We ache with intense-melancholy,
Severing veins because your nightmares,
Are no longer something alien to me,
When your springs cannot be pink,
Our tears fall alternately upon these lands,
Sprawled across the earth — we join hands.
Physically we may never reach.
But our spirits are already encrypted between the folds,
Of the unified waves resonating between us,
From my eyes and yours reaching the banks,
Of rivers where we have always stood, together.
The chilling summers and fiery winters,
Overwrite everything in-between,
Spring and autumn are not fading but are reflected,
Within the daily storms we carry in our arms.
The rain never promised it would fall silently,
So each drop collides with earth,
Fragile-strength leaving footprints,
Aiding growth — the way that we do,
Each time our souls collide,
In all of our painful- tender ways,
Reaching through tears that we’ve both tasted,
Memories bitter-sweet intertwine,
Deeper with every drop of crimson rain,
In this never-ending monsoon.
They ask what’s up San’aa you seem miserable today..
How can I tell you that it’s just that — I’m watching,
The lightning illuminating my father’s valley,
From my bedroom window tonight.
Pilgrimage to ancient Tunisia synagogue begins
DJERBA, Tunisia, April 26, 2013 (AFP)
The pilgrimage to the ancient Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s resort island of Djerba began on Friday amid tight security, with hundreds of Jewish faithful expected, including Israelis.
The first pilgrims arrived at the sanctuary in the morning, an AFP journalist reported, for the start of an annual ritual that has seen numbers fall dramatically since an Al-Qaeda attack in 2002 and instability following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.
Security reinforcements were deployed around Djerba, which lies 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Tunis, with roadblocks set up along the road linking the airport to the tourist area and a police helicopter whirring overhead.
The pilgrimage is due to culminate in the afternoon with the traditional procession through the Jewish neighbourhoods around the synagogue, the oldest in Africa, with checkpoints set up at their entrance.
For the first time since the revolution in January 2011 several dozen Israelis are expected, said organiser Perez Trabelsi, who represents the Tunisian Jewish community at Djerba.
The event was cancelled two years ago with the country on edge after the mass uprising that toppled veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but it resumed discreetly in 2012 and no incidents were reported.
Beginning 33 days after the start of the Jewish Passover festival, the Ghriba pilgrimage used to attract thousands of pilgrims and tourists, but attendance slumped after a suicide attack claimed by Al-Qaeda killed 21 people in April 2002.
According to legend, the synagogue was founded in 586 BC by Jews fleeing the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Tunisian Jews now numbers around 1,500, compared with an estimated 100,000 living in the north African country when it gained independence in 1956.
Those who knew and worked with parents of Boston bombing suspects say family was increasingly split
The third floor of the wood-framed house in which the Tsarnaev family lived in a quiet, residential street in Cambridge used to be noisy and messy, the sound of furious arguments often heard through the open windows by neighbours. More than a week since Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are alleged to have planted two bombs at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon which killed three people and maimed scores more, it is empty and silent.
As investigators turn their attention to the motive behind the attack, friends and neighbours of the Tsarnaevs, ethnic Chechens who came to the US a decade ago, seek their own answers. It seems clear, from interviews given by family members and others, that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, the older brother who is believed to have been the mastermind of the bombings and who was killed while attempting to escape capture, underwent a process of radicalisation in his thinking regarding Islam, three or four years ago.
Under a fog of claims and counter claims by members of the extended Tsarnaev family, two sides have emerged. One side appears to accept the brothers' involvement in the bombings. But the brothers' parents, Zubeidat and Anzor, refuse to believe that their sons had anything to do with the attack. In the middle are the Tsarnaevs' sisters, Ailina and Bella Tsarnaev, who grew up in the family home in Norfolk Street, Cambridge. The sisters, 22 and 24, issued a statement this week saying they were "devastated" by the "callous" act. "We don't have any answers but we look forward to a thorough investigation and hope to learn more," they said.
From Dagestan, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva claims the bombings were fake and her sons were "set up." But Ruslan Tsarni, an uncle, has blamed Zubeidat Tsarnaeva for introducing her son to hardline Islamic views. He also claimed that a mysterious Armenian in Cambridge had "brainwashed" his nephew, prompting a wave of speculation in the community about the identify of the mysterious figure, about whom no further details could be confirmed.
A friend of the family, who was unwilling to be named, said they would "urge caution" over Tsarni's claims, as he had fallen out with Zubeidat. "You are talking about a really complex family dynamic," the friend told the Guardian.'Mama said: the kids should learn to pray'
That there is a family rift is clear. Tsarni and his brother Alvi, who live in Maryland, have given interviews acknowledging a split in the family. Alvi Tsarni told the Guardian in a telephone interview that he had not seen his nephews for years. "I have not seen my Tamerlan since he was radicalised," he said.
The family friend said the Tsarnaev family were Sufi Muslims, the dominant and moderate form of Islam in their homeland of the northern Caucasus. The friend said that "six or seven years back", Zubeidat was keen for Tamerlan to pray more. "The father was not religious. They observed Ramadan and when Eid came there would be a big meal. But a few years back, mama said: 'The kids should learn to pray.' I think for Tamerlan, Islam was a potential identity."
It was around 2009 to 2010 that Tamerlan and his mother began to change their attitude towards Islam. She began to wear the hijab, the friend said, around the same time that Tamerlan persuaded his wife, US-born Katherine Russell, to convert to Islam. "She fell under the influence of her son," the friend said. "You have to understand the family dynamics. This is not an Islamic conspiracy. This is a crazy guy who acted pretty normally at times."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was well known for "losing it", the friend said. The change in his wife's appearance distressed Anzor, Zubeidat said, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal from Makhachkala, Dagestan.
"He said, 'You are being crazy, covering yourselves,'" Zubeidat recalled her husband saying. She said that she told him: "This is what Islamic men should want. This is what I am supposed to do." In the same interview, Zubeidat said that after she had persuaded Tamerlan he should practice his religion, fearing his life lacked direction, her son "started reading about Islam and he started praying and then he got more and more into his religion".
The friend said that, when the couple first moved to the US, around a decade ago, they were "very modern" and she was "very fashionable". Although both parents had studied law, their lack of English meant they had to work hard to make money. Anzor worked as a car mechanic in the street and, for a year, at Webster Auto Body, around the corner from their home. Zubeidat was a carer for a while and then studied cosmetology, north of Cambridge. A friend she met there opened a spa and she worked there for a while, but the work dried up and she began doing facials at home.
It was around 2010 that Alyssa Kilzer, 23, a writer and yoga teacher who went to the Tsarnaev house to receive facials, first noticed Zubeidat wearing the hijab, she wrote in a blogpost. Kilzer noticed other changes too, she said.
Zubeidat became "increasingly religious", invoking Allah and lessons from the Qur'an, Kilzer said. During one facial session, Kilzer said, Zubeidat quoted a conspiracy theory about 9/11, saying the attacks had been created by the US government to instil hatred towards Muslims. "It's real," Zubeidat said, according to Kilzer. "My son knows all about it."
In 2011, Zubeidat, 45, and Anzor, 47, ended their 25-year marriage, according to reports. Anzor left the US, while his wife and four children remained. The family friend said that Zubeidat became increasingly worried about Tamerlan, because he had been expected to return earlier than he did from a six-month trip to Dagestan that he had ostensibly undertaken in order to visit relatives. The trip is now under scrutiny by investigators. Zubeidat was looking after Tamerlan's daughter and his wife and, she told the friend, she had learned her brother had cancer. "She told me her whole world was falling apart and she wanted to go back to her family," the friend said.
Zubeidat left Boston to go back to her family in 2012, shortly after Tamerlan Tsarnaev returned from Dagestan, the family friend said. While Anzor has said he will return to the US to seek "truth and justice" and bring the body of his dead son home, it is unclear whether his ex-wife will join him. She was accused of trying to steal designer dresses worth $1,600 from a Lords and Taylor department store in Natick, according to ABC News. She was due in court in October for a hearing, but did not show up, leading to an arrest warrant which remains outstanding.'It's one twisted story'
Residents of the diverse, working class area of Cambridge where the Tsarnaevs lived are baffled by how two brothers, one a US citizen and college student, the other a one-time amateur boxer who married and had a child, so seemingly integrated into American life, could plan such carnage against fellow citizens.
At Webster Body Auto in Somerville, where Anzor worked eight years ago, workers remember him as a hard worker, a "good body man" and a solid character. One told the Guardian that Anzor's aunt, who spoke English, came and spoke on his behalf. The worker, who did not want to be named, said Anzor was a "soft-spoken guy. I never heard him raise his voice".
He described how Anzor once pulled a guy off the street outside, after he had been hit by a car. "If that has anything to do with his character, that was it. He could have been hit by another car. He was the kind of guy that would do that. As far as anything else goes, who the hell knows. It's one twisted story."
Yasafi Vali, the executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, which held a candlelit vigil for the bombing victims this week, and Nichole Mossalam, of the Cambridge mosque, where Tamerlan attended services, are helping the authorities with their search for answers. They are asking congregants about the man described by Raslan Tsarni as having a powerful hold over his nephew.
However, they both believe the chances of finding such a man are remote. The mosques practice a "moderate American Islam" and are close-knit communities, not places where radicals are generally found, they say. Secondly, according to Mossalam: "The FBI have been sharing some of their evidence with us. And the FBI said it doesn't fit with the pattern of radicalisation."
According to Vali, elders at the mosque tried to engage with Tamerlan, after two outbursts in which he railed against preachers with more moderate views. "They told him, look, you have a clear choice. Either you keep quiet during the khutbas [sermon] or you leave.
"What he reacted to was the very moderate American Islam we practice in that mosque. He clearly had a view which was very different. He did debate with the preacher afterwards. The preacher did try to engage him but he held on to his own viewpoint."
This rather hilarious article represents a BBC journalist’s ostensible attempt to live on £1 worth of food a day. You’ll notice that the food is rather appetising and colourful and looks expensive. A brief look at the price lists reveal that it was in fact more expensive than the single-serving cost and that the journalist cheated, one ingredient from the first meal alone blowing his daily budget and the total spend (of that meal alone, remember) coming to £8.27. The article is an insult to those who really do have to live on a tiny amount of food a day.
The Goldfish has already done a brilliant point-by-point takedown of this ridiculous article. Briefly, they consist of:
The bit about shopping around is particularly relevant, because where I live, there are three supermarkets (Waitrose, Co-Op and Tesco) within walking distance; in the nearest town, there’s a Sainsbury’s and another Waitrose. There isn’t a Morrison’s in either place — the nearest one to me is in Wimbledon, which is a 20-minute bus ride away and definitely not in convenient walking or even cycling distance. If I had nothing to do but make food, I could do a round trip of the New Malden and Kingston supermarkets on my bike, but Morrison’s is really not feasible. If I had to work, I’d be able to choose really one or two of these. If you don’t live in a big town, you might not have access to more than one or at most two — or even a pretty small Co-op which won’t have all the ingredients you might need to live on an extremely limited budget.
The article does not use genuinely frugal ingredients. If you really had to live on £5 over 5 days, soup mix is your friend. A pack of it costs 89p from Waitrose (I tried finding it in Sainsbury’s, but no luck) and it contains pearl barley, green and yellow split peas, marrowfat peas, haricot beans, lentils and brown rice. You can make considerably more than five meals with this stuff. You soak the mix in water for at least five hours, replace the water, boil it for ten minutes then simmer for 20 to 30 more minutes. Given that this will take some 5p out of your budget daily, this adds space for stock cubes or maybe some chopped tomatoes, or some tinned meat or fish (the price of that has gone up, but a tin of sardines costs 55p — mackerel used to be affordable, but a tin of that is around 90p or more). You might even be able to fry up some of that courgette and add that to the mix (and you don’t have to buy a pack of six — if you use a quarter or a third of it, the rest will keep in the fridge for a few days).
That won’t make a meal replete with huge amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, but will be a balanced meal even if a rather dull one. Milk and bread will add quite a bit to the cost — a four-pint bottle of milk costs £1.29 and a loaf of bread starts from about 75p, so that’s more than £2 out of your five-day £5 budget to begin with. However, the soup mix will last you for much longer than five days, if you’re only cooking for yourself. The budget only covers ingredients — it doesn’t cover the water bill, especially if it’s metered, or the gas or electricity you need to cook any of this, or the container you’ll need for the soup mix once you open the packet. But it’s possible to eat on £5 over 5 days, and it’s a healthy but somewhat boring and repetitive diet although there will be left-overs and you will be able to vary the diet if you have to go another five days on another £5. The BBC’s “attempt” only shows the cluelessness of a journalist who has never had to live anything like this frugally, and poor editing by the BBC’s website staff. It uses more than eight times its budget in a day and if you were on Jobseekers’ Allowance, you could not afford to spend this much on food, and certainly not to waste this much money and food.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told a conservative radio program this week that the Obama administration “bungled” the investigation of the Boston bombing due to internal guidance from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Think Progress article
It’s unclear what Panasenko was doing with the bombs on the train and at his home but I do know that there hasn’t been any discussion of Mykyta Panasenko’s religion or non-stop media attention behind his motivations and plans.
Hmmmm, I wonder why that is?Jersey City man charged with having explosives on train 8 days before Marathon bombings: cop
More than a week before three people were killed and more than 260 people were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, a Jersey City man carried two homemade explosives on an NJ Transit train, authorities say.
Police also found explosive devices in the Newport Parkway home of Mykyta Panasenko, 27, Jersey City police said today. According to a criminal complaint, Panasenko is charged with having “two destructive devices, specifically improvised explosive devices (IEDs) constructed from a cylinder containing Pyrodex (black powder)” on April 5, the criminal complaint says.
He is also charged with recklessly creating widespread risk of injury or damage to a building which normally contains 25 or more persons by constructing the explosive devices, according to the charges filed by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Port Authority Police Department.
The FBI did not return calls for more details and no one answered the door at Panasenko’s home this afternoon.
Although the arrest was made more than a week ago, it was not reported by authorities. The Jersey Journal learned about the incidents when Panasenko appeared in Central Judicial Processing court to hear the charges Wednesday.
Authorities also charged Panasenko with having two improvised explosive devises at 4 p.m. on April 7 aboard an NJ Transit train leaving Hoboken and bound for Suffern, N.Y., the complaint says.
Earlier this month the Jersey City Police Department’s Bomb Squad responded to the home of Panasenko after getting information from the New York Police Department and the FBI, Jersey City Police Deputy Chief Peter Nalbach said this afternoon.
Inside the residence police found “materials that may have been used to make an explosive device,” Nalbach said, adding that the information came from a tip provided by someone who knows Panasenko.
The complaint charging Panasenko with having explosive devices at his home was signed on April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, and the complaint charging him with having explosive devices on the train was signed on April 16.
A book endorsed last year by the Israel Defense Forces Rabbinate says the presence of non-Jews is no reason for an army base not to affix mezuzahs to its buildings.
One ruling on Jewish law in the book, “Laws of the Mezuzah,” states: “The idea that views non-Jews as having equal rights in the state goes against the opinion of the Torah, and no representative of the state is authorized to act against the will of the Torah.”
The book deals with questions about mezuzahs, which are fixed to doorposts by Jews as a sign of faith, on army bases, and was endorsed by the IDF’s chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rabbi Rafi Peretz.
One issue it discusses is whether or not mezuzahs need be installed in army bases, because rulings have been issued over the generations that in buildings where both Jews and Gentiles live, there is no obligation to put up a mezuzah, and in light of the fact that both Jews and non-Jews live on IDF bases.
The issue, according to the authors, is whether state property can be said to be a kind of a cooperative. In the latter case, “Even if we say state property is like a cooperative, since the public in general is Jewish, and in any case, as long as non-Jews have not purchased a part of the assets, they have no right to the state property.”
The authors cite biblical verses whose message is that, if a mezuzah is in a Gentile’s possession, there is the fear that “it will be desecrated.” The question thus arises: What should be done on military bases? The authors state, “As the owner, the military establishment must see to it that mezuzahs are installed in all dormitory rooms, including those where Gentile soldiers live.
Nevertheless, in places where there is the danger that the mezuzahs might be desecrated, the unit’s rabbi must see to it that the unit’s commanders sign the required form signifying that they are personally responsible for the mezuzahs so that they can be placed on trial should there be a need for doing so and so that the danger of the mezuzahs’ desecration can be prevented.”
The authors also address another issue: What is to be done with the mezuzahs on the buildings in a military base when a battalion of Gentile soldiers arrives to assume operational responsibility for the area? Their response: “If mezuzahs have been installed on a structure that has been transferred to the jurisdiction of Gentile officers, the rabbi’s unit must brief the soldiers on their arrival in the area regarding the importance of keeping the mezuzahs intact and must see to it that the unit’s commanders sign the required form signifying that they are personally responsible for the mezuzahs so that they can be placed on trial should there be a need for doing so.”
The chief editor of the book, which was published 14 months ago, is Col. Rabbi Eyal Karim, formerly of the Sayeret Matkal (the general staff’s elite special-operations force).
The book was written by three other rabbis, Capt. Alexander Rones, Capt. Dov Berkovich and Capt. Hananiah Shafran. The book also deals with the question of affixing a mezuzah to the door post of a dormitory used for female soldiers. “Must a mezuzah be installed in a dormitory where female soldiers live and can a senior female officer affix a mezuzah when a new building is officially opened on a military base?” it asks.
The book’s authors rule that is that the commandment regarding mezuzahs applies to females as well as males and that most rabbinical authorities have ruled that a woman is permitted to install a mezuzah. However, the authors point out, since IDF bases constitute a public area, “it would be preferable to be strict on this point” and to prohibit a senior female officer from installing a mezuzah.
The reason, they note, is that, as is it is written in the Book of Psalms, “All glorious is the king’s daughter within the palace” (45:14); thus, they write, “in a public area, it is much more suitable for a male to install the mezuzah.”
In response to a query on the book, the IDF spokesman’s office said: “The book ‘Laws of the Mezuzah’ is a clearly a book on Jewish law dealing with questions that are part of the daily reality in the army. Although the quotes presented are in response to specific questions, the answers cannot be viewed as relating to a specific group; the answer given is true for any unit in which there is concern the mezuzah will be disrespected.
via. Ugly Truth
By: Zana Alattar
77,777. Since the revolution has entered its third year, the number of recorded deaths in Syria has skyrocketed. At this point, life in Syria comes down to one thing – SURVIVAL.
But the Syrian people have not wavered.
“Freedom Until the Grave.” These words, spoken by the Syrian people, are not to be taken easily. The Syrian people have lived through generations in which the word freedom was left undefined.
Freedom was a virtue, not a right. Under the rule of an oppressive regime, freedom is what the government tells you it is. But now, through the Syrian revolution, they have defined the word 'Freedom'.
The Syrian people have defined freedom in their struggle:
77,777 Stories: The numbers take form, but do the faces behind those numbers ever form? These 77,777, each have a story, whether it's a love story, a childhood memory, or of a family member that they held dear. Yet 77,777 is merely a number in an article, on Facebook status, as part of a statistics. 77,777 does not show the strength within the struggle.
The strength of the Syrian people lies with the mother whose son left the house to protest peacefully and returned with a bullet through his heart.
The strength of the Syrian people lies with the college student at the University whose blood flowed over the pages of his final exams.
The strength of the Syrian people lies with the father who was killed while waiting in line for bread to take home to his starving family.
The strength of the Syrian people lies with the orphaned infant whose cries cannot be heard over the government bombs that are hitting his home.
The strength of the Syrian people cannot be embodied in a number.
77,777 Revolutionists: As the numbers form, the word freedom is defined. As the numbers form, the Syrian people begin to truly understand what it means to be free. As the numbers form, people all around the world question why. Why is there such turmoil in Syria? But as the numbers form, the Syrian people stop questioning. As the numbers form, they realize why.
The 77,777. That's why. They continue this fight for freedom in honor of those who saw freedom, believed in it, and died trying to grasp it.
Don't ask why, ask how? Ask how people all around the world can help Syrians define the word freedom. Ask how a revolutionist gave up his life, what we think is so dear, for the one thing we all should know is most dear, freedom. Ask how the world has let the number rise to 77,777.
This is the first in a series of articles that will discuss the relationship between Zionism and Islamophobia. The impetus for this series is what many have already observed:
1.) Islamophobic polemics within trends of Zionism, the preponderance of Zionists within the Islamophobia movement, the usage of Israeli state symbols and the symbiotic relationship between anti-Muslim groups in the USA and Israel are a present-day reality.
2.) There is a confused and malformed understanding amongst some individuals of Zionism on the one hand and its relationship to Islamophobia. Zionism is not understood in its proper historical context: Why did it form? How has it evolved? What is its effect on Jewish and world history? What is its relationship with the ‘other’?
Some who are confronted with the present day reality of Zionist Islamophobia are in denial of its very existence while others propose answers to the aforementioned questions not based on facts but rather emotional, even hysterical inaccuracies and conspiracies.
The Zionist relationship with Islamophobia enmeshes the discussion of racism, nationalism, human rights and the liberation struggle of Palestinians. It will be the task of this series to clarify these concepts and provide a much-needed dose of realism to any analysis of the subject, beyond the histrionics that can at once serve as a distraction and muddle our conscience.
Initial Encounters with Islam and Muslims
“[T]he Zionist view of Palestine has always considered all Palestinians without regard to class, creed, or locations, as bodies either to be removed or ignored (if possible); and on the other hand, that the Palestinian opposition to Zionist settler-colonialism was a national struggle, enlisting, as it did, segments of political life (in various complex ways of course).” (Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims by Edward W. Said, p.10)
The quote from Edward Said accentuates an obvious truth that is important for us to comprehend from the outset: Zionists could care less what creed Palestinians followed. Ever since the publication of Theodor Herzl‘s (1860-1904) Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) and the First Zionist Congress (1897) Zionists have organized their collective energy on colonizing the land of Palestine, then a territory under Ottoman control.
The fact that a majority of Palestinians followed Islam was generally inconsequential to Zionist aims. Indeed, if the majority of Palestinians had been Hindu we may very well be discussing Zionism and Hinduphobia today.
While it is true that Zionists were not concerned with Islam as such it is vital to investigate what the early ideologues of modern Zionism had to say about Islam and Muslims; at the very least noting to what extent this has a bearing on how contemporary Zionists relate to Islam and how this relationship has developed over the years.
A necessary overview of the history of Zionism will be the subject of the next article in this series but suffice it to say that Zionism formed in the milieu of 19th century European nationalism, in the heyday of Imperialism, Colonialism–and renewed Antisemitism. Considering that Zionism was a product of 19th century Europe, it is reasonable to presume, and has served as the thesis of several historians that the Orientalist worldview with its inherent biases and prejudices pervaded the Zionist view as well.
Influence of the Jewish Golden Age
One important caveat is that there was amongst 19th century Jews Islamophile trends and a recognition of a Jewish Golden Age under Muslim rule, particularly in medieval Andalusia. Jewish historians such as the early Zionist Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891) were prominent advocates of an idealized version of the Jewish Golden Age, a history that Graetz and others used to serve as a rebuke to the Christian European treatment of Jews.
In this regard there is a glimpse into the attitude of the most pivotal leader of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, a mercurial figure whose tactics in the Ottoman Empire were well known. One would think his interaction with the Sublime Porte (the seat of Ottoman authority) would reveal much in the way of his view on Islam and Muslims, however it does not.
It is in Herzl’s Utopian novel titled, Altneuland,(Old-New Land), that we see some semblance of his views on the subject. Herzl portrayed the Arab characters such as Rashid Bey in a patronizing manner, characterizing them as being grateful to the Jewish immigrants for the “immense benefit” they have brought to the land’s Arab residents. In an echo to Graetz’s work we see Herzl describing Bey as regaling visitors to the land on the “tolerance demonstrated by the Arabs toward Jewish immigration, in the best tradition of Muslim society, which was always more tolerant of the Jews than Christian Europe.”
Another anecdote highlights that the Golden Age views were also imparted on the likes of a young Yigal Allon Paicovitch (1918-1980). In a biography on Allon’s life we are told that Allon viewed Christianity with suspicion, as an age-old persecutor of the Jewish people whereas he did not have similar “misgivings” about Islam and Muslims,
“In Allon’s imagination the Crusades were so tied to the Inquisition that when he traveled to Nazareth with his father he was careful not to bend down near a church lest it be understood as kneeling before the cross. He had no such misgivings about Islam, having learned in school that Muslims were tolerant of Jews, with the emphasis on Spain’s Golden Age.” (Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography by Anita Shapira p.33)
Allon who would later become the commander of the Haganah’s Palmach (strike force) between 1945-1948. During the 1948 war, he commanded several military operations (i.e. Operation Yiftah, Dani, and Yoav), and he became famous for being one of the engines behind cleansing the most populated Palestinian areas (i.e. Lydda, Ramla, Safad, Hebron hills, Faluja pocket).
Palestinian Muslims: the descendants of ancient Hebrew farmers
David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), one of the ‘founding fathers of Israel’ was a hawkish advocate of the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinian Arabs, who stated, “We must expel Arabs and take their places.” (Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs: From Peace to War by Shabti Zeveth, p.189)
Interestingly, in Ben-Gurion’s On the Origin of the Falahin he held the view, to be repeated later in his life (in a letter to Charles De Gaulle), that Palestinian Muslim farmers were descendants of ancient Hebrew farmers and that “much Jewish blood flows in their veins.” He describes Palestinian embrace of Islam as a “travesty of [the] times,”
The agricultural community that the Arabs found in Eretz Israel in the 7th century was none other than the Hebrew farmers that remained on their land despite all the persecution and oppression of the Roman and Byzantine emperors. Some of them accepted Christianity, at least on the surface, but many held on to their ancestral faith and occasionally revolted against their Christian oppressors. After the Arab conquest, the Arabic language and Muslim religion spread gradually among the countrymen. In his essay “Ancient Names in Palestine and Syria in Our Times,” Dr. George Kampmeyer proves, based on historico-linguistic analysis, that for a certain period of time, both Aramaic and Arabic were in use and only slowly did the former give way to the latter. The greater majority and main structures of the Muslim falahin in western Eretz Israel present to us one racial strand and a whole ethnic unit, and there is no doubt that much Jewish blood flows in their veins—the blood of those Jewish farmers, “lay persons,” who chose in the travesty of times to abandon their faith in order to remain on their land. (Leverur Motsa Ha’Falahim, Luach Achiezer, pp. 118-27, reprinted in Anachnu U’Shcheneinu, pp. 13-25.)
There is an apparent contradiction in Ben-Gurion’s statement that Arabic and Islam spread gradually and that Jewish farmers embraced Islam “in order to remain on their land.” The former implies a conscious and free conversion over a period of time and the latter forced conversion. Ben-Gurion’s 1967 letter to De Gaulle would indicate that he advocated the idea of forced conversion.
In either case, Ben-Gurion’s statement is highly interesting in light of the work of Israeli historian Shlomo Sand,
Countering official Zionist historiography, Sand questions whether the Jewish People ever existed as a national group with a common origin in the Land of Israel/Palestine. He concludes that the Jews should be seen as a religious community comprising a mishmash of individuals and groups that had converted to the ancient monotheistic religion but do not have any historical right to establish an independent Jewish state in the Holy Land. In short, the Jewish People, according to Sand, are not really a “people” in the sense of having a common ethnic origin and national heritage. They certainly do not have a political claim over the territory that today constitutes Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.
Sand’s work also concludes that the progenitors of the Palestinian Arabs were the ancient Jews.
This raises numerous questions: if Ben-Gurion held that many of the “Muslim falahin” were descendants of indigenous Jews why didn’t this factor into his ideology and how did he square this with advocating their expulsion? According to his own ideology aren’t Palestinians more entitled to live in their ancient homeland than European settlers? Do not the Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homeland?
One can also see the kind of disdain which Ben Gurion held for the “spirit of the Levant” in popular views that he and many fellow Zionists expressed in regard to “Eastern/Sephardic Jews,”
Ben Gurion…described the Sephardi immigrants as lacking even “the most elementary knowledge” and “without a trace of Jewish or human education.” Ben Gurion repeatedly expressed contempt for the culture of the Oriental Jews: “We do not want Israelis to become Arabs. We are in duty bound to fight against the spirit of the Levant, which corrupts individuals and societies, and preserve the authentic Jewish values as they crystallized in the Diaspora.”…Ben Gurion who called the Moroccan Jews “savages” at a session of a Knesset Committee, and who compared Sephardim, pejoratively (and revealingly), to the Blacks brought to the United States as slaves, at times went so far as to question the spiritual capacity and even the Jewishness of the Sephardim. (Sephardim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims by Ella Shohat, p.4-5)
Imagine, if these were Ben Gurion’s views about the “Oriental Jew,” how much more magnified was his animus towards native Arabs and Muslims?
Exorcising the Islamic Soul From Palestine
Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky (1880-1940) the founder of the Revisionist movement within Zionism was perhaps the most explicitly unabashed and hawkish modern Zionist proponent of colonialism, racism and expulsion; central subjects in many of his writings and speeches. Jabotinsky is most famous for his exposition of the “Iron Wall” ideology that no compromise with the Palestinians was possible. Revisionism would eventually spawn the Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists which made names for themselves by using terrorism against innocent civilians.
Lenni Brenner, writing in 1984 noted that Revisionism, once considered the lunatic fringe of Zionism “is now the dominant ideological tendency in present-day Zionism.” (The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism From Jabotinsky to Shamir by Lenni Brenner)
I would argue that this holds true today as well (and add Religious Zionism is on the rise), as we have seen with the administrations of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, and high profile politicians such as Avigdor Lieberman and others.
Jabotinsky’s views were quite emphatic in their degradation of Arab society, especially Muslim society: here he responds in a vitriolic manner to Max Nordau’s (1849-1923) statement that Muslims and Jews share a kinship,
“When he [Jabotinsky] approached Nordau during the war about the establishment of a Jewish legion which was to fight against the Turks, he was told, ‘But you cannot do that, the Muslims are kin to the Jews, Ishmael was our uncle.’ ‘Ishmael is not our uncle’ Jabotinsky replied. ‘We belong thank God, to Europe and for two thousand years have helped to create the culture of the west.’” (A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel by Walter Laqueur, p. 228)
In his famous “Iron Wall,” Jabotinsky alludes to his belief in the deficient “spirituality” of Palestinian Arabs,
“Culturally they are 500 years behind us, spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will” (Iron Wall by Jabotinsky)
A theme in Jabotinsky’s views is his emphasis that Jewishness is opposed to the East and a “part of the West,” (of course he is speaking only of European and American Jews and completely ignoring Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews), he also alludes to Islam as some sort of demonic spirit that must be exorcized from “Eretz-Yisrael,”
“We Jews, thank God, have nothing to do with the East. . . . The Islamic soul must be broomed out of Eretz-Yisrael. . . . [Muslims are] yelling rabble dressed up in gaudy, savage rags.” (Expulsion of the Palestinians by Nur Masalha, p.29)
Anti-Judaism as Anti-Islam
Arthur Ruppin (1876-1943), one the founders of Brit Shalom, was a proponent of warped racial theories and eugenics who despite his bi-national views still supported the expulsion or in the euphemism of his day “transfer” of Palestinians. Ruppin, like many of his peers and contemporaries was very severe in his criticism of traditional Judaism. In Ruppin’s view Judaism’s main fault is that it is “similar to Islam,” in that it is supposedly anti-intellectual, opposed to criticism and modern science.
Ruppin explained the success of Hassidut as a result of the hard material conditions of the Jews in Eastern Europe: “The spiritual energy of the Jewish people created an imaginary world when the real world was lost to him.” This was the reason the Jews took refuge in the mysticism and superstition offered them by the Hassidic Rabbis.
As already mentioned, Ruppin’s views concerning the Jewish religion were identical to those of Haeckal and Bismark regarding Catholic clericalism. Ruppin, indeed, saw a similarity between Judaism and Catholicism since both of them he believed, were based on prayer, and from that concluded that, like Catholicism, Judaism was still anthropomorphic. However, the most important fault he saw in Judaism was its similarity to Islam. Jewish Orthodoxy and Islam had the same type of faith, a “blind faith,” which did not permit any critical doubts and rejected all the discoveries of modern science. These characteristics differentiated them from “the protestant skeptic type of faith of our times.” What defined the Jewish worldview, according to Ruppin, was its lack of skepticism, its fear of any doubt and its inability to cope with conflicting thoughts: “As soon as he begins to doubt, his fate is sealed, his secession from orthodoxy is a necessary result. The skeptic will never more be a pious Jew.” (Arthur Ruppin and the Production of Pre-Israeli Culture by Etan Bloom p. 79)
These views are, to say the least, overly simplistic and presumptuous, disregarding the variegated and complex nature of both Judaism and Islam.
Judah Leon Magnes
Judah Leon Magnes (1877-1948), a prominent American born Reform Rabbi, was a life-long pacifist, proponent of a bi-national state and vocal critic of attempts to create an exclusive “Jewish state.” Towards the end of his life, in 1948, he withdrew from the AJJDC for ignoring his plea to help Palestinian refugees.
Rabbi Magnes no doubt wrote the following with good intentions,
“It is in derogation of the actual importance of the living Jewish people and of Judaism to place them on one side of the scale and have it balanced by the relatively unimportant Arab community of Palestine. The true parallels and balancing forces are Jews and Judaism on the one side, and the Arab peoples and even all of Islam on the other. In this way you get a truer perspective of the whole and you increase the significance of Palestine as being that point where in this new day Judaism meets Islam again throughout all its confines, as once they met centuries back to the ultimate enrichment of human culture.” (Like other Nations? retrieved from The Zionist Idea ed. by Arthur Hertzberg p.447)
Magnes attempts to relay a hopeful and positive vision of the future in which Judaism and Islam meet together “to the ultimate enrichment of human culture,” but one cannot help but also note the glaring condescension towards Palestinians, crassly described as the “relatively unimportant Arab community of Palestine.”
Religious elements, both Orthodox and Reform were generally late to join the political Zionist caravan which was led mostly by secular and non-religious Jews. In time however the religious sects would, with notable exceptions, reconcile themselves to Zionism through compromise and accommodation with the state of Israel.
Instrumental in this process was the main ideologue of modern Religious Zionism, Rabbi Abraham Itzhak Kook (1865-1935).
“Kook saw Zionism as a part of a divine scheme which would result in the resettlement of the Jewish people in its homeland. This would bring salvation (“Geula”) to Jews, and then to the entire world. After world harmony is achieved by the refoundation of the Jewish homeland, the Messiah will come.”
Historically Judaism’s relationship with Islam and attitude towards Muslims has been unique. Maimonides formulated the decisive majority opinion that Islam like Judaism was definitely a monotheistic faith, this had all sorts of repercussions for Halacha (Jewish law). For instance Jews could worship in a mosque whereas they could not worship in a church, Jews could take benefit from wine handled by a Muslim whereas they could not by a Christian.
While Islam was viewed as special this should not mislead us into the relativist belief that Judaism advanced some sort of Perennialist theology. Indeed, like all religions Judaism in its Orthodox form is exclusivist, especially when it comes to the ‘Promised Land.’
In fact there are sources within Orthodox Judaism that can be used to dehumanize the non-Jew, to view and treat the non-Jew as inferior and unequal. We have witnessed many such cases in the past few decades with the rise and expansion of extremist Jewish fundamentalism in Israel.
Early modern Religious Zionists were not immune from expressing such racist views. Rabbi Kook has been quoted as saying that the souls of non-Jews are inferior “in all different levels” to that of Jews. (Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, p. xix)
In the wrong hands such attitudes can reinforce the mentality and culture that produces and celebrates terrorists such as Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir, that offers no compromise when it comes to dismantling and evicting settlements and reaching a just solution to apartheid occupation.
I believe it is appropriate lastly to cite Yitzhak Epstein (1862-1943), one of the few Zionists who was a Palestinian. Epstein lived with Bedouins for eight months, an experience that led him to publish two books in Hebrew on Bedouins. At the same time he worked in intelligence gathering for the Jewish Agency Political Department and became a leading “Arab specialist.”
Epstein uttered what I believe are prophetic words regarding his belief that Zionists must reconcile themselves to the “peoples of Islam.”
“We must reconcile ourselves to all the peoples of Islam; if we don’t we are lost.” (Palestine Jewry and the Arab Question by Neil Caplan)
If one were to ask if such a reconciliation has been reached today the question would be treated as rhetorical, as present day circumstances reveal the answer to be a resounding “no.” The question is why is this the case? Why are so many Zionists today violently opposed to Islam and Muslims, in fact holding onto the belief and strategy of a war with Islam? (This will be answered in a future article in this series).
This article has not exhausted the topic of the initial encounters between modern Zionism, Islam and Muslims, for instance I have not discussed the work of Zionist authors such as Moshe Smilansky (1874-1953) who wrote a number of novels involving Arabs and Muslims. It does however uncover what I feel are fairly representative views from a wide spectrum of currents; Socialist, Revisionist and Religious–including very influential leaders of Zionism.
It is helpful in the context of the period discussed in this article to speak about Zionism in relationship to the paradigm of Orientalism, in fact there is a wealth of historical literature on this topic over the past few decades. The imagination of Zionist literature, film, ideology and political policy has been infused with Orientalisms of one variety or another from the very beginning,
“Several writers on Israel and its neighbors have suggested in recent years ways to apply Edward Said’s fascinating thesis on the connection between Orientalism as a profession and deep-seated anti-Islamic attitudes in the West in general. Aziza Khazum has shown how the history of the Jewish people in modern times can fruitfully be described as a continuous series of “Orientalizations,” that is, an elite trying to block the advance of an upcoming minority group by dubbing it “Oriental,” meaning devoid of “real” culture and hence not worthy of equal treatment. Ella Shohat has applied the same idea to the history of early Zionist films, where the Arab is depicted as a brutal and cultureless creature whose objection to Zionism lacks rational grounding. Said himself first analyzed Orientalism as a cultural outgrowth of the West and then started to apply that idea to the Zionist venture itself.” (Zionism, Orientalism and the Palestinians by Haim Gerber, p.1)
I have not in any depth covered the deep racism against the indigenous Palestinian Arabs, seeking to separate that out from views regarding Islam and Muslims; at times it is not possible, as the two are interwoven. What we have then are attitudes that comport to well known bigoted Orientalist racism, stereotypes, prejudices, and a few romanticized notions of the ‘other.’
The view of many of the early leading Zionists is a reaffirmation of the presumed ontological distinction between West and East, i.e. that the very being of Western Jews is essentially different than that of the Palestinian Arabs and Muslims.
Satellite helps connect refugee children across the Middle East.
WSJ Op-Ed Pushes Controversial NYPD Surveillance Of American Muslims
Fox News contributor Judith Miller wrote a highly speculative Wall Street Journal op-ed that claimed New York City police surveillance practices “may well have… prevented” the Boston bombing, ignoring that the constitutionality of these programs is currently being challenged in court and their efficacy is questioned.
In the April 24 op-ed, Miller lauded the New York Police Department (NYPD) for its blanket surveillance of American Muslim communities, which has extended beyond the jurisdiction of New York City. According to Miller, this extensive spying program “is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike” and should be emulated by other cities. From the WSJ:
[T]he city has developed a counterterror program that is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike. The 1,000 cops and analysts who work in the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism divisions, for instance, would likely have flagged Tamerlan Tsarnaev for surveillance, given Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s insistence on aggressively monitoring groups and individuals suspected of radicalization.
The NYPD maintains close ties to Muslim preachers and community leaders, as well as a network of tipsters and undercover operatives.
Once the department had Tamerlan under surveillance, the NYPD’s cyberunit might have detected his suspicious online viewing choices and social-media postings. Other detectives might have picked up his purchase of a weapon, gunpowder and even a pressure cooker–an item featured in an article, “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” in the online al Qaeda magazine Inspire.
Even if the NYPD hadn’t been watching Tamerlan, it might have been tipped off to such suspicious purchases thanks to its Nexus program. Since the program’s launch in 2002, the department has visited more than 40,000 businesses in the metropolitan area, encouraging business owners and managers to report suspicious purchases or other activities potentially related to terrorism.
These surveillance programs – like other aspects of NYPD’s aggressive policing - are currently beingchallenged in court. But Miller ignored claims that the spying unconstitutionally profiles American Muslims, interferes with freedom of religion rights under the First Amendment, and violates a court order that attempts to ensure surveillance focuses on illegal activity.
Furthermore, although she mentions it won a Pulitzer Prize, Miller completely ignores the substance of an Associated Press series critical of these programs. The AP’s award-winning reporting on the NYPD’s surveillance unearthed multiple details that undermine Miller’s narrative. For example:
This AP coverage led to lawsuits filed over the programs’ constitutionality and public grievances by state and federal officials worried about the unsupervised reach and nature of these NYPD surveillance efforts.
Yet this is arguably a separate issue from whether the programs actually work to prevent terrorist attacks, which Miller highlights as worthy of a “fresh look” across the country. That is, some say the potential illegality of this widespread and indiscriminate surveillance of American Muslims is irrelevant if its utility is worth breaking from American tradition and law. But according to AP’s reporting, this too is questionable, as the core of the surveillance program “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.” From the AP:
In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.
The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.
Police hoped the Demographics Unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. And if police ever got a tip about, say, an Afghan terrorist in the city, they’d know where he was likely to rent a room, buy groceries and watch sports.
But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.
Update: We just received a statement from Hunter Todd about the event in which he confirms that he did search the backpack of a woman because she was wearing a hijab and says he had to do it to protect his audience. Find his entire statement at the end of this post.
Last weekend marked the end of the 46th annual WorldFest. The film festival, third oldest in North America, bills itself as a “competitive International Film Festival” and lists as part of its mission/vision statement a desire to “add to the rich cultural fabric of the city of Houston.” The actions last Saturday of festival founder/CEO Hunter Todd would appear to show that every vision has its limits.
According to a widely distributed blog entry by writer Amanda Rudd, which quoted a Facebook post by the author’s brother, Todd insisted on searching the bag of a Muslim student (and only her bag) when a fire alarm went off at one of the “master classes” he was introducing at the Westchase Marriott. When asked why he was searching the student’s bag, Todd responded, “[B]ecause she is a Muslim and a suspicious character, now sit down.”
Mike Rudd, the student who confronted Todd writes in his Facebook post:
Before the morning seminar at WorldFest this morning, everyone was gathered in the seminar room for the lectures start when the hotel’s fire alarm went off. The founder and director of WorldFest, Hunter Todd, told everyone to stay in the room before he went to a Muslim UH student and classmate of mine, and demanded to search her bag. She tried to show him her pass to prove she was supposed to be there, but he demanded to search every single pocket of her bag anyway. I’d like to add he did so with a great deal of rudeness and attitude. She complied and showed him the her bag, after this he walked off and didn’t ask to search any of the dozens of other bags in the room.
Another student at the seminar, who prefers to remain anonymous, pointed out the student in question was wearing a hijab and niqab, and added:
He demanded to search her bag, even after she had shown him her VIP Gold Pass to the festival. This young woman was also a University of Houston student, and she complied with Todd’s request. She started with the back pocket, then he rudely and condescendingly said “There’s another zipper.” She showed him the contents of her entire backpack while I watched, stunned. Afterwards, he walked back to the front of the room without questioning or addressing anyone else in the crowded seminar.
Rudd, apparently alone among those in attendance, objected to Todd’s behavior. Todd’s response (according to the other student):
“You’re the kind of person I hate the most – an obnoxious little bastard. Now sit down or I’ll have you thrown out.” Rudd answered, “All right, that’s fine,” and pulled out his phone to call our professor for advice. Todd freaked out, lunged at Rudd, grabbed him with both hands and tried to take his phone.
Rudd states at this point he left the room to avoid further escalation. His next step was to call WorldFest and lodge an official complaint about Todd’s behavior. The phone was answered by a woman named Kathleen, but the conversation quickly went south. Again, according to Rudd:
I told her I was calling to file a complaint about a racial incident involving their founder and director and asked her what her position was at WorldFest. Ignoring this, she asked my name. I told her I would not give my name until she told me what position she held. More rudely she said “you called us now tell me your name”. I told her that in this situation I would not give her my name or any info when I did not know who I was talking with. This is when she yells loudly in the the phone “TELL ME YOUR NAME RIGHT NOW!”
Rudd says he hung up and started contacting members of the press about the incident. “Kathleen” may be Kathleen Haney-Todd, WorldFest’s program director and wife of Hunter Todd.
As of this writing, Todd has not responded to emails asking for a comment. WorldFest’s Twitter account (@worldfest) has been silent since 10:21 AM Saturday. Curious, considering Sunday was the last day of the festival, marked by the annual Consular Regatta at the Houston Yacht Club.
As a member of the Houston film community, I’m not sure which depresses me more: that the man in charge of an allegedly “international” film festival is capable of an act of such obvious xenophobia and religious profiling, or that out of a class of over 50 people, only one person stood up to challenge him.
Update: When we first heard back from Hunter Todd, he complained that we hadn’t given WorldFest sufficient coverage this year and questioned why we would highlight something like this. He also said he would get back to us with a statement later in the day. This is his latest statement to us:
We are running a film festival, not constantly checking Email and FaceBook… we have a very small staff and are totally involved in producing a fine film festival… what are you attempting to do, destroy me and/or the film festival?
This entire episode is insane… After a false evacuation alarm… and the appearance of a single individual Hijab (eye slit only) clad individual without any friends, sitting up front in the room… I was only concerned for the safety of our many guests.. she was carrying a large dark backpack that was heavy and fully loaded… upon a brief inspection, it turned out to be 3-4 water bottles… I was extremely polite and thanked her after the 60-second interchange… there was nothing else to it. This entire issue has been created by the Rudd individual.
Mr. Rudd either has some perverse agenda or is highly misguided. He refused to talk with me later outside the seminar room… he seemed to want to have it out – right there and right then. He refused two request to step aside, rudely confronting me with angry accusations and outburst. I was only trying to start the delayed seminar.
I was referring to your lack of interest in the film festival, until something unpleasant comes along. I will long remember how you have treated me and the festival. Mr. Rudd is being quite disingenuous. He has never mentioned the complete circumstances.
Speaking as though we have already met,
Realising that every time that our eyes meet,
In the puddles where our tears and the skies’
Collide with the earth,
You blink and I wince with your pain,
Because your eyes – are mine,
And you keep painting these word across my page,
As if your thoughts are mine.
We weave these words,
Into the tapestry of life,
As though this is art,
Not knowing that the age old pheran,
My father holds at home,
Handed down 10 generations – at least,
Carries the same name,
That you and I ache to utter,
The one that ties you to I.
We touch hearts with our pages,
Encrypted in tears and ink,
Painting the same strokes of blood,
That today unwillingly caress our soil,
Smashing to pieces hearts, no longer fragile,
Though they tremble – like you and I.
Your eyes meet mine from across the globe,
Every time that these words arise,
Tugging at the thread that ties you to I.
We burn in the same fire of love and loss,
Always having lived where nothing resides.
And we build bridges of hope between worlds,
Engulfed by smoke and storms,
Where there is nothing that brings peace – like the rain,
As it soothes souls in our piece of heaven.
And we walk on, overlooking it all – converging,
Where only you and I could meet.
Like the valleys of the motherland,
We will rise, but only if we are together.
So meet me between the words and syllables,
Lining this page – You know I await your presence,
In the calm that resonates within the storm.
Because in the second before the wave reaches the shore,
Our thoughts collide and our souls will meet once more.
If there is any hate in my dear Boston, it is for the politicians and pundits who would sow discord in this city of immigrants
Boston's immigration story is too nuanced to speak about in definitive terms. Media scandalmongers essentialising Boston's vast immigrant community in light of the Boston Marathon bombings is as nonsensical as gossipy, self-obsessed pundits blaming rap artists for inner-city crime and Marilyn Manson for youth violence.
I write this knowing that the United States is a different place now than it was at this time two weeks ago. The United States has suffered from another devastating terrorist attack, this time in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts.
Boston is a small city. So, in our case, it is not a matter of the average Bostonian knowing someone who knows someone affected by the events of last week. This has been way more personal.
Every Bostonian who said that last week was "the worst week ever" wasn't kidding. In my case, I grew up with marathoners who narrowly escaped the finish line explosions. I know countless people, including myself, who attended the marathon with their families and were nearby when the explosions took place.
I know people, too, who participated in the heroic rescue efforts. And I know locals who went to the same boxing club as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and others who interacted with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Cambridge school system.
I live in Dorchester and intimately know the community grieving the loss of precious eight-year-old Martin Richard. Every single friend and family member of mine living across the Boston area sat through last Friday's city-wide lockdown. On top of it, we all know someone who lives in Watertown. Everybody here is sad.
True to Boston's multicultural character, the bombings added another layer for many other Bostonians in our collective experience. The day after the lockdown, my friends and I had an interaction with a Hispanic man on the MBTA. He looked terrified. He told us that he wanted to shave off his beard knowing it could possibly make him look like the wrong type of immigrant.
In an instant, I stopped being able to recognise Boston. On top of it, there were soldiers patrolling through the familiar streets.
As soon as Bostonians began to breathe after the lockdown, the media began their magic: knocking at the doors of local mosques demanding to know what role it had played in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's radicalisation. Other media outlets began reporting hate crimes already taking place against Muslims in Boston. I found it particularly distressing to see an article published by Gawker titled "This Is What It's Like to Be a Muslim in Boston Right Now" and see the familiar faces of the local Muslim youth published in it.
I write all this knowing that, in the face of the mainstream media narrative, I as a Bostonian Muslim can't say much that will carry much weight next to the likes of New York Republican Congressman Peter King who is now calling for even heavier measures to be placed on American Muslim communities; or of a New York state senator, Greg Ball, who claims torture is an acceptable method to gather possible intelligence from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. To say that it is a little scary to be a Muslim in America right now is, at best, an understatement.
At the same time, I feel compelled to tell everybody in the world that a different side of Boston came to surface promptly in the midst of this great tragedy: my many non-Muslim friends have given me their unequivocal love and support. I showed up to work an emotional basket case at the beginning of this week, in one of my worst professional moments.
It was raining on my commute in and I clutched a Dunkin Donuts coffee and an egg and cheese bagel (without the sausage, naturally) that had both gone cold. I walked into the building anxious that everybody would be looking at me differently and that I might even be at risk of losing my job in the foreseeable future. I felt completely out of my skin.
Not knowing how to interact with my colleagues, I took a seat in the canteen. My boss happened to be around. I can't explain where this instinct to offload on her in that moment came from. But I'm glad I did. I had just come out of this terrible week and I needed an ear – and like a fellow Bostonian, my boss hugged me and she cried with me.
She admitted that while she hadn't realised that I might be dealing with this added layer, she made sure to make me feel like I belonged, and, most importantly, that I feel safe. For the rest of the day, my colleagues came to me telling me that they were worried about me.
Why I was surprised by this interaction with my boss, I have no idea, because this is our small-city attitude: we take care of our own. Long before the marathon bombings, many Bostonians were well aware of the ugliness of racism and have been speaking out against Islamophobia. Boston is a city where reactionary racism has no place.
For as long as I've known her, my beloved friend from Southie has been waiving her finger in the air, hollering and promising me: "If somethin' ever happens to you, your family, or your community, I'm gonna go fuckin' NUTS!!" She is still standing by my side.
The vigil held at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Centre was attended by several local faith communities, Occupy activists, and my dear friends who all wanted to show their solidarity. People in Boston won't tolerate the hate crimes. In our very fragile moment, countless instances have already given me a sense of safety. Even in the midst of this crisis, I feel protected.
I can't consider it pure chance that overlooking the Boston Marathon finish line, the insignia on the Boston Public Library asserts:
The Commonwealth Requires the Education of the People as the Safeguard of Order and Liberty.
This is the collective experience of us as Bostonians, a city made up of immigrants from all around the world: South and Central America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many of our forefathers came to this beautiful city for education and opportunity – and found it. We are a city that is good to our immigrants, because our immigrants are good to us. Multiculturalism is our everyday norm – and as beautifully demonstrated by my friends and my boss, should be our national model.
I now understand how Massachusetts "invented" America. And I hope we continue to set the national precedent. It is the responsibility of the entire country right now, including the media, in our time of crisis to not only help safeguard us from the violent threat of terrorism in the future, but to also help us safeguard and protect our local culture and custom here in Boston. I want Americans to know that the vile hate that has marred some of the 24-hour news channels since the Marathon bombings is entirely contrary to the compassion and forgiveness pouring out of the hearts of local Bostonians.
We don't want our communities ripped apart. Instead, we want support while many of us try our best to stick together.
Sharia councils may be out of touch with gender roles in the UK on issues such as divorce, but let's hear how they are changing
The recent BBC Panorama investigation on sharia councils raised important questions about fairness and openness in Britain's sharia councils, but was intended more as an exposé than a balanced account. Such is their prerogative, but quite a different picture emerges from the several academic studies of the councils and their clients: imperfect institutions responding to a demand for a religious (not a legal) service.
Firstly, let's recognise that we have so many media accounts of sharia councils because they have opened their doors widely to the press. In sessions I attend in the largest council – based in Leyton and featured in the Panorama programme – and in the Birmingham central mosque council, I sit alongside film crews and journalists from UK, US, and French media. Let's consider the charges often made against them.
Are they "parallel legal systems"? They provide a religious divorce that has no civil-law effect, as do councils serving other UK religious communities, of which the Beth Din is the best known. Indeed, the two councils I study require that couples who have a civil marriage begin civil divorce proceedings before they take up the case. They do not rule on child residence or assets, knowing full well that only courts can issue enforceable orders. But do UK courts ever "rubber-stamp" a sharia council opinion on children or assets, as if often claimed by the media? I have looked for such cases, asking family law barristers and judges, and have come up dry: judges will look out for the best interests of the child and a fair division of assets in all cases that come to their courts.
Do the councils discriminate against women? Well, the major monotheisms do discriminate against women, each in its own way. Muslim men and women have unequal divorce powers: a man can divorce his wife without her consent, whereas a woman needs to either persuade him to do so or to ask a judge or, in lands without Islamic judges, a sharia council, to end the marriage. That is why the councils exist (in India, the US and elsewhere, as well as in the UK) and why women are their major clients. We might deplore this inequality in Islam, and also deplore inequality in orthodox Judaism – where women are more dependent on men to release them from marriage than are their Muslim sisters – and in the different strains of Christianity. But the sharia councils did not create this particular divorce inequality; they are a response to it.
Do they charge women higher fees than men? Yes, generally twice as much, because for men they simply issue a certificate, whereas granting a woman a divorce is a more lengthy procedure, involving multiple letters to notify the husband and the chance for him to present his case, regardless of his country of residence. Is it too long? Sometimes: I found that for the busiest and therefore slowest council (Leyton), about 45% of cases were decided in six to eight months, 45% in 10-19 months, and 10% took much longer, either because the petitioner asked the council to wait, or because the council simply failed to act in an efficient manner. They could do better, but so could the courts.
Do they encourage violence toward women? No: as the Leyton council member said, even in the highly edited Panorama report, "this is not allowed". Councils do urge couples to reconcile (although they rarely do) and to attend joint meetings, but most often these meetings do not occur, and phone interviews are conducted with the absent party.
Do some councils seem out of touch with gender roles in the UK? I think so. Learned in religious matters, some councillors are less so in navigating the British social world. As a new generation, including more women, takes on these roles, the tone of council sessions will change as well. Indeed, it is already happening in some newer councils. Balanced media criticism, based on objectively gathered evidence, could remind them how important these changes will be.John R Bowen