Thursday, June 30, 2011

Missionary Conspiracy with Nuba Mountains of Sudan

Today, I read an article by Nicolas Kristof in the NY Times where he mentions about new signs of trouble in the Nuba Mountains area of Sudan where the Samaritan Purse, the Christian missionary group that is led by Franklin Graham, is involved. Here are my comments I just sent to Kristof in his blog:

Samaritan Purse is a Christian missionary group with declared agenda to turn Africa into a continent of Christianity. For years, it has worked with minority Christians to stir trouble against non-Christian regimes. Reports from Africa has shown that these Christian evangelical groups have provided arms and dollars to Christians to create Christian enclaves in those countries. And probably nowhere is this strategy more vivid than Sudan where the group was able to win referendum for the southern Sudanese Christians away from their majority Sudanese Muslims.

I am, thus, concerned about the development in the Nuba mountains where the new allegations have emerged about government's strong arm tactics. How true are such assertions? My contacts within Khartoum say that it is part of a massive propaganda by the separatist Christians in the Nuba territory who seem to be encouraged by the events in Southern Sudan for independence, and are used by hostile Christian missionary groups to further divide the country.

It is really disgusting to see Kristof being pulled into this game where he advocates for a group like Samaritan Purse that has a very bad history of deceit, conspiracy and ignoble missionary tactics that only create instability and divide our world into hateful camps. Shame on Kristof to fall for such a missionary ploy and their agents in the Nuba mountains!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Dutch Sham Trial of Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who heads the fascist-leaning Party for Freedom (PVV), has gained much notoriety -- and deservingly so -- in the western world for his hate speeches inciting violence, discrimination, racism, bigotry and xenophobia against immigrants, in general, and the Muslim community, in particular. In the post-9/11 era of Islamophobia, he has often acted as its lead pit bull in Europe savagely attacking Islam and Muslims with his depraved and hateful statements and messages. He has called for banning of the Qur’an, comparing it with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He has also produced the hate-filled documentary film Fitna, which since its release in 2008 has been promoted and distributed by Ruder Finn, the same PR firm that was instrumental in crafting the public relations campaign for its long-time client Philip Morris (now Altria) that disputed the evidence that tobacco smoking is hazardous to health.

Thanks to his pro-Israeli and rabidly Islamophobic supporters like Robert Spencer, Itamar Marcus, Daniel Pipes, Shlomo Sharan and John David Lewis, Wilders and Ruder Finn were able to show the hate film in many parts of the world, beginning with a conference in December of 2008 entitled "Facing Jihad" that was organized at the Begin Center in Jerusalem.

Protests from the Muslim and immigrant communities (Nederlands bekent kleur) resulted in cases filed against Wilders. Attempts to prosecute Wilders under Dutch anti-hate speech laws in June 2008 were, however, dropped, with the public prosecution stating that Wilders’s comments contributed to the debate on Islam in Dutch society. The office released a statement reading: "That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable. Freedom of expression fulfils an essential role in public debate in a democratic society. That means that offensive comments can be made in a political debate."

The Muslim and immigrant victims appealed against the prosecution's decision to not pursue the case and on 21 January 2009, a three-judge court of appeal ordered the Dutch Public Prosecution Service to try Wilders. He was charged with five counts - group insult, inciting hatred against Muslims because of their religion, inciting discrimination against Muslims because of their religion, inciting hatred against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race, and inciting discrimination against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race.

The judges in the first trial were removed after a perceived bias against Wilders, and a retrial started in February 2011. The Public Prosecutor’s office, which initially had refused to prosecute Wilders, made a mockery of the retrial process by arguing that Wilders should be acquitted on all counts. So, just as expected of a sham process, on 23 June 2011, Wilders was acquitted of all charges, with Judge Marcel van Oosten noting that his statements, although "gross and denigrating," had not given rise to hatred against Muslims, and as such were "acceptable within the context of public debate." The judge however noted that Wilders’s statements were on the edge of legal acceptability.

“I am delighted with this ruling,” said Geert Wilders. “It is a victory, not only for me but for all the Dutch people. Today is a victory for freedom of speech. The Dutch are still allowed to speak critically about Islam, and resistance against Islamisation is not a crime. I have spoken, I speak and I shall continue to speak.” What a ludicrous claim to act as the champion of free speech from the same guy who calls for a ban on the Qur’an!

Comparing a religious Scripture that billions hold sacred to Hitler’s murderous tract is more than an exercise in literary criticism. Unfortunately, by acquitting Wilders the Dutch court has set the precedence that it is kosher to treat its nearly a million Muslim inhabitants who believe in the Qur’an like the Nazis, and that an all-out war against them would be justified. The Dutch court also forgot that there is a fine line between what is free speech and insult of an entire religious community. As noted by author Ian Buruma free speech is never that absolute; even in the USA, where citizens are protected by the First Amendment, there are certain words and opinions that no civilized person would utter, and others that open the speaker to civil charges.

If Wilders had confined his demented and offensive remarks against Muslims who use violent means to stop free speech, most of us would have no problem. But he refuses to make that distinction and wants to denigrate Islam and crucify its founder (probably posthumously!). Like his utterly evil and spiteful pro-Israeli Islamophobic peers on this side of the Atlantic - Gingrich, Palin, Pipes, Spencer and many other bigots -- he sells fear and is a Christian reincarnation of Julius Streicher of the Nazi era. As a terrorist provocateur he wants his Muslim and immigrant victims to react to his nasty insults and then claim that they are a threat to his liberal – no scratch it and call it what it has truly become – the illiberal, Dutch society.

Gerard Spong, a lawyer instrumental in getting the case heard, expressed his disappointment with the verdict, seeing the judge's ruling based on "public context" as vague. Theo de Roos, professor of law at the Tilburg University, saw the case as a precedent for ethnic incitement in Dutch law – only actual threats could be any longer seen as being prohibited. Els Lucas, a lawyer for the collection of Dutch rights groups, said that they planned to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights or the UN's Human Rights Committee.

What a sad day for Europe, the self-styled birthplace of liberty, when it acquits one of its worst sons who terrorizes millions of law-abiding immigrants! What a mockery of justice in the name of freedom of speech when a flamboyant fashion designer John Galliano is fired by the fashion giant Christian Dior and is put on trial for making anti-Semitic comments against three Jews while drunk in a Paris cafĂ©, while a right-wing politician with so much power to harm a minority community is acquitted of more damning remarks and insults hurled against an entire faith! Through the sham trial process once again Europe has shown its true ugly color, its unfathomable bigotry, racism and hatred of the ‘other’ people. Muslims can’t expect fairness from the children of Gehazi!

Will the Dutch society ever shed its innate racism, xenophobia and naked hypocrisy, and evolve into true human beings away from its savage history that has known nothing but violence against, and plunder, colonization and exploitation of the ‘other’ people that look different? The sad commentary is: with the ever growing support base for the racists and bigots within the Dutch society, we may never see that difference in our lifetime!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Caste system of Kerala

In recent weeks, I have been getting some messages from Mr. Perumal, the founding president of a Kerala based human rights group: OHIROS that wants to weed out caste system. Here below is my suggestion to him:

Salam (Peace). I was impressed with your website which is trying to weed out the curse of the caste system. As you and I know too well, caste system is the worst form of perennial slavery the world has ever known. It forces people to be enslaved not only in this earthly life but also in the afterlife (if you especially believe in reincarnation). This caste system was introduced by the Aryan invaders to the south Asian landmass, east of the HIndukush mountain range. The process resulted in the development of the most oppressive system ever known to mankind - the caste system in which the conquered people were relegated to the lowest of the low position, the Sudra - the untouchables, while the invaders claimed self-styled the Brahmin and Kshatriya status among their priestly and warrior classes with all the privileges guaranteed. As like any racist system, the caste system also ensured that there won't be any so-called contamination of the bloodline by inter-caste marriages. It was a total package of subjugation and oppression of the powerless.

The entire caste system had nothing divine or holy about it, for it was all based on racist theology, invented by Aryan invaders and their ilk.

Islam, the Satya Dharma, came as a solution to this imposed caste system by ensuring brotherhood of human beings where there is no difference between people on the grounds of all man-made artificial criteria like the lineage, wealth, birthright, color, caste, language. The only difference is an earned one by virtue of nobility of actions or deeds. It is something to really ponder about how Muhammad - the Prophet of Arabia, was able to weed out racism from the caste-ridden Arabian society. You may like to read an excellent review of his life from Professor Ramakrishna Rao.

Thus, while I openly welcome your noble effort to correct the flaws within the caste system that has over the centuries defined Hindu society, I cannot but sustain serious doubts whether you can find the desired solution without breaking this false house of glass. An outside in view may help you better to see how reprehensible the caste system is, and that when the patient is crying out for life-saving surgery no halfway measures would do any good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Shariah-phobia in America

Are Muslim Americans trying to impose a Taliban-style Shariah law in the USA? Seemingly, the answer is ‘yes’, if you are a Republican politician. The idea that America is this close to having her constitution replaced by the Muslim Scripture – the Qur’an - used to be a fringe notion in the post-9/11 era of Islamophobia that was packaged, promoted and propagated by malicious “Islamist watchdog” bloggers, neocon pundits with some think tanks and pen-pushing zealots. But nowadays that absurd idea has inched closer to the mainstream, thanks to our Republican politicians. Truly, outside Ron Paul of Texas, I don’t know of any serious Republican politician who has not tried to bank on this ‘menace.’

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, is the lead dog in this evil campaign. Last year, in his speech at the American Enterprise Institute (a neocon think tank) where he is a senior fellow, Gingrich said, “The fight against Shariah and the maddrassas and mosques which teach hatred and fanaticism is the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth… One of the things I am going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the United States under any circumstance is allowed to consider Shariah as a replacement for American law.”

Gingrich is a morally decadent person with a history of corruption and adultery, and has obvious reasons for opposing the Shariah or God’s Law that could find him guilty for violating some of the Ten Commandments like ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ and ‘thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife’ and, thus, punished in this world, let alone his wretched state in the afterworld.

But what about other Republican politicians? Are they, too, equally depraved, corrupt or morally bankrupt? Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum don’t agree on everything, but they all concur that we must stop Shariah law from being imposed upon America. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, refers to Shariah as ‘an existential threat’ to the United States. During last year’s Senate race in Nevada, GOP candidate Sharon Angle blithely asserted that Dearborn, as well as a small town in Texas, currently operate under Shariah law. And Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann used the occasion of Osama bin Laden’s death to tie the terrorist mastermind to the word: ‘It is my hope that this is the beginning of the end of Shariah-compliant terrorism.’ The GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, declared in March that he would not appoint a Muslim to a Cabinet position or judgeship because ‘there is this attempt to gradually ease Shariah law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.’

Most of these bigots have no clue what Shariah is, why it is a problem and where in the Qur’an to find it. God’s Commandments in the Qur’an are not much different from those of the Torah (see below).

1. ‘So know that there is no god but Allah.’ (Qur’an 47:19) ‘Thou shalt have none other gods before me.’ (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7)
2. ‘O my Lord! make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols.’ (Qur’an 14:35) ‘Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...’ (Exodus 20:4-6, Deuteronomy 5:8-10)
3. ‘And make not Allah’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth all things.’ (Qur’an 2:224) ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.’ (Exodus 20:7, Deuteronomy 5:11)
4. ‘O ye who believe! When the call is heard for the prayer of the day of congregation, haste unto remembrance of Allah and leave your trading. That is better for you if ye did but know.’ (Qur’an 62:9) ‘Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.’ (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12)
5. ‘Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour.’ (Qur’an 17:23) ‘Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.’ (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16)
6. ‘… whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.’ (Qur’an 5:32) ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17)
7. ‘Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin. Nor come nigh to adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way. ’ (Qur’an 17:31-32) ‘Neither shalt thou commit adultery.’ (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18)
8. ‘O Prophet! … they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and that they will not disobey thee in any just matter…’ (Qur’an 60: 12) ‘Neither shalt thou steal.’ (Exodus 20:15, Deuteronomy 5:19)
9. ‘…Conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah Knoweth all that ye do.’ (Qur’an 2:283) ‘Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.’ (Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:20)
10. ‘And strain not thine eyes toward that which We cause some wedded pairs among them to enjoy, the flower of the life of the world, that We may try them thereby. The provision of thy Lord is better and more lasting.’ (Qur’an 20:131) ‘Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.’ (Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 5:21)

Gingrich’s call for a federal law banning Shariah has gone unheeded so far. But at the local level, nearly two dozen states have introduced or passed laws in the past two years to ban the use of Shariah in court cases. The sponsor of an Oklahoma measure banning Shariah approved by voters last fall described it as “a pre-emptive strike.” Gerald Allen, the Alabama state senator who sponsored a bill banning Shariah, when asked for a definition, could not say what it was. “I don’t have my file in front of me,” he told reporters. “I wish I could answer you better.” In Tennessee, lawmakers sought to make following Shariah a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison — until they learned that their effort would essentially make it illegal to be Muslim in their state.

Anti-Muslim, conservative think-tanker Frank Gaffney declared preposterously last year that “Americans across this country are struggling to understand the true nature of the threat we face from Shariah. They are entitled to straight talk about the extent to which it is being insinuated, promoted, and legitimated not only in mosques but by banks, academic institutions, and government agencies.” Like his buddies in the hate camp, he singles out Islam as the one religion that cannot be accommodated in any of these institutions. It is based on the scare-mongering notion that once a court allows a financial institute to offer Shariah-compliant financing, it won’t take too long for an imam in a mosque to be allowed to flog an adulterer and an adulteress with a hundred stripes. (Qur’an 24:2)

Other Islamophobes, like the conservative Center for Security Policy, assert that all Muslims are bound to work to establish an Islamic state in the U.S. But if this assertion is true — and the very allegation that every Muslim in America is a national security threat — should not Dearborn, the Detroit suburb, which is home to the largest community of Arabs in the U.S., have seen the Islamic theocracy movement creeping in? After all, Muslims first moved to Dearborn nearly a century ago to work in the factories of the Ford motor company! And yet after five or six generations, Dearborn’s Muslims have not sought to see the city run in accordance with the Shariah.

So, why this vicious accusation labeled against Muslim Americans? Are these politicians, who cry ‘Shariah’, engaged in one of the oldest and dirtiest political traditions — xenophobic demagoguery? Are they throwing around a word simply because it scares some voters, much like what the Nazis, in particular, did against the Jews of Germany and what the Christians, in general, did against Jews throughout history?

These demagogues forget that American courts are governed by American law, which has long provided that parties to contracts can provide for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (such as arbitration). As noted last year by Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, among those alternative mechanisms is the beit din, or rabbinic law court. Every day Jews go before batei din to arbitrate real estate deals, nasty divorces, and business disputes. “In fact, according to the Beth Din of America,” wrote Silow-Carroll, “Jewish law does not allow a Jew to be a plaintiff in a secular court without first obtaining permission from a Jewish court. Permitting people to settle their disputes in their own religious courts is not a ‘replacement’ of American law, but a time-honored expression of religious freedom and accommodation.” If this be the reality, why a different yardstick for Muslims when they don’t have even an equivalent of the Jewish Beth Din in America?

Never mind that most Muslim countries do not enforce the Shariah laws of punishment prescribed in the Qur’an, what is so striking about Gingrich and the other Sharia-phobes is their lack of faith in the Constitution, the American legal system, and the American people themselves.

As Amy Sullivan recently noted in the USA Today, the anti-communist Red Scare of the 1950s made broad use of guilt by innuendo and warnings about shadowy conspiracies. She suggested, “If GOP candidates insist they are not doing the same thing to ordinary Muslims, they can prove it by explaining what they believe sharia is and whether they’re prepared to ban the consideration of all religious codes from civil arbitration. Anything less is simply fear mongering.”

The far right is long on fear mongering and short on providing supportive evidence. ‘Shariah’ has become their code word and symbol to exploit American voters’ fears and engage in Islam- and Muslim-bashing without any push-back because nobody, including most of the candidates, knows what it is. They scare ordinary Americans with their monster, and then they want to take credit for saving the people from their own creation.

It’s no surprise that two candidates could not resist playing the “Muslim card” in the recent GOP debate. Herman Cain insisted, “There have been instances in New Jersey and Oklahoma where Muslims did try to influence court decisions with Sharia Law.”
Cain wants to question Muslims about their commitment to the Constitution ‘to make sure we have people committed to the Constitution working for this country.’ But he wouldn’t do the same with Christians or Jews! Newt Gingrich could not afford to be left behind, and said: “I’m in favor of saying to people, ‘If you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration,’ period.”

As a Muslim American, I would like to ask these Republican politicians: when did Bush’s Global War on Terror become a war on American Muslims? Didn’t GW Bush himself say on September 17, 2001: “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country?” “And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect,” said Bush.

In closing, let me echo what Professor John Esposito wrote in his recent Washington Post article: “To those Republicans who continue to stoke the flames of fear and bigotry to attract media attention and benefit their own political careers, it’s time to call a spade a spade, a bigot a bigot and stop those who would resurrect the intolerance of the past and add Muslims to a long list of groups that has included Jews, African Americans, World War II Japanese Americans and others who have been victims of religious discrimination and racism.”

If the Republican politicians don’t stop this hateful campaign against Muslim Americans, no Muslim would ever vote for them, and not even their cronies that once campaigned for Bush.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Syria's Bashar al-Assad Must Be Brought Down

Islamic history is replete with stories of benevolent Caliphs who respected learned scholars and were cognizant of their accountability before people and God in the two worlds. Take for instance the well-known story of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (R), the Umayyad ruler. When he was appointed caliph, he summoned Salem ibn Abdullah, Raja' ibn Hayat and Muhammad ibn Ka'b – three great personalities of the early decades of Islam (Tabi’un or the successors).

"I have been afflicted with this trial. What am I to do, for I know this high office to be a trial, even though men count it for a blessing?" - He asked.
They advised, "If you wish tomorrow to escape from God's punishment, look upon aged Muslims (your subjects) as though each one were your father, and regard youthful Muslims as your brothers, Muslim children as your own sons, treating them in all respects as one does one's father, brother, and son." [Tadhkirat al-Auliya']

Consider also the case of Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid. When he sought advice from Fudayl ibn 'Iyadh (R) - an ascetic follower of Imam Abu Hanifah (R) - the latter said: "[Consider] The lands of Islam as your own house, and their inhabitants as your family. Visit your father, honor thy brother, and be good to your son. I fear that your handsome face will be sorely tried by the fire of Hell. Fear Allah, and obey His command. And be watchful and prudent; for on the Day of Resurrection Allah will question you concerning every single Muslim, and He will exact justice from you in respect of every one. If one night an old woman has gone to sleep in a house without provisions, she will pluck your skirt on that Day and will give evidence against you." [Tadhkirat al-Auliya]

When the caliph had learned that Shaqiq al-Balkhi (R), a great ascetic of his time, had reached Baghdad on his way to Makkah for pilgrimage he summoned him and said, ‘Counsel me.’
“Then listen,” Shaqiq proceeded, “Allah the Almighty has set you in the place of Abu Bakr the trusty, and requires trustiness from you as from him. He has set you in the place of Umar the discriminator, and requires from you as from him discrimination between truth and falsehood. He has set you in the place of Uthman of the ‘two lights’, and requires from you as from him modesty and nobility. He has set you in the place of Ali the well-approved, and requires from you as from him knowledge and justice.”
“Say more,” Harun cried.
“God has a created a lodging-place called Hell,” Shaqiq said. “He has appointed you its doorkeeper, and has equipped you with three things – wealth, sword and whip. ‘With these three things,’ He commands, ‘keep the people away from Hell.’ If any man comes to you in need, do not grudge him money. If any man opposes God’s commandment, school him with this whip. If any man slays another, exact retaliation on him lawfully with this sword. If you do not do these things, you will be the leader of those that enter Hell.”
“Say more,” Harun repeated.
“You are the fountain, and your agents are the rivulets,” said Shaqiq. “If the fountain is bright, it is not impaired by the darkness of the rivulets. But if the fountain is dark, what hope is there that the rivulets will be bright?”

One time, Ibn Semaak Waa’iz (R) was in the presence of Caliph Harun Al-Rashid. During the course of the discussion, the caliph became thirsty. He asked for water. When water was brought and he was about to drink it, Ibn Semaak (R) said, “Amirul Mumineen, wait first; tell me if you are very thirsty and you are not given water, how much are you prepared to pay for a glass of water?”
The caliph replied, “In that state I will give half of my kingdom for a glass of water.” Ibn Semaak (R) told him to drink the water. Thereafter he enquired, “If this water remains in your stomach and there is no way for it to come out so that you are in danger of perishing, what will you pay for it to come out?”
The caliph replied, “I will give the remainder of my kingdom.”
Ibn Semaak (R) said, “Amirul Mumineen, understand then the value of this gulp (draught) of water which you drink and a few drops of urine. Then why do you boast about your kingdom. Treat everybody equally.”

Muslim rulers today, especially in the Arab World, behave as if they don't have any accountability for their misrule and bad deeds. They surely can't comprehend what had made Amirul Mumineen Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA), one of the best rulers in the Muslim history, to say, "Should a lost goat die in the Shat al-‘Arab I tend to think that Allah, the Most Exalted, will question me about it on the Day of Judgment." [Hilyat’ul Awliya wa Tabaqatul Asfiya: Abu Na’im al-Asfahani]

They are also unmindful of the Prophet Muhammad's (S) stern warning: "If you wish, I could tell you about leadership and what it is. Firstly, it is blame; secondly, it is regret; and thirdly, it is punishment on the Day of Resurrection – except for one who is just." [Tabaraani in al-Kabeer; Saheeh al-Jaami’]

Look at Bashar al-Assad who is the president of Syria. He is a despot and the son of a despot (Hafez al-Assad) who killed some 40,000 Muslims three decades ago. Since succeeding his father in 2000, Bashar sought to nourish a reputation as a reform-minded, forward-looking leader in a region full of aging autocrats and monarchs. But he soon proved to be more of the same, and probably more ruthless with a pattern of empty promises, nasty oratory and bloody tactics. When the Syrian people protested against his tyranny, he responded by killing thousands and detaining tens of thousands, forcing hundreds of military officers into retirement, cracking down on hard-won freedoms and censoring publications. Syria’s state propaganda machine lately said that more than 120 security officers were killed in northern rebel town of Jisr al-Shughu by “armed gangs.” Local residents, however, disputed that account and said that fighting erupted last week between army units loyal to the Assad regime and a group of soldiers who defected and refused to fire on civilians.

A spokesman for the Local Coordinating Committee in Syria, an umbrella group organizing protests and documenting the crackdown, said there was also a heavy security presence in the provincial capital, Idlib City, which was also surrounded by checkpoints. People are being stopped at the checkpoints in Idlib and other cities and detained for questioning; they are not allowed to pass or leave any province.

At least 5,000 armed troops loyal to the president converged in the country’s restive northwest on Thursday as hundreds of residents fled across the border into Turkey, heightening fears of a budding refugee crisis and a widening crackdown on dissent. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Syrian government's actions an "atrocity", while reiterating that Turkey will keep its borders open to Syrian refugees.

Is Bashar al-Assad of Syria any better than Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi of Libya? Surely not. And yet, why such a silence to condemn this ruthless murderer from Syria? Why are the NATO and EC silent? Why is the OIC silent? The International Court of Justice wants to try Gaddafi for his crimes against his own people. Fine! How about this monster Bashar? Is he being protected by the western leaders for the same fear that they felt about Egypt in relation to the emerging power of the Muslim Brotherhood? If that concern is the deciding factor, then such a hypocritical attitude should not come as a surprise to anyone keenly observing western meddling in the region for the last 100 years since the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate. It is, after all, their conspiracy, their evil schemes, their artificial geographical divides, their patronage of politically opportunistic groups, clans and sects, which were forced upon the vast majority of Arabs of the region who had to live under the neo-Pharaohs, neo-Nimrods and neo-Hamans in the post colonial era. The Arab revolution is about changing that colonial experiment.

Syria like many parts of the Arab world came to existence out of the belly of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Its Nusayri (often wrongly attributed as the Alawite) sect, considered a heretical group within Islam, was soon able to hobnob with the French colonial authority and secure important positions within the various administrative organs of the colonial establishment. So, it did not take too long for them to capture power and halt the revolving doors of politics that had seen 14 rulers come and go in a quarter century soon after their colonial masters had left. And in that process transformed the state into a republican monarchy of fear, extortion and repression!

Like all autocratic regimes, they knew the formula of staying in power too well: by rewarding a small group of loyal supporters, often composed of key military officers, senior civil servants and family members or clansmen (here, all from the Nusayri sect). A central responsibility of these loyalists was to suppress opposition to the regime. Since to carry out this messy, unpleasant task required being rewarded handsomely, the autocrats ensured a continuing flow of benefits to their cronies. To these autocrats their cronies came first, and the people last. As long as their cronies are assured of reliable access to lavish benefits, protest will be severely suppressed. It has been a win-win formula for the Assad family and his cronies within the small minority Nusayri sect that controlled every vital position within the government since 1967. In essence, they created a tyranny of the minority over the vast majority Sunni Muslims.

As I stated earlier, for an eliminationist leader mass murder of an opposing group that is ‘different’ is an easy exercise. The majority Sunni Muslims who live in Syria are too different from the heretic ruling class of Syria that had misruled the country for the last 44 years. In their fall, the Nusayris see the loss of their privileged status. So, they don’t have any bites of conscience - the human weaknesses or traits that define our humanity - in exterminating the Sunni majority – the unarmed Syrian protesters.

As we have seen throughout history, repressive regimes eventually fall when its lifeline is cut off. Often times, it is money that acts as that glue holding together the falling regime. When that source becomes scarce, leaders can’t pay their cronies, leaving no one to stop the people if they rebel. According to New York University Professors Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, this is precisely what happened during the Russian and French revolutions and the collapse of communist rule in Eastern Europe, and the fall of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. In a recent NY Times article, they write, “Today’s threat to Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria can be seen in much the same light. With a projected 2011 deficit of approximately 7 percent of G.D.P., declining oil revenue and high unemployment among the young, Mr. Assad faces the perfect conditions for revolution. He may be cracking heads today, but we are confident that either he will eventually enact modest reforms or someone will step into his shoes and do so.”

As I see it, however, reforms by a hated ruler are not a viable option. Through his crimes against the Syrian people, Bashar has disqualified himself for any reformation task. He and his tyrannical regime must be toppled down by all means possible.

This Week's GPS - wrong choice in the discussion forum

I am very disappointed with Fareed Zakaria's invitation of Ann Coulter to his GPS show. Ann Coulter is a hateful, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-minority kind of divisive media personality who earns her livelihood by all the inhuman traits that she espouses. Fox is for those bigots and racists, and not CNN. By giving Ann the opportunity to appear in the CNN's much liked GPS program, Fareed and his producer have shown poor judgment. No conscientious person should openly welcome a highly polarizing, nasty commentator like Ann who has been promoting hateful camps on either side of the ocean.

Through her idiotic comments, Ann has once again shown that she is an irresponsible commentator and the GPS would have been better served without her presence in this week's program.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Anthony Weiner Case - my thoughts

As the Congressman Anthony Weiner incident showed social media is increasingly bringing out the hidden dark side in one's life. The embarrassing thoughts are now shared in the open as if they are okay. Little do these social media exploiters realize that this medium is "social" and open, and can be ruinous to a married person's life, and surely, politically Waterloo for a politician.

I am glad that Tony Weiner sounded genuinely repentant and confessed that his was a stupid thing to do. Such textings and photos are never kosher for anyone, esp. for someone like Weiner who's in his mid-40s and married to a very beautiful and dignified lady. It would be an uphill struggle for him to earn back the respect of his wife. I wish him all the luck there. Also, he should apologize to each of the recipients of his sex-text messages and amend his ways once and for all time. And it won't come easy. He may like to read my book - Wisdom of Mankind, chapter 3 to find remedies for his sickness. Truly, some Islamic/Jewish teachings may immensely help him in this troubling time to avoid falling back to the human frailty.

More absurd is the call from congressmen like Eric Kantor asking Weiner to resign. Lest we forget it was only two years ago when Rep. Kantor said that Mark Sanford, then a governor of South Carolina, should NOT resign when Sanford had an adulterous relationship with a lady living in Argentina. Republican senator John Anson of Nevada had a more problematic and sinful adulterous relationship with an aide's wife. And yet, in this case, too, Kantor said that he should not have resigned. It was up to their constituents to decide their fate.

But now when democratic Rep. Weiner does not have an adulterous relationship, in spite of his stupidity and immoral activities in the social media, Kantor has a change of heart. He wants Weiner's resignation. What hypocrisy! It is like throwing stones from a glass house. It is clear that since Weiner is a Democrat, even smaller failings are unacceptable. However, if more sinful activities are done by a Republican, it is kosher. Shame on Republican politicians that have a different yardstick on anything.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shame on Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs

Recently Ratko Mladic, the Serbian general, responsible for leading its genocidal campaign against the Bosnian Muslims was captured by the intelligence members of the Serbian government. It is difficult to imagine that Ratko, the Serbian Killer Rat, would have dodged arrest for this long, almost 16 years, without cooperation from the Serbian government and its supporters within the Serbian enclaves of Bosnia. Before his arrest, he was not in any disguise. But where is the outrage about Serbian duplicity, its protection -- all these years for one of the worst mass murderers of our time? Ratko is treated like a celebrity and a star in Serbia. What a shame for Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs!

In her recently published article in the NY Times, Natasha Kandic, a human rights activist from Belgrade, writes:
"But I am not so sure that Serbia has given up on Mr. Mladic and his fellow generals, who prosecuted a genocidal war in Bosnia. The sympathy that state officials and the news media expressed for Mr. Mladic last week is yet another mark of shame on all of us. The deputy prosecutor offered him strawberries. His wish to be visited by the health minister and the president of Parliament was granted, as was his request to visit his daughter’s grave. The Serbian public was constantly updated on his diet in jail, and we all learned that Mr. Mladic flew to The Hague in the suit he’d worn at his son’s wedding. He was treated as a star.

Such adulation of murderers is dangerous in a region where the wounds of war have not yet healed. Nationalism is still strong in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Montenegro, and sometimes even stronger than it was during the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s...
In the eyes of the Bosnian political establishment and victims’ families, justice for the victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing will be served only if Serbia and Bosnian Serb leaders acknowledge their role in the genocide. Yet Bosnian Serb leaders still deny it took place and demand that more Bosnian Muslim leaders face war crimes trials, too...
And in Montenegro, a court ruled that the policemen who handed over Muslim refugees to Bosnian Serb forces in May 1992 weren’t guilty of a war crime — a slap in the face to victims’ families.

The region desperately needs an honest debate about the past. It is the only way to recognize all victims and to stop the lies we tell about ourselves and about others."

Will the Serbians ever have the moral courage it takes to wash away the stain of the past once and for all?

All these hoopla about the war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh

Recently, the debate around the trial of suspected war criminals of Bangladesh's liberation war period has become quite hot with arguments for and against about the fairness of the court and justice system in Bangladesh to try such sensitive cases. Afshan Chowdhury's piece on this issue has appeared in the bdnews24.com.

Some of the remarks of Mr. Chowdhury are unfortunate.

He says, quoting others, Bangladesh is not capable of conducting war crimes trial. Fine, which country is? Did the accused get their fair share in Guantanamo Bay or NY trials of Dr. Aafia Siddique? Truly, I am not aware of any group outside the ICJ in the Hague that can try such cases neutrally. And yet, as we all know, even the USA govt. does not trust it, and thus, has not approved its legality.

It is true that BD’s legal system is a flawed one. And as a member of a victimized family that had fought land-grabbing schemes of Saqa Chowdhury and his gang in Chittagong, we know how flawed it is to incriminate land-grabbing cartels or syndicates! But what is the solution? Should we stop seeking justice when we are victimized by those criminals that demolished ten homes in our family premises, uprooted 16 tenant families, and harassed my family members in Khushi in 2005 during the BNP rule?

In spite of lot of good jobs done by the HRW in the human rights sector, I am sorry to say that its opposition to the trial of suspected war criminals of 1971 is simply not right. More hypocritical is the attitude of the USA government. It is like kettle calling the pot black! I would like to know why OBL was not tried and instead killed as an assassination target? What is HRW doing about hundreds of innocent prisoners rotting in the USA-controlled prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq? Are the drone attacks justifiable and legally right while trial of suspected war criminals in BD wrong? What is the agenda of HRW and many such NGOs that seem more interested about disintegration of Bangladesh along ethnic or tribal lines?

Let’s face it. We live in an imperfect world with faulty justice system everywhere. The advocates challenging the legality of the war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh can do us all a favor by showing real examples where justice is color-religion blind and not unfair on sensitive matters like the war crimes, terrorism, etc. Whom are they trying to protect – a murderer and pathological liar like Saqa?

The Coming Water Crisis

Nearly 71% of our earth is covered with water of which only 2.5% is fresh water, and the remainder 97.5% is salt water. Of this fresh water nearly 70% (or 1.75% of total water) is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland. The remainder 0.75% of the total water is perhaps the world’s most important resource that is found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, underground aquifers and other sources.

Water demand is increasing rapidly worldwide. Of the fresh water consumed by humans, nearly 70%is used to produce food. In Asia, e.g., 86% total water withdrawal is in the agriculture sector. Fresh water is also consumed for household, municipal and industrial uses. As the world population rises, while water consumption per capita increases with urbanization and the rapid development of manufacturing industries, the fresh water supplies are increasingly becoming smaller with contaminated lakes, rivers, groundwater aquifers and reservoirs.

Large parts of the world are running out of water. A paper presented by the World Bank entitled “The Aftermath of Current Situation in the Absence of Work” concluded that Yemen will run out of water in the period between 2020 and 2050. Sana — the capital of Yemen — is likely to be the first capital city to completely run dry in a few years. In parts of Pakistan and India, groundwater levels are falling so rapidly that from 10% to 20% of agricultural production is under threat. Some 60% of China’s 669 cities are already short of water and the current record drought in several of China’s region is directly linked to their problems with water scarcity. In northern China, rivers now run dry in their lower reaches for much of the year. The Yellow River, the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water.

The division of the river basin water has created friction among the countries of South Asia, and among their states and provinces. The Indus River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan for about four decades. Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries together make up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. Dams and canals built in order to provide hydropower and irrigation have dried up stretches of the Indus River. India and Bangladesh have also dispute over the Ganges/Padma and Teesta Rivers water and India is resorting to water theft there as well. Nepal and Bangladesh are also victims of India’s water thievery. India had dispute with Bangladesh over Farakka Barrage, with Nepal over Mahakali River and with Pakistan over 1960 Indus Water Treaty. As I have noted elsewhere, the damns and barrages built inside India on many of the common rivers have made navigation inside Bangladesh during the dry seasons almost impossible.

India is busy building dams on all rivers flowing into Pakistan from occupied Kashmir to regain control of water of western rivers in violation of Indus Water Treaty. This is being done to render Pakistan’s link-canal system redundant, destroy agriculture of Pakistan which is its mainstay, and turn Pakistan into a desert. India has plans to construct 62 dams/hydro-electric units on the Chenab and Jhelum Rivers, which would render these rivers dry by 2014. Using its clout in Afghanistan, India has succeeded in convincing Karzai regime to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama Hydroelectric Project She has offered technical assistance for the proposed project, which will have serious repercussions on the water flow in the Indus River.

China has built some 20 dams on the eight great Tibetan rivers while some 40 more are planned or proposed for construction in coming years. China also admitted that she is building a dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River, which will rise to 3,260 meters, thus making it the highest dam in the world. The river originates in Tibet, but then flows into India and Bangladesh where it is called Brahmaputra and Jamuna, respectively, and is a major water source for millions of people. Recently, the Chinese government has taken on a grand, ambitious and $62 billion expensive project called the South-North Water Diversion Project to divert at least six trillion gallons of water each year hundreds of miles from the other great Chinese river, the Yangtze, to slake the thirst of the north China plain and its 440 million people.

Ethiopia is building three dams, two of them large and one controversial, for environmental reasons. Of these, the Great Millennium Dam, along the Nile River about 25 miles from the Sudan border, will cost nearly $5 billion. The dam will section off a larger portion of the Nile than is used now by Ethiopia, and will have a devastating effect on Egypt. The new Egyptian government has instructed its military to prepare for any eventuality regarding a crucial water dispute with neighboring Ethiopia.

Violent incidents over wells and springs take place periodically in Yemen, and the long-running civil war in Darfur owes partly to the chronic scarcity of water in western Sudan. The Six-day War in the Middle East in 1967 similarly was partly prompted by Jordan’s proposal to divert the Jordan River in response to Israel’s siphoning off of water from the Sea of Galilee all the way to the Negev Desert. And water remains a divisive issue between Israel and its neighbors to this day. Israel extracts about 65% of the upper Jordan, leaving the occupied West Bank dependent on a brackish trickle and a mountain aquifer, access to which Israel also controls. In 2004 the average Israeli had a daily allowance of 290 liters of domestic water, while the average Palestinian less than 70.

International river basins extend across the borders of 145 countries, and some rivers flow through several countries. The Congo, Niger, Nile, Rhine and Zambezi are each shared among 9 to 11 countries, and 19 countries share the Danube basin. The 1569 mile long Ganges/Padma River is shared by both India and Bangladesh. The longer Brahmaputra River is shared between China, India and Bangladesh. Adding to the complications is the fact that some countries, especially in Africa and south Asia, rely on several rivers, e.g., 22 rise in Guinea. Some 280 aquifers also cross borders. Consider also the fact that many of Bangladesh’s 250 rivers originate from the Himalayas and run through India before flushing out to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. Bangladeshi scientists estimated that even a 10 to 20% reduction in the water flow to the country could dry out great areas for much of the year.

As global food prices rise and exporters reduce shipments of commodities, countries that rely on imported grain are panicking. Countries like South Korea, China and India have descended on fertile plains across the African continent, acquiring huge tracts of land to produce wheat, rice and corn for consumption back home. These land grabs shrink the food supply in famine-prone African nations and anger local farmers, who see their governments selling their ancestral lands to foreigners. The land grabs to the south also pose a grave threat to Africa’s newest democracy, Egypt, in her ability to put bread on the table because all of her grain is either imported or produced with water from the Nile River, which flows north through Ethiopia and Sudan before reaching Egypt.

The Nile Waters Agreement, which Egypt and Sudan signed in 1959, gave Egypt 75% of the river’s flow, 25% to Sudan and none to Ethiopia. This situation is changing abruptly as wealthy foreign governments and international agri-businesses snatch up large swaths of arable land along the Upper Nile. While these deals are typically described as land acquisitions, they are also, in effect, water acquisitions.

Just as wars over oil played a major role in 20th-century history, there is growing evidence that many 21st century conflicts will be fought over water. In "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization,” journalist Steven Solomon argues that water is surpassing oil as the world’s scarcest critical resource.

From Turkey, the southern bastion of NATO, down to South Africa, and from China and Indonesia in the east to Mauritania in the west, most of the countries of Asia and Africa are worrying today about how they will satisfy the needs of their burgeoning industries, or find drinking water for the extra millions born each year, not to mention agriculture, the main cause of depleting water resources in the region. According to Solomon our world is divided into water haves and have-nots. China, Egypt and Pakistan are just a few countries facing critical water issues in the 21st century.

Water is irreplaceable and its use in the past century grew twice as fast as world population. Solomon writes, “We’re going to have to find a way to use the existing water resources in a far, far more productive manner than we ever did before, because there’s simply not enough.” That control and manipulation of water resources should be a pivotal axis of power and human achievement throughout history is hardly surprising. Water has always been man’s most indispensable natural resource, and one endowed with special, seemingly magical powers of physical transformation derived from its unique thermodynamic properties and extraordinary roles in earth’s geological and biological processes.

Through the centuries, societies have struggled politically, militarily, and economically to control the world’s water wealth: to erect cities around it, to transport goods upon it, to harness its latent energy in various forms, to utilize it as a vital input of agriculture and industry, and to extract political advantage from it. Solomon says: “Every era has been shaped by its response to the great water challenge of its time. And so it is unfolding—on an epic scale—today. An impending global crisis of freshwater scarcity is fast emerging as a defining fulcrum of world politics and human civilization. For the first time in history, modern society’s unquenchable thirst, industrial technological capabilities, and sheer population growth from 6 to 9 billion is significantly outstripping the sustainable supply of fresh, clean water available from nature using current practices and technologies.”

Freshwater is an Achilles’ heel of fast-growing giants China and India, which both face imminent tipping points from unsustainable water practices that will determine whether they lose their ability to feed themselves and cause their industrial expansions to prematurely sputter. “The lesson of history is that in the tumultuous adjustment that surely lies ahead, those societies that find the most innovative responses to the crisis are most likely to come out as winners, while the others will fall behind. Civilization will be shaped as well by water’s inextricable, deep interdependencies with energy, food, and climate change… By grasping the lessons of water’s pivotal role on our destiny, we will be better prepared to cope with the crisis about to engulf us all,” writes Solomon.

But has our generation grasped those lessons that are so critical for our survival? Basic human needs for water should be fully acknowledged as a top international priority. Basic ecosystem water needs should be identified and met. Our irrigation systems remain very inefficient, wasting as much as 60% of the total water pumped before it reaches the intended crop. If need be, we also have to alter our food habits into growing crops that require less water. Water conservation through better planning, management, and technologies offers great promise to minimizing water usage in household, agricultural and industrial sectors. As noted by Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and the author of “World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse,” for the sake of peace and future development cooperation, the nations of the Nile River Basin should come together to ban land grabs by foreign governments and agri-business firms. Since there is no precedent for this, international help in negotiating such a ban would likely be necessary to make it a reality. Finally, serious water-related conflicts should be resolved through formal negotiations.

Sadly, few agreements have been reached about how the water should be shared; most of those agreements are seen as unjust: upstream countries believe that they should control the flow of the rivers, taking what they like, if they can get away with it. Thus, it is not too surprising to hear India’s whining about Chinese thievery of Brahmaputra water, while she herself is stealing water from Bangladesh on some other rivers that originate from India.

In his lecture at the Geneva conference on Environment and Quality of Life in June 1994, Adel Darwish said, “International law is not clear on the right of upstream countries to control either surface or ground water.” It is also not clear on the shared water courses, rivers or cross border aquifers. That situation, regrettably, has not improved an iota.

The non-clarity of international law remains a matter of grave concern. There are few, if any, precedents that the UN international law commission or the International court of justice could be cited to establish some rules to arbitrate on water sharing; but so far no country has volunteered to do so.

If we want to avoid wars of the future, culminating from water, international laws must be formulated that pledge survival of the lower riparian, downstream countries through equitable share of the common water. Dams and barrages that can alter the vital ecosystem and take away the means of livelihood of the affected people should also be banned on common international rivers. No people should ever have to live with the curse of the dams and barrages like the Farakka (and the proposed Tipaimukh Dam) that kills people!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Is there any truth to Obama's allegations about Iran's Nuclear Program?

I have written a few times about Iran's nuclear program stating, with supporting evidences, that it is a peaceful one. On the other hand, there are many pro-Israeli propagandists have been suggesting that Iran is close to making her bombs, and all the nonsense imaginable that comes easy with loonies. Obviously, they want to drag the USA into another costly war that would surely write her obituary. As much as the USA was wrong during moron Bush's time with all those false claims about Iraq's WMDs, there is absolutely no truth to Iran's nuclear bombs.

Recently Seymour Hersh, probably the best known investigative journalist in our planet, writes about the issue in the New Yorker magazine, and shows that there is no truth to all the silly and dangerous accusations made by the Obama Administration, the Israelis and their 'Amen Corner' in the Capitol Hill. He writes, "There’s a large body of evidence, however, including some of America’s most highly classified intelligence assessments, suggesting that the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago—allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimates of the state’s military capacities and intentions. The two most recent National Intelligence Estimates (N.I.E.s) on Iranian nuclear progress have stated that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any effort to build the bomb since 2003."

You can read the piece by clicking here.

For a thorough analysis: for and against the issue, you can read the book: Iran (Current Controversies), where my article can be found in chapter 1.