Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Origin of Christmas

Christmas is usually linked with Jesus Christ’s birthday on 1 C.E. (Common Era). However, the Christian gospel accounts don’t support this common myth. So how did this celebration originate? Before we find that answer, it may be proper to discuss Jesus’s year of birth.
The year of Jesus’s birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation in ca. 533 C.E. was based on the following information:
a. In the pre-Christian Roman era years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signified the year Rome was founded.
b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.
c. Luke 3:1 and 3:23 indicate that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign.
d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’s reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus’s birth in Augustus’s 28th year of reign).
e. Augustus took power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus’s birth in 754 AUC, which is commonly now equated as 1 C.E.
Unfortunately, for Dionysius, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’s birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC (4 B.C.E.) – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth. Such contradictions within the Gospel accounts about Jesus’s birth year made Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament, to comment about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth] is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1.” According to Fitzmyer, Dionysius was wrong; he had miscalculated. Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus was probably born in 3 BCE.
Still, the birth-year remains unsettled when we consider the Biblical tradition that Jesus was supposed to be no more than two years old when Herod ordered the slaughter of all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16). Herod died before April 12, 4 BCE. So, if the Biblical story is to be believed, Jesus must have been born before 4 BCE. This has led some Christians to revise the birth year to 6 - 4 BCE. Even then, the problem is not settled when we notice that Jesus was supposed to have been born during the census of (Syrian Governor) Quirinius (Luke 2:2). This census took place after Herod’s son Archelaus was deposed in 6 CE, ten years after Herod's death. So, one way to accommodate competing versions of Jesus’s birth will be to place the year somewhere between 6 BCE and 6 CE or shortly thereafter.
Now let’s discuss the date of Jesus’s birth. Interestingly, the DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus’s birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought that Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer, however, guessed that Jesus’s birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE, which is probably closer to the actual than any other Christian claims, especially when we recognize that in Luke 2:8 we are told that when Jesus was born “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night”. December is too cold for such shepherd activities in either Bethlehem or Nazareth of Palestine (places associated with birthplace of Jesus). By mid-October shepherds would bring their flocks from the mountainsides and fields to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed. As can be seen from the above, none of these dates agrees with December 25. So, how did this date come to be celebrated later on as Jesus’s birth date?
For this answer we have to dig into the Roman history. In ancient Rome, the pagan Romans used to celebrate the Brumalia on December 25 following the Saturnalia midwinter festival in December 17-24 to mark the sun's new birth from its solstice. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for any evil deed. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the Saturnalia festival’s conclusion, December 25th (Brumalia), Roman authorities believed that by sacrificing this person they were essentially destroying the forces of darkness. We are told by Lucian, the ancient Greek writer, poet and historian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia), that during this festival, in addition to human sacrifice, other customs included: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits.
In the 4th century when Roman emperors adopted Christianity as the state religion, the pagan festivals of Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. Since no particular date was mentioned in the gospel accounts, the date of Jesus’s birth was set by the Church under Roman Emperor Justinian in 354 CE to coincide with the last day of the pagan midwinter festival (i.e., December 25). This was a clever move by the Church that allowed pagans to accept the new faith without making too much compromise. By then, Emperor Constantine had already recognized Sunday, which had been the day of pagan sun worship. The influence of the pagan Manichaeism, which identified the “Son of God” with the physical Sun, gave these pagans of the 4th century, now turning over wholesale to Christianity, their excuse for calling their pagan festival date of December 25 (birthday of the Sun-god) - the birthday of the “Son of God.”
From the above brief analysis, it is clear that today’s Christians got their Christmas from the Roman Catholics who got it from the pagan Romans. The pagan Romans in turn got it from ancient Egypt where the cult of Osiris was vibrant. The Egyptian mythology tells us that Osiris, the king of ancient Egypt, was married to Queen Isis. The myth described Osiris as having been killed by his brother Set who wanted Osiris's throne. Isis briefly brought Osiris back to life by use of a spell that she learned from her father. This spell gave her time to become pregnant by Osiris before he again died. (In another version of the story, Isis is impregnated by divine fire.) Isis later gave birth to Horus. As such, since Horus was born after Osiris's resurrection, Horus came to be known as a representation of new beginnings and the vanquisher of the evil Set. This combination, Osiris-Horus, was therefore a life-death-rebirth deity, and thus associated with the new harvest each year. Afterward, Osiris became known as the Egyptian god of the dead, Isis became known as the Egyptian goddess of the children, and Horus became known as the Egyptian god of the sky or the “divine son of the heaven”.
There is a remarkable similarity between the myths of Osiris and Jesus. Osiris, the god of the afterlife, was reborn as Horus, the son of Isis. Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge finds possible parallels in Osiris's resurrection story with those found in Christianity: “In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child." Biblical scholar Professor George Albert Wells asserts that Osiris dies and is mourned on the first day and that his resurrection is celebrated on the third day with the joyful cry "Osiris has been found". In his book – Human Sacrifices, anthropologist and historian Nigel Davies asserts that "the agony of Osiris was a sacrifice with a universal message. As the one who died to save the many, and who rose from the dead, he was the first of a long line that has deeply affected man's view of this world and the next." He further argues that the passion and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is linked conceptually to Osirian and other traditions in the Ancient world.
After the death of Osiris, Isis propagated the doctrine of the survival of Osiris as a sprit being. She claimed that a full-grown evergreen tree had sprung from a dead tree stump, thus symbolizing the springing forth of the dead Osiris unto new life. She claimed that on each anniversary of his birth, Osiris would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. December 25 was the birthday of Osiris, reborn as the son Horus. That explains how Christmas got its origin. Over the generations Osiris came to be known as Baal, the Sun-god, amongst the Phoenicians, and as Jupiter in ancient Rome. The names varied in different countries and languages, but the worship of this false god continued.
According to Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc. Since Jews were identified as Christ-killers, for amusement of the public, Jews were forced by the Catholic Church to race naked through the streets of Rome. An eyewitness account from Pope Paul II’s reign in 1466 reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.” As part of the Christmas carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When in1836 the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Anti-Jewish frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw twelve Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed by frenzied Christians.
Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. But nowadays the festivity is widely celebrated wherever Christian community lives. In Egypt, the Coptic Christians celebrate the Christmas day on the 7th of January, corresponding to the 29th of "Kiahk" - a Coptic month. December 25 – Christmas Day – has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to come. Christmas around the world has become more of a cultural and commercial phenomenon than a sacred religious one.
In spite of its pagan origin and associated make-beliefs and customs, Christmas is observed by faithful Christians around the world as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Jesus, the son of Mary, surely was one of the greatest teachers of all time. In Islam, he is revered as a Prophet and mighty Messenger of God.

References:
For discussion around Jesus’s birth, see, e.g., Addison G. Wright, Roland E. Murphy, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “A History of Israel” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, (Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990), p. 1247; http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm
See the article by John F. Loftus, “Was Jesus born in Bethlehem?” that discusses controversies surrounding Jesus’s birthplace http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/12/was-jesus-born-in-bethlehem.html . See also: http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmaswwjb.htm; http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html;
E.A Wallis Budge, "Egyptian Religion",Ch2.
"Can we trust the New Testament?: thoughts on the reliability of early Christian testimony", George Albert Wells, p. 18, Open Court Publishing, 2004.
"Human Sacrifice",Davies, Nigel. William Morrow & Sons, p. 37 & p. 66-67, 1981.
David I. Kertzer, The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001, p. 74.
Ibid., pp. 33, 74-5.
http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm#_ftnref6
See, an explanation for the difference: http://www.christmasarchives.com/christmas_in_egypt.html
For an elaboration on Islamic understanding of Jesus, see, e.g., this author’s article: Isa’ – His life and mission, Media Monitors Network, Dec. 31, 2005: http://asiapacific.mediamonitors.net/layout/set/print/content/view/full/24656

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas, Jesus and Islam

This year the Christmas fell on Friday, which is also a day of Jumu’ah or the weekly gathering for Muslims when they pray together in mosques. To the Muslims, the Ashura, the tenth day of the blessed month of Muharram, falls on Sunday. Christmas is a holiday for most Americans who love to celebrate the occasion indoors with their loved ones. With colleges and universities closed and students returning homes to spend their winter vacation, air traffic during this time of the year is always very heavy and tickets are more expensive.
In my neighborhood there are quite a few churches. Most of these churches are non-Catholic ones. This explains why most of the parking lots were empty on this cold December day.
To a serious student of Christianity, much of Jesus’s life – from his birth and ministry to ascension unto heaven are all shrouded in mystery and myths. There is no way even to coincide Christmas with the actual birth day of Jesus. Christianity preceded Islam by roughly six centuries and is considered a sister religion. Jesus is known as ‘Isa (Alayhis Salam – meaning: peace be upon him) in the Islamic sources. For centuries, Muslim jurists and scholars have maintained that real Jesus - his life and mission – could only be understood from the Islamic sources. To them, it is the sole vantage point, from which it can be surveyed, because Islam is, after all, the inheritor of Christianity. Islam is the only religion that recognizes ‘Isa (AS) as what he was all about.
Let us now look at what the Qur’an says about this mysterious personality, ‘Isa (AS), the son of Maryam.
Birth:
And make mention of Maryam in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from you, if you are God fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of your Lord, that I may bestow on you a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal has touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said, So (it will be). Your Lord says, “It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. And she conceived him, and withdrew with him to a far place. And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of a palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this and had become a thing of nothing, forgotten! Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you. And shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you; you will cause ripe dates to fall upon you. So eat and drink and be consoled. And if you meet any mortal, say: Lo! I have vowed a fast unto the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal. Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Maryam! You have come with an amazing thing. Oh sister of Harun! Your father was not a wicked man nor was your mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spoke: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and has appointed me a Prophet. And has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive. And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and has not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive. Such was ‘Isa, son of Maryam, (this is) a statement of truth concerning which they doubt. (Surah Maryam, 19:16-34)
(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, ‘Isa, son of Maryam, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal has touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah creates what He wills. If he decrees a thing, He says unto it only: Be! And it is. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:45-47)
His likeness:
Lo! The likeness of ‘Isa with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and He said unto him: Be! And he is. This is the truth from your Lord (O Muhammad), so be not you of those who waver. And whoso disputes with you concerning him, after the knowledge which has come unto you, say (unto him): Come! We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, then will pray humbly (to our Lord) and (solemnly) invoke the curse of Allah upon who lie! (Surah al-e-Imran, 3:59-61) [Note: The challenge of Mubahala (solemn meeting) was issued by Prophet Muhammad (S) against Christians from Najran in 10 AH. They opted to pay jizya, instead.]
Mission and Miracles:
And He (God) will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Taurat and the Injil. And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel, (saying): Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah’s permission. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah’s permission. And I announce unto you what you eat and what you store up in your houses. Lo! Herein verily is a portent for you, if you are to be believers. And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Taurat, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me. Lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:48-51)
When Allah said: O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Remember My favor unto you and unto your mother; how I strengthened you with the holy Spirit (Ruhil Qudus), so that you spoke unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught you the Scripture and Wisdom and the Taurat and the Injil; and how you did shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and did blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and you did heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how did you raise the dead, by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) you when you came unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is nothing else than mere magic. And when I inspired the disciples, (saying): Believe in Me and in My messenger, they said: We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered (as Muslims). When the disciples said: O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Is your Lord able to send down for us a table spread with food from heaven? He said: Observe your duty to Allah, if you are true believers. (They said): We wish to eat thereof, that we may satisfy our hearts and know that you have spoken truth to us, and thereof we may be witnesses. ‘Isa, son of Maryam, said: O Allah, Lord of us! Send down for us a table spread with food from heaven, that it may be a feast for us, for the first of us and for the last of us, and a sign from You. Give us sustenance, for You are the Best of Sustainers. Allah said: Lo! I send it down for you. And whoso disbelieves of you afterward, him surely will I punish with a punishment wherewith I have not punished any of (My) creatures. (Surah al-Ma’idah 5:110-115)
When ‘Isa came with clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty), he said: I have come unto you with wisdom, and to make plain some of that concerning which you differ. So keep your duty to Allah, and obey me. Lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. This is the right path. (Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:63-4)
And when ‘Isa son of Maryam said: O Children of Israel Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Taurat, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who comes after me, whose name is Ahmad. Yet when he (Muhammad) has come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic. (Surah as-Saff, 61:6)
His identity:
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter anything concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah (Christ) ‘Isa, son of Maryam, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Maryam, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three (Trinity)” – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only one God. Far it is removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a slave unto Allah, nor will the favored angels. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:171-2)
The Messiah, son of Maryam, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how we make the revelation clear for them, and see how they turned away. (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:75)
Plot to kill him but God saved him:
And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers. (And remember) when Allah said: O ‘Isa! Lo! I am gathering you and causing you to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing you of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow you above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me you will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to wherein you used to differ. (Surah al-e-Imran, 3:54-55)
And because of their (Israelites) saying: We slew the Messiah ‘Isa, son of Maryam, Allah’s messenger – They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof except pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:157-8)
When Allah said, O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Remember My favor unto you and unto your mother; how I strengthened you with the holy Spirit (Ruhil Qudus), …and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) you when you came unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is nothing else than a mere magic. (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5: 110)
His second coming:
There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his (‘Isa’s) death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:159)
He (‘Isa) is nothing but a slave on whom We bestowed favor, and We made him a pattern for the Children of Israel. … And lo! he (‘Isa) shall verily be a Sign for the coming of the Hour. So doubt you not concerning it, but follow Me. This is the right path. (Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:59,61)
Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Disturbing news about Awami League Minister's involvement with a convicted criminal land-grabbing syndicate

Yesterday (Friday) was a very hectic day for me. My sleep was broken by an early morning call from my brother-in-law in Chittagong who mentioned that he had been called by the DC-North for a meeting to discuss Ansar deployment in our Khulshi properties. Some background information is necessary here to understand the issue.

After the land-grabbing goons were removed from our Khulshi properties in Chittagong in a Police raid more than four years and a half ago in June, 2005, we learned the hard way that we needed to have Ansar deployed to protect our properties from land-grabbing criminals that often prey upon the most vulnerable folks within our society. So, we had a contingent of armed Ansars deployed to secure our properties from evil land-grabbing criminals like Jaker Chowdhury (an ex-Rajakar and madrasa daptari), Ekramul Hoq Kaderi, Md. Shahjahan, Mahtabuddin, Momtazuddin, Manjurul Ahsan, Babul Haji, and many others.

In April 2005, during the BNP rule, the crime syndicate was able to get the blessings of Saqa Chowdhury (then adviser to PM Khaleda Zia) and his son Fazlul Quader Chowdhury (Fayyaz). Because of the politician's involvement in the land-grabbing crime, it became very difficult for the law enforcing agents in Bangladesh to evict the criminals from our properties who had evicted 16 tenant families and demolished nine homes. Initially they were reluctant always complaining that their hands were tied and that they were warned by Saqa and his APS Abu Bakr Siddiq not to meddle in the land-grab of our properties. It was really an uphill battle for us who had lived in our properties since the late 1950s.

Fortunately, there were some honest police officers who were willing to risk their career to do what was right and just, without taking any bribe or any other incentive. And Allah is witness to what I write here. Mr Abdullahel Baki (an engineering graduate from BUET who had joined the Police force after passing the BCS exam), then DC-North, investigated and found that we were victims of a criminal land-grabbing syndicate that was led by Jaker Chowdhury (who goes by the name Jaker master). After consulting with all the OCs under his jurisdiction, the CMP Police Commissioner Md. Majadul Haque was courageous enough to call for a police raid against the goons in our properties in June of 2005 and eventually succeeded in evicting them and arresting a couple of low-level criminals. For such courageous activities of calling a spade a spade, Mr Abdullahel Baki, however, was promptly transferred from Chittagong and even sued by the criminal syndicate. Everything was so difficult those days. No government minister and MP was willing to come to the aid of a victim. Even my own classmate, Mahmudur Rahman (Bulbul), then a favorite of PM and his son Tareq, who was the Chairman of BOI, betrayed my trust and did not do anything to alleviate our pains. PM's military secretary was also afraid that he would risk his career if he relayed my letter to the PM on the land-grabbing crime committed by one of her own advisers. I found them to be cowards and self-serving opportunists. The PM's brother Said Iskandar whom I had met in April in his Dandy Dyeing office did not do anything either towards relaying my letter to the PM.

After being advised by Mia Md. Mostaq, then Divisional Commissioner, and Bangladesh Ambassador (to the USA) Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, I met with Saqa in the PMO soon after his return from Singapore where he had an heart surgery a few days before. No positive outcome came from that meeting either. It looked so hopeless. No justice could be found in Bangladesh. Except Allah's help we could not hope for any positive outcome. And Allah's help came through quarters we least expected!

When the military-backed Care-taker Government came to power in January 11, 2007, and the criminal Jaker was put behind the prison walls, we felt relieved and temporarily withdrew the Ansar, hoping that we won't be revisited by the episode of 2005. But we were wrong. After spending only five weeks, Jaker managed to get free. We later learned that he had tied knots with Lt. Gen. Masuddin. The latter was a student of the Dampara Police Line School when Jaker was a daptari there. So, apparently Jaker was able to seek his help. Probably emboldened by such a connection at the military command, he and his goons tried to break into our properties in January 30 of 2008. We simply could not believe that any criminal would have such guts to do an evil crime under military watch! The corrupt OC of Khulshi Thana was bought by the syndicate before the incursion, who won't respond to our frantic calls for help against the goons. Eventually, after much reluctance, when the police moved in, the goons had left after demolishing our guard house and partially breaking our boundary wall.

After that second attempt by criminal land-grabbing syndicate to grab our properties, we sought the Ansar deployment again. And we have the Ansar deployed again to secure our properties.

After the AL Mahajote government came to power, we all expected that our days of suffering are probably over. After all, the goons were connected previously with the BNP. But we are continuously proven wrong. We forget that in Bangladesh, these powerful land-grabbing criminals have long arms and are always adaptable to find new sponsors, partners and goons to commit their haram activities, totally oblivious of their accountability to Allah on the day of Judgment. With long beards, long kurta, tasbih in hand, and a fitting cap, Jaker even presents himself as a pious man, more like the image one gets of the devil (Shaytan) who had dressed up as an Arab sheikh who conspired with the pagan Arabs to plot the murder of our Prophet Muhammad (S) some 14 centuries ago. It is often difficult for a magistrate, judge or police officer to believe what is behind this evil man. He and his syndicate are well known for forgery, extortion, money laundering and terrorism, and wish to grab illegally properties of many residents of Chittagong with forged power of attorney and deeds. Even the Ispahani Properties is part of their targeted land-grab.

Our family has sued Jaker and his goons for their criminal activities, in which they were found guilty and sentenced to 6.5 year prison term. But nowadays it seems so easy to get bails from the High Court. And as such, after serving only a few weeks, he and his inner circle are free on bail, and continues to plot to illegally grab properties of vulnerable citizens.

We just learned that Jaker was able to now find a new sponsor - Planning Minister (Retd.) Air Vice Marshal A.K. Khandker. When I heard this I simply could not believe it. A letter from the minister's office has been sent to Police to ensure that Ansar is withdrawn from our properties. The reason is not difficult to understand. With Ansars gone, Jaker would be able to trespass our properties with hundreds of his hired goons. I don't know how much share of the potential loot has the minister been promised by Jaker. But this kind of development under the watch of the new government shows that certain things don't change in Bangladesh. Politicians come and go, but criminals remain and always find new partners for their crimes. Allah help us all against such criminals. They plot and Allah plots, and Allah is the best of the Plotters!

Climate, Tiger and Health

For the last few days, I have been pondering what to write about for a weekly column in an Internet site. It is not always easy to find a topic to write about. Well, the climate summit in Copenhagen where both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton participated is definitely an important one for all, and surely for someone like me who was born in Bangladesh – a country that has been projected as one of the worst potential sufferers of the climate change. But the subject seemed too boring with all the coverage it already had received from the media. Very few readers may not have known or read about it. If you still have not, here is the latest news. The U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that a "deal has been reached" that could be the framework for a binding global climate change treaty. "Finally we sealed the deal and it is a real deal. Bringing world leaders to the table paid off," Ban said. "The Copenhagen Accord may not be everything that everyone hoped for but this decision of the conference of parties is a beginning, an essential beginning." Moon said the non-binding deal called for all countries to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius. He said the deal was a step toward creating a legally binding treaty. "The deal is backed by money and the means to deliver it. Up to $30 billion has been pledged for adaptations and mitigation," Ban said. But don’t be surprised if at the last moment something different putting a dent to the wishful claims of Ban happens.

Then there is the story of the week about Tiger Woods’s infidelity. If you don’t know already, Tiger is the best known professional golf player of our time. Last year he made $110 million from his wins and endorsements, making him the richest sportsman. The Associated Press recently honored him as the Athlete of the Decade. Everything seemed to have been going right for this talented athlete, married to a former Swedish model, well until now. Recently he was revealed as a cheating husband who had extra-marital sexual relationship with more than a dozen girls and prostitutes. It is not the kind of image his sponsors had hoped of him all these years. A USA Today/Gallup poll taken in December 2009 found that Tigers’s "favorable" rating fell to 33 percent in December from 85 percent in June 2005, and 88 percent in 2000. Thus, sponsors are now dropping him like a wiped tissue in the toilet. His 29-year old wife Elin Nordegren is leaving him, too. A source close to Woods's wife told ABC Wednesday that a "divorce is 100 percent on." Nordegren was recently photographed without her wedding ring. There are new reports that Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren have already begun the divorce process.

But probably the most important event of this week is the Democratic Party Healthcare Bill at the Senate floor. The Democratic Party got an early Christmas present when the U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson (Democrat) of Nebraska on Saturday threw his support behind the Democrats' health care reform bill, giving the party the crucial backing it needed to avoid a Republican filibuster that would prevent a Senate vote. The Senate could vote on the entire bill, a top priority of President Obama, before Christmas. The vote will be along the party line.

Obama said the Senate's health care reform bill would be the largest deficit-reduction measure in a decade. "We are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality," he said. "With today's developments, it now appears that the American people will have the vote they deserve on genuine reform that offers security to those who have health insurance and affordable options for those who do not." According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would offer a decrease in the deficit of $132 billion over the first decade, and more than $1 trillion in the 10 years after that, Obama said at a brief news conference.

You may recall from my past columns that the health care reform bill was not going anywhere with the opposition from the Republican Party, especially the traitorous activity of Joe Lieberman, the Jewish senator from Connecticut. He is an Independent senator, and not a Democrat any more. He was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 and is known as a very hawkish, war party candidate, with an unwavering allegiance to the rogue state of Israel. Last week, the Democrats were counting on his support for the health bill after the public option was removed to appease him and several conservative Democrats. But Joe Lieberman betrayed his Senate colleagues and the American people once again. Lieberman appeared on the Sunday talk shows, vowing to work with Republicans to kill the bill. His opponents have dumped him as “traitorous”, “spiteful” and an individual who “has no shame”. Now with Ben Nelson’s endorsement, it seems the health bill is not going to be made a hostage to the evil ploys and tricks of Lieberman.

Lastly, we had almost 18 inches of snow in the Philadelphia area on Saturday, breaking all previous records of snow accumulation at this time of the year. I spent nearly two hours to clear snow from my driveway during the early afternoon. At the time, we had about 8 to 10 inches of snow. As I write, another 10 inches have piled up which I need to remove before it freezes to solid ice. I have to get back to snow shoveling now. So long from snowy Philadelphia! Keep warm! Best wishes of the holiday season!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama’s Nobel Speech - explaining the doubts to his selection

This year when the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to confer its much cherished Peace Prize on President Barack Husain Obama, many people were caught by surprise, including the president himself. After all, Obama has just become the president of the USA -- a country that has been at war since the Bush days of 2001. Those wars are still raging on. The much promised shut down of the Guantanamo Bay prison site, an election campaign promise, has not happened; it is still operating. To most folks, peace seems an illusion today. There’s hardly anything substantial achieved that could have justified bestowing such an honor to a sitting president, and surely not of the USA, except probably one – selling an idea - hope to the entire world. And this he sold rather brilliantly not only during his hard-won election campaign against Hillary Clinton and John McCain - the sure choices for the war party, but also during his first few days in the oval office.
And who could forget Obama’s speech last year in Berlin when he introduced himself “not as a candidate for President” of the USA but as “a fellow citizen of the world?” With those words, he electrified his audience and millions of TV viewers. He said, “I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.” To break the barriers between people of all races, colors and religions, he said, "The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand … The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand.” He solidified the bonding by continuing, “This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons… This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday… This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably… This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East… This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet… And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world.” He ended his speech by saying, “People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.” Simply brilliant! There was nothing else to say. It was a complete speech. With that speech in Berlin, Obama had virtually transformed himself to becoming their candidate – a world candidate.
So when the Nobel Committee bestowed the award last week for “efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” it was the world citizenry that celebrated most. After all, Obama is their man. The Prize was theirs. The celebrities came from all over the world to Oslo to celebrate the event in a concert hall (although the President could not attend it because of his busy schedule back home). There were the blues and jazz duo sensations - Amadou and Maryam from Mali, Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean, Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang, American singers Toby Keith and Donna Summer, and others including American actor Will Smith who hosted the event with his wife Jada. Who cares that Obama has not delivered much of that dream – hope - to deserve the Peace Prize! The Nobel Peace Prize has always been controversial anyway! Even the terrorist Menachem Begin had won it before, and so did Henry Kissinger! Obama surely is better than either of them; at least, up till now!
Still, doubts lingered on his selection and Obama knew that he had to explain why he was chosen for the coveted prize. And this he did rather impressively last Thursday in his 36-minute address. He defended the idea that some wars were necessary and just, and appealed for greater international efforts for peace. It was a mix of idealism and realism, implicitly criticizing both the ideals of non-violence of M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as being deficient to deal with the dangers of the world, and the cowboy, trigger-happy instinct of President George W. Bush as too quick to set aside fundamental American values in pursuit of national security. So, he sounded to favor pragmatism over absolutes. He was applauded when he renewed his pledge to ban torture and close the prison at the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. “We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend,” President Obama said. “And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it is easy, but when it is hard.”
As we all can appreciate it has not been an easy ride for the President. He finds himself bumping up against the harsh realities of international conflict and diplomacy, with an inherited devastated economy that is yet to show real positive signs of recovery, even after so much of government infusion. He is a president waging two wars abroad, albeit, both inherited from his hawkish predecessor. He’s sending some 30,000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan, which can even transform into America’s Vietnam, prolonging troops-pullout from there. Iraq is still bleeding. The drone attacks inside Pakistan are continuing. The war zone has simply broadened. The Zionist settler regime in Israel, with support from the U.S. Congress, is not showing any sign towards a peaceful resolution of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many within his own administration, including the hawkish Secretary of State, want nothing short of opening yet another warfront with Iran. Many neo-conservatives, dormant but not dead, still preach the wisdom of war to solve America’s economic conundrum.

There is little doubt that the Nobel Peace prize was bestowed as a down payment for what the Europeans wanted from America's foreign policy. They want President Obama to deliver peace – the hope that he gave to the world in his maiden speech some 17 months ago in Berlin – now the heart of modern Europe. Can he give meaning to that expectation?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The BNP National Convention, 2009 - some questions that beg answers

I have some questions for the BNP leadership.
What is your comment about life-long chairwomanship of the BNP party that has been bestowed on Madam Zia by altering party's constitution?
Don't you think you are setting precedence for a dictatorial practice through endorsing such a process in your latest national convention?
Don't you also think that by making Tareq Zia the Senior Vice President you are ensuring his eventual leadership should the Madam retire?
Is this anything short of a dynastic rule? Is it desirable for our country?
How are these newer changes different than your accusation against BKSAL?
Don't you think that our people can read through the changes to see the obvious parallel?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Cultural Coolies in our midst - an observation on some new immigrants to the West

A couple of days ago I was forwarded the link to an article written about the Swiss ban on the minarets by a migrant researcher, refugee from Bangladesh who immigrated to Canada, and now works for the APCSS, a US government funded institute that looks into security issues of the Asia-Pacific region. The article was posted in a familiar site - Averroes Press, managed by a very controversial Canadian Muslim of Pakistani extract. The site has been trying to present itself in the post-9/11 era as a voice of "moderate" Muslims of Canada. In the post-9/11 era, I have come to know about few of those "moderate" zealots, and found them to be no better than other violent extremists. They claim to be great proponents of moderation, modernity, reform of Islam and its people, which are all great virtues, but a discussion with them show their ignorance; they don't know what all those high sounding words mean. They like immigrant Muslims to appear and behave like the natives of their adopted land (like the crow that dressed up as the peacock in children's storybook), but have no knowledge that it takes generations before a true change of customs, culture and traditions can take root. They all appear to be highly emotional, unbalanced and confused immigrants who have no clue as to what the sociological terms like assimilation and alienation mean. The sad part is they wanted to behave more American or Canadian than a native American or Canadian.

Many of these folks, as I already hinted above, are first generation refugees or immigrants to the western world. Many of them had settled into their adopted countries solely for better economic opportunities, something that has been either denied or appeared to have been shut to them in their countries of origin. Many of these new refugees did not go to schools, colleges or universities in the West to know better. They came as economic labors/migrants/coolies to make a better earning. There is obviously nothing wrong about bettering one's financial standing, if such should bring prosperity and buy happiness. But what has been troubling is their slavish attitude. To them the idea of being accepted at any cost, even religion, appeared the most important goal of their life - the reason of their very existence. It is what a sufi master once called the "hazrat-e Imam dollar" attitude.

Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) wants to ban burqa in Canada (note: the ex-Muslims of Faith Freedom Internationally had vowed to ban the Qur'an). What good does such actions do to our community? It is no accident that the MCC is viewed by bulk of Canadian Muslims as a very controversial group that has attracted some "confused" immigrants to oppose anything that the mainstream Muslims care about. That is the overriding perception! For it to succeed, have the MCC leaders ever checked how its activities are perceived by people within its own community? Can you be a change agent without preparing the ground, and without even studying and learning about what worked and what did not in the past with similar initiatives, and why? I failed to see such critical studies done within the MCC, at least not from what I read from their articles.

To these "moderates" unfortunately, any rational Muslim who disagrees with their litmus test, illogical conclusions, innuendos, speculations and assertions, and offering a different take on an issue, ought to be an Islamist or a Jihadist, derogatory terms borrowed from the hatemongers of Islam; and what else. So close-minded fanatics these people are that you can't have a reasonable debate with them; they behave and act like brain-dead individuals or zombies. If you disagree with their notions, you are promptly considered an extremist Muslim. How wonderful!

I found this sad truth the hard way very recently. When the article by Raheel Raza on Swiss banning of the minaret was brought to my attention by the new migrant researcher, I had little inkling about gangsterism of his group of fanatics, the so-called moderate Muslims. I objected to some flaws of the author in her inability to look into the issue objectively. Unfortnately, his gang of "moderates", like hungry wolves and vultures, ganged up on me, hurling abuses. I was called everything that one can find in the vocabulary of the Pipesland. Forgotten was the very subject we were debating about. To them, I must have been a Jihadist, extremist, fanatic to have considered the Swiss ban self-defeating, stupid, xenophobic and wrong. Is President Obama a Jihadist too? How about the UN that condemned the Swiss decision? Truly, these fanatic "moderates" were no better than fanatics of the Mukto-mona or FFI brigade.

What was also so strange that on the surface some of these fanatics appeared to be well educated, teaching in colleges. But their behavior showed they were no better than savages and were not capable of having or conducting an intellectual debate on a contentious subject. Truly, their pathetic behavior was like a joke to the profession they work for and institutions that they got their degrees from. I was told that Siddiqur Osmani, an ultra-ego-centric maniac, behaving like 'ami key honure', albeit "moderate" zealot, teaches development economics at a less than mediocre university -- Ulster University, Ireland, UK. [I am told by some academic experts in his area that Osmani has failed to demonstrate originality in his research work and basically borrows heavily from others' ideas and thoughts. That is, he has not contributed anything original in his field of development economics. I was disappointed to learn that he had not written a single paper on "development strategy" on Bangladesh.] Another guy - Wali Mondal - teaches at an unaccredited university in California. (I am reminded by some keen observers that most of these guys won't have a job in any prestigious government university in Bangladesh.) And as to the researcher, the little said the better. I first came to know him a few years ago when he wrote some positive reviews of my articles in the NFB and some discussion forums. At one time, I even tried to find a match for his daughter. We have exchanged e-mails and phone calls many times. He would often send me his manuscripts for review, which I would and then promptly share my comments with him to correct flaws, if any. He is in the habit of making mountains out of moles, exaggerating little events, presenting outliers as the norms; obviously, he lacks knowledge of statistical methods for data analysis. In order to justify his job, he has been in the habit of manufacturing stories, massaging data so that he can prove Bangladesh as a terrorist den, a failed country. I have tried to correct him in the past but without any success. His behavior is nothing short of treason to the very country that nurtured him when he and his family fled from communal India  during the partition of British India. If these be the character of our 'moderate' academics, what good will students learn from such narrow minded teachers? And then there are guys like Matin Ahmed, Lutfur Rahman and Mustafa Chowdhury (of Ottawa) whose slavish behaviors are downright comical and ridiculous to be taken them as serious human beings that care about truth and honesty. They were vulgar, obscene and mean-spirited. Clowns!

During my e-mail exchanges, commenting on the article by Raheel, I was continuously reminded by their utter stupidity, lack of civility and comprehension. I could not understand why they failed to see what was so obvious? They behaved like RAND robots, morons, programmed zombies to repeat things taught to them by the likes of Pipes & Co. of the Jerusalem Summit and Campus Crusade. They started with the assumption that any Muslim condemning the Swiss minaret ban must be a jihadist. That is a behavior one expects from close minded fanatics, puppets and stooges of their masters. I was simply amused to find that they considered themselves to be 'moderate' Muslim 'intellectuals'! But sadly, there was no moderation in their behavior, no intelligence, no common sense, and only stupidity and arrogance. It was a disgusting and disconcerting experience for me, which I may never forget. I blame myself for being sucked into the researcher's sly invitation to participate in a debate of that sort. If he was an honorable person, he should have reined on his gang. I felt totally betrayed, as if I was in a tent surrounded by dagger-wielding hoodlums who wanted to stab me for appearing there, to whom no reasoning was good enough. They behaved like people who had no brain, no analytical or deductive reasoning, and only puffed up ego. They were quite old folks, at least 8 years older than me. But as it showed, wisdom is not something that they possessed, nor the maturity to have a productive discussion in a civic way. From the very outset of the debate, the message was clear that if you want to participate in their discussion, you better accept and swallow it, or shut up and leave. You can't have debate with the blind, deaf and morons. Not with such 'moderates.'

These "moderates" were trying to sanctify the Swiss decision, blaming it all on our 1.5 plus billion Muslims. Forgotten were the context, content and place. As I mentioned that guys like Osmani had worked in the academic world. But they had no clue about how to draw inferential conclusions from data, and how to look at data objectively. With little to no knowledge of science and mathematics (note: in places like South Asia, students who are poor in math, analytical/deductive reasoning, and with poor SSC/HSC scores usually end up going to subjects like political science, history, religion, sociology, etc.), most of these guys were drawing conclusions from outliers (i.e., the rare events), the special causes, and not common causes. It was not unusual to notice that most of these guys appear to be social/political scientists. No wonder, with their failure to objectively analyze data and draw scientific conclusions, they have been so wrong with most of their stupid, moronic, half-baked findings. Strange though it may sound, one of these fanatics was presented as having published papers. But what good does such papers do when they are all based on half-baked research work, without credible data, correct analysis, lacking originality, published in third-rate papers and journals? That is the sad story about their scholarship! Simply pathetic!

Coming back to the Swiss debate, I am under no illusion that what the Swiss voters did was stupid and xenophobic. It is bound to strengthen the very forces that they claim to be defeating or fighting against. They forgot the basic: they simply can't preach freedom and equality all over the world while denying their own Muslim minority citizens the right to a religious symbol. And yet to the 'moderate' Muslims, the Swiss action was a perfect one - a justifiable one. Their behavior typified those of the House Niggers and cultural coolies.

What is also so hilarious is that they believed that they were intellectuals, and belonged to a higher plane than those who had differed with them. They forget that before masquerading as intellectuals they ought to understand the underlying meaning of the term. They also ought to read the experiment with Reform Judaism of the 19th century Europe before prescribing such tablets to fellow Muslims. Shame on them!

Monday, December 7, 2009

More on the Swiss minaret controversy

I beg to differ with the writer of an article "When Church Bells sound in Saudi Arabia, then Minarets can rise in Europe" that was published in a website in Canada: AverroesPress.com. The greatest disservice the article does is in terms of comparing apples to oranges. The two countries in the title - Switzerland and Saudi Arabia - are different in so many ways. I could have believed such a provocative title from a hateful moron from the Pipesland (the xenophobe lackeys of Daniel Pipes, e.g., Dr. Khorshed A. Chowdhury who writes under pseudonym Syed Kamran Mirza; Abul Kasem and the MM/FF brigades of Ali Sina) but not from a serious thinking Muslim. Comparing the two countries and trying to say that if the Saudis had done "X", the Swiss would do "Y" is not analysis but paralysis of the ability to think rationally.

The Swiss action by the electorates show that the constitution of a country can be hijacked by the whims of a rogue majority. I don't here doubt that in a liberal democracy people have the right to even change the constitution, rewrite it, amend it and even dump it. [Digression: In a democracy, it is perfectly alright for a people to openly practice sodomy and anything, which may be commonly perceived as perversions from religious views, as long as the people say it is okay with such practices. That is, God has no place in dictating how should people behave. It is people who decide.] But none of those changes have happened with the constitution in Switzerland except that the xenophobic Swiss now made it a law to ban a symbol of Islam, and thereby relaying a message that Islam or Muslims are not welcome. The message is loud and clear for all to hear and see, and is a culmination of a long train of xenophobia exhibited for quite some time, esp. in the aftermath of 9/11, in a country that showcases itself as a model of direct (liberal) democracy. Thanks also to the organizers of Jerusalem Summit of Daniel Pipes to sell their brand of hatred across the western world!

Would the Vatican Authority allow a mosque, temple or synagogue to be erected in its soil? The answer is a simple one: no. While there are non-Christian visitors and workers there, there is no non-Christian citizen; the place is a symbol of Christianity; and its residents like to keep it that way. In spite of the fact that Saudi Arabia, in contrast, is a much bigger country (and not a city state) than the Vatican with lots of functionalities of a modern state, it still likes to portray itself as the custodian of the two major Muslim houses of worship in Islam. The Saudi Arabia has no non-Muslim citizen either. It has some non-Muslim migratory workers there though, working mostly outside the two holy cities. Whether we approve or not, it has a system - dynasty that tries to interpret laws from Islamic sources, mostly the Qur'an and the (hard-core Wahabisitic) sunnah. (And as we all know, that system in itself is considered illegal or flawed by many Muslim jurists.) Following the dictates of a very well-known hadith restricting construction of non-Muslim places of worship in Madinah, the Saudi regime thus far, has avoided permitting construction of such structures in its soil. It has not ratified many of the so-called human rights/laws and conventions that it considers opposing its understanding of Islam or more broadly, the Shariah. It is not a liberal democracy where demos dictate the outcome of how a country should be run. What is Vatican to the Christians, and Catholics, in particular, the Saudi Arabia is to hundreds of millions of Muslims today. And yet, who knows, one day, Saudi Arabia itself may allow construction of non-Muslim houses of worship in cities outside Makkah and Madinah, to cater to the religious needs of non-Muslim temporary residents! FYI: outside, Saudi Arabia, however, every other Arab country (including Sudan) I know of or visited has already many non-Muslim houses of worship. Iran, BTW, still has not stopped any religious community to build theirs either. Even the Iranian Jews (in spite of rhetoric of the current regime against the Israeli Zionist entity) are represented in the Assembly there, something that we cannot see in many parts of the western world for the Muslim people (including the USA, where only two congressmen are Muslims - while the Muslim population numbers approx. 2.5%).

Now let's look at Switzerland. It's a direct democracy and not a dynasty of the kind we have in Saudi Arabia. The confederation is a home to many world bodies, including the WTO and Red Cross. Its constitution - federal state in nature - drew inspiration from the USA and is similar in many ways to ours in the USA, allowing for two houses, more like our senate and house of representatives. Its women were granted voting rights in the Cantons since 1959 and at the federal level since 1971, although actual process started rolling since only 1990. While roughly 3 in 4 Swiss consider them to come from Christian background, almost 1 in 3 consider oneself to be either an atheist or an agnostic. The Muslim citizens comprise approx. 5-6% of the population. So, the Swiss Muslims are not temporary workers or aliens. They are citizens of Switzerland. The current law banning minaret in Switzerland has sent a message that they don't represent the country, or that they are not welcome, unless, of course, they renounce Islam and become like them. (This behavior is nothing new since the days of the Prophet (S) when the the Qur'an warned Muslims of the kuffar doctrine: unless Muslims abandon Islam, they won't be accepted by them.) That has been the message of all the messengers of hatred since the dawn of time; not integration, not pluralism, but downright alienation (which is worse than cultural assimilation)! Funny that they like to put on the garb of a liberal, democrat, and liberated human being to whom religion is less important! No one should fall for that hollow brand of humanism! The Swiss through their hateful law has shown their real identity - they are a bunch of hypocrites, closet racists, xenophobes and bigots -- by any definition. When these apes utter borrowed words of human rights, they mean it for themselves and not for non-Europeans, and surely not Muslims. Their actions, whether these be in France, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland or any of the European countries, show that racism and bigotry are in their genes, and that the World War II has miserably failed to enlighten the sons and daughters of Europe. Shame on Switzerland and her bigots, bunch of hypocrites!

What also saddens me, as clearly demonstrated by the writer of the above article, is that many Muslims are falling into the traps of Rand robots, taking us like the Pied piper of the Hamelin, preaching us that we need to grab the tails of these bigots so as to be recognized as their equals. These Rand robots tell us that we need to behave like myopic rats and follow the trails of our predecessors, without which we should not be here in the West; as if, we should pack up and go back to the lands of our ancestors. In their sermon, I see a copy cat of the Reformed Judaism of the 19th century. Someone may like to study that subject seriously before preaching us about its wisdom. They may like to have a chat with our distinguished scholar and researcher Joachim Martillo before getting too excited with that experiment. Shame on our Rand robots who can't think independently and are only good at repeating their Masters' voices like puppets!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Swiss Ban on Minarets

The Al-Jazeera (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/12/200912142216681985.html) and the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/opinion/01Tue3.html?th&emc=th) today reported that Switzerland in a referendum vote backed a constitutional ban on the construction of new minarets.
The ban on the minaret in Zurich again demonstrates how hateful and xenophobic the Europeans are. And this is happening in a place which for decades has been considered to be a neutral progressive country, away from nasty politics of Europe and America. Through this ban, the ugly face of Europe is unmasked once again for all to see. They talk about human rights and freedom of religious practices, but all such talks are hollow and hypocritical. Bangladesh can teach these hypocrites a thing or two about religious pluralism.

Many years ago, when I was writing a piece on European racism, my research brought to my attention the fact that in Greece there was no single Masjid. Government there had not allowed construction, so most of the Muslims were forced to use basements or halls to pray. And yet these same guys would tell you that we should allow for a temple or church in Saudi Arabia where there is not a single non-Muslim citizen. As to the rest of the Arab world, there are many temples and churches everywhere. And compare that to Switzerland where the Muslim population is estimated to be 6%. Only a hypocrite can ask about a church in Makkah and Medina with absolute zero percent Christian population while denying the same right to 6% Muslims who are citizens.

I am not surprised by the Swiss reaction. Switzerland is no different than Sarkozy's France or any other European nation.

Tom Friedman’s Dishonest Narratives

In his more recent article "America vs. the Narrative", the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman writes, "Major Hasan was just another angry jihadist..." (NY Times, Nov. 28, 2009). I beg to differ with such an assertion, which sounds so moronic and unbelievable. One could have accepted such a pronouncement from a simpleton, but when it comes from someone like Tom Friedman it is quite unnerving or discomforting. I am inclined to think that Friedman’s allegation here is rather symptomatic of his general anti-Muslim, or more specifically anti-Arab, bias, which he has been displaying more frequently.

I must admit that I have never been a fan of Tom whose opinion pieces appeared too shallow and flimsy, lacking thorough research or analysis. When it comes to Israel, he is a very biased individual, always forgiving, let alone overlooking, the horrendous crimes of his co-religionists – the Zionist usurpers against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. I can remember his editorial pieces in the New York Times since at least 2001 when he showed his moral bankruptcy through his reprehensible support for hard-core Zionism, practiced by the war criminals like Sharon and Netanyahu. He appeared too disingenuous -- more like a closet Likudnik than a sincere journalist who was able to rise above his religious feelings to call a spade a spade.

Tom’s view on Major Nidal Malik Hasan is racist, xenophobic and highly prejudicial, mimicking those of neocons, reactionaries, Islamophobes and others generally hostile to President Obama. He ignores the more plausible explanation for the Major’s behavior -- as a troubled and tormented individual who “snapped,” breaking down psychologically under the stress of his awful predicament, a view that is held by the President when he said, “Even within the extraordinary military that we have — and I think everybody understands how outstanding the young men and women in uniform are under the most severe stress — there are going to be instances in which an individual cracks.” (New York Times, November 10, 2009) In a recent discussion with a famous Canadian psychiatrist, who has authored several books, I was told that people like him who listen to mental patients and PTSD victims are vulnerable human beings who are under immense mental stress, and thus, it is not unusual for them to ‘snap’ once in a while. They can also suffer from emotional breakdown to the extent of showing emotional bankruptcy. So stressful is the job that many of these psychiatrists are not able to look after more than one patient per week.

Webster Tarpley offers a third explanation for the Army psychiatrist’s behavior: the Major could have been a patsy in the context of a relatively sophisticated operation mounted by forces within the intelligence community. According to him, “Like all patsies, Major Hasan combines the flamboyant and bombastic proclamation of his personal creed with a seeming immunity from bureaucratic countermeasures which would normally be automatic in shutting him down. Hasan is revealed as a fanatic, a misfit, and a quasi-psychotic or psychotic mental case in his own right ¬ who could not subsist without protectors in high places of the US intelligence community.” Early reports from the crime scene suggested that the troops thought that it was a drill until they saw people bleeding and screaming. Some of the troops thought that the gunfire was a training exercise. This array of eye-witness accounts allows Tarpley to ask the following question: “If so many of the Army personnel on the scene thought at first that the incident was a drill, did Major Hasan also think he was attending a drill? Did he imagine that he was going to be an actor playing the assigned role of a member of the terrorist red team in a realistic exercise? In other words, was this inept, troubled and quasi-psychotic individual somehow under the impression that he was attending an officially sanctioned exercise of some routine type, until real bullets began to be fired by other more qualified shooters, thus taking the drill live? This might also help us to account for the extraordinary intensity of firing at the scene ¬ well over 100 rounds. For this working hypothesis to stand up, we would have to show that there were other gunmen firing ¬ gunmen who knew that the drill was turning into a real massacre. The additional shooters would according to the classification referred to above represent the technicians in this action ¬ the trained killers who have the ability to do the things that the patsy is accused of doing. Interestingly enough, extra gunmen are exactly what we find.”

Since the alleged shooter Nidal is reported to be alive, we hope to hear his side of the real story – away from the speculations made by Tom and others -- when he faces military court.

As hinted above, I consider Tom Friedman to be a disingenuous journalist whose own narratives have always tried to shield his criminal co-religionists in Israel from charges of war crimes and extermination campaigns against the Palestinian people. Thus, when Israeli forces were committing one of the worst savageries in Dec. ’08 – Jan. ’09, he had the audacity to write, “The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it’s all too familiar. It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?” Those sentences say a lot about the poisonous mindset of the journalist who refuses to see the obvious! To charlatans like him the Goldstone Report on Gaza, highly critical of the war crimes of the Zionist regime, must be an eyesore!

Tom is too critical of the Muslim world, accusing its leaders of providing a narrative that posits America having declared war on Islam, as part of a grand “American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy” to keep Muslims down. Can he honestly say that there is no such conspiracy? Why then practice double-standard against any Muslim country that wants to be energy sufficient? Why a different yardstick for Iran, while Israel presumably has more than 300 nuclear bombs? Why no solution has yet been found for a just and equitable solution to the 61-year old Palestine-Israel conflict? Who thwarted the latest peace initiative to kneel down before the Israeli demand for continuing illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Territories? Why was the unbiased Goldstone Report on Gaza declared biased and unreliable by the USA government and the Amen Center in the Capitol Hill? Does the West prefer democracy in the Muslim world over lackeys that will listen to their master’s voice? Does it like al-Jazeera when it shows the real faces of the war and occupation? Why is Islamophobia on the rise all over Europe and the USA? Who are fueling this campaign? Wasn’t Islamophobia evident in the reaction to the Dubai Ports World deal? Why are the elected members with Islamic leanings described as ‘Islamo-fascists’, ignoring the fact that they had won an election? What happened in Algeria and Somalia? Why is the outcome of Iran’s presidential election not welcomed in the West? No, we won’t have answers for any of these from Tom. He has been supportive of the Bush Jr.'s wars that brought down the Taliban and the Baathist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. His narratives seldom mention the very people who are supposed to benefit from the change in politics there. Has he ever interviewed any victim of American naked aggression that had witnessed the death of a loved one? Sure, we have the corrupt Karzai government running in place of the fundamentalist Taliban government, but has peace come to Afghanistan even after churning and demolishing the war-ravaged country? Why is Iraq bleeding today some six years after Bush invaded the country?

Commenting on Muslim reaction to the Fort Hood incident, Tom writes, “Whenever something like Fort Hood happens you say, ‘This is not Islam.’ I believe that. But you keep telling us what Islam isn’t. You need to tell us what it is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques. If this is not Islam, then why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God? You need to explain that to us — and to yourselves.”

I have some suggestions for Tom. If he is sincere to find answers to his question - what Islam is all about, how about starting with my book – Islamic Wisdom or Wisdom of Mankind? (And there are many such books that are available in western languages today to understand what Islam teaches on every matter, including dealings, etiquette, rights and obligations.) If he is interested in procuring a copy, he can contact me or the Canadian publisher. If he is interested in learning what is taught in our schools and mosques, he is welcome to visit ours. I can also take him to some other mosques and schools, which would allow him to do a comparative analysis and stop stereotyping. He may be surprised to find out that what is taught and preached in our schools and mosques is better in terms of promoting tolerance than his own synagogue. Tom is dead wrong about Muslim protests against suicide bombers. He may like to read news reports outside his NY Times for such information. See, for instance, the BBC news report: Protest against Bangladesh bombs (9 December, 2005). And there are many such examples of protests against such terrorists that I can cite from the Muslim world. Tom can look at the Informed Comments of Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan for a collection of statements condemning terrorism from notable fuqaha in Islam. Tom may not like to know the ugly truth that intelligence reports suggest that in many such suicide attacks, the finger prints of Mossad and RAW are all over.

As I have maintained all along when someone compares our worst examples with the best of the western world, it is not analysis but a paralysis of rational thinking. While the mass murderers and child-killers like Bush and Netanyahu may be role models for Tom, let him know that guys like Zarqawi and Molla Omar are not my role models and surely not for the overwhelming majority of Muslims. As much as we hate and deplore wholeheartedly their brutality and terrorism, we are not thrilled by the savage standard set by Bush & Blair either. If they had any civility, these bigots would not have treated captured soldiers of the Taliban like animals or denied their elementary rights according to the Geneva Convention. As I write this response, an American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base. The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions. The former detainees interviewed by the Times said they were held at the site for 35 to 40 days. The sad fact is many of the detainees were absolutely innocent human beings. Do these real examples from the battlefields portray a benign image of Judeo-Christianity?

In their Global War on Terror, what those Judeo-Christian fundamentalists of the American Empire showed has no parallel today. They proved that they can disregard all conventions and laws at will. Through their preemptive attacks on unarmed civilians they have proven that they are coward murderers and worse than Hulagu Khans of the past. If Tom had no problem with the war crimes of American soldiers in places like Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, let alone the extra-ordinary renditions of prisoners, he surely is in no position to be critical of the reactions in the Muslim world, whether these be in relation to the cartoon controversy or war crimes of the Zionist regime in Israel. Ironically, the soldiers of Hitler put up a better record of human rights than those of Bush and Blair.

Surely, the Muslim world is not what it used to be in the pre-colonial days. We don’t have Caliphate, now considered a dirty word in western parlance. Despite its shortcomings, the existence of the Caliphate offered most Muslims a feeling of continuity of the good old days, and at least a formal locus of political authority. With the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate in the beginning of the last century, the concept of the ummah was deprived of any political significance. To ignore that important piece of Muslim history, their colonial legacy and the detrimental effects of such colonization is like trying to understand Shakespeare’s Hamlet without the role of Prince of Denmark. It is no accident today that we don’t have an entity that speaks for our 1.5 billion Muslims. As Tariq Ali has said elsewhere, our governments are dead; our politicians are corrupt; our people are ignored. It is, thus, not surprising that some are responsive to the so-called Islamists.

The Muslim resistance (national liberation) movement against land-grabbing monsters, usurpers, thieves and robbers – the hegemonic and neo-imperial powers of our time - is very conveniently dumped as an Islamist/Jihadist movement! Forgotten in this context is the ugly fact that it was the American government that resurrected “Jihad” amongst the Muslim youths to fight its dirty war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Its neo-callers, esp. the CIA, ought to have known that once the genie was out, it was bound to be difficult to bottle it up again. To the so-called Jihadists today raison d'etre has basically remained the same – they are against foreign occupation, whether it is in Afghanistan or in Iraq, or anywhere else. In that process they are also fighting against any force or group deemed being stooges or proxies of the occupation forces. Pure and simple!

References:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/opinion/29friedman.html
See, for instance, http://dan92024.blogstream.com/v1/pid/194444.html, http://uggabugga.blogspot.com/2007/03/psst-over-herein-case-you-are.html .
“Bob Woodruff Hears Soldiers’ Tales of Survival, Recovery,” http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/president-soldiers-families-flock-ft-hood-memorial/Story?id=9039151&page=1
http://www.infowars.com/major-hasan-of-fort-hood-a-patsy-in-a-drill-gone-live/
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/opinion/29friedman.html?em
See, e.g., Somali Americans protest against Shabab and Suicide Bombing, American Chronicle, July 6, 2009, http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/108680. For protests against bombing of the Islamic University in Pakistan, see, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs2zKSSZeLM and http://www.insaf.pk/Media/Pictures/tabid/106/AlbumID/560-623/Default.aspx. For protests against Dera Ghazi Khan blast, see, e.g., http://www.dawn.com/2009/02/07/local18.htm. For protest rallies against killing of Mufti Naeemi, see, e.g., http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/lahore-suicide-attack-st,-jup-activists-pour-into-streets-369
Friedman wrong about Muslims again, Informed Comments, Juan Cole, July 9, 2005, http://www.juancole.com/2005/07/friedman-wrong-about-muslims-again-and.html ; see also: http://www.unc.edu/~kurzman/terror.htm, http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.php , http://www.albawaba.com/en/countries/Jordan/185952
Mufti Sarfaraz Naeemi who spoke out against suicide bombing is believed to have been killed by agents affiliated with RAW and Mossad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G-6PktXo9I&feature=related
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/world/asia/29bagram.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&th&emc=th
For a good analysis on who represents Islam today, see, http://islamuswest.org/pdfs_Islam_and_the_West/whospeaksforislam.pdf
Letter to a young Muslim by Tariq Ali: http://www.tariqali.org/ExtractClashLetter.html