Saturday, April 30, 2016

Egyptian cleric defends CIA agent convicted over his rendition

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who is known as Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who was kidnapped in Milan by the CIA in 2003 has come to the defence of a former CIA officer convicted for her alleged role in his extraordinary rendition. He told the Guardian in a telephone interview that he believed Sabrina De Sousa, who faces imminent extradition to Italy, was a scapegoat and ought to be pardoned by Italy’s head of state, Sergio Mattarella. De Sousa, a 60-year-old dual American and Portuguese citizen, faces a four-year prison sentence and is due to be extradited from Portugal on 4 May.
“Sabrina and the others who were convicted are scapegoats. The US administration sacrificed them. All of those higher up in the hierarchy are enjoying their immunity,” he said. “These people higher up, without doubt they should be convicted in this case. They should face trial.”
The remarks mark an extraordinary turn of events in a story that has vexed the US and Italian governments since Abu Omar’s case became public in 2005, exposing in great detail the inner workings of a highly classified and controversial Bush-era counter-terrorism programme. The case also exposed US allies’ help in conducting the secret programme. Abu Omar’s views on De Sousa were first reported by ADNKronos, a wire agency.
De Sousa said in response to the Abu Omar comments that she appreciated his remarks about her family.
De Sousa has said she knows the US government actively lobbied Italy’s president, Mattarella, to pardon two CIA officials who were shown leniency late last year, even though they never served time in Italy.“Abu Omar also recognises that my imprisonment will not result in real accountability for what he went through in Egypt,” she said.
The former CIA officer’s predicament comes at an exceedingly tricky moment for the Italian government.
You can read the full text of the news by clicking here.

Emperor has no clothes

The justification for the Iraq was a false one. It was full of lies, manufactured by the Bush-Cheney administration, which was bolstered by other war criminals like Tony Blair of the UK. In a Senate Hearing speech on October, 2003, summed up the case eloquently: "This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods. The Emperor has no clothes."

This phrase owes it to Sufi wisdom. Here is the background below.

Based on Sufi wisdom, Hans Christian Andersen tells the tale in his "The Emperor's New Clothes", the story this expression derives from.

There existed an emperor who loved wearing fine clothes and spent all of his people's money on them. He had a different set for each hour and was, without doubt, the finest dressed man in the land.

One day, two swindlers claiming to be weavers entered the Emporer's city and proclaimed they were capable of making the finest, lightest, most magnificent cloth the world has ever seen. So extraordinary was this cloth, it was invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid.

Hearing of the weaver's amazing "talent", the foolish Emporer thought he could use such cloth to weed out undesirables in his city. He paid the swindlers an enormous sum & they set out to "create" the clothes; knowing they would only need go through the motions.

The Emperor sent several advisors to guage their progress and all the advisors reported the cloth magnificent, not wanting to appear unworthy for seeing nothing at all; the cloth didn't exist!

Finally the clothes were "finished", the swindlers already having counted the gold and jewels they had received. A procession was arranged to show off the Emporer's new clothes and the entire city gathered in the center to view them. Having been "dressed" by the swinglers, who remarked how wonderful he looked, and how light the cloth appeared on him, he appeared before his people.

The people, having heard of the weaver's abilities and the cloth's fictious properties, were amazed and offered thunderous applause to the now beaming Emperor. None of them were willing to admit that they hadn't seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor's clothes been such a success.

While expressing admiration at their Emporer's new "invisible" clothes, a small boy cried out... "But the Emperor has no clothes!"

Bombing of Hospitals in War-torn Places

Death is almost never welcome. And it is simply unacceptable to find out that someone had died in a hospital not because of his or her illness but because of bombing sustained by the facility. 

It is a major crime to attack a hospital. Unfortunately, that is what has been happening in war ravaged territories from Afghanistan to Israel

Last year, the US forces bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that was managed by MSF (Doctors Without Borders). The hospital was well known to everyone, esp. the US and NATO forces. It was catering to the needs of the sick and wounded in the locality. And yet, it was bombed by the US forces killing not only the patients there but also many of the hospital stuffs, including doctors and nurses.

This week, the US military while disciplining some of its rogue members failed to acknowledge their war crime only saying that it was a mistake. Pentagon officials say that 16 personnel, including one general, will face “administrative discipline” for their role in the October 3, 2015 US attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital on the outskirts of Kunduz, an attack which killed 42 civilians. There will be no criminal charges for anyone involved.

As rightly noted by Jason Ditz, despite U.S. officials presenting this as “punishment,” the actions are overwhelmingly a slap on the wrist, with officials saying six of the 16 were sent for counseling, two were ordered to take new training courses, one was temporarily suspended and seven were issued “letters of reprimand.” The letters of reprimand are the most severe of the mild actions, with officials saying it means those seven will likely not be able to secure promotion to higher ranks, suggesting that might end some of their careers.

MSF has been harshly critical of the attack, noting it amounts to a war crime, and has been pressing for an independent, international investigation. President Obama has ruled out allowing such a probe, though the release of the final report is likely to spur more such calls.

The USA and NATO forces have done such war crimes many times not only in Afghanistan but also in other war ravaged countries, e.g., Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. Of course, every time they committed such war crimes they had a face-saving excuse that it was an ‘unintentional’ mistake.

Even the big, clearly marked and visible signs painted on the roof of such buildings did not stop them from getting bombed. And the sad part of all these is that such crimes are happening in an era of unprecedented advances in science and technology when we are told that the satellites can recognize the face of an individual riding in a car, let alone walking on a busy street! What a mockery of ‘smart’ bombing and precision-guided missiles and rockets. The bare fact is the lives of those civilians simply did never and don’t matter to these war criminals. They know that no matter how horrendous their war crimes are they will not be punished harshly. Their big bosses in places like the Pentagon and Kremlin have tacitly, if not explicitly, approved such war crimes. Just as it happened last week with those 16 U.S. military personnel the most they will get is a slap on the wrist.

It won’t be any exaggeration to state that the Government of Israel has perfected the art of war crimes. As an apartheid state, it has no respect for the lives of the indigenous Palestinian people living under occupation, once again underscored by its murderous campaigns in Gaza. Saudi Arabia’s Air Force, in its war against the Houthis in Yemen, has also been following the Israeli lead in such war crimes, which have resulted in deaths of scores of patients in hospitals.

This past week once again saw an airstrike hitting and destroying a major hospital in the al-Qaeda-held eastern portion of the city of Aleppo in Syria, killing at least 27 civilians. The hospital was run by the MSF. The war crime was perpetrated by the air forces of the Syria and Russia who have been doing everything possible to strengthen Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy for Syria, issued a statement Thursday, accusing attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Aleppo of being deliberate

The White House declared the attack on the MSF hospital “abhorrent” and “immoral,” while Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Russia is obliged to do everything in its power to ensure that the Syrian government stops attacking medical facilities. As expected, the official US outrage was somewhat tempered by its own attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan last October, which killed even more civilians, and which the Pentagon declined to court-martial anyone over. It is a fat chance that the criminals in Damascus and Moscow will take such criticisms seriously.


Will the victims' families ever see justice in such war crimes? Probably not with the criminals ruling our world these days!

Suicide girls of Boko Haram

Suicide is haram or forbidden in Islam. And yet, the new Khawarij, the deviants/heretics from Islam are employing this deadly tactics to kill innocent people and others that they consider enemies. No group has perfected this technique more than the Boko Haram in West Africa, esp. in Nigeria. It is estimated that the group has killed some 27,000 people in the last 7 years.

Often times the extremist group has used young girls to carry out their suicide mission. In March, two girls killed more than 20 people in a mosque at the edge of Maiduguri. Just a few days later, a girl blew herself up in front of a military patrol while a second girl tried to run away, but was shot. There were at least 89 such attacks in 2015, the majority of them carried out by women. In the Dikwa refugee camp in February, two more girls killed more than 70 people.

Here is an article to understand the Suicide Bombing Girls of Boko Haram.

Life of a 12-year old girl under Israeli prison

What's it is like to be a 12-year-old Palestinian girl in Israeli jail? To find out, please, click here.

Us and Them

Here is a link to Uri Avnery's latest article.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Myanmar's 'R' problem


The criminal Buddhist monks are again making a mockery of their religion. They have been behind the ethnic cleansing/ genocidal drives in Myanmar against the minority Muslims that resulted in internal displacement of nearly a million people since 2012, let alone the torching of hundreds of Muslim towns and villages, and deaths of thousands. They were the gay hound-dogs of the erstwhile Thein Sein's military regime. And now with the NLD and Suu Kyi in power, they want to again rekindle the flames of intolerance and hatred to create problem for the new government. Typical of the genocidal maniacs of the past, they deny the very existence of the targeted victim - the Rohingya people.
Hundreds of demonstrators, including Buddhist monks, denounced the United States for its use of the term Rohingya to describe Myanmar's stateless Muslim community during a protest outside of the U.S. embassy in Yangon on Thursday. 
The Rohingya, most of whom live in apartheid-like conditions, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and the term is a divisive topic.
The demonstration was sparked by a statement from the embassy last week expressing condolences for an estimated 21 people, who media said were Rohingya, who drowned off the coast of Rakhine State and came just a day after President Htin Kyaw accepted the credentials of the new U.S. Ambassador, Scot Marciel.
"Today, we, from here, want to declare to the U.S. embassy and the ambassador to Myanmar, to all the other countries, that there is no Rohingya in our country," Parmaukkha, a monk and member of the hardline Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, told about 300 people who gathered on a busy road across from the embassy compound.
"If the U.S. accepts the term 'Rohingya,' you (U.S.) should take them back to your country."
Just imagine the audacity of these hateful monks who have hijacked their religion.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said the United States supports the right to demonstrate and added that "around the world, people have the ability to self-identifty". And he is right. Denial of the right to self-identify is tantamount to serious crime, e.g., genocide, and should never be taken lightly.


If NLD is serious about stopping such fascistic trends, it must come hard on these fascist monks and their supporters within the Buddhist country. Failing this, the country can revert back to days of targeted pogroms again. But will she tighten the screw against the criminal Ma Ba Tha?
That question remains unanswered now.
To read more, please, click here.

Hospital bombed again

Death is almost never welcome. And it is simply unacceptable to find out that someone had died in a hospital not because of his or her illness but because of bombing sustained by the facility.
It is a major crime to attack a hospital. Unfortunately, that is what has been happening in war ravaged territories from Afghanistan to Israel.
Last year, the US forces bombed a hospital in Afghanistan that was managed by MSF (or Doctors Without Borders). The hospital was well known to everyone, esp. the US forces, and was catering to the needs of the sick and wounded in the locality. And yet, it was bombed by the US forces killing not only the patients there but also many of the hospital stuffs, including doctors and nurses. This week, the US military while disciplining some of its rogue members for the war crime failed to acknowledge the war crime only saying that it was a mistake. Pentagon officials say that 16 personnel, including one general, will face “administrative discipline” for their role in the October 3 US attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital on the outskirts of Kunduz, an attack which killed 42 civilians. There will be no criminal charges for anyone involved.
As rightly noted by Jason Ditz, despite U.S. officials presenting this as “punishment,” the actions are overwhelmingly a slap on the wrist, with officials saying six of the 16 were sent for counseling, two were ordered to take new training courses, one was temporarily suspended and seven were issued “letters of reprimand.”
The letters of reprimand are the most severe of the mild actions, with officials saying it means those seven will likely not be able to secure promotion to higher ranks, suggesting that might end some of their careers.


The USA and NATO forces have done such war crimes many times not only in Afghanistan but also in other war ravaged countries, e.g., Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.
Israel has been a master of such war crimes in Gaza. Saudi Arabia, in his war against the Houthis in Yemen, has also been following the Israeli lead in such war crimes.
This week saw an airstrike hitting and destroying a major hospital in the al-Qaeda-held eastern portion of the city of Aleppo in Syria, killing at least 27 civilians. The hospital was run by MSF. This time the criminals are the Syrian Baathist/Nusayri regime and Putin's Russia. UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has issued a statement yesterday, accusing last night’s attack on a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Aleppo, a strike which killed 27 civilians, of being deliberate.
The White House declared the attack on the MSF hospital “abhorrent” and “immoral,” while Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Russia is obliged to do everything in its power to ensure that the Syrian government stops attacking medical facilities.
Official US outrage, however, is likely tempered at least a bit by their own attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan back in October, which killed even more civilians, and which the Pentagon declined to court-martial anyone over.
MSF has been harshly critical of the attack, noting it amounts to a war crime, and has been pressing for an independent, international investigation. President Obama has ruled out allowing such a probe, though the release of the final report is likely to spur more such calls.
Will the victims' families ever see justice in such war crimes? With the criminals ruling our world these days, I doubt we shall ever see justice in our time!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Christian wedding stopped in India


The life of non-Hindus are coming under increasing threat in Modi's India.
The Madhya Pradesh Police Wednesday entered a church in Satna and stopped a wedding ceremony following a complaint by the Bajrang Dal that the bride and the groom had been unlawfully converted to Christianity.
Accompanied by Bajrang Dal activists, a Kolgawan police team entered the Church of God in India and arrested 10 people, including pastor Sam Samuel and the groom’s parents.
To read the news, please, click here.

U Gambira needs to be released immediately

I am saddened to learn that U Gambira, a former monk and leader of the 2007 anti-junta uprising has been sentenced by a Myanmar court on Tuesday  for six months with hard labor on immigration charges. I hope that he is released immediately.
A member of his defense team said that he was likely to be released soon because of time already served.
The sentence came amid widespread excitement that has followed the release and dropping of charges against more than 100 political prisoners since Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy took power earlier this month.
Nyi Nyi Lwin, better known as Gambira, was arrested in January for illegally entering Myanmar from neighboring Thailand. He has been held without bail since his arrest at a prison in Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city.
Gambira was freed from prison during a 2012 general amnesty, a year after the junta handed power to a semi-civilian government, following 49 years of direct rule of the Southeast Asian nation.
Since his release, Gambira has divided his time between Myanmar and Thailand, but Myanmar authorities have re-arrested him several times, in what his family and rights groups have described as continued harassment for his criticism of the government.
Gambira's prison term of 63 years for his role in the protest turned him into one of Myanmar's most prominent political prisoners. Members of his family were also arrested.
While in detention, Gambira was repeatedly beaten and tortured, he and rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said.

Burma’s Rohingya Muslims in Desperate Straits

Here is an article on the plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar by David Scott Mathieson   of the  HRW.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Secular politics needs Gandhian courage


 The article below is from the Indian Express. It deals with poor health of secularism in increasingly Hindutvadi India.
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“Festival rubs off scars,” claimed a newspaper report that was accompanied by a photograph of Muslim men distributing water and sweets to Hindus celebrating Ram Navami. The place was Balu Math in Latehar, Jharkhand. The scars meant the murder of two Muslim men, one of them an adolescent, by members of the local Gau Raksha Samiti. Rub off your scars and do not complain, Muslims are told after each violent incident against them. Their insistence on talking about their wounds is seen as a sign of their grumbling nature, love of their victimhood, and a proof of their disaffection towards Hindus.
Responding to criticism against his study of the sources of the authoritarian personality in Germans in the post-Hitler years, Theodore Adorno wrote “… in the house of the hangman one should not speak of the noose, otherwise one might seem to harbour resentment.” Adorno was trying to look for the socio-psychological sources of Nazism. He was accused of inducing guilt in the Germans about what was not a collective crime, but an exceptional event in the history of an otherwise liberal, enlightened culture.
The killing of Akhlaq at Dadri shocked the nation. But attacks on Muslims, in the name of saving cows or on some other pretext, have lost their ability to create a sensation. For every published story of violence against Muslims, there are at least 10 stories untold or unreported. Violence against the community is like domestic or sexual violence in which the women are expected to understand the temperament of their men and adjust accordingly. Grumbling or resisting women deserve further punishment. Incidents of beating up of Muslims or social boycott of the community in Jharkhand have failed to find space in the media. Diktats are issued not to do business with Muslims. For the past two years, the Muslims of Jharkhand have been enduring this carefully crafted, ruthless and silent isolation. How are Muslims expected to react? From petitioning the local police and administration to staging dharnas, community leaders use all possible democratic means to voice their concern. The law and order machinery, mostly, sees Muslims with Hindu eyes. The chief minister of Jharkhand feigned surprise when a delegation apprised him of these incidents. “Who is doing all this?” he asked. One of the delegation members replied, “Sir, they are those who think that now it is their raj path.” Ironically, it has become the responsibility of Muslims to bring back normalcy. They were asked not to harbour animosity against Hindus. Victims were seen vying with each other to please their tormentors. \It is now seen as a normal democratic practice and a part of the freedom of speech to spread venom and hatred against Muslims. This newspaper has warned and pleaded editorially that hate against Muslims should not be made an electoral agenda. It has gone unheeded. The Assam election campaign saw virulent anti-Muslim propaganda. The chief of the ruling party cunningly used a historically absurd example of a 13th century Ahom king driving out a 16th century Mughal badshah and exhorted the electorate to follow his act. His history may be wrong, but it was a deliberate mistake. The message reached the intended constituency. While preparing for elections in Kerala, he openly called for the consolidation of all Hindu forces. The rise of Dalit and backward politics has not been of much help to Muslims. If we look at their electoral behaviour, they have always chosen parties headed by Hindus. Parties that mobilise maximum number of Hindu votes usually get their support. But these parties, referred to as secular, refrain from being seen with them in the time of distress. We saw it during the Trilokpuri violence. Neither the AAP nor other secular parties could muster courage to be seen on the ground helping Muslims.
We approached a senior Congress leader in Delhi to request political support for the Muslims of Atali. He explained that they could do it only incognito as their primary concern now was to win back Hindus. “You have to understand that Muslims would back us only when they are assured that the majority of Hindus are with us,” he said. Three years ago in Dhule (Maharashtra), six Muslim youth were killed and many houses burnt. The leaders of the ruling parties, the Congress and the NCP, did not visit the bereaved families. To be seen supporting Muslims can be electorally costly. Democracy in India, which gets renewed and affirmed through elections, is now pushing Muslims to the margins and making them invisible. They are losing hope in India. This might sound alarmist, but it needs to be said. For the first time in independent India, they feel pushed to the corner and disenfranchised. There have often been reports from poll-bound states about “aggressive” voting by Muslims. It is a last ditch attempt to save whatever is left of the plural democratic space where they once felt secure.  “Do not leave us” is what Gandhi had told the Muslims in 1947. India will be incomplete without you. You would not be vassals of Hindus but their proud equals, Gandhi had assured them. He was punished with death for this audacity. After him, his disciple, Jawaharlal Nehru, bravely honoured the promise. Nehru was not afraid of being derided as half-Muslim, half-Christian. The shadows of Gandhi and Nehru seem to have receded far from Muslims. The biggest challenge before secular politics today is to bring back the Gandh-ian courage and declare boldly that it is pro-Muslim. If it is not done urgently, we are in the danger of losing India, or whatever is left of it.

Golam Rabbi found shot dead in San Jose

A childhood friend of mine, Rabbi, has been found dead along with his wife. They were victims of a double homicide in San Jose, CA. Rabbi was a very gentle and nice human being, and we occasionally spoke over the phone.
I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn of their untimely death. 
Are they victims of a hate crime, or something utterly sinister? I don't know. I hope truth will come out soon about their murder.
May Allah have mercy on their soul and give enough sabr to the family members to withstand this calamity.
Here, here and here are some links to the story.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Shameful Ordeal of Abu Zubaydah

Here is an article by Rebecca Gordon about a victim of injustice who is rotting in a solitary confinement in the Guantanamo Bay prison. She writes, "The capture, torture, and propaganda use of Abu Zubaydah is the perfect example of the U.S. government’s unique combination of willful law-breaking, ass-covering memo-writing, and what some Salvadorans I once worked with called “strategic incompetence. The fact that no one — not George Bush or Dick Cheney, not Jessen or Mitchell, nor multiple directors of the CIA — has been held accountable means that, unless we are very lucky, we will see more of the same in the future."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Southwest: the official airline for racists and bigots!


As a frequent flyer, I have traveled with the Southwest Airlines a few times. In my operational excellence classes, I have often used it as an example of standardization. But I have stopped flying the airline for quite some time. Its “You Are Now Free To Move About The Country” has become a wildly outdated slogan, and, as noted by other observers, perhaps the addition of the phrase “If Not A Minority” would help.
Truly, when it comes to Southwest Airlines the terms – bigotry and racism - come to mind now, and nothing else. That is a sad commentary for the world’s largest low-cost airline carrier whose crew were once considered very sky-friendly!

Last year, Ali Gharib (a frequent contributor to The Nation who has also written for The Daily Beast and Salon) summed up the case against Southwest precisely when he commented, “There are already more than enough indignities associated with flying for all Americans, from ever-lessening leg room to creeping fees. But apparently, those indignities aren’t enough for American Muslims to bear. Maybe Southwest Airlines ought to add another letter to their seat-assignment-free group alphabetical boarding scheme: M, for boarding while Muslim.” [Guardian, Nov. 23, 2015]

Last year in one of the flights, from Indianapolis to Los Angeles, Southwest Airlines was diverted and landed in Kansas City as a result of “suspicious behavior” by a group of passengers at the back of the plane. During the unscheduled stopover, passengers were deplaned and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought aboard. The flight was then re-boarded and continued on without the three men, who were forced to take a later flight. They were not charged with any crime.

In another incident last November, at least five travelers were told they had to get off a Southwest Airlines plane preparing to take off from Chicago to Houston. That flight was delayed but, in this case too, the passengers were allowed to take a later flight.

Perhaps the most striking incident also happened last November, when Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, two young Palestinian-Americans attempting to board a flight from Chicago to Philadelphia, could be overheard by another passenger speaking Arabic. Khalil and Ayyad were stopped from boarding the Southwest Airlines plane and told of the complaints: someone was afraid to fly with them.

“If that person doesn’t feel safe, let them take the bus,” Khalil, a pizza shop owner in Philly, told his local NBC station. After a delay, Khalil and Ayyad were ultimately allowed on board, but their fellow passengers’ suspicions still ran high. “People kept asking me, ‘What’s in that box?!’ I was carrying a small white box. And the passengers made me open the box!” Khalil said. “So I shared my baklava with them.”

I wish harassment of Muslim passengers has stopped and the situation improved, but surely not with the Southwest Airlines, which seems to epitomize racism and bigotry.
Inexcusably, Southwest Airlines continues to allow racist and bigots to kickoff Muslim-looking passengers. It is simply obscene and unacceptable in our time.

Last week, a hijab-clad Muslim woman in the US was removed from a Southwest Airlines. Hakima Abdulle, a Muslim woman from Maryland, said she was removed from the flight from Chicago to Seattle “without any credible explanation”.

Zainab Chaudry, an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a news conference that Abdulle had boarded the Seattle-bound aircraft on Wednesday when a flight attendant told her she would not be permitted to remain on board. Airport police then escorted Abdulle, who is of Somalian descent and was wearing a hijab, to the ticket counter, where she waited several hours for a later flight, Chaudry was quoted as saying by The Baltimore Sun. 
When police asked the flight attendant at the gate if there was any reason why Abdulle had been taken off the plane, the flight attendant reportedly replied, “No” and that she did “not feel comfortable” with the passenger.

Abdulle’s husband Abukar Fidaw said, “She was humiliated because of her religion and the way she dressed.”

This was the second such incident involving the carrier this month after an Iraqi man who is a UC Berkeley student was ejected from Southwest Airlines flight after speaking Arabic.  

The victim of harassment, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old Iraqi refugee, left Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. His family fled to Jordan, where they lived until the United States granted his family asylum.

On April 6, 2016 Makhzoomi was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakland, get to campus and go to class. Instead, Makhzoomi was removed from Southwest Airlines flight 4260, detained by security officers, questioned by the FBI and refused service from Southwest after speaking Arabic before his flight took off.
One day prior to the incident, Makhzoomi attended a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.

On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”

When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

Minutes later, an airport employee arrived to remove Makhzoomi from the airplane. Makhzoomi was escorted onto the passenger boarding bridge where he was met by three security officers. Makhzoomi was removed from the jet bridge and taken back to the gate where more security officers, police dogs and Southwest staff awaited him. Dozens of onlookers watched as he waited for the FBI to arrive.

In the meantime, security officers searched his bag again and continued to ask him if he had any other luggage he was keeping secret. Makhzoomi alleged that one police officer publicly searched his genital area and asked him if he was hiding a knife anywhere.

“That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water,” he said. “The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father. When I got home, I just slept for a few days.”

When the FBI arrived, Makhzoomi said they began questioning him about his family, the phone call he made on the plane and everything he knew about martyrdom. After the interrogation was over, an FBI agent informed Makhzoomi that Southwest would not fly him home. Makhzoomi collected his refund and left Terminal 1 to process what had happened.

Makhzoomi called Southwest on Monday and they ensured his status was clear but offered him no apology.

This is what all the Islamophobia or fear-mongering has wrought. I am really horrified about racial profiling by airlines. Someone should sue these airlines for their racial/religious profiling acts. But Makhzoomi does not want to sue Southwest Airlines for the suffering it caused. He is very forgiving and has a good heart!
Since he arrived in the United States, Makhzoomi has worked at a Cheesecake Factory, built a school in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, worked his way through community college, transferred to UC Berkeley where he is part of Model United Nations and the Berkeley Political Review and currently writes for the Huffington Post.

This summer, Makhzoomi will be representing Iraq at the Young Leaders Visitors Programme at the Swedish Institute. Makhzoomi said he hopes to one day return to Iraq, which will always be his home.

“I want to help the situation there as best as I can, and I will begin by focusing on education,” he said. “We need to cross the bridge when it comes to our differences and try to promote tolerance and harmony among Iraqi peoples.”
Charles Hirschkind, a UCB campus associate professor of anthropology who specializes in Islam and the Middle East, said prejudice against Muslims has institutional effects that manifest in airport security strategies and general police suspicion. “Since 9/11, we’ve seen a steady increase in anti-Muslim bias and dissemination of fear about Muslims in the United States. That trend has really spiked during this current electoral season,” Hirschkind said. “Candidates have said things like Muslims should not be allowed to immigrate to this country. … All of these kinds of statements really ramp up both the level of fear and also the level of bias and prejudice and racism that Muslims face.”

Southwest Airlines is a repeat offender
. Its racist and bigotry-ridden policies are against the American values and promote negative values like fearmongering, intolerance and hatred. While security is important for all, let’s not forget that harassment is simply unacceptable. As Ali Gharib has wisely suggested, both our American values and security would be better served if we – Americans who are simply flying on planes or working for the airlines – treated all people, no matter what language they were speaking, equally, saving our suspicions for people actually acting suspiciously.
It is criminal to reward an airline that is quickly becoming the official airline for the country’s bigots. Let the immigrant community boycott Southwest Airlines and send a strong message that its racial profiling and bigotry are simply unacceptable.

Netanyahu's mind

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester, PA. His latest article on Netanyahu's mind is very interesting and can be read by clicking here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How Israel Killed the ‘Two-State Solution’

Except for Bernie Sanders, the remaining presidential candidates (Clinton, Trump, Cruz and Kasich) have pledged fealty to Israel’s right-wing government as hopes for a two-state solution fade away, explains Chuck Spinney. To read his article, click here.

The tragedy of the Rohingyas of Myanmar





While the world feels sympathetic to the plight of refugees fleeing killing fields, the Government of Bangladesh, sadly, seems to have been setting a new record on being nonchalant or unmindful of plight of the distressed people who require all the protections to ensure that they are not further victimized. Recently, it forcibly deported nearly 340 Rohingyas of Myanmar back to their homeland where they have faced death and starvation in recent years.

According to a report in the Myanmar Times that cited information from the U.N.’s refugee agency, as many as 500,000 Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh, but their repatriation has been stalled since 2005. Of the total, only 30,000 Rohingyas have refugee status and live in two camps in Cox’s Bazar. Other Rohingyas don't have the status and live inside Bangladesh illegally. A survey done by a parliamentary committee in 2013 estimated that more than 300,000 Rohingyas were living illegally in Cox’s Bazar, where they live in shantytowns.

With all the political changes taking place inside Myanmar and the hated Nasaka replaced by a new breed of the Border police of Myanmar, fortunately, the deported refugees were not stopped from entering their ancestral homes. It is worth noting that during the erstwhile military backed regime, the returning refugees were shot at - both while trying to leave Myanmar and getting back. This deportation was, thus, a relief to some refugees who longed to return and meet their loved ones still living inside Arakan.

As noted by the Radio Free Asia (RFA), Mohammad Hashem, a Rohingya Muslim in his seventies who fled to Cox’s Bazar to escape Buddhist attacks on Muslims in 1992, told RFA that he would like to return home to Sittwe, the capital of the Arakan (renamed to Rakhine) state to see his wife, daughter and grandsons. “I tried at least 100 times over the years to see them [in Sittwe]. But the Nasaka threatened to kill me. Instead they sought money from me to push my wife and daughter into Bangladesh,” said Hashem, who works as a vendor in Cox’s Bazar.

“I would go back if the Moghs (Buddhists) do not torture us,” he said.


I pray and hope that Hashem can reunite with his family soon. I also hope that in its zeal to deport fleeing refugees from Myanmar, the Bangladesh government is not sending them back without securing some guarantee from the Suu Kyi's government about their safety. Otherwise, it would be a shameful record for a country whose millions of fleeing refugees found shelter in places like India during the War of 1971. That would be one of the greatest crimes of our time.


Most Rohingyas and many other Muslim minorities of Myanmar continue to live in concentration camps. In desperation, many of these persecuted people continue to leave Myanmar, sometimes braving the ocean, to find a safe haven outside.


A boat carrying more than 60 people capsized in rough waters off of Sittwe in Myanmar's Rakhine state on Tuesday, killing at least 21, including nine children, according to a U.N. official.


Janet Jackson, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, also known as Burma, issued a statement saying six survivors were being treated for injuries at local health facilities, and that other victims remain missing. She also said the majority of the passengers on the boat were internally displaced people from Sin Tet Maw, a camp for the Rohingya Muslim minority, who were on an authorized day-trip to make purchases at market.




"This accident serves as a tragic reminder of the vulnerabilities that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine, where their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access markets, livelihoods and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life," Jackson said.


The Rohingya are unable to travel freely within the country and cannot marry or have children without official permission.


According to a report by Agence France Presse, witnesses blamed the tragedy on these transit restrictions, which force displaced persons to travel by sea.


The United Nations on April 4 gave Myanmar's incoming civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) 100 days to improve living conditions for the country's ethnic minority Rohingya community.


I earnestly pray that Suu Kyi has the wisdom to remove the last vestiges of apartheid Myanmar as soon as possible so that this persecuted people can feel integrated in the land of their forefathers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

West Bengal – politics of Appeasement or Exclusion?

Here below is an article from Neha Debhade about the politics with minority Muslims in the state of West Bengal of India. It is from the Secular Perspectives (Centre for Study of Society and Secularism).
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Status of Muslims in West Bengal – Appeasement or Exclusion?
Neha Dabhade
“Muslims constitute a very large proportion of the poor. The fact that Muslims in West Bengal are disproportionately poorer and more deprived in terms of living conditions is an empirical recognition that gives this report an inescapable immediacy and practical urgency,” said Amartya Sen while releasing the report entitled “Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal” (The Hindu, 2016). This Report takes a stock of the condition of Muslims in West Bengal. The state of West Bengal is significant since 27.01% of its population is Muslims. Sachar Committee Report portrayed a very disturbing picture of Muslims in India. The Sachar Committee Report put forth a compelling narrative on exclusion and discrimination of Muslims in different fields including livelihood and education. Over a decade has lapsed since Sachar Committee Report was released. It is imperative that data related to socio-economic and educational status of Muslims is updated statewise. The “Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal” (LRMWB) Report on the conditions of Muslims in West Bengal attempts precisely this.
Context of West Bengal:-Political account:
The state of West Bengal has a rich intellectual heritage with liberal ideas and inclusive vision of Tagore and other stalwarts. The baul- fakir tradition is very popular in Bengal and reflects very strongly in different aspects of Bengali culture like songs, paintings and dance. This inclusive framework of culture and ideas has been germane for flourishing of religious reforms and progressive liberal ethos. West Bengal was ruled for 34 odd years by CPI (M), a leftist party, theoretic presumption being that it is ideologically secular and sensitive to the marginalized. Yet the Sachar Committee Report painted a rather sordid picture of the Muslims in West Bengal wherein it stated that Muslims lived in abject poverty. The Sachar Committee Report suggested that only 16.8% of the Muslim population lived in urban areas in West Bengal against 28% of general population in 2001. The infant mortality rate of Muslims in West Bengal was reported to be at 52 against 50 of the Hindu community while infant mortality rate under 5 years of age reported for Muslims was 77 against 68 amongst Hindu community. The literacy rates amongst Muslims in the state was 57.5% while that prevalent amongst Hindus was 72.4%.
 In 2011, Trinamool Congress won a landslide victory and came to power in West Bengal after defeating the incumbent CPI (M). The CPI (M) evoked disaffection of the people of West Bengal and especially the Muslims after the Nandigram incident which created insecurity about land and livelihood. One of the factors that made TMC’s electoral victory in 2011 for state Assembly possible was the support of the Muslim community in the state had shifted to the TMC. Though West Bengal never reported major riots during the Left rule, it didn’t imply that Muslims had equal opportunities or that the polity was secular. On the other hand, Mamta Banerjee has attended rallies of Jamiat- Ulema e Hind, wore Muslim hijab, offered namaz but this mere politics of tokenism hasn’t translated into includion of Muslims. This isn’t much different than the treatment of Muslims by the Left parties in West Bengal.
Three approaches have  defined the policy of Trinamool and CPI (M) towards Muslims, namely, containment of communal violence so that it doesn’t assume critical proportions in terms of number of casualties and loss in property, political opportunism and tokenism- wooing powerful Muslim religious leaders for electoral gains, and not working towards the equality and inclusion of Muslims.
The numbers can shed more light on the electoral politics and the stakes to be gained by wooing Muslim votes. In Assembly election 2011, Trinamool Congress won 184 out of 294 seats (38.9% votes), Congress won 42 seats (9.1% votes), CPM won 40 seats (30.8% votes) and BJP did not win any seats (4.1% votes). Similarly in 2014 general elections, Trinamool Congress won 34 seats of 42 seats (39.4% votes), Congress won four seats (9.6% votes), CPM won two seats (22.7% votes) and BJP won two seats (16.84% votes) (Ibnlive, 2016). An extensive study on the Muslims of India by late Prof. Iqbal Ansari, later taken forward in West Bengal by Sabir Ahamed of Pratichi Institute, shows that 46 Assembly constituencies of the State have a Muslim “concentration” of more than 50 per cent. The figure is 40-50 per cent in about 16 seats, and 30-40 per cent in 33 seats. The data underscores that in exactly one-third of the seats, Muslim vote is the key factor to win an election. Moreover, in another 50 seats, the concentration is 20-30 per cent. Overlooking such data was possibly one of the reasons for the defeat of the Left Front in 2011. (The Hindu, 2016). This explains the scramble for Muslim votes by political parties like in West Bengal.
The LRMWB Report is particularly insightful in the wake of increasing communalization in West Bengal. The essentialization of religious identity of Muslims and stereotyping is leading to demonization of Muslims even in West Bengal where they have a sizeable population. The recent incident in Kaliachak is a case in point. The middle class urban population popularly called the Bhadralok (Majority of the Muslims in West Bengal reside in rural areas) in West Bengal shape the public discourse by controlling sources knowledge like media and education. The increasing presence of the Hindu nationalists in some pockets work to polarize the attitudes along communal lines.  The communalization, essentialization and demonization of Muslims help RSS strengthen its presence in W. Bengal.  
The LRMWB Report in the above context is discerning. The report written by Association SNAP, Guidance Guild and Pratichi Institute, is based on primary survey covering 325 villages and 75 urban wards from a sample of 81 community development blocks and 30 municipal bodies. The main findings of the Report present an undeniable yet absorbing narrative on the situation of Muslims in West Bengal. What is perhaps useful is the construction of the Muslim community. It is not viewed as homogenous but the complexities are dealt with while studying the various aspects of the community. The Report doesn’t limit the construction of Muslim identity to religion but takes into consideration other factors like region, language, occupation, educational levels amongst others which are determine access to various public services. The Report goes on to dispel many myths that are encouraged by media particularly about Muslim women and how they fall prey to the “orthodoxy” of the community. While it may have some grain of truth, the Report presents an objective picture in regard to education, livelihood, health and other amenities and how they are accessed by the Muslims. The Report goes on to assert that the particular state along with its specific socio-economic features determines the accessibility of opportunities to any community and not the religious-cultural identity.
Problematizing Educational status of Muslims:
In regard to education, the Report points out to a dismal picture. However there is a silver lining to this in the form of girls’ literacy rates in the state. For instance the Muslim literacy rate is 69.5 percent as per the primary survey, 7 percent lower than the average literacy rate of West Bengal as per 2011 census. The 2011 census pitched the gender gap in literacy at 11.1 percent in West Bengal; however the primary survey showed the narrowing of this gap to 7.8 percent. Also, the 2011 census stated a difference of 2.2 percent between general and Muslim women but the primary survey found equal female literacy to general female literacy of 2011 census. This flies in the face of the social stereotyping that Muslim orthodoxy prevented girls education and underlines the grit and aspirations of Muslim girls. This is especially significant since majority of the Muslim population lives in rural areas in West Bengal. In terms of the rural-urban divide, the literacy rate of Muslims in urban areas is 75.4 percent while that in rural areas is 68.3 percent. The female literacy rate is better than male under the age of 17 since boys are forced to drop out of school to earn a livelihood. At the same time girls do domestic work which enables them to attend school. But this situation is reversed when gender roles force girls to start a family and boys are encouraged to opt for higher education in hope of better income.
Another stereotype that is demolished through this report is that Muslim parents prefer sending their children to Madrasas since they are anti modern and against secular education. The Sachar Committee Report had pointed out that less than 4 percent of Muslim children go to Madrasas. This is not surprising given that there are never adequate numbers of schools in areas inhabited by Muslims. This is reinforced by the report which states that the number of primary schools per ten thousand population increases in blocks with a decreasing proportion of Muslims to the whole population thereby highlighting a pattern of exclusion. Further district wise distribution points out that the districts with a significant share of Muslims in their population, such as Uttar Dinajpur (6.2), Murshidabad (7.2) and Malda (8.5) perform poorly in combine secondary and higher secondary school as against 10.6 combined schools per hundred thousand population in other districts. Overall the Report alludes to the increasing aspirations of the Muslim community to get educated which is hampered by lack of higher education institutes close to Muslim majority areas in the state.
Status of Livelihood of Muslims:
Work Participation Rate (WPR) for this study is defined as percentage of population belonging to the working age group of 15-65 years who are actually working. It is reported that the Muslim WPR is 45 percent. Only 8.9 percent of Muslim women were found to be working. Though the work participation rate varies widely across districts, districts like Malda (13) and Murshidabad (21.5), women are mostly engaged in bidi rolling and embroidery work. Among Muslims in rural West Bengal, about 47 percent of all who work, work as agricultural workers or daily workers in non-agriculture. Only 1.55 percent households earn income as school teachers and 1.54 percent is employed in regular public sector jobs.
Income levels of Muslims:
The starkest finding of the report is perhaps the insights it gives into the income of Muslims in West Bengal. The Report spells out the extent of poverty with the finding that about 80 percent of the Muslim households in rural West Bengal report an income of Rs. 5000 or less per month which is close to the cut off level of income for poverty line for a family of five. Further, 38.3 percent Muslim households in rural West Bengal earn Rs. 2,500 or less per month. More than three-fourths of the rural Muslim households possess no land. More than half of the poor Muslim households in rural West Bengal do not possess BPL cards or MGNREGA job cards. 23.8 percent of urban Muslim households earn Rs. 2,500 or less. This poor performance on the front of citizenship rights points to inadequacy of the State to make democracy meaningful for such a large population.
Amenities enjoyed by Muslims:
The amenities available such dwelling conditions also give a glimpse into the security enjoyed by a population. It’s rather disappointing to note that 59.1 percent houses of Muslims in West Bengal are built with low quality materials like straw, leaves, bamboo, plastic, polythene, soil and mud bricks. On the other hand, 47.8 percent of general households are made of such material. Alternatively, 47.9 percent of the general populace lives in homes made of concrete and baked bricks, whereas only 36.6 percent of the Muslim population can afford such homes. The Muslim community’s access to tap water is nearly 40 percent less than that of the overall population. The availability of drainage system in Muslim households is meager at one third of that enjoyed by the general population.
Access to healthcare:
Healthcare, one of essential indicator of human development, accessed by the Muslim community depicts a sorry picture. The state average of the number of hospitals per lakh population is 1.8. However in Muslim dominated regions like Uttar Dinajpur, Malda and South 24 Parganas, this number stands at 1.0, 1.4 and 1.3 respectively. Similarly, the infant mortality rate amongst the Muslim community is 23 percent higher than the infant mortality rate in the Hindu community. The data suggests that Muslims prefer institutional delivery where the hospital is within accessible distance. This poses a strong counter to the widely held belief that Muslims orthodoxy is averse to institutional delivery. A case in point is also Kerala. The Report has dedicated a separate chapter on gender which in details evaluates the condition of women under various parameters but which is not included here in greater depth due to constraint of space.
Conclusion:
The contribution of this Report is immense by bringing into limelight the objective truth about the Muslims backed by such forceful figures. This counter narrative about the desire of Muslims for better education, livelihood and health amongst other rights makes it morally and constitutionally obligatory on the State to take notice and enable the Muslims to come at par with others. This report coming before the state assembly elections, hopefully, will create awareness about how the ruling dispensation uses vulnerable communities as mere pawns and vote banks for political power without serious intention of working for their inclusion and equality. This attempt can be duplicated by civil society organizations in other states to update the data about Muslims. Such reports will help in filling in the gaps in the data regarding vulnerable communities warped in exclusion, adverse public perception and discrimination.  
 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Boycott Southwest Airlines

Yesterday I reported about harassment of an Arab speaking UC Berkeley student. Today while browsing the net,  I found out that he was not the only victim of Southwest Airlines. 
A hijab-clad Muslim woman in the US was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane after she asked for switching seats with a flight attendant saying she “did not feel comfortable” with the passenger. Hakima Abdulle, a Muslim woman from Maryland, said she was removed from the flight from Chicago to Seattle “without any credible explanation”.
Abdulle said she wanted to switch seats but instead, she ended up being removed from the flight. This was the second such incident involving the carrier this month after an Iraqi man claimed that he was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane after a fellow passenger heard him speaking in Arabic.
Zainab Chaudry, an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a news conference that Abdulle had boarded the Seattle-bound aircraft on Wednesday when a flight attendant told her she would not be permitted to remain on board. Airport police then escorted Abdulle, who is of Somalian descent and was wearing a hijab, to the ticket counter, where she waited several hours for a later flight, Chaudry was quoted as saying by The Baltimore Sun. 
When police asked the flight attendant at the gate if there was any reason why Abdulle had been taken off the plane, the flight attendant reportedly replied, “No” and that she did “not feel comfortable” with the passenger.
Abdulle’s husband Abukar Fidaw said, “She was humiliated because of her religion and the way she dressed.” In a similar incident on April 6, UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakland. Instead, Makhzoomi was removed from Southwest Airlines flight after speaking Arabic before his flight took off, the Daily Californian reported. 
We need to send a strong message to airlines that have a clear policy of hatred and intolerance. Southwest Airlines is guilty of committing this crime repeatedly. We should boycott Southwest Airlines sending a strong message that its racial profiling and bigotry is simply unacceptable.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Shame on the Southwest Airlines

A UC Berkeley student was ejected from Southwest Airlines flight after speaking Arabic. What's happening with America? It's shameful and simply unacceptable! All the non-English speaking people, esp. Arab speaking ones, should rethink before buying a ticket with  airlines like the Southwest that profile racially.

The victim of harassment, Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old Iraqi refugee, left Iraq in 2002 after his father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. His family fled to Jordan, where they lived until the United States granted his family asylum.

One day prior to the incident, Makhzoomi attended a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.

On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic,Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”

When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

Minutes later, an airport employee arrived to remove Makhzoomi from the airplane. Makhzoomi was escorted onto the passenger boarding bridge where he was met by three security officers. Makhzoomi was removed from the jet bridge and taken back to the gate where more security officers, police dogs and Southwest staff awaited him. Dozens of onlookers watched as he waited for the FBI to arrive.

In the meantime, security officers searched his bag again and continued to ask him if he had any other luggage he was keeping secret. Makhzoomi alleged that one police officer publicly searched his genital area and asked him if he was hiding a knife anywhere.

“That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water,” he said. “The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father. When I got home, I just slept for a few days.”

When the FBI arrived, Makhzoomi said they began questioning him about his family, the phone call he made on the plane and everything he knew about martyrism. After the interrogation was over, an FBI agent informed Makhzoomi that Southwest would not fly him home. Makhzoomi collected his refund and left Terminal 1 to process what had happened.

Makhzoomi called Southwest on Monday and they ensured his status was clear but offered him no apology.

This is what all the fear-mongering has wrought. I am really horrified about racial profiling by airlines. Someone should sue these airlines for their bastard-like acts. But Makhzoomi does not want to sue Southwest for the suffering it caused. He is very forgiving and has a good heart!

Charles Hirschkind, a UCB campus associate professor of anthropology who specializes in Islam and the Middle East, said prejudice against Muslims has institutional effects that manifest in airport security strategies and general police suspicion.

“Since 9/11, we’ve seen a steady increase in anti-Muslim bias and dissemination of fear about Muslims in the United States. That trend has really spiked during this current electoral season,” Hirschkind said. “Candidates have said things like Muslims should not be allowed to immigrate to this country. … All of these kinds of statements really ramp up both the level of fear and also the level of bias and prejudice and racism that Muslims face.”

Since he arrived in the United States, Makhzoomi has worked at a Cheesecake Factory, built a school in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, worked his way through community college, transferred to UC Berkeley where he is part of Model United Nations and the Berkeley Political Review and currently writes for the Huffington Post.

This summer, Makhzoomi will be representing Iraq at the Young Leaders Visitors Programme at the Swedish Institute. Makhzoomi said he hopes to one day return to Iraq, which will always be his home.

“I want to help the situation there as best as I can, and I will begin by focusing on education,” he said. “We need to cross the bridge when it comes to our differences and try to promote tolerance and harmony among Iraqi peoples.”

Creation of Europe


Robert D. Kaplan is the author of  In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond. He is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. His latest article is worth-reading and can be read by clicking here.

Why Bernie Sanders is a better presidential candidate

Last week, I watched the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I am glad that I had the time to do so. To me, the most important task of the President of the USA is about foreign policy, which he conducts through his Secretary of State. The debate allowed me to understand the candidates' views on Israeli state that has benefitted enormously from the US patronage since its birth.


 So complete has been the domination of the 'Amen Corner' – the Israel-firsters within the Capitol Hill – Israel will continue to benefit from the USA, no matter who occupies the White House. This was quite evident from the speeches of all those political aspirants for the highest office in the land during the AIPAC's yearly event last month. From Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton –every candidate (minus one) of the major two parties bowed down to the powerful Israeli lobby, almost prostrating down to the altar of Zionism – the very toxic racist ideology that gave us the Palestinian problem with nearly a million of uprooted indigenous people from the lands of their forefathers with its associated dehumanization of the victims who refused to leave and the regional and global instability, which it created, including, arguably, the birthing of an event like the 9/11 that has sparked off what could best be described as a perennial war engulfing the entire region and beyond – from Pakistan to Nigeria.


 In his speech at the AIPAC event, Donald Trump was quick to remind his audience that his daughter Ivanka had converted to Judaism and that he is a proud grandfather of Ivanka’s Jewish children. Hillary Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, is similarly married to a pro-Israeli Jew. These presidential aspirants, including the other Republican hopefuls Cruz and Kasich, promised to maximize Israeli interest in the world, once elected to the top post. The Republican hopefuls even promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, considered illegal not only by the UN but also by the US government policy since the holy land was occupied in 1967.


 The only exception among the major five candidates was Senator Bernie Sanders, the only Jewish presidential candidate, who refused to attend the AIPAC event. He refused to bow down to the special interest groups, including the AIPAC, which terrify all politicians – whether or not elected – from the House of Representatives to the Senate to the executive office of the President. None of these members of the executive and legislative branches of the US government is immune from the influence of the Jewish Lobby, esp. the AIPAC.


 No politician in the USA dares to speak out against this powerful lobby that can either unseat or block his/her chance for the elected post. Thus, political aspirants in the USA have always considered it to be politically suicidal to go against the interest or wishes of the AIPAC and the rogue state of Israel, which it promotes, no matter how criminal and harmful these are.


 Bernie Sanders appears to have the guts that other candidates, regrettably, lacked. He could speak as a Jew (the son of a Polish immigrant family that lived in Brooklyn, New York) who as a young man had spent time in an Israeli kibbutz after college. He could tell his Jewish audience that Netanyahu's rogue government has been violating human rights in Gaza and the Occupied Palestine.


Referring to the Israeli prime minister, amid cheers from the crowd at Thursday’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn, the de facto capital of Jewish American politics, Senator Sanders said, “There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.” He added: “All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.”
Senator Sanders’s response was to a question about his past statement that Israel had used disproportionate force in responding to Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli towns. The question was raised by the pro-Israel, Likudnik Jewish moderator, Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
Mr. Sanders said Israel had “every right in the world to destroy terrorism.” “But,” he said, “we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.”
The loud applause and cheers that accompanied Mr. Sanders’s answers – with someone yelling “Free Palestine!” – show that many Democrats are tired of a US foreign policy that has been rewarding the Government of Israel for its inexcusable criminal activities against the Palestinian civilians living in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank.
Jewish Democrats have been struggling for years over the appropriate level of criticism when it comes to Israel’s highly abusive and criminal policies in the occupied territories of Palestine.
Senator Sanders’s remarks during the debate gave a moral boost to those moderate and liberal Jewish Democrats who believe that a frank discussion within the party has been muzzled by an extremist, hawkish and more conservative Jewish leadership within organizations like the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and the AIPAC that is suspicious of and hostile to the criticism of the Jewish state.
It requires moral fortitude to believe and speak for the truth in the face of much opposition when falsehood would have been easier to stand for. But Bernie Sanders is neither a coward nor a hypocrite. He is not a political opportunist that would speak with a forked tongue. He had to speak what is right no matter how some pro-Israeli hawks felt about their allegiance to the rogue government of the State of Israel.


 Many Jewish Americans, especially the young ones below the age of 30, are tired of seeing the gruesome abuse of Zionism, the apartheid policy of the Jewish state, which has been corrupting the Jewish moral values and the religion of the great Prophets of the Torah. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who were victims of anti-Jewish pogroms or had witnessed the Holocaust, they know Israel primarily as a powerful Goliath rather than a weak David. Many of them are supporters of the J Street, a pro-Israel lobbying group that is critical of the Netanyahu government. They are against the domination of their political discourse by the hawkish AIPAC and ADL. It is worth noting here that some of these young Jews started a grass-roots movement seeking to stop American Jewish groups from supporting Israeli policies in the occupied territories. They are also the organizers behind the BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) global movement against Israel today.


 In Bernie Sanders they found their moral voice heard during the debate. Minutes after the debate, Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, a growing grass-roots organization that advocates pressuring Israel with the threat of boycotts, released a statement calling Mr. Sanders’s remarks “heartening” and added, “Today showed that the movement for Palestinian rights is shifting the discourse at the highest political levels.”


 In contrast to Mr. Sanders’s response, in Mrs. Clinton’s response to the same question Thursday night, she stopped short of endorsing Israel’s response but echoed its argument that Hamas fighters were often mixed in with civilians. She noted her experience dealing with both sides as secretary of state and said, “I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.”


 For those of us who desire to see a change: a viable solution to the decades-old Palestinian problem, Mrs. Clinton’s view, although better than any of the Republican candidates, is quite problematic. It puts us back to square one or zero-sum diplomatic activities with no desire to tame the extremist hawks ruling the state of Israel. It means, under Mrs. Clinton, Bibi Netanyahu and other war criminals running the state of Israel can go on committing the crimes against humanity without ever being reprimanded and/or tried for such war crimes. Such equivocation or tacit approval of the criminal activities of the Israeli leaders may help her win a majority of the Jewish votes. But, it will not help the cause of either Israel or the USA.


 I have been always an independent and have always voted based on the candidate as opposed to voting on party line.  This time, however, I took the time to register myself and know whom I’ll vote for during the coming Pennsylvania primary.