along with erosion of living standards, struggling middle-class voters are alarmed by much of the "vulgarity" that has come in with the western brands, advertising and television channels that form a major part of the consumer culture Musharraf ushered in.
Up some stairs in the Do Burj mall, Nighat Naheed, a 22-year-old barista at Gloria Jeans, an Australian coffee shop franchise, has not told her parents she is doing a part-time job in addition to her studies at a local university, where she revises for exams at night by the light of her mobile phone's torch.
She arrives to work from her university hostel in a full veil before changing into her informal, western-style uniform of baggy T-shirt and trousers.
"If my parents saw me dressed like this, they would throw me out of home," she said.
The manager of a Body Shop outlet, 25-year-old Khurram Shahzad, worries about the morals of contemporaries who go to cafes and smoke shishas.
"Pakistan was founded on Islam, and our Islamic culture should be protected," he said.
Everyone seems to think television has been invaded by dubious Indian and western programmes starring indecently dressed women.
Outside, on a huge hoarding on a nearby building – another sad hulk of a half-built shopping mall – a bare-shouldered woman looms.
"It should definitely be taken down," said Ahmed, the Tutti Frutti assistant.
There is widespread agreement that the country would get back on the right track if an "Islamic system" was introduced. That echoes a survey in April, commissioned by the British Council, that found 38% of young people would prefer sharia law to democracy. But few people have a very clear idea of what that would entail.
Nazia Fatima, one of the Body Shop's two veiled shop assistants, said an Islamic system would elect leaders "who belong to the ordinary class, and know about the problems of ordinary people."
"Just like Saudi Arabia," she said.
Fatima was one of several people in the Guardian's Faisalabad straw poll who believed Saudi Arabia was a model to follow, although none understood it was an absolute monarchy.
Years of Saudi largesse, and the estimated 1 million Pakistanis who live there as guest workers, have given the kingdom a high profile.
"Saudi is good because when people hear the call to prayer they all leave their shops and go and pray," said Fatima's boss, the Body Shop manager, whose uncle works in the kingdom.
Anwar Pasha, a brawny chief mechanic at the Suzuki dealership, thinks Saudi-style hand amputations for thieves would help with law and order.
The social conservatism, the deep unease about the future and the fury at the PPP government, which oversaw the inflation and energy shortages that have made life so miserable, all play into the hands of Sharif and Khan.
But it won't all go Khan's way. The young manager of the Body Shop is going to vote for the PML-N because he thinks Khan lacks experience.
The Tutti Frutti employee would like to vote for Imran, but he has to talk it over with his father first.
The Suzuki dealer will definitely vote PTI, even though he knows they will probably not win the most seats, meaning the country would end up with a weak, PML-N-led coalition that could struggle to make the tough decisions required to turn round the economy.
"I know that's a problem," he said, "but all the other parties that have ruled in Pakistan have destroyed the country. I don't have any other option except for Imran Khan."
Fatima, the young shop assistant, is not going to vote at all. She says: "Before every election, every leader promises change, but nothing changes."Jon Boone
A group that rose with US government and Israel lobby funding during the early stages of the Iraq war incubated the controversial new website “Free Arabs.”
Versailles court dismisses appeal over French corporations’ involvement in Jerusalem light rail project.
Racist thugs caught a beat-down after they picked on the wrong guy.Muslims being targeted, advocacy group charges
An Algerian-American from Cambridge was attacked outside a Back Bay restaurant Saturday night, say police and a Muslim advocacy group,the latest of several assaults on Muslims since the Boston Marathon bombings three weeks ago.
The assailants allegedly called the 23-year-old college student, Amine Hadjeres, a “terrorist” and told him he looked like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects accused of planting bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, who was later killed while trying to elude police.
The victim, a US citizen, said he was attacked by two tipsy men outside the Cafeteria Boston restaurant on Newbury Street in Boston about 10 p.m. Saturday night after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Hadjeres said he initially tried to ignore the men, who taunted and shoved him, but wound up brawling with them in the street after they would not leave him alone. He said the fight left him with bloody knuckles and a bruised elbow and hip, but he successfully fought off both men and walked back into the restaurant, where he was greeted with applause.
“They messed with the wrong dude,” Hadjeres said. “Their faces were pretty banged up.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advo cacy organization, urged state and federal authorities to charge suspects with violating hate crime laws.
“We urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to take the suspects in this case into custody and to bring appropriate charges that reflect the apparent bias motive,” said council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.
Police told the council the suspects have been identified, but not yet arrested.
The council said the incident was just the latest attack on Muslims since the Marathonbombings. A Muslim taxi driver was allegedly attacked in Virginia a week ago by a passenger who accused him of carrying out the Boston attack.
In Malden, a mother of Middle Eastern descent who was wearing an Islamic head scarf called a hijab, was attacked two weeks ago by a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs, the council said.
Boston police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca said the Newbury Street assault is being handled by its civil rights unit, which investigates potential hate crimes.
The Suffolk district attorney’s office said it has assigned a senior prosecutor to work with Boston police on any potential charges, but has not seen a pattern of similar crimes in the area.
“Even one [attack] is too many, but, fortunately, we have not seen a great deal of similar assaults in Boston,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
The US attorney’s office vowed to work with the FBI, Boston police, and the state attorney general’s office “to ensure the matter is fully investigated and prosecuted, should the facts demonstrate a hate crime.
According to a redacted copy of the police report, police responded to a radio call about 10 p.m. Saturday about a fight at the intersection of Newbury Street and Gloucester Street, where the Cafeteria Boston restaurant is located.
Two witnesses said they saw two men verbally and physically harass another man, calling him a “terrorist.”
The victim told police that one of his assailants told him: “You’re a terrorist. You look like [Tamerlan Tsarnaev]. The FBI is going to get people like you.”
The police report also suggested some of the people involved in the fight had been drinking.
Hadjeres said he was shocked to be called a foreigner and a terrorist, since he is an American.
“You can’t call me that,” he said, adding that he immigrated to the US when he was 7. “This is where I am from.”
The FBI is alleging that it has foiled a terrorist plot by an apparent member of the Black Snake Militia.
Interestingly, the media has not made a real big fuss over this, details about his religion or political affiliation have not been dissected, motivations have not been speculated over, perhaps he is just ‘mentally ill?’Minnesota FBI raid update: ‘Bucky is not a terrorist’
MINNEAPOLIS —The FBI says it has foiled a terrorist attack being planned in a small Minnesota town, and it believes “the lives of several local residents were potentially saved.”
An agency spokesman says a search of a mobile home in Montevideo uncovered explosives and weapons, leading to the arrest of Buford Rogers.
The FBI is offering no details about the targets of the attack or a motive.
But police in the town say a homemade sign in front of the mobile home where the 24-year-old lived bore the letters “BSM,” a reference to a local anti-government group called the Black Snake Militia started by Rogers’ family.
Rogers’ father, Jeff Rogers, told WCCO-TV ”Bucky is not a terrorist.” Rogers told WCCO that the guns found in the search belong to him and not his son.
The younger Rogers made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in St. Paul Monday on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Montevideo is a city of around 5,000 people about 130 miles west of Minneapolis.
Daniel Pipes and other assorted Neo-Cons failed miserably in their attempt to destroy the NIAC, an Iranian-American organization that has as one of its main goals to prevent a war between the USA and Iran.Epic fail: The neocon attempt to destroy the anti-Iran war movement
by MJ Rosenberg (AlJazeera English)
The war over war with Iran has many battlefronts. Inside Washington, the battle line is between a small coalition of peace and security, non-proliferation and religious groups opposing war and favouring a peaceful solution to the standoff with Iran, and a well-funded war machine comprising of neoconservative organisations who believe war with Iran should have started years ago.
A central organisation within the anti-war coalition is the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest Iranian-American grassroots organisation. NIAC has been at the forefront of opposing war, favouring diplomacy and opposing broad sanctions that only hurt the Iranian people, while, at the same time, rebuking Tehran’s horrible human rights record.
With its access to the White House, State Department and media, NIAC has increasingly troubled the war crowd, so much so that it has become one of their favourite targets.
Its leading attack dog, Seyyed Hassan Daioleslam put it like this in an internal email, “destroying” NIAC and its President Trita Parsi ”is an integral part of any attack on [former Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and President Obama”. In other words, destroying NIAC would also destroy the administration’s policy of avoiding war with Iran.
Daioleslam has engaged in a massive defamation campaign accusing NIAC of being the lobby of the Islamic Republic of Iran – a ludicrous accusation considering NIAC’s unambiguous support for the Iranian pro-democracy movement but one that would rightly destroy the organisation if proven true.
NIAC responded, as it had to, by taking Daioleslam to court for defamation.
No doubt, NIAC knew that it was fighting a David versus Goliath battle, since the laws are stacked against anyone suing for defamation in the US.
But it was worse than that. Not only were the laws stacked against it, NIAC was also significantly outspent because the neoconservatives decided to go all out to deal a death blow to the anti-war forces. In fact, the well-financed anti-Muslim, pro-war and anti-Obama activist Daniel Pipes stepped in to support Daioleslam through the legal arm of his organisation, the Middle East Forum. Pipes got Daioleslam a top-notch legal team headed by George Bush’s former White House lawyer Bradford Berenson of Sidley Austin, the sixth largest law firm in the world.
At first, Daioleslam’s court room argument was that his statements were accurate and that NIAC should be compelled to open its books so that the veracity of his claim of NIAC’s control by Tehran could be assessed. NIAC complied and Daioleslam’s high-powered legal team went through thousands of emails, documents and calendar entries.
However, to their great frustration, they could not find a shred of evidence supporting Daioleslam’s claims. Instead, the documents revealed a very simple truth: NIAC is an independent grassroots organisation supported by the Iranian American community, and which, engages with all parties to the conflict including the US, Iranian and Israeli governments.
Failing to prove his main contention, Daioleslam retreated from the assertion that NIAC was the Islamic Republic’s lobby. This was a huge victory for NIAC and, if the lawsuit had been filed in any other country, the conclusion would have been: Daioleslam lost, NIAC won.
But in the US, the plaintiffs (in this case, NIAC) have to go one step beyond proving that they were defamed. Plaintiffs also have to prove that the other side had acted with malice. So NIAC had to prove that Daioleslam knew that he was lying – a tall order under all circumstances. And convincing the very conservative, Bush-appointed Judge John Bates - the same judge who got Dick Cheney off the hook in the Valerie Plame case - that Daioleslam acted with malice was probably impossible.
NIAC could not pull that off and the judge responded by shifting some of the legal “discovery”costs ($184,000) from Daioleslam to NIAC. But that was Daioleslam’s only victory.
Not only was the claim that NIAC is a foreign lobby shattered, but Daniel Pipes and other neoconservatives had spent considerably more than $184,000 on their efforts to destroy NIAC. They had hoped to shift a much larger chunk of those costs to NIAC to cripple it by emptying its coffers.
But NIAC succeeded in striking out the largest item on Daioleslam’s menu of requests, leaving NIAC with an $184,000 bill, an amount it is appealing. In short, Daioleslam’s attack backfired, apparently leaving him (or Pipes) heavily in the hole. In fact, during a press call last week, Daioleslam actually called on reporters to donate and help defray its costs!
So at the end of this five-year process, no evidence was found to substantiate the accusation that NIAC was lobbying for the Iranian regime; the objective of “destroying NIAC” has completely failed as the organisation continues to be one of the most prominent voices on Iran policy in Washington; and the vast majority of the cost of the discovery process remains with the defendant and his neoconservative backers.
Not a good day for the pro-war lobby, but a very good one for Americans who find the idea of being embroiled in a third Middle East war – so soon after Iraq and with our troops still in Afghanistan – utterly appalling.
MJ Rosenberg served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID.
Follow him on Twitter: @MJayRosenberg
On 18 April, three days after a bombing killed three and left many more wounded at the Boston marathon, a figure unknown to most Americans stepped suddenly into the national spotlight.
Max Blumenthal writing for Electronic Intifada
Read the Transcript of the Testimony by a Yemeni youth activist, Farea Al-Muslimi in first ever historic Senate public hearing on President Obama's Secret Drone and Targeted Killing Program, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Sen. Dick Durbin:
Farea Al-Muslimi is a Yemneni youth activist, writer and a freelance journalist. He has co-founded and chaired several local youth initiatives in Yemen. He currently works for Resonate! Yemen, a grassroots youth-run foundation aimed at constructively engaging Yemeni youth and public policy dialogue. With the assistance of US State Department scholarship, Farea studied in the US during high school, he attended the American University of Beirut and graduated with degree in Public Policy from that institution last year.
Mr. Al-Muslimi (I hope I pronounced your name close to correct), Thank you for traveling form Yemen to join us today, I am looking forward to your testimony. Please proceed.
Thank you chairman Durbin and ranking member, Cruz for inviting me here today.
My name, as you mentioned is Farea Al-Muslimi and I am from Wessab, a remote village mountain in Yemen.
Just six days ago, my village was struck by an American drone, in an attack that terrified the region's poor farmers.
Wessab is my village but America has helped me grow up and become what I am today. I come from a family that lives off the fruit, vegetables and livestock that we raise in our farms. My father's income rarely exceeded 200 Dollars. He learned to read late in his life and my mother never did. My life however has been different; I am who I am today because the US State Department supported my education. I spent a year living in American family and attended American high school. That was one of the best years of my life. I learned about American culture, managed the school basketball team and participated in Trick-or-Treat in Halloween. But the most exceptional experience was coming to know someone who ended up being like a father to me. He was a member of the US air force. Most of my year was spent with him and his family. He came to the mosque with me and I went to church with him and he became my best friend in America. I went to the US as an ambassador for Yemen and I came back to Yemen as an ambassador of the US.
Describing the Drone Strike
I could never imagine that the same hand that changed my life and took it from miserable to promising one would also drone my village. My understanding is that a man named Hameed Al-Radmi was the target of the drone strike. Many people in Wessab know Al-Radmi and the Yemeni government could easily have found and arrested him. Al-Radmi was a well knowing to government officials and even to local government, and even local government could have captured him if the US has told them to do so.
Impact and Ramifications of Drone Strikes:
In the past, what Wessab villagers knew of the US was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here (in US). The friendships and vales I experience and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love.
Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time.
What the violent militants have previously felt to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instance. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab. This is not an isolated instance, the drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis.
I have spoken to many victims of US drone strikes: like a mother in Ja'ar (one of the villages targeted by American drones in Yemen) who had to identify her innocent 18 year old son's body through a video on a stranger's cell phone. Or the father in Shaqra (village in Yemen) who held his 4 and 6 year old children as they died in his arms. Recently in Aden, I spoke with one of the tribal leaders present in 2009 at the place where the US cruise missiles targeted the village of Al- Majalah in Lawdar, Abyan. More than 40 civilians were killed, including 4 pregnant women. The tribal leaders and others tried to rescue the victims but the bodies were so disseminated that it was impossible to differentiate between those of the children, women and their animals. Some of these innocent people were buried in the same grave as their animals.
My Personal Experience
In my written testimony I provide the details of human cost of this and other drone strikes based on the interviews I have conducted or have been part of. I have a personal experience of the fear they caused. Late last year I was in Abyan with an American journalist colleague, suddenly I heard the buzz. The local people we were interviewing told us that based on their past experience that the thing hovering above us was an American drone.
My heart sank. I felt helpless. It was the first time that I had truly feared for my life, or for an American friend's life in Yemen. I couldn't help but think that the drone operator just might be my American friend with whom I had the warmest and deepest relationship here. I was torn between this great country that I love and the drone above my head that could not differentiate between me and some AQAP militants. It was one of the most divisive and difficult feelings I have ever encountered. I felt that way when my village was also droned.
Thank you for having this hearing. I believe in America and I deeply believe that when Americans truly know about how much pain and suffering the US airstrikes have caused and how much they are harming efforts to win the hearts, minds and grounds in Yemen, and hearts and minds of Yemeni people, they will reject this devastating targeted killing program.